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Miniature King David from the Egbert Psalter (10th century)

David ( Hebrew דָּוִד and דָּוִיד According to the 1st and 2nd books of Samuel , the 1st book of kings and the 1st book of the Chronicles of the Tanakh and the Old Testament of the Bible, Dāwīd ) was king of Judah and, as Saul's successor, also of Israel . It is said to have been around 1000 BC. BC and is considered to be the author of numerous psalms , the David psalms . The biblical expectation of the Messiah developed from the prophetic promise of an eternal existence of the David dynasty ( 2 SamEU ) .

David in the Samuel books

Young David

Caravaggio : David with the head of Goliath (1608/07).

David was born as the youngest son of Jesse (Jesse) in Bethlehem . As a boy, Samuel anointed him future king. Soon he came to Saul's court, which is told in the Bible in two mutually exclusive variants. In the first ( 1 Sam 16 : 14-23 EU ) Saul has him fetched to be cheered  up by David's playing on the "harp" Kinnor , because he was " plagued by an evil spirit sent by the Lord ". Immediately after this ( 1 Sam 17  EU ) follows the well-known story of the victory over the giant Goliath : the shepherd boy David, who was actually only supposed to bring bread and cheese to his brothers serving in the army, could not bear the blasphemous ridicule of the Philistine champion . He was then introduced to Saul and equipped with his own armor, but renounced it and killed the Philistine, armored in bronze and iron (a reference to the beginning of the Iron Age in the eastern Mediterranean ) with a simple slingshot. Saul then asked whose son this brave boy was and had him come to his court.

At court, David soon attracted Saul's envy because he appeared to be a greater hero than the king. Saul then tried several times to kill him. David was sent by Saul to fight the Philistines, from which he was supposed to bring him 100 foreskins from slain Philistines. Saul assumed that David would die in that battle. However, if David managed to capture the foreskins, Saul promised him his daughter Michal as a wife. Not only did David survive the battle, but he even brought Saul 200 foreskins from slain Philistines. Thus the marriage of David and Michal was sealed ( 1 Sam 18,17–28  EU ). Michal warned David of further murderous intentions of her father ( 1 Sam 19,11-18  EU ) and helped him to escape. Saul's son Jonathan , with whom David was close friends ( 1 Sam 19 : 1-7  EU ), also supported him.

David fought his way through as a gang leader and was hunted down by Saul with 3,000 chosen soldiers. In the caves of En Gedi , the king happened to go to the very cave in which David and his people were hiding to take necessities. But instead of murdering him, as his gang demanded, David only cut off a corner of the royal robe. He presented this to Saul in front of the cave as a sign of his loyalty. The king, deeply moved, prophesied that one day he would become king after him, and made him swear not to harm his family or his name. Then he let him go. As a result, David hired himself out as a feudal man with the Philistines. During his stay he took action against gangs of robbers in the desert. David spared Saul for the second time when he snuck into Saul's camp and only stole his spear and water jug ​​as a token of his superiority. By sparing Saul twice, the anonymous author of the story shows David's respect for the kingship of northern Israel. This later made it easier for the northern Israelite tribes to recognize the kingship of David, which in the end extended to the northern and southern empires.

David as king

When the Philistines were arming against Israel, they refrained from the support of David because they did not trust him. Saul died fighting the Philistines. With him fell his son Jonathan, of whom David later said that his love meant "more to him than love for women" ( 2 Sam 1.26  EU ). Since there was no longer an heir to the throne, the elders of the Israelites anointed David king in Hebron ( 2 Sam 5,3  EU ). Years earlier, the prophet Samuel had anointed him in Bethlehem to be king of the southern tribe of Judah . ( 1 Sam 16.1  EU ). The naturalness with which a split of Israel into a northern and a southern kingdom is reported for David's lifetime allows the conclusion that this dichotomy, which the Bible only attests to after Solomon's death, was possibly much older.

Through political moves and the elimination or attachment to himself, David passed over the descendants of Saul: He also became king over Israel, which however remained an independent kingdom. Both realms were linked in personal union. David now conquered Jerusalem , which was exactly on the border between the two kingdoms. As a result, the city did not belong to any of the twelve tribal areas, but as a crown property belonged to the king alone.

After consolidating his political power, David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, which had previously been kept in the tabernacle in Shiloh , in order to weaken the priesthood there and also to make Jerusalem the religious center of the kingdom. David waged a series of predominantly successful wars against Israel's neighboring peoples, most of which his nephew Joab waged for him. This created an empire on the north Baalbek and Damascus , to the east of Moab , in the south of the territory to the Red Sea and to the west the country to the Mediterranean have included intended . However, the conquest of the Philistine territories on the coast between Gaza and Jaffa did not succeed.

Jan Massys : David and Bathsheba , oil on canvas (1562)

At the time of a campaign against the Ammonites , David slept with Bathsheba , the wife of Uriah , a Hittite who was one of his officers. At the time, her husband was far from the besieged Rabba . When David found out that Bathsheba was pregnant by him, he had Uriah return to Jerusalem in the hope that he would sleep with Bathsheba and later recognize the child as his own. However, Urija refused to go into his own house and sleep with his wife as long as the acts of war continued and the other soldiers were denied this privilege. He may also see through David's intention.

Thereupon David ordered Joab in a letter delivered personally by Uriah (the proverbial letter of Uriah ) to put him at the forefront and then to withdraw from him so that he might fall. This time David's plan worked and he married the widow. After Saul's daughter Michal , Abigail from Maon and Ahinoam from Jezreel , Haggit, Egla, Abital and Maacha , daughter of King Tamaris of Geschur, she was David's eighth wife. The prophet Nathan threatened him for God's punishment and the child of Bathsheba died. Despite his sin , David remained God's darling in the presentation of the book of Samuel , even if he was denied building the Jerusalem temple as a punishment . This was reserved for the second child that Bathsheba gave birth to David, namely Solomon .

Another son of David, Absalom (also: Abschalom), tried to overthrow his father, which he almost succeeded. Shortly before his death, on the advice of Bathsheba and Natan (the prophet), old David appointed Solomon to replace the ambitious Adonia as his successor and anointed him king.

The picture of David in the Samuel books is psychologically differentiated. It shows both the light and the dark sides of the hero, such as hesitation, doubt, friendship, love, old age, anger, desire and serious guilt. This is unprecedented in the royal tales of that time.

God's covenant with David

The central text for the divine promise of an eternal Davidid dynasty is 2 Sam 7,1-29  EU with its parallel in 1 Chr 7,1-17  EU . There it is reported of David's desire to have God a “house”, i. H. to build a temple. However, God replies to this - conveyed through the prophet Nathan - that this is not David's task, but that of his offspring. Instead he, God, would build David a house, i.e. H. a dynasty that will last forever. In this text this promise from God is not referred to as a “covenant”, but a few chapters later in 2 Sam 23,5  EU . In addition, such a “covenant” with David is mentioned in Ps 89.40  EU , Ps 111.9  EU , Isa 55.3  EU and Jer 33.21  EU . It is debated which text (fragments) are more original. The key question here is whether the promised reign after the political end of the Davidid kingship was interpreted from this point on as an event that is still outstanding in terms of salvation history. In 1 Kings 2,4  EU and 1 Kings 8,25  EU a requirement for the covenant with the kingdom of David is mentioned: the Israelites are required to stay on God's ways. Here the question can be asked whether with this conditional validity of the promise in the book of kings an explanation for the absence of that political dynasty should be introduced. In any case, not only does the Old Testament repeatedly refer to this tradition of a divine promise to the descendants of David, the New Testament also ties in with it in many ways with its Messiah expectation, e.g. B. Lk 1.32  EU .

David in the New Testament

In contrast to other kings of the Old Testament (Saul, Solomon), David is widely received in the New Testament. The special interest results from the idea that the expected Messiah must come from the house of David, so that Jesus is addressed several times with the title “ Son of David ”.

In the childhood stories of the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke , which indicate two different lineages of the ancestors of Jesus , the genealogical connection between Jesus and David is established through his father Joseph . It also fits that Jesus was born in the "City of David" Bethlehem . In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus is addressed as the Son of David, particularly in the miracle stories, and is thus referred to as the Messiah who brings salvation. Also, Paul sets the descent of Jesus from David ahead ( 2 Tim 2.8  EU and Rom 1,3f  EU ). In the Gospel according to John the messiahship of Jesus is contested by some of his contemporaries with reference to Jesus' origin from Galilee ( Jn 7,40–43  EU ). Here either the then widespread ignorance of the origin of Jesus becomes visible, or it is expressed that the author of this Gospel does not assume the Davidic origin of Jesus. This broad New Testament testimony is intended to point out that "the tradition of being descended from David was alive in the family of Jesus". In retrospect of later generations, David became a figure of salvation and an image of hope for the coming Messiah . This had to be a descendant ("son") of David .

David fighting with the lion, Stone Bible by Schöngrabern , Lower Austria (around 1220)

David in Christianity

David's importance to Christianity is based on the fact that Jesus is named as the Messiah son of David. His prayer and repentance after the seduction of Bathsheba as well as his courage to fight (see picture) in conflicts with enemies and with temptations are also seen as exemplary .

Medieval authors saw David as the prototype of the psalmist and the poet; at that time he was considered the patron saint of the Mastersingers . In the hymn Dies irae , he and the Sibyl prophesied the coming of the Last Judgment . In the Middle Ages, David was considered an exemplary knight and exemplary king; Charlemagne loved to be addressed as "the new David" by his courtiers. The early medieval Armenian historian Moses von Choren traced the descent of the Bagratid dynasty to King David. The anointing of David by the prophet Samuel was the model for the church anointing of kings in the Middle Ages. Even in the early modern period, David played an important role as a role model for the ruler. In painting and sculpture he is shown above all as a triumph over Goliath, but also as a musician and dancer. By making music in front of his predecessor Saul, David appears as a prototype of the modern music therapist. As a dancer in front of the Ark of the Covenant, he can symbolize the godly ruler, but also the triumphant one who triumphantly enters a city. As the author and singer of the Psalms, David symbolizes the supernatural inspiration of church music, the musical education of the secular ruler, but can also be portrayed in the manner of angels as a heavenly musician, as a patron of music or as a biblical figure of identification of the melancholy-contemplative artist.

David in Islam

Mohammed ( sitting on his horse Buraq on the right ) meets David and Solomon (from the Miraj name ) in heaven

David appears in the Koran as Dāwūd ( Arabic داود, also داوود). In Sura 2 , verses 249-251 also David's victory is Goliat (Arab. Ǧālūt,جالوت) mentioned. In sura 21 , verse 78, David appears as an exemplary ruler and judge, in sura 38 , verses 21-25, as a repentant sinner. In Sura 5 , Verse 82, David and Jesus cursed a group of Jews who disobeyed the divine commandments. In Sura 34 , verse 10-12 (also 21, 80) David is an armorer , for whom the iron is softened, from which he makes chain mail. Furthermore, his magical quality as a singer is emphasized, which was able to influence not only people, but also wild animals and nature.

David in History

The fact that David achieved the abundance of power shown in the Bible is strongly doubted in recent research. From an Egyptian and Assyrian perspective, he was undoubtedly just a provincial prince. The biblical portrayal of his and Solomon's reigns as the climax of Israel's state importance does not stand up to literary and above all archaeological scrutiny. At the time of David, Jerusalem is believed to have had no more than 1,500 inhabitants. In view of a lack of archaeological evidence and a lack of mention in the records of other empires, one cannot speak of a “ great empire of David ”.

Oldest extra-biblical mention of the Davidic dynasty in the ninth line from the top ( Tel Dan inscription , around 840 BC)

The biblical narratives depict the Davidic and especially the Solomonic epoch as an ideal time, but they themselves were written much later. It is generally accepted in biblical studies today that the book of Samuel was compiled from various sources in the time of King Josiah of Judah. Josias ruled from 640 to 609 BC. And tried to extend his rule over the northern empire evacuated by the Assyrians - the story of the united great empire under David and Solomon would in this interpretation be an interest-driven production of myths and as a historical source, at best, would be interesting for the time of its creation.

Recently, the so-called minimalists of biblical studies have even questioned whether David ever existed: The British archaeologist Philip R. Davies, for example, voiced the suspicion that the figure of David was "as historical as King Arthur ". In fact, there are no archaeological finds that can be assigned with certainty to his person. After all, an inscription from Tel Dan found in 1993 shows that around 840 BC The kings of Judah were actually considered to belong to the "house of David". Researchers also claim to have deciphered the name of David on the Moabite Mesha stele from the 9th century BC and in a relief that Pharaoh Scheschonq I had made in Thebes , but these readings are controversial. Reference is also made to texts from the Mesopotamian city ​​of Mari , in which the word dawidum occurs in the meaning of hero or military leader . Accordingly, David could originally not have been a personal name but a title, but this reading is also uncertain.

David's tomb

The tomb of David is venerated as David's tomb on Mount Zion in Jerusalem . It is a holy place of Judaism. The authenticity as an actual tomb of David is doubtful.

Star of David

Biographical references in the David psalms

  • Psalm 3 : when he fled from his son Absalom (2 Samuel 15: 13-17)
  • Psalm 7 : because of the words of Cush the Benjaminite (2 Samuel 16: 5; 19:16)
  • Psalm 18 : when the Lord delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, also out of the hand of Saul (2 Samuel 22: 1-51)
  • Psalm 30 : for the dedication of the house, the temple (2 Samuel 5:11, 12; 6:17)
  • Psalm 34 : when he presented himself insane to Abimelech (1 Samuel 21: 11-16)
  • Psalm 52 : when Doeg the Edomite came and reported to Saul, David has gone into the house of Abimelech! (1 Samuel 22: 9-10)
  • Psalm 54 : when the Siphites came and said to Saul, Isn't David hiding with us? (1 Samuel 23:19)
  • Psalm 56 : when the Philistines seized him in Gath (1 Samuel 21: 11-12)
  • Psalm 57 : when he fled into the cave from Saul (1 Samuel 22: 1; 24: 3)
  • Psalm 59 : when Saul had the house guarded to kill him (1 Samuel 19:11)
  • Psalm 60 : when he fought with the Arameans of Mesopotamia and with the Arameans of Zoba (2 Samuel 8: 3-13)
  • Psalm 63 : when he was in the wilderness of Judah (1 Samuel 23:14 or 2 Samuel 15: 23-28)
  • Psalm 142 : when he was in the cave (1 Samuel 22: 1; 24: 3)

Memorial days

Effect in art and literature

David bronze statue by Donatello (around 1430)
David bronze statue by Andrea Verrocchio (1473–1475)
David sculpture by Michelangelo (1501–1504)


Web links

Commons : David  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. HW Hertzberg: The books of Samuel (= The Old Testament German , Vol. 10). Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, Göttingen 1956, p. 113; Klaus Koch : Samuelis books . In: Religion in Past and Present , 2nd electronic edition of the 3rd edition. directmedia, Berlin 2000, vol. 5, p. 1359.
  2. Richard Schultz: The so-called contradictions in the Old Testament - Part 2 (2000), website of the Bibelbund , accessed on June 9, 2013.
  3. see also sea ​​peoples
  4. Martin Hengel , Anna Maria Schwemer: Jesus und das Judentum , Tübingen 2007, p. 293.
  5. Konrad Huber: The Kings of Israel: Saul, David and Salomo , in: Markus Öhler (Ed.): Old Testament Shapes in the New Testament , Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1999, p. 161ff.
  6. ^ Hengel , Schwemer: Jesus und das Judentum , 2007, p. 293.
  7. David Flusser : Article David, In Christianity. In: Encyclopaedia Judaica . 2nd edition, Vol. 5 (2007), p. 454.
  8. Stefan Bodemann: David playing and dancing in Italian painting of the 16th and 17th centuries (= Tholos. 8). Münster 2015, ISBN 978-3-86887-025-1 , pp. 49–125.
  9. Chaim Zeev Hirschberg: Article David, In Islam , in: Encyclopaedia Judaica , 2nd Edition, Vol. 5 (2007), pp. 454–455.
  10. ^ The Encyclopaedia of Islam. New Edition , Vol. 2, p. 182
  11. Critical e.g. B. the popular representation by Israel Finkelstein ; Neil A. Silberman : No Trumpets Before Jericho. The Archaeological Truth About the Bible. , 6th edition (special edition), C. H. Beck, Munich 2006, chap. 5, pp. 140ff. Brief overview of research opinions in Fischer 2009 , section 4; there also more literature.
  12. www.wissenschaft.de: When Jerusalem was a cow village , image of science about the archaeological facts in the Israel-Palestine region around 1000 BC. Chr.
  13. Quoted from Stanley Jerome Isser: The Sword of Goliath. David in Heroic Literature . Brill, Leiden 2003, pp. 15-20 (here the quote).
  14. Steven L. McKenzie: King David. A biography . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2002, ISBN 978-3-11-088116-5 , pp. 13-26 (accessed via De Gruyter Online).
  15. ^ André Lemaire: Mari, the Bible, and the Northwest Semitic World. In: The Biblical Archaeologist, 47, Heft 2 (1984), p. 102.
  16. David in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
predecessor Office successor
Saul King of United Israel
1008–965 BC Chr.