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

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 red-haired, 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

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. 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 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.

The details of David's life given in this article come from the Hebrew Bible and are not corroborated by, and frequently are not present in, other historical documents. However, an ancient inscription found at Tel Dan 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 claim it refers to the "House of Duad" or the "House of Thoth" (pronounced Toot). It has recently been claimed that this inscription is a modern forgery.

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).

Psusennes II as the basis for David

One of the most successful (which is not to say that it is popular) attempts to identify David with another historical figure is that which claims that David is based on the Egyptian pharaoh Psusennes II.

In the same way that Johannes and Gianni are both the same name (John), having been subject to language change, a sizable minority of academics consider that the ancestry that David is described as having is actually copied from the Egyptian pharaoh Psusennes II. This is not because of any supposed phonetic similarity between the name David and the name Psusennes — it is clear there is none — but rather because of the similarity of their ancestors' names. One of the features that are less likely to survive when a name is transferred from one group to another are parts of names which mention a god (such as Amen or Hars). Another feature of changing between languages are slight sound changes, such as adding voicing (e.g. p->b, t->d,), which in the case of Egyptian was particularly likely, since the sounds were considered almost indistinguishable. By bracketing syllables from the ancestors' names, mostly surrounding parts naming a god, although also indicating bits that may have been cut out for abbreviation, the similarity is much more noticeable:

Psusennes's Ancestry (syllabically) (with brackets) David's Ancestry
Ramesses Ram-ess-es Ram-ess(-es) Ezron
Ramesses Ram-ess-es Ram(-ess-es) Ram
Amen-Nesbanebdjed Amen-Nes-ba-neb-djed Amen(-Nes-ba)-neb-djed Amminnaddab
Amenemneshu Amen-em-ne-shu (Amen-em-)ne-shu Nashon
Siamun Si-amun Si-amun Salmon
Bas-Uasorkon Bas-Uas-ork-on B(as)-Uas(-ork-on) Boas
Amenemopet Amen-em-opet (Amen-em-)opet Obed
Harsiese Hars-iese (Hars-)iese Jesse
Psusennes     David
Note 1: The case of Ezron is usually said to be syllable reversal - i.e. derived from ess-Ram
Note 2a: such similarity may just be contrived from co-incidence, as many critics counter
Note 2b: such similarity may be due to Psusennes being based on David, rather than the other way around, though this is very unlikely

Another similarity with Psusennes (also known as Pasebakhaen-nuit) is that the hieroglyph for his name contains a glyph for a star, and also a glyph for a city, i.e. the "star of Psusennes" and the "city of Psusennes", which are similar entities to those ascribed to David. The name of the glyph for the star is "seba", although the image of a star may also be described by the Egyptian word "djuat", which the theory's supporters allege became corrupted by language change into "duad", which would be written in Hebrew as "dwd". The significance of this is that the "David" also only appears in the bible as "Dwd" (due to the manner in which Hebrew is written — without vowels), and therefore the understanding that the Bible is referring to someone called "David" may be wrong, with it in fact referring to someone named "Duad".

Psusennes' daughter was named "Maakhare Mu-Tamhat", whereas one of David's was named "Maakhah Tamar rmt hkem", which is similar enough to be possible to have been a corruption. Likewise Psusennes had as the head of his army someone named Un-tchoab-endjed; the middle part (and potential abbreviation) of this name is pronounced exactly the same as "Joab", who was the head of David's army. Another name which is identifiable is that of the head architect of Psusennes, who was Herum Atif, whereas David's (and Solomon's) was Hiram Abif.

One of the most interesting features of the purported connection between Psusennes and David is the identification of the Queen of Sheba that it implies. By the same rules of language change given above, the word "Sheba" is thought by a majority of academics to be a corruption of "Seba" or "Saba". However, "Seba" is the Egyptian word for star, as is "Djuat", which is alleged in the theory to be "Duad" ("Dwd", i.e. David) — and so the Queen of Sheba is also a Queen of David (as well as meaning "David's queen": this can mean merely "a queen of the house of David").

Such an identification of the Queen of Sheba is confirmed by the Ethiopian Bible (a version of the Bible which diverges from others, partly due to the isolation of the Ethiopian church for over 1000 years), which goes further to state that also it is the case that the Queen is the pharaoh's daughter (mentioned by most Bibles as having married into the house of David, implying Solomon — see 1 Kings 3:1), and more so that it is "Maakhare Mu-Tamhat", who, by identifying her as also being "Maakhah Tamar rmt hkem", is also David's own daughter. The marriage of Solomon to his (possibly half-) sister, while apparently inappropriate for Jewish kings, was not unusual for Egyptian pharaohs, brother and sister often being Pharaoh and Queen at the same time.

One obvious flaw in this theory is that Maakhah is described by the Bible as being the daughter of Talmai (Ptolemy), the pharaoh. Ptolemy is a Greek name, and only used by pharaohs after the Greek conquest of Egypt many centuries after the story of David is set. Such an anachronism is likely due to later editing of the passages, perhaps during the Maccabee era.

David as a god personified

Some theories surrounding David, suggest that he was originally considered a god, but at the point at which the Israelites became monotheistic, was converted into being a human, with human background added. Often this is said to be the unknown god "Dood", which is one of the alternative readings for "DWD", if it doesn't represent the name "David" (Hebrew did not usually write or indicate vowels, and the letter waw can, unhelpfully, mean both "v", "oo", and "ua").

It has been suggested that "Dood" may be a corruption of "Thoth" (which is also written Tut, the "o" is long, and the "h" indicates aspiration rather than being part of "th"), since "d" and "t" were almost indistinguishable in egyptian. Thoth himself was a moon god, and the significance of David's son Solomon would have, according to this connection, been down to his attribution as a sun god (his wives and so forth representing the stars, planets, etc.). The standard twinning of day and night, sun and moon, requiring that there be a tale associated with Solomon of magnitude equal to that of David.

"Dood" literally means "lover", in Hebrew, and so any god which the Hebrews thought named "Dood", would after time acquire (if he had not started out with them) the attribute of having many lovers, or concubines, or wives, just as David is described as having, but also matching up with Thoth as a moon god - with the lovers as the stars.

This theory, however, whilst clearly possible for Thoth to be confused with David (due to the name similarity), may not be David's origin, and merely the manner in which certain details became associated with David (due to confusion between the two), and later written down as if they belonged to him.

Representation in art and literature

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

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

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.

See also


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

fr:David (Bible) he:דוד המלך it:Davide (Bibbia) nl:Koning David nn:David I av Israel pl:Dawid (Biblia) ja:ダビデ ko:다윗 왕 pt:David sv:David


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