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

David (דָּוִד "Beloved", Standard Hebrew Dávid, Tiberian Hebrew Dāwiḏ; Arabic داود Dāʾūd "Beloved"), as referred to as King David, was the second and one of the most well-known kings of ancient Israel, as well as the most mentioned man in the Hebrew Bible.

The successor to King Saul, who was the first official king of a united Kingdom of Israel, David's forty-year reign lasted from roughly 1005 BC to 965 BC. The account of his life and rule are recorded in the Old Testament Books of Samuel and the first of the two Books of Chronicles.

Despite the fact that he displeased God on a few occasions, he is regarded by the Bible - and most Jews and Christians - as having been the most righteous of all the ancient kings of Israel. He is also unusual in that he was an acclaimed warrior, monarch, musician and poet; David is traditionally credited with the authorship of many of the psalms recorded in the Old Testament book of Psalms.

The Bible states that God was ultimately so pleased with David, that He promised that the Davidic line would endure forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16). 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

David fighting Goliath
David fighting Goliath

David 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 being ruddy and handsome (1 Samuel 16:12; 17:42).

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 (1 Sam. 17:42), 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. 2 Samuel credits Elhanan with Goliath's brothers 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 friendship with 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.

Reign as King of Judah

David returned to Israel at God's command (2 Sam. 2) after Saul and Jonathan's deaths and the mourning period. He went to Hebron, where the people of his native tribe, the tribe of Judah, anointed him as king over the tribe. The northern tribes, however, did not recognize David, and instead followed Saul's son, Ish-Bosheth.

There followed a bitter civil war between Judah (supporting David) and the northern tribes (supporting Ish-Bosheth). Eventually, Abner, Saul's army commander and advisor, grew dissatisfied with Ish-Bosheth and went over to David's side. The war was ended when Ish-Bosheth was assassinated.

David's reign over the United Monarchy

The leaders of all the tribes came to David and declared him king by popular assent. He reigned over Israel for a while longer in Hebron, but eventually decided on conquering the Jebusite fortress of Jerusalem as his capital. One of the strongest cities in Israel, the Israelites had been unable to capture the fortress despite having lived around it for centuries. Nevertheless, we are told in the Bible, David captured the city.

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 too many wars, becoming, according to the Biblical text, a "man of blood."

David's family

David's father

Jesse (ישי "Gift", Standard Hebrew Yíšay, Tiberian Hebrew Yíšay / 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 wives

David had eight wives, although he appears to have had children from other women as well.

  1. The first one was Michal, a daughter of King Saul.
  2. The second was Ahinoam of Jezreel.
  3. The third was Abigail, previously wife of the evil Nabal.
  4. The fourth was Maachah.
  5. The fifth was Haggith.
  6. The sixth was Avital.
  7. The seventh was Eglah.
  8. The eigth was Bathsheba.


In the Old Testament, Bathsheba ("the seventh daughter" or the "daughter of the oath"), the daughter of Ammiel, is the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of King David. She is the mother of King Solomon. In 1 Chronicles 3:5 she is called Bath-shua.

2 Samuel 11:1 to 12:25 tells the story of David's adultery with Bathsheba, and his subsequent murder of Uriah in order to conceal his guilt. His plan comes unstuck when God sends the prophet Nathan to denounce David by means of a parable. David is completely taken in, declaring at the end of it, "The man who did this deserves to die!" only to be told by Nathan, "You are that man".

Although both David and Bathsheba are spared death for this crime, thier first child dies after only 7 days. Furthermore, the Bible claims that the subsequent string of intrigues, murders and infighting including civil war that plagues David's later life is part of a curse imposed as additional punishment.

In the Gospel of Matthew (1:6) she is listed as an ancestor of Jesus.

David's sons

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

Born in Hebron

Born in Jerusalem

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

of other women:

David also had at least one daughter, Tamar, who was the full sister of Absalom.

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 was not 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 are viewed as central tragedies in Judaism.

David in Christianity

In Christianity, David is 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 is also figurative of Christ, the slaying of Goliath being compared to the way that Jesus defeated Satan when Jesus died on the cross. More often, David is figurative of a Christian believer. The Psalms that he wrote show a Christian how to depend upon God during times of adversity, how to praise, how to repent.

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. Muslims reject the Biblical portrayal of David as an adulterer and murderer. This is based on the Islamic belief in the infallibility and superiority of the moral character of prophets.

Historicity of David

See The Bible and history for a more complete description of the general 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 feel that he was a historical figure and that the Biblical account on his person is generally accurate. An intermediate position, taken by a large proportion of scholars, consider him a real historical figure but, as with King Arthur, consider most of the traditions relating to him to have more myth than substance.

Archaeologist William G. Dever, in his book, What Did the Biblical Authors Know and When Did They Know It?, comes to the conclusion that David and his united monarchy did indeed exist, but that he did not rule "from the Euphrates to the River of Egypt" as the Bible claims, and more probably ruled approximately from Tel Dan in northern Israel to the area south of Beer-Sheba in Judah.

The details of David's life given in this article come from the Hebrew Bible and are not corroborated by, or even mentioned in, other historical documents. However, an ancient inscription called the Tel Dan Stele is controversially considered to refer to a king of the "House of David", providing indirect evidence that someone called David did exist as a historical king (although a minority interpret the vowel-less text as saying the "House of Duad", the "House of Thoth", or various other readings). It has recently been claimed that this inscription is a modern forgery, but this claim is rejected by the majority of researchers.

There have been many attempts at considering David as a quasi-historical figure, a composite mostly taken from the details of someone or something else, whether being a deliberate satire or commentary, or simply an attempt at accurate portrayal which became corrupted (in the sense that it appears now that he is someone distinct from who/what he was intended to portray).

In 2005, an Israeli archaeologist working in East Jerusalem uncovered a large public building dating back to the period of David's reign, which may allow the issue to be addressed more definitively.

Representation in art and literature


Famous sculptures of David include (in chronological order) those by:


Elmer Davis's 1928 novel Giant Killer retells and embellishes the Biblical story of David, casting David as primarily a poet who managed always to find others to do the "dirty work" of heroism and kingship. In the novel, Elhanan in fact killed Goliath but David claimed the credit; and Joab, David's cousin and general, took it upon himself to make many of the difficult decisions of war and statecraft when David vacillated or wrote poetry instead.

In Thomas Burnett Swann's Biblical fantasy novel How are the Mighty Fallen (1974) David and Jonathan are explicitly stated to be lovers. Moreover, Jonathan is a member of a winged semi-human race (possibly nephilim), one of several such races co-existing with humanity but often persecuted by it.


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

See also


Preceded by:
Ish-bosheth, Saul
King of united Israel Succeeded by:
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