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House of David

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Master of James IV of Scotland Flemish, Bruges and Ghent or Mechelen, 1510 - 1520 Tempera colors

House of David, (also Davidic line or Davidic Dynasty, sometimes referred to as Royal House of Israel), known in Hebrew as Malkhut Beit David ("Monarchy of the House of David") refers to the tracing of royal lineage by kings and major leaders in Jewish history to the Biblical King David in Christianity and Judaism.


Upon being chosen and becoming king, the custom in the times of the Tanakh was to be anointed with olive oil poured on the head. In David's case, this was done by the prophet Samuel. The anointing is called meshīkha (meaning "pouring") in Hebrew which is why a king (melekh in Hebrew) is referred to as a Māshīach or Messiah or a Melech HaMāshīach meaning "The Anointed King". The procedure of anointment, in David's case, symbolized the descent of God's holiness (kedusha) upon the king and as a sign of a bond never to be broken.

Since the monarchy was vouchsafed to David by God in the Books of Samuel:

As well as in the Books of Chronicles:

Thus all subsequent monarchs in both the ancient first united Kingdom of Israel and the later Kingdom of Judah needed to show their direct descent from King David to validate their claim to the throne in order to rule over the Israelite and Jewish people in perpetuity.

The House of David inscription is a victory stele found in Tel Dan, Israel, which dates to the 9th Century BC. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

In cases where this rule was broken, the verdict of history has not been kind according to classical understandings within traditional Judaism. Two important examples are:

  • After the death of King Solomon son of David, the ten northern tribes of the Kingdom of Israel revolted against the Davidic line, refusing to accept Rehoboam son of Solomon and instead chose as king Jeroboam who was not a member of King David's family. The fate of this northern kingdom was sealed when they were eventually conquered by Assyria who exiled them completely until they became The Ten Lost Tribes.
  • The Hasmoneans, also known as the Maccabees, who were priests (Kōhēnīm) from the Tribe of Levi, established a monarchy of their own in Judea following their revolt and war against the Hellenistic Seleucid dynasty. The Hasmoneans were not connected to the Davidic line that is attached to the Tribe of Judah. The Levites had always been excluded from the Israelite monarchy. When the Maccabees assumed the throne in order to re-dedicate the defiled Second Temple, a cardinal rule was nevertheless broken, and it has been considered to be contributing to their own downfall, and part of the eventual downfall of Judea and when internal strife brought in Rome and resulted in the violent non-Jewish Herod the Great becoming king, and eventually ended with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Roman Empire according to scholars within Orthodox Judaism.

With the cessation of the Jewish monarchy following the destructions of both the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple, the line of the monarchy was always carefully preserved and guarded even though no kings such as David and his immediate descendants were alive. It was from that supposed Davidic line though that many great rabbis and "princes" of the people were claimed descent. Thus men such as the editor of the Mishnah, Rabbi Judah HaNasi and his heirs were considered to be from the Davidic line, hence also the title "Nasi" meaning "prince". Many of the heads of the Jewish communities in Babylon, the Reish Galuta were also described as being of the Davidic line.

Subsequently, great rabbis such as Rashi, who was a descendant of Judah HaNasi, and the Maharal of Prague, were all considered to be from the Davidic line by Orthodox Judaism. Note, however, that according to Rav Sherira Gaon, in his iggeret, Hillel the Elder, great-great-great-grandfather of Rabbi Judah HaNasi, was descended from David only on his mother's side, and was actually of the Tribe of Benjamin.

The future Jewish Messiah is expected to be from the "Davidic line" (The Tree of Life), see Jewish eschatology. Many prayers in the Jewish prayer book, the Siddur make fervent mention for the restoration of King David's monarchy, and the long-awaited Messiah who is referred to as Mashiach ben David, "Messiah son of [King] David".

Christian view

It is stated in the Christian Gospels that Jesus Christ was descended from David and has been Head of his dynastic house since birth, and is thereby the lawful King of Israel (Matthew 1). Although Christian faith has it that Jesus was born of a Virgin, Mary, and, consequently, has no natural human father, he is nevertheless considered to be a Prince of Judah as though Mary's husband Joseph were in fact his father. According to Jewish law a man can unilaterally deny paternity at any time until the child has children of his or her own.

Also, the New Testament lists two different genealogies for Jesus, one at the beginning of Matthew and one in Luke 3:23-38. Matthew says "A was the father of B, B was the father of C", etc. Luke, however, uses a word that can mean either "biological son" or "descendant", in the form "C was the son of B, who was the son of A". Matthew shows a lineage from David, father of Solomon and Luke shows a lineage through Nathan, a son of David. A common explanation offered by Christian biblical scholars is that Matthew is stating Joseph's line and Luke is stating Mary's line. Under this interpretation, Jesus would be a biological descendant of David through his mother. It is often this descent that is depicted in the Tree of Jesse subject in art, which usually shows Mary but rarely Joseph.

Also religious commune

House of David was a religious commune founded in 1902. The group was founded by Benjamin Purnell. Based in and around Benton Harbor, Michigan and High Island (Michigan), the commune required its members to refrain from sex, haircuts, shaving, and the eating of meat. Starting around 1907 the community ran "The Springs of Eden Park" which became a popular Michigan vacation spot in the 1930s.

The House of David operated a famous barnstorming baseball team, which toured rural America from the 1920s to the 1950s, playing amateur and semi-pro teams in exhibition games. The organization also fielded nationally known musical bands between 1906 and 1927. During that period these bands toured the country almost non-stop primarily on the three top vaudeville circuits: the Pantages, the Keith and the Orpheum. The House of David also operated a world famous Amusement Park & Zoo

The House of David commune reached the peak of its operations in 1907-1927. Difficulties arose in the 1920s, as the Detroit Free Press and other newspapers began running articles attacking Purnell, who was accused of violating the commune's oath of celibacy. Purnell was tried in Berrien County for "public immorality," and 13 young women, placed under oath, confessed to having had sex with the patriarch. The trial led to Purnell's expulsion from the commune in 1927, and the former leader died in 1929, his body remains mummified in a glass coffin in the commune. The group suffered further splintering after his death and ultimately split into two groups. One group, run by Benjamin Purnell's wife Mary, remained successful until her death at 91 in 1953. The group has since declined, but still has a few dozen members.


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