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Biblical Studies David
by
Victor H. Matthews

Introduction

Few persons mentioned in the biblical text have had as much influence on later traditions as has David. This complex biblical character is portrayed against the backdrop of the establishment of a newly minted united monarchy over the Israelite tribes in the 10th century BCE, but the ideal image created about him continued to serve as a model for later kings. The debate over the historicity of the narrative and of the person of King David had a revival in 1993 after the discovery of the “House of David” inscription at Tel Dan, the earliest reference to David outside the Hebrew Bible. Much of what has been written since then reflects the struggles between minimalists and maximalists, historians and literary critics. Ultimately, whether David was a historical character or not is not as important as the influence his story and traditional image have had on literature, drama, poetry, and popular culture.

Dictionary Treatments

A good place to begin to examine the biblical portrait of King David is the extended entries in multivolume Bible dictionaries (Howard 1992, McKenzie 2007, Oded 1972) and major reference works (Satterthwaite 2005). Each article provides an overview of the major periods of his career and the events that helped shape both his administration and the long-term image that was created around his character.

  • Howard, David M., Jr. “David.” In Anchor Bible Dictionary. Vol. 2. Edited by D. N. Freedman, 41–49. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

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    The article covers David’s rise to power, his court history, and his declining years, as well as a general assessment and a discussion of the sources and methods for the study of David.

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  • McKenzie, Steven L. “David.” In The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. Vol. 2. Edited by Katherine Doob Sakenfeld, 27–39. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.

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    This entry focuses on source material (both biblical and extrabiblical), the question of historicity, the literary features of the narrative, political developments, and the transition of power to Solomon.

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  • Oded, Bustenay, et al. “David.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 5. Edited by Cecil Roth, et al., 1318–1338. New York: Macmillan Reference, 1972.

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    Multi-authored article treats David in Bible, Aggadic literature, Kabbalistic literature, Christianity, Islam, and modern Hebrew literature. A more up-to-date article, “David, Dynasty of,” by Jacob Liver appears in Vol. 5 of the second edition, edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik (Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference, 2007), pp. 459–463.

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  • Satterthwaite, P. E. “David.” In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Edited by Bill T. Arnold and H. G. M. Williamson, 198–206. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2005.

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    While covering much of the same ground as the Bible dictionary articles, this piece provides an evaluative approach to scholarship on David, has a nice treatment of extrabiblical sources, and concludes with the arguments for and against David as a historical figure.

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General Histories of Israel

As might be expected, general histories of ancient Israel make an effort to examine the story of David in the context of Israel’s political and social development. Some of these histories are more theological in character (Albertz 1994, Provan, et al. 2003), while others focus on social (Lemche 1988) or archaeological and historical-critical issues (Miller and Hayes 2006). Dietrich 2007 manages to touch on both historical issues and theological interpretation.

  • Albertz, R. A History of Israelite Religion in the Old Testament Period. Vol. 1, From the Beginnings to the End of the Monarchy. Translated by John Bowden. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994.

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    Particularly helpful in his survey of European scholarship, Albertz focuses this portion of his history (see especially pp. 105–138) on the formation of the monarchial territorial state, the religious legitimation of the kingship, and the development of the theology of the house of David and the temple cult in Jerusalem.

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  • Dietrich, Walter. The Early Monarchy in Israel: The Tenth Century B.C.E. Translated by Joachim Vette. Biblical Encyclopedia 3. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.

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    This volume combines the work found in several previous monographs and includes much of the work done on the textual history of Samuel by the Göttingen School. Its coverage includes theological interpretation as well as an introduction to the historical 10th century BCE and a detailed discussion of the biblical portrayal of its first three kings.

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  • Lemche, Niels P. Ancient Israel: A New History of Israelite Society. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988.

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    Intended as a social history with an emphasis on the forces that contribute to cultural and political development, Lemche views much of the account about David’s rise to power and the Succession Narrative as “ahistorical” and a “tendentious programmatic tract” (see especially pp. 119–143).

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  • Miller, J. Maxwell, and John H. Hayes. A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. 2d ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2006.

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    The authors trace and discuss as objectively as possible the compositional units in 1 Samuel 16–1 Kings 2 that comprise David’s career (pp. 148–185), discussing their structure, editing, and the agenda of the compilers of these traditions. Attention is also given to the presentation of David in Chronicles and in the Psalms.

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  • Provan, Iain, V. Philips Long, and Tremper Longman III. A Biblical History of Israel. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003.

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    Couching their treatment in a more traditional reading of the biblical materials and espousing an evangelical interpretation of these stories, the authors briefly examine the source material and then concentrate on a description of the narrative units (pp. 193–238). While surveying a range of scholarship on the subject, the conclusion is drawn that David was a historical figure.

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Commentaries

The establishment of the Israelite monarchy and the importance of David to the story surrounding this and subsequent events are dealt with in great detail in commentaries on the books of Samuel and Chronicles. This section is divided according to the technical level of the commentaries cited.

Major or Technical Commentaries on Samuel

The more technical of these works provide the historical-critical, philological, and text-critical treatment of the narratives. Some are more historical-critical in approach (McCarter 1980–1984, Hentschel 1994, Klein 2008, Stoebe 1973). Others draw on various methods of literary analysis (Campbell 2003, Caquot and Robert 1994, Jobling 1998).

Commentaries on Samuel Suitable for General Readers

These less technical commentaries generally concentrate on the theological aspects of the text from a Christian perspective (Anderson 1989, Brueggemann 1990, Cartledge 2001). There are also some that provide links to rabbinic sources (Goldman 1949, Rosenberg 1976–1978). Tsumura 2007 provides a hybrid commentary using discourse analysis techniques, but still espousing conservative theological positions.

  • Anderson, A. A. 2 Samuel. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word Books, 1989.

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    In this treatment of 2 Samuel, Anderson pays some attention to textual issues while taking the position that the Succession Narrative is intended as an apology for David rather than a eulogy to glorify David and Solomon. David’s troubles are the result of his own actions, and Solomon proves himself to be the rightful heir.

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  • Brueggemann, Walter. First and Second Samuel. Interpretation. Louisville: John Knox, 1990.

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    While this commentary series is designed primarily as a theological rather than a technical aid to the books of Samuel, it does provide literary insights that may prove helpful.

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  • Cartledge, Tony W. 1 and 2 Samuel. Macon, GA: Smyth and Helwys, 2001.

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    This commentary follows a pattern of comment, primarily literary in character, and connections. The latter feature, augmented by numerous insets, provides applications of the text to modern Christian audiences.

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  • Goldman, Shalom, et al. 1 and 2 Samuel. Soncino Books of the Bible. London: Soncino, 1949.

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    A brief commentary that is especially good for identifying rabbinic sources related to the David tradition.

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  • Rosenberg, A. J. The Book of Samuel 1–2. 2 vols. Judaica Books of the Bible. New York: Judaica, 1976–1978.

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    Includes English translation and commentary digest with excerpts from the classical Jewish commentators (Rashi, Radak, Ibn Ezra, and others).

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  • Tsumura, David T. The First Book of Samuel. New International Commentary of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2007.

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    Preferring a synchronic over a diachronic reading, the author utilizes discourse analysis, noting the use of waw-consecutive or other sentence types, and divides stories into their setting, the event itself, and its terminus. In examining the text critically, he discounts the majority of emendations, but this places him in opposition to other commentators such as McCarter and Klein.

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Commentaries on Chronicles

It is useful to consult the commentaries on Chronicles as a means of comparison with the narrative found in Samuel. The major technical works are Japhet 1993, Klein 2006, and Knoppers 2003. Commentaries for more general readers include De Vries 1989, Tuell 2001, and Williamson 1982.

  • De Vries, Simon J. 1 and 2 Chronicles. Forms of Old Testament Literature. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1989.

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    This commentary series serves as a supplement to the major commentaries focusing on issues of structure, genre, intention, and setting. De Vries’s form-critical approach avoids the debate on the relationship between Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles while placing the Chronicler in the 4th century BCE and tying it to Levitical authorship with its focus on Israel as a theocracy.

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  • Japhet, Sara. I and II Chronicles: A Commentary. Old Testament Library. London: SCM, 1993.

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    Writing from a historical-critical perspective with sensitive literary-critical analysis, Japhet tends to affirm that much of the material that is unique to Chronicles has been derived from earlier sources and preserves accurate historical information. She considers the work to date to the end of the 4th century BCE and terms it an “idiosyncratic expression of biblical historiography” (p. 32).

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  • Klein, Ralph. 1 Chronicles. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.

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    Like other commentaries in the Hermeneia series, this one is filled with a wealth of information on the historical-critical aspects of the text, with a focus on philological and exegetical issues. Of particular usefulness to the David story is Klein’s discussion of the difficulties involved in determining the Chronicler’s Vorlage, especially in Samuel.

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  • Knoppers, Gary N. 1 Chronicles 1—9. New York: Doubleday, 2003.

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    Uses materials from the Dead Sea Scrolls to reconstruct the Chronicler’s text. Also discusses the historical setting and attempts to link the Chronicler’s writing to the important intellectual flow of the postexilic period. There is also extensive reference to parallels between the Chronicler’s compositional technique and the types of historical writing found in ancient Mesopotamia and Classical Greece. The companion volume is 1 Chronicles 10—29, published in 2004

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  • Tuell, Stephen. First and Second Chronicles. Interpretation. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001.

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    Based on the aim of the Interpretation Bible Commentary series to focus on an aid to Christian clergy and laypersons, Tuell’s commentary highlights theological considerations more than exegetical analyses. He presents the Chronicler as a scribe fascinated by the written text of Samuel–Kings.

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  • Williamson, H. G. M. 1 and 2 Chronicles. New Century. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.

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    This author identifies Chronicles as a Levitical unity rather than multi-authored or layered, with a date in the mid–4th century BCE. He focuses on the intention of the Chronicler to show that the division of the monarchy put neither north nor south outside the boundary of Israel. His approach takes advantage of both Jewish and Christian scholarship and tradition.

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Essay Collections

Collections of articles continue to be a good source for those who wish to investigate a focused topic. For example, the articles centering on Michal’s role within the Davidic narrative (Clines and Eshkenazi 1991) give this character a chance to emerge from the text, and the Brenner 1994 collection features a feminist perspective. The counterpoint of Saul’s kingship in relation to David is explored in Ehrlich and White 2006, while the political and social world of the united monarchy finds expression in Ishida 1982. For those looking for a more literary or structured approach to the narrative, Desrousseaux and Vermeylen 1999 and Dietrich 2004 provide a European perspective.

  • Brenner, Athalya. A Feminist Companion to Samuel and Kings. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

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    The sixteen studies in this collection provide a feminist point of view on the monarchic period. Of particular importance to the David narrative are articles by Valler on “David’s Women,” Fontaine’s analysis of the wisdom tradition in the Succession Narrative, and Bach’s examination of the Abigail story.

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  • Clines, David J. A., and Tamara Eshkenazi, eds. Telling Queen Michal’s Story: An Experiment in Comparative Interpretation. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 119. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991.

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    This collection of articles, some of which date back to the late 19th century, is based on the work of the SBL Narrative Research on the Hebrew Bible Group, and it includes scholarly interpretation, popular treatments, and imaginative retellings. Its primary contribution is to display the multiple possibilities for reading this text.

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  • Desrousseaux, Louis, and Jacques Vermeylen, eds. Figures de David à travers la Bible. Papers presented at the 27th Congrés de l’Association catholique française pour l’étude de la Bible, Lille, France, 1–5 September 1997. Paris: Cerf, 1999.

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    The sixteen papers in this collection focus on the way in which David is depicted in the Old and New Testament, in the Qumran materials, and in rabbinic and Muslim traditions.

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  • Dietrich, Walter. David und Saul im Widerstreit—Diachronie und Synchronie im Wettstreit: Beiträge zur Auslegung des ersten Samuelbuches. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 206. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2004.

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    Contains twenty essays, divided into five groups, written in English and German, which employ 1 Samuel 7–2 Samuel 1 to illustrate how diachronic and synchronic readings can be compatible and mutually enriching.

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  • Ehrlich, Carl, with Marsha C. White, eds. Saul in Story and Tradition. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2006.

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    The seventeen articles in this collection provide background on state formation in ancient Israel and various aspects of Saul’s career as they are portrayed in the Deuteronomistic history, and deal with his relationship with David.

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  • Ishida, Tomoo, ed. Studies in the Period of David and Solomon and Other Essays. Papers presented at the International Symposium for Biblical Studies, Tokyo, 5–7 December 1979. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1982.

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    The seventeen articles in this collection range from literary studies to Zion theology to archaeological evaluation of cult figurines to comparative politics (Israel and Egypt). Such a wide selection reflects the many facets of research dealing with the early united monarchy and its cultural and theological echoes.

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Literary Analysis

The rich narrative material found in Samuel-Kings lends itself to literary analysis. Fokkelman 1981–1993, a four-volume opus, deals with nearly every literary structure and motif, while Polzin 1993 looks at how the Deuteronomist shaped the text with a very structured approach. Brettler 1996 emphasizes the effort made in the narrative to legitimize David’s claim to the throne. The vibrant characters that emerge from the text have drawn a great deal of attention. Thus Berlin 1982 focuses on the women in David’s life, and Bietenhard 1998 and Eschelbach 2005 deal with a particularly complex character, Joab.

  • Berlin, Adele. “Characterization in Biblical Narrative: David’s Wives.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 23 (1982): 69–85.

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    The article provides studies of four women in David’s life (Michal, Bathsheba, Abishag, and Abigail). Each one is examined as a literary foil or narrative catalyst in David’s career. Michal and Abishag are caught up in the political intrigues of the story, while Bathsheba and Abigail are able to take charge of their scenes and transform disadvantages into advantages.

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  • Bietenhard, Sophia. Der Königs General: Die Heerführertraditionen in der vorstaatlichen und frühen staatlichen Zeit und die Joabgestalt in 2 Sam 2–20; 1 Kön 1–2. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 163. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1998.

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    The author employs a socio-historical analysis of the development of military institutions, a synchronic analysis of the literary features, and a diachronic analysis of the literary tensions in the David narratives, with a focus on the role of Joab.

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  • Brettler, Marc Z. “Biblical Literature as Politics: The Case of Samuel.” In Religion and Politics in the Ancient Near East. Edited by Adele Berlin, 71–92. Bethesda: University of Maryland Press, 1996.

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    The article makes the case for a conscious effort in the narrative to legitimize David’s claim to the throne at the expense of the Saulide dynasty. Brettler points to a pro-Davidic ideology that drives this political agenda.

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  • Eschelbach, M. A. Has Joab Foiled David? A Literary Study of the Importance of Joab’s Character in Relation to David. New York: Peter Lang, 2005.

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    In an effort to highlight the interconnections between Joab and David, the author focuses on Joab’s key position as a literary foil and a catalyst to the development of David’s character. The study is presented in three groups that are part of the complex 2 Samuel 2:24–1 Kings 2:35. The assessment is made that Joab’s character is basically simple and consistent and stands in sharp contrast to David’s more complex character.

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  • Fokkelman, J. P. Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel. 4 vols. Assen, The Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1981–1993.

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    This massive work of structural analysis of the narrative on the early monarchy in Samuel, if mined carefully, provides a wealth of useful information, but its sheer bulk and its emphasis on formulaic interpretation of the stories is difficult to handle for many readers. It primary service is in identifying structures and forms of composition.

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  • Polzin, Robert. David and the Deuteronomist: 2 Samuel; Part 3 of a Literary Study of the Deuteronomistic History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993.

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    As part of his multivolume work on the Deuteronomist, in this volume Polzin does a line-by-line reading of the text and divides 2 Samuel into ten sections. Polzin’s purpose is to explore how the Deuteronomist’s “voice” is heard through the shaping of the narrative. This is a literary analysis that describes and takes note of devices such as wordplays and repetitive themes. Extensive cross-referencing is applied to the text as well.

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Focused Volumes

While employing literary and narrative analysis, a number of scholars have focused their monographs on David and on the portrayed world of the early monarchy. Thus Gunn 1978 attempts to show how the narrative entertained its audience, Noll 1997 explores the story world of the narrative, and Steussy 1999 examines the various literary portraits of David. Alter adds his own translation to a literary treatment of the text (Alter 1999). McKenzie 2000 focuses on the editor’s efforts to absolve David from the political crimes committed during his reign, and Van Seters 2009 takes the further step of identifying a saga tradition antithetical to the messianic and idealized character of the Davidic-Solomonic rulers.

  • Alter, Robert. The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999.

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    Includes Alter’s translation along with a brief literary commentary on the David narratives in Samuel.

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  • Gunn, David M. The Story of King David: Genre and Interpretation. Sheffield, UK: University of Sheffield, 1978.

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    This is a classic literary study of the Succession Narrative, characterizing it as a “traditional story” with its prime purpose being to serve as “serious entertainment.” Gunn surveys motifs, scenes, and narrative threads as well as the boundaries of the stories.

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  • McKenzie, Steven L. King David: a Biography. New York: Oxford, 2000.

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    The author proposes to “read against the grain” of the apologetic narrative and to identify the ways in which the author is trying to promote or excuse David. With that done, the effort is then made to look for evidence in the biblical narrative to the contrary. For example, the extreme effort to absolve David of responsibility for the deaths of Saul, Jonathan, Abner, and Eshbaal are taken to be signs of David’s true culpability in these crimes.

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  • Noll, K. L. The Faces of David. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 242. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

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    This volume provides a literary and narrative examination of the David account in Samuel, emphasizing the story world in the text and noting that the author allows David’s character to be ambiguous, being shaped by both the aims of the deity and David’s own political ambitions. Particular attention is given to David’s lament (2 Samuel 1:19–27), the song of praise in 2 Samuel 22, and David’s “last words” in 2 Samuel 23:1–7.

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  • Steussy, Marti J. David: Biblical Portraits of Power. Studies on the Personalities of the Old Testament. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999.

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    The author chooses to set aside historical-critical issues and to examine the various literary portraits contained in the biblical narrative. The three sections in the book deal with David in Samuel, Chronicles, and the Psalms.

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  • Van Seters, John. The Biblical Saga of King David. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2009.

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    Examines the debate over the social and historical context of the David narrative and literary analysis of David from his rise to the succession of Solomon. Argues that the saga of David was composed in the late Persian period, based on an earlier and idealized Deuteronomistic version. However, the saga’s intent is to undercut the ideal king, stamping him and his successor as unfit to rule and the cause of the nation’s ultimate fall.

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Historical Analysis

While conclusive archaeological or extrabiblical evidence for the historicity of the early monarchy as recounted in Samuel is not available, numerous historical-critical studies have been produced to examine a projected historical reconstruction using the Samuel narrative. Some, like Auld 1994, are interested in possible sources that later found their way into Samuel-Kings and Chronicles, while others (Halpern 2001, Rofé 2000, McCarter 1986) assume the basic historical character of the narrative despite its exaggerations and theological agenda. Cargill 1986, a nonspecialist, chooses to strip away the theological layers to explore the narrative’s possible underlying message. Na’aman 1996 and Na’aman 2002 focus on what archaeology and extrabiblical records can tell us about this period and the possible veracity of the story of David’s wars and his association with Jerusalem.

  • Auld, A. Graeme. Kings without Privilege: David and Moses in the Story of the Bible’s Kings. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1994.

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    Attempts to uncover the common source for Samuel-Kings and Chronicles and calls this the “shared text.” The author makes the proposal that the idea of a monarchy with limitations of power is not uniquely Deuteronomistic but is reflected already in the Shared Text. The primary goal here, however, is to reshape historians’ use of Kings and Chronicles for reconstructing Israelite history. He therefore offers his Shared Text as a better starting point for historical reconstruction of the period.

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  • Cargill, Jack. “David in History: A Secular Approach.” Judaism 35 (1986): 211–222.

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    In an effort to remove the theological bias implicit in the biblical narrative, Cargill applies modern historical-critical methods to the text and employs the maxim that that which contradicts the source’s apparent purpose or bias is more likely to be true. What therefore emerges is David the opportunist, a man who is both emotional and manipulative.

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  • Halpern, Baruch. David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001.

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    The author carefully rereads the account of David’s life from the viewpoint of how his enemies saw him and attempts to reestablish his historicity. Attention is given to the date of the narrative and archaeological data related to it, and an effort is made to prove that while the account is pro-David propaganda, its exaggerated storyline does reflect elements of the true nature of the early monarchy period.

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  • McCarter, P. Kyle, Jr. “The Historical David.” Interpretation 40 (1986): 117–129.

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    The article provides a historical reconstruction of David’s reign from the biblical narrative. Comparisons are made with ’apiru chiefs described in Middle and Late Bronze Age accounts. David’s ability as a warrior and an administrator are detailed.

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  • Na’aman, Nadav. “Sources and Composition in the History of David.” Paper presented at “The Formation of a State: Historical, Archaeological, and Sociological Problems in the Period of the United Monarchy in Israel,” a colloquium held on behalf of the German Protestant Institute of Archaeology in Jerusalem. In Origins of the Ancient Israelite States. Edited by Volkmar Fritz and Philip R. Davies, 170–186. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 228. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.

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    While noting that the court history of David may have inaccuracies, the author makes the case for Jerusalem being the center of a state prior to the 8th century BCE, and for the ability of the scribes in the Davidic court to compile records and put together a plausible story.

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  • Na’aman, Nadav. “In Search of Reality behind the Account of David’s Wars with Israel’s Neighbors.” Israel Exploration Journal 52 (2002): 200–224.

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    Argues that the earliest account of David’s wars dates after the reign of Hazael (first half of the 8th century BCE). These accounts are in fact modeled after battle records of later kings and then employed for the David narrative.

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  • Rofé, Alexander. “The Reliability of the Sources about David’s Reign: An Outlook from Political Theory.” In Mincha: Festgabe für Rolf Rendtorff zum 75. Geburtstag. Edited by Erhard Blum, 217–227. Neukirchen, Germany: Neukirchener Verlag, 2000.

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    The article makes the case that the sources for David’s reign are fairly reliable accounts and therefore add to the historicity of David’s kingdom. Most of the author’s focus is on Absalom’s revolt, the manner in which he could have drawn on tribal discontent, and the backlash caused by David’s use of non-Israelites in his administration.

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Social Science Analysis

The intricate social interactions that are so much a part of the narratives in Samuel-Kings lend themselves to social-scientific investigation and interpretation. In some cases, this means a study of political development (Flanagan 1981, Hens-Piazza 1996) or the development of leadership traits within an increasingly complex social situation (Flanagan 1988). Other studies (Matthews and Benjamin 1997, Stansell 1994) explore the implications of an honor/shame tradition in ancient Israel. Some recent research has also turned to an examination of how the narrative frames the emotional and personal developmental responses of the characters (Hutton 2006, Pyper 2002).

  • Flanagan, James W. “Chiefs in Israel.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 20 (1981): 47–73.

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    The article applies a cultural evolutionary theory developed by anthropologists to make the determination that Saul and David were not true monarchs, but were chiefs during Israel’s period of transformation from a segmented, egalitarian tribal confederacy into a coercive state.

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  • Flanagan, James W. David’s Social Drama: A Hologram of Israel’s Early Iron Age. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 73. Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1988.

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    Using archaeology, literary sources, and anthropological models (holography and holograms), Flanagan interprets the socio-religious processes that may have existed in the 10th century BCE. As an early example of social world studies, this volume is a step toward introducing the value of the interdisciplinary approach to biblical interpretation.

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  • Hens-Piazza, Gina. Of Methods, Monarchs, and Meanings: A Sociorhetorical Approach to Exegesis. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1996.

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    The volume attempts to integrate literary, rhetorical-critical (diachronic) approaches with more historical (synchronic) approaches to the text of 1 and 2 Samuel. The focus is on an examination of the composition of Hebrew narrative, using the vocabulary of literary criticism. There is also a discussion of social-scientific methods that may be used to reconstruct the social history of ancient Israel’s early monarchy period.

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  • Hutton, Jeremy. “The Left Bank of the Jordan and the Rites of Passage: An Anthropological Interpretation of 2 Samuel xix.” Vetus Testamentum 56 (2006): 470–484.

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    Using anthropological models, the author shows that the present order of events in 2 Samuel 19 is not only intentional but well structured. It provides a literary account of David’s “rite of passage” from prospective monarch to one who is fully empowered, and then in this episode provides a ritualized version of how David regains his authority following Absalom’s usurpation.

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  • Matthews, Victor H., and Don C. Benjamin. “Amnon and Tamar: a Matter of Honor (2 Sam 13:1–38).” In Crossing Boundaries and Linking Horizons: Studies in Honor of Michael C. Astour on His 80th Birthday. Edited by Gordon Douglas Young, Mark W. Chavalas, and Richard E. Averbeck, 345–372. Baltimore: CDL, 1997.

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    The article explores how a social world governed by the principles of honor and shame and reciprocity are exemplified in the contest between Absalom and Amnon for the right to be David’s heir. The use of rape as a political gambit and the importance of food to these narratives are also explored.

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  • Pyper, Hugh S. “Reading David’s Mind: Inference, Emotion, and the Limits of Language.” In Sense and Sensitivity: Essays on Reading the Bible in Memory of Robert Carroll. Edited by Alastair G. Hunter and Philip R. Davies, 73–86. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 348. London: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002.

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    After examining the narrative and reflecting on David’s behavior and the display of his emotions in response to a series of deaths, the conclusion is that his responses contain quite a variety, demonstrating a complex individual. There is additional discussion of the value of employing a psychoanalytic approach to the text.

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  • Stansell, Gary. “Honor and Shame in the David Narratives.” Semeia 68 (1994): 55–79.

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    The article highlights the importance of interpreting the David narrative in the light of the honor/shame dichotomy that existed in ancient Israel. The author employs comparative materials from other Mediterranean cultures to develop patterns in the text such as challenge-response, revenge for insult, and the lack of theological underpinning.

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Archaeological Analysis

The desire to place David and the events of the early monarchy into a recognizable social world and the history of ancient Israel has led to extensive archaeological research on this period. David’s capital of Jerusalem is a natural focal point for excavations (Cahill 2003, Cogan 1997). However, the debate over the historicity of the Davidic narratives continues to divide scholars (Halpern 1997, Thompson 2006, Silberman 2003). The range of difference between maximalist and minimalist positions is also found in investigations of Israel’s neighbors (Bierling 1992) and of the recently discovered Tel Dan inscription (Ehrlich 2001, Kitchen 1997).

  • Bierling, Neal. Giving Goliath His Due: New Archaeological Light on the Philistines. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992.

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    Focusing on the excavations at Tel Miqne-Ekron, Bierling describes the Philistines as assimilators, adapting themselves to Canaanite culture. Archaeological evidence for these people is traced from the conquest period to the reign of Josiah. In this way their appearance in the biblical narrative is illumined.

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  • Cahill, Jane. “Jerusalem at the Time of the United Monarchy: The Archaeological Evidence.” In Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period. Edited by Andrew G. Vaughn and Ann E. Killebrew, 13–80. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2003.

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    A thorough review of the history of archaeological research conducted in Jerusalem over a period of a century. The essay includes pottery plates and photos that make the case for Jerusalem being a significant city during the 10th century BCE and thus the capital of the united monarchy during that time.

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  • Cogan, Mordechai. “David’s Jerusalem: Notes and Reflections.” In Tehillah le-Moshe: Biblical and Judaic Studies in Honor of Moshe Greenberg. Edited by Mordechai Cogan, Barry L. Eichler, and Jeffrey H. Tigay, 193–201. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1997.

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    The author outlines briefly the sources and archaeological data that relate to the role that Jerusalem held in the Amarna era and during the early monarchy. Some attention is given to what David would have had to do to transform the city into his capital.

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  • Ehrlich, Carl S. “The bytdwd-Inscription and Israelite Historiography: Taking Stock after Half a Decade of Research.” In The World of the Aramaeans 2: Studies in History and Archaeology in Honour of Paul-Eugène Dion. Edited by P. M. Michèle Daviau, John W. Wevers, and Michael Weigl, 57–71. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 325. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

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    A survey of the debate between maximalists and minimalists with regard to the Tel Dan inscription and its possible mention of the “house of David.” The conclusion is drawn that the minimalist view that attempts to discredit the dating and interpretation of the inscription is overstated.

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  • Halpern, Baruch. “Text and Artifact: Two Monologues?” Paper presented at a conference titled “The Archaeology of Israel: Constructing the Past, Interpreting the Present,” Lehigh University, 22–24 May 1994. In Archaeology of Israel. Edited by Neil Asher Silberman and David B. Small, 311–341. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 237. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic, 1997.

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    In this methodological discussion, Halpern points out the difference between text and archaeological data for the reconstruction of Israelite historiography. Illustrations of possible abuses in textual analysis are provided, using the narrative of the death of Saul.

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  • Kitchen, Kenneth A. “A Possible Mention of David in the Late Tenth Century BCE, and Deity Dod as Dead as the Dodo?” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 76 (1997): 29–44.

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    The author summarizes the controversy over the Tel Dan Stela and makes comparisons with portions of the Moabite Stone. He also notes a possible mention of the name David in the topographical list of Shoshenq I (c. 925 BCE).

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  • Silberman, Neil Asher. “Archaeology, Ideology, and the Search for David and Solomon.” In Jerusalem in Bible and Archaeology: The First Temple Period. Edited by Andrew G. Vaughn and Ann E. Killebrew, 395–405. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 2003.

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    Silberman calls for caution in making ideologically charged statements on either the historicity or the fictional characterization of the united monarchy period. Both have far-reaching influences on public policy and national identity in the modern Middle East.

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  • Thompson, Thomas L. “Archaeology and the Bible Revisited.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 20.2 (2006): 286–313.

    DOI: 10.1080/09018320601049565Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that “archaeological evidence” proposed does not support a redaction history, nor does it establish the historicity of either the biblical figures or their stories. In fact, the harmony of biblical and archaeological issues is circular and illegitimate by the standards of historical research. He further argues that an oral tradition, reflecting original memories of a historical David or Saul, is an entirely unnecessary and unlikely explanation for the origins of both figures.

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Comparative Studies

Because David is such a dominant character in biblical story and legend, it is not surprising to find scholars looking for comparative motifs and story lines in other ancient cultures. Hittite texts have provided a model for David’s apology (McCarter 1980), and the “everlasting covenant” may have its roots in Mesopotamian royal ideology (Laato 1997). Egyptian royal inscriptions provide provenance for the “Testament of David” (Perdue 1983), as does the Egyptian royal novella form (Herrmann 1953–1954), and Herodotus’s portrait of Cyrus of Persia has comparisons with David’s rise to power (Stott 2002). Even more recent usurper figures have been compared to David (Bosworth 2006).

  • Bosworth, David A. “Evaluating King David: Old Problems and Recent Scholarship.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 68.2 (2006): 191–210.

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    This article contains a review of recent scholarship on David as well as an examination of David “the usurper” as he compares to other famous usurpers such as Catherine the Great of Russia. Then, in response to work by Walter Dietrich, Bosworth examines five parallels with royal figures in the ancient Near East.

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  • Herrmann, Siegfried. “Königsnovelle in Ägypten und Israel: Ein Beitrag zur Gattungsgeschichte in den Geschichtsbüchern des Alten Testaments.” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Karl Marx-Üniversität Leipzig, Gesellschafts- und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe 1.3 (1953–1954): 51–62.

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    Compares David with the Egyptian royal novella that provides the traditional basis of the rise of a king. Argues that the adoption of this literary form was intentional and reflects the confidence of the Davidic-Solomonic empire. Translated into English in Reconsidering Israel and Judah: Recent Studies in the Deuteronomistic History, edited by Gary N. Knoppers and J. Gordon McConville (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2000), pp. 493–515.

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  • Laato, Antti. “Second Samuel 7 and Ancient Near Eastern Royal Ideology.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 59 (1997): 244–269.

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    Comparisons are made here between the 2 Samuel 7 expression of the “everlasting covenant” and royal ideologies contained in Mesopotamian, Aramaic, and Phoenician texts. Laato contends that the biblical version is simply part of a longstanding tradition in Akkadian texts. Therefore Nathan’s speech is not anachronistic, and it actually reflects pre-exilic Jerusalem’s politics.

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  • McCarter, P. Kyle. “The Apology of David.” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980): 489–504.

    DOI: 10.2307/3265189Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues for the basic unity of 1 Samuel 16–2 Samuel 5 instead of one based on Deuteronomistic editing. McCarter contends that this section was composed with the intent of emphasizing the legitimacy of David’s claim to the throne and was in fact in accordance with Yahweh’s intention. Parallels are also drawn between this apology form and the apology of Hattushilish III in Hittite texts.

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  • Perdue, Leo G. “The Testament of David and Egyptian Royal Inscriptions.” In Scripture in Context II: More Essays on the Comparative Method. Edited by William W. Hallo, James C. Moyer, and Leo G. Perdue, 79–96. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983.

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    Argues that the “Testament of David” (1 Kings 2:1–12) serves as an important part of the Succession Narrative and strongly resembles two Egyptian prototypes: the Instruction of Merikare and the Instruction of Amunemhet. Each of these texts comes from a deceased or dying king and is intended to legitimate the policies and actions of the successor.

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  • Stott, Katherine. “Herodotus and the Old Testament: A Comparative Reading of the Ascendancy Stories of King Cyrus and David.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 16 (2002): 52–78.

    DOI: 10.1080/09018320210000356Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article provides a comparison between David’s rise to power and Herodotus’s version of Cyrus the Persian and his efforts to conquer the Near East. The argument is made that the two texts share a conventional pattern of empire founder/builders and that the biblical account may well be dependent in part on Hellenistic literary models.

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Sections of the Narrative

Given the huge amount of scholarly research that has been done on aspects of and phases in David’s career, it seems best to divide this into segments, starting with his early life and continuing through the events of the Succession Narrative.

Early Life

David’s early career is focused on his emergence as the Lord’s anointed rival to Saul (North 1982, Grønbæk 1971). Much of this time is spent making the case for his legitimacy and military accomplishments. There are also sidebars dealing with his relationship with Jonathan (Lawton 1993, Peleg 2005). Of course the contest with Goliath has raised scholarly interest (Dietrich 1996), but perhaps more interesting are the subtle and not so subtle ways that the editors have shaped the narrative to provide a case for David’s rise (Lemche 1978, Sweeney 1997).

  • Dietrich, Walter. “Die Erzählungen von David und Goliat in I Sam 17.” Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 108 (1996): 172–191.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.1996.108.2.172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Dietrich examines the two independent narratives of the confrontation between David and Goliath that have been edited together in the Hebrew version of 1 Samuel 17. Notes how the compiler has redirected the perspective of the battle to make a theological argument.

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  • Grønbæk, Jakob H. Die Geschichte vom Aufstiegs Davids (1.Sam.15–2.Sam.5): Tradition und Komposition. Acta Theologica Danica 10. Copenhagen: Munksgaard, 1971.

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    This dissertation opposes the literary-historical approach and presents a compositional and tradition-historical analysis of David’s rise to prominence in Samuel. The argument is made that in the effort to legitimize David’s kingship, an attempt is made, using the Joseph narrative, to establish continuity between Saul and David.

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  • Lawton, Robert B. “Saul, Jonathan, and the ‘Son of Jesse’.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 58 (1993): 35–46.

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    The article discusses the Saul-Jonathan-David triad as part of the narrator’s effort to show that David is Saul’s legitimate heir. Particular attention is given to those instances in the text where the narrator describes Saul and David as being close and when Saul speaks to David as if he, not Jonathan, were his son.

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  • Lemche, Niels P. “David’s Rise.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 10 (1978): 2–25.

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    The article focuses on the narrative of David’s rise in 1 Samuel 17–2 Samuel 5 and its efforts to legitimize David’s succession and to acquit David of charges that could be brought against him for complicity in the ruin of Saul’s dynasty. Like other rulers of his day, David is to be seen as being willing to use any means to gain the kingship.

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  • North, Robert G. “David’s Rise: Sacral, Military, or Psychiatric.” Biblica 63 (1982): 524–544.

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    David’s rise to power is described, focusing on Saul’s need for a “therapist” in 1 Samuel 16 and his subsequent need for a heroic gesture in 1 Samuel 17. David’s anointing by Samuel shows the Elohist’s preoccupation with involving God in the action by means of intermediaries.

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  • Peleg, Yaron. “Love at First Sight? David, Jonathan, and the Biblical Politics of Gender.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 30 (2005): 171–189.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089205060606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article argues that the narrative attempts to legitimize David’s rise to power by both discrediting Saul on political and religious grounds and undermining Jonathan’s claim to the throne through a manipulation of gender roles (placing Jonathan in a female role in the relationship with David).

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  • Sweeney, Marvin A. “Davidic Polemics in the Book of Judges.” Vetus Testamentum 47 (1997): 517–529.

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    Sweeney makes the case in this literary examination of Judges that the more strident polemics in the book are directed at Ephraim and Bethel rather than at Benjamin. However, each of these polemics serves Davidic political purposes.

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Outlaw Period

There is a certain attractiveness to being unjustly outlawed, something that the later Robin Hood legend has played on since the Middle Ages. David’s outlaw period provides opportunities to set social and legal precedents (Edenburg 1998) and to begin providing David with the social network needed to rule (Levenson and Halpern 1980, van Wolde 2002). His “service” with the Philistines provides political cover (Shemesh 2007) and plausible deniability with regard to Saul’s ultimate demise (Klein 2005).

  • Edenburg, Cynthia. “How (Not) To Murder a King: Variations on a Theme in 1 Sam 24; 26.” Scandinavian Journal of the Old Testament 12 (1998): 64–85.

    DOI: 10.1080/09018329808585128Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article examines whether 1 Samuel 24 and 26 are doublets and then addresses the question of the function of the double stories within the context of the larger narrative. Particular attention is given to common genres and motifs, type-scenes, and variants.

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  • Klein, Johannes. “Davids Flucht zu den Philistern (1 Sam XXI 11ff; XXVII–XXIX).” Vetus Testamentum 55 (2005): 176–184.

    DOI: 10.1163/1568533053741982Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The two passages represent different events in David’s career, and in their differences they demonstrate how David progresses into a wiser and more cautious man. At the same time, Saul undergoes the opposite process. In this way David’s flight to join the Philistines is justified, as is his succession to the throne.

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  • Levenson, Jon D., and Baruch Halpern. “The Political Import of David’s Marriages.” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980): 507–518.

    DOI: 10.2307/3265190Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The authors makes the case, through an examination of David’s political networking through marriage, that he played the peripheries against the center in order to strengthen his position against the Saulides.

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  • Shemesh, Yael. “David in the Service of King Achish of Gath: Renegade to His People or a Fifth Column in the Philistine Army?” Vetus Testamentum 57 (2007): 73–90.

    DOI: 10.1163/156853307X167864Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Employing a literary analysis of the narrative, the author shows that David is not depicted as intending to betray Saul and Israel. David’s dismissal prior to the battle of Gilboa, instigated by the Philistine commanders, is compatible with the divine plan for Israel’s defeat and the destruction of the House of Saul (the Witch of Endor story), and justifies David’s succeeding Saul on the throne of Israel.

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  • van Wolde, Ellen J. “A Leader Led by a Lady: David and Abigail in I Samuel 25.” Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 114 (2002): 355–375.

    DOI: 10.1515/zatw.2002.019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author analyzes the function of Abigail’s discourse on a literal and metaphorical level. In the latter sense, Nabal is equated with Saul and David’s actions represent both the present situation and his future actions with regard to Saul.

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King in Hebron

The seven-year period during which David serves as “king” in Hebron provides an interlude during which he strengthens his administrative position against that of Eshbaal and may have been involved in clandestine activities that eventually led to his rise to kingship over all the tribes (Vanderkam 1980, Lemche 1975, Reis 2006). Some scholars treat this material as basically historical in character (Mazar 1963) while others treat it as primarily a creation of the editors (Firth 2007, Cryer 1985).

  • Cryer, Frederick H. “David’s Rise to Power and the Death of Abner: An Analysis of 1 Samuel 26:14–16 and its Redaction-Critical Implications.” Vetus Testamentum 35 (1985): 385–394.

    DOI: 10.2307/1517755Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author argues that 1 Samuel 26:14–16 is a literary parallel to 1 Samuel 23:19–24:22. Redaction has attempted to soften the implication of David’s involvement by shifting the blame onto the “sons of Zeruiah” for the deaths of some of David’s victims. Cryer posits the existence of a pre-Deuteronomistic “Schicht” that once connected the history of David’s rise to power with the Succession Narrative.

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  • Firth, David G. “The Accession Narrative (1 Samuel 27–2 Samuel 1).” Tyndale Bulletin 58 (2007): 61–81.

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    Firth examines 1 Samuel 27—2 Samuel 1 as a discrete literary unit that consciously acts as a climax for all that precedes it in 1 Samuel. Since there are clear links to preceding text, allowing the Narrative to serve as a reflection on the circumstances and interpretation of Saul’s death provides an alibi for David at that time.

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  • Lemche, Niels Peter. “Davids vej til Tronen.” Dansk Teologisk Tidsskrift 38 (1975): 241–263.

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    In this portrait of David’s early career, Lemche characterizes him as an ambitious and calculating politician who is willing to employ any means necessary to achieve his aims, including political murders, treason, bribery, or adultery. This includes playing a direct part in the deaths of Abner and Eshbaal.

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  • Mazar, Benjamin. “David’s Reign in Hebron and the Conquest of Jerusalem.” In In the Time of Harvest: Essays in Honor of Abba Hillel Silver. Edited by Solomon B. Freehof, 235–244. New York: Macmillan, 1963.

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    Mazar’s treatment of the material assumes its basic historicity. He points to David’s use of the “thirty mighty men” as his military strike force and organizing element while at Hebron. Joab’s rise to military commander is then tied to the conquest of the citadel of Zion and the transformation of Jerusalem into David’s capital city after the death of Eshbaal.

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  • Reis, Pamela Tamarkin. “Killing the Messenger: David’s Policy or Politics?” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 31.2 (2006): 167–191.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089206073102Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The conclusion is drawn that executing messengers is not David’s official policy. It is a reflection of his political acumen, since it only occurs when the execution provides him with a political advantage. Similarly, his public lament for Absalom is a charade designed to win the support of Absalom’s followers.

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  • Vanderkam, James C. “Davidic Complicity in the Deaths of Abner and Eshbaal: A Historical and Redactional Study.” Journal of Biblical Literature 99 (1980): 521–539.

    DOI: 10.2307/3265191Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Although there is no direct historical proof that David was implicated in the deaths of his political rivals, a redactional evaluation of the material, based primarily on 2 Samuel 16:5–13, allows one to draw the conclusion that the editor who compiled the story believed that David masterminded the murders of both Abner and Eshbaal.

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King in Jerusalem

With the death of Eshbaal, David emerges as the ruler of all of the Israelite tribes, and a whole new set of characters is introduced as the stage shifts to Jerusalem. Events of particular note here are David’s transport of the Ark to his new capital (Wright 2002, Willi-Plein 1997) and David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba (Naumann 2000, Bailey 1990). The latter incident also provides a showcase for Nathan as court prophet and royal adviser (Jones 1990). It is also during this section that Joab takes his place as David’s alter ego and principal hatchet man and fall guy (Schley 1993).

  • Bailey, Randall C. David in Love and War. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 75. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990.

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    The author argues that 2 Samuel 10–12 is distinct from the other materials in the Succession Narrative, while focusing on the Ammonite War and on the David-Bathsheba-Uriah-Nathan story. The case is made for multiple sources and heavy Deuteronomistic editing of these materials. In particular, the point is put forward that the David-Bathsheba incident has more to do with political deal-making than with carnal desire.

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  • Jones, Gwilym H. The Nathan Narratives. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 80. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990.

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    A historical-critical study of this portion of the Succession Narrative that accepts Rost’s interpretation (Rost 1982, cited under Succession Narrative). The primary concern here is with the characterization of Nathan as a court prophet, a “justice prophet,” and a “privy counsellor” and in so doing attempting to separate the historical character from the character as interpreted by the editor.

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  • Naumann, Thomas L. “David als exemplarischer König: Der Fall Urijas (2 Sam 11) vor dem Hintergrund altorientalischer Erzähltraditionen.” In Die Sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: neue Einsichten und Anfragen. Edited by Albert de Pury and Thomas Römer, 136–167. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 176. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000.

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    In this examination of the story of David’s sin in 2 Samuel 11, the author concludes that it is a literary fiction designed to use the figure of David as a warning against royal abuse of power. Combined with his penitent attitude in 2 Samuel 12, these two stories function together as a pre-Deuteronomistic expansion of the Succession Narrative dating to the 8th century BCE.

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  • Schley, D. G. “Joab and David: Ties of Blood and Power.” In History and Interpretation: Essays in Honour of John H. Hayes. Edited by M. Patrick Graham, William P. Brown, and Jeffrey K. Kwan, 90–105. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 173. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993.

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    The article takes the position that the authors of the history of David’s rise and the Succession Narrative were concerned with refuting or deflecting charges against David and with justifying his right to rule. This propagandistic account also intends to justify the bloody purge at the beginning of Solomon’s reign. Joab’s accomplishments as a military leader and royal advisor therefore have to be mitigated in order to allow for his execution.

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  • Willi-Plein, Ina. “Michal und die Anfänge des Königtums in Israel.” Paper presented at the 15th Congress of the International Organization for the Study of the Old Testament, Cambridge, UK, July 1995. In Congress Volume: Cambridge 1995. Edited by J. A. Emerton, 401–419. Vetus Testamentum Supplement Series 66. Leiden, The Netherlands, and New York: Brill, 1997.

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    The paper examines the use of Michal as a literary marker who is associated with David’s initial rise to prominence within Saul’s house and who also appears as David emerges as the supplanter of the Saulides. Her realization of David’s new and different role when he dances before the Ark into Jerusalem provides the narrator with a first-person witness.

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  • Wright, David P. “Music and Dance in 2 Samuel 6.” Journal of Biblical Literature 121 (2002): 201–225.

    DOI: 10.2307/3268353Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article explores the ritual significance of David’s performance, which the author believes was designed to draw the deity’s attention to the participants’ actions. As a result of David’s dance, four of the five senses were involved (smell, taste, hearing, and sight), but touch is taboo, as Uzzah discovered.

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Court History

While David officially establishes his court in Jerusalem in 2 Samuel 5, his “court history” begins with the ripple effect of his adultery (Nicol 1998), Nathan’s emerging role as court prophet (Hentschel 1998, Bodner 2005), and the rivalries between his sons for the right to become his successor (Conroy 1978, Lyke 1997).

  • Bodner, Keith. David Observed: A King in the Eyes of His Court. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Phoenix, 2005.

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    This set of essays attempts to illumine David’s personality by studying various characters with whom he interacts in the Samuel-Kings narrative. There is a strong reliance on the literary theories of Bakhtin, including the use of “pseudoobjective motivation” to discuss the story of Abner’s assassination in 2 Samuel 3. Five chapters are devoted to 2 Samuel 11–12 and a character study of Nathan, and the volume concludes with two chapters on Solomon in 1 Kings 1.

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  • Conroy, Charles. Absalom Absalom! Narrative and Language in 2 Samuel 13—20. Analecta Biblica 81. Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute, 1978.

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    This literary analysis focuses on that portion of the Succession Narrative contained in 2 Samuel 13–20 and in particular 13:1–22 and 17:24–19:9. It does not treat issues of historicity or social or theological questions. It is divided into two parts: the text as process and the text as product. Literary structure is examined to determine how the story unfolds, how the characters and events are employed in the narrative, and how it interacts with the reader.

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  • Hentschel, Georg. “War Natan der Wortführer der Jebusiter?” In Ich bewirke das Heil und erschaffe das Unheil (Jesaja 45,7): Studien zur Botschaft der Propheten: Festschrift für Lothar Ruppert zum 65. Geburtstag. Edited by Friedrich Diedrich and Bernd Willmes, 181–208. Forschung zur Bibel 88. Würzburg, Germany: Echter, 1998.

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    Since Nathan’s role as court prophet does not follow the pattern commonly found in other ancient Near Eastern royal courts, it is clear that he served multiple roles in David’s administration. Although he was a Jebusite, he does not serve as their official spokesman at court and is not tied to a Jebusite agenda when dealing with David.

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  • Lyke, Larry. King David with the Wise Woman of Tekoa: The Resonance of Tradition in Parabolic Narrative. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 255. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

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    This revised dissertation provides a tight “intertextual” study of the parable found in 2 Samuel 14:1–20. The author draws the conclusion that the Wise Woman is paradigmatic of the mashal by comparing her with other meshalim and/or parallel themes and topoi in the Bible.

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  • Nicol, George G. “David, Abigail, and Bathsheba, Nabal and Uriah: Transformations within a Triangle.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 12 (1998): 130–145.

    DOI: 10.1080/09018329808585131Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Two separate narratives are examined with the connection between them being David’s relationship with the women and the demise of their husbands. The case is made in the Uriah story that he actually knew what David was attempting to do, but was honor bound to become a victim of the adulterous couple.

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Succession Narrative

One of the continuing debates over the literary character of the narratives that detail David’s career is whether a structured “Succession Narrative” actually exists, and if so, who is responsible for its creation (Ackroyd 1981, Frolov 2002). Originally formulated by Rost in 1926 (see Rost 1982), some now view the claim as standard (Ho 1999, Kaiser 2000, Seiler 1998), while others call it into question or simply discount it altogether (Van Seters 2000, McKenzie 2000, Keys 1996).

  • Ackroyd, Peter. “The Succession Narrative (So-called).” Interpretation 35 (1981): 383–396.

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    This article challenges the view that the Succession Narrative is a unified narrative. Ackroyd raises a series of questions to undermine scholarly consensus on this viewpoint and to focus on “untidy pieces” that stand out in opposition to narrative unity. He suggests that allowing the text to be diverse may be a better means of interpretation than structuring it into a set and rigid framework.

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  • Frolov, Serge. “Succession Narrative: a “Document” or a Phantom?” Journal of Biblical Literature 121 (2002): 81–104.

    DOI: 10.2307/3268331Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author challenges the view that the Succession Narrative constitutes a self-contained, independent unit. Instead, he posits that the entire portrayal of David, including the view of David’s behavior, in Samuel-Kings is the work of the Deuteronomist and matches Deuteronomic passages elsewhere in the Former Prophets.

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  • Ho, Craig Y. S. “The Stories of the Family Troubles of Judah and David: A Study of Their Literary Links.” Vetus Testamentum 49 (1999): 514–531.

    DOI: 10.1163/156853399323228425Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article makes the case for Genesis 38 being dependent on the Succession Narrative. In fact, it owes the majority of its literary components to the Succession Narrative, including names, plot, theme, and motifs. The purpose of the story is to provide David with a genealogical link to Judah and thus prove David’s Jewishness.

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  • Kaiser, Otto. “Das Verhältnis der Erzählung vom König David zum sogenannten Deuteronomistischen Geschichtswerk: Am Beispiel von 1 Kön 1 und 2: Ein Gespräch mit John van Seters.” In Studien zur Literaturgeschichte des Alten Testaments. By Otto Kaiser, 134–164. Forschung zur Bibel 90. Würzburg, Germany: Echter, 2000.

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    In response to John Van Seters’s formulation of the “Court History” (2 Samuel 9–20 = 1 Kings 1–2) as a post-Deuteronomistic insertion characterized as anti-Davidic (Van Seters 2000), Kaiser argues for an alternate viewpoint. He notes that the foundational material (dating from the 8th century) contains an ambiguous stance toward the monarchy and David and Solomon. Efforts to put the early monarchs in a better light are part of a pre-Deuteronomistic “dynastic redaction.”

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  • Keys, Gillian. The Wages of Sin: A Reappraisal of the “Succession Narrative.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series 221. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.

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    This volume provides a critique of Rost 1982 and Rost’s original formulation of the themes and the theological underpinning of the Succession Narrative. Keys proposes the existence of an originally independent “composition” in 2 Samuel 10–20 by a single “editor” or “author/compiler” who also included the Succession Narrative in the editing of the material in 1 and 2 Samuel, with the main theme being “retribution” against David for his misdeeds.

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  • McKenzie, Steven L. “The So-called Succession Narrative in the Deuteronomistic History.” In Die Sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: neue Einsichten und Anfragen. Edited by Albert de Pury and Thomas Römer, 123–135. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 176. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000.

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    In a dialogue with Van Seters’s position (Van Seters 2000), McKenzie asserts that the Succession Narrative never actually existed as a distinct, continuous, and early source. The material was first assembled by the Deuteronomist from numerous sources that are no longer available to us. He only points to 2 Samuel 11–12 as a post-Deuteronomistic fragment, based on its negative portrayal of David.

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  • Rost, Leonhard. The Succession to the Throne of David. Translated by Michael D. Rutter and David M. Gunn. Sheffield, UK: Almond, 1982.

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    Proposes that the narrative was edited together from two apologetic works, one that celebrates David’s rise to power and the other that legitimizes Solomon’s succession. To support this, Rost makes three main points: (1) “succession” constitutes the work’s “motivating force and subject matter”; (2) the style of 2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2 is “uniform throughout”; and (3) there are continuities of content and theology between 2 Samuel 9–20 and 1 Kings 1–2. English translation of Die Überlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids (Stuttgart, Germany: Kohlhammer, 1926).

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  • Seiler, Stefan. Die Geschichte von der Thronfolge Davids. Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für alttestamentliche Wissenschaft 267. Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1998.

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    Disputes each of the major efforts to discredit Rost by testing the claims of these positions through a close analysis of the text. Working only within a diachronic-redactoral frame of reference, Seiler dismisses those with whom he disagrees. However, in his discussion of the lives of the major biblical characters in these narratives he never examines them against the broader literary context of the Succession Narrative as a whole.

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  • Van Seters, John. “The Court History and DtrH: Conflicting Perspectives on the House of David.” In Die Sogenannte Thronfolgegeschichte Davids: neue Einsichten und Anfragen. Edited by Albert de Pury and Thomas Römer, 70–93. Orbis Biblicus et Orientalis 176. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 2000.

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    The author chooses to relabel Rost’s “Succession Narrative” (Rost 1982) as David’s “Court History.” He declares this account to be a postexilic narrative that is completely fictional and designed to subvert David’s positive image as well as the very institution of the monarchy. The sources used for this “Court History” are said to be from DtrH and the exilic Yahwist.

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David in Samuel and Chronicles

Scholars have long noted the different characterizations of David in Samuel and in Chronicles. The agendas of the Deuteronomist and the Chronicler clash in these narratives and demonstrate how theological perspective changed over time (Murray 2001). Cited here are some comparative studies of individual pericopes (Beentjes 1998, Klein 1999, McKenzie 1999) or those that a wider view of these accounts when discussing common sources (Edelman 2000) or David’s portrayal as a founding figure (Wright 1998).

  • Beentjes, Pancratius C. “Transformations of Space and Time: Nathan’s Oracle and David’s Prayer in 1 Chronicles 17.” In Sanctity of Time and Space in Tradition and Modernity. Edited by Alberdina Houtman, Marcel Poorthuis, and Joshua Schwartz, 27–44. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 1998.

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    The article provides a comparative exegesis between 2 Samuel 7 and 1 Chronicles 17, noting that the Samuel passage, with Nathan’s oracle, is transformed in the Chronicles account to apply the oracle to Solomon and his construction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

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  • Edelman, Diana. “The Deuteronomist’s David and the Chronicler’s David: Competing or Contrasting Ideologies?” In The Future of the Deuteronomistic History. Edited by Thomas Römer, 67–83. Louvain, Belgium: Peeters, 2000.

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    The author examines four categories of material to analyze the possible reliance of Samuel-Kings and Chronicles on a single independent source for their portrayal of David. The conclusion is drawn that only 1 Chronicles 18:12 appears to come from a source older than Samuel-Kings, and that it is unlikely that the Chronicler drew only from an underlying source rather than from versions of Samuel-Kings.

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  • Klein, Ralph W. “David: Sinner and Saint in Samuel and Chronicles.” Currents in Theology and Mission 26 (1999): 104–116.

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    In a structured format, using parallel columns to depict how David is treated in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21, the author points out that in the latter recension David is treated as the model of a repentant sinner.

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  • McKenzie, Steven L. “Why Didn’t David Build the Temple: The History of a Biblical Tradition.” In Worship and the Hebrew Bible: Essays in Honor of John T. Willis. Edited by M. Patrick Graham, Rick R. Marrs, and Steven L. McKenzie, 204–224. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 284. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999.

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    The author compares the Deuteronomist’s treatment in 2 Samuel 7 with the Chronicler’s narrative in 1 Chronicles 17. The conclusion is drawn that the Chronicler reinterpreted David’s role in order to remove the taint of blood from the king who constructed the Temple.

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  • Murray, Donald F. “Under YHWH’s Veto: David as Shedder of Blood in Chronicles.” Biblica 82.4 (2001): 457–476.

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    Murray explores the significance of David’s inability to construct the Temple based on his record as a warrior with “bloody hands.” Since no other biblical character is restricted by this fact, the author uses arguments from Numbers 31 and 35 to explain why the Chronicler considered the restriction warranted and justified Yahweh’s veto.

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  • Wright, John W. “The Founding Father: The Structure of the Chronicler’s David Narrative.” Journal of Biblical Literature 117 (1998): 45–59.

    DOI: 10.2307/3266391Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author disputes the primacy of the “Ark narrative” in the Chronicler’s portrayal of David. Rather than placing emphasis on David’s theological significance, Wright points to David’s role as a political figure and founding father for the nation.

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David in the Psalms

There has been a longstanding tradition that the mention of David in the superscriptions and in the body of many of the Psalms can be used to reconstruct the historical character or to indicate his involvement in the creation of liturgy and song. Most scholars today take the view that this tradition is not tenable (Cooper 1983, Mays 1986). Most notice the multiple figures of David portrayed in the Psalms (Knowles 2005) and choose to emphasize the themes of piety, penitence, and thanksgiving that use the Davidic tradition to add authority (Goulder 2006, Nogalski 2001). Rendtorff 2005 adds an interpretative thread noting how the author of the Psalms used the superscriptions to make a point to the audience, and Roberts 2002 emphasizes the importance of the Davidic tradition to Zion theology.

  • Cooper, Alan M. “The Life and Times of King David According to the Book of Psalms.” In The Poet and the Historian: Essays in Literary and Historical Biblical Criticism. Edited by Richard E. Friedman, 117–131. Harvard Semitic Studies 26. Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1983.

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    The efforts to put a historical stamp on the tradition that David, the musician, was associated with psalmody as well are not justified. That tradition has its roots in the desire of the survivors and heirs of the old local guilds who wished to legitimize their role in the Second Temple.

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  • Goulder, Michael D. “David and Yahweh in Psalms 23 and 24.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 30 (2006): 463–473.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309089206067467Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The author identifies the speaker in Psalm 23 as a national leader and maintains that this should be seen as a companion piece to Psalm 24, forming a liturgy that could be dated to the Davidic era. They could have functioned as a celebration confirming the Davidic dynasty.

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  • Knowles, Melody D. “The Flexible Rhetoric of Retelling: The Choice of David in the Texts of the Psalms.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 67 (2005): 236–249.

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    The author examines the flexible use of Davidic traditions and narrative details in the psalms and notes that the contents of the Davidic motif can be molded and even changed in different psalms. The motif thus can be “appropriate” for very different occasions and for different uses.

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  • Mays, James L. “The David of the Psalms.” Interpretation 40 (1986): 143–155.

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    The author speaks of David as an intratextual reality that appears throughout the Old Testament in contexts that transcend his possible historical character. The variety of “Davids” therefore argues against reductionist approaches that only want to discuss the possible historicity of the early monarchy and instead urges allowing interpretation in the Psalms and elsewhere to encompass the full literary and social meaning attached to this figure.

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  • Nogalski, James. “Reading David in the Psalter: A Study in Liturgical Hermeneutics.” Horizons in Biblical Theology 23 (2001): 168–191.

    DOI: 10.1163/187122001X00099Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Using seven psalms with Davidic superscriptions, the author recasts the Davidic tradition with a greater accent on his piety and his purpose as role model. The point of the study is to redraw the connection for modern worship between David and the Psalms.

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  • Rendtorff, Rolf. “The Psalms of David: David in the Psalms.” In Book of Psalms: Composition and Reception. Edited by Peter W. Flint, Patrick D. Miller, Aaron Brunell, and Ryan Roberts, 53–64. Vetus Testamentum Supplement Series 99. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2005.

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    In this study of the superscriptions and psalm headings that mention David, the author notes that they are the earliest form of interpretation for these psalms and then discusses how they in fact relate to the body of the psalm.

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  • Roberts, J. J. M. “The Enthronement of Yhwh and David: The Abiding Theological Significance of the Kingship Language of the Psalms.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 64 (2002): 675–686.

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    In his reading of the Royal Psalms and the Zion Tradition, the author reiterates the importance of YHWH’s choice of David as king and the affirmation of his dynasty seated at Zion. The focus is on divine kingship being rooted in creation and the portrayal of an ideal king who will exercise judgment and justice for both humankind and the natural world.

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Reception History

The transmission of the Davidic tradition into art, literature, drama, and song is an indication of its value to those who study reception theory. Numerous collections of articles or surveys have explored how the story of David or the ideal image of David have found their way into various media over the centuries (Frontain and Wojcik 1980, Hourihane 2002, Vandergriff 2002). For biblical scholars, the usefulness of reader response to traditions allows for new or broadened interpretations of spatial concepts (Gunn 2000). Comparisons with artistic representations of David hold promise for expanded interpretations (Petersen 1986) as they acknowledge the possibilities for artistic expression with such a multifaceted and paradoxical character (O’Kane 1998). In addition, David’s story is among the various legends and traditions about biblical characters that have found their way into Jewish story, song, and anecdote (Ginzberg 1909–1938).

  • Frontain, Raymond-Jean, and Jan Wojcik, eds. The David Myth in Western Literature. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1980.

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    The eleven studies in this collection explore the influence of the David tradition and his paradoxical character on later literature, primarily in English and American examples. As a sort of “man for all seasons” David’s career and the myth of his idealized character find their way into drama and fiction, poetry and song.

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  • Ginzberg, Louis. Legends of the Jews. 7 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1909–1938.

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    Collects Aggadic sources that deal with major biblical figures, including King David.

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  • Gunn, David M. “Entertainment, Ideology, and the Reception of ‘History’: ‘David’s Jerusalem’ as a Question of Space.” In “A Wise and Discerning Mind”: Essays in Honor of Burke O. Long. Edited by Saul Olyan and Robert C. Culley, 153–161. Providence, RI: Brown Judaic Studies, 2000.

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    Gunn considers the David family story to be closer in tone to Euripides’s plays than to the “histories” of Herodotus. As such, the story is included in the canon because it “creates David’s Jerusalem” a foundational “lived space.” By investing this quality in Jerusalem, it allows the community of the Persian period to plumb its cultural depths in a variety of ways and transforms David’s space/story into “our space” for modern readers.

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  • Hourihane, Colum. King David in the Index of Christian Art. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.

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    This volume provides a comprehensive survey of the vast profusion of David images in both Byzantium and the West, including a detailed guide to the entire range of medieval depictions. The works of art catalogued here range in date from the 3rd to the 15th century and represent fourteen different media, including frescoes, ivories, manuscripts, stained glass, sculpture, mosaics, and textiles.

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  • O’Kane, Martin. “The Biblical King David and His Artistic and Literary Afterlives.” Biblical Interpretation 6 (1998): 313–347.

    DOI: 10.1163/156851598X00048Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The article focuses on the manner in which David has been depicted in art and literature. The appeal for artists and writers is based on David’s multifaceted career and the wealth of stories in both Jewish and Christian traditions.

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  • Petersen, David L. “Portraits of David Canonical and Otherwise.” Interpretation 40 (1986): 130–142.

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    Since the Hebrew Bible presents the reader with various perspectives on David, those of Samuel and of Psalms, as well as Amos and Chronicles, comparisons with Marc Chagall’s lithograph of David and other extrabiblical depictions may enable the biblical interpreter to understand better the diverse canonical portraits of this figure.

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  • Vandergriff, Ken. “Re-Creating David: The David Narratives in Art and Literature.” Review and Expositor 99 (2002): 193–206.

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    The article provides a survey of David’s depiction in novels, drama, poetry, and film. The treatment ranges from medieval portrayals of the penitent David to Shakespeare’s use of David in his Lancaster dramas to more recent performances. The complexity of the character has made it a rich source for authors and filmmakers.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0027

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