In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section David

  • Introduction
  • Dictionary Treatments
  • General Histories of Israel
  • Essay Collections
  • Literary Analysis
  • Focused Volumes
  • Historical Analysis
  • Social Science Analysis
  • Archaeological Analysis
  • Comparative Studies
  • David in Samuel and Chronicles
  • David in the Psalms
  • Reception History

Biblical Studies David
Victor H. Matthews, Dan Pioske
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 November 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 May 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0027


Few persons mentioned in the biblical text have had as much influence on later traditions as has David. This complex biblical character is portrayed against the backdrop of the establishment of a newly minted united monarchy over the Israelite tribes in the tenth century BCE, but the ideal image created about him continued to serve as a model for later kings. The debate over the historicity of the narrative and of the person of King David had a revival in 1993 after the discovery of the “House of David” inscription at Tel Dan, the earliest reference to David outside the Hebrew Bible. Recent archaeological finds produced from Jerusalem and Khirbet Qeiyafa have further contributed to these debates. Much of what has been written about David reflects the struggles between minimalists and maximalists, historians and literary critics. Ultimately, whether David was a historical character or not is not as important as the influence his story and traditional image have had on literature, drama, poetry, and popular culture.

Dictionary Treatments

A good place to begin to examine the biblical portrait of King David is the extended entries in multivolume Bible dictionaries (Howard 1992, McKenzie 2007, Oded 1972) and major reference works (Satterthwaite 2005). Each article provides an overview of the major periods of his career and the events that helped shape both his administration and the long-term image that was created around his character.

  • Howard, David M., Jr. “David.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. Edited by David N. Freedman, 41–49. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

    The article covers David’s rise to power, his court history, and his declining years, as well as a general assessment and a discussion of the sources and methods for the study of David.

  • McKenzie, Steven L. “David.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 2. Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 27–39. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.

    This entry focuses on source material (both biblical and extrabiblical), the question of historicity, the literary features of the narrative, political developments, and the transition of power to Solomon.

  • Oded, Bustenay. “David.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 5. Edited by Cecil Roth, 1318–1338. New York: Macmillan Reference, 1972.

    Multiauthored article treats David in Bible, Aggadic literature, Kabbalistic literature, Christianity, Islam, and modern Hebrew literature. A more up-to-date article, “David, Dynasty of,” by Jacob Liver appears in Volume 5 of the second edition, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2007), pp. 459–463.

  • Satterthwaite, Philip E. “David.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Edited by Bill T. Arnold and Hugh G. M. Williamson, 198–206. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005.

    While covering much of the same ground as the Bible dictionary articles, this piece provides an evaluative approach to scholarship on David, has a nice treatment of extrabiblical sources, and concludes with the arguments for and against David as a historical figure.

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