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|Chapter 2||The Wrong King||16|
|Chapter 3||"He Is the One"||43|
|Chapter 4||Innocent Blood||63|
|Chapter 7||"Shall the Sword Devour Forever?"||135|
|Chapter 8||City of David||150|
|Chapter 9||At the Time When Kings Go Forth to Battle||172|
|Chapter 10||The Daughter of the Seven Gods||185|
|Chapter 11||The Rape of Tamar||205|
|Chapter 12||"Bloodstained Fiend of Hell!"||221|
|Chapter 13||"O Absalom, My Son, My Son!"||239|
|Chapter 14||An Angel at the Threshing-Floor||253|
|Chapter 16||The Quality of Light at Tel Dan||282|
|Appendix||The Biblical Biographers of David||307|
1. In King David, I have compared David to John F. Kennedy as examples of leaders with "charisma." Do you find David to be a charismatic figure even though, like JFK, he was capable of both heroic and scandalous conduct?
2. The Bible shows that both men and women fall in love with David, and some scholars believe that David's relationship to Jonathan was more than purely platonic. Do you find any homoerotic overtones in the encounters between David and Jonathan and the words that David speaks about Jonathan?
3. One theory of biblical authorship proposes that the Bible began with the life story of David, and everything else was built up around David's story. Do you find this theory to be convincing? When you read the Book of Samuel, do you hear the voices of several different authors or just one?
4. Two different versions of David's life story are given in the Bible. The Book of Samuel gives us the adults-only, R-rated version, and the Book of Chronicles gives a child-safe, G-rated version. If the Book of Samuel had been lost, and only the Book of Chronicles had survived, do you think the Bible itself and the Bible-based religions would have turned out differently?
5. Some Bible scholars suggest that David knew, or should have known, that his son, Amnon, intended to rape his daughter, Tamar, and they blame David for sending Tamar to Amnon's bedchamber. Do you agree that David bears some responsibility for what happened to his daughter?
6. David has been criticized for being a sentimental and indulgent father. For example, he fails to punish Amnon for raping Tamar, and he gives orders that none of his soldiers should harm Absalom whenthey go into battle against him. Do you see David's attitude toward his sons as a praiseworthy quality or a sign of weakness?
7. Some feminist Bible critics suggest that the women in David's life are sexually abused and exploited. One scholar, for example, says that Bathsheba is "raped by the pen" because the Bible allows us to watch her at various intimate moments. Do you think women are treated inappropriately in the biblical life story of David?
8. Although God vows to "raise up evil against thee out of thine own house" as retribution for David's sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:11), David himself is never directly punished. The illegitimate baby dies, Tamar is the victim of rape, Amnon is assassinated, and Absalom is killed in battle--but David dies in his bed. Do you think he is suitably punished for his affair with Bathsheba and his role in the murder of Uriah?
9. In King David, I argue that "[s]omething crucial in human history begins with the biblical figure of King David, " and I suggest that he is "the original alpha male, " "the first superstar, " an "authentic sex symbol, " and "the quintessential winner." Do you agree that David can be credited (or blamed) for shaping, as I put it, "what we expect of ourselves and, even more so, of the men and women who lead us"?
10. Sometimes it seems that powerful people are held to a different standard than ordinary people when it comes to their private moral conduct. In King David, I suggest that these ideas about leadership begin with the biblical figure of David. Do you agree? Do you think David sets a good example or a bad example for what we have come to expect of our leaders?
11. Shakespeare borrowed many of his plots from other sources but never from the Bible. Still, some readers see similarities between King Lear and King Saul, for example, or between Hamlet and David. Do you see any influences on Shakespeare and his work that can be traced back to the Bible in general and King David in particular?
12. David is more often invoked in modern Israel, where he is admired as a military leader, than in pious Jewish tradition. Do you think the history of the Jewish people would have turned out differently if David had been given a more prominent role in Jewish tradition?
13. As discussed earlier, Bible scholar Gerhard Von Rad describes an "undersong" of David's story running throughout the Bible. Do you see or feel such an undersong in your reading of the Bible? Where?
Posted February 15, 2012
A member of my Sunday school Class once mentioned she didn't think David was very likable. After re-reading the Bible accounts I had to admit she had a point. Kirsch seems to have somewhat the same view. He frequently asks why, in light of his very flawed life, David was a man after God's own heart. Those with traditional views of David and the Bible may find this book disturbing. I can't say I agree with every theory or statement of Kirsch, but I think serious Bible history students would find this a stimulating read.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
King David often evokes contradictory responses. Young church-goers praise David's decisiveness and his Goliath slaying heroics, but regard other behavior in his life to be troubling or repugnant; for example, his cold-blooded murder by proxy of Bathsheba's husband, his lapses in lust, and inclination to laziness. David possessed every flaw and failing a mortal is capable of, yet men and women adored him and God showered him with many more blessings than he did Abraham or Moses. With a taste for sex and violence this charismatic leader exalted as the apple of God's eye, capable of deep cunning and bloodthirsty violence is portrayed in all his glory and failings. The real David is not just a simple and small shepherd that killed a giant but the conqueror of a vast empire.
One must take this book with a grain of salt while reading the incorrect conjectures, that are eluded for fact, such as the Bible is just spin for the throne of King David or that Saul was a mistake made by God, etc. Kirsch expends much effort on the homosexuality of David and Jonathan even stating that you "must accept unless you just refuse to accept it." It made me wonder if the author was trying to justify his own homosexuality. However, much is correct such as most people fell in love, at first sight, with David male and female alike, Saul, Saul's son Jonathan, later Michal the king's daughter, and the list goes on.
Rarely does Kirsch mention which school of thought his sources belong, excluding a crucial dimension of any intellectual debate. His tone is much like that of a lawyer might portray in a summation to a jury, arguing that the entire Old Testament may have originated as David's royal biography. The two myths he examines most closely are those cultivated by a "Court Historian" who embellished David's exploits to make him seem more kingly than he was, and those written by the "Deuteronomistic Historian," who revised the ancient texts about David, as "spin doctors," to downplay his bad behavior in attempted to sanitize David. There are much more reliable assessments of David, however, this muckraking account in the modern style is somewhat entertaining if not correct.