Hacham David Papo was born to Sultana and Shlomo in Kushta (Istanbul of today) on 22 Iyar 5608 (1848). In 1855, at the age of seven, he immigrated with his family to the Land of Israel, where they settled in Jerusalem. His father dealt in commerce. Hacham David Papo studied with sages Yitzhak Ashkenazi, Yaakov Meir and Mordecai Israel, and was ordained to the rabbinate in Jerusalem. He married Mazal, and the couple had four children Victoria, Shlomo, Meir and Sultana; they lived from his father's estate until a fire destroyed all his wealth.
Hacham David Papo moved to Tripoli, Libya, where he was appointed Chief Rabbi (1893). In 1895, he received an appointment from Kushta and went to serve as rabbi and head of the rabbinic court in Russe, Bulgaria. He was appointed Chief Rabbi of Monastiri (today's Bitula, Macedonia) in 1901, which he left to serve as Chief Rabbi of Baghdad, 1903. He remained in this position for a period of seven years, and during this time had a large Talmud Torah built that also ran a kitchen for orphans and needy people.
Hacham Papo returned to Jerusalem from Baghdad, where he served as head of a rabbinic court and head of the Misgav LaDach hospital. Hacham David Papo's two books were published in Jerusalem: Bni Meir – a book of sermons, and Pnei David – a book of Responsa. Hacham David Papo also often wrote out his ideas on single sheets of paper that he would fold up and save. The introductions to his books memorialize his sons: Meir, who died at a young age while the family was in Iraq, and his son Shlomo, who was drafted to the Ottoman Empire army during the First World War and never returned.
Hacham David Papo passed away on 22 Nissan, 5687 (1927).