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The double nature of David's struggles becomes even more obvious when we compare the term magen david with the term magen abraham5, the Shield of Abraham. True, the term magen refers in both cases to the Lord God.
The difference lies in the fact that Abraham received only the promise of the Land, and therefore had not actually been forced to fight for it (although, to be sure, he did not hesitate to engage in war in order to save Lot6), while David was forced into numerous wars in order to secure the country.
Consequently, the term magen abrahem has no corresponding graphic symbol; for God cannot be depicted by any image, not even by an abstract design. On the other hand, the Shield of David does not actually depict God, but rather the divine-human polarities in balance. In David's case, they include the land-people/God relationship.
An old Jewish tradition is worth mentioning here. King David asked why the Tanakh speaks of magen abraham, the Shield of Abraham, but does not mention the term magen david, the Shield of David? In the Divine answer, he was told that Abraham stood fast in all the temptations and trials while he, David, failed several times (as in his episode with Batsheva). Yet, while this was so, the Lord remained David's shield because of his penance.
King David's outstanding deed was the foundation of Zion - the balanced joining of the earthly and the heavenly under the sovereignty of the Creator. King David must have been aware that giving predominance to the earthly would result in mere nationalism, while overemphasizing the spiritual would pull the ground from under the people's feet.
So far, human history is indeed characterized by such ambivalence.
Throughout his life, David guarded this balance in his own person, restoring it by deep remorse and repentance whenever he disturbed it.
Being so human in all his affairs, he was at the same time extraordinary as psalmist, warrior, and statesman, so much so that in the Kabbalistic Tree, the sephirah malkuth (Kingdom) can be described by his nature.
David's aspiration to build the Sanctuary has yet another, even weightier implication. The Sanctuary is by nature the domain of the כהנים , the priests. By his readiness to hand it over to them, he relinquished in fact a big part of the power he would have had as an absolute ruler. His willingness to listen to priests and prophets is brought out several times in the Scriptures, the most known example being his acceptance of Prophet Nathan's rebuke. We may say that the Sanctuary served, besides its other functions, as a correcting agent in the nation's political system. Our graph, the hexagram, shows perfectly that this division of powers, indicated by the two triangles, results in harmony and unity if governed by the Lord God.
Although there is no historical or archeological evidence to prove that the six-pointed star was indeed David's monogram, the symbol shows the spirit of wholeness, and thus of holiness, as upheld by David.
There is one notable hint that the hexagram was known to David. The verses of seven of his Psalms are written in alphabetical order in the original Hebrew, and the themes of each reflect an order which follows a peculiar geometric pattern. The pattern of Psalm 145, perhaps most characteristic of David's thoughts, renders a perfect hexagram with a circle in its center.7
Taking all this into account, we can see now what David meant when he spoke of the Lord as his shield: a shield is immediately in front of whoever holds it. As he said (in Ps.16:8): "I have set the Lord always before me, for he is at my right [hand]. I will not be shaken."
However, David did not concentrate merely on God's protective power. The Lord was the content of David's life, so much so that he could give expression to this relationship in his songs of praise, where he describes Him by many exalting epithets, such as:
The Lord is my shepherd... (23:1);
the Lord is my fortress and refuge (18:3);
the Lord is my exaltation (59:17; 62:3);
the Lord is my strength (59:18; 62:8);
the Lord is my rock (18:3; 59:18; 62:8);
the Lord is my habitation (71:3);
the Lord is my portion (16:5; 73:26);
the Lord is my grace (144:2);
God is my exceeding joy (43:4).
This shows that the spirit of God was within and around David, guiding and protecting him like a suit of Divine armor. In this spirit, David "fought the battles of the Lord",8 and his men also kept themselves consecrated to God even when engaged in grim campaigns.9
Our symbol may also represent the founders of the nation: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron and David. While the first six contributed jointly to the people, it was David who united all these contributions in his founding of Zion. Consequently, he is called King of Israel.
Our graph, the hexagram, can be applied to different situations of our lives. E.g. in previous chapters we read that its middle field can depict the visible world; or the tribe of Levi; and others. In the above context, we may well attribute to it the establishment of the Kingdom by David, with the six other founders symbolized by the triangles around the middle field.
The idea expressed by this design corresponds with that expressed in the "Kabbalistic Tree" (see chapter 7).