David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King, by Baruch Halpern

By H, Joel | Shofar, Summer 2004 | Go to article overview

David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King, by Baruch Halpern


H, Joel, Shofar


Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001. 492 pp. $30.00.

In David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King, Baruch Halpern introduces King David, transforming the shepherd of Sunday School, sermons, and cinema. Halpern paints a plausible picture of thuggery and trickery that fits the rise of a 10(th)-century B.C.E. Levantine ruler. This portrait will trouble the still waters of the superficial soul. Halpern concludes: "The real David was not someone whom it would be wise to invite to dinner. And you certainly would not be happy to discover he was marrying your daughter, or even a casual acquaintance. But he did have one virtue. His achievement in creating Judah and conquering Israel left, through his wife and through his successor, if not his son, a legacy of hope and of aspiration. If that legacy has little to do with the real David, if later imaginings of his empire magnify a small, sanitize a corrupt, and beautify an ugly reality, a reality there nevertheless was. The biblical story of David is indeed mythic in nature. But the myth was made necessary, though not by his glory, by his gore" (p. 480).

Halpern peruses the seams and silences of the Bible about David. He accentuates parts of David's personality and party politics that astute readers have always noted in Samuel. Moreover, he cites Ancient Near Eastern sources. Halpern immediately spells out his method: "To escape the framework of the historical narrative, we need only imagine the events from a political and ideological position opposite that of the text. Our only direct information about David, in the books of Samuel, essentially presents him as a hero. The present book is therefore a glimpse of David as his enemies saw him. To the extent that those enemies were right in their view, it is also a glimpse of how his closest associates saw him" (p. xv).

Part I: David in Writing addresses, "What is it about King David?" Halpern massages the mixed messages of Samuel concerning how David benefits from the savagery of his associates. While David is not directly implicated, many of his opponents expire expediently.

In Part II: Penetrating the Textual Veil, Halpern demonstrates that the "preponderance of reliable evidence tells us that the text [2 Samuel] is early" (p. 57) He notes the pre-exilic pym weights (1 Sam. 12:31), Canaanite month names, house architecture, linguistic cues, and topography. Halpern concludes that the accounts of the 10(th) century political scene are trustworthy (p. 72).

Halpern incisively addresses skepticism about "the House of David" in the Dan stele, "But to ask whether David was invented wholecloth not only ignores the early date of the material, and all the evidence that will be addressed below. It also, ultimately, is dull" (p. 74). Halpern's retort to minimalist interpretation is anything but dull.

In Part III: Defining David's Empire, Halpern establishes his method in portraying David. He suggests that Solomonic stories, of a royal ideal and of the naturalist king (1 Ki 3-10), resemble late Middle and early Neo-Assyrian display texts. Consequently, Halpern develops his "Tiglath-Pileser Principle," the marriage of truth plus spin. "In Assyrian royal inscriptions, then, the torching of a grain field is the conquest of a whole territory beyond it. A looting raid becomes a claim of perpetual sovereignty. But this does not mean that campaigns can be confected. The technique is that of putting extreme spin on real events.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

David's Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King, by Baruch Halpern
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.