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Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo's David

This page is about the Biblical king David. For other uses see: David (disambiguation)

David (דָּוִד "Beloved", Standard Hebrew Dvid, Tiberian Hebrew Dāwiḏ; Arabic داود Dāʾūd "Beloved") was one of the most well known kings of ancient Israel, as well as the most-mentioned man in the Hebrew Bible. He was the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, a citizen of Bethlehem. His father seems to have been a man of humble life. His mother's name is not recorded. Some think she was the Nahash of 2 Samuel 17:25. As to his personal appearance, he is described as rosy-faced, with beautiful eyes and a fair face (1 Samuel 16:12; 17:42).

He was vouchsafed by God in the Bible that the Israelite and Jewish monarchies would be guaranteed to come from his Davidic line forever. Judaism believes that the Jewish Messiah will be a direct descendant of King David, and Christianity traces the lineage of Jesus back to him.


David's life

David's early life

His early occupation was that of tending his father's sheep on the uplands of Judah. From what we know of his later story, doubtless he frequently spent his time, when watching sheep, with his shepherd's musical instruments (flute and harp), while he drank in the many lessons taught him by the varied scenes spread around him. His first recorded exploits were his encounters with the wild beasts. He mentions that with his own unaided hand he slew a lion and also a bear, when they came out against his flock, beating them to death, in open conflict, with his club (1 Samuel 17:34,35).

While David was thus engaged with his flocks, Samuel paid an unexpected visit to Bethlehem. There he offered up sacrifice, and called the elders of Israel and Jesse's family to the sacrificial meal. Among all who appeared before him he failed to discover the one he sought. David was sent for, and the prophet immediately recognized him as the chosen of God, chosen to succeed King Saul, who was now departing from the ways of God, on the throne of the kingdom. He accordingly poured on his head the anointing oil. David went back again to his shepherd life, but "the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward," and "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul" (1 Sam. 16:13, 14).

Not long after this David was sent for to soothe with his harp the troubled spirit of King Saul, who suffered from a strange melancholy dejection. He played his harp before the king so skillfully that Saul was greatly cheered, and began to entertain great affection for the young shepherd. After this he went home to Bethlehem. But he soon again came into prominence. The armies of the Philistines and of Israel were in battle array in the valley of Elah, some 16 miles south-west of Bethlehem; and David was sent by his father with provisions for his three brothers, who were then fighting on the side of the king. On his arrival in the camp of Israel, David, now a youth (1Sam17:42), was made aware of the state of matters when the champion of the Philistines, Goliath of Gath, came forth to defy Israel. David took only his sling, and with a well-trained aim threw a stone "out of the brook," which struck the giant's forehead, so that he fell senseless to the ground. David then ran to cut off Goliath's head with Goliath's own sword (1 Sam. 17). The result was a great victory for the Israelites, who pursued the Philistines to the gates of Gath and Ekron. However, 2 Samuel credits Elhanan with Goliath's death. See Goliath.

David's popularity following this heroic exploit awakened Saul's jealousy (1 Sam. 18:6-16), which he showed in various ways. He conceived a bitter hatred toward him, and by various stratagems sought his death (1 Sam. 18:29). The deep-laid plots of the enraged king, who could not fail to observe that David "prospered exceedingly," all proved futile, and only endeared the young hero the more to the people, and very specially to Jonathan, Saul's son, who shared a deep, lifelong relationship with David that some scholars contend was romantic (see Jonathan and David).

During the period of his persecution by Saul, David lived as an exile and accepted the city of Ziklag as a fief from the Philistine King Achish of Gath (1 Sam 27:2-6). Until Saul's death at Gilboa, David worked as a mercenary general for the Philistines, and may have adopted iron technology (as opposed to bronze) from them at this time.

David as a king

David made Jerusalem the capital, and bought Mount Moriah, He then brought the Ark of the Covenant to Mount Moriah and intended to build a temple, but God did not allow him to do so. One reason cited was that the Temple is supposed to be a peaceful and reverent place, but David had fought a lot of wars becoming, according to biblical text, a "man of blood."

David's family

David's father

Jesse or Yshai (ישי "Gift", Standard Hebrew Yšay, Tiberian Hebrew Yšay / Yēšay), King David's father, was the son of Obed, son of Boaz and Ruth the Moabite whose story is told at length in the Book of Ruth. They were of the tribe of Judah, David's lineage is fully documented in Ruth 4:18-22. (The "Pharez" that heads the line is Judah's son, Genesis 38:29).

David's sons

As given in 1 Chronicles, chapter 3 (KJV). David had other sons by concubines; their names are not given in Chronicles.

Born in Hebron

  • "Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess " (the firstborn )
  • "Daniel, of Abigail the Carmelitess", also called Chileab (2 Sam. 3:3).
  • "Absalom the son of Maachah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur "
  • "Adonijah the son of Haggith"
  • "Shephatiah of Abital"
  • "Ithream by Eglah his wife"

Born in Jerusalem

"of Bath-shua [ Bathsheba ] the daughter of Ammiel:"

of other women:

  • Ibhar
  • Elishama
  • Eliphelet
  • Nogah
  • Nepheg
  • Japhia
  • Elishama (again)
  • Eliada
  • Eliphelet (again)

David also had at least one daughter, Tamar.

David as a religious figure

David in Judaism

In Judaism, David's reign represents the formation of a coherent Jewish state with its political and religious capital in Jerusalem and the institution of a royal lineage that culminates in the Messianic era. David's descent from a convert (Ruth) is taken as proof of the importance of converts within Judaism. That he wasn't allowed to build a permanent temple is taken as proof of the imperative of peace in affairs of state.

David is also viewed as a tragic figure; his inexcusable acquisition of Bathsheba, and the loss of his son is viewed as central tragedies in Judaism.

David in Christianity

In Christianity, David is mainly important as the ancestor of the Messiah. Several Old Testament prophecies state that the Messiah will come from David's line; the Gospels of Matthew and Luke trace Jesus' lineage to David to fulfill this requirement.

David (Dawud) in Islam

In the Qur'an, David is known as Dawud (داود), and considered one of the prophets of Islam, to whom the Zabur (Psalms) were revealed by Allah. As in Judaism, he is said to have killed Goliath (Jalut) with a rock from his sling. In his reign, he is generally believed to have laid the foundations of the Dome of the Rock. See Similarities between the Bible and the Qur'an.

Historicity of David

See The Bible and history for a fuller description of the issues surrounding the Bible as a historical source.

Biblical minimalists hold that David and his united kingdom never existed, and that the stories told about his life were made up much later by Jewish nationalists. Others consider him a real historical figure, but like King Arthur, consider most of the traditions relating to him to have more myth than substance.

The details of David's life given in this article come from the Hebrew Bible and are not corroborated by other historical documents. However, an ancient inscription found at Tel Dan is generally considered to refer to a king of the "House of David", providing indirect evidence that someone called David did exist as a historical king.

Representation in art

Famous sculptures of David include those by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Michelangelo Buonarroti (see Michelangelo's David), Donatello (see Donatello's David), and Jean-Antoine Merci.

King David was portrayed by actor Richard Gere in the 1985 film King David directed by Bruce Beresford.

See also


  • Kirsch, Jonathan (2000) "King David: the real life of the man who ruled Israel". Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-43275-4.
Preceded by:
King of united Israel Succeeded by:

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