Davids Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King Hardcover – Jun 6 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
In a dazzling display of erudition, Halpern, chairman of Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University, dissects the story of David with sparkling, witty prose, using historical, textual, psychological and archaeological analysis. Brandishing his broad knowledge, Halpern mentions Shakespeare, Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Gregory Peck, Richard Gere, Bill Cosby, Joseph Heller, Disraeli and Hannibal Lecter, among others. He comments critically on the biblical narrative found in 1 and 2 Samuel and the second chapter of 1 Kings, asserting that it is contradictory, exaggerated and riddled with omissions. Conventional perceptions of David fault him for his affair with Bathsheba and for arranging the death of her husband, but generally portray him as a handsome, brave shepherd who became king and established Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Halpern elaborates and exploits the story of Bathsheba to paint David as a villain. He methodically demolishes any positive image of David, calling him a serial killer, thug, mercenary, adulterer, assassin, bandit, brigand and predator. Many sources are given to support these allegations but, surprisingly, Halpern fails to cite Robert Alter's excellent The David Story, which contains a full-blooded portrait of the Machiavellian king. While Halpern's picture of David is largely negative, he presents him as a complex biblical character who was "the first human being in world literature" but "not someone whom it would be wise to invite to dinner." Although Halpern forfeits accessibility by using such words as topos, paronomastically, circumvallations, therapon, epanalepsis, merismus, adyton and imbrication, this is an outstanding study.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Halpern (Jewish studies, Pennsylvania State Univ.) has given us a scholarly, fascinating, and controversial study of the figure of David in the Hebrew Scriptures. He does not doubt the actual existence of a historical figure named David, as does Thomas Thompson in his Early History of the Israelite People (Brill, 2001). However, he argues that the historical David was a far different person than the one pictured in 1 and 2 Second Samuel. The controversial nature of this study can be seen in the title of one of the chapters: "King David, Serial Killer." Halpern presents a close textual analysis of the stories about David in 1 Samuel 8 through 2 Samuel 1, along with a special study of 2 Samuel 8. He builds his case around the idea that there were two sources, identified here as A and B, which were used for the final versions of 1 and 2 Samuel. While Source A shows some of his faults, Source B is a kind of whitewashing apology for David in order to justify the kingship of Solomon and his successors. The real David, Halpern thinks, was a ruthless individual who was willing to murder or have murdered all of Saul's family so that he could secure the throne. Sure to receive much scholarly attention, Halpern's work can be profitably read by lay persons and scholars alike. Recommended for both public and academic libraries. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Halpern addresses this question in this book By looking at the latest archaeological evidence, Halpern concludes that the character our David is based upon was most likely a real character. But, how much similarity is there between the real David and the David of later biblical writers? How much is legend? Will the real David please stand up?
Halpern takes the reader on a journey through various questions, and part of the different questions can be discerned from the title of the book: Davidï¿½s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. One issue with which to contend is the diversity of voices in the biblical text itself. The portrayal of early Israelite history in the Bible is not a uniform, seamless construction. The Chronicles relay different information than the historical cycles that runs through the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. Even when they relay the same information, they do so with differing interpretations behind motives and outcomes.
David is an intriguing figure. While being held up as the exemplary King of Israel to whom all others must be compared, he is at the same time shown to have some devastatingly human failings. The number of people that David kills, for instance, Halpern contends would earn any modern politician the label of serial killer.Read more ›
The answer is pretty obvious once you have asked the question. The Bible is out to make David's reputation. But Halpern doesn't stop at this: he explains why each and every story about David is told the way it is told. Halpern sides with those against whose accusations the stories react - mostly David's and Solomon's political opponents. But he admits this implicitly. His thesis is that if you can reconstruct the thinking of David's opponents, you have evidence of David's existence and activities.
The first part of the book is that reconstruction. Then the second half is a narrative history of David's life. The first part is pretty entertaining, because there is a lot of humour in the book. But the second half was very from the history I thought I knew. I was glad to have the first half of the book, which explains the logic behind the history. But the history is very playful, and if you imagine it as a detective story, with twists and turns in the plot, it is a lot of fun.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in ancient history and a sense of play.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a mystery story. True, it is nonfiction, but it is a mystery, nonetheless, the mystery of David. Read morePublished on Jan. 30 2002 by mrliteral
The best thing about this book is that it looks at history outside the box of the textual sources. It does not concede that everything that happened in ancient Israel is described... Read morePublished on July 10 2001 by Elaine Diskin
This is probably the most radical book ever written about David. Not that it is stupidly radical - in fact, as a whole, it defends the historical David against assaults by the... Read morePublished on June 21 2001 by john roland
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