Glossary of Terms



Young People's Bible Dictionary

by Barbara Smith (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1965)

David, meaning "beloved." The second king of Israel, about 1000 B.C., who enlarged the kingdom, moved the capital to Jerusalem, and strenghtened the armed forces. In later times, David was looked on as the ideal ruler who would return, or it was believed that a descendant of his would arise, to restore the kingdom of Israel. Stories in 1 Sam., ch. 16 to 1 Kings, ch. 2; see also Ruth 4:18-22; Jer. 30:9; Ezek. 34:23; Matt. 1:1; Luke 1:32; 2:11; Acts 2:29-36.

Harperís Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

David. The most powerful king of biblical Israel, David ruled from ca. 1010 to 970 b.c. The story of David is recorded in 1 Sam. 16:13-1 Kings 2:12. David belonged to the tribe of Judah and was born in Bethlehem as youngest son of Jesse. He started his career at King Saulís court as player of the lyre, and subsequently became his squire. His courage and leadership in regular skirmishes with the Philistines and the immense popularity he gained as a commander soon earned him great notoriety and caused Saul to feel threatened. A long and complicated process of attraction and repulsion between the two men followed. The psychological scale was turned in favor of David when the old prophet Samuel, who had himself conducted Saul to the first kingship, became disappointed with Saul for theocratical reasons and anointed David as the new favorite of God.

Path to Kingship: David survived attempts on his life made by Saul in bursts of rage and fled the court. In the south he became a war lord with his own army of outlaws and performed services of protection. He also fought the enemies of Judah in the west and southwest. Although Saul found no way of eliminating him, the pressure he exerted became so strong that David decided to take refuge in Gath, where he became a vassal of the Philistine king Achish. Playing a double game, David maintained good relations with the tribes in the south: Judah, Cain, Jerachmeel, and Simeon. Because of the Philistine generalsí mistrust, David was not called upon to perform his duties as a vassal in the final war against Saul. At this time, Israel was defeated on Mt. Gilboa, Saul and three princes were killed in battle, and the Philistines were left a free hand in Ephraim and Galilee. Saulís tribe, Benjamin, emerged to temporarily fill the power vacuum with the impotent kingship of Esbaal in the Transjordan, but the strong man of this rump state, Abner, soon found out that he could not win the civil war that threatened Judah and concluded a pact with David. Retarded by the base political murders of Abner and Esbaal, this development eventually led to the subjection of the northern tribes to Davidís rule and to their acceptance of him as a king. David ruled Judah from Hebron for seven years and ruled over the whole of Israel for thirty-three years. David created a unified state which would, however, disintegrate after Solomon. The numbers found in 2 Sam. 5:5 for Davidís reign are, admittedly, typological (seven and forty are holy numbers), but they nevertheless seem to approximate the historical reality as we know it.

Diplomatically, David chose a neutral city for the new capital of his kingdom: Jerusalem. His conquest of this non-Israelite city-state alarmed the Philistine city confederation, but David was able to repel their attacks and settle matters with this enemy for good. During his reign, David increased the status of Ďthe city of Davidí by bringing to it the ancient Ark, once the mobile palladium of the wandering Israelite tribes. His son, Solomon, subsequently carried on this policy by building the central state sanctuary, the famous Temple of Solomon. (Three centuries later the Temple became the only legitimate worship center on account of the religious reforms of Josiah; after the Exile the so-called Second Temple, fifth century b.c.-a.d. 70, was its successor.)

Israel an Empire: In the phase of consolidation following his coronation, David triumphed over nearly all the then neighboring nations in a series of military campaigns. In the north he encountered the Aramaic states, and Damascus, Hamath, and Zobah rendered him tribute; in the east and southeast, David subjected the Ammonites and Moab; in the south he took over Edom; in the southwest he subjected small desert tribes like the Amalekites; and in the west he defeated the Philistines. With the Phoenician states and ports, however, he maintained friendly and noncombative relations. Davidís great power and military effectiveness were internally founded on good organization and the presence of an experienced standing army consisting mainly of mercenaries under the command of the competent military strategist Joab, while externally his power and effectiveness rested on the impotence of the great powers. In the eleventh century b.c. the civilizations along the Nile and between the Euphrates and Tigris passed through a period of weakness that temporarily spared Palestine (a strategic buffer region and zone of passage for trade routes) their meddling influence. Thus, under David and Solomon, Israel was (for a brief century) a powerful empireófor the first and last time.

Faced with Rebellion: This formation of power also had its repercussions. David himself became an absolute ruler after the model of the region, and his place above the law ran counter to the sense of justice and the religious beliefs of many of his subjects. Much discontent was fomented as people viewed the grand court with its predilection for international mores and literature, and especially for its tight administrative grip put on the community in the form of heavy taxes and conscription for purposes hardly understood. The decay of the older tribal and theocratical values and patterns also frightened people. Thus, already during Davidís lifetime, these growing feelings of discomfort came to a head during Absalomís revolt. This prince made shrewd use of the mood of resistance, suggested political alternatives, and, after thorough preparation, seized power so that David was even forced to leave his own country. When the usurper, however, failed to isolate David at once, the latter gained time to re-align himself with those of his standing army who had remained loyal to him and subsequently to effect a political reversal through a hard battle in the Transjordan. Upon his return to Jerusalem, David discriminated against the northern tribes in favor of his own tribe of Judah and for this he immediately had to pay a high price: a secession of the north under the leadership of Sheba ben Bichri. Once more Joab, who as a statesman had already intervened twice in Davidís policy toward Absalom, had to save the throne by means of a swift campaign that eliminated Sheba.

Like many great men David omitted arranging for his succession, so that even before his death a vehement struggle broke out at the court. The group around Solomon, headed by his mother, Bathsheba, and the prophet Nathan, appeared to be the strongest and shortly after Davidís death eliminated the rival prince Adonijah who was supported by Joab. Joab was subsequently eliminated as well.

David was not only a very powerful leader and personality as both soldier and statesman, he was also a first-class poet. He was the author of the poignant dirge in 2 Samuel 1 as well as many of the compositions the book of Psalms ascribed to him. The court established by him and extended by Solomon gave a tremendous spiritual and literary impulse to the literature of biblical Israel, to its many genres, and to the values conveyed by them. The dynasty David founded survived the disruption after Solomon and kept on ruling in Judah until the Exile, which began in 586 b.c. Its prestige inspired later poets to messianic prophecies; and in the nt his royal line is extended to include Jesus of Nazareth, Ďthe Anointedí (Christos in Gk.) as a descendant of David (Matt. 2:6; 21:9; Luke 3:31; 18:38-39). The effect of Davidís choice of Jerusalem as his city is felt to the present time: in the eyes of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims the city is holy. And the poems of David live on in the liturgy of Jewish and Christian communities, sung to this very day.

The Story of Davidóthe Zenith of Hebrew Narrative: The portrait of David presented here is grounded on the estimate that its only source, 1-2 Samuel, is in outline historically reliable. In any case, the figure of David inspired the narrator(s) to such an extent that this text has become the zenith of Hebrew narrative art. It not only draws a picture of the rise of the untouchable favorite of God, but also of the David who, as a king, yielded to the luxury of absolute power and who, as a father, failed toward his overambitious sons Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah. Thus a detached, highly critical, but certainly not relentless portrait of profound psychological insight and spiritual depth has come down to us.

Bibliography Bright, John. A History of Israel. 3d ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981. Fokkelman, J. P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel. Vol. 1, King David. Vol. 2, The Crossing Fates. Assen: Van Gorsum, 1981, 1985. Hallo, William W., and William Kelly Simpson. The Ancient Near East, A History. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1971.

Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer

David and his wives.

It should be noted that marriage was often a tool used to consolidate political power and alliances.

The following are the wives of David that are mentioned in the Bible. Based upon the number of his children, David possibly had additional wives and/or concubines. (See 2Sa 5:14; 1Ch 3:5-9; 1Ch 14:4-7)


All glossary terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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