Almost everyone has heard of King David. The young shepherd who turned into the king of the United Kingdom of Israel is one of the most famous figures in the Hebrew Bible. Until today, babies are named after him. According to the Bible, David was born in Bethlehem as the youngest of eight brothers. Scholars believe he was born around 1,000 BCE, about 3,000 years ago. Here are 5 interesting facts about King David that you might not have known.
King David liked to play the harp
Let’s start with a fact that adds some more character to King David. He wasn’t just a shepherd and a warrior. He was also a musician.
Before becoming the official king of Israel, David was known as a great harp player. When King Saul felt unwell, he asked for someone to play for him, and his servants suggested bringing young David. In 1 Samuel 16:23, it says: “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took a harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” So, it seems like he played very well.
The harp playing was how David and Saul got connected. Later, David joined Saul’s army and defeated Goliath, which made his way to the throne much easier.
Why couldn’t he build the Holy Temple?
King David wanted to build a temple for GOD in Jerusalem but couldn’t. His son, Solomon, was the one who eventually built the First Holy Temple in the mid-9th century BCE.
But why couldn’t King David build the Holy Temple? In 1 Book of Chronicles 22:7-9, it says: “And David said to Solomon, My son, as for me, it was in my mind to build a house unto the name of the LORD my God: But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build a house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight.” So, GOD didn’t want David to build the temple because he was a warrior who went through too many wars and shed too much blood. There were times that King David shed blood when there was no real need to do so. For example, King David sent Uriah the Hittite to his death in the battlefield only because he wanted his wife, Bathsheba. A man who has killed so many people cannot build the Temple of God, which is supposed to spread peace in the world.
Later in the chapter, David tells that GOD promised him that there would be no wars during the time of his son, Solomon. So, Solomon has no problem building the Holy Temple.
Where is King David buried?
Today, you’ll hear King David is buried on Mount Zion, just below the Room of the Last Supper. But that wasn’t always so clear. The Bible tells us that King David was buried in “the City of David.” Most likely, his city did not expand to Mount Zion when he passed away. So archeologically, it only makes sense that he was buried there if he was buried far away from the city itself. Until the 10th century, Christian pilgrims recognized his burial place in Bethlehem because they recognized it as the City of David. It makes sense because he was born there and lived there until becoming king.
So, how come people started believing that King David was buried on Mount Zion? Christians and Jews have recognized this place as the tomb of David since the 10th century. I’ve heard someone say that it may be connected to the fact that the Christian pilgrims held a remembrance ceremony each year in the Room of the Last Supper, where they also mentioned King David. Slowly-slowly, they started believing they were mentioning him because he was buried there. The Crusaders, who came to Jerusalem in the 12th century, heard about this tradition and decided to build a gravestone for King David on Mount Zion.
King David’s day of death is Shavuot
The anniversary of death is an important day in Judaism, no matter who the person is. But when it’s a famous figure like King David, the anniversary of death becomes a real celebration. According to tradition, King David passed away on Shavuot, one of the three pilgrimage festivals. So, on Shavuot, many people gather on Mount Zion, where it is believed that David is buried, and pray near his tomb all night.
Why is his anniversary of death on Shavuot? There are many assumptions. Some say that King David is like the wheat, which grows again and again every year, and since Shavuot is the holiday that marks the harvesting of the grain, it makes sense that he died then. I personally think the holiday has a lot of symbolism – it marks the day that the Torah was given to the Israelites. Maybe this special day is fitting for David’s death.
No matter the reason, King David’s death on Shavuot is also the reason why we read the Book of Ruth during this holiday. It tells the story of Ruth the Moabite, who was David’s grandmother.
Did King David really exist?
King David is a significant figure in the Bible, but not all scholars agree that he was exactly as described. We didn’t find much archeological evidence that could prove King David’s existence. The only archeological evidence is the Tel Dan Stele, which was found in the far north of Israel and mentions the words “House of David.” So, we know that David had a dynasty. Maybe it was the same King David mentioned in the Bible.
Because there is not much evidence, scholars dispute whether King David was really the king of the United Kingdom of Israel or was only a local chief who controlled the area of Jerusalem. Until we find more evidence, we’ll never know.
King David is a fascinating figure that has influenced people of all religions worldwide. He was not only a warrior and a king but also a shepherd and a harp player. And when visiting Jerusalem, you can see the traditional place of his tomb and what we call “the City of David.” I hope you found the facts about King David interesting!
Want to visit the City of David and King David’s Tomb? It’s possible to combine these sites on a private walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. Contact me for more details or fill out the form: