David is a central character in the Bible. He served as Israel's second and most memorable king, "a man after God's own heart" who brought physical and spiritual blessings to the people of Israel. David's name is prominent in the rest of Scripture as the Old Testament points forward to the promised "son of David" and as the New Testament points back to the monarch's reign.
David was a shepherd boy from the tribe of Judah when he was anointed king (1st Samuel 16:1-13). He became a magnificent king of Israel and was the father of the wisest ruler, Solomon. In fact, David began a dynasty that would rule at least some part of political Israel for approximately 400 years.
David is most known as "a man after [God's] own heart" (1st Samuel 13:14). His godly character was evident even in boyhood: while delivering food to his older brothers on the fighting line, he was enraged to hear the Philistine giant, Goliath, defying the Israelite forces, "the armies of the living God"; with God's help and with very little else by way of protection or weapons, he killed the enemy champion (1st Samuel 17:1-58).
Though David was anointed king as a boy, he waited many years to rule. Saul, his predecessor as king, was an unfaithful man in God's eyes, but David refused to kill him, even in self-defense. He knew that he should not harm God's anointed one, so he waited on God's timing for ascent to the throne.
As admirable as he was, David had faults. A number of years into his reign when David should have been away at war with his men, he stayed home and committed adultery. From the roof of his palace, he spied a beautiful woman named Bathsheba and determined to have her. To cover his sin and to gain her for himself, he even had the woman's husband, a soldier, murdered. For this, God punished David and his family severely, though God forgave him when he repented in anguish (cf. Psalms 51:1-19).
God used David to fulfill a promise made to Abraham – full possession of the Promised Land.1 Under David's leadership, Israel subdued the invasive Philistines for the first time. When his power was consolidated, David brought the Ark of the Covenant, which represented the Lord's presence, to the capital city of Jerusalem (2nd Samuel 6:12-19).
God made an eternal covenant with David, promising that one of his descendants would rule over God's chosen people forever (2nd Samuel 7:1-29). David's great love for God is reflected in the many poems and songs he wrote, now included in the book of Psalms. His devotion and faithfulness to God were the standard by which later kings of the nation were judged. The eventual dissolution of his rule left many hoping for another king like David who would rule in righteousness, bringing the promised peace and prosperity to the land.
The Old Testament prophets often reference David when they point to the Messianic king to come (Isaiah 11:1-4; Micah 5:2-4). In the New Testament, especially in the Gospels, Jesus' identity as the son of David is an important topic. Matthew pays particular attention to this title as he seeks to show the connection between Jesus and the promises of the Old Testament.2 The Apostle Paul also points to Jesus' connection to David in his preaching and writing (Romans 1:3). Thus God ensured that His word honors the one whose reign pointed to the coming King of Kings.
Paul D. Gardner, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters: The Complete Who's Who in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001); Mark J. Boda, After God's Own Heart: The Gospel according to David (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2007).