Holy Land: David

The "great crimes in the matter of Uriah" mentioned here in the story are David's seduction of Uriah's wife Bathsheba and his plot to end Uriah's life so that he could have Bathsheba for himself. You can read about that here: Bathsheba.

[Notes by LKG]

This story is part of the Holy Land Folklore unit. Story source: Folk-lore of the Holy Land: Moslem, Christian and Jewish by J. E. Hanauer (1907).


DAÛD (on whom be peace) was singularly pious and anxious to do his duty to Allah as well as to his neighbour. He therefore used to divide his time into three parts, devoting one day to the worship of Allah and the study of Scripture, the second to matters of State, and the third to domestic duties and the earning of a livelihood. He was led to work with his own hands for the support of his family by the following circumstance.

When he first came to the throne, he was anxious to know whether his people were satisfied with his rule and, knowing how worthless is the praise of courtiers, he resolved to find out for himself. He therefore went about disguised among the common people and heard what was thought of his administration.

On one such occasion, he was informed by an angel in human form that the great fault of his government was that the king lived at the expense of the public treasury instead of working with his hands for daily bread. On hearing this, Daûd was greatly troubled and besought Allah to show him some kind of trade by the proceeds of which both he and his family might be able to live without burdening the nation. Hereupon Gabriel was sent to teach the king the art of making coats of mail.

Thenceforth, during his leisure hours, the king was always to be found at work in his armoury, and there was a great demand for his handiwork as the armour he made was proof against all weapons. The usual price of a full suit of mail was six thousand dinârs. The king made them at the rate of one a day. One-third of the proceeds went towards the support of his family, one-third in alms, and the remainder to purchase materials for the building of the Temple.

Suleymân also had a trade. He knew the art of kneading stone and moulding it into various shapes, in the same way that a pastry-cook or a baker moulds dough. Some colonnettes with curiously twisted, rope-like marble shafts in the Dome of the Rock of Jerusalem are shown as his work.

Daûd made a pilgrimage to the graves of the patriarchs at Hebron and, on his return to Jerusalem, expressed in prayer a longing to be as favoured of Allah as they were. He even went so far as to say that he was sure that, if exposed to their temptations, he would overcome them with the prospect of a like reward. In answer to this prayer Allah told Daûd that his petition would be granted, but that, seeing how the race of Adam had degenerated, the All Merciful, in granting his request, had added a favour with which the patriarchs had not been indulged: that he should be informed of the exact time of his trial.. The date and hour were thus announced to the pious king.

When the day arrived, Daûd, full of confidence, shut himself up in the tower which still bears his name and gave orders that he was on no account to be disturbed. He passed the time in reading and meditation. Then, as now, many wild rock-doves flew around the tower, and the king was presently roused from his devotions by a flutter of wings. Looking up, he saw, just outside the window, a most wonderful pigeon, its plumage gleaming with prismatic colours and looking as if it had feathers of gold and silver studded with precious jewels. The king threw some crumbs on to the floor, and the bird came in and picked them up at his feet but eluded every attempt at capture. At last it flew to the window and settled on one of the bars. Daûd tried again to catch it, but the creature flew away, and it was then, as he was looking after it, that he saw that which led to his great crimes in the matter of Uriah.

Two angels were some time afterwards sent, in human form, to reprove the fallen monarch. On their arrival at the gate of Daûd's tower, they were refused entrance by the guards but, to the latter's great astonishment, they easily scaled the fortress wall and entered the royal chamber. Surprised at their coming in unannounced and without leave, Daûd demanded to know their business with him. He was thunderstruck when, having related the parable of the one ewe lamb, they denounced his iniquity. When they had fulfilled their mission, they departed, leaving the king so full of remorse at his failure to resist the temptation sent in answer to his prayer that he wept day and night. Mountains and hills, trees and stones, beasts and flying things, which had been wont to echo his songs of praise to Allah, now joined in his lamentations. There was universal weeping, and the tears of Daûd himself flowed so copiously that they filled both the Birket es Sultan and the Birket Hammâm el Batrak.

At last a prophet was sent to tell the contrite sinner that, in consideration of his penitence, Allah pardoned the sin against Himself, but that, for the crime against his fellow-man, he must obtain forgiveness from the person injured. The king then made a pilgrimage to the tomb of Uriah and there confessed his sins, when a voice came from the tomb saying: "My Lord the King, since your crime has secured me Paradise, I forgive you with all my heart."

"But, Uriah," said Daûd, "I did it to get possession of your wife."

To this there was no answer, until Daûd, in despair, prayed Allah to make Uriah forgive him.

Then the voice came again from the tomb: "I forgive thee, O King, because for one wife torn from me on earth, Allah has given me a thousand in Heaven."

Next: Solomon

(1000 words)

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