JESSE (Heb. יִשָׁי ,יִשַׁי), father of King *David. According to the Book of Ruth (4:17–22), Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth and was listed among the descendants of Pereẓ, son of Judah, who lived in Beth-Lehem. When *Samuel anointed David, he invited Jesse and his sons to a feast in their honor, which was a natural thing to do, in order to avoid arousing Saul's suspicions (I Sam. 16:1–5). It is possible that it is his social position that is indicated in the Hebrew text of I Samuel 17:12, which says of Jesse that he "was an old man… who entered among men (of standing)" (Heb. ba-anashim). The word "men" in this context has been compared with its semantic parallel, Akkadian awēlu, which in Mesopotamian society refers to men of the upper stratum, namely the elders and chiefs of the community. The stories concerning David mention Jesse's flocks, but his standing and his descent from Boaz suggest that he was also a landowner. It must be noted that both the Greek Septuagint and the Syriac Peshitta (see *Bible: Translations) presuppose a Hebrew: ba ba-shanim, "entered into years," i.e. "old."

[Samuel Ephraim Loewenstamm /

S. David Sperling (2nd ed.)]

In the Aggadah

Jesse merited to be the ancestor of the royal house by virtue of his own good deeds. He expounded Torah to a multitude of 60 myriads (Yev. 76b). His father-in-law Ithra, an Ishmaelite, converted to Judaism and gave Jesse his daughter in marriage, when he heard him recite Isaiah 45:22 "Look unto Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth" (TJ, Yev. 8:3, 9b). After the birth of his sixth son, Jesse separated from his wife for three years but on one occasion attempted to seduce one of his female slaves. His wife, however, disguised herself as the slave girl (on the latter's advice), and it was thus that David was conceived (Yal. Mak. to Ps. 118:28). It was Jesse who encouraged David to slay Goliath and thus protect King Saul, seeing in it a continuation of the protection which Judah (David's ancestor) had afforded to Benjamin (Saul's ancestor) in Egypt (Tanḥ. B., Gen. 104). David's cruelty toward the Moabites (II Sam. 8:2) is justified by the fact that it was they who had treacherously killed Jesse after David had entrusted him to their care while he fled from Saul (cf. I Sam. 22:3; Num. R. 14:1). It is also stated, however, that Jesse was one of the four persons who were untainted by sin and died merely because death was decreed upon all mankind, as a result of the serpent's seduction of Eve. It is for this reason that Abigail, who was really Jesse's daughter, is referred to by Scripture (II Sam. 17:25) as "the daughter of Nahash" ("serpent"; BB 17a). Jesse is one of the eight "messianic princes among men" referred to in Micah 5:4 (Suk. 52b).


IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1954), 81, 86; 6 (1959), 245, 249–53; I. Ḥasida, Ishei ha-Tanakh (1964), 239–40. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Bar-Efrat, I amuel (1996), 225.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.