A Brief History
On December 29, Catholics and Lutherans celebrate the feast day of David, a man from the Bible perhaps most famous for slaying the giant Goliath. Listed as 6 cubits tall (9 feet in today’s cubits, 6 feet according to some scholars), Goliath was the mightiest warrior of the Philistines, Israel’s go-to nemesis in those days. David, as with other Biblical characters, is considered a “legendary” character by many historians and other people. To believers, however, he is an historical figure that also happens to be a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ.
With a rock that he flung from a sling, David took down Goliath and has been a celebrated figure ever since. If YouTube had existed in those days, video of the episode would surely have gone viral. In any case, David became the great king of Israel. It is said that Saul, his predecessor as king, slew thousands and that David himself slew tens of thousands.
When David sought the hand of Saul’s daughter in marriage, the price Saul put on his daughter was for David to go fetch the foreskins of 100 Philistines. If that is not weird enough, David returned proudly bearing 200 Philistine foreskins. If the story is not mere legend, then what Saul did with those foreskins is unknown to us.
Not only was David a great warrior, as king he was going to build the First Temple in Jerusalem but was told not to because of blood on his hands. So, his son, Solomon built it. Musically talented as well, not only was David a singer and songwriter who is credited with writing many of the Psalms in the Bible, but he was also reportedly a talented player of the lyre (this instrument is pronounced just like “liar.”).
Not quite perfect, David did stray as he pursued the married Bathsheba and got her pregnant. To add insult to injury, he ensured her husband would be killed in battle, which allegedly displeased the Lord who in a manner of speaking was David’s father. As a form of punishment, God had men sleep with David’s many wives “in broad daylight.” Furthermore, God saw to it that the son born out of wedlock died as an infant. David then married Bathsheba, or rather, officially added her to his harem. Despite David having several wives, polygamy is absent from the Jewish, Catholic, and Lutheran faiths today.
Through one of his additional sons by Bathsheba, either Solomon or Nathan, David is also said to be a direct ancestor of Jesus Christ. David’s troubles continued when one of his sons, Absalom, attempted a coup and initiated a civil war. Absalom was killed in battle, and so Solomon became king upon David’s death.
The subject of many works of arts and even movies (even played by Richard Gere in one of them), David is still remembered today, and Michelangelo’s statue of him is among the greatest and most famous statues in the world. Many well-known people are named David, including Famous Dave who gave his name to a barbecue franchise; as well as Dave Thomas, the founder of the Wendy’s fast food chain; David Ben-Gurion, the founder of Israel; British actor David Niven; David Banner (The Hulk); comedian Dave Chappelle; singer David Bowie; Knight Rider and Baywatch actor David Hasselhoff; Davy Jones (both he of the locker and he of the Monkees); late-night talk show host David Letterman; magician David Copperfield; and even Van Halen lead singer David Lee Roth! Apparently many people are impressed enough to name their boys after David.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your favorite person named David? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information about this topic, I encourage you to see UsefulChart’s video about the “Biblical Family Tree 1 – Adam & Eve to King David” and Sam Aronow’s video about “First-Temple Jerusalem: The City of David | Jewish History on the Road.”
For additional information, please see…
Wolpe, David. David: The Divided Heart (Jewish Lives). Yale University Press, 2017.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube.