King David of the sages


  • Avigdor Shinan Hebrew University of Jerusalem


Bible, Old Testament -- Criticism, interpretation, Jewish, David, King of Israel, Kings and rulers in the Old Testament, Talmud, Bible, Psalms, Rabbinic literature


The article opens by discussing the different ways in which the ancient rabbis (in the Talmudic literature) described King David. It seems that they preferred to follow the image of David which emerges from the books of Psalms and Chronicles rather than his description in the books of Samuel. Various verses from Psalms served the rabbis for completing David’s biography (seeing this book as his own autobiography), describing him as godfearing, a very kind person, humble and pious, a prophet, a scholar of Torah, a philosopher and a poet. Even his greatest sin – regarding Bathsheba and Uriah the Hettite – was described in such a way that it justifies the famous statement: “Whoever says that David sinned is merely erring” (BT Shabbat 56a). Some sources, on the other hand, admitted his sin but attached to it a long period of suffering and repentance, diminishing by that its impact. This part of the article ends with a discussion of the main motives for this rabbinic treatment of David: their general tendency to purge the biblical protagonists of sin&&David’s role as the founder of the Israeli kingship and various messianic hopes connected to his descendants.  The possibility that “David” served sometimes as a code for the Patriarch in the Land of Israel (or, in Babylonia, the Exilarch) is also discussed as another explanation of David’s descriptions in rabbinic literature.



How to Cite

Shinan, A. (2003). King David of the sages. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 24(1-2), 53–78.