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bible dictionary online
Biographies of Bible Characters, People and characters in the Bible
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Da | Dav | De | Dem | Di | Do | Dr | Du

Names beginning with D

This guide is intended for visitors who want to learn more about the Bible. Please use the hyperlinks in the table above to navigate this page. If you have any comments or suggestions to make about this guide, please e-mail me by clicking on this link.


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Damaris was an Athenian woman who became a Christian after hearing Paul's address to the Areopagus. Acts 17.34

Damascus (the king of) was an otherwise unnamed ruler who received tribute from the Syrian armies that raided Judah in the reign of Joash. 2 Chronicles 24.23

Dan was the fifth son of Jacob, his first by Rachel's maid Bilhah. The name means “he judged”. Genesis 30.6; 35.25; 46.23; 49.16-18; Exodus 1.4; Numbers 26.42; 1 Chronicles 2.2

Daniel was a (possibly legendary) Jew deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim's reign. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, all of whom had been chosen to serve in the royal household, adopted a vegetarian diet to avoid breaking Jewish ritual laws. He found favour with Nebuchadnezzar by interpreting a cryptic dream. Later he disobeyed a royal edict that prayer be addressed only to Darius, who had him thrown into the celebrated lions' den. Daniel survived this ordeal and his accusers were thrown to the lions. In addition to the stories about his deeds, the book named for Daniel contains accounts of apocalyptic and prophetic dreams. Daniel 1.6-12.13

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Darda was one of three sons of Mahol, celebrated for their wisdom, with which that of Solomon is favourably compared by the author of 1 Kings. 1 Kings 4.31

Darius was a Persian ruler (ca. 521-485 B.C.) well-known to secular history. He figures in various Old Testament narratives for his sponsorship of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem, which had been destroyed by Nebuzaradan. When his officers opposed the work, Darius authorised a search of the royal archives and discovered a record of Cyrus' decree that the temple should be restored. After this Darius gave the project his support, made new decrees to provide building materials and produce for offerings, and instituted harsh penalties (including impalement and desecration of houses) for any who tried to interfere with the work. Ezra 4.5, 24; 5.5-6.15; Haggai 1.1; 2.1, 10; Zechariah 1.1, 7; 7.1

Darius the Mede is not the Persian ruler of this name. This Darius appears only in Daniel, according to which he overthrew Belshazzar (though secular history indicates that Cyrus accomplished this). Darius apparently instituted a system of satrapies to administer his dominions (a feat that secular history ascribes to his namesake, the Persian ruler). Darius was also responsible for passing the law whereby Daniel was consigned to the lions' den, and for throwing the young man's accusers into the den, when Daniel survived the ordeal, subsequently passing another law, commanding worship of the God of the Israelites. Daniel 55.30-6.28; 9.1; 11.1

Dathan was the son of Eliab, a confederate of Korah in rebelling against Moses. The revolt gained some popular support, but an earth tremor, which “swallowed” the rebels, swiftly ended it. Dathan and Korah became known as archetypes of sedition, and later writings frequently alluded to their rebellion. Numbers 16.1-34; 26.9,10; Deuteronomy 11.6; Psalms 106.17

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David was the son of Jesse, father of Solomon (among many children) and king, first of Judah and later of Israel (ca. 1000-961 B.C.). His reign marked a golden age of peace and prosperity for the Jews. After Saul's disobedience (in sparing Agag's life) and apparent rejection by God, the prophet Samuel anointed David, the youngest of Jesse's eight sons, in preparation for his future reign. David subsequently became known to Saul, and 1 Samuel gives two accounts of this: the first tells how David, an able musician, played the lyre to soothe the king when he was suffering from depression (or plagued by an evil spirit); the second is the familiar tale of David's killing of the Philistine giant, Goliath. (This story seems to be contradicted by 2 Samuel 21.19, which identifies Goliath's killer as Elhanan, one of David's soldiers.)

Following his defeat of the Philistine champion, David became a close friend of Saul's son Jonathan, who made a covenant with him, giving him armour and weapons as a pledge of friendship. David's relations with Saul, though, deteriorated as the king became jealous of the younger man. Saul tried to bring about David's death, indirectly, by setting him an apparently impossibly dangerous task for the hand of his daughter Michal (obtaining the foreskins of a hundred Philistines, a feat which David managed twice over). Later Saul attacked David with a spear and drove him from his house. While Saul berated his son for aiding David, the young man fled to Nob, where he received food and a sword (that of Goliath) from Ahimelech, the priest, who apparently believed David's claim that he was on the king's business.

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David now began a temporary existence as a roving outlaw chieftain, and, with six hundred or so men who chose to follow him, delivered from Philistine occupation the town of Keilah, but was forced to leave when he discovered that the townspeople intended to hand him over to Saul. David soon had an opportunity to free himself from Saul's persecution, but declined to take it, an incident of which two versions survive in 1 Samuel. In one account, Saul, wishing to attend to natural needs, entered a cave in which David and some of his men were hidden. David stealthily cut off part of Saul's robe without the king's noticing it. Once Saul was at a safe distance, David called to him to tell him what he had done, pointing out how he had refrained from harming Saul. The second version of this story tells how David and some of his men entered Saul's camp by night, again declining to harm him, but taking a water jug from by his head as evidence, and, in this account too, informing the king of how his life had been spared.

During his outlaw period David was also opposed by Nabal, a wealthy landowner, but was dissuaded from harming him by Nabal's wife, Abigail. After Nabal's sudden death, Abigail became David's wife. Following this incident David became an ally of the Philistine ruler, Achish of Gath, who employed him to make armed raids on the neighbouring peoples. As a result of this employment, David found himself being required to fight as a mercenary of the Philistines against Saul. He was ultimately spared having to fight the king by the objections of Achish's allies, the other Philistine kings. These thought it unwise to have Hebrew troops in their muster for the battle, fought on Mount Gilboa, in which Saul fell, and Israel suffered a crushing defeat.

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After the death of Saul, David was made king of Judah, and made Hebron his first capital. His forces fought skirmishes against the troops led by Abner, Saul's commander, in the name of the late king's son, Ish-bosheth. A quarrel between Ish-bosheth and Abner led to Abner's transferring his loyalties to David, who thus became ruler of all Israel. David's position was endangered by Joab's murder of Abner (an action publicly deplored by the king (but impossible to punish because of Joab's power). When Ish-bosheth was assassinated David won favour with supporters of Saul by his swift and uncompromising punishment of the murderers (who had expected a reward for their crime) and this was consolidated by David's kind treatment of Saul's grandson, Mephibosheth. This popularity grew with the military success of the new king against the Philistines, and his daring capture of the apparently impregnable fortified town of Jerusalem. A small force of David's best soldiers used the tunnel by which water bearers would enter the city, and managed to open the gates of the town to the rest of David's men. After this Jerusalem became David's capital, and eventually the recaptured Ark of the Covenant was brought there. Later David won further victories over the neighbouring peoples of Moab, Syria and Edom, and later, Ammon.

David's fortunes took a turn for the worse when, having seduced Bathsheba and discovered her to be pregnant, he married her, having first arranged with Joab for her husband, Uriah, to be placed in a desperate position in battle. The prophet Nathan condemned the king and forecast the death of Bathsheba's child; after the child had died Bathsheba bore David another son, Solomon.

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Nathan had further predicted evil from his own house for David and this began after the capture of Rabbah (in the siege of which Uriah died): first one son, Amnon, raped a daughter (his half-sister) Tamar, only to be murdered by Tamar's full brother, David's favourite son Absalom, who then fled from punishment. After three years of exile Absalom was reconciled to David by the wiles of Joab, but peace was short-lived. Blaming the country's injustices and maladministration on his father, Absalom courted popularity and eventually rebelled, causing David to quit Jerusalem in haste, fearing for his life. However, after David's persuading his friend Hushai to pose as a supporter of Absalom (and both give him bad advice and pass on information about his forces to the king), Joab crushed the rebels in battle, and killed Absalom. David, heartbroken at the death of his son, mourned him, rather than celebrate his victory until the angry Joab reminded him of his duty to his friends.

In an effort to reunite his dominions David forgave many of those who had opposed him in his son's rebellion, and replaced the unpopular Joab with Amasa, who held his post of commander only until the rebellion led by Sheba. Amasa's failure to quell the revolt promptly led Joab to intervene, kill Amasa, muster the army, defeat Sheba and resume command of the king's troops. A three-year famine, blamed on bloodguilt attaching to the house of Saul forced David to sanction the execution of the late king's remaining descendants (save Mephibosheth). Following further wars with the Philistines, David tried to carry out a census of the Hebrews. Divinely rebuked for this and instructed to select one of three dire punishments to fall on Israel, David chose a plague (preferring a divine to a human agent of retribution) and the epidemic was limited by God's intervention. David saw a vision of an angel destroying the victims of the plague. Seeing the destruction halted, the over-awed David insisted on buying the site of the vision, and here he had an altar erected.

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In his old age Abishag the Shunnamite tended the ailing king. Though it was generally supposed that the king's heir was his eldest son, Adonijah, he had apparently promised that Bathsheba's son, Solomon, should succeed him. When Bathsheba reminded him of this, David had Solomon crowned, giving him, before dying, instructions or, how to rule wisely, and advice on whom to punish and whom to reward. David had ruled for forty years, when he died.

In addition to his military and political achievements, David was renowned as a musician: he is credited with the composition of many of the Psalms. Ruth 4.22; 1 Samuel 16.11-1 Kings 2.12, 32; 8.17-20; 9.4; 2 Kings 21.7; 1 Chronicles 2.15; 3.1-9; 6.31; 10.14-29.30; Psalms 3-9; 11-32; 34-41; 51-65; 68-70; 86; 89.3, 20, 35, 49; 101; 103; 108-110; 122.5; 124; 131; 132.1, 10, 11, 17; 138-145; Isaiah 29.1; Ezekiel 37.24, 25; Matthew 1.1, 6, 17; 12.3; Luke 3.31; 6.3; 20.41-44; John 71.42; Acts 2.25-31; 4.25,26; 7.45, 46; 13. 22, 23, 34, 36; Hebrews 4.7; 11.32; Revelation 3.7; 22.16

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Debir was a king of Eglon; ally of Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem, and three other petty chieftains, against Joshua and the Israelites. Having attacked the Gibeonites, who had become allies of Israel, Joshua counterattacked, and defeated the five chieftains. Fleeing from the battle, the five hid in a cave at Makkedah, but were discovered and hanged. There may be some error in Debir's name as elsewhere it is the name of a place. Joshua 10.3-27

Debir (the king of) was an anonymous Palestinian chieftain defeated by Joshua in the struggle for Canaan. Joshua 10.39; 12.13

Deborah (1) was Rebekah's nurse. She died as Jacob's household journeyed from Shechem to Mamre, and was buried by an oak tree, named Allon-bacuth, near Bethel. Genesis 35.8

Deborah (2) was the wife of Lappidoth, a prophetess and liberator of Israel from subjection to Jabin, king of Canaan. Deborah appointed Barak commander of an army drawn from Zebulun and Naphtali, and instructed him to attack the forces of Jabin, led by his general, Sisera, by the brook Kishon. She foretold, however, how Sisera would fall by the hand of a woman. Jael fulfilled this prophecy after Barak's great victory, which was celebrated in a song composed by Barak and Deborah. Judges 4.4-5.31; Hebrews 11.32

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Dedan (1) was the son of Raamah, a descendant of Noah and of Ham. Genesis 10.7

Dedan (2) was the son of Jokshan, a descendant of Abraham. Genesis 25.3; 1 Chronicles 1.32

Delaiah was the son of Shemaiah, an officer in the government of Jehoiakim. Jeremiah 36.12-25

Delilah was a Philistine concubine (and betrayer) of Samson. She went to great lengths to discover the secret of Samson's enormous strength, being at first deceived by him, but at length learning its connection with his uncut hair. Delilah gave this information to the Philistine lords, who paid her eleven hundred pieces of silver, before capturing Samson. Judges 16.4-20

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Demas was a Christian (perhaps more than one of the same name) referred to in Paul's letters. In his epistles to the Colossians and to Philemon (who lived in Colossae) Paul includes greetings from Demas. In 2 Timothy Demas is said to be “in love with this present world” and has deserted Paul. Colossians 4.14; 2 Timothy 4.10; Philemon 24

Demetrius (1) was an Ephesian silversmith, and opponent of Paul. The business of Demetrius and his colleagues was to make silver shrines for Artemis (Diana) whose temple at Ephesus was one of the seven “wonders” of the classical world. Feeling threatened by the success of Paul's preaching, Demetrius appealed to the business sense of his fellows and their loyalty to the city's patron deity and provoked a riot, accusing the apostle of blasphemy against Artemis. Paul's friends restrained him from addressing the hostile mob, which soon gathered, and eventually the town clerk persuaded them to disperse peaceably. Pointing out to Demetrius and his fellows the right of redress through the courts, should Paul be doing anything illegal or injurious to lawful trade, he reminded the crowd of their danger of being charged by the Roman authorities with rioting. Acts 19.24-41

Demetrius (2) was a Christian of the church to which the third of the letters of John was despatched. Demetrius is credited with being held in high regard as a model Christian by everyone, including the author of the letter. 3 John 12

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Diklah was a descendant of Noah and of Shem. Genesis 10.27

Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah, raped by Shechem, who then offered to marry her. Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, murdered Shechem and his kinsmen, and avenged the rape. Genesis 30.21; 34.1-31; 46.15

Dionysius was an Athenian, a member of the Areopagus, converted to Christianity by Paul's preaching to the Stoic and Epicurean philosophers. Acts 17.34

Diotrephes was an opponent of the apostle John, in whose third epistle he is condemned for his selfishness. 3 John 9

Dodai was an Ahohite, the commander of a part of David's army for one month annually, according to the Chronicler. 1 Chronicles 27.4

Dodanim was the son of Javan, a descendant of Japheth and of Noah. Genesis 10.4

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Doeg was an Edomite, the chief herdsman of Saul. Doeg was at Nob when Abimelech gave David food and the sword of Goliath. Doeg later reported this to Saul, who ordered the deaths of Abimelech and the other priests. As none of the king's soldiers would carry out this order, Doeg did so, afterwards attacking the city of Nob and slaughtering its inhabitants. 1 Samuel 21.7; 22.9-19, 22; Psalms 52

Dor (the king of) was a petty ruler whom Joshua defeated. The king's name is absent from the narrative, appearing only in a list of defeated enemies of Israel. Joshua 12.23

Dorcas is the Greek form of the Aramaic name, Tabitha. Both Dorcas and Tabitha mean “gazelle”. Acts 9.36-41

Drusilla, the sister of Herod Agrippa II and of Bernice, was the wife of Antonius Felix, procurator of Palestine. With her husband, she listened to Paul's preaching. Acts 24.24

Dumah was the sixth son of Ishmael, a grandson of Abraham. Genesis 25.14; 1 Chronicles 1.30

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