Who was David?:
David is revered as the most powerful and important king of Israel during biblical times. There are no records of his life or reign outside the Bible odd, if he was that important. He is said to have begun his career playing the lute in the court of King Saul, but eventually proved to be very skillful on the battlefield. Saul became jealous of Davids popularity but the prophet Samuel, who originally made Saul king, sided with David and anointed him as Gods chosen one.
When did David live?:
It is thought that David ruled between 1010 and 970 BCE.
Where did David live?:
David was from the tribe of Judah and was born in Bethlehem. When he became king, David picked a neutral city for his new capital: Jerusalem. This was a Jebusite city which David first had to conquer, but he was successful and then able to repel retaliatory attacks from the Philistines. Jerusalem came to be known by some as Davids City and it continues to be closely associated with David by Jews even today.
What did David do?:
According to the Bible, David achieved one military or diplomatic triumph after another against all of Israels neighbors. This allowed him to found a small empire where Jews were relatively secure no small feat, given the fact that Palestine was situated on a bridge between Africa, Asia, and Europe. Great empires regularly fought over this relatively poor region because of its strategic significance. David and his son Solomon made Israel a powerful empire for the first and last time.
Why was David important?:
David remains today a focal point for Jewish political and nationalist aspirations. His creation of an imperial dynasty continues to resonate in the Jewish tradition that their messiah must necessarily be a descendant of the House of David. Because David was anointed as Gods chosen leader, anyone who would assume that mantle must be from Davids line.
It is understandable, then, that most early Christian literature (except for the gospel of Mark) makes a point of describing Jesus as a descendant of David. Because of this Christians have tended to idealize David as a leader and as a person, but this occurs at the expense of the text itself. The stories of David are unequivocal that he was far from perfect or ideal and he did many immoral things. David is a complex and interesting character, not a paragon of virtue.