(Daʹvid) [“beloved,” or, possibly, a shortened form of “beloved of Jah”].
In the New World Translation the name occurs 1,076 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, including 75 times in superscriptions of 73 psalms, and 59 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Of all Hebrew Scripture characters, only Moses and Abraham are mentioned more frequently by Christian Bible writers. In the 1,135 places where the name David occurs, reference is to but one individual, the second king of Israel, or the one of whom David, at times, served as a pictorial type: “Jesus Christ, son of David.”—Matt. 1:1.
This shepherd, musician, poet, soldier, statesman, prophet and king stands out in the Hebrew Scriptures in great prominence. Here was a fierce fighter on the battlefield who showed endurance under hardships, a leader and commander strong and unwavering in courage, yet humble enough to acknowledge his mistakes and repent of his gross sins, a man capable of tender compassion and mercy, a lover of truth and righteousness, and, above all, one with implicit trust and confidence in his God Jehovah.
David, a descendant of Boaz and Ruth, had an ancestry running back through Perez to Judah. (Ruth 4:18-22; Matt. 1:3-6) This youngest of Jesse’s eight sons also had two sisters or half sisters. (1 Sam. 16:10, 11; 17:12; 1 Chron. 2:16) One of David’s brothers evidently died without having children and was thus dropped from later genealogical records. (1 Chron. 2:13-16) The name of David’s mother is not given. Some have suggested that Nahash was his mother, but it is more probable that Nahash was the father of David’s half sisters. (2 Sam. 17:25; see NAHASH No. 2.) The idea advanced by some that David’s mother may have been a Moabitess has no basis in fact; David’s taking his family to the king of Moab for asylum is no proof of this.—1 Sam. 22:3, 4.
Bethlehem, located some five miles (8 kilometers) S of Jerusalem, was David’s hometown, the town where his forefathers Jesse, Obed and Boaz had lived, and which was sometimes called “David’s city” (Luke 2:4, 11; John 7:42), not to be confused with the “city of David,” that is, Zion in Jerusalem. (2 Sam. 5:7) David longed for the good water in its cistern by the gate from which he drank in his youth when entering the city.—2 Sam. 23:15; 1 Chron. 11:17.
AS A YOUTH
We first meet up with David as he is tending his father’s sheep in a field near Bethlehem, reminding us that it was also in a field near Bethlehem where shepherds more than a millennium later were overawed at being chosen to hear Jehovah’s angel announcing the birth of Jesus. (Luke 2:8-14) Samuel, sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be the future king, turns down David’s seven older brothers, saying, “Jehovah has not chosen these.” Finally David is fetched from the field. There is an atmosphere of suspense when he enters—“ruddy, a young man with beautiful eyes and handsome in appearance”—for until now no one knows why Samuel has come. “Get up,” Samuel is commanded by Jehovah, “anoint him, for this is he!” This is the one of whom Jehovah says, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man agreeable to my heart, who will do all the things I desire.”—1 Sam. 16:1-13; 13:14; Acts 13:22.
David’s years spent as a shepherd lad had a profound influence on the rest of his life. Outdoor life prepared him to live as a fugitive when, in later life, he fled the wrath of Saul. He also acquired skill in throwing slingstones, and developed endurance and courage and a willingness to pursue and rescue sheep separated from the flock, not hesitating to kill a bear or a lion when necessary.—1 Sam. 17:34-36.
But for all his valor as a warrior, David will also be remembered as one skilled on the harp and as a composer of song, abilities he perhaps acquired during the long hours spent tending the sheep. David also had a reputation for developing new musical instruments. (2 Chron. 7:6; 29:26, 27; Amos 6:5) David’s love for Jehovah raised his lyrics far above the common level of simple entertainment and made them classical masterpieces dedicated to the worship and praise of Jehovah. The superscriptions of no less than seventy-three psalms indicate that David was their composer, but still other psalms are elsewhere attributed to David. (Compare Psalm 2:1 with Acts 4:25; Psalm 95:7, 8 with Hebrews 4:7.) Some, for example, Psalms 8, 19, 23, 29, quite likely reflect David’s experiences as a shepherd.
All this training while caring for sheep prepared David for the greater role of shepherding Jehovah’s people, as it is written: “[Jehovah] chose David his servant and took him from the pens of the flock. From following the females giving suck he brought him in to be a shepherd over Jacob his people and over Israel his inheritance.” (Ps. 78:70, 71; 2 Sam. 7:8) However, when David first left his father’s sheep it was not to take over the kingship. Instead, he served as the court musician upon the recommendation of an adviser of Saul, who described David not only as “skilled at playing” but also as a “valiant, mighty man and a man of war and an intelligent speaker and a well-formed man, and Jehovah is with him.” (1 Sam. 16:18) So David became the sweet minstrel to troubled Saul, as well as his armor-bearer.—1 Sam. 16:19-23.
Later, for reasons not disclosed, David returns to his father’s house for an indeterminate period. Upon bringing provisions to his brothers in Saul’s army, which at the time is in a standoff position with the Philistines, he is incensed at seeing and hearing Goliath reproach Jehovah. “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he has to taunt the battle lines of the living God?” David asks. (1 Sam. 17:26) “Jehovah,” he adds, “who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, he it is who will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:37) Granted permission, the killer of the lion and bear approaches Goliath with the words: “I am coming to you with the name of Jehovah of armies, the God of the battle lines of Israel, whom you have taunted.” Suddenly David hurls the stone in his sling and brings the enemy champion down. Then with Goliath’s own sword David decapitates him, and returns to camp with the trophies of war, the giant’s head and sword.—1 Sam. 17:45-54.
It is noteworthy that the Septuagint, as it appears in the fourth-century Greek manuscript Vatican 1209, omits the passage from 1 Samuel 17:55 to 18:6a. Hence Moffatt marks all except the last of these verses in double brackets, calling them “either editorial additions or later interpolations.” If this is so, then the problem of having Saul inquire who David is long after he had been serving as a harpist in Saul’s court is removed.
AS A FUGITIVE
These fast-moving events catapulted David from the obscurity of the wilderness to the stage of public notice before the eyes of all Israel. Placed over the men of war, David was greeted with dancing and rejoicing when he returned from a victorious expedition against the Philistines, the popular song of the day being, “Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.” (1 Sam. 18:5-7) “All Israel and Judah were lovers of David,” and Saul’s own son Jonathan concluded with him a lifetime covenant of mutual love and friendship, the benefits of which extended to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth and grandson Mica.—1 Sam. 18:1-4, 16; 20:1-42; 23:18; 2 Sam. 9:1-13.
This popularity stirred up envy in Saul, who kept “looking suspiciously at David from that day forward.” Twice when David was playing as in former times, Saul hurled a spear with the intent of pinning him to the wall, and both times Jehovah delivered him. Saul promised to give his daughter to whoever killed Goliath, but now he was reluctant to give her to David. Finally Saul agreed to the marriage of a second daughter, provided David brought him “a hundred foreskins of the Philistines,” an unreasonable demand that Saul calculated would mean David’s death. Courageous David, however, doubled the dowry, presented Saul with two hundred foreskins, and was married to Michal. So now two of Saul’s children had lovingly entered covenants with David, circumstances that made Saul hate him all the more. (1 Sam. 18:9-29) When David was again playing before Saul, the king for the third time sought to pin him to the wall with the spear. That was enough. This time the hand of his own father-in-law had thrown the weapon. So under the cover of night David fled, to see Saul again only under different and indeed strange circumstances.—1 Sam. 19:10.
For the next several years David lived as a wanted outlaw on the run, as a fugitive constantly in flight from place to place, relentlessly pursued by an obstinate and wicked king bent on killing him. David first took refuge with the prophet Samuel in Ramah (1 Sam. 19:18-24), but when this ceased to be a hiding place he headed for the Philistine city of Gath, stopping on the way to see High Priest Ahimelech in Nob, where he obtained Goliath’s sword. (1 Sam. 21:1-9; 22:9-23; Matt. 12:3, 4) However, it was only by disguising his sanity, making childish cross marks on the gate and letting saliva run down his beard, that he was able to escape from Gath. (1 Sam. 21:10-15) Based on this experience, David composed Psalms 34 and 56. He then fled to the cave of Adullam, where his family and about four hundred unfortunate and distressed men joined him. Psalm 57 or 142, or both, may commemorate his stay in this cave. David kept on the move—from there to Mizpeh in Moab and then back to the forest of Hereth in Judah. (1 Sam. 22:1-5) When living in Keilah he learned that Saul was preparing to attack, whereupon he and his men, now numbering about 600, departed for the wilderness of Ziph. Saul continued the chase from one place to another, from the wilderness of Ziph at Horesh to the wilderness of Maon. When Saul was about to seize his prey, word came of a Philistine raid, so for a period of time Saul abandoned the chase, allowing the fugitive to escape to En-gedi. (1 Sam. 23:1-29) Beautiful Psalms praising Jehovah for providing miraculous deliverance (18, 59, 63, 70) were born out of similar experiences.
En-gedi was the place where Saul entered a cave to ease nature. David, who had been hiding there in the rear, crept up and cut off the skirt of Saul’s garment but spared his life, saying that it was unthinkable on his part to harm the king, “for he is the anointed of Jehovah.”—1 Sam. 24:1-22.
Following Samuel’s death
After Samuel’s death, David, still in a state of exile, took up dwelling in the wilderness of Paran. There he and his men extended kindness to a wealthy stock raiser, Nabal, only to be rebuffed by this ingrate. Quick thinking on the part of Nabal’s wife Abigail stayed David’s hand from exterminating the male household, but Nabal was stricken by Jehovah and died. Thereupon David married the widow, so that now, in addition to Ahinoam from Jezreel, David had yet another wife, Abigail of Carmel; Saul had given Michal to another man.—1 Sam. 25:1-44; 27:3.
For the second time David took refuge in the wilderness of Ziph, and again the hunt was on. David likened Saul and his 3,000 men to those searching “for a single flea, just as one chases a partridge upon the mountains.” One night the pursued crept into the sleeping camp of the pursuer and made off with Saul’s spear and water jug. Abishai, who accompanied David, wanted to kill Saul, but David spared his life the second time, saying that, from Jehovah’s viewpoint, it was unthinkable for him to thrust out his hand against God’s anointed one. (1 Sam. 26:1-25) This night was the last occasion David saw his adversary.
David settled at Ziklag in Philistine territory, out of Saul’s reach for a period of sixteen months. A number of mighty men deserted Saul’s forces and joined the exiles at Ziklag, enabling David to raid towns of Israel’s enemies on the S, thus securing Judah’s boundaries and strengthening his future position as king. (1 Sam. 27:1-12; 1 Chron. 12:1-7, 19-22) When the Philistines were preparing to assault Saul’s forces, King Achish, thinking David was “a stench among his people Israel,” invited him to go along. However, the other axis lords rejected David as a security risk. (1 Sam. 29:1-11) This was providential, for in the battle that culminated on Mount Gilboa, Saul and three of his sons, including Jonathan, died.—1 Sam. 31:1-7.
Meanwhile, the Amalekites robbed and burned out Ziklag, carrying off all the women and children. Immediately David’s forces pursued, overtook the marauders and recovered their wives and children and all the goods. (1 Sam. 30:1-31) Three days later an Amalekite brought the diadem and bracelet of Saul, deceitfully boasting that he had put the wounded king to death and hoping to receive a reward. Even though he lied in the matter, David ordered him killed for claiming to have “put the anointed of Jehovah to death.”—2 Sam. 1:1-16; 1 Sam.31:4, 5.
The tragic news of Saul’s death grieved David very much. He was not so concerned that his archenemy was dead as he was that the anointed one of Jehovah had fallen. In lamentation, David composed one of the most beautiful odes ever written, entitled “The Bow.” In it he bewails how his worst enemy and best friend had fallen together in battle—“Saul and Jonathan, the lovable ones and the pleasant ones during their life, and in their death they were not separated.”—2 Sam. 1:17-27.
David now moved to Hebron, where, at the age of thirty, the older men of Judah anointed him king over their tribe in 1077 B.C.E. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth was made king of the other tribes. About two years later, however, Ish-bosheth was assassinated, his assailants bringing his head to David hoping to receive a reward, but they too were put to death like the pretended killer of Saul. (2 Sam. 2:1-4, 8-10; 4:5-12) This paved the way for the tribes who had till then supported Saul’s son to join Judah, and, in time, a force numbering 340,822 rallied and made David king of all Israel.—2 Sam. 5:1-3; 1 Chron. 11:1-3; 12:23-40.
Rule at Jerusalem
David ruled at Hebron seven and a half years before moving his capital, at Jehovah’s direction, to the captured Jebusite stronghold, Jerusalem. There he built the city of David on Zion and continued to rule another thirty-three years. (2 Sam. 5:4-10; 1 Chron. 11:4-9; 2 Chron. 6:6) While living at Hebron, King David took more wives, had Michal returned, and fathered a number of sons and daughters. (2 Sam. 3:2-5, 13-16; 1 Chron. 3:1-4) After moving to Jerusalem, David acquired still more wives and concubines who, in turn, bore him more children.—2 Sam. 5:13-16; 1 Chron. 3:5-9; 14:3-7.
When the Philistines heard that David was king of all Israel, they came up to overthrow him. As in the past (1 Sam. 23:2, 4, 10-12; 30:8), David inquired of Jehovah as to whether he should go against them. “Go up,” was the answer, and Jehovah burst upon the enemy with such overpowering destruction that David called the place Baal-perazim, meaning “Master of Breakings Through.” In a return encounter Jehovah’s strategy shifted and David was ordered to circle around and strike the Philistines from the rear.—2 Sam. 5:17-25; 1 Chron. 14:8-17.
David attempted to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, but this failed when Uzzah touched it and was struck down. (2 Sam. 6:2-10; 1 Chron. 13:1-14) Some three months later, with careful preparations, including sanctifying the priests and Levites and making sure the Ark was carried on their shoulders instead of being placed in a wagon as at first, it was brought to Jerusalem. David, simply clad, showed his joy and enthusiasm on this great occasion by “leaping and dancing around before Jehovah.” But his wife Michal chided David, saying he acted “just as one of the empty-headed men.” For this unjustified complaint Michal “came to have no child down to the day of her death.”—2 Sam. 6:11-23; 1 Chron. 15:1-29.
David also arranged for expanded worship of Jehovah at the Ark’s new location by assigning gatekeepers and musicians and seeing that there were “burnt offerings . . . constantly morning and evening.” (1 Chron. 16:1-6, 37-43) In addition, David thought of building a temple-palace of cedar to house the Ark, to replace its tent. But David was not permitted to build the house, for God said: “Blood in great quantity you have spilled, and great wars you have waged. You will not build a house to my name, for a great deal of blood you have spilled on the earth before me.” (1 Chron. 22:8; 28:3) However, Jehovah made a covenant with him promising that the kingship would everlastingly remain in his family and in connection with this covenant God assured him that his son Solomon, whose name means “Peaceable,” would build the temple.—2 Sam. 7:1-16, 25-29; 1 Chron. 17:1-27; 2 Chron. 6:7-9; Ps. 89:3, 4, 35, 36.
It was therefore in line with this kingdom covenant that Jehovah permitted David to expand his territorial rule from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates, securing his borders, maintaining peace with the king of Tyre, battling and conquering opponents on all sides—Philistines, Syrians, Moabites, Edomites, Amalekites and Ammonites. (2 Sam. 8:1-14; 10:6-19; 1 Ki. 5:3; 1 Chron. 13:5; 14:1, 2; 18:1–20:8) These God-given victories made David a most powerful ruler. (1 Chron. 14:17) However, David was always conscious that this position was not his by conquest or inheritance, but it was from Jehovah, who had placed him on the throne of this typical theocracy.—1 Chron. 10:14; 29:10-13.
Sins bring calamity
During the continued campaign against the Ammonites one of the saddest episodes of David’s life occurred. It all began when the king, upon observing from his rooftop beautiful Bath-sheba bathing herself, entertained wrong desires. “The desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.” (Jas. 1:14, 15) After learning that her husband Uriah was off to war, David had the woman brought to his palace, where he had relations with her. In time the king was notified that she was pregnant. Quickly David sent word to the army that Uriah should report to him in Jerusalem, with the hope that Uriah would spend the night with his wife. But even though David got him drunk, Uriah refused to sleep with Bath-sheba. In desperation, David sent him back to the army with secret instruction to commander Joab to have Uriah put in the front lines, where he would surely be killed. The scheme worked. Uriah died in battle, his widow observed the customary period of mourning, and then David married the widow before the townspeople were aware of her pregnancy.—2 Sam. 11:1-27.
Jehovah was watching, however, and uncovered the whole reprehensible matter. By the mouth of the prophet Nathan, Jehovah pronounced: “Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house.”—2 Sam. 12:1-12.
And so it proved to be. The adulterine child born to Bath-sheba soon died, even though David fasted and mourned over the sick child for seven days. (2 Sam. 12:15-23) Then David’s firstborn son Amnon raped his own half-sister Tamar, and was subsequently murdered by her brother, to the grief of his father. (2 Sam. 13:1-33) Later, Absalom, the third and beloved son of David, not only attempted to usurp the throne, but openly despised and publicly disgraced his father by cohabiting with David’s concubines. (2 Sam. 15:1–16:22) Finally, the humiliation reached its peak when civil war plunged the country into a struggle of son against father, ending in Absalom’s death, contrary to the wishes and much to the grief of his father. (2 Sam. 17:1–18:33) During his flight from Absalom, David composed Psalm 3, in which he says, “Salvation belongs to Jehovah.”—Vs. 8.
But for all his faults and gross sins, David always showed the right heart condition by repenting and begging Jehovah’s forgiveness. This was demonstrated in the affair involving Bath-sheba, after which David wrote Psalm 51, stating, “With error I was brought forth . . . in sin my mother conceived me.” (Vs. 5) Another instance when David humbly confessed his sins was when Satan incited him to take a census of the men qualified for the military forces.—2 Sam. 24:1-17; 1 Chron. 21:1-17; 27:24; see REGISTRATION.
Purchase of temple site
When the pestilence that resulted from the king’s error in this last instance was stopped, David purchased the threshing floor of Ornan and, as a sacrifice to Jehovah, offered up the cattle with the sledge used for the threshing. It was on this site that Solomon later built the magnificent temple. (2 Sam. 24:18-25; 1 Chron. 21:18-30; 2 Chron. 3:1) David always had it in his heart to build that temple, and though not permitted to do so, he was allowed to set a great task force to hewing stones and gathering materials that included a hundred thousand talents of gold and a million talents of silver, and copper and iron without measure. (1 Chron. 22:2-16) Out of his personal fortune David contributed gold of Ophir and refined silver valued at nearly $126,000,000. David also provided the architectural plans, received by inspiration, and organized the tens of thousands of Levites into their many divisions of service, including a great chorus of singers and musicians.—1 Chron. 23:1–29:19; 2 Chron. 8:14; 23:18; 29:25; Ezra 3:10.
End of reign
In the closing days of David’s life the seventy-year-old king, now confined to his bed, continued to reap calamity within his family. His fourth son, Adonijah, without the knowledge or consent of his father, and, more seriously, without Jehovah’s approval, attempted to set himself up as king. When this news reached David he moved quickly to have his son Solomon, Jehovah’s choice, officially installed as king and to sit upon the throne. (1 Ki. 1:5-48; 1 Chron. 28:5; 29:20-25; 2 Chron. 1:8) David then counseled Solomon to walk in Jehovah’s ways, keep his statutes and commandments, act prudently in everything, and then he would prosper.—1 Ki. 2:1-9.
After a forty-year reign David died and was buried in the city of David, having proved worthy of inclusion in Paul’s honorable list of witnesses who were outstanding in faith. (1 Ki. 2:10, 11; 1 Chron. 29:26-30; Acts 13:36; Heb. 11:32) Quoting Psalm 110, Jesus said David had written it “by inspiration.” (Matt. 22:43, 44; Mark 12:36) The apostles and other Bible writers frequently acknowledged David as an inspired prophet of God.—Compare Psalm 16:8 with Acts 2:25; Psalm 32:1, 2 with Romans 4:6-8; Psalm 41:9 with John 13:18; Psalm 69:22, 23 with Romans 11:9, 10; Psalms 69:25 and 109:8 with Acts 1:20.
The prophets often referred to David and his royal house, sometimes in connection with the last kings of Israel who sat on “the throne of David” (Jer. 13:13; 22:2, 30; 29:16; 36:30), and sometimes in a prophetic sense. (Jer. 17:25; 22:4; Amos 9:11; Zech. 12:7-12) In certain Messianic prophecies attention is focused on Jehovah’s kingdom covenant with David. For example, Isaiah says that the one called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” will be firmly established on “the throne of David” to time indefinite. (Isa. 9:6, 7; compare also 16:5.) Jeremiah likens Messiah to “a righteous sprout” whom Jehovah “will raise up to David.” (Jer. 23:5, 6; 33:15-17) Through Ezekiel, Jehovah speaks of the Messianic Shepherd as “my servant David.”—Ezek. 34:23, 24; 37:24, 25.
In telling Mary that she would have a son called Jesus, the angel declared that “Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father.” (Luke 1:32) According to the historians Matthew and Luke, “Jesus Christ, son of David,” was both the legal and natural heir to the throne of David. (Matt. 1:1, 17; Luke 3:23-31) Paul said that Jesus was the offspring of David according to the flesh. (Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8) The common people also identified Jesus as the “Son of David.” (Matt. 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 21:9, 15; Mark 10:47, 48; Luke 18:38, 39) It was important to establish this, for, as the Pharisees admitted, Messiah would be David’s son. (Matt. 22:42) The resurrected Jesus himself also bore witness, saying: “I, Jesus, . . . am the root and the offspring of David.” (Rev. 22:16) This is the one “who has the key of David,” and is “the root of David.”—Rev. 3:7; 5:5.
[Diagram on page 424]
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Family of Jesse
Shammah (Shimea[h], Shimei)
Wives of David Sons of David
Abigail Daniel (Chileab)
Nephews of David