King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel by Ballantine Books

King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel by Ballantine Books

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David, King of the Jews, possessed every flaw and failing a mortal is capable of, yet men and women adored him and God showered him with many more blessings than he did Abraham or Moses. His sexual appetite and prowess were matched only by his violence, both on the battlefield and in the bedroom. A charismatic leader, exalted as "a man after God's own heart," he was also capable of deep cunning, deceit, and betrayal. Now, in King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel, bestselling author Jonathan Kirsch reveals this commanding individual in all his glory and fallibility.

In a taut, dramatic narrative, Kirsch brings new depth and psychological complexity to the familiar events of David's life--his slaying of the giant Goliath and his swift challenge to the weak rule of Saul, the first Jewish king; his tragic relationship with Saul's son Jonathan, David's cherished friend (and possibly lover); his celebrated reign in Jerusalem, where his dynasty would hold sway for generations. Yet for all his greatness, David was also a man in thrall to his passions--a voracious lover who secured the favors of his beautiful mistress Bathsheba by secretly arranging the death of her innocent husband; a merciless warrior who triumphed through cruelty; a troubled father who failed to protect his daughter from rape and whose beloved son Absalom rose against him in armed insurrection.

Weaving together biblical texts with centuries of interpretation and commentary, Jonathan Kirsch brings King David to life in these pages with extraordinary freshness, intimacy, and vividness of detail. At the center of this inspiring narrative stands a hero of flesh and blood--not the cartoon giant-slayer of sermons and Sunday school stories or the immaculate ruler of legend and art but a magnetic, disturbingly familiar man--a man as vibrant and compelling today as he has been for millennia.

The difficulty of bringing into perspective figures that are larger than life is well known to Jonathan Kirsch, the author of a life of Moses and of the provocative biblical study The Harlot by the Side of the Road. In this well-researched narrative he attempts the same for King David, arguably the most important figure in the entire Jewish Bible. By searching for the real King David, Kirsch does not claim to bring new information to this study. He is more journalist than biblical scholar, and clearly acknowledges when he is speculating (as, for example, in his reconstruction of the scene when David first glimpses the beautiful Bathsheba). Rather, he wants to remind his readers that David is not myth but flesh and blood and is, astonishingly, presented this way in the biblical texts themselves. He is real, human, both heroic and flawed.

Following much of modern scholarship in calling the Bible "a patchwork of ancient texts that were composed and compiled by countless authors and editors," this study is clearly not going to appeal to most fundamentalist readers. Neither is it intended for scholars. It should, however, satisfy many readers who wish to explore more deeply the fascinating and pivotal life of a very real man, a charismatic leader who, as one historian puts it, "played exquisitely, fought heroically, and loved titanically." --Doug Thorpe