AskDefine | Define David

Dictionary Definition



1 patron saint of Wales (circa 520-600) [syn: Saint David, St. David]
2 French neoclassical painter who actively supported the French Revolution (1748-1825) [syn: Jacques Louis David]
3 (Old Testament) the 2nd king of the Israelites; as a young shepherd he fought Goliath (a giant Philistine warrior) and killed him by hitting him in the head with a stone flung from a sling; he united Israel with Jerusalem as its capital; many of the Psalms are attributed to David (circa 1000-962 BC)

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From the Greek Δαυίδ from the Hebrew דּוד


Proper noun

  1. A given name; Hebrew for "beloved".
  2. The second king of Judah and Israel, the successor of Saul.
  3. A Welsh patronymic surname from which are derived the surnames Davis, Davies, Davidson and Davison.

Derived terms


male given name
king of Judah


Proper noun

  1. A given name, cognate to David.


Proper noun

  1. David
  2. A given name


Proper noun

  1. A given name of biblical origin.


Proper noun

  1. David.
  2. A given name.


Proper noun

  1. David.
  2. A given name.


Proper noun

  1. David.
  2. A given name.

Extensive Definition

David , Arabic: داوود or داود, , "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 BCE, his reign over Judah c.1007 - 1000 BCE, and over Judah and Israel c.1000 - 967 BCE. There is little in the archaeological record to substantiate the bible's detailed narrative, but his story, as recorded in the books of Samuel (from I Samuel 16 onwards) and Chronicles, have been of central importance to Jewish and Christian culture.

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." (Bible verse 1|Samuel|16:14-23|HE)

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, 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 brings the head of Goliath 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 "the wife of Uriah the Hittite", and Bathsheba becomes pregnant. 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. David then 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."
The prophet Nathan speaks out against David's sin, saying: "Why have you despised the word of the LORD, 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 the LORD 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 Bible verse |Psalm|51,|JP 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

According to some Islamic narrations David was not from Judah but was from Levi and Aron
Goliath appears in the Qur'an as Jalut; and like in Judaism, Jalut's slayer is Dawood. In surah al-Baqarah, ayah 251 says: "And Dawood slew Jalut, and Allah gave him kingdom and wisdom, and taught him of what He pleased."(Transl. Shakir) Dawood was in Taloot's (Saul's) army.

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 BCE has been interpreted as containing the phrase 'House of David'; 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 BCE by the Egyptian Pharaoh Shoshenq I mentions "the highlands of David," but this has been questioned. "If the reading of ביתדוד [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 BCE In Eilat Mazaar found a large stone structure which she dated to the 10th century BC, but her dating and her suggestion that this represents David's palace have been disputed.. 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 BCE), 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 BCE, 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 BCE 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 BCE.

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). Of these, the Psalms need to be treated with great scepticism: although almost half of them 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 BCE, 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 Bible verse |Ruth|4:18-22|JP, (the "Pharez" that heads the line is Judah's son, Bible verse |Genesis|38:29|JP).
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)" (Bible verse 1|Kings|1:1-4|JP).
As given in Bible verse 1|Chronicles|3|JP, 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 Bible verse 2|Chronicles|11:18|JP, another son was born to David who is not mentioned in any of the genealogies:
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.

Relationship with Jonathan

The intimate relationship between David and Jonathan is recorded favourably in the Old Testament books of Samuel. There is debate amongst religious 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") 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.

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.


(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

David in Arabic: داود
David in Azerbaijani: Davud
David in Belarusian: Давыд, цар ізраільска-іудзейскі
David in Breton: David
David in Catalan: David
David in Czech: David (král Izraele)
David in Danish: Kong David
David in German: David (Israel)
David in Modern Greek (1453-): Δαβίδ
David in Spanish: David
David in Esperanto: Davido
David in Persian: داوود
David in French: David (Bible)
David in Friulian: Davide
David in Manx: Davy
David in Galician: David
David in Korean: 다윗 왕
David in Croatian: Kralj David
David in Indonesian: Daud
David in Italian: Davide (Bibbia)
David in Hebrew: דוד
David in Kurdish: Dawid
David in Latin: David (Rex)
David in Lithuanian: Dovydas
David in Hungarian: Dávid király
David in Malay (macrolanguage): Nabi Daud a.s.
David in Dutch: Koning David
David in Japanese: ダビデ
David in Norwegian: David av Israel
David in Norwegian Nynorsk: David I av Israel
David in Polish: Dawid (król Izraela)
David in Portuguese: David
David in Russian: Давид
David in Albanian: Mbreti David
David in Serbian: Краљ Давид
David in Finnish: Daavid
David in Swedish: Kung David
David in Tagalog: David
David in Thai: เดวิด
David in Vietnamese: David
David in Turkish: Davud
David in Ukrainian: Давид
David in Urdu: داؤد علیہ السلام
David in Wolof: Daawuda
David in Yiddish: דוד המלך
David in Chinese: 大衛
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