David, in the Bible

David, d. c.970 b.c., king of ancient Israel (c.1010–970 b.c.), successor of Saul. The Book of First Samuel introduces him as the youngest of eight sons who is anointed king by Samuel to replace Saul, who had been deemed a failure. The Goliath story underscores his divine election and leads to Saul's obsession with killing him. On the death of Saul and Jonathan in battle, David assumes the throne in Second Samuel. The assassination of a rival king, Ishbosheth, in the north allows David to be crowned king of a united kingdom.

With the capture of Jerusalem, David moves his capital there and plans the construction of a temple. Through prophetic mediation, however, God declares David's successor as the future builder, who will build a “house.” God promises to establish the kingdom of his son as an everlasting kingdom. From this promise derives the later hope of a royal Messiah (“anointed one”) as an agent of God's establishment of an eschatological kingdom.

Second Samuel charts an era of decline beginning with David's adultery with Bath-sheba and the murder of her husband. Anarchy prevails among his children, leading to the revolt and usurpation of the throne by his son Absalom. David's son by Bath-sheba, Solomon, is nominated king and successor by David, though this was challenged by another son Adonijah. Nevertheless, David remains the model for subsequent monarchs of Israel.

David's musical skill became proverbial, and many psalms were attributed to him. Most of the narrative that recounts David's decline is omitted in the Book of Chronicles. The New Testament confesses Jesus as the “Christ” (Messiah) descended from David, and David is also attested in the Qur'an. Archaelogical excavations have failed, however, to find evidence that would confirm the existence of a powerful and unified Davidic kingdom.

See R. Alter, The David Story (1999); S. L. McKenzie, King David (2000)

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