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DAVID dā’ vĭd (דָּוִ֔ד, beloved one?). The son of Jesse of Bethlehem. Israel’s greatest king; he ranks with Moses as one of the most commanding figures in the Old Testament. David was born in 1040 b.c. (2Sam.5.4).

Name and Genealogy

This name, which is written "defectively" in the older books, such as those of Samuel, but fully with the yodh in Chronicles and the later books, is derived, like the similar name Jedidish (2Sa 12:25), from a root meaning "to love." The only person who bears this name in the Bible is the son of Jesse, the second king of Israel. His genealogy is given in the table appended to the Book of Ruth (Ru 4:18-22).

Here the following points are to be noted: David belonged to the tribe of Judah: his ancestor Nahshon was chieftain of the whole tribe (Nu 1:7; 2:3; 1Ch 2:10) and brother-in-law of Aaron the high priest (Ex 6:23). As no other descendants of Nahshon are mentioned, his authority probably descended to Jesse by right of primogeniture. This supposition is countenanced by the fact that Salma (Salmon), the name of the son of Nahshon and father of Boaz, is also the name of a grandson of Caleb who became "father" of Bethlehem], the home of Jesse (1Ch 2:51). David was closely connected with the tribe of [[Moab, the mother of his grandfather Obed being Ruth the Moabitess. Of the wife or wives of Jesse we know nothing, and consequently are without information upon a most interesting point—the personality of the mother of David; but that she too may have been of the tribe of Moab is rendered probable by the fact that, when hard pressed, David placed his parents under the protection of the king of that country (1Sa 22:3,1).

The genealogy of David is given several times in Scripture, the first being in Ruth 4:18-22. He is a direct descendant of Judah, Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz (the husband of Ruth), Obed (the son of Boaz and Ruth), and Jesse, his father (cf. 1 Chron 2:5-16; Matt 1:3-6; Luke 3:31-33).

The life of David

The days before his kingship

The anointing of David

When God determined to reject Saul as the king of Israel, He sent Samuel with oil to anoint another: one of the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem. When Samuel arrived at Jesse’s home, he had the sons of Jesse brought forward one by one. Samuel favored Eliab, the eldest, but God showed him that he should not look on the outside but in the heart for truly kingly qualities. God passed by seven of the sons of Jesse until only the youngest, David, remained.

David was then keeping the sheep of his father, and Jesse did not consider it important to bring him before Samuel. He was described as ruddy and beautiful of countenance. When Samuel insisted and David was brought before him, God indicated that this was His choice. David was anointed that day, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily. It is not certain that his family understood at that time why he was anointed (1 Sam 16:1-13).

In the meantime God’s spirit departed from Saul and an evil spirit from God came and troubled him. On the advice of some to call a harpist to soothe him, one young man in the court recommended David as a cunning player and a mighty man of valor, a man of war and prudent in speech. Saul sent for David, thus giving him an early opportunity to see and know court life.

Jesse sent David with a donkey loaded with bread, wine, and a kid. When he arrived before Saul, Saul loved him at first sight and made David his armorbearer. Saul sought and received Jesse’s permission for David to stand before him.

Whenever the evil spirit fell on Saul, David was at hand with his harp to soothe him. He undoubtedly composed many Psalms in this period (16:14-23).

David’s rapid rise and Saul’s jealousy

When the Philistines gathered to do battle with Israel in the valley of Elah, Goliath, a giant of the Philistines, came out and threatened Israel.

Jesse was by now quite old and his three older sons were fighting with Saul. He sent David to the front to see how his sons were doing. He sent with him corn and bread for the brothers and cheeses for their captain. David went, leaving the sheep with a keeper and found his brothers in the camp.

As he was talking with them, Goliath came out and threatened as before. When David heard Goliath’s boasting, he was indignant. Eliab was disgusted with David for his interest in these matters and accused David of vain curiosity, but David gave his brother no heed. The men in the camp told David that Saul had promised to give his daughter and great riches to the slayer of Goliath.

David’s words of indignation against Goliath reached Saul and Saul sent for him. When David assured Saul he would fight Goliath, Saul listened. David related to Saul how he had cared for the sheep and protected them against a lion and a bear. He gave all the glory to God for his victories over the wild beasts. He confessed that he believed the same God would now deliver him from Goliath. Saul was convinced and sent him out to face the giant.

David rejected the use of Saul’s armor and took those weapons with which he was familiar, his staff, some stones and a sling—the weapons of a shepherd.

When Goliath saw this boy, he ridiculed and threatened him. David, not being afraid, affirmed his faith in God. He knew that God would give him the victory so that all might know that there is a God in Israel and that God’s people might know that God does not save by sword and spear, but by his own strength.

David ran to meet Goliath and killed him with the first stone. He then cut off Goliath’s head with his own sword. Israel won the day in battle (17:1-51).

David remained in Saul’s court and a great friendship blossomed between him and Saul’s son Jonathan. The two made a covenant and Jonathan sealed it by giving to David his robe, apparel, sword, bow and girdle (18:1-4).

David behaved wisely before Saul and the people and was set over all of Saul’s men. This pleased the people, but trouble developed because the women began to praise David more than Saul. Saul became jealous, seeing his throne threatened. He no longer trusted David.

Soon Saul tried to kill David and David fled. Now Saul’s fear of David increased since it was evident that God was with David but no longer with Saul. He demoted David to captain over a thousand men, but still he conducted himself wisely and God was with him. This troubled Saul even more, for now all Israel and Judah loved David (18:5-16).

Though Saul offered Merab, his eldest daughter, to David, he did not keep the bargain. She married another. Then Michal, a second daughter, was offered as bait to get David to fight the Philistines. David bargained for her for a dowry of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines. Saul hoped by this that David would be killed in the attempt to get the foreskins.

David not only got the one hundred foreskins, but one hundred more, and Michal was given to him. Saul understandably feared David even more now and was his enemy. Yet David, acting wisely, grew ever more popular (18:17-30).

Saul also tried to turn Jonathan against David. However, Jonathan warned David to avoid Saul and at the same time tried to persuade his father that David was good to the king. Saul assented for a short time and David was temporarily restored to the court.

As soon as war began again, David’s popularity rose and Saul was again aroused to jealousy. He tried to kill David in his bed while he slept, but Michal helped him escape (19:1-17).

David first went to Samuel at Ramah, and together they fled to Naioth. When Saul heard he was hiding there, he sent a force to capture him. These men sent by Saul were made helpless when the Spirit of prophecy fell on them by Samuel’s command. Saul, when he came personally to capture David, fell under the same power (19:18-23).

David now fled from Naioth back to Jonathan. Jonathan found it hard to believe that his father really hated David and promised to find out the truth. The truth was that Saul did hate David. Jonathan himself was nearly killed by his father who was now in a rage.

David and Jonathan then made a pact in which Jonathan expressed assurance that David would one day be king, and David promised to protect Jonathan’s seed forever. Then David fled (20:1-42). He was now an outlaw and went first to Nob to get help from Ahimelech, the priest. He lied to Ahimelech, not telling the priest that he fled from Saul. He deceived Ahimelech to get aid for himself and those with him. His lie later was fatal to Ahimelech. The priest gave him some of the holy bread and Goliath’s sword, but Doeg, a servant of Saul, saw it all.

David next fled to the king of Gath but when he saw he was not welcome there, he feigned madness and escaped (21:1-15).

David’s life as a fugitive

David went to the cave of Adullam and his family joined him there. Others in distress also came to David. Soon he had a fighting force of four hundred men. All who came seemed to be of one mind with David in his cause (22:1, 2; 1 Chron 12:16).

From there David and his men went to Mizpeh of Moab where he left his parents. Gad, the prophet, warned David to leave there and go to Judah, and thus he came to the forest of Hereth (1 Sam 22:3-5).

Meanwhile Saul learned of David’s maneuvers. He complained that his own men did not help him and that they failed to inform him that his own son was working against him. Doeg then volunteered information about the events at Nob. As a result, in his frustration, Saul had all the priests of Nob killed. One son of Ahimelech, Abiathar, escaped with the ephod and joined David (22:6-23).

During this time, David took the city of Keilah from the Philistines, and Saul, hearing of this, came to Keilah to capture David. David learned from God that the people of Keilah would betray him, so he fled with some six hundred men.

He fled to the hill country of the wilderness of Ziph where he hid in the woods. It was here that he saw Jonathan for the last time.

When the Ziphites offered to help Saul capture David, David moved to Maon in the Arabah south of the desert. Saul pursued and nearly caught David there on a mountain. Just as Saul was about to succeed in capturing David this time, he received word to return and fight off an attack of the Philistines. Understandably David called the place, Sela-hammahlekoth (the rock of escape) (23:1-29).

Next, David fled to En-gedi. Saul took three thousand men to capture him there. While Saul rested in a cave in which David hid, he was put into David’s hands by God. Though David’s men urged him to kill the king, he refused, respecting God’s anointed. He did cut off Saul’s robe but later even that bothered David’s conscience.

When Saul had left the cave, David showed from a distance how he had spared the king’s life. Saul, under great stress and emotion, seemed to see his own wrong, and even confessed that he believed David would be king. The change, however, was not long-lasting (24:1-22).

At this time Samuel died and was buried at Ramah, and David went to the wilderness of Paran. There was a citizen of Maon named Nabal who had great possessions. Nabal was rich but also miserly and evil. David asked Nabal for some help for his men in return for the years his men had protected Nabal’s sheep and shepherds. Nabal, instead, ridiculed David which infuriated him. David armed his men and started out to get revenge on Nabal.

Meantime, Abigail, Nabal’s wife, who was both lovely and wise, heard of Nabal’s folly and went to meet David to make peace. She met him and pleaded for mercy urging David not to blot his own good name by shedding innocent blood. She expressed confidence that God would bless David. David reacted favorably to her pleas and spared Nabal and his sons, accepting her gifts. All this time Nabal was drunk and unaware of what had transpired. The next day, when he learned the truth, he was stricken and died. David later married Abigail. About the same time, Saul gave Michal, David’s wife to another man (25:1-44).

The Ziphites continued to aid Saul by reporting David’s whereabouts. Again Saul took some three thousand men and went after David. This time David carefully followed Saul’s progress by means of his own spies.

One evening as Saul slept, David and Abishai went into the camp where he lay. God had caused deep sleep to fall on all the camp. David took Saul’s spear and water jug, though Abishai urged him to kill his enemy. When David had left the camp he called to Saul and chided Abner for not guarding his master. Saul realizing that a second time David had spared his life, seemed convinced that David meant him no ill. He returned home and never pursued David again. However, David, distrusting Saul thoroughly now, fled to the Philistines and dwelt at Gath with the king Achish (26:1-27:2).

Achish was impressed with David and gave him Ziklag as a home. David, while pretending to be his friend, raided Philistine towns in the neighborhood. He left no survivors to tell tales. He reported dutifully to Achish that he was raiding cities of Judah. In this period many men of Judah and Israel joined David, even some of Saul’s own people, men of Benjamin (1 Chron 12:1-17).

When the Philistines later prepared to war on Israel, Achish wanted to take David to battle with him but the war lords of the Philistines wisely refused him. David was forced to stay away from this battle providentially, for in it Saul and Jonathan would die (1 Sam 28:1, 2; 1 Chron 12:19-22).

When David returned to Ziklag he and his men discovered that the city had been raided and their families carried away. Bitterly they followed in pursuit and finally found the Amalekite raiders and destroyed them recapturing their own families. He sent gifts from the spoils to the elders of Judah to gain their favor. In this battle a principle was established by David whereby those who fought and those who guarded the supplies would share alike in the booty. From Ziklag David had learned the value of leaving some men behind to guard (1 Sam 30:1-31).

The death of Saul and Jonathan

Saul became afraid of the Philistines and perhaps had premonitions of his own death. He no longer had Samuel to consult and so he went to a witch at Endor for some word from Samuel of his own fate. He tricked her into attempting to call forth Samuel’s spirit and surprisingly, to her and Saul, God obliged. Samuel foretold Saul’s death (28:3-25).

In battle the next day Saul and his sons were killed. Israel fled in confusion, leaving Saul’s body behind. The Philistines, in mockery, hung his body and those of his sons on the wall at Beth-shan. In an act of great devotion, the people of Jabesh-gilead bravely took the bodies from the wall and gave them proper burial. David later showed his appreciation to them for their devotion.

Jonathan’s nurse, on hearing of the defeat, picked up Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and fled, but the boy fell in flight and was permanently lamed (31:1-13; 2 Sam 4:4).

The reign of David

The years in Hebron

While David was at Ziklag, news came from Saul’s camp that Saul was defeated and killed. The newsbearer thought he was bringing good news. He even claimed to have killed Saul whom he had found in pain. He hoped for reward, but his reward was execution. David wanted no friend who despised the Lord’s anointed. The fact that the newsbearer was an Amalekite did not help, of course.

At this time David composed a beautiful lamentation over the memory of Saul and Jonathan. This first example of David’s psalm writing in Scripture is representative of his great inspiration as is seen in the Psalms credited to him (2 Sam 1:1-27).

At God’s instruction, David went up to Hebron and there was anointed the king of Judah. He showed his character by honoring the men of Jabesh-gilead for their bravery and asked for their support. About the same time Abner took Saul’s son Ish-bosheth and made him king over the rest of Israel. David remained at Hebron and Ish-bosheth at Mahanaim (2:8-10).

Soon a showdown between David and Ish-bosheth was inevitable and the two armies met at Gibeon by the pool. David’s men led by Joab defeated Abner. In this battle Joab’s brother was killed by Abner as he pursued Abner. Joab never forgot this deed (2:12-32).

From that time Saul’s house weakened and David’s increased in strength. David remained at Hebron seven and one-half years. In all, six sons were born to him there. Three of them, Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah would later play significant roles in his life (3:1-5; 1 Chron 3:1-4a).

As Abner came to dominate Saul’s house, Ish-bosheth resented his power and accused him of taking Saul’s concubines, an act tantamount to treason. Abner angrily sold out to David. He sent word to David of his plans to have all Israel subject to David. David agreed to a meeting, providing he could have back Michal, Saul’s daughter, as a wife.

In the meeting, Abner agreed to a covenant that made David king of all Israel. Joab, who had been away at the time, pursued Abner on his return to Mahanaim and treacherously killed him. He had never forgiven Abner for killing his brother in battle. David, innocent of any guilt in this, openly condemned Joab. He lamented publicly for Abner that all Israel might know his own innocence (2 Sam 3:6-39).

After this, Ish-bosheth was also killed. His head was brought to David for a reward, but those seeking the reward were rewarded as the Amalekite had been—David had them killed (4:5-12).

Now the elders of Israel came and made covenant with David. He was anointed king of all Israel (5:1-3).

David in Jerusalem

To inaugurate his kingship, David desired to capture the city of Jerusalem, a Jebusite city which David had known from the days of shepherding his father’s sheep. He took the stronghold by entering through the tunnels that led out to the spring of Gihon. Those tunnels and the spring are visible today. David increased the size of the city by building up a fill on the steep sides of the hill, called the Millo (from the Hebrew מִלֹּא, H4851, meaning “a fill”) (2 Sam 5:6-10; 1 Chron 11:4-9).

In quick succession David conquered Israel’s enemies. First he fought and defeated the Philistines. While the Philistines held Bethlehem, David unconsciously expressed a desire for water from the well there. Three brave men went in to get the water. When David saw their devotion, he poured out the water as an offering to God. Now David was victorious at Baal-perazim, Geba (Gibeon) and Gezer. Finally he took their chief city, Gath.

David next turned to fight the Ammonites when the latter treated his ambassadors disgracefully. The king of Ammon, Hanun, hired the Syrians to fight against David. At Medeba, David beat them soundly (10:1-19; 1 Chron 19:1-19).

The next spring, when David should have been in battle against Ammon, he sent Joab and remained at home. While Joab had Rabbah of Ammon under siege David lusted after and finally seduced Bathsheba, the wife of a Hittite soldier in his ranks named Uriah. She became pregnant.

To cover his sin he sought to have Uriah have intercourse with his own wife, hoping he would think she was pregnant by him, but Uriah proved a loyal soldier and would not sleep with his wife while his brothers fought in battle.

Now David added sin to sin and plotted Uriah’s death. He commanded Joab to put Uriah in the heat of battle and order a retreat, leaving him to the mercy of the Ammonites. When news of Uriah’s death came to David, he took Bathsheba as his wife.

But God did not overlook David’s actions. He sent Nathan the prophet who put the finger of guilt on David. David’s immediate response was confession of his sin (cf. Ps 51). Unlike Saul he could see his own faults. Though forgiven, David was told that his own house would display the sins he had sought to cover. Blood and sex would blight his house.

David went out to battle later and won over Rabbah but it was for him a bitter victory (2 Sam 12:1-31; 1 Chron 20:1).

Among the nations captured by David were Syria, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, Amalek and Zobah. To crown his great victories, David composed a Psalm of Thanksgiving which is closely related to Psalm 18 (2 Sam 8:13-18; 11:15-18; 1 Chron 18:3-17; 2 Sam 22:1-51).

Peace settled over the land and David began to give attention to other matters. He desired to move the Ark to Jerusalem, for it had remained in Kiriath-jearim since Samuel’s day.

David did not heed the Mosaic law of instruction for moving the Ark, and as a result one of the men moving it was killed by God. After the Ark rested for three months at the home of Obed-edom, David brought it into the city by the proper means. On that day there was a great celebration in Jerusalem and David composed a Psalm of Praise for the occasion.

Rules and appointments were made for the care of the Ark and for the first time proper worship of God in Jerusalem was conducted (2 Sam 6:1-7:29; 2 Chron 13:1-17:27).

David was not content for the Ark to remain in a tent. He desired to build a permanent structure. However, the Lord would not permit David to do this, and through Nathan told David that not he but his son would build God’s house (2 Sam 7:1-29).

At this time he showed his faithfulness to the memory of his friend Jonathan by allowing the crippled Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, to sit at David’s own table, much as David once had sat at Saul’s table with Jonathan (9:1-13).

From this time David’s sins of the past began to be seen in his own family. One of his sons born at Hebron, Amnon, fell in love with his half-sister, Tamar. He seduced her and afterward cast her off. David knew of this evil but failed to discipline Amnon (12:24, 25; 13:1-22).

Absalom, the full brother of Tamar, seeing Amnon go unpunished, plotted revenge. After two years he had Amnon killed. David again displayed weakness, letting Absalom flee, and did not seek to gain his respect. Only after Joab insisted did David call Absalom back to Jerusalem. Even then David refused to see him.

Absalom, a fiery individual, again took matters into his own hand and burned Joab’s fields to get his attention. At Joab’s insistence David finally received Absalom in the court (13:23-29; 14:1-33).

Absalom in these years had grown to distrust his father and now plotted his overthrow. He told the people how much better he would run the kingdom if he were ruler. It worked to a degree and he was able to sow seeds of rebellion (15:1-6).

After about four years Absalom was able to get enough of a following to try to take the kingdom for himself. He went to his home town, Hebron, and there was acclaimed king by his followers. Ahithophel, David’s counselor, sided with him (15:27-37).

When David heard the news he fled Jerusalem with a small following. Ittai and others went with him to show their support, but David would not permit the priest Zadok to bring the Ark. Among David’s supporters was Hushai, a man whom David asked to remain in Jerusalem to attempt to foil the good counsel of Ahithophel.

As they left the city, Shimei, a descendant of Saul, cursed David. David received this as a rebuke from God and did not punish Shimei. Absalom entered the city with Ahithophel at his side.

Ahithophel counseled Absalom wisely to pursue with a few men and attack David while he was weary and discouraged. But Hushai, David’s friend, pretending loyalty to Absalom, counter-advised him to wait until he had mustered a large force. This would, of course, give David time to reorganize and also give the people time to come to David’s aid. Absalom followed Hushai’s advice and sealed his own doom. Hushai sent word to David of all that had transpired (15:37-17:29).

When the battle was fought, David was not permitted to go. He pled for the troops to spare Absalom’s life, but Absalom was killed by Joab who ignored David’s pleas. When David received news of the victory he was grieved by word of Absalom’s death. Joab, in his brusque manner, rebuked David for his mourning on the day of victory and David smiled before the people through a veil of tears. He was once again restored as king in Jerusalem (18:1-19:43).

A short-lived attempt to rebel soon followed. Sheba, a Benjaminite, sought to lead the ten tribes away from David, but it failed. In the battle, Joab killed Amasa whom David had appointed as commander. Joab took command and put down the revolt himself (20:1-22).

In a series of acts David now sought revenge on Saul’s house for the slaying of the Gibeonites during Saul’s life. He killed seven descendants of Saul but spared Mephibosheth. David also had Saul and Jonathan buried in the family sepulcher of Kish, the father of Saul (21:1-14).

For some reason, David took a census of the people at this time. The Bible does not give the reason why it displeased God. God had not ordered it, and apparently the pride of David was involved.

As a consequence of David’s action in this matter, God punished Israel. David was given three choices: either seven years of famine, or three months of war, or three days of pestilence. He chose the latter and still seventy thousand were killed. When it seemed as though the whole city of Jerusalem would be destroyed God stopped the angel of destruction as he stood on the threshing floor of Araunah which overlooked the hill on which the city of Jerusalem was built (24:1-25; 1 Chron 21:1-30).

God sent Gad the prophet to instruct David to acquire the property belonging to Araunah (or Ornan, according to Chronicles). He did so and built an altar there. This would be the future site of Solomon’s Temple.

Before his death David made preparations for the Temple. He gave to Solomon specific instructions, insisting that Solomon strictly abide by the law of Moses (1 Chron 22:1-19). The various duties in the Temple were preassigned to the Levites. David established the order for the Temple services and appointed chiefs of the tribes to oversee the treasury. He publicly announced to the people that Solomon should be his successor, giving Solomon and the officers specific instructions on how to build the Temple. On a closing day of ceremony, David made prayers of thanksgiving and offered many sacrifices (23:1-29:22a).

In David’s last days he was not to be spared trouble. Being very old he was given a young virgin to warm his body.

In these days, Adonijah, a son of David, sought to take over the kingdom. At the foot of the hill in Jerusalem at a well called En-rogel, he tried to have himself made king. He succeeded in getting both Joab and Abiathar the priest to follow him, but Zadok and Nathan would not desert David’s son Solomon.

Nathan and Bathsheba moved quickly and told David of the plot. David immediately ordered Solomon brought to the spring of Gihon, within earshot of En-rogel, and there had him publicly acclaimed king. The plan worked and all those following Adonijah fled, fearing David’s wrath.

David then charged Solomon before his death to be strong and keep the law of God.

After forty years as king: seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem, David died and was buried in Jerusalem, the city of David. Solomon reigned after him (1 Kings 1:1-2:11; 1 Chron 29:22b-30).

David’s influence on the history of Israel

The estimate of David in Israel

His high regard among the people

Respect for the good name of David was great after his death. Solomon was careful that he cleared his father from all guilt in the ignominious death of Abner (1 Kings 2:32, 33). Solomon further showed his respect for his father in sparing the life of Abiathar though he had taken part in Adonijah’s attempt to usurp the kingdom from Solomon. He spared Abiathar’s life because he had always been faithful to David and had suffered with him (2:26). Solomon, by the same token, executed Shimei for having ill-treated his father when Absalom was in rebellion (2:44-46).

The respect for David, however, extended far beyond the person and time of Solomon. Hiram was later kind to Solomon for David’s sake (5:1). Furthermore, in the days of Josiah, long after, Josiah sought after the God of David (2 Chron 34:3).

Even David’s enemies respected him. It took the news of his death to embolden Hadad to leave his retreat in Egypt] where he had fled from David (1 Kings 11:21). Later, [[Jeroboam, after leading a rebellion against David’s grandson, feared greatly that the people would return to David’s house and risked the wrath of God to form a new worship to prevent the people from going to David’s city (12:27).

His high regard in God’s eyes

Similarly, God often expressed his own high regard for his servant David. David, we are told, was hand-picked by the Lord to be over God’s people (8:16). Thereafter, God was known as the God of David by the people (2 Kings 20:5; 2 Chron 21:12).

The favor God showed to David can be seen in His promise of peace to David’s seed forever (1 Kings 2:33). This favor of God toward David is expressed in terms both of loving kindness and goodness (3:6; 8:66).

The concept of the throne of David and its perpetuity

Solomon was established as the rightful successor to David before David’s death. Soon after his death, the concept of the throne of David was developed and became a permanent part of the covenant involving God’s goodness to His people.

Solomon sat on David’s throne, a gift to Israel from God (3:6; 5:7). He was known for his great discretion and understanding which was indicated early in his reign. He humbly acknowledged that God had raised him up to fulfill His promise to David.

There was, however, much more to the concept of the throne of David than his successor-son. God had established David’s throne forever (2:45). Solomon, recognizing this, as soon as he was made king, sought for God’s assurance. He desired that God would perform his whole promise to David, that there fail not an heir on the throne (8:25, 26).

God clearly honored this promise through all the history of Judah. When it appeared, in the days of Athaliah, that the seed of David might be completely destroyed, David’s spears and shields were used to put his seed (Jehoash) on the throne in spite of Athaliah’s power (2 Kings 11:10). Jehoash (or Joash) was made king on the basis of God’s promise to David (2 Chron 23:3).

In the days of Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet (2 Kings 19:34), God determined to defend Jerusalem for David’s sake.

Nevertheless, the promise of God to bless the throne of David was not unconditionally given. For David’s throne to be blessed, the successors had to walk uprightly as David had done (1 Kings 9:5). When Solomon failed to walk purely before God as David had walked, God determined to rend the kingdom and leave for David’s seed only Judah (11:13). Yet, for David’s sake, even this he would not do in Solomon’s day (11:12, 24).

Though rent asunder, the throne of David remained a reality and God was determined that David should always have a lamp before God in Jerusalem (11:36). This promise became a constant reminder of hope to God’s people thereafter (15:4, 5; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chron 21:7). Beyond the days of trial gleamed the constant hope that David’s seed would not be afflicted forever (1 Kings 11:39).

The split-off tribes were, in essence, put under the same conditions for blessings as Judah. The perpetuity of Jeroboam’s throne depended on his doing right as David had done (11:38). But Jeroboam led the northern tribes away from the worship ordained by Moses and later is pictured as having led a revolt against God’s will (2 Chron 13:6-8). God clearly disapproved of Jeroboam’s innovations in worship and forewarned, through an unnamed prophet, that a descendant of David would one day destroy the altar Jeroboam had built at Bethel. That seed was to be Josiah (1 Kings 13:2). This underlines the temporal nature of the throne of Jeroboam in contrast with the eternal nature of David’s throne.

To this day, the concept of the throne of David is alive in the hearts of the Jewish people who still await the birth of David’s son. the Messiah. For Christians, of course, this promise is already fulfilled in Jesus Christ who is David’s Seed forever.

David and the worship in Israel

Nowhere can the influence of David be seen more clearly and felt more strongly than in the worship of God’s people in the Temple that David had planned (2 Chron 1:4).

David and the Temple of Solomon

In a sense, this Temple rightly could be called the Temple that David built. It was his desire to build it and his influence was heavily felt in its construction, as to form and usage.

The skills and devotion of David are seen throughout the construction of the Temple. David had dedicated gold, silver, and vessels for the House of God (1 Kings 7:51) which things Solomon brought in when the Temple was completed (2 Chron 5:1). For the construction itself, David had already provided skilled workmen (2:7).

David and the worship in the Temple

David is said to have made the musical instruments which were used to praise God and give God thanks (7:6). He also had written the words of praise for the Temple worship (29:30), and to him are credited many of the Psalms in the Bible which were used in worship by God’s people. He also ordered the courses for the priests (8:14).

David’s influence was felt in later years as equally as it had been in the days of Solomon, his son. Jehoiada the priest in the days of Joash, when a brief revival of true worship was observed, appointed officers of the house of the Lord under the hand of the priests even as David had ordered (23:18). Later, in the greater revival of Hezekiah’s time, the musical instruments for God’s house, which David had ordered, were again ordered by Hezekiah (29:25-27). Also the words of praise David had prepared for the Temple worship were used by Hezekiah (29:30). It could be said in Hezekiah’s day that not since the days of Solomon had there been such a worship in Jerusalem (30:26).

Still later in the last revival of the kingdom of Judah, in Josiah’s day, once again the courses for the house of God and the singers were according to or followed the instructions of David (35:4, 15).

Finally, in the Restoration in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah this same respect for David’s influence in worship can be seen. Temple worship was according to the order of David. The musical instruments used were still those specified by David, and the singing followed David’s own teaching (Ezra 3:10; Neh 12:24, 36, 45, 46).

The effect on Israel of David’s walk before God

David’s walk before God is seen as an example of the integrity God demanded of all the kings of Israel. God, on numerous occasions, declared that David walked before him in integrity of heart. He was upright in all that God commanded, keeping God’s ordinances (1 Kings 9:4).

God showed great lovingkindness to David for this walk, and made clear that the condition of God’s continued blessing on His covenant with David depended on such conduct in his seed after him (2 Chron 7:18).

At first, Solomon walked in the statutes of David. But in the long run he failed to live up to David’s standards (1 Kings 11:1). As a result Solomon caused all Israel to depart from David’s righteous walk (11:33).

David in the prophets

In the following prophets, various expressions are used in connection with David.


The house of David

This passage, clearly Messianic, predicts the coming of a child who shall be mighty God and rule in peace on the throne of David. He will establish and uphold David’s throne with justice and righteousness forever.

Similarly, this passage is Messianic and points to the same kingdom and throne. The future King is described as sitting in the tent of David in truth, seeking justice and doing righteousness.

In all three of the above categories one sees that the use of David’s name so far in Isaiah is in regard to the future blessing on God’s people. David’s characteristics, noted in Kings and Chronicles after his death are here shown to be a type of the more perfect King to come.

When the city of Jerusalem was under siege it was described as the city of David, thus recalling the covenant of God with David. The term “city of David” applied to Jerusalem is of frequent occurrence in Kings and Chronicles (1 Kings 3:1; 8:1; 2 Kings 8:24; 9:28; 2 Chron 5:2; 8:11; etc.).

God indicates His mercy on Jerusalem for David’s sake. This provokes the promise from God to defend the city in Hezekiah’s day. Later (55:3), God spoke of the sure mercies of David as pertaining to His covenant with David and his seed.

It follows then that long after the time of David, it was comforting to such a descendant of David as good King Hezekiah to have God describe Himself as “the God of David your father.”


The throne of David

Jeremiah used the term to address the king on the throne.

This term as used in Jeremiah clearly refers to the promised seed of David and heir to his throne. It is a Messianic term. The term undoubtedly refers to the ultimate fulfillment of the eternal seed of David, the Christ.

In accord with the above, David is described here as the future king of Israel. Jeremiah thus applies the term “David” to the Messiah Himself.

In the same context mentioned twice above, assurance was given that God would not break His covenant with David, that he would have a seed forever on his throne.

In a way reminiscent of God’s promise to Abraham, God spoke of the seed of David as immeasurable and sure of perpetuity as kings over the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

For the most part then, Jeremiah’s use of the name David is for Messianic prophecy, relating the promise of God to David. The ultimate promise of God is to send His Messiah to save all of His people.

The other prophets

Ezekiel 34:23; 37:24, 25. Ezekiel always uses the name “David” with the idea of the servant of God in a Messianic and eschatological sense.

Hosea in referring to King David looks to the future when David will reign as king over God’s people. This also is an eschatological view.

In the first passage Amos refers to David’s reputation as a musician. In the other, he speaks of the Tabernacle of David to be restored to its former glory. This latter passage came at the end of the prophecy of Amos, in the concluding section of hope for the future. Here a great contrast is seen between the Messianic hope and the contemporary evil of Israel in Amos’ day.

Zechariah uses the term “house of David” five times in one passage which speaks of the restoration of glory to David’s house in the latter days.

In all these prophets there is a continuation of the concept first seen in the life of David and immediately thereafter, that David’s seed would be the channel of God’s blessings on His people.

David in the New Testament

The Gospels

Jesus the Christ, as heir of David

When Matthew began his gospel, he felt it important to establish this fact. In great detail he listed the generations of Jesus, showing that he was indeed the direct descendant of David (Matt 1). Joseph (Mary's Husband)|Joseph was specifically called the son of David (1:20) and the husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother.

Luke in a similar approach gathers together evidence for the fulfillment of God’s promise to David in the coming of Jesus (Luke 1:27, 32, 69; 2:4).

The city of David

One noticeable difference between the gospels and the Old Testament is the reference to the city of David in the New Testament. While in the Old Testament this constantly refers to Jerusalem, in the New Testament it consistently refers to Bethlehem (Luke 2:4, 11; John 7:42).

The superiority of Christ over David

Most important however, in the whole matter of the New Testament concept of Jesus as the fulfillment of God’s covenant with David, is the lesson taught by the Lord to the Pharisees. Jesus taught them that the Christ while properly the son of David and heir of David is, even in the Old Testament, most certainly shown to be above and superior to David. He is indeed the Son of God. All three of the synoptic gospels record this most important lesson (Matt 22:45; Mark 12:35, 37; Luke 20:41, 44).

Other references to David

Jesus refers to David in two more contexts. Once he uses an event in David’s life to show the propriety of His disciples plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath (Matt 12:3; etc.). Once he speaks of David as the psalm writer who wrote in the Spirit (Matt 22:43; etc.).

We conclude then that the dominant Davidic theme in the gospels is the complete fulfillment of all God had promised in reference to David and his kingdom in the coming of Jesus Christ.

The Acts

The superiority of Christ over David

This theme from the gospels becomes a major theme in the Early Church. Both Peter and Paul demonstrated that the prophecies about David were by no means fulfilled in David himself but only in Jesus Christ. They particularly stressed this in reference to the resurrection (Acts 2:29, 34; 13:36). Paul, furthermore, at Antioch of Pisidia when addressing the Israelites, spoke of David as the king and a man after God’s own heart. However, he taught that only in Jesus Christ and His Resurrection could we know the sure mercies of David which God had promised (Acts 13:16-34).

David, an inspired writer of Scripture by the Holy Spirit

In two places Luke makes mention of David as a writer inspired by the Holy Spirit in the writing of the Psalms (Acts 1:16; 4:25).

The Tabernacle of David

James, quoting Amos 9:11, 12, which spoke of the Tabernacle of David to be built again relates the rebuilding of the Tabernacle of David to the election of the Gentiles. The Gentiles were to have full part in David’s kingdom as Amos had foretold (Acts 15:16-18).

The epistles

In the epistles also, Christ is demonstrated as being of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8). In several other passages mention is made of David: one in connection with forgiveness of sins as demonstrated in David’s life and Psalms (Rom 4:6) and another listing David as among the faithful of the Old Testament period (Heb 11:32). Psalms 69 and 95 are specifically ascribed to David (Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7).

The Revelation

Christ called heir of David

(Rev 3:7). The inheritance of David is spoken of as the key of David which is described as being in Christ’s hands.

In keeping with the gospels and epistles, the Book of Revelation also clearly teaches that Jesus is the true fulfillment and ultimate application of all God’s promises to David. He is the eternal seed in whom all the promises and hopes pertaining to David’s throne are to be found.

Additional Thoughts on the Personal Character of David

Aspects of David's Early Life


His family had been settled for generations in Bethlehem, indeed ever since the Israelite nation had overrun the land of Canaan. His father was apparently not only the chief man of the place, but he seems to have been chieftain of the whole clan to which he belonged—the clan of Judah. Although the country round Bethlehem is more fertile than that in the neighborhood of Jerusalem, the inhabitants joined to the cultivation of the soil the breeding of cattle (Lu 2:8). David’s father, not only cultivated his ancestral fields, but kept flocks of sheep and goats as well. The flocks were sent out every day to pasture in the neighboring valleys attended by the herdsmen armed so as to defend themselves and their charge, not only against marauders from the surrounding deserts, but also from the lions and bears with which the country was then infested.

David seems to have been in the habit of accompanying his father’s servants in their task (1Sa 17:20,22), and on occasion would be left in full charge by himself. Nor was his post at such times a sinecure. He had not only to keep a sharp lookout for thieves, but on more than one occasion had with no other weapon than his shepherd’s club or staff to rescue a lamb from the clutches of a lion or a bear (1Sa 17:34 ff). Such adventures, however, must have been rare, and David must often have watched eagerly the lengthening of the shadow which told of the approach of sunset, when he could drive his charge into the zariba for the night and return home. There is, indeed, no life more monotonous and enervating than that of an eastern shepherd, but David must have made good use of his idle time. He seems, in fact, to have made such good use of it as to have neglected his handful of sheep. The incidents of which he boasted to Saul would not have occurred, had his proper occupation taken up all his thoughts; but, like King Alfred, his head seems to have been filled with ideas far removed from his humble task.


David does not seem to have known what it was to be afraid, and it was not to be expected that he could be satisfied with the lot of the youngest of eight sons of the now aged chief (1Sa 17:12; 1Ch 2:13 ff). In the East every man is a soldier, and David’s bent was in that direction. The tribesmen of Benjamin near whose border his home was situated were famed through all Israel as slingers, some of whom could sling at a hair and not miss (Jud 20:16). Taught, perhaps, by one of these, but certainly by dint of constant practice, David acquired an accuracy of aim which reminds one of the tales of William Tell or Robin Hood (1Sa 17:49).


Another of the pastimes in the pursuit of which David spent many an hour of his youthful days was music. The instrument which he used was the "harp" (Hebrew kinnor). This instrument had many forms, which may be seen on the Assyrian and Egyptian monuments; but the kind used by David was probably like the modern Arabic, rubaba, having only one or two strings, played not with a plectrumAnt., VII, xii, 3 but by the hand (compare 1Sa 16:23, etc., which do not exclude a quill). Whatever the nature of the instrument was, David acquired such proficiency in playing it that his fame as a musician soon spread throughout the countryside (1Sa 16:18). With the passing of time he becomes the Hebrew Orpheus, in whose music birds and mountains joinedcompare Koran, chapter 21.


To the accompaniment of his lyre David no doubt sang words, either of popular songs or of lyrics of his own composition. The verses he sang would recount his own adventures or the heroic prowess of the warrior of his clan, or celebrate the loveliness of some maiden of the tribe, or consist of elegies upon those slain in battle. That the name of David was long connected with music the reverse of sacred appears from the fact that Amos denounces the people of luxury of his time for improvising to the sound of the viol, inventing instruments of music, like David (6:5). (It is not clear to which clause "like David" belongs, probably to both.) The only remains of the secular poetry of David which have come down to us are his elegies on Saul and Jonathan and on Abner (2Sa 1:19-27; 3:33,14), which show him to have been a true poet.


Did David also compose religious verses? Was he "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2Sa 23:1)? In the oldest account which we have, contained in the books of Samuel, David appears as a musician and as a secular poet only, for it is obvious the poetical passages, 2Sa 22:1-23:7, do not belong to the original form of that book but are thrust in in the middle of a long list of names of David’s soldiers.

The position is the same in Am 6:5. It is in the later books and passages that sacred music and psalms begin to be ascribed to him. Perhaps the earliest instance is the passage just cited containing the "last words" of David (2Sa 23:1-7). The Chronicler (about 300 BC) seems to put parts of Psalms 105; 96, and 106 into the mouth of David (1Ch 16:7 ff), and Ne 12:36 regards him apparently as the inventor of the instruments used in the Temple service (1Ch 23:5), or as a player of sacred music. So too in the Septuagint psalter (Ps 150:2) we read, "My hands made an organ, my fingers fashioned a psaltery"; and gradually the whole of the Psalms came to be ascribed to David as author.

In regard to this question it must be remembered that in the East at any rate there is no such distinction as that of sacred and secular. By sacred poetry we mean poetry which mentions the name of God or quotes Scripture, but the Hebrew or Arab poet will use the name of God as an accompaniment to a dance, and will freely sprinkle even comic poetry with citations from his sacred book. David must have composed sacred poems if he composed at all, and he would use his musical gift for the purposes of religion as readily as for those of amusement and pleasure (2Sa 6:14,15). Whether any of our psalms was composed by David is another question. The titles cannot be considered as conclusive evidence, and internal proofs of his authorship are wanting. Indeed the only psalm which claims to have been written by David is the 18th (2Sa 22).

Bibliography and Further Reading

  • F. Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews and A History of the Jews, V. ix; VII. viii-xv
  • W. De Burgh, The Messianic Prophecies of Isaiah (1863), 81-107
  • A. Edersheim, Bible History IV (1890), 81; V (1890), 58
  • A. Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation (1896), 306-308, 390-392
  • T. Meek, Hebrew Origins (1936), 146ff
  • J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (1946), 141, 149, 150, 151
  • H. Rowley, The Rediscovery of the Old Testament (1946), 37ff., 217ff.
  • W. Albright, The Archaeology of Palestine (1949), 122
  • A. Pieters, Notes on Old Testament History (1950), 141-175
  • G. Wright, The Old Testament Against Its Environment (1950), 65ff., 88ff.
  • H. Rowley, The Old Testament and Modern Study (1951), 13ff., 97ff., 183
  • S. Driver, An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (1956), 377-385, 533, 534
  • W. Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity (1957), 253f., 293f.
  • D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957), 141, 142
  • Wright and Fuller, The Book of the Acts of God (1957), 112, 113, 117-119
  • Margolis and Marx, History of the Jewish People (1958), 40-60
  • D. Thomas, Documents From Old Testament Times (1958), 195-201
  • E. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1958), 194-199, 201-203, 313-320, 357-360
  • J. Bright, A History of Israel (1960), 163-190, 272, 352-355, 440ff.
  • K. Kenyon, Archaeology in the Holy Land (1960), 240-245
  • W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, I (1961), 446ff.
  • C. Pfeiffer, Patriarchal Age (1961), 101
  • J. Gray, Archaeology in the Old Testament (1962), 128ff.
  • C. Pfeiffer, Exile and Return (1962), 20
  • C. Pfeiffer, Ras Shamra and the Bible (1962), 41, 43, 44, 48
  • J. Thompson, The Bible and Archaeology (1962), 96-100
  • F. F. Bruce, Israel and the Nations (1963), 26-35
  • R. Carlson, David, the Chosen King (1964)
  • A. Sachar, A History of the Jews (1965), 33-37
  • J. Bosch, David—the Biography of a King (1966)
  • J. Bowker, “Psalm LX”, Vet Test, XVII (1967), 34-41
  • H. Rowley, “Notes,” Vet Test (1967), 30 (See Jan. 1963)
  • R. Clements, Absalom and David (1967), 47-88
  • National Geographic Society, Everyday Life in Bible Times (1967), 207-218
  • C. Pfeiffer, Jerusalem Through the Ages (1967), 15-18.
  • G. Beer, "Saul, David, Salomo," Mohr, Tubingen, 1906.
  • References