Q. What is the history of the Magen David?
It is not mentioned in the T’nach or Talmud; in those days the Jewish symbol was the menorah. The earliest literary reference is in a Karaite work of the 12th century, where it is mentioned alongside the names of the angels. The symbol itself was found on a Jewish tombstone from 3rd century Southern Italy and on a Jewish seal of the 7th century, but in both cases it has no specifically Jewish significance.
The link between David and the star is uncertain. Perhaps it is David’s monogram in ancient Hebrew script. Theologians suggest it reflects themes in David’s Psalms such as man reaching up to heaven and God reaching down to man. Others see in it the human being raised upward by the good inclination and dragged down by the evil inclination.
It may have become a Jewish symbol when European Jews, seeing that churches bore the sign of a cross, sought a symbol of their own. When Israel became a state in 1948, the Magen David was officially adopted as a symbol on the flag.