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King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Kindle Edition

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Length: 388 pages Word Wise: Enabled

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Amazon Review

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

Following much of modern religious scholarship which sees the Bible as "a patchwork of ancient texts that were composed and compiled by countless authors and editors," this study may not appeal to more fundamentalist readers; butit is not intended for scholars. It should, however, satisfy many readers who wish to explore more deeply the pertinent and picaresque life of a very real man, a charismatic leader who, as one historian puts it, "played exquisitely, fought heroically and loved titanically." --Doug Thorpe


[A] SPLENDID BIOGRAPHY . . . An eminently readable account of perhaps the best-known and most popular of all biblical heroes. --Los Angeles Times

A COMPLETE PORTRAIT . . . One of the more comprehensive attempts to place this staggering figure in history, in literature, in psychology, and in the evolution of Judaism and Christianity. --The Seattle Times

Anyone who reads [this] entertaining and often enlightening account will come away with a solid understanding of David s life and legacy. --San Francisco Chronicle

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 659 KB
  • Print Length: 388 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0345435052
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (22 July 2009)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002IPZE5G
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #592,703 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x91d2e684) out of 5 stars 25 reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x922afa08) out of 5 stars Kirsch Always Makes Me Think 5 April 2002
By Timothy Haugh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Kirsch is my favorite type of theological writer. He's not afraid to ask the tough questions about the cornerstones of faith and he's open to a wide variety of possibilities both traditional and liberal. He has a deft hand and obvious faith but his writing lacks the undercurrents (and, often, overtones) of other writers who ram particular points of view down a reader's throat. He is the kind of writer who gets the wheels in your head turning.
This time out Kirsch looks at the biblical figure of King David. He examines what we know of a man who is in many ways the key figure of the Bible. For those of us focused mainly on the New Testament, we need to be reminded that David was the pinnacle of Jewish success and the cornerstone of Messianic thought. It is no coincidence that Matthew and Luke are careful to trace the genealogy of Jesus through David. And Kirsch makes a very interesting case that it is possible that the books that carry the story of David (1 & 2 Samuel) may be among the oldest in the Bible around which even much of the Torah may have had its development.
Certainly, Kirsch reminds us of how very human David is. He is a virile youth and a successful warrior both for and against his countrymen. He is an anointed shepherd who takes years to secure a kingdom which he eventually must defend against his own sons. He is a servant of Yahweh who breaks nearly all the commandments at one time or another but repents. He is a believer but is steeped in pagan ritual and tradition who ultimately is not allowed to build a temple to his God. In the oldest stories, David gives us a glimpse of a people and religion that is trying to make itself into the Judaism we recognize but is still finding its way despite Abraham and Moses.
Ultimately, Kirsch leads us to an understanding of David and his time by fleshing out details and offering explanations for things that get short shrift in the Biblical text. Whether or not you accept all of Kirsch's possibilities, this book is a valuable resource for anyone who wants a clearer picture of the Old Testament world.
30 of 36 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9294181c) out of 5 stars Newsweek Covers David 11 Feb. 2007
By R. Tupper - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Wanna read a bad book?" my friend asked. I wished I had had the foresight to answer "no." Unfortunately, I didn't, and I read all of Jonathan Kirsch's King David. This book is worse than bad, it's an embarrassment. If there's an original idea in the book, Kirsch does an incredible job of hiding it among his numerous quotations or, I should say, "adaptations" from Samuel. The scholarship is paper thin; Kirsch slavishly relies upon the work of others and offers nothing new himself. Basically, Kirsch takes the magnificent KJV translation of the story in I and II Samuel and "punches it up" with Newsweek style. Kirsch appears to pride himself on reading the stories skeptically, as one would hope of any modern journalist reading Samuel, and peppers his comments with phrases such as "as the biblical authors wished to remember him [David]," "so it would seem," and "theological spin." However, except for questions raised by others, Kirsch is one of the most credulous readers of this story I've ever met. He buys almost everything the author tells us about David and the others in this story. As just one example, Kirsch dutifully reports the description in I Samuel 13:3 of Amnon's cousin, Jonadab, as "a very subtle man." And what incredibly subtle advice to Jonadab give his cousin? That Amnon should rape his half-sister Tamar in his own bedroom after setting up the meeting in such a way that all the royal family would know what was going on. If this is "subtlety," then Micky Spillane is John LeCarre! Now of course, it is subtle if Jonadab were in cahoots with someone else in order to destroy Amnon, but Kirsch hasn't the imagination to explore that possibility - or even the possibility that the rape never occurred but its report was concocted for other reasons. On the other hand, if Jonadab was actually trying to help Amnon, then to buy Samuel's description of him as "subtle" is the apex of naivete. Indeed, you'd think Kirsch would ask: is the author being ironic? But no, that would be to expect too much from Kirsch.

Rather than waste your time on this book, let me suggest two others. If you want to accompany a masterful literary scholar reading the story of David, buy Robert Alter's illuminating The David Story. If you want to examine the story of David from the perspective of a modern, secular historian at the top of his craft, buy Baruch Halpern's David's Secret Demons. These are two very different books, and many who like one of them won't like the other. But happy is the reader who can appreciate both. If you choose to read neither Alter nor Halpern, don't waste your time on Kirsch. Just go get a copy of the KJV at your local motel and read Samuel for yourself.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x922bb294) out of 5 stars Entertaining and Educational - To a point 14 Sept. 2006
By Bart Breen - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I listened to this book on tape as read by the author himself.

This is one of what appears to be a significantly developing genre of books in the area of theology and Biblical History, designed to be read by the general populace to put in their hands what modern scholarship is saying.

This book does this reasonably well for anyone who is unfamiliar with such terms as Modern Bibical Criticism, J theory, Court Historian etc.

What is not so clear to the average listener is that the primary sources drawn from such as Howard Bloom, Wellhausen and company are considerably from the more liberal and secular camps and that there exists a large body of more conservative material that deals with thses issues with somewhat different conclusions.

There's nothing wrong with that in and of itself. What I find distrubing in these types of Historical Overviews - turned novel is that the hybrid product, while purporting to be factual, uses the change in genre to present the material as somehow more certain or less controversial than is really the case. What's wrong with being a little more deliberate in making the source literature drawn upon a little more diverse and truly allowing the reader to enter into the dialogue and interact with the issues, rather than being led to believe that things are as neat and tidy as a reading of this book would seem to indicate to a reader otherwise unfamiliar with the field?

Those concerns expressed, I did find this to be an interesting and worthwhile listen (read). Old Testament history has been a weakness for me and this did help to fill in some gaps in terms of the what some of the modern scholarship has been giving. In addition, it did present David in terms that helped to place him historically and, as much as the author's approach could allow for with all of its provisos and doubts, somewhat personally.

Listen critically to this work. It seeks, in my opinion, to gloss over some of the ommissions in terms of conflicting material, by making the format flow like a historical novel and a reader can be carried away with that and walk away feeling they have a strong grasp on all that is available in this field. They will not.

Life of David by Arthur Pink would be a good contrast work to see some of the other camp and provide some balance.

Interesting read, but again, read criticically and ask yourself what you're not being told in the midst of it.
25 of 32 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92276eb8) out of 5 stars Unbelievable: Kirsh makes David bland & boring 1 Nov. 2000
By M KIRK-DUGGAN - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I bought this volume with great anticipation, since Kirsch's "Harlot by the Side of the Road" was a five-star winner in every respect.
But I was disappointed from page one to the last footnote. Kirsch states that "Compared to David, Bill Clinton is a choir boy." Which is completely true, but Kirsch's story, which relies exclusively upon immediate Bible texts, put me to sleep night after night, until I finally finished. Basically, the book reads like an average seminary student doing a less than brillant term paper on the different aspects of David in Kings and Chronicles, without once encountering the drama of this mass murderer, adulterer, guerrella fighter and betrayer of father, son, loyal Uriah, etc.
And even Kirsch's biblical exegesis is sorely lacking: example, Kirsch never explains why David's trusted counselor, Ahithopel, joins with Absalom in Absalom's revolt against Absalom's aged father, David. Think what a decent graduate seminary student could have done by pointing out that Eliam, the father of Bathseba [Samuel 23:34] was the son of Ahithopel, and thus the grandfather of Bathseba. "As David's counselor in the palace, Ahithopel must have burned with rage to know that [David had raped Ahithopel's granddaughter, Bathseba] and killed Uriah, her husband, who was a fellow soldier with [Ahithopel's] son Eliam." {Jeffrey, "The Signature of God," p. 244.}
One is sad that the author of "The Harlot by the Side of the Road" was burned out when he chose to do a single volume on a single character, rather than a series of sharp, precise vignettes. David needs much better than this. Even the Gregory Peck Holy-wood treatment is superior to this insipid redaction ad infinitum.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92b0f15c) out of 5 stars King David Lives! 20 Sept. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Serious scholarship and so much more. Jonathan Kirsch brings the Bible to life. His David is a real man, charismatic, violent and lusty. "He is the original alpha male, the kind of man whose virile ambition always drives him to the head of the pack. He is the first stuperstar..." This is a great story of love, tragedy and power politics. It shows us a leader both sacred and profane. This well-researched book gives us a fresh insight into Bible. A masterful achievement.
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