David, king of Israel, is well-known for many things, from his astounding faith before Goliath, to his terrible sins against Bathsheba and her husband, to his heartfelt psalms of praise and repentance. Here are five things about David you should also know.
1. David descended from a gentile.
David was the son of Jesse from the tribe of Judah, but his line wasn’t pristine. Like Jesus, he had significant sinners and even a gentile in his family history (Gen. 38; Ruth 4:17). The gentile was his great-grandmother Ruth, that remarkable Moabitess who declared to her Jewish mother-in-law, “Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). This reminds us that greatness in God’s house is not limited to those with “pure” pedigrees, just as it is not guaranteed to those with them.
2. David was an unexpected king.
The first king of Israel stood out because of his physical appearance—Saul was very tall (1 Sam. 9:2)—but David did not stand out in the same way. He was the youngest of eight sons, and when Samuel first comes to Jesse’s house to anoint a new king in Saul’s place, he is certain it will be David’s eldest brother, Eliab (1 Sam. 16:6). But God tells him not to look at height or outward appearance, because He doesn’t select kings based on stature. He looks on the heart, and David stands out from among the rest because he is “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). Nevertheless, Jesse makes all seven of David’s brothers pass before Samuel—and get rejected—before calling David in from watching the sheep (1 Sam. 16:10–13).
3. David was a shepherd at heart.
David’s occupation before becoming a soldier in Saul’s army was to keep his father’s sheep. Remarkably, he killed lions and bears in defense of his flock, not only from a distance with a sling but sometimes by catching them “by the beard” and striking them (1 Sam. 17:35). He seemed genuinely to know their needs and to care for his sheep, which remained true even when he moved to tending people (Ps. 78:70–72). David’s shepherding heart and experience provided a picture for him of God’s perfect care for His sheep, which David captures movingly in Psalm 23. We also see that when Nathan confronts David about his sin with Bathsheba, he brings it home to his heart by telling a story about a poor man and his little ewe lamb (2 Sam. 12).
4. David tried to build Solomon’s temple.
Once David was finally settled as king in Jerusalem, he realized he was living in a house of cedar but the ark of God only in a tent. So he set out to build a house for God, but God stopped him. Instead, God tells David that He will build him a house—not another physical structure, of course, but a dynasty that will culminate with One who will reign forever and ever (2 Sam. 7:1–17). Thus, the building of the temple fell to David’s son Solomon. We learn later that God kept David from building the temple in part because he was a man of war and had shed much blood (1 Chron. 28:2–3). Nevertheless, David prepared nearly everything for Solomon to execute the work (1 Chron. 22:5).
5. David awaited a greater Son.
David received God’s promise to him of an everlasting house with great joy and gratitude (2 Sam. 7:18–29). David came to understand that one of his offspring will also be his Lord, which he expresses in Psalm 110: “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Jesus quotes this psalm as evidence of David’s understanding that one of his future sons according to the flesh would also be his “Lord” (in addition to the Lord his God) and therefore greater than any merely natural offspring (Mark 12:35–37).
This article is part of the 5 Things You Should Know collection.