Taking the story of David and Goliath as a jumping-off point, author Paul Boorstin has created David and the Philistine Woman, a “thriller/page-turner”, which has drawn praise from religious scholars for its adherence to the spirit of the original biblical passages.
Boorstin, an award-winning documentary film maker and TV drama writer based in Los Angeles, will be speaking at Jewish Book Week on Sunday, discussing the Bible as a source of inspiration. He is to appear alongside Michael Baum, whose novel Aaron’s Rod is about a gripping quest for an ancient artefact from the Assyrian conquest, via 20th century Hampstead, to modern day Israel.
It’s easy to see why Boorstin chose the David and Goliath story as a backdrop. The story of a humble shepherd’s bravery in the face of seemingly-insurmountable odds, it is one of the Old Testament’s better-known stories.
The original is quite short, leaving plenty of room to weave in imagined characters and storylines.
“For example, David’s mother is not named in the Hebrew Bible. But we know she existed. So in the book, she is a source of inspiration for David. Women don’t get much of a mention in the original story, but in the book they are figures of strength and courage,” says Boorstin
His protagonist is Nara, the Philistine woman of the title. Her towering stature means she is betrothed to the giant Goliath, to bear his warrior sons, but her fate collides with that of David, forming the dramatic arc of the novel. Other biblical characters brought to life include King Saul and his daughter Michal, David’s future wife.
As one might expect, Boorstin’s eight-year task in writing David and the Philistine Woman included intensive research – both in the form of biblical study and studies of recent archaeological discoveries.
What he found was that the Philistines, an ancient non-Semitic people who lived in what is now Israel and Gaza, did not live up to the modern meaning of their name. In fact, they were a rather advanced tribe, whose technology was superior to that of the Israelites. But “history is written by the victors” he points out.
He sees the David and Goliath story as an analogy for the adversities we all face.
“Being brave doesn’t just mean facing off with a giant. We all face Goliaths every day— it might just be going out and getting a job. We all have to identify our Goliaths and face them, and that’s what I want to encourage people to do.
“David is very much a modern type of hero, I think. As the unathletic kid at school who always got picked last for sports teams at school, I identified with him. I discovered that he was able to defeat a giant with just a sling and stones. He was my kind of hero.
“And unlike other biblical figures, he never sees a miracle. Neither does he speak with God. God does not tell him what to do. He does it because he knows it is the right thing to do.”
David and the Philistine Woman is published by Top Hat Books.
Paul Boorstin and Michael Baum are speaking at Jewish Book Week on March 4 at 8pm.