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David

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Portrait of King David by Gene Chan, ArtStation
Portrait of King David by Gene Chan, ArtStation

David (born c. 1010-970 BCE), whose name means "Beloved," was the shepherd-boy who became a court musician, a fearless warrior, and, eventually, the King of Israel. He was the author of about half of the songs in The Book of Psalms and was prophesied to be the forefather of the future Jewish Messiah. He lived precisely seventy years, for he was born and died on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, the Feast of Weeks.

The prophet Samuel brought the young shepherd boy David to the attention of King Saul. When David killed Goliath, the giant champion fighter of the enemy Philistines, Saul made him the head of his army. At court, David, a singer and harpist, played music that soothed the tumultuous emotions that plagued King Saul as the result of an evil spirit sent into him by God. David married King Saul’s daughter Michal and was a close friend of Saul’s son Jonathan. King Saul was prone to suspicion and paranoia and believed that David was plotting against him, so David was forced to flee into enemy lands. It was there that he composed many of the Psalms that deal with righting injustice and overcoming foes. When the Philistines invaded, Saul's army was defeated, all of his sons were killed, and Saul himself committed suicide. David and his army then conquered Jerusalem and re-established the kingdom founded by Saul. David used the powers of his office to commit the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, who bore King Solomon, the successor to his crown.

Young David is depicted as a shepherd embattled with a giant who towers over him, while he wields only a sling and a stone. He is also shown playing the harp, both while young and as a crowned king. Despite his errant ways, Jewish folklore holds that David's religious devotion was so powerful that his prayers could conjure material objects from Heaven into the world. His symbol is a six-pointed star, known as the Mogen David, Shield of David, or Star of David, a paramount representation of Judaism and one of the most popular designs for amulets and talismans of protection. To some, David symbolizes the power of repentance. He is recognized in the Qur’an as a major prophet in the Islamic tradition, where he is known for rigour in piety, prayer, and fasting. Because David’s special relationship with Jonathan, the son of King Saul, is described in the Bible as “surpassing the love of a woman,” it has been suggested that King David was bisexual, and consequently, he is held in particular esteem in the Jewish LGBTQ community.

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