One of the most important and complex characters in the Bible, King David has been the subject of innumerable portraits, both artistic and literary. Michaelangelo's magnificent sculpture of him is perhaps the single best known work of art in the world, and the story of the humble shepherd who slew Goliath and became king has assumed a powerful mythological status. But was David a real person--and if so what kind of person was he?
Through a close and critical reading of biblical texts, ancient history, and recent archeological discoveries, Steven L. McKenzie concludes that David was indeed a real person. This David, however, was no hero but a usurper, adulterer, and murderer--a Middle Eastern despot of a familiar type. McKenzie shows that the story of humble beginnings is utterly misleading: "shepherd" is a metaphor for "king," and David came from a wealthy, upper-class background. Similarly, McKenzie reveals how David's ascent to power, traditionally attributed to popularity and divine blessing, in fact resulted from a campaign of terror and assassination. While instituting a full-blown Middle Eastern monarchy, David was an aggressive leader, a devious politician, and a ruthless war chief. Throughout his scandalous reign, important figures who stood in his way died at convenient times, under questionable circumstances. Even his own sons were not spared. David's story, writes McKenzie, "reads like a modern soap opera, with plenty of sex, violence, and struggles for power."
Carefully researched and vividly written, King David: An Unauthorized Biography offers a provocative reappraisal of the life of one of the Bible's most compelling figures.
"This is a fine and important work of scholarship, which is particularly welcome in today's climate, where many scholars are so negative about reconstructing the history of ancient Israel. McKenzie uses sober historical method to analyze the biblical texts, creating a vivid and plausible picture of King David. His use of archaeology, history, modern political analogies, and later retellings of the David story to bring to life a portrait of the king make this
book particularly engaging." --Marc Brettler, Dept. of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies, Brandeis University
"McKenzie bursts the bubble of sanctity enveloping David in the tradition, and paints a picture of a real human being --David, the politician and state-builder. If you want a sense of the reality underlying the Bible's description, you can't do better than this book."--Baruch Halpern, Professor of Ancient History & Jewish Studies, Penn State University
"The conventional, laudatory image of David as a simple shepherd boy who courageously slew Goliath and rose to become Israel's greatest king despite some human failings is disputed by McKenzie.... His biography emphasizes the negative aspects of David's character and minimizes his achievements."--Publishers Weekly