King David: mighty warrior, fabled monarch and…villain?
Beloved by Jews and Christians as a biblical hero, King David is famous for slaying Goliath with a single slingshot. Despite some serious moral slip-ups — he seduced the beautiful Bathsheba then sent her husband off to war to die — David is traditionally championed as the fearless leader who vanquishes the Philistines in the name of God.
But in a new biblical novel by Israeli author Yochi Brandes, “Kings III”, David is portrayed as a blood-thirsty warrior and womaniser who mercilessly slaughters his enemies.
“It’s provocative, and it plays with people’s expectations,” Brandes told Reuters in an interview this week. “The reader gets angry at this dictatorial ruler, then discovers at the end it is actually a character they have been taught to love.”
Brandes, who teaches biblical studies in several Israeli colleges, says she is simply teasing out parts of the Bible and Jewish teachings which have been hidden or ignored for centuries, and giving them a controversial new twist.
But she acknowledges the book, which has been published in Hebrew and is slated to be translated into English, is likely to ruffle some feathers among both religious Jews and Christians.
My interview with Brandes this week explores some of the book’s ideas in more detail, and a lengthier story in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz delves deeper into the theological implications for a Bible-educated Jewish audience.
What do you think? Should biblical characters be deconstructed in this way to sell novels? Is this an insult to a central character in Jewish and Christian scripture?