Jesse //, Ishai or Yishai, (Hebrew: יִשַׁי, Modern Yishay, Tiberian Yīšáy, meaning "God exists" or "God's gift"; Arabic: يَسَّى Yassa; Syriac: ܐܝܫܝ Eshai; Greek: Ἰεσσαί Iessai; Latin: Isai, Jesse) is the father of David, who became the king of the Israelites. His son David is sometimes called simply "Son of Jesse" (Ben Yishai).
Jesse was the son of Obed and the grandson of Ruth and of Boaz. He lived in Bethlehem, in Judah, and was of the Tribe of Judah, he was a farmer, breeder and owner of sheep. He was a prominent resident of the town of Bethlehem. Jesse is important in Judaism because he was the father of the most famous king of Israel. He is important in Christianity, in part because he is in the Old Testament and mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus. Later rabbinic traditions name him as one of four ancient Israelites who died without sin, the other three being Benjamin, Chileab and Amram.
Jesse in 1 Samuel
Jesse is stated as having eight sons, including David the youngest. Among his grandchildren were the three sons of Zeruiah: Abishai, Joab and Asahel. One day the prophet Samuel came to Bethlehem sent by God, to anoint the next king of Israel. Ostensibly, his visit to Bethlehem was to offer a sacrifice to God. He used that excuse because he was afraid that King Saul might kill him if he suspected the true reason for his arrival in Bethlehem. Samuel offered a sacrifice with Jesse and then went to his house, where he sanctified him and his family. The prophet asked Jesse to present his sons. When Samuel saw Eliab, Jesse's eldest son, he was impressed by his stature and convinced that he must be God's anointed king, however God said to Samuel "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7 NIV) When Jesse presented his second son Abinadab, God told Samuel "The Lord has not chosen this one either." (1 Samuel 16:8 NIV) This happened again with his third son Shammah, then his fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh son. Finally, Samuel enquired of Jesse if he had any other sons. Jesse told him that David the youngest was tending the flock. The prophet then asked for him, waited and when he came, God asked the prophet to anoint him as king over Israel.
Some time later King Saul, suffering from depression and melancholy, asked Jesse for his son David to play the harp for him, since he had heard that David played the harp beautifully. Jesse sent his son along with some gifts for the king. The king was so taken with David's harp playing that he asked Jesse to keep him in his court to play for him whenever he was depressed. Later on Jesse sent his son David with gifts to be given to his older brothers who were to fight war against the Philistines in King Saul's army. Years later David fled to the desert away from Saul, who sought to kill David in order for him to stay in power and not have his throne be taken away from him. David, worried about the safety of his parents, went to Mizpah in Moab, to ask permission from the king to allow his father Jesse and his mother to stay under the royal protection of the king. They stayed there until David's fortunes took a turn for the better.
Jesse in Isaiah
|“||1. And there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2. And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. 3. And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear;||”|
Also Chapter 11, Verse 10:
|“||10. In that day the root of Jesse shall stand as an ensign to the peoples; him shall the nations seek, and his dwellings shall be glorious.||”|
These are two of the verses regarded by Christians as prophecy of the advent of Jesus, whom they consider to be the Christ and Messiah. These two prophesies are regarded by Bahá'ís to refer to Bahá'u'lláh, alleged to also have arisen from "the stump of Jesse."
The Tree of Jesse
From the 11th century the Tree of Jesse has been portrayed in religious illuminations, manuscripts, wall paintings, wood and stone carvings (including a grave marker), stained glass windows, floor tiles and embroidery. In the representation of the Tree, it is usual for Jesse to be portrayed recumbent with a tree rising from his body, and the ancestors of Christ portrayed in its branches with Prophets and Christ at the summit. The earliest illustrated manuscripts did not always depict Jesse or Christ. Not all illustrations include the same number of characters; this depends upon the size of the area provided, such as seven light windows or three light windows.
Jesse in 1 Chronicles
In the Book of Chronicles the names of only seven of Jesse's sons are listed, including David as well as the names of two of his daughters, Zeruiah and Abigail. Evidently (from 1 Samuel 16) Jesse had more sons than these seven, and it is likely that he had more daughters as well.
The "Geza of Jesse" is a plateau located just north of the valley of Jezreel in Israel said to have been originally cleared and settled by descendants of David.
References and notes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jesse.|
- Tree of Jesse Directory
- "Jesse" at behindthename.com
- Jesse the Patriarch at the Christian Iconography web site