Was David, the king of Israel, black

David versus Goliath

Who doesn't know the legend of David and Goliath?
The Philistines and the Israelites faced each other in a decisive battle. A giant emerged from the ranks of the Philistines - Goliath of Gat. He asked the Israelites to send one of their men to fight him. If the latter wins, the Philistines will serve the Israelites, but if Goliath wins, the Israelites will become their servants.
But whoever saw the giant fled from him.

Saul, King of Israel, promised the one who slays Goliath infinite wealth and the hand of his daughter.
Young David agreed to defeat the Philistine. He walked towards the man without a sword, armed only with a sack of stones. With the slingshot he shot the stone exactly on Goliath's forehead, so that Goliath fell dead to the ground. When the Philistines saw that their strongest had fallen, they wanted to flee from the Israelites. But these knew no mercy. They killed most of their opponents and ransacked their camps.

But who is David who at first glance seems so brave and clever to us?

About the person of David

  • born: 1034 BC in Bethlehem
  • died: 971 B.C. in Jerusalem

David was the son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah. He was just a simple shepherd at first and then came to Saul's court. There are two independent traditions about this: once he came as a musician and once as a Goliath conqueror.
The Bible says about it: "Saul loved him very much, and David became his armor-bearer." (1 Samuel 16:21). As a weapon bearer he was able to prove himself in military actions and seemed to be much more successful than Saul himself: "Saul killed a thousand, David killed ten thousand." (1 Samuel 18: 7; cf. 18: 6-30). For example, he was named the "victor" over the Philistines.

By marrying Saul's daughter Michal, he was integrated into his system of rule. Although the rivalries between him and Saul increased more and more, he never assaulted him and was loyal to him for a long time: "The Lord keep me from doing anything to my master, the Lord's anointed ... and hand to him to lay. " (1 Samuel 24: 7).

When he could no longer stay in Saul's dominion, however, he fled to the Philistines. There he received the small town of Ziklag as a "small kingdom". This was the first Davidic "sphere of influence". In a mutually costly battle between Israel and the Philistines, Saul and most of his sons were killed, so that the way was free for David. He first settled in Hebron and was anointed king of Judas there.

This was followed by power struggles with the northern tribes, which David was finally able to win. Thus he also became king over the areas in the north.
At the age of 30 he was king of all Israel and God promised David: "Your house and your kingdom shall stand before me forever, and your throne shall stand forever." (2 Samuel 30:24).

David, however, did not excel as a legislator. He understood his task only as strengthening and enlarging the empire. In victorious battles against the Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites, he expanded his sphere of influence and also led his country to economic prestige. This was certainly also favored by the fact that at that time neither in Egypt nor in Mesopotamia was a great power in bloom. However, in some of his campaigns he was incredibly cruel. After the victory over the Moabites, for example, the prisoners had to lie down on the ground: "Two lengths of string were killed and one length of string he left alive." (2 Samuel 8: 2).

David made Jerusalem a residential city. And with the transfer of the Ark of the Covenant to Mount Zion, the city also became the religious center of the mighty empire.
Furthermore, he prepared a consistently built up Reich structure, such as the use of leading officials and the census show. David established a dynasty that ruled for many centuries. In his private life, David did not shy away from murder or adultery. The story of the adulterous relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uria is known. Yet despite all offenses, David repeatedly subordinates himself to Yahweh's will. For example, he immediately submits to the threat of the prophet Nathan after adultery: "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Samuel 12:13).

"David" comes from the Hebrew and means something like "the beloved". David was loved by women, for example, because of his exceptionally good looks. David was married to several women and had children with them. The wives of David are named: Michal, Ahinoam, Abigajil, Maacha, Abital, Eglad and Bathsheba, the daughter of Saul, whose second-born Solomon was appointed heir to the throne by David himself.

David developed an almost idolatrous love for his "able" sons. He lingered in deep mourning after the murder of Absalom, even though the latter was involved in an uprising against him. His nephew and General Joab said: "You show your love to those who hate you and your hatred to those who love you, because you gave us to understand today that the leaders and the warriors mean nothing to you. Now I know that in your eyes it would be quite right if Absalom were still alive but we had all died today. " (2 Samuel 19: 7).

Because of his love for his sons, but also because of his sincere loyalty to his friends, David has not only earned the name "the beloved", but also "the lover". Jonathan and Barsillai are named as his closest friends.
As mentioned above, love for God also plays a central role in David's life. Due to his outstanding musical talent, he is considered the author of many biblical psalms in which he expresses this love.

The idealization of David

David undoubtedly plays a central role in the story. But the further the time goes by, the more it is glorified and its negative sides are almost completely forgotten. For example, it says: "David lived before you [God] in faithfulness, righteousness and with a sincere heart." (1st King 3, 6).

The Star of David

The blue Star of David made up of two interwoven triangles is a symbol of the Jewish faith and the Jewish people. (Wikimedia Commons, Baba66)

Developed by Janette O. - Basic elective course “Jewish History and Culture” 2000/2001 and Selina P. - “Jewish History and Culture” 2020/2021