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King David : A Biography [Hardcover]

By Steven L. McKenzie (Author)
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Item description for King David : A Biography by Steven L. McKenzie...

The first biography of David from a purely historical perspective reveals not a hero but a holy terrorist and a ruthless despot. Carefully researched and vividly written, this book provides a provocative reappraisal of the life of one of the Bible's most compelling figures. 7 halftones. Maps.

Publishers Description
One of the most important and complex characters in the Bible, King David has been the subject of innumerable portraits, both artistic and literary. Michaelangelo's magnificent sculpture of him is perhaps the single best known work of art in the world, and the story of the humble shepherd who slew Goliath and became king has assumed a powerful mythological status. But was David a real person--and if so what kind of person was he?
Through a close and critical reading of biblical texts, ancient history, and recent archeological discoveries, Steven L. McKenzie concludes that David was indeed a real person. This David, however, was no hero but a usurper, adulterer, and murderer--a Middle Eastern despot of a familiar type. McKenzie shows that the story of humble beginnings is utterly misleading: "shepherd" is a metaphor for "king," and David came from a wealthy, upper-class background. Similarly, McKenzie reveals how David's ascent to power, traditionally attributed to popularity and divine blessing, in fact resulted from a campaign of terror and assassination. While instituting a full-blown Middle Eastern monarchy, David was an aggressive leader, a devious politician, and a ruthless war chief. Throughout his scandalous reign, important figures who stood in his way died at convenient times, under questionable circumstances. Even his own sons were not spared. David's story, writes McKenzie, "reads like a modern soap opera, with plenty of sex, violence, and struggles for power."
Carefully researched and vividly written, King David: An Unauthorized Biography offers a provocative reappraisal of the life of one of the Bible's most compelling figures.

Citations And Professional Reviews
King David : A Biography by Steven L. McKenzie has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 99
  • Kirkus Reviews - 03/01/2000 page 286
  • Publishers Weekly - 03/27/2000 page 76
  • Booklist - 03/15/2000 page 1295
  • Library Journal - 04/01/2000 page 106
  • New York Times - 06/18/2000 page 11
  • New York Times - 12/03/2000 page 80
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2000 page 11
  • Library Journal - 03/15/2000
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 74

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Oxford University Press, USA
Pages   232
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.48" Width: 6.49" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   1.4 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 27, 2000
Publisher   Oxford University Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  0195132734  
ISBN13  9780195132731  

Availability  60 units.
Availability accurate as of Nov 19, 2017 03:46.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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More About Steven L. McKenzie

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

Steven L. McKenzie currently resides in Memphis, in the state of Tennessee. Steven L. McKenzie was born in 1953 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Rhodes College.

Steven L. McKenzie has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries
  2. Family, Religion, and Culture
  3. Library of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Studies

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Historical
3Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Political
4Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Religious
5Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Royalty > General
6Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > Leaders & Notable People > Royalty
7Books > Subjects > History > Middle East > Israel
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible Study
9Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Biographies > Old Testament
10Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
11Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible > Old Testament
13Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) > Biography

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Reviews - What do customers think about King David : A Biography?

Entertaining, but not as good as the work of Baruch Halpern  Sep 29, 2005
McKenzie offers a fun and popularized account of the life of David. However, the text he produces, far from being scholarly, often reads a bit like a tabloid account of King David. Deconstructing the book of Samuel, a Herculean and important task, has been accomplished elsewhere by serious scholars who offer very deep reconstructions of this most fascinating and contradictory character. Readers looking to explore the subject would do well to look for Professor B. Halpern's seminal work, "David's Secret Demons." While not as breezy in style, the book goes far deeper in uncovering its subject and will offer the reader far more food for thought. Therefore, if looking for an easy read, pick up McKenzie, but those with a serious interest in King David should put the time and effort into a more serious work. Please, take a look at Halpern; you won't regret it.
Very good  Jan 23, 2001
I read many books but there is only one book I can read again and again its the bible. So I have read the story of David many times. This book takes it from an different angle. What really was the historical David we will never know! What we have is the greatest piece of writings in the world but when, where and who wrote them we are not sure. In the bible its very hard to determine where fiction and history merge.

The story of David in this book is in a sense quite negative in that David is portrayed as a power hungry person. However to me it made him more real. I certainly have not my sense of grandeur in David. Some of his explanations somehow appear to be pretty weak. But he does present his evidence but that is not the writers fault as much as the lack of historical information.

He does leave us with a bad taste to the writer of the bible who he states "is trying to promote or excuse David". This may be true because we really do not know very much about who the writers were or there motives.

It well written and I would recommend this book to you.

Brief for the Prosecution  Dec 4, 2000
Steven McKenzie's biography of David is based on the theory that the account in Samuel is an "apologia"--a brief for the defense, and that if you look hard at what the text seems to be defending David against, you can figure out what David actually did.

This is a smart assumption but the suspicious reading it generates results in a biography of David that would make Ken Starr's portrait of Bill Clinton look like a panegyric. The only virtue McKenzie can allow David is that of being an effective guerrilla warrior because, if he hadn't been, he couldn't have reached the throne in the first place. The rest of the story is viewed as pro-David propaganda. If the story tells us that David spared the life of the worthless Nabal and that Nabal subsequently died of natural causes, it means that this is the cover story and that David must have killed him or had him killed.

The problem for the reader comes when you ask if there is any way David could have had any attractive qualities. Given the way McKenzie reads Samuel, the nice things that are said about David must be spin, and the nasty facts reported about David (and there are plenty of them, including his adultery with Bathsheba, his inability to control his sensual and ambitious children, his vindictiveness against political enemies) are facts too well known to be denied. Given McKenzie's method, David simply cannot have done anything right.

The fact is that, like almost every figure in the Bible, David's life exists in the text and only there. There aren't any alternative witnesses to who he was and what he did. The story in the book of Samuel contains all we are ever likely to know about David, and any method that insists on reading past the story to the REAL David is going to come up either with a panegyric or a lampoon, depending on how suspicious a method of reading it adopts.

But the book of Samuel itself is far more complex than any of these simplifying readings. It presents a warrior and a king who was decidedly human--sometimes all too human--and depicts his world with a richness of texture that lawyer's briefs, like McKenzie's, are necessarily going to flatten out. McKenzie's book will be useful if it makes readers turn back to Samuel and read it closely and attentively, but the story it tells is a prosecutorial brief that, seen against its source, seems thin and unconvincing.

Excellent blend of historical writing and historical method  Jul 28, 2000
McKenzie has done a remarkable job of writing a biography of a man for whom the only substantial source, the Bible, was written long after the fact with a specific agenda. Through a careful, critical reading of the Biblical accounts of David's life, McKenzie is able to recover a surprising amount of historical information, and his arguments are generally quite sound. Although as he admits himself he is only able to create a "plausible tale," the tale is plausible indeed, and as a very pleasant bonus, the style of the book is very accessible and readable. I'm not familiar with Davidic scholarship, but McKenzie's biography seems to be squarely in the mainstream. It stands both as a splendid book in its own right, and also as an excellent exercise in historical method, when dealing with extremely difficult sources.
A hellion after my own heart!  Jul 17, 2000
Arguably, the three great stories of the Bible are the stories of Moses, King David, and Jesus. While some of the stories in Genesis may be easier for the average person to recount (loosely) from memory, the story of King David gets more ink from the biblical authors. With the publication of KING DAVID: A BIOGRAPHY by Steven McKenzie and THE DAVID STORY by Robert Alter, it looks like Israel's great king might finally be getting his due recognition (vis-a-vis Moses and Jesus, anyway). "Part of the appeal of the David story," says McKenzie, "has been the earthiness of its plot. It reads like a modern soap opera with plenty of sex, violence, and struggles for power. The relationships are intricate." David's story (found primarily in 1 & 2 Samuel) reads like a season of "Dallas" and has inspired modern classics by the likes of William Faulkner and Joseph Heller. Anyone who works in an office, a government agency, or university is more likely to identify with David--or one of the secondary characters in his narrative--than they would with Jesus. David is as guileful as Jesus was guileless.

In spite of his modest claim to be offering nothing new, McKenzie has accomplished an amazing feat. He has organized, presented, evaluated, and summarized recent biblical scholarship on the David story. He also discusses the scant, but intriguing, archaeological evidence of David's reign. He is not dismissive of the biblical record, but he deftly helps the average reader to understand the kind of reasonable skepticism that scholars have had to adopt in order to extract a plausible portrait of David from all the spin-doctoring the biblical authors and editors have put on the events they describe. The economy and clarity of McKenzie's prose and the relentless rationality of his argumentation is gripping and persuasive. He explains why scholars find certain texts "apologetic" and others more likely to reflect events as they might actually have occurred. McKenzie takes each major phase of David's career and methodically creates a portrait of the man. Each chapter ends with a short summary, so the reader has a second chance to decide for him or herself if the emerging portrait is credible. I found McKenzie's discussion of David's confrontation with Goliath and his brief, revisionist portrait of Bathsheba especially fascinating. The extensive bibliography directs the ambitious reader to works of primary scholarship (mostly in English) and to other literary treatments of the David story. To get the most out of this book, take McKenzie's suggestion and read or re-read the biblical texts first.


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