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David (Michelangelo), Goliath, David and Bathsheba, Jacques-Louis David

David (c. 1040–970 BC) was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary. He is depicted as a righteous king, although not without fault, as well as an acclaimed warrior, musician and poet, traditionally credited for composing many of the psalms contained in the Book of Psalms.

David's life is very important to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic culture. In Judaism, David, or David HaMelekh, is the King of Israel, and the Jewish people. A direct descendant of David will be the Messiah. In Islam, he is known as Dawud, considered to be a prophet and the king of a nation.


Representation in art and literature


Famous sculptures of David include (in chronological order) those by:


  • Dryden's long poem Absalom and Achitophel is an allegory that uses the story of the rebellion of Absalom against King David as the basis for his satire of the contemporary political situation, including events such as the Monmouth Rebellion (1685), the Popish Plot (1678) and the Exclusion Crisis.
  • Elmer Davis's novel Giant Killer (1928, The John Day company) retells and embellishes the Biblical story of David, casting David as primarily a poet who managed always to find others to do the "dirty work" of heroism and kingship. In the novel, Elhanan in fact killed Goliath but David claimed the credit; and Joab, David's cousin and general, took it upon himself to make many of the difficult decisions of war and statecraft when David vacillated or wrote poetry instead.
  • Gladys Schmitt wrote a novel titled "David the King" (1946, Doubleday Books) which proceeds as a richly embellished biography of David's entire life. The book took a risk, especially for its time, in portraying David's relationship with Jonathan as overtly homoerotic, but was ultimately panned by critics as a bland rendition of the title character.
  • In Thomas Burnett Swann's Biblical fantasy novel How are the Mighty Fallen (1974, DAW) David and Jonathan are explicitly stated to be lovers. Moreover, Jonathan is a member of a winged semi-human race (possibly nephilim), one of several such races co-existing with humanity but often persecuted by it.
  • Joseph Heller, the author of Catch-22, also wrote a novel based on David, God Knows (1984, Simon & Schuster). Told from the perspective of an aging David, the humanity—rather than the heroism—of various biblical characters are emphasized. The portrayal of David as a man of flaws such as greed, lust, selfishness, and his alienation from God, the falling apart of his family is a distinctly 20th century interpretation of the events told in the Bible.
  • Jill Eileen Smith's "The Wives of King David" (2009, Revell) is a Christian series that depicts the biblical David's life through the eyes of his famous wives: Michal, Abigail and Bathsheba. The first fiction is set against the 'backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and desert escapes as Princess Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as one of the wives of David.'
  • Day of War by Cliff Graham (2009, Tate) is a novel about the early years of David told from the perspective of his warriors.
  • Juan Bosch, Dominican political leader and writer, wrote "David: Biography of a King" (1966, Hawthorn, NY) a realistic approach to David's life and political career.
  • Allan Massie wrote "King David" (1996, Sceptre), a novel about David's career which portrays the king's relationship to Jonathan and others as openly homosexual.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's novel Certain Women (1993, HarperOne) explores family, the Christian faith, and the nature of God through the story of King David's family and an analogous modern family's saga.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle used the story of David and Bathsheba as the main structure for the Sherlock Holmes story the Crooked Man. The betrayal of the Crooked Man is paralleled with David's betrayal of Uriah the Hittite, carried out in order to win Bathsheba.
  • Stefan Heym's "The King David Report" (1998, Northwestern University Press) is a fiction depicting the writings of the Bible historian, Ethan, upon King Solomon's orders, of a true and authoritative report on the life of David, Son of Jesse.



  • Josquin des Pres's Absalon fili mi is a polyphonic lamentation from David's perspective on the death of his son.
  • Arthur Honegger's oratorio, Le Roi David ('King David'), with a libretto by Rene Morax, was composed in 1921 and instantly became a staple of the choral repertoire; it is still widely performed.
  • Leonard Cohen's song "Hallelujah" has references to David ("there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the Lord", "The baffled king composing Hallelujah") and Bathsheba ("you saw her bathing on the roof") in its opening verses.
  • "Mad About You", a song on Sting's 1991 album The Soul Cages explores David's obsession with Bathsheba from David's perspective.
  • Dead by the Pixies is a retelling of David's adultery and repentance.
  • Herbert Howells (1892-1983) composed an artsong for voice and piano called "King David".
  • Eric Whitacre wrote a song, "When David Heard," based on 2 Samuel, chronicling the death of David's son, Absalom and David's grief over losing his son.
  • mewithoutYou has a song from their album It's All Crazy! It's All False! It's All a Dream! It's Alright, entitled "The Angel of Death Came to David's Room," which tells the story of David struggle with the Angel of Death when his (David's) time of death has arrived. It is based on on folk tradition of King David and some Hebrew Bible.

Musical Theatre


  • In 2009, NBC introduced the series Kings, which was explicitly designed as a modern retelling of the David story.
  • In the PBS television series Wishbone the episode "Little Big Dog" recounts the story of David, his favor with Saul, and his triumphant battle over Goliath.


For a considerable period, starting in the 15th century and continuing until the 19th, French playing card manufacturers assigned to each of the court cards names taken from history or mythology. In this context, the King of Spades was often known as "David".

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "David" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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