The story of David in short, as requested:

We know from the Gemara (Brachos 48b) that "one kingdom cannot overlap another by a hairsbreadth". So when did David become King? When G-d regretted that He had made Shaul king? At David's anointment? When Shaul died? When Ishboshes was killed?

  • Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/13092/5
    – Seth J
    Commented Jul 29, 2013 at 1:53
  • I thought judaism is based on revelation to the whole nation. Samuel anointed Dave privately and the rest of Israelites must "know" that he is a legitimate king?
    – user4951
    Commented Apr 1, 2017 at 7:14
  • @JimThio You're confusing two very different things. Judaism is based on the mass revelation at Sinai, yes. That doesn't mean that every subsequent communication from G-d must be via mass revelation. That's why there are prophets, to further communicate the word of the G-d that we heard at Sinai. David's authority was established by the prophet Shmuel, and was not a secret.
    – HodofHod
    Commented Apr 3, 2017 at 22:48
  • The idea that judaism is based on mass revelation comes from the idea that if it were not, A can say God told me that I shall be king. If it's private anyway, anyone can say God told me that I shall be king. In fact, every civil war in theocracy is based on different opinion on who God wants to be king
    – user4951
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 7:52
  • A complete lecture dedicated to this topic: etzion.org.il/he/tanakh/neviim/sefer-shmuel-bet/…
    – Binyomin
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 14:08

2 Answers 2


David's status after his anointing and before Shaul's death was actually, according to Megillah 14b, the subject of a halachic dispute between him and Avigayil. David himself held that he was a king for all purposes, and that therefore Naval (who had denied his men food and insulted him - I Sam. 25) was a rebel against the monarchy and could be put to death without trial. Avigayil countered that this is incorrect, because "Shaul is still alive and טבעך has not yet spread out in the world," and David conceded the point.

(The Soncino translation renders טבעך as "your fame," but Rambam (Hil. Gezeilah 5:18) - apparently based on this Gemara (see Beur HaGra, Choshen Mishpat 369:9) - understands it to mean "coinage." He thus draws a distinction between a king whose coinage circulates, demonstrating that the people accept him as a legitimate ruler, and one who does not enjoy this confidence. David, then, was in the latter category during this period.)

After Shaul's death, David was indeed a king, just that at first he ruled only the tribe of Yehudah (II Sam. 2:4), with Ish Boshes ruling over the other tribes for part or all of this period (see commentaries ibid. 2:10-11). We find that the later kings of Yisrael vs. Yehudah were considered coequal for halachic purposes (Yerushalmi, Horios 3:2), so presumably the same would have applied to David and Ish Boshes: each was a king within his own sphere of influence (thus not violating the rule about "one kingship overlapping the other"). At any rate, the seven and a half years before the rest of the tribes accepted David as king are counted towards the total length of his reign (II Sam. 5:5 and I Kings 2:11).

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    Political scientists like to distinguish between government de jure (on the books) and government de facto (facts on the ground); Rambam's currency argument establishes de facto. So after annointing he was king de jure, but not de facto.
    – Shalom
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:53
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    What about the fact that anointing a king must be done with the presence of the Sanhedrin, as Malbim points out at David's third anointing, which implies that he was not halachically a king until then?
    – jake
    Commented Nov 16, 2011 at 23:53
  • @jake: maybe indeed that's required only for someone who will be ruling the entire people? We see that the zekeinim aren't mentioned in connection with Ish Boshes' appointment either (nor, for that matter, Yeravam's, or Yehu's, or any of the other later kings).
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 0:12
  • Was Ish Boshes anointed? Certainly none of the later malchei yisrael were anointed with the shemen hamishcha (Yehu was anointed because of his rivalry with someone else (can't remember) and not even with the shemen hamishcha) which implies that none of them had the complete halachic status as kings anyway.
    – jake
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 0:20
  • 1
    @jake: hadn't seen your last comment earlier. That was precisely the argument between David and Avigayil, no? Later on we see that the halachos of mored b'malchus were applied (falsely, but in keeping with legal protocol) regarding Achav and Navos, which also demonstrates that they apply to a king over part of the nation - as Achav was, and as David was after Shaul's death.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 0:36

What about the fact that it is possible that David was king of ONLY Judah for 2 years and then remained in Hevron but was king over all of Israel for 5.5 more years before moving to Jerusalem?

This seems like a likely idea given that Ish Boshet did not make a very good king and needed Avner to keep his kingship. If that is the case David became king 2 years after Shaul's death.

  • You mean king over all of Israel two years after Shaul's death. How would you like to explain Shmuel 2 5:5?
    – jake
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 1:43
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    Oh, by the way, morah hochman, welcome to judaism.SE. Stick around and ask/answer more questions!
    – jake
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 1:45
  • So in Shmuel 5.5 the math doesn't work. It tells us that David was king for 40 yrs. He was king in Hevron for 7.5yrs and in Jerusalem for 33yrs. Which is it 40yrs or 40.5yrs. The Rabbis teach that he was really king in Jerusalem for 32.5 yrs but in order to give honor to Jerusalem the number is rounded up in the text. Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 2:11
  • Yes, indeed. What I was referring to, though, was that the pasuk there specifies that David was king over Yehuda for 7.5 years in Chevron and over Israel for 33 years in Jerusalem. This does not seem to fit with your "possibility" that he ruled over Israel already 5.5 years before moving to Jerusalem.
    – jake
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 2:17
  • @jake, actually, Malbim to II Sam. 2:10 suggests that indeed Ish Boshes ruled over eleven tribes for just two years, and then for the next five and a half years his kingdom gradually diminished - with more and more tribes or segments of tribes going over to David. So in a way, it's not completely incorrect to say that David ruled over more than Yehudah during that period.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 17, 2011 at 4:53

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