[dey-vid for 1, 2, 6; Du. dah-vuht for 3, 6; Fr. da-veed for 4, 6; Sp. dah-veeth for 5, 6]

David , Arabic: داوود or داود, dawud, "beloved"), was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. He is depicted as a righteous king — although not without fault — as well as an acclaimed warrior, musician and poet (he is traditionally credited with the authorship of many of the Psalms). The biblical chronology places his life c.1037 - 967 BC, his reign over Judah c.1007 - 1000 BC, and over Judah and Israel c.1000 - 967 BC.

There is little in the archaeological evidence to support the picture of David from the Bible, although there is reasonable evidence (the Tel Dan stele) that a king named David was regarded as the founder of the Judean royal dynasty by the 9th century BC. Nevertheless, his story has been of immense importance to later Jewish and Christian culture, and the Biblical history remains a compelling literary monument.

The biblical account of David

This section summarizes only a few major episodes from David's life, chosen on the basis of their fame and/or importance in later Christian and Jewish culture.

David is chosen

God withdraws his favor from King Saul and sends the prophet Samuel to Jesse, "for I have provided for myself a king among his sons." The choice falls upon David, the youngest son, who is guarding his father's sheep: "He was ruddy, and fine in appearance with handsome features. And the LORD said [to Samuel], 'Anoint him; for this is he.'"

David plays the lyre before Saul

Saul is tormented by an evil spirit. His servants suggest he send for David, "skillful in playing [the harp], a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence; and the LORD is with him." So David enters Saul's service, and finds favour in his sight, "and whenever the evil spirit was upon Saul, David took the harp and played it with his hand; so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." ()

David and Goliath

The Israelites are facing the army of the Philistines. David, the youngest of the sons of Jesse, brings food to his brothers who are with Saul. He hears the Philistine champion, the giant Goliath, challenge the Israelites to send their own champion to decide the outcome in single combat. David takes the challenge as an insult to the God of Israel and insists that he can defeat Goliath. Saul sends for him, and reluctantly allows him to make the attempt. David is indeed victorious, felling Goliath with a stone from his sling, at which the Philistines flee in terror and the Israelites win a great victory. David beheads Goliath with his own sword and brings it to Saul, who asks him whose son he is, and David replies, "I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite".

The enmity of Saul

Saul makes David a commander over his armies and gives him his daughter Michal in marriage. David is successful in many battles, and the women say, "Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." David's popularity awakens Saul's fears - "What more can he have but the kingdom?" - and by various stratagems the king seeks David's death. But the plots of the jealous king all proved futile, and only endear the young hero the more to the people, and especially to Saul's son Jonathan, one of those who love David. Warned by Jonathan of Saul's intention to kill him, David flees into the wilderness.

David in the wilderness

In the wilderness David gathers a band of followers and becomes the champion of the oppressed while evading the pursuit of Saul. He accepts Ziklag as a fief from the Philistine king Achish of Gath, but continues to secretly 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.

David is made king

Saul and Jonathan are killed in a battle with the Philistines and David mourns their death. Then David goes up to Hebron, where he is anointed (messiah) king over Judah; in the north, Saul's son Ish-Bosheth is king over the tribes of Israel. War ensues between Ish-Bosheth and David, and Ish-Bosheth is assassinated. The assassins bring forward the head of Ish-Bosheth to David hoping for reward, but David executes them for their crime against their king. Yet with the death of the son of Saul, the elders of Israel come to Hebron, and David is anointed King of Israel and Judah. Upon these events he is 30 years old.

King David

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. God, speaking to the prophet Nathan, forbids it, saying the temple must wait for a future generation. But God makes a covenant with David, promising that he will establish the house of David eternally: "Your throne shall be established forever. Then David establishes a mighty empire, conquering Zobah and Aram (modern Syria), Edom and Moab (roughly modern Jordan), the lands of the Philistines, and much more.

Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite

David lies with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Bathsheba becomes pregnant and David sends for Uriah, who is with the Israelite army at the siege of Rabbah, that he might lie with her and so 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 Uriah back to Joab, the commander, with a message instructing him to abandon Uriah on the battlefield, "that he may be struck down, and die." And so David marries Bathsheba and she bears his child, "but the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

God's judgment on David

The prophet Nathan speaks out against David's sin, 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." And although David repents, God "struck the child ... and it became sick ... [And] on the seventh day the child died." David then leaves his lamentations, dresses himself, and eats. His servants ask why he lamented when the baby was alive, but leaves off when it is dead, and David replies: "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, who knows whether YHWH will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.


David’s beloved son Absalom rebels against his father. The armies of Absalom and David come to battle in the Wood of Ephraim, and Absalom is caught by his hair in the branches of an oak. 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!”

The Psalms of David

David is described as the author of the majority of the Psalms. One of the most famous is , traditionally said to have been composed by David after Nathan upbraided him over Bathsheba and Uriah. Perhaps the best-known is Psalm 23:
1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3 He restoreth my soul:
he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;
thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou anointest my head with oil;
my cup runneth over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever."

Reign of David

"Thus David the son of Jesse reigned over all Israel. The time that he reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. Then he died in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour; and Solomon his son reigned in his stead".

David in later Abrahamic tradition

David in Judaism

David's reign represents the formation of a coherent Jewish kingdom centered in Jerusalem and the institution of an eternal royal dynasty; the failure of this "eternal" Davidic dynasty after some four centuries led to the later elaboration of the concept of the Messiah, at first a human descendant of David who would occupy the throne of a restored kingdom, later an apocalyptic figure who would usher in the end of time.

In modern Judaism David's descent from a convert (Ruth) is taken as proof of the importance of converts within Judaism. 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 illegitimate 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 David's true identity as Jesse's legal son revealed. David's piety was said to be so great that his prayers could bring down things from Heaven. His 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 supposed Jewish practice of divorce on the eve of battle to prevent the wives of the missing-in-action from becoming agunot. 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).

David in Christianity

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 "son of God" 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.

Christians have traditionally believed that the Old Testament prophecies foretold that the Messiah would be a descendant of David, and the Gospels of Matthew and Luke therefore trace Jesus' lineage to David in fulfillment of this requirement.

"Incidents in 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 Messias.

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. Charlemagne's iconographic linking of David to earthly kingship was reflected in later Medieval cathedral windows all over Europe thnrough 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 Church 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.

David in Latter Day Saint Doctrine

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:

"Verily, thus saith the LORD ... David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me, by the hand of Nathan, my servant, and others of the prophets who had the keys of this power; and in none of these things did he sin against me save in the case of Uriah and his wife; and, therefore he hath fallen from his exaltation.

This clarifies the LDS doctrine that polygamy is only allowed as directed by the Lord, otherwise it is a grievous sin. The Church forbade polygamy in 1890, citing a revelation given to Wilford Woodruff at that time.

David in Islam

David, known in the Islamic tradition as Dawood (Dāwūd), is one of the prophets of Islam, to whom the Zabur (Psalms) were revealed by God (Allah). Muslims reject the Biblical portrayal of David as an adulterer and murderer (in association with the story of Uriah and Bathsheba). The rejection is based on the concept of ismah, or the infallibility of the prophets. The concept is often associated with the Shi'a branch of Islam.

According to some Islamic narrations David was not from Judah but was from Levi and Aron Dawood was in Taloot's (Saul's) army. Goliath appears in the Qur'an as Jalut; and like in Judaism, Jalut's slayer is Dawood:

"And Dawood slew Jalut, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom,
and taught him of what He pleased.

Historicity of David

See The Bible and history and dating the Bible for a more complete description of the general issues surrounding the Bible as a historical source.


An inscription found at Tel Dan and dated c.850-835 BC has been interpreted as containing the phrase 'House of David' (ביתדוד); the Mesha Stele from Moab, and from a similar time, may contain the same phrase; and Kenneth Kitchen has proposed that an inscription of c. 945 BC by the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I mentions "the highlands of David," but this has not been widely accepted. "If the reading of בית דוד [House of David] on the Tel Dan stele is correct, ... then we have solid evidence that a 9th-century Aramean king considered the founder of the Judean dynasty to be somebody named דוד" (David).

The Bronze and Iron Age remains of the City of David were investigated extensively in the 1970s and 1980s under the direction of Yigael Shiloh of 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 site is contaminated and impossible to date accurately. Elsewhere in the territory of biblical Judah and Israel, no royal inscriptions exist from the 10th century BCE, nor evidence of a royal bureaucracy (the equivalents of the LMLK seal attached to oil jars associated with the Judean royal bureaucracy of the late 8th century BC), nor the inscribed potshards which would provide evidence of widespread literacy. Surveys of surface finds aimed at tracing settlement patterns and population changes have shown that between the 16th and 8th centuries BC, a period which includes the biblical kingdoms of David and Solomon, the entire population of the hill country of Judah was no more than about 5,000 persons, most of them wandering pastoralists, with the entire urbanised area consisting of about twenty small villages.

While the Tel Dan stele is largely accepted as supporting the historical existence of a Judean royal dynasty tracing its descent from an individual named David , the interpretation of the archeological evidence on the extent and nature of Judah and Jerusalem in the 10th century BC is a matter of fierce debate. On one hand is the view of Israel Finkelstein and Ze'ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University. Finkelstein says in his The Bible Unearthed (2001): "[O]n the basis of archaeological surveys, Judah remained relatively empty of permanent population, quite isolated and very marginal right up to and past the presumed time of David and Solomon, with no major urban centers and with no pronounced hierarchy of hamlets, villages and towns. According to Ze'ev Herzog "the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom". On the other is William Dever, in his What Did the Biblical Writers Know and When Did They Know It?, holds that the archaeological and anthropological evidence supports the broad biblical account of a Judean state in the 10th century BC.

The Bible and David's Reign

The biblical evidence for David comes from three sources: the Psalms, the book of Samuel (two books in the Christian tradition), and the book of Chronicles (also two books in the Christian tradition). Although almost half of the Psalms are headed "A Psalm of David", the headings are later additions, and the Hebrew preposition translated in English as "of" can also be translated as "for". "No psalm can be attributed to David with certainty, and aside from the headings, they contain no information about David's life that is useful for historical reconstruction. Chronicles retells Samuel from a different theological vantage point, but contains little if any information not available in Samuel. 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.

The question of David's historicity therefore becomes the question of the date, textual integrity, authorship and reliability of 1st and 2nd Samuel. Since Martin Noth put forward his analysis of the Deuteronomistic History biblical scholars have accepted that these two books form part of a continuous history of Israel, compiled no earlier than the late 7th century BC, but incorporating earlier works and fragments. Samuel's account of David "seems to have undergone two separate acts of editorial slanting. The original writers show a strong bias against Saul, and in favour of David and Solomon. Many years later, the Deuteronomists edited the material in a manner that conveyed their religious message, inserting reports and anecdotes that strengthened their monotheistic doctrine. Some of the materials in Samuel I and II , notably the lists of officers, officials, and districts are believed to be very early, possibly even dating to the time of David or Solomon. These documents were probably in the hands of the Deuteronomists when they started to compile the material three centuries later.

Beyond this, the full range of possible interpretations is available, from the "maximalist" position of the late John Bright, whose "History of Israel", dating largely from the 1950s, takes Samuel at face value, to the recent "minimalist" scholars such Thomas L. Thompson, who measures Samuel against the archaeological evidence and concludes that "an independent history of Judea during the Iron I and Iron II periods [i.e., the period of David] has little room for historicizing readings of the stories of I-II Samuel and I Kings. Within this gamut some interesting studies of David have been written. Baruch Halpern has pictured David as a lifelong vassal of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath; Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman have identified as the oldest and most reliable section of Samuel those chapters which describe David as the charismatic leader of a band of outlaws who captures Jerusalem and makes it his capital.

David's family

David's father was Jesse, the son of Obed, son of Boaz of the tribe of Judah and Ruth the Moabite, whose story is told at length in the Book of Ruth. David's lineage is fully documented in , (the "Pharez" that heads the line is Judah's son, ).

1 Chronicles 2 mentions David is the seventh son of Jesse, while 1 Samuel 16 & 17 call David the youngest son of eight total sons.

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

In his old age he took the beautiful Abishag into his bed for health reasons, "but the king knew her not (intimately)" ().

As given in , David had sons by various wives and concubines; their names are not given in Chronicles. By Bathsheba, his sons were:

His sons born in Hebron by other mothers included:

His sons born in Jerusalem by other mothers included:

According to , another son was born to David who is not mentioned in any of the genealogies:

And according to 2 Samuel 9 David adopts Johnathan's son Mephibosheth as his own.

David also had at least one daughter, Tamar, progeny of David and Maachah and the full sister of Absalom, who is later raped by her brother Amnon, leading to Amnon's death.

Relationship with Jonathan

The intimate relationship between David and Jonathan is recorded favourably in the books of Samuel. There is debate amongst biblical scholars whether this relationship was platonic, romantic but chaste, or sexual.

Claimed descendants of David

The following are some of the more notable persons who have claimed descent from the Biblical David, or had it claimed on their behalf:

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.
  • Gladys Schmitt wrote a novel titled "David the King" in 1946 which proceeds as a richly embellished biography of David's entire life. The book took a risk, especially for its time, in portraying David's relationship with Jonathan as overtly homoerotic, but was ultimately panned by critics as a bland rendition of the title character.
  • 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.
  • Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, also wrote a novel based on David, God Knows. Told from the perspective of an aging David, the humanity — rather than the heroism — of various biblical characters are emphasized. The portrayal of David as a man of flaws such as greed, lust, selfishness, and his alienation from God, the falling apart of his family is a distinctly 20th century interpretation of the events told in the Bible.
  • Juan Bosch, Dominican political leader and writer, wrote "David: Biography of a King" (1966) a realistic approach to David's life and political career.
  • Allan Massie wrote "King David" (1995), a novel about David's career which portrays the king's relationship to Jonathan and others as openly homosexual.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's novel Certain Women explores family, the Christian faith, and the nature of God through the story of King David's family and an analogous modern family's saga.



Arthur Honegger's oratorio, Le Roi David ('King David'), with a libretto by Rene Morax, was composed in 1921 and instantly became a staple of the choral repertoire; it is still widely performed.

Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" has references to David ("there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord", "The baffled king composing Hallelujah") and Bathsheba ("you saw her bathing on the roof") in its opening verses.

Dead by the Pixies is a retelling of David's adultery and repentance.

50 cent's song "U Not Like Me" contains a reference to David ("My songs belong in the Bible with King David's") in its opening verse.

Musical Theatre

In 1997, lyricist Tim Rice (Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita) collaborated with Alan Menken to create a musical based on the Biblical tale of King David. Based on Biblical tales from the Books of Samuel and 1 Chronicles, as well as text from David's Psalms, a concert version, produced by Disney Theatrical Productions and André Djaoui and directed by Mike Ockrent, was presented as the inaugural production at Disney's newly-renovated New Amsterdam Theatre (the former home of the Ziegfeld Follies), playing for a nine-performance limited run in 1997. The cast included Roger Bart, Stephen Bogardus, Judy Kuhn, Alice Ripley, Martin Vidnovic, and Michael Goz, with Marcus Lovett in the title role. Though a Broadway run was scheduled, it was soon canceled and there have been no future arrangements to move the musical to the Broadway stage.

See also


(Note:Online Bible references are to the Revised Standard Version)


  • Kirsch, Jonathan (2000) King David: the real life of the man who ruled Israel. Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-43275-4.
  • See also the entry "David" in Easton's Bible Dictionary.
  • Dever, William G. (2001) What did the Bible writers know and when did they know it? William B. Eerdmans Publ. Co., Cambridge UK.

References to Daud (David) in the Qur'an

External links


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