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King David

David is described in the Hebrew Bible as the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

In the biblical narrative, David is a young shepherd, chosen by God for his pure heart, who first gains fame as a musician and later by killing Goliath. He becomes a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul's son Jonathan. Worried that David is trying to take his throne, Saul turns on David. After Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle, David is anointed as King.


JERUSALEM

David conquers Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and establishing the kingdom founded by Saul. As king, David commits adultery with Bathsheba, leading him to arrange the death of her husband Uriah the Hittite. Because of this sin, God denies David the opportunity to build the temple, and his son Absalom tries to overthrow him. David flees Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, but after Absalom's death he returns to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, he chooses his son Solomon as successor. He is honored in the prophetic literature as an ideal king and an ancestor of a future Messiah, and many psalms are ascribed to him.


Historians of the Ancient Near East agree that David probably existed around 1000 BCE, but that there is little that can be said about him as a historical figure. There is no direct evidence outside of the Bible concerning David, but the Tel Dan Stele, an inscribed stone erected by a king of Damascus in the late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE to commemorate his victory over two enemy kings, contains the phrase ביתדוד‬, bytdwd, consisting of the Hebrew words "house" and "David", which most scholars translate as "House (Dynasty) of David". Ancient Near East historians generally doubt that the united monarchy as described in the Bible existed.


David is richly represented in post-biblical Jewish written and oral tradition, and is discussed in the New Testament. Early Christians interpreted the life of Jesus in light of the references to the Messiah and to David; Jesus is described as being descended from David. David is discussed in the Quran and figures in Islamic oral and written tradition as well. The biblical character of David has inspired many interpretations in fictional literature over centuries.


HISTORY AND ARCHEOLOGY

The Tel Dan Stele, an inscribed stone erected by a king of Damascus in the late 9th/early 8th centuries BCE to commemorate his victory over two enemy kings, contains the phrase ביתדוד‬, bytdwd, which most scholars translate as "House of David". Other scholars, such as Anson Rainey have challenged this reading, but it is likely that this is a reference to a dynasty of the Kingdom of Judah which traced its ancestry to a founder named David.


The Mesha Stele from Moab, dating from approximately the same period, may also contain the name David in two places, although this is less certain than the mention in the Tel Dan inscription.


Besides the two steles, bible scholar and egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen suggests that David's name also appears in a relief of Pharaoh Shoshenq (usually identified with Shishak in the Bible, 1 Kings 14:25-27). The relief claims that Shoshenq raided places in Palestine in 925 BCE, and Kitchen interprets one place as "Heights of David", which was in Southern Judah and the Negev where the Bible says David took refuge from Saul. The relief is damaged and interpretation is uncertain.


Apart from these, all that is known of David comes from the biblical literature. The Books of Samuel were substantially composed during the time of King Josiah at the end of the 7th century BCE, extended during the Babylonian exile (6th century BCE), and substantially complete by about 550 BCE, although further editing was done even after then - the silver quarter-shekel which Saul's servant offers to Samuel in 1 Samuel 9 "almost certainly fixes the date of the story in the Persian or Hellenistic period".


The authors and editors of Samuel drew on many earlier sources, including, for their history of David, the "history of David's rise" (1 Samuel 16:14–2 Samuel 5:10), and the "succession narrative" (2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1-2). The Book of Chronicles, which tells the story from a different point of view, was probably composed in the period 350-300 BCE, and uses Samuel as its source.


The authors and editors of Samuel and Chronicles did not aim to record history, but to promote David's reign as inevitable and desirable, and for this reason there is little about David that is concrete and undisputed. The archaeological evidence indicates that in the 10th century BCE, the time of David, Judah was sparsely inhabited and Jerusalem was no more than a small village; over the following century it slowly evolved from a highland chiefdom to a kingdom, but always overshadowed by the older and more powerful kingdom of Israel to the north. The biblical evidence likewise indicates that David's Judah was something less than a full-fledged monarchy: it often calls him negid, for example, meaning "prince" or "chief", rather than melek, meaning "king"; the biblical David sets up none of the complex bureaucracy that a kingdom needs (even his army is made up of volunteers), and his followers are largely related to him and from his small home-area around Hebron.


Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman reject the idea that David ruled over a united monarchy, suggesting instead that he ruled only as a chieftain over the southern kingdom of Judah, much smaller than the northern kingdom of Israel at that time. They posit that Israel and Judah were still polytheistic in the time of David and Solomon, and that much later seventh-century redactors sought to portray a past golden age of a united, monotheistic monarchy in order to serve contemporary needs. They note a lack of archeological evidence for David's military campaigns and a relative underdevelopment of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, compared to a more developed and urbanized Samaria, capital of Israel.




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