Davidic line

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House of David
Star of David.svg
Parent houseTribe of Judah
Final rulerZedekiah
Cadet branchesHouse of Solomon

The Davidic line or House of David (known in Hebrew as Malkhut Beit David, מלכות בית דוד"Kingdom of the House of David") refers to the lineage of King David through the texts in the Hebrew Bible, in the New Testament, and through the succeeding centuries. It is the bloodline that the Hebrew Messiah is said to descend from according to Judaism and Christianity. The Christian gospels claim Jesus descends from the Davidic line and thus is the legitimate Hebrew Messiah. The New Testament books of Matthew and Luke give two different accounts of the genealogy of Jesus that trace back to King David.


The Tel Dan Stele, with mention of the "House of David" highlighted in white.

Very little is conclusively known about the House of David. The Tel Dan Stele mentions the death of the reigning king from the "Bayt-David",[1] and thus far is the only extrabiblical explicit mention of David himself. The stele is dated to circa 840 BCE, however, the name of the Davidic king is not preserved, as much of the stele has not survived since the 9th century BCE. Because the stele coincides the death of the Davidic king with the death of Jehoram, the king of the Kingdom of Samaria, scholars have reconstructed the second slain king as Ahaziah of Judah, but others disagree and say Amaziah of Judah is the correct reconstruction.[2]

The earliest unambiguously attested king from the Davidic line is Jotham of Judah, who is named on the seals of his son and successor, Ahaz,[3] who ruled from 732—716 BCE. A tombstone dated to the Second Temple Period claiming to mark the grave (or, reburial) site of Uzziah, Jotham's predecessor, was discovered in a convent on the Mount of Olives in 1931, but there is no way of determining if the remains were genuinely Uzziah's as the stone had to have been carved more than 700 years after Uzziah died and was originally interred, and the tablet's provenance remains a mystery. A controversial artifact called the Jehoash Tablet recalls deeds performed by Jehoram of Judah, who reigned about 100 years after Ahaz, however, scholars are tensely divided on whether or not the inscription is genuine. After Jotham/Ahaz, each successive king of Judah is attested to in some form, with the exception of Amon of Judah. Hezekiah, Ahaz's son, is attested to by numerous royal seals[4][5] and Sennacherib's Annals;[6] Manasseh is recorded giving tribute to Esarhaddon;[7] Josiah has no relics explicitly naming him, however seals belonging to his son Eliashib[8] and officials Nathan-melech[9][10] and Asaiah[11] have been discovered; and the kings Jehoahaz II, Jehoiakim, Jeconiah, and Zedekiah are recorded in Babylonian documents detailing the rations they were given while held in the Babylonian captivity.[12]

The origins of the dynasty, on the other hand, are shrouded in mystery. The Tel Dan Stele, as aforementioned, remains the only mention of David himself outside the Bible, and the historical reliability of the United Monarchy of Israel is shoddy, at best. The Stepped Stone Structure and Large Stone Structure in Jerusalem show that Jerusalem was at least somewhat populated in King David's time, and lends at least some credence to the biblical claim that Jerusalem was originally a Canaanite fortress, however, Jerusalem seems to have been barely developed until long after David's death, making it hard to believe it could have been the empiric capital described in the Bible. On the other hand, excavations at Khirbet Qeiyafa[13] and Gath[14] were interpreted by some to show that Judah was capable of accommodating large-scale urban societies centuries before minimalist scholars claim, and some have taken the physical archaeology of tenth-century Canaan as consistent with the former existence of a unified state on its territory,[15] as archaeological findings demonstrate substantial development and growth at several sites, plausibly related to the tenth century.[16] Still, in light of a general lack of material evidence explicitly indicating a United Monarchy, it cannot be positively ascertained whether some portents of the biblical narrative of the United Monarchy and the origins of David's dynasty have any historical basis. Even so, as for David and his immediate descendants themselves, the majority position, as described by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, authors of The Bible Unearthed, espouses that David and Solomon may well be based on "certain historical kernels", and probably did exist in their own right, but their historical counterparts simply could not have ruled over a wealthy lavish empire as described in the Bible, and were more likely chieftains of a comparatively modest Israelite society in Judah and not regents over a kingdom proper.

Kings of Israel and Judah[edit]

According to the Tanakh, upon being chosen and becoming king, one was customarily anointed with holy oil poured on one's head. In David's case, this was done by the prophet Samuel.

Initially, David was king over the Tribe of Judah only and ruled from Hebron, but after seven and a half years, the other Israelite tribes, who found themselves leaderless after the death of Ish-bosheth, chose him to be their king as well.[17]

All subsequent kings in both the ancient first united Kingdom of Israel and the later Kingdom of Judah claimed direct descent from King David to validate their claim to the throne in order to rule over the Israelite tribes.

After the death of David's son, King Solomon, the ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel rejected the Davidic line, refusing to accept Solomon's son, Rehoboam, and instead chose as king Jeroboam and formed the northern Kingdom of Israel. This kingdom was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire in the 8th century BCE which exiled much of the Northern Kingdom population and ended its sovereign status. The bulk population of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was forced to relocate to Mesopotamia and mostly disappeared from history as The Ten Lost Tribes or intermixed with exiled Judean populations two centuries later, while the remaining Israelite peoples in Samaria highlands have become known as Samaritans during the classic era and to modern times.

The Exilarchate[edit]

Following the conquest of Judah by the Neo-Babylonian Empire and the exile of its population, the Babylonian Exilarchate was established. The highest official of Babylonian Jewry was the exilarch (Reish Galuta, "Head of the Diaspora"). Those who held the position traced their ancestry to the House of David in the male line.[18] The position holder was regarded as a king-in-waiting, residing in Babylon and later in the Achaemenid Empire during the classic era. Zerubbabel of the Davidic line is mentioned as one of the leaders of the Jewish community in the 5th century BCE, holding the title of Achaeminid Governor of Yehud Medinata.

The Hasmonean and Herodian periods[edit]

The Hasmoneans, also known as the Maccabees established their own monarchy in Judea following their revolt against the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty. The Hasmoneans were not considered connected to the Davidic line nor to the Tribe of Judah. The Levites had always been excluded from the Israelite monarchy, so when the Maccabees assumed the throne in order to rededicate the defiled Second Temple, a cardinal rule was broken. According to scholars within Orthodox Judaism, this is considered to have contributed to their downfall and the eventual downfall of Judea; internal strife allowing for Roman occupation and the violent installation of Herod the Great as client king over the Roman province of Judea; and the subsequent destruction of the Second Temple by the future Emperor Titus.

During the Hasmonean period the Davidic line was largely excluded from the royal house in Judea, but some members had risen to prominence as religious and communal leaders. One of the most notable of those was Hillel the Elder, who moved to Judea from his birthplace in Babylon. His great grandson Simeon ben Gamliel became one of the Jewish leaders during the First Jewish-Roman War.[19]

Middle Ages[edit]

The Exilarchate in the Sasanian Empire was briefly abolished as a result of revolt by the Mar-Zutra II in the late 5th century CE, with his son Mar-Zutra III being denied the office and relocating to Tiberias, then within the Byzantine Empire. Mar Ahunai lived in the period succeeding Mar Zutra II, but for almost fifty years after the failed revolt he did not dare to appear in public, and it is not known whether even then (c. 550) he really acted as Exilarch. The names of Kafnai and his son Haninai, who were Exilarchs in the second half of the 6th century, have been preserved.

The Exilarchate in Mesopotamia was officially restored after the Arab conquest in the 7th century and continued to function during the early Caliphates. Exilarchs continued to be appointed until the 11th century, with some members of the Davidic line dispersing across the Islamic world. There are conflicting accounts of the fate of the Exilarch family in the 11th century - according to one version Hezekiah ben David, who was the last Exilarch and also the last Gaon, was imprisoned and tortured to death. Two of his sons fled to Al-Andalus, where they found refuge with Joseph, the son and successor of Samuel ibn Naghrillah. However, The Jewish Quarterly Review mentions that Hezekiah was liberated from prison, and became head of the academy, and is mentioned as such by a contemporary in 1046.[20] An unsuccessful attempt of David ben Daniel of the Davidic line to establish an Exilarchate in the Fatimid Caliphate failed and ended with his downfall in 1094.

Descendants of the house of exilarchs were living in various places long after the office became extinct. The grandson of Hezekiah ben David through his eldest son David ben Chyzkia, Hiyya al-Daudi, died in 1154 in Castile according to Abraham ibn Daud and is the ancestor of the ibn Yahya family. Several families, as late as the 14th century, traced their descent back to Josiah, the brother of David ben Zakkai who had been banished to Chorasan (see the genealogies in [Lazarus 1890] pp. 180 et seq.). The descendants of the Karaite Exilarchs have been referred to above.

A number of Jewish families in the Iberian peninsula and within Mesopotamia continued to preserve the tradition of descent from Exilarchs in the Late Middle Ages, including the families of Abravanel, ibn Yahya and Ben-David. Several Ashkenazi scholars also claimed descent from King David. On his father's side, Rashi has been claimed to be a 33rd-generation descendant of Johanan HaSandlar, who was a fourth-generation descendant of Gamaliel, who was reputedly descended from the Davidic line.[21] Similarly Maimonides claimed 37 generations between him and Simeon ben Judah ha-Nasi, who was also a fourth-generation descendant of Gamaliel.[22] Gershon ben Judah, was an paternal descendant of Isaac the Jew, who in part was a member of the early Ashkenazi exilarchs, being the great grandson of Natronai ben Nehemiah. One tradition also traces the ancestry of Judah Loew ben Bezalel to the Babylonian Exilarchs and therefore also from the Davidic dynasty, however this claim is widely disputed, by many scholars such as Otto Muneles. [23]

In the 11th-15th century, families that descended from the Exiliarchs that lived in the South of France (Narbonne and Provence) and in northern Spain (Barcelona, Aragon and Castile) received the title "Nasi" in the communities and were called "free men". They had a special economic and social status in the Jewish community. They were close to the government, and some served as advisers and tax collectors/finance ministers.

These families had special rights in Narbonne, Barcelona, the Knights Templar and Castile. They possessed real estate and received the title "Don" and  de la Kblriih (De la Cavalleria). Among the families of the "Sons of the Free" are the families of Abravanel and Benveniste.

In his book, A Jewish Princedom in Feudal France, Arthur J. Zuckerman proposes a theory that from 768-900 CE a Jewish Princedom ruled by members of the Exilarchs existed in feudal France. However this theory has been widely contested. [24]

Jewish interpretations[edit]

In Jewish eschatology, the term mashiach, or "Messiah", came to refer to a future Jewish king from the Davidic line, who is expected to be anointed with holy anointing oil and rule the Jewish people during the Messianic Age.[25][26][27] The Messiah is often referred to as "King Messiah", or, in Hebrew, מלך משיח (melekh mashiach), and, in Aramaic, malka meshiḥa.[28]

Orthodox views have generally held that the Messiah will be a patrilineal descendant of King David,[29] and will gather the Jews back into the Land of Israel, usher in an era of peace, build the Third Temple, father a male heir, re-institute the Sanhedrin, and so on. Jewish tradition alludes to two redeemers, both of whom are called mashiach and are involved in ushering in the Messianic age: Mashiach ben David; and Mashiach ben Yosef. In general, the term Messiah unqualified refers to Mashiach ben David (Messiah, son of David).[25][26]

Christian interpretations[edit]

In Christian interpretation the "Davidic covenant" of a Davidic line in 2 Samuel 7 is understood in various ways, traditionally referring to the genealogies of Jesus in the New Testament. One Christian interpretation of the Davidic line counts the line continuing to Jesus son of Joseph, according to the genealogies at Matthew 1:1-16 and also in Luke 3:23-38 through the line of Mary, descendant from Solomon.

As it has been historically accepted among Jews that the Messiah will be a male-line descendant of David, the lineage of Jesus is sometimes cited as a factor as to why Jews do not believe him to have been the Messiah. As the proposed son of God, he could not have been a male-line descendant of David and, if going through his earthly parents, Mary and Joseph, he would not have had the proper lineage either, as he would not have been a male-line descendant through Mary, and Joseph descended from Jeconiah, whose descendants are explicitly barred by God from ever ruling Israel.[30]

Another Christian interpretation emphasizes the minor, non-royal, line of David through Solomon's brother Nathan as recorded in Gospel of Luke chapter 3 (entirely undocumented in the Hebrew Bible), which is often understood to be the family tree of Mary's father. A widely spread traditional Christian interpretation relates the non-continuation of the main Davidic line from Solomon as related the godlessness of Jehoiachin in the early 500s BC, where Jeremiah cursed the main branch of the Solomonic line, saying that no descendant of "[Je]Coniah" would ever again reign on the throne of Israel (Jeremiah 22:30).[31] This same "curse" is also considered by some Christian commentators as the reason that Zerubbabel, the rightful Solomonic king during the time of Nehemiah, was not given a kingship under the Persian empire.[32]

The Tree of Jesse (referencing David' father) is a traditional Christian artistic representation of Jesus' genealogical connection to David.

Latter Day Saint interpretations[edit]

The Latter Day Saint movement accepts Christ as the "Stem of Jesse" and the Messiah. In addition, Mormon eschatology includes multiple references to other prophesied Davidic figures,[33] including one by the name of David who would come in the last days to inherit the throne and kingdom of David.[34]

Islamic interpretations[edit]

The Quran mentions the House of David once: "Work, O family of David, in gratitude. And few of My servants are grateful."[35] and mentioned David himself 16 times.

According to some Islamic sources, some of the Jewish settlers in Arabia were of the Davidic line, Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi recorded: "A Jewish man from the Davidic line entered Medina and found the people in deep sorrow. He enquired the people, 'What is wrong?' Some of the people replied: Prophet Mohamed passed away".[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pioske 2015, p. 180.
  2. ^ Becking, Bob E.J.H.; Grabbe, Lester, eds. (2010). Between Evidence and Ideology: Essays on the History of Ancient Israel Read at the Joint Meeting of the Society for Old Testament Study and the Oud Testamentisch Werkgezelschap Lincoln. Brill. p. 18. ISBN 9789004187375.
  3. ^ Deutsch, Robert. "First Impression: What We Learn from King Ahaz's Seal". Biblical Archaeology Review, July 1998, pp. 54–56, 62
  4. ^ Heilpern, Will (December 4, 2015). "Biblical King's seal discovered in dump site". CNN. Retrieved 2016-05-03.
  5. ^ Cross, Frank Moore (March–April 1999). "King Hezekiah's Seal Bears Phoenician Imagery". Biblical Archaeology Review.
  6. ^ Oppenheim, A. L. in Pritchard 1969, pp. 287–288
  7. ^ Oppenheim, A. L. in Pritchard 1969, p. 291
  8. ^ Albright, W. F. in Pritchard 1969, p. 569
  9. ^ Weiss, Bari.The Story Behind a 2,600-Year-Old Seal Who was Natan-Melech, the king’s servant?. New York Times. March 30, 2019
  10. ^ 2,600-year old seal discovered in City of David. Jerusalem Post. April 1, 2019
  11. ^ Heltzer, Michael, THE SEAL OF ˓AŚAYĀHŪ. In Hallo, 2000, Vol. II p. 204
  12. ^ James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969) 308.
  13. ^ Garfinkel, Yossi; Ganor, Sa'ar; Hasel, Michael (19 April 2012). "Journal 124: Khirbat Qeiyafa preliminary report". Hadashot Arkheologiyot: Excavations and Surveys in Israel. Israel Antiquities Authority. Archived from the original on 23 June 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  14. ^ Hasson, Nir (4 August 2015). "Philistine city of Gath a lot more powerful than thought, archaeologists suggest". Haaretz. Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. Retrieved 12 June 2018.
  15. ^ Kitchen, Kenneth (2003). On the Reliability of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-80280-396-2.
  16. ^ Kuhrt, Amélie (1995). The Ancient Near East, c. 3000-330 BC, Band 1. New York: Routledge. p. 438. ISBN 978-0-41516-762-8.
  17. ^ Mandel, David. Who's Who in the Jewish Bible. Jewish Publication Society, 1 Jan 2010, pg 85
  18. ^ Max A Margolis and Alexander Marx, A History of the Jewish People (1927), p. 235.
  19. ^ Wilhelm Bacher, Jacob Zallel Lauterbach (1906). "Simeon II. (Ben Gamaliel I.)", Jewish Encyclopedia. N.b.: the Jewish Encyclopedia speaks of "his grandfather Hillel", but he sequence was Hillel the Elder-Simeon ben Hillel-Gamaliel the Elder-Simeon ben Gamliel, thus great-grandson is correct.
  20. ^ Jewish Quarterly Review, hereafter "J. Q. R.", xv. 80.
  21. ^ "Rabbi Yehiel Ben Shlomo Heilprin - (Circa 5420-5506; 1660-1746)". www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2020-06-28.
  22. ^ "Early Years". www.chabad.org. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
  23. ^ See The Maharal of Prague's Descent from King David, by Chaim Freedman, published in Avotaynu Vol 22 No 1, Spring 2006
  24. ^ Zuckerman, Arthur J. (1972). A Jewish princedom in feudal France, 768-900. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-03298-6. OCLC 333768.
  25. ^ a b Schochet, Jacob Immanuel. "Moshiach ben Yossef". Tutorial. Moshiach.com. Archived from the original on 20 December 2002. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  26. ^ a b Blidstein, Prof. Dr. Gerald J. "Messiah in Rabbinic Thought". MESSIAH. Jewish Virtual Library and Encyclopaedia Judaica 2008 The Gale Group. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  27. ^ Telushkin, Joseph (1991). "The Messiah". William Morrow and Co. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  28. ^ Flusser, David. "Second Temple Period". Messiah. Encyclopaedia Judaica 2008 The Gale Group. Retrieved 2 December 2012.
  29. ^ See Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan: ""The Real Messiah A Jewish Response to Missionaries"" (PDF). Archived from the original on May 29, 2008. Retrieved 2012-04-17.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  30. ^ This is what the LORD says: 'Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.— Jeremiah 22:30, NIV
  31. ^ H. Wayne House Israel: Land and the People 1998 114 "And yet, Judah has also been without a king of the Solomonic line since the Babylonian exile. Because of Jeremiah's curse on Jehoiachin (Coniah) in the early 500s BC (Jer. 22:30), the high priests of Israel, while serving as the ..."
  32. ^ Warren W. Wiersbe -The Wiersbe Bible Commentary: The Complete Old Testament - 2007 p1497 "Zerubbabel was the grandson of King Jehoiachin (Jeconiah, Matt. 1:12; Coniah, Jer. 22:24, 28), and therefore of the royal line of David. But instead of wearing a crown and sitting on a throne, Zerubbabel was the humble governor of a ..."
  33. ^ Doctrine and Covenants Section 113, churchofjesuschrist.org
  34. ^ Ludlow, Victor L. (1992). "David, Prophetic Figure of the Last Days". In Ludlow, Daniel H. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Archived from the original on 27 May 2011.
  35. ^ Quran 34:13
  36. ^ Mohammad-Baqer Majlesi, Bihār al-Anwār, Dar Al-Rida Publication, Beirut, (1983), volume 30 page 99
  • The Holy Bible: 1611 Edition (Thos. Nelson, 1993)

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