David - The Divided Heart

A new biography of the charismatic biblical hero


Wolpe has tried hard to synthesise the different traits of the biblical David by looking at the texts through a number of lenses: David as young man, as lover and husband, as king, as sinner, fugitive, father. What emerges is the flawed humanity of an extraordinary man, cunning and unpredictable, able to both love intensely and to withhold love from those close to him, to fight bravely and to flee abjectly from those who hunt him down.

He can be ecstatic and he can be depressed; strategic and deceived. Perhaps my favourite insight is the author's comment on the way the enemies of David conveniently disappear or die without any apparent responsibility bearing on the man himself: "The explanation of traditional piety is … God is with him. The modern reader suspects that while trusting in God, David is careful to secure himself a little earthly insurance."

We can find in the stories of David any number of threads we will recognise in the power politics and personal relationships of our own times, but David retains his mystery even after the masterly filleting of the texts that tell his story. This book goes a long way to remind us of the contradictions and paradoxes of this musical king, the creativity and the stubbornness which characterise his actions. And in doing so we realise that this ur-ancestor of the Messiah is the most human of beings.

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