David, the second king of the Israelites (reigned ca. 1010-ca. 970 B.C.), was regarded as a model king and founded a permanent dynasty.

David was born in Bethlehem, the youngest son of Jesse of the tribe of Judah. The prophet Samuel, after revoking Saul's designation as king, secretly anointed David as Saul's successor. David attained great popularity by killing the Philistine giant Goliath in combat (1 Samuel 17:49), although another biblical source attributes this feat to one named Elhanan (2 Samuel 21:19). A skilled harpist, David was brought to the royal court to divert Saul with music and alleviate the depression that Saul had succumbed to under the strain of his responsibilities. At court David won the undying friendship of the crown prince, Jonathan, whose sister Michal he married.

After Saul's jealousy had forced David to flee for his life, he had two opportunities to slay the King but magnanimously spared him. Saul eventually met his end at Gilboa, together with three of his sons, including Jonathan. After a period of mourning, David proceeded to Hebron, where he was chosen king by the elders of Judah. Saul's general Abner, however, proclaimed Ishbaal (Ishbosheth), a surviving son of the dead king, as the sovereign. In the civil war that ensued, Ishbaal and Abner were slain. Their deaths removed the last obstacles from David's path to the throne, and about 1010 B.C. he was crowned king of all the Israelites.

After numerous battles David liberated Israel from the yoke of the Philistines and ushered in a golden era for his people. He captured Jerusalem and made it his capital because of its strategic military position and its location outside the boundaries of any tribe. He placed the Ark of the Covenant in a tent near his residence, thereby making Jerusalem the religious, as well as the national, center of all of Israel and preparing the way for his son and successor, Solomon, to erect the Holy Temple there.

David expanded his kingdom to Phoenicia in the west, the Arabian Desert in the east, the Orontes River in the north, and Etzion Geber (Elath) in the south. But internal political troubles overtook David. His son Absalom led a rebellion which was finally suppressed when Joab, David's general, killed him, although the King had ordered that he be spared. David also had to quash an uprising of Saul's tribe, the Benjaminites.

The Bible idealizes David as a warrior, statesman, loyal friend, and gifted poet, yet it does not fail to mention his faults and moral lapses. At one time David callously plotted the death in battle of one of his officers, Uriah the Hittite, so that he could marry Uriah's beautiful wife, Bathsheba. For this he was denounced by the prophet Nathan, and, recognizing that he had committed a great moral wrong, the King fasted and prayed in repentance.

Jewish tradition ascribes to David the authorship of the Book of Psalms and refers to him as the "sweet singer of Israel." The Messiah, too, was to come forth from "the stock of Jesse" (Isaiah 9:5, 11:10), and indeed the New Testament speaks of Jesus as a descendant of the House of David (Matthew 1:16). David's tomb, traditionally assumed to be on Mt. Zion, has become a venerated place of pilgrimage.

Further Reading on David

The Bible portrays the life and achievements of David in 1 Samuel 16 through 2 Samuel 5, 2 Samuel 19-20, 1 Kings 1-2, and 1 Chronicles 10-29. The chapter on King David in Harry Meyer Orlinsky, Ancient Israel (1954), is recommended. See also Martin North, The History of Israel (1953; 2d ed. 1960); John Bright, A History of Israel (1959); and Mortimer J. Cohen, "David the King," in Simon Noveck, ed., Great Jewish Personalities in Ancient and Medieval Times (1959).