Cover image for David's secret demons : messiah, murderer, traitor, king
David's secret demons : messiah, murderer, traitor, king
Halpern, Baruch.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : W.B. Eerdmans, [2001]

Physical Description:
xx, 492 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm.
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BS580.D3 H26 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Biblical tradition portrays King David as an exceptional man and a paragon of godly devotion. But was he? Some scholars deny that he existed at all. Did he? This challenging book critically examines the textual and archaeological evidence in an effort to paint an accurate picture of one of the Bible's central figures.

A leading scholar of biblical history and the ancient Near East, Baruch Halpern traces the development of the David tradition, showing how the image of David grew over time. According to Halpern, David was the founder of a dynasty that progressively exaggerated his accomplishments. Halpern's clear portrait of the historical David reveals his true humanity and shows him to be above all a politician who operated in a rough-and-tumble environment in which competitors were ready literally to slit throats.

Author Notes

Baruch Halpern holds the Chaiken Family Chair in Jewish Studies and is professor of ancient history, classics and ancient Mediterranean studies, and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

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 (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. xii
Prefacep. xiv
Abbreviationsp. xviii
Part I David in Writing
1 The Surprising Davidp. 3
2 David's History in the Books of Samuelp. 14
A. The Stage Setp. 15
B. Introducing Davidp. 18
C. Saul's Deathp. 22
D. The Civil Warp. 26
E. Building the Israelite Statep. 31
F. David and Bathshebap. 34
G. Absalom's Coupp. 39
Part II Penetrating the Textual Veil
3 Dating 2 Samuelp. 57
4 King David, Serial Killerp. 73
A. The Portrayal of David and the Date of 2 Samuelp. 73
B. Ten Little Indiansp. 77
Case 1 Nabalp. 77
Case 2 Saul and His Sons at Gilboap. 78
Case 3 Ishbaalp. 81
Case 4 Abnerp. 82
Case 5 Saul's Other Descendantsp. 84
Case 6 Amnonp. 87
Case 7 Absalomp. 89
Case 8 Amasap. 90
Case 9 Uriahp. 92
C. The Apology and the Absalom Revoltp. 94
Part III Defining David's Empire
5 How to Take Up What Kings Set Downp. 107
A. History, the Public Form of Memoryp. 107
B. The Image of the King in Royal Propagandap. 113
C. The Tiglath-Pileser Principlep. 124
6 Reading David's Conquestsp. 133
Appendix 2 Samuel 8p. 142
7 Settling the Philistine Question: 2 Samuel 8:1p. 144
8 The Conquest of Moab: 2 Samuel 8:2p. 160
9 David and Hadadezer: 2 Samuel 8:3 and the History of the Ninth Centuryp. 164
A. David at the Riverp. 164
B. The Northern Statesp. 167
1. Hadadezer, Ruler of the House of Rehob?p. 167
2. Hazael, King of Amqi?p. 169
3. Hazael, Invader of Amqi?p. 170
4. Rehob and Zobahp. 173
C. Zobah and David's Empirep. 175
D. The Name of Hadadezerp. 179
10 David in the North and in Transjordan: 2 Samuel 8:3-11p. 187
A. Understanding 2 Samuel 8:3-11p. 187
B. David's Stelap. 195
11 The Date and Reception of 2 Samuel 8p. 199
David's Display?p. 199
12 2 Samuel 8 and the Historicity of the Davidic Statep. 208
A. Propaganda and Its Implications for Historical Realityp. 208
B. The Claims of Samuel and the Date of the Textp. 224
Part IV A Historical Overture to David's Career
13 The Relative Chronology of David's Reignp. 229
Appendix Ages of Kings at Deathp. 242
14 Geography of the Davidic Statep. 243
A. The External Borders of David's Statep. 243
B. The Magnification of David's Statep. 246
1. The Early Magnificationp. 246
2. Theories of the Israelite Settlementp. 247
3. The Magnifying Lensp. 250
4. Is Jonah Liable?p. 252
C. Dating the Extension of David's Statep. 256
Part V A Life of David
15 David's Youthp. 263
A. The Sourcesp. 263
B. The Name of Davidp. 266
C. David's Daddyp. 270
D. David's Antecedentsp. 271
E. Location in Bethlehemp. 274
Appendix Chart of the A and B Sources in 1 Samuel 8-2 Samuel 1p. 277
16 David and Saulp. 280
A. In Saul's Courtp. 280
B. The Wilderness Yearsp. 284
C. A Foreign Affairp. 287
17 On the Hot Seat in Hebronp. 295
A. From Gath to Hebronp. 295
B. Kingship in a Nutshellp. 296
C. David across the Riverp. 301
D. David's Philistine Pedigreep. 302
E. Hebron and the Gibeonitesp. 306
F. The Civil Warp. 307
G. The Cuckoo in the Nestp. 310
18 Rising over Zionp. 317
A. The Taking of Jerusalemp. 317
B. The Philistine Warsp. 320
19 Bringing Home the Arkp. 333
A. Celebrating a Homecomingp. 333
B. The Dynastic Oraclep. 337
C. The Saulide Hostagep. 341
20 David's Warsp. 345
A. The Ammonite Warp. 345
B. Edomp. 353
C. Other Regionsp. 355
21 Absalom's Giftp. 357
22 The Aftermath of Absalom's Revoltp. 382
A. The Aftermath: David's Policies for Expansionp. 382
B. After Absalom: David and Israelp. 384
C. Solomon's Successionp. 391
D. Solomon's Politicsp. 406
23 The Archaeology of David's Reignp. 427
A. Introductionp. 427
B. Megiddo, Gezer, and Hazorp. 433
C. Downdating the Solomonic Layersp. 451
D. Ramses III and the Sea Peoplesp. 454
E. The Dating of the Tenth-Century Strata: Positive Evidencep. 460
Afterwordp. 479
General Index of Select Topicsp. 481
Index of Scholars Citedp. 488