King David was the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary. He is depicted as a righteous king, though not without faults, as well as an acclaimed warrior, musician, and poet, traditionally credited for composing many of the psalms contained in the Book of Psalms.
His life is conventionally dated to c. 1040–970 BC, his reign over Judah c. 1010–1003 BC, and his reign over the United Kingdom of Israel c. 1003–970 BC. The Books of Samuel, 1 Kings, and 1 Chronicles are the only sources of information on David, although the Tel Dan stele records “House of David”, which some take as confrimation that there was the existence in the mid-9th century B.C. of a Judean royal dynasty called the “House of David”. David’s life is very important to Jewish, Christian and Islamic culture. In Judaism, David, or David HaMelekh, is the King of Israel, and the Jewish people. Jewish tradition maintains that a direct descendant of David will be the Messiah. In Islam, he is known as Dawud, considered to be a prophet and the king of a nation.
Chosen by God
God withdraws his favour from Saul, king of Israel: It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king, for he is turned back from following me, and has not performed my commandments. The prophet Samuel seeks a new king from the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. Seven of Jesse’s sons are led before Samuel, but Samuel says, “Yahweh has not chosen these.” He then asks, “Are these all the sons you have?” and Jesse answers, “There is still the youngest but he is tending the sheep.” So David is brought to Samuel, and “Yahweh said (to Samuel), ‘Rise and anoint him; he is the one.'”
At the court of Saul
God sends an evil spirit to torment Saul,1 Samuel 16:14, and his attendants suggest he send for David, a young warrior famed for his bravery and for his skill with the harp. Saul does so and makes David one of his armor-bearers and “whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him.”
David and Goliath
Young David holds the impaled head of the Philistine giant and marches in front of a general riding a white horse, most likely King Saul.The Israelites, under King Saul, faced the Philistines in the Valley of Elah. He heard the Philistine giant Goliath challenge the Israelites to send their own champion to decide the outcome in single combat. David told Saul he was prepared to face Goliath and Saul allowed him to make the attempt. He was victorious, striking Goliath in the forehead with a stone from his sling. Goliath fell, and David killed him with his own sword and beheaded him; the Philistines fled in terror. Saul inquired about the name of the young champion, and David told him that he is the son of Jesse.
David and Jonathan
Saul makes David a commander over his armies and offers him his daughter Michal in marriage for bringing more than 200 foreskins of the Philistines to him. David is successful in many battles, and his popularity awakes Saul’s fears — “What more can he have but the kingdom?” By various stratagems the jealous king seeks his death, but the plots only endear David the more to the people, and especially to Saul’s son Jonathan, who loves David (1 Samuel 18:1, 2 Samuel 1:25–26). Warned by Jonathan, David flees into the wilderness, where he gathers a band of followers and becomes the champion of the oppressed while evading the pursuit of Saul. He accepts the town of Ziklag from the Philistine king Achish of Gath, but continues secretly to champion the Israelites. Achish marches against Saul, but David is excused from the war on the accusation of the Philistine nobles that his loyalty to their cause cannot be trusted.
Panorama of the Harod Valley below, part of the Jezreel- see Mount Gilboa. Jonathan and Saul are killed in battle with the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. David mourns their deaths, especially that of Jonathan, his friend. He goes up to Hebron, where he is anointed king over Judah. In the north, Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth becomes king of the tribes of Israel. War ensues between Ish-Bosheth and David, until Ish-Bosheth is murdered. The assassins bring the head of Ish-Bosheth to David hoping for a reward, but David executes them for their crime against the Lord’s anointed. Yet with the death of the son of Saul, the elders of Israel come to Hebron and David, who is 30 years old, is anointed King over Israel and Judah.
Jerusalem and the Davidic Covenant
David conquers the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem, and makes it his capital, and “Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house.” David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, intending to build a temple, but God, speaking to the prophet Nathan,is pleased, saying the temple will be built. God makes a covenant with David, promising that he will establish the house of David : “Your throne shall be established forever.”
With God’s help, David is victorious over his people’s enemies. The Philistines are subdued, the Moabites to the east pay tribute, along with Hadadezer of Zobah, from whom David takes gold shields and bronze vessels.
Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite
David commits adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Bathsheba becomes pregnant. David sends for Uriah, who is with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, so that he may lie with his wife and conceal the identity of the child’s father. Uriah refuses to do so while his companions are in the field of battle and David sends him back to Joab, the commander, with a message instructing him to abandon Uriah on the battlefield, “that he may be struck down, and die.” David marries Bathsheba and she bears his child, “but the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”The prophet Nathan confronts David, saying: “Why have you despised the word of God, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife.” Nathan presents three punishments from God for this sin. First, that the “sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12:10) second, that “Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel., (2 Samuel 12:12) and finally, that “the son born to you will die.”2 Samuel 12:14 David repents, yet God “struck the [David’s] child … and it became sick … [And] on the seventh day the child died.” David leaves his lamentations, dresses himself, goes to the House of the Lord and worships, and then returns home to eat. His servants ask why he wept when the baby was alive, but ends his mourning when the child dies. David replies: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”2 Samuel 12:22–23
David’s son Absalom rebels
David’s son Absalom rebels against his father, and they come to battle in the Wood of Ephraim. Absalom is caught by his hair in the branches of an oak and David’s general Joab kills him as he hangs there. When the news of the victory is brought to David, he does not rejoice, but is instead shaken with grief: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
When David has become old and bedridden, Adonijah, his eldest surviving son and natural heir, declares himself king and worthy to marry Abishag. Bathsheba, David’s favorite wife, and Nathan the prophet, fearing that they will be killed by Adonijah, go to David and procure his agreement that Solomon, Bathsheba’s son, should sit on the throne. And so the plans of Adonijah collapse, and Solomon becomes king. It is to Solomon that David gives his final instructions, including his promise that the line of Solomon and David will inherit the throne of Judah forever, and his request that Solomon kill his oldest enemies on his behalf. David dies and is buried in the City of David, having ruled forty years over Israel, seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem.
David is referred to as “the favorite of the songs of Israel,” the one who soothed Saul with music, and the founder of Temple singing.A Psalms scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls (11QPsa) attributes 3600 tehilim (songs of praise) plus other compositions to David. Seventy-three of the 150 Psalms in the Bible are attributed to David. The supreme kingship of Yahweh is the most pervasive theological concept in the book of Psalms, and many psalms attributed to David are directed to Yahweh by name, whether in praise or petition, suggesting a relationship. According to the Midrash Tehillim, King David was prompted to the Psalms by the Holy Spirit that rested upon him.
In addition to ascribing authorship to David, several Psalms are identified with specific events in David’s life. Psalm 34 is attributed to David on the occasion of his escape from the Abimelech (king) Achish by pretending to be insane. According to the narrative in 1 Samuel 21, instead of killing the man who had exacted so many casualties from him, Abimelech allows David to depart, exclaiming, “Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?” Psalm 34 is one of seven acrostic Psalms in the original Hebrew; most English translations do not retain the acrostic form. The first part of Psalm 34 is directed toward Yahweh in complete and humble gratitude (David does not even mention his own royal status); the second part confidently directs others to Yahweh.
This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them … Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
— Psalm 34:6–7,11 (ESV)
In contrast, Psalm 18 is not related to a specific incident but rather to God’s faithful deliverance from “all of his enemies and from the hand of Saul.” The text of this Psalm was thought to date to the 10th century BC even before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls and is very similar to that of 2 Samuel 22. In this Psalm, David recalls being in deadly situations: “The cords of death entangled me, the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.” He cries out to God for help, and God rescues David.
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.
— Psalm 18:1–3 (NIV)
According to Psalm 40, David’s cries to God were heartfelt though not necessarily impatient; the poignant combination of a cry for help with a confident expression of faith echo today in the song “40” by the rock group U2 and that encapsulates David’s experience with his God:
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.
— Psalm 40:1–3 (NIV)
King David the Prophet
King David in Prayer, by Pieter de Grebber (c. 1640)
Holy Monarch, Prophet, Reformer, Spiritual Poet & Musician, Vicegerent of God, Psalm-Receiver
Born c. 1040 B.C.E.
Died c. 970 B.C.E.
Honored in Judaism
Attributes Psalms, Harp, Head of Goliath
David is an important figure in Judaism. Historically, David’s reign represented the formation of a coherent Jewish kingdom centered in Jerusalem. David is an important figure within the context of Jewish messianism. In the Hebrew Bible, it is written that a human descendant of David will occupy the throne of a restored kingdom and usher in a messianic age.
David is also viewed as a tragic figure; his acquisition of Bathsheba, and the loss of his son are viewed as his central tragedies.
Many legends have grown around the figure of David. According to one Rabbinic tradition, David was raised as the son of his father Jesse and spent his early years herding his father’s sheep in the wilderness while his brothers were in school. Only at his anointing by Samuel – when the oil from Samuel’s flask turned to diamonds and pearls – was his true identity as Jesse’s son revealed.
David’s adultery with Bathsheba was only an opportunity to demonstrate the power of repentance, and some Talmudic authors stated that it was not adultery at all, quoting a Jewish practice of divorce on the eve of battle. However, in tractate Sanhedrin, David’s broken heart pleads and numerous actions for forgiveness are discussed, God ultimately forgives but would not remove his sins from Scripture.
Furthermore, according to David’s apologists, the death of Uriah was not to be considered murder, on the basis that Uriah had committed a capital offence by refusing to obey a direct command from the King.
According to midrashim, Adam gave up 70 years of his life for the life of David. Also, according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, David was born and died on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot (Feast of Weeks). His piety was said to be so great that his prayers could bring down things from Heaven.
David and King Saul, by Rembrandt. David plays the lyre (depicted here as a harp) to the king “tormented by an evil spirit.”
Originally an earthly king ruling by divine appointment (“the anointed one”, as the title Messiah had it), the “son of David” became in the last two pre-Christian centuries the apocalyptic and heavenly one who would deliver Israel and usher in a new kingdom. This was the background to the concept of Messiahship in early Christianity, which interpreted the career of Jesus “by means of the titles and functions assigned to David in the mysticism of the Zion cult, in which he served as priest-king and in which he was the mediator between God and man.” The early Church believed that “the life of David [foreshadowed] the life of Christ; Bethlehem is the birthplace of both; the shepherd life of David points out Christ, the Good Shepherd; the five stones chosen to slay Goliath are typical of the five wounds; the betrayal by his trusted counsellor, Achitophel, and the passage over the Cedron remind us of Christ’s Sacred Passion. Many of the Davidic Psalms, as we learn from the New Testament, are clearly typical of the future Messiah.” In the Middle Ages, “Charlemagne thought of himself, and was viewed by his court scholars, as a ‘new David’. [This was] not in itself a new idea, but [one whose] content and significance were greatly enlarged by him.” The linking of David to earthly kingship was reflected in later Medieval cathedral windows all over Europe through the device of the Tree of Jesse, its branches demonstrating how divine kingship descended from Jesse, through his son David, to Jesus.
Western Rite churches (Roman Catholic, Lutheran) celebrate his feast day on 29 December, Eastern-rite on 19 December. The Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches celebrate the feast day of the “Holy Righteous Prophet and King David” on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (two Sundays before the Great Feast of the Nativity of the Lord), when he is commemorated together with other ancestors of Jesus. He is also commemorated on the Sunday after the Nativity, together with Joseph and James, the Brother of the Lord.
Main article Islamic view of David
David (Arabic داود, Dāwūd) is a highly important figure in Islam as one of the major prophets sent by God to guide the nation of Israel. David is mentioned several times in the Qur’an, often with his son Solomon. In the Qur’an: David kills Goliath (II: 251) and God grants him kingship and wisdom and enforces it (XXXVIII: 20). David is made God’s “vicegerent on earth” (XXXVIII: 26) and God further gives David sound judgment (XXI: 78; XXXVII: 21–24, 26) as well as the Psalms, which are regarded as books of divine wisdom (IV: 163; XVII, 55). The birds and mountains unite with David in ushering praise to God (XXI: 79; XXXIV: 10; XXXVIII: 18), while God instructs David in the art of fashioning chain-mail out of iron (XXXIV: 10; XXI: 80). Together with Solomon, David gives judgment in a case of damage to the fields (XXI: 78) and David judges in the matter between two disputants in his prayer chamber (XXXVIII: 21–23). Since there is no mention in the Qur’an of the wrong David did to Uriah nor is there any reference to Bathsheba, Muslims reject this narrative.
Muslim tradition and the hadith stress David’s zeal in daily prayer as well as in fasting. Qur’an commentators, historians and compilers of the numerous Stories of the Prophets elaborate upon David’s concise Qur’anic narratives and specifically mention David’s gift in singing his Psalms as well as his musical and vocal talents. His voice is described as having had a captivating power, weaving its influence not only over man but over all beasts and nature, who would unite with him to praise God.
In Baha’i Faith
David is described as a minor prophet who came in the shadow of the dispensation of Moses to develop and consolidate the process he set in motion.
The Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cites David as one directed by God to practice polygamy, but who sinned in committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed.
City of David and Judah, ca. 1000 BC onward
Main article: City of David
Part of the Large Stone Structure thought by some archaeologists to be the remains of King David’s Palace.
The Bronze and Iron Age remains of the City of David, the original urban core of Jerusalem identified with the reigns of David and Solomon, were investigated extensively in the 1970s and 1980s under the direction of Yigal Shiloh of the Hebrew University, but failed to discover significant evidence of occupation during the 10th century BC, In 2005, Eilat Mazar found a Large Stone Structure which she claimed was David’s Palace, but the archaeology is contaminated and impossible to date accurately. Finkelstein and Silberman feel the archaeological evidence from surface surveys indicates that Judah at the time of David was a small tribal kingdom, although both do accept that David and Solomon were likely historical figures in Judah about the 10th century BC. They describe the earliest tales of David as a “classical bandit tale”.
The biblical account
The biblical account about David comes from the book of Samuel and the book of Chronicles (both of which are divided into two books in Jewish and Christian traditions). However, almost half of the Psalms are headed “A Psalm of David”, the headings are later additions, and no psalm can be attributed to David with certainty. Chronicles merely retells Samuel from a different theological vantage point, and contains little if any information not available there, and the biblical evidence for David is therefore dependent almost exclusively on the material contained in the chapters from 1 Samuel 16 to 1 Kings 2.
According to Genesis 46:12 and Ruth 4:18–22, David is the eleventh generation from Judah, the fourth son of the patriarch Jacob (Israel). The genealogical line runs as follows: (1) Judah → (2) Pharez → (3) Hezron → (4) Ram → (5) Amminadab → (6) Nahshon → (7) Salmon → (8) Boaz (the husband of Ruth) → (9) Obed → (10) Jesse → (11) David.
David was born in Bethlehem, in the territory of the Tribe of Judah. His father was named Jesse. His mother is not named in the Bible, but the Talmud identifies her as Nitzevet daughter of Adael. David had seven brothers and was the youngest of them all. He had eight wives: Michal, the second daughter of King Saul; Ahinoam the Jezreelite; Abigail the Carmelite, previously wife of Nabal; Maachah, daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; Haggith; Abital; Eglah; and Bathsheba, previously the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
The Book of Chronicles lists David’s sons by various wives and concubines. In Hebron he had six sons 1 Chronicles 3:1–3: Amnon, by Ahinoam; Daniel, by Abigail; Absalom, by Maachah; Adonijah, by Haggith; Shephatiah, by Abital; and Ithream, by Eglah. By Bathsheba, his sons were: Shammua; Shobab; Nathan; and Solomon. His sons born in Jerusalem by other wives included: Ibhar; Elishua; Eliphelet; Nogah; Nepheg; Japhia; Elishama; and Eliada. 2 Samuel 5:14–16 According to 2 Chronicles 11:18, Jerimoth, who is not mentioned in any of the genealogies, is mentioned as another of David’s sons. According to 2 Samuel 9:11, David adopted Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth as his own.
David also had at least one daughter, Tamar by Maachah, who was raped by Amnon, her half-brother. Her rape leads to Amnon’s death. 2 Samuel 13:1–29 Absalom, Amnon’s half-brother and Tamar’s full-brother, waits two years, then avenges his sister by sending his servants to kill Amnon at a feast to which he had invited all the king’s sons. 2 Samuel 13