Yaakov and David



Yaakov, the father of the Children of Israel, and David, the founder of the dynastic monarchy, are two of the most central figures in all of Jewish history.  Strikingly, there are numerous similarities between the general trajectories of their lives and the specific events which befall them.  In some of these cases, the parallels are also underscored by linguistic similarities between their respective verses.

Plot Parallels

 Sibling Rivalry
  • Rejected and chosen – The fathers of each of Yaakov and David pass over them in favor of their older brothers, but they are nonetheless selected by Divine input.
  • Relationship to older brothers – Yaakov is hated by Esav, and David is scorned by his siblings, but both later reconcile with their brothers .
  • Unusual bridal price – Both pay an exorbitant price to marry their wives.  Yaakov shepherds for seven years, while David provides one-hundred Philistine foreskins.
  • Wife switch – Yaakov is promised the younger Rachel but given the elder Leah, while David is promised the elder Meirav but given the younger Michal.
  • Double work – Yaakov and David each pay a double dowry, with Yaakov shepherding for an extra seven years and David supplying an extra one-hundred Philistine foreskins.
Relationship with Father-in-law1
  • Jealousy and escape – Yaakov and David are each compelled to flee when their respective fathers-in-law become jealous of their successes.
  • Terafim – Terafim play a role in both escapes. Rachel steals them2 and Michal disguises them as David.
  • Divine protection – Lavan and Shaul pursue and attempt to murder their sons-in-law, but Yaakov and David are saved by Divine providence.
  • Robbing of wives – Yaakov fears that Lavan wants to steal his wives.  Shaul takes David's wife, Michal, and gives her in marriage to another man.
  • Cold peace – In both cases, a covenant is sealed that neither side will harm the other.
  • Employers – Yaakov shepherds for Lavan (לבן), while David watches the sheep of Naval (נבל).  The employers' names are palindromes of each other.3
  • Sheep shearing – In both stories, the shearing of sheep is the backdrop for complications.
  • Conscientious laborer – Both Yaakov and David work day and night to ensure that no sheep are lost or harmed.
  • Unfair compensation – Yaakov complains of his wages being switched, and David is angered that Naval displayed no gratitude for his protection.
Problems with Children
  • Rivalry – Each of Yaakov and David suffer greatly from the rivalry amongst their children
  • Rejection – Three older sons (Reuven, Shimon, and Levi, and Amnon,4 Avshalom, and Adoniyahu) do not inherit the leadership mantle because of their actions.
  • Sins:
    • Firstborns (Reuven and Amnon) engage in intra-familial sexual misconduct (also Avshalom).
    • Next in line sons (Shimon and Levi and Avshalom) avenge their sister's rape by killing the rapist, to the displeasure of their father.
  • Rape – The two daughters, Dinah and Tamar, are raped.
 Chosen Sons
  • Sons of favorite wife – Yosef and Shelomo, sons of the favored wives, are chosen by their fathers in place of their older siblings.
  • Characteristics – There are many additional parallels between the traits and lives of Yosef and Shelomo.

Literary Allusions

The Yaakov stories cover almost half of the book of Bereshit, while the David narratives span even more of the book of Shemuel.  Given the broad scope of these stories and the distinct similarities in content, it is not surprising that there are also some linguistic parallels.5  Here is a selection of a few of the more distinctive ones:

יעקב  (ספר בראשית) דוד  (ספר שמואל)
(כט:כא)  וַיֹּאמֶר יַעֲקֹב אֶל לָבָן הָבָה אֶת אִשְׁתִּי כִּי מָלְאוּ יָמָי וְאָבוֹאָה אֵלֶיהָ (שמ"א יח:כג)  וַיִּשַׁר הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי דָוִד לְהִתְחַתֵּן בַּמֶּלֶךְ וְלֹא מָלְאוּ הַיָּמִים
(לא:נג)  אֱלֹהֵי אַבְרָהָם וֵאלֹהֵי נָחוֹר יִשְׁפְּטוּ בֵינֵינוּ אֱלֹהֵי אֲבִיהֶם (שמ"א כד:יב)  יִשְׁפֹּט ה' בֵּינִי וּבֵינֶךָ וּנְקָמַנִי ה' מִמֶּךָּ וְיָדִי לֹא תִהְיֶה בָּךְ
(לא:מ)  הָיִיתִי בַיּוֹם אֲכָלַנִי חֹרֶב וְקֶרַח בַּלָּיְלָה וַתִּדַּד שְׁנָתִי מֵעֵינָי (שמ"א כה:טז)  חוֹמָה הָיוּ עָלֵינוּ גַּם לַיְלָה גַּם יוֹמָם כָּל יְמֵי הֱיוֹתֵנוּ עִמָּם רֹעִים הַצֹּאן
(לד:ז)  כִּי נְבָלָה עָשָׂה בְיִשְׂרָאֵל... וְכֵן לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה (שמ"ב י"ג:יב)  לֹא יֵעָשֶׂה כֵן בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל אַל תַּעֲשֵׂה אֶת הַנְּבָלָה הַזֹּאת
(לז:ד)  וַיִּרְאוּ אֶחָיו כִּי אֹתוֹ אָהַב אֲבִיהֶם מִכָּל אֶחָיו וַיִּשְׂנְאוּ אֹתוֹ וְלֹא יָכְלוּ דַּבְּרוֹ לְשָׁלֹם (שמ"ב י"ג:כב)  וְלֹא דִבֶּר אַבְשָׁלוֹם עִם אַמְנוֹן לְמֵרָע וְעַד טוֹב כִּי שָׂנֵא אַבְשָׁלוֹם אֶת אַמְנוֹן עַל דְּבַר אֲשֶׁר עִנָּה אֵת תָּמָר אֲחֹתוֹ
(לז:לד-לה)  וַיִּתְאַבֵּל עַל בְּנוֹ יָמִים רַבִּים... וַיְמָאֵן לְהִתְנַחֵם (שמ"ב י"ג:לז,לט)  וַיִּתְאַבֵּל עַל בְּנוֹ כָּל הַיָּמִים... כִּי נִחַם עַל אַמְנוֹן



Tanakh portrays its heroes as fully human; it does not hide either their own foibles or those of their families.  Each of the lives of Yaakov and David are depicted as full of trials and tribulations.  Leadership and success are not bequeathed to them on a silver platter, but are rather earned, and sometimes lost, by never ending hardships.  The only constant is the protective hand of Hashem which ensures their ultimate safety and salvation.  Given the consistency of Divine providence and the patterns of human behavior, the content parallels are not so surprising.

In some of the individual units within the David narratives, the literary allusions to the Yaakov stories may highlight parallels and contrasts and reflect the text's moral judgment of the characters.  For an example of this, see Shekhem and Dinah – Amnon and Tamar.