Biography of King David, Biblical Jewish Leader

Statue of King David by Nicolas Cordier in the Borghese Chapel of the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Jastrow/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

King David (c. 1000 B.C.) was the Biblical ruler of ancient Israel. The son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah, David initially gained attention through the killing of Goliath. Although historians agree that David was probably a real person, there is little evidence of his life outside of the Bible.

Fast Facts: King David

  • Known For: After Saul, David was the second king of the Israelite kingdom.
  • Born: c. 1000 B.C. in Bethlehem, Israel
  • Parents: Jesse and Nitzevet (according to the Talmud; only Jesse is named in the Bible)
  • Died: Unknown (according to the Bible he was 70 years old at the time of his death)
  • Spouse(s): Michal, Ahinoam, Abigail, Maachah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, Bathsheba
  • Children: Amnon, Chileab, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, Ithream, Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, Eliphalet, Tamar

Early Life

According to the Bible, when David was just a young shepherd, he was called to play music for King Saul in order to cure his melancholy. David later gained fame as a youth after he killed the giant Philistine Goliath with his slingshot. Saul made David his armor-bearer and son-in-law, and Saul's son Jonathan became David's loyal friend.

Rise to Power

After Saul died, David rose to power by conquering Jerusalem. The northern tribes of Israel voluntarily submitted to David, and David became the second king of the united Israel (historians, however, doubt that this united kingdom actually existed). He founded a dynasty, centered in Jerusalem, that remained in power for about 500 years. David brought the Ark of the Covenant into the center of the Jewish nation, thereby infusing the Jewish national home with religion and a sense of ethics.

By creating a nation for the Jews with the Torah at its center, David brought the work of Moses to a practical conclusion and laid the foundation that would enable Judaism to survive for thousands of years to come, despite the efforts of many other nations to destroy it.

Kingship

After conquering Jerusalem, David expanded his kingdom by defeating the Moabites, Edomites, Ammonites, and Philistines. As king, David had an affair with a woman named Bathsheba, whose husband David later plotted to have killed in battle. Bathsheba gave birth to a son, Solomon.

Death

In his old age, David made arrangements for his son Solomon to succeed him as king. He died in Jerusalem at the age of 70.

Legacy

Along with Abraham and Moses, David is one of the most famous Jewish leaders. The Bible describes him as courageous and strong in war as well as an intelligent statesman, faithful friend, and inspiring leader. He was skillful at playing musical instruments and gifted in his ability to write Psalms (Tehilim) or songs of praise to God. In his relationship with God, he was pious. Mistakes he did make can be attributed to his rapid rise to power and the spirit of the times in which he lived and ruled. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah (Mashiach) will be one of the descendants of David.