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Davids Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King Hardcover – Jun 6 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. (June 6 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802844782
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802844781
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16.5 x 24.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 885 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,581,688 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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.

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By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on May 17 2003
Format: Hardcover
Some see David as a mythological figure. Certainly the image projected of him and the shadow this character casts over subsequent Israelite and biblical history is one of mythic proportions. Partly the constructs around David have become so strangely skewed that one asks the question, as the literature both in the biblical texts and later developments can lead one to asking the question, �can any one man have been or done all this?�
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: David�s 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.
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By A Customer on Aug. 15 2001
Format: Hardcover
Every so often, a scholar emerges in a particular field to reinvigorate it with a flash of brilliance. Baruch Halpern is one such scholar. Recently in the field of Biblical Studies, open warfare has erupted over whether the biblical record of Israel's past is anything more than a well-written romance, whether the Bible contains material useful to the modern historian. Halpern turns the historian's lense on the biblical portrait of David, and provides positive answers to these questions in a tour de force that is witty, learned, and hugely entertaining. Halpern shows that the main narratives about David, in Samuel and the first chapters of Kings, preserve a nearly contemporary effort to vindicate the king from the calumnies hurled by his erstwhile enemies and their supporters (since most of the enemies "wake up dead"). Two principles of historical reconstruction distinguish Halpern's work. The first is the idea that the voices of David's opponents can still be heard if the historian engages in imaginative reconstruction. The second, the product of Halpern's immense erudition and familiarity with other Near Eastern historical literature, is that royal scribes in Israel and the Near East are not free to give false testimony about their lieges' accomplishments. The scribes may try to lead the reader to the grandest possible interpretation of even minimal accomplishments, by tolerating or even promoting ambiguity, but they can't spin their reconstruction out of whole cloth. The logic of these principles leads Halpern to reconsider the extent of David's "empire," which the text would have us think was extremely vast. It also leads to a portrait of the king that shines with a duller veneer than the one David's (and Solomon's) apologists apply.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
Scholars seem to have believed for about twenty years that David was a murderer, but this book goes even further. It portrays David's life through the eyes of his enemies. This is a wonderful historical exercise; it lets the author understand how big David's empire really was, as Halpern peals away the layers of exaggeration to show how royal literature truly worked. What really surprised me was that this is the first time I have ever read a reasonable explanation of why the story about David and Bathsheba is told. The whole book is surprising, to the very end. Short sections of it, especially about the geography, were a little dense, but the author has provided lots of maps to give the reader guidance, and all the details are necessary to the argument. Some parts are really funny. And the history as it unfolds is very interesting, mainly about important political events. All in all, this was an enjoyable and educational book, which taught me a lot about how historians have to think.
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By john roland on June 21 2001
Format: Hardcover
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 "minimalists" who deny he was a king or even existed. But Halpern proceeds from the assumption that every text has an agenda. So instead of letting the story of David wash over him, he asks why it takes the form it takes.
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.
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