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King David: The Real Life of the Man Who Ruled Israel - Jonathan Kirsch If you had asked me before I read King David, how familiar I was with all the Biblical David stories, I would have told you I knew them all. After all, having been raised on daily bible study, as a fundamentalist christian, who read propaganda religious literature for entertainment, I'm certain I've read through the books of I Samuel, II Samuel, I Kings, II Kings, and I Chronicles, II Chronicles maybe a dozen times in entirety, and who knows how many times in selection. Naturally, fundamentalists get many of their ideas and attitudes from the Old Testament, no matter how they give lip service to being bound only by the words of Christ in the New Testament. (New Covenant, Fulfillment of the Law, and all that rubbish.) The fact is, King David features most prominently in their Old Testament dogma, and some of the fundamentalists refer to Christ as the Greater David, tying more sacrosanct lore from Davidic mythology to Messianic prophecy. If you had asked me, I would have told you that I was aware of all the cherry-picking that the leaders in my faith had done to present just a mesmerizing person of loyalty and fealty to God. Kirsch's book was a champ for me, because he sets the narrative in its proper time-frame, supported by what we actually know about the history of circa-1000 BCE, against all the things we don't know about David. In fact, there is almost no archaeological support for the life of David and his court. What little there has been dug up, (in some of the most sifted soil in the entire world,) is speculative at best. What we know about David comes exclusively through the pages of the Old Testament – a document that – once examined with clear eyes – is seen to be more legend than chronicle. This makes David no less fascinating as a possibly historical individual. He certainly deserves mythological status. No story of Hercules can best the legends of David – who appears to be a marauding mercenary with royalist ambitions, a man of great charisma and passion, who was able to manipulate such fanatical support from Israelite and non-Israelite that he may have shaped the course of a real nation. Mixed in with political intrigue, conquests and treason, are very human stories of passion and excess, indulgence of favored children, pragmatism, and even David's possible interfaith – a concept that is most assuredly glossed over by most Bible literalist christians, who would have one believe that David was ever-faithful only to Yahweh. Kirsch does a splendid job of crafting the many and contradictory stories of David into a comprehensible whole. He deftly credits mainstream and lesser known biblical historians' ideas regarding authorship of the many sections that speak of David, and lets us know why it matters, by briefly linking David to the Christ-narrative, and modern day emphasis on the search for proof of Biblical veracity. I loved this book. Although I have long ago left behind my fundamentalist roots, I have retained a deep and abiding fascination with the mythology of the Bible, and the degree to which its influence reaches out to so many aspects of life in this country. And yet, the vast majority of us know only what we've been spoon fed by a man standing at a podium, lecturing us on Sunday mornings about faith, purity, and the Vengeance of the Lord. How many of us ever take the time to examine those born-in, osmotic “truths” we accept so easily? This is why examinations like this have great value, they challenge our perceptions and knock on the door to the closets of deeply held beliefs. 4.5 stars: 5 for being fascinating and engaging, 4 for occasionally being as speculative as the source material itself.