The David Story


Of all the Bible’s diverse figures, the one who is portrayed most graphically and who has enjoyed a vibrant post biblical afterlife, is King David.

In the ancient Near East ,where kings were thought of as deities or almost deities, whose lives are described in the most glowing terms, King David is the exception.

David, the founder of the Davidic dynasty that lasted for about four hundred years, is described as a flawed human being.  Yet both Christians and Jews believe that the Messiah was or will be a descendant of the House of David.

In this SDG, we will discuss the depiction of David in the Books of Samuel as well as Wolpe’s Analysis of the David story. Moreover, we will also discuss King Saul and the reason the editor(s) of the Books of Samuel chose to depict the personalities in the book as they did. We will not discuss the historicity of the stories.

Weekly Topics

1.              In those days, there was no King in Israel, the people demand a king. (Robert Alter, The David Story, 1 Samuel, Chapters 1 – 8; 

2.              Samuel vs. Saul - the power struggle between the prophet and the king  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 9-15)

3.              Young David - an obscure shepherd, of less than stellar ancestry, is anointed and steals the heart of the people.  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 16-23; David Wolpe, David the Divided Heart, chapter 1; Genesis, 38 6-30; Ruth, 4  18-22)

4.              David vs. Saul. Saul is haunted by David and is finally killed in a battle against Israel’s arch enemy, the Philistines.  (Alter, 1 Samuel, Chapters 24 – 31; Wolpe Chapter 3)

5.              David, the king - consolidating power. (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 1-4;  Wolpe, Chapter 4)

6.              David, the sinner - is the king above the Law? (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 2-5; Wolpe, Chapters 2, 5)

7.              David, the father (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 13-17; Wolpe, Chapter 6)

8.              Discord  (Alter, 2 Samuel, Chapters 18-20); Wolpe, Chapter 7)

9.              Contrition (Alter, 2 Samuel,  Chapters 21- 24)

10.          Death of a King - the struggle for succession and David’s revenge. (Alter, 1 Kings, Chapters 1,2; Wolpe, Chapters 8, 9 and introduction).


Core books:

1. Robert Alter, The David Story (Translation and commentary of 1 and 2    Samuel) (2000)

2. David Wolpe, David, The Divided Heart (2014)


Additional bibliography:

Jacob L. Wright,  King David and his Reign Revisited,  New Perspectives in Biblical Scholarship (2013)

(Emory University, E book)