30th September 2009
The DVD of the first — and last — season of NBC’s biblical drama, Kings, was released yesterday (Michael Green, 2009; IMDb; Buy from Amazon.ca | Amazon.com). The thirteen episode series is a modernized and very creative retelling of the biblical story of the reign of King Saul and the rise to power of King David found in the books of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament.
The series opens with a young man being called into his rustic farmhouse to watch on TV the dedication ceremonies of a new capital city. This young man is David Shepherd. The scene then shifts to what appears to be the royal palace in Shiloh, the new capital of the Kingdom of Gilboa. The city has all the trappings of a modern city, yet is ruled by a benevolent monarch, King Silas Benjamin (played wonderfully by Ian McShane). King Silas addresses his people and forthrightly expounds on God’s blessing upon Gilboa, its new capital Shiloh, and upon his kingship.
The series narrates the rise of a naive David, initially through his heroic blowing up of a “Goliath” tank, and the demise of Silas, and slowly becomes a tyrant who has lost the favour of God.
There is much more I could say about this TV series, such as the clever way it harmonizes the problematic introduction of David to Saul in the Bible (did David first come to Saul’s attention as the boy who defeated Goliath or the young musician whose playing soothed Saul’s tormented spirit — see 1Samuel 16 and 17) in episode 8, or how it portrays the subtle intrigue within the royal court (which is present in between the verses of the biblical text, although most devout readers miss it).
All in all I found the series quite engaging. Its look is lavish, the dialogue is clever and intriguing. It doesn’t follow the story of David and Saul slavishly, but is a very creative adaptation that is both faithful to the contours of the biblical text, yet doesn’t fear to push the envelop in controversial ways (such as the closeted homosexuality of King Silas’s son and heir apparent, Jack Benjamin).
The first season ends with King Silas surviving a failed coup and David fleeing for his life into Gath. Unfortunately, because Kings got cancelled, we will never see how the series presents the eventual rise of David Shepherd to the throne.
I encourage you to check out David Plotz’s lament on the Death of Kings over at Slate and then go buy the first season from Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.
Posted in 1Samuel, King David, Popular Culture | Comments Off
31st March 2007
It appears that Eilat Mazar’s Jerusalem excavation is turning up more significant finds every year (see here for previous discoveries). The Jerusalem Post has an article in which it is claimed that a wall from the First Temple period was recently uncovered in Jerusalem’s City of David. Here is an excerpt:
A 20-meter-long section of the 7-meter-thick wall has now been uncovered. It indicates that the City of David once served as a major government center, Mazar said.
Mazar estimates less than a quarter of the entire wall has been uncovered so far, and says that it is the largest site from King David’s time ever to have been discovered.
This news piece hasn’t been picked up or expanded on yet. Among bloggers, Jim Davila and Jim West note it but that’s about it.
Posted in Archaeology, City of David, King David, News | 1 Comment »
10th October 2006
Just imagine King David, after a hard day cutting off Philistine foreskins, heads down his private tunnel to his spa for the full treatment: a nice aromatherapy massage, sauna, and steam bath. What better way is there for a king of a small chiefdom to recharge & rejuvenate?
Well, that’s scenario that came to mind when I read the title of Ofer Petersburg’s ynet news article: “Has King David’s spa been uncovered?” The subtitle is perhaps a bit more revealing: “Jerusalem digs reveal a tunnel possibly leading to the king’s pool” (italics mine). The “possibly” is the key here; basically they found a tunnel. They don’t know where it heads, nor do they know when to date it. Talk about spin in journalism!
trashes comments on this piece as well. (HT archaeologica.org)
Posted in Archaeology, City of David, King David, News | Comments Off
29th June 2006
The most recent volume of the Catholic Biblical Quarterly has an interesting article by David Bosworth entitled, “Evaluating King David: Old Problems and Recent Scholarship” (CBQ 68  191-210). Bosworth examines a number of recent academic biographies of the biblical figure of David and argues that these recent portrayals say more about the modern authors and their methods than the ancient monarch. The monographs that he engages are:
- David’s Secret Demons: Messiah, Murderer, Traitor, King (Eerdmans, 2001). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
- King David: A Biography (Oxford, 2000). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
- David: Biblical Portraits of Power (University of South Carolina Press, 1999). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
- Figures de David Ã travers la Bible (CERF, 1999). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
- Von David zu den Deuteronomisten: Studien zu den GeschichtsÃ¼berlieferungen des Alten Testaments (Kohlhammer, 2002). Buy from Amazon.ca | Buy from Amazon.com
I think that Bosworth makes a number of valid points. Halpern and McKenzie both present a picture of David as a villain by reading between the lines of the text and favouring a propagandistic interpretation. With this approach David becomes a murderous usurper. Steussy’s approach is a bit more balanced, according to Bosworth. Unlike Halpern and McKenzie, she has no interest in uncovering the “real” David, but instead explores the portraits of David throughout the Scriptures — including the book of Psalms. The edited work by Desrousseaux and Vermeylen includes essays that — like Halpern and McKenzie — take a propagandistic reading, while Dietrich’s sophisticated reading is more akin to that of Steussy.
I personally find elements of a propagandistic reading plausible, but I appreciate Bosworth’s point that leaders are often accused of more crimes than they actually commit! Moreover, Bosworth points out the problems with equating apology with indictment and indictment with history — politics of any age are never so simple!
After evaluating modern critics, Bosworth investigates David among his ancient contemporaries. As it turns out, David’s biblical portrait, while similar to ANE royal account, is more complex. As Bosworth concludes, “the text is not as simple as ‘royal propaganda.’ It shows an awareness of the problems involved in evaluating great figures who succeed in establishing positive institutions at the expense of usurping prior institutions” (p. 209).
All in all, Bosworth’s article is worth taking a gander at — as are the books noted above. Of course, when all is said and done, perhaps the “Biblical David” is the only David we can ever recover.
Posted in 1Samuel, Criticism, Historiography, History of Ancient Israel, King David | Comments Off