Descent From King David Today
Is there any way to research if you’re a descendant of King David? I feel I really relate to him in so many ways!
The Aish Rabbi Replies
Thank you for raising the interesting issue. It is virtually impossible for a person to know his lineage going that far back today. Interestingly, there were some early Ashkenazi Jews who had a tradition of descent from King David (though possibly on a maternal line). Since most Ashkenazi Jews are quite closely related to one another, this tradition is fairly common even in families today (including my mother’s) – as tenuous as it probably is. You can see this past response for more information about this.
Even so, regardless of if any of us are literally descended from the king, his story is one which resonates with so many of us. David was a youngster who knew he had a special soul – a caring, sensitive soul, and who knew he really could be someone in life. Yet he grew up a near outcast, with even his closest family not truly appreciating who he was. He spent some of his most precious and growth-oriented years in near seclusion – using that time to grow closer to God and to himself.
Finally, after years of being on the sidelines, at best tolerated by others – and probably even no longer sure of himself, David’s time came. God Himself called him out for greatness. The prophet Samuel came to his family to anoint the future king of Israel, and to the surprise of everyone – even Samuel himself – David was selected over his much taller and more imposing older brothers (see I Samuel 16).
Yet even at that point David was hounded for years, by such greats as King Saul and Do’eg the Edomite, as well as many others – and often by those who still considered him an outcast and an outsider. And throughout his life you can just see his humility – as one who never forgot where he came from and how insecure life truly is.
Last but not least, King David made his share of mistakes and had his share of failures in life, most notably with Bathsheba. But David picked himself up. Even when he failed he still saw himself as a loyal servant of God, just one who sometimes fails (as we all do). He never let go of God whatever happened to him or however disappointed he might have been with himself.
In all his suffering and tribulations in life, David constantly turned to God for strength and salvation. His difficulties in life – even his failures – did not drive him away from God but made him feel even closer to Him. And as is clear from his life story, God never let go of David either. David was God’s beloved. As human and fallible as he could sometimes be, he never stopped loving God – and God never stopped loving him.
Thus, again it’s no surprise that so many of us see King David as not only an inspiring role model, but as a person we can especially relate to. We can see so many of our own life experiences and insecurities in his struggles – the struggles that he ultimately overcame. And we too know that we can do the same.
We are especially blessed that King David recorded all his feelings and passions in his own hand – in the Book of Tehillim, of Psalms. We can read chapter after chapter and feel the same emotions David experienced, relating them to our own life struggles and to those of the nation. It is said that every type of human experience is touched on in the Book of Psalms – of sadness, rejection, failure, and hopelessness – as well as trust, hope, gratitude, and love. Every person can read the same words David once authored and feel the same emotions, applying them in so many ways to his own life.
Thus, again, whether we are biologically related to King David or not, his story is our story. And we can reach out to his timeless, immortal words whenever we too need solace, hope and inspiration – and whenever we too want to feel loved by God.
(See this past response for recommended chapters of Tehillim for times of need.)