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.