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David, Dynasty of


The genealogy of the House of *David as a royal dynasty and as a symbol of hope for future redemption has left its mark on Jewish history throughout the ages. One may distinguish six stages in its development: (a) its origin (until c. 1000 b.c.e.); (b) the reign of the House of David (until 587 b.c.e.); (c) the dynasty during the critical period of the Exile and the Return to Zion (until c. 400 b.c.e.); (d) its disappearance (about 100 c.e.); (e) the exilarchs and the nesi'im (until c. 900 c.e.); (f) the after growths of the Davidic genealogy.

(a) From the account of Samuel's secret anointment of David (i Sam. 16), it appears that Jesse, David's father, was one of the elders of Bethlehem (cf. i Sam. 17:12). According to the genealogy at the end of the Book of Ruth (4:18ff.) and in i Chronicles 2:10ff., Jesse was a descendant of Boaz, who was a descendant of Nahshon the son of Amminadab, and chieftain (prince) of Judah, and thus a member of one of the most respected families in the tribe. In many passages David is called "the son of Jesse"; and in Isaiah 11:1 the remnant of the House of David is spoken of figuratively as "the stock of Jesse." In the Book of Ruth, the ancestry of David from the marriage of Boaz to Ruth the Moabite is especially emphasized and this matter undoubtedly is the climax of the story. It should not be assumed that the tradition of the genealogy of the House of David from Ruth is the result of the preaching against the divorce of foreign women during the time of Ezra, as scholars during the time of A. Geiger did. On the one hand, it is not correct to say that this story intends to emphasize the ancestry of David in the mixed families living in the country. The story of Ruth, which reflects life close to the beginning of the monarchy, is based on an historical tradition concerning the ancestry of the mother of the family of David (cf. i Sam. 22:3–4 on the mission of David's father and his mother to the king of Moab when David had fled from Saul). This story intends to stress that Ruth left her people and became a part of Israel and therefore God rewarded her and her son Obed was the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 4:17).

Information about the pedigree of the Davidic dynasty appears in various biblical books – particularly in Samuel and Kings. But the comprehensive genealogical table of the House of David in biblical times appears in i Chronicles 2:10–17; 3:1–24. It consists of three separate parts: a) the genealogy of Jesse, a list of his children, and a list of the sons of David born in Hebron and Jerusalem (2:10–17; 3:1–9); b) a list of the kings of Judah, from Solomon to Josiah (3:10–14); c) the sons of Josiah and their descendants (3:15–24). The first section is only a partial parallel to the data found in the Former Prophets. Thus i Samuel 16:6ff. and 17:13–14 merely list David's three older brothers, with slightly different names; and the Book of Samuel states that Jesse had eight (not seven) sons (17:12; cf. 16:10–11). The list in Chronicles of David's sons born in Hebron parallels the list in ii Samuel 3:2–5 with minor changes, but includes more names of sons born to David in Jerusalem than ii Samuel 5:14–16 and diverges from it in other ways. Thus, the author of Chronicles did not copy his list from the Book of Samuel, but from another source which may have been common to both books. It is worth noting that it is only from the data in Chronicles that we learn that Joab and his brothers, the sons of Zeruiah, and Amasa, the son of Abigail, were sons of sisters of David.

(b) There is only minimal information about the House of David during its reign. In the Book of Kings there is only a list of the successive kings and the names of their mothers; similarly i Chronicles 3:10–14 contains only the names of the kings of Judah, from Solomon to Josiah. Chronicles records in addition the names of the sons of Rehoboam (ii Chron. 11:18ff.) and the sons of Jehoshaphat (ii Chron. 21:2ff.). The list of Solomon's governors mentions incidentally two of the married daughters of Solomon, Taphath and Basemath (i Kings 4:11, 15). In i Chronicles 3:15 the sons of Josiah are listed in a different chronological order from that in the Book of Kings, and the eldest, Johanan, is not known from other sources. It should be noted that the term "king's son" is an administrative title.

In Nathan's vision (ii Sam. 7) the destiny of an eternal rule over Israel for the descendants of David is clearly expressed. This idea of the eternity of the royal House of David became more deeply rooted with the continuation of the dynasty's rule over Judah. In the course of time, the rule of the House of David became the symbol of God's love for His people. Even those prophets who sharply opposed the kings of their times saw in the future the destined leadership of a descendant of the House of David. A unique archaeological find made in 1993–94 at Tel Dan in northern Israel sheds light on the House of David. The find consists of fragments of a stele inscribed in Aramaic, mentioning a king of the House of David and a king of Israel (Jehoram?), and it is dated palaeographically and stratigraphically to the second half of the ninth century b.c.e. Much controversy has surrounded the interpretation of this find (see Bibliography below).

(c) The sources during the Exile and the return to Zion make very little mention of the House of David. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah do not even note that Zerubbabel was of the House of David, although in Haggai's prophecy he is depicted as the destined ruler of Israel (2:23). From the genealogical lists in i Chronicles 3, it emerges that Zerubbabel was a grandson of Jehoiachin. It is widely believed that Sheshbazzar, the chieftain (prince) of Judah at the beginning of the Return to Zion (Ezra 1:8), was also of the House of David, and that he is to be identified with Shenazzar son of Jehoiachin (Jeconiah; i Chron. 3:18).

The list in i Chronicles 3 enumerates the descendants of the House of David after the Return to Zion. According to the Septuagint, there are 11 generations after Zerubbabel, that is to say, counting 25 years to a generation, there is documentation of the existence of the House of David until the middle of the third century b.c.e. But according to the Hebrew text the number of generations is only five or six. The difficulty revolves around the generations between Zerubbabel and Hattush (third from the end of the list). If the latter is identical with the Hattush who is named in Ezra 8:2 as one of those who returned with Ezra from Babylon (457 b.c.e.), the genealogy ends two generations after Ezra's return, or at the beginning of the 4th century b.c.e. (It is unfortunately not possible to date with certainty the passage in Zech. 12:7–14.)

The rebuilding of the Temple under the leadership of Zerubbabel (520 b.c.e.) aroused hope, which finds expression in the prophecies of Haggai and Zechariah, for a renewal of the reign of the Davidic dynasty. Nonetheless, during the age of the Return to Zion, the House of David was in decline. The reasons for this are not known. It is possible that Zerubbabel was suspected of disloyalty and was therefore recalled to Babylon. It is clear, however, that he or his descendants did return to Babylon, for among those who came with Ezra was Hattush who is related to Zerubbabel. There is no information concerning the family's status in Babylon, nor why it (or part of it) returned to Judah with Ezra. After the beginning of the 4th century b.c.e. (the end of the list in i Chron. 3), the fate of the house of David is unknown.

The clash between the descendants of the House of David and the high priesthood over the leadership of Judah at the beginning of the Return to Zion ended with the victory of the priesthood. The weakened position of the Davidic dynasty also weakened the identification between them and the future fortunes of Israel. Even during the period of the Second Temple, Judaism did not relinquish the ideal of a redeemer from the House of David, but this now became an ideal for the distant future, and no longer exerted a decisive force in the formation of Jewish history.

(d) Information about the Davidic family after c. 400 b.c.e. is slight and fortuitous. Clermont-Ganneau and others have suggested that "Akabiah bar Elioenai" (a name incised on a tomb in the cemetery of Alexandrian mercenaries from the beginning of the Ptolomaic period) should be identified with Akkub ben Elioenai, a descendant of Zerubbabel (i Chron. 3:23–24). This identification is not possible for chronological reasons – at most, one may speculate whether the Akabiah of the inscription may have been a great-grandson of the Akkub in i Chronicles. In any event, the inscription indicates that this supposed descendant of David held a position of no particular importance. The Mishnah (Ta'an. 4, 5) lists the descendants of David among the families which used to offer the wood offering. It would appear that this Mishnah belongs to the Persian period, the time when Nehemiah established this sacrifice, for all the families mentioned are known from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah and are not mentioned thereafter. Until Roman rule, there is no primary source testimony about the descendants of David. One cannot attribute historical validity to the late work (apparently from the Middle Ages) attributed to Philo and known as Breviarium Temporum (in Antiquitiesof Berosus Chaldaeus), which contains a list of some of the descendants of Zerubbabel and claims that the Hasmonean dynasty was of the same Davidic line.

According to the New Testament, Jesus was of Davidic descent. Two of the Gospels, Matthew (1:1–7) and Luke (3:23–38), include a genealogy tracing him directly to David. The New Testament tells of afflicted people who address Jesus as "Son of David." These sources, which date from not later than the end of the 1st century c.e., reveal that a short time after the death of Jesus there was a current Christian tradition attributing Davidic descent to Jesus. However, no historical validity can be attributed to these New Testament genealogies which are mutually contradictory in their artificiality; they merely reflect the fact that at the end of the period of the Second Temple the belief in a *messiah from the House of David (a tradition whose roots are biblical) was strong in Israel, and that consequently those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah concluded that he must be descended from David. So, when R. *Akiva hailed *Bar Kokhba as the messiah, *Johanan b. Torta added, "Akiva, grass will grow upon your cheeks and still the son of David will not have come" (tj Ta'an. 4:2, 17d). The evidence of Eusebius quoted in the name of Hegesippus about the persecutions of the descendants of the House of David by the Caesars Vespasian and Domitian refers to the family of Jesus; it is not to be regarded as independent testimony for the existence of descendants of David among the Jews of that period (Historia Ecclesiastica, 3:12, 19, 32.4).

A tradition from the period of the first amoraim (tj Ta'an. 4:2; Gen. R. 98:8) tells of a genealogical table dating from the period before the destruction of the Temple which was found in Jerusalem, according to which Hillel and R. Ḥiyya the Great were related to the Davidic dynasty. But investigation of the account reveals that it includes names of sages from the 2nd and 3rd centuries c.e., and the midrashic character of some of the progress indicates that this is but one of many literary genealogical traditions which arose from the time of Judah ha-Nasi and concerned the relationship of the families of the *exilarchs in Babylonia and the *patriarchs in Palestine. There is no information concerning the House of David between the 4th century b.c.e. and the 2nd century c.e.

If descendants existed during this period, they played no role in the leadership of the people. The nation's disappointment after the excitement of Zerubbabel's days was critical, and expressions of hope for the renewal of the kingdom as well as promises of a future redeemer from the House of David appear only rarely in the sources following Zerubbabel's time. (The blessing found at the end of the Hebrew version of Ben Sira, "Praised be he who causes a horn to sprout for the House of David," is only a common liturgical formulation of the hope based on the biblical promises.) A weakening of the element of a king of the Davidic dynasty is observable in the eschatological and apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Malachi and, later, Daniel and Enoch. In this literature, the figure of a superhuman redeemer appears, and replaces the figure of the future king of the House of David. This process of the Davidic expectation continued down to the days of the Hasmoneans.

With the decline of that dynasty, the hopes for "the end of days" and the messianic ferment, which had been the hallmarks of the sects during the Hasmonean period, became widespread. Roman oppression and the unhappiness that it caused evoked a religious ferment which was bound up with the revival of the messianic hopes for a redeemer from the House of David. Thus, the author of the Psalms of Solomon, which were written about the time of the capture of Jerusalem by Pompey (63 b.c.e.), is opposed to any ruler not of the House of David, and speaks evil of the Hasmoneans who had usurped the seat of David. There is no evidence that the writer of the Psalms of Solomon knew of the existence of descendants of David in his own period; Judaism then and to this day has assumed that the redeemer, when he appears, will prove his Davidic origin by his success. When Judea came under Roman rule, the messianic consciousness gained renewed impetus, though at this time no family in Ereẓ Israel had genealogical proof of descent from David.

(e) Testimonies to a relationship to the House of David in the period following the destruction of the Second Temple mainly involve the families of the exilarchs and nesi'im, particularly R. Judah ha-Nasi and his contemporary, the exilarch R. Huna, and are sparse, vague, and even contradictory (Ket. 62b; tj, Kelim 89, 32b; tj, Sot. 87, 22a; Hor. 11a–b; and their parallels). These relatively early documents do not contain even one genealogy. A genealogical list tracing the relationship of the exilarch family to Zerubbabel appears only at the beginning of the geonic period. Even the letter of R. Sherira Gaon, who was related to the family of the exilarch, contains no information about the exilarchs who preceded R. *Huna, the contemporary of Judah ha-Nasi.

The earliest attempt to reconstruct the relationship of the exilarchs to the Davidic kings was made in Seder Olam Zuta, a work attributed to the 5th century c.e. The writer connects Hezekiah, who lived after the destruction of the Second Temple, and was the grandfather or great-grandfather of R. Huna, to Jehoiachin by means of a confused version of the genealogy of descendants of Zerubbabel (i Chron. 3). It follows that this source also is able to trace the pedigree of the exilarchs for only two or three generations preceding R. Huna. Seder Olam Zuta, in turn, was used as the basis for later genealogies of the House of David, including the genealogical tables of the Karaites. The exilarchs are the principal links between the House of David and later times, and Seder Olam Zuta is the earliest attempt to reconstruct the chain backward.

The traditions concerning the relationship of Davidic descent from the family of the patriarchs are secondary to the traditions concerning the pedigree of the exilarchs. They probably originated in the desire of the Jews in Palestine (and perhaps of the patriarchs themselves) not to appear inferior to the exilarchs in terms of the origin and status of their leaders. From the beginning, the exilarchs had boasted of their descent from David, and on this pedigree they based the authority they assumed over the people (see tj Sot. 87, 22a; Hor. 11a–b). There is no possibiltiy of deciding whether the genealogical tradition of the exilarchs is reliable despite the fact that they did not have a detailed genealogical tree, or whether the authority which they exerted preceded their adoption of a David pedigree. Conceivably, the rank of exilarch in Babylonia could date from a relatively early period and the exilarchs could be descended from Zerubbabel; however, it is difficult to reconcile the antiquity of the exilarchate in Babylon with the fact that nothing is heard about them until after the destruction of the Second Temple.

(f) On the after growth of the Davidic genealogy, see *Genealogy.


S. Klein, in: Zion, 4 (1938–39), 30–50, 177–8; S. Yeivin, in: Zion, 9 (1944), 49–69; Y. Kaufmann, Molad (1959), 331–8; J.W. Rothstein, Genealogie des Koenigs Jojachin und seiner Nachfolger (1902); W.F. Albright, jbl, 40 (1921), 104–24; G. Kuhn, in: znw, 22 (1923), 206–28; J. Liver, htr, 52 (1959), 149–85; Genealogical table of the Davidic Dynasty according to biblical sources in em, 2, after p. 640; Sh. Yeivin, in: em, 2, 643–5. add. bibliography: aramaic stele from dan mentioning "house of david": A. Biran and J. Naveh. "An Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan," in: iej, 43 (1993), 81–98; idem, "The Tel Dan Inscription: A New Fragment," in: iej, 45 (1995), 1–18; E. Ben Zvi, "On the Reading 'bytdwd' in The Aramaic Stele from Tel Dan," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 64 (1994) 25–32; F.H. Cryer, "On the Recently Discovered 'House of David' Inscription," Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 8:1 (1994), 3–19; idem, "A 'Betdawd' Miscellany: Dwd, Dwd' or Dwdh?" in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 9:1 (1995), 52–58; idem, "King Hadad," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:2 (1995), 223–35; idem, "Of Epistemology, Northwest-Semitic Epigraphy and Irony: The 'bytdwd/House of David' Inscription Revisited," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 69 (1996), 3–17; B.I. Demsky, "On Reading Ancient Inscriptions: The Monumental Aramaic Stele Fragment from Tel Dan," in: Journal of the Ancient Near Eastern Society, 23 (1995), 29–35; N.P. Lemche and T.L. Thompson, "Did Biran Kill David? The Bible in the Light of Archaeology," in: Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 64 (1994), 3–22; G.A. Rendsburg, "On the Writing of bytdwd in the Aramaic Inscription from Tel Dan," in: iej, 45 (1995), 22–25; V. Sasson, "The Old Aramaic Inscription from Tell Dan: Philological, Literary and Historical Aspects," in: jss, 40 (1995) 11–30; W.M. Schniedewind, "Tel Dan Stela: New Light on Aramaic and Jehu's Revolt," in: basor, 302 (May 1996), 75–90; T.L. Thompson, "'House of David': An Eponymic Referent to Yahweh as Godfather," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:1 (1995), 59–74; idem, "Dissonance and Disconnections: Notes on the bytdwd and hmlk.hdd. Fragments from Tel Dan," in: Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament, 9:2 (1995), 236–40.

[Jacob Liver]

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