King David: A Biography  -     By: Steven L. McKenzie
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King David: A Biography

Oxford University Press / 2002 / Paperback

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Product Information

Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2002
Dimensions: 9.20 X 6.08 X 0.68 (inches)
ISBN: 0195147081
ISBN-13: 9780195147087

Publisher's Description

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 was not the humble shepherd who slew Goliath and became king, however, but was 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."

Author Bio


Steven L. McKenzie is Professor of Hebrew Bible at Rhodes College. He is the author of many books on Bible Studies, including The Hebrew Bible Today and All God's Children: A Biblical Critique of Racism. He lives in Memphis.

Editorial Reviews


"McKenzie is little short of brilliant."--The New York Times Book Review


"A provocative look at a complex biblical figure....McKenzie uses biblical texts and recent archaeological discoveries to paint a searing portrait of the 'real' King David."--The Sunday Star-Ledger


"[A] remarkable book...McKenzie brings to bear all the analytical tools of the modern historian....We see a darker and more realistic David and a more troubling biblical history....McKenzie's portrait of David is both convincing and disturbing."--Bible Review


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  1. 2 Stars Out Of 5
    If you like fiction
    September 24, 2016
    Falcon
    Quality: 0
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    Meets Expectations: 0
    This biography was written by a revisionist theologian who admits at the end that it isnt accurate reconstruction of history but a story, so be warned. He also admits to reading lots of fiction about David, which shows, since he often resorts to his imagination and whims over the sources.

    This book has many errors in part due to authors superficial reading of the Scriptures. For example McKenzie:

    - says that David danced naked following the Ark of Covenant, while the text states: David was wearing a linen ephod (2Sam 6:14).

    - places Asahel among Davids heroes (ch. 6), mixing him up with Asahel (2Sam 23:18-19), and as a result of his own mistake he claims the Bible contradicts itself

    - claims David was short (ch.3), while the sources say he was handsome (1Sam 16:18) and fit into armor of Saul (1Sam 17:38) who was the tallest man in all Israel (1Sm 10:23-24).

    - makes Ishbaal a young man when he succeeded Saul, while he was then a mature man of 40 years old (2Sam 2:10).

    - claims David fought with Philistines against Saul and was responsible for his death at Gilboa (ch. 5), while according to the sources David at that time fought with Amalekites in Negev.

    - makes David and Abigail killers of Nabal, whom he imagines to be a Calebite chief (ch. 5).

    - makes David the killer of his sons: Amnon and Absalom (ch. 8), as well as a killer of Abner, Amasa and Ishbaal (ch. 6), all of this with disregard to the sources and logic.

    McKenzie prides himself on using the critical principles of skepticism and analogy. In fact, he uses hermeneutics of suspicion toward the Biblical text, which he often reads thru contemporary perspective (analogy), rather than historical and cultural context. For example:

    - his main thesis is that David wasnt a shepherd but an aristocrat born to be a ruler (ch. 3). He assumes that the text calling David strong warrior before his fight with Goliath proves that he was already a seasoned warrior, not a young shepherd. It results from superficial reading of the text (1Sam 16:18), which rightly states that David was strong warrior, since he expertly handled a weapon used by regular army, such as slingshot. McKenzie likely imagines the slingshot as a contemporary toy, while in Davids time it looked differently and was used by soldiers because it was as effective and deadly as a bow.

    - he interprets statements about David as shepherd as a metaphor because nowdays shepherding is a lowly occupation. However, in the ancient Near East it was the occupation of Zipporah, kings daughter (Ex 2:18-21) or princess and sister of Zimrilim, king of Mari. Mesha, king of Moab was into shepherding (2Ki 3:4).

    Many strange ideas proposed by revisionists result from their reading of the ancient text thru contemporary perspective, rather than its historical context. As a result, McKenzie often imagines David according to his own whims and calls his distortion historical and superior to the one described in ancient sources.

    Overall, it is a good book as historical fiction goes, but not for those who appreciate books based on reliable sources such as Bible.
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