David's ability to accumulate staggering riches was part of God's promise to make his name great (2Samuel 7:9). The Lord knew that his love for him, along with his humility and faith, would allow David to be blessed with unparalleled treasures without them corrupting his character.
This article will explore how King David got rich and also what was his rough net worth before dying at the age of seventy (2Samuel 5:4 - 5). We will find that he, surpassed only by his wise son Solomon, was likely the second wealthiest person of the ancient world.
Where did it come from?
Some of David's initial cash came when, after being accepted as Israel's king, he took control of the wealth left behind by Saul (the first ruler over God's people, see 2Samuel 12:7 - 8). His treasury really grew, however, when he and his men extracted rich booty from many of the people who either lived within or neighbored the territory given to the children of Israel.
The king was victorious in battle against Moab, Syria, Edom, the Philistines (on several occasions!), the Geshurites, the Gezrites, the Amalekites, the king of Zobah and others (1Samuel 27, 2Samuel 8). He also conquered the city of Jebus, which had resisted becoming an Israelite possession since the time of Joshua, and renamed it Jerusalem (2Samuel 5:6 - 7).
The booty from his military victories became the basis for David's riches. In at least one case, when the king was victorious over the Amalekites, the massive amount of plunder he retrieved was enough to share among at least thirteen cities (1Samuel 30:16 - 31)! The Bible also seems to indicate he received tribute money each year from the Moabites (2Samuel 8:2) and possibly others.
David became further rich by extracting a great quantity of quality gold from Ophir (1Chronicles 29:4), a place where Solomon would also mine vast amounts of the precious metal (1Kings 9:28, 2Chronicles 8:18). He also received gifts of gold, silver and other precious items from well-off individuals such as the king of Hamath (1Chronicles 18:9 - 10).
The Bible gives us a clue regarding David's phenomenal wealth when, nearing the end of his life, he bequeaths to his son Solomon what is needed to construct the temple.
And, behold, in my trouble I have prepared for the house of the Lord a hundred thousand talents of gold, and a million talents of silver, and of bronze and iron without weight . . . (1Chronicles 22:14).
How much is 100,000 Biblical talents of gold worth today? One talent weighs about 75 U.S. pounds or 1,094 troy ounces. A troy ounce, which weighs roughly 10% more than a U.S. (avoirdupois) ounce, is the standard used today for trading in gold and silver. Based on this measurement, the total amount the king donated for the temple was 109,400,000 troy ounces.
Assuming a modern gold price of $1,450 U.S. per troy ounce, David donated $158.63 BILLION worth of the precious metal! In regards to the silver that was provided, its total value in today's world would be $18.051 billion dollars (assuming $16.50 per troy ounce).
Amazingly, even after dedicating vast riches to God's house, David generously added 3,000 talents of Ophir gold (known to be finest in the world, Isaiah 13:12) and 7,000 talents of silver! This extra-special contribution was dedicated to overlaying the new temple's walls (1Chronicles 29:3 - 4) and increases his net worth by 4.88 billion dollars.
The value of the king's fortune, however, does not stop at $181.5 billion. He also collected, for Jerusalem's temple, bronze, marble, expensive woods, onyx and other precious stones, brass, and so on "beyond number" (1Chronicles 22:1 - 4, 16, 29:2). He personally owned a home specially designed and built from the finest cedar trees (2Samuel 5:11) and, no doubt, owned still other precious possessions not recorded in Scripture.
King David, a man after God's own heart (1Samuel 13:14), was fabulously rich during his life. He generously bequeathed, as his last great offering to God, the finest materials for constructing and furnishing Jerusalem's house of prayer. His net worth easily exceeded $200 billion dollars.
David ultimately gave so much more treasure than was needed for the temple that a large chunk of it was buried with him in his tomb. Read the fascinating story of the three known historical attempts to steal his riches in our article entitled "Raiders of David's Lost Tomb!"