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The Book of David: A New Story of the Spiritual Warrior and Leader Who Shaped Our Inner Consciousness Hardcover – October 21, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Award-winning writer and translator David Rosenberg's Book of David is both repellent and attractive. The commentary section, twice the size of the translation section, is unattractive in its combative tone and hasty dismissals of nearly all prior Biblical scholarship, yet the translation section invites the reader into a world of intellectual vigor and poetic organicism. Through an intriguing and often fanciful reevaluation of the writer of Psalms and the books of Samuel, Rosenberg depicts David as a cultured aborigine hearkening back to the true organic roots of Judaism. Because Rosenberg "had to transform the imagery ... in translation to remain true to the vitality of the original," the psalms come off as gorgeous paeans to nature--and look nothing like the psalms you've read before. Rosenberg, a curious mix of intellectual hatchet man and poet, deserves to be read, if not always listened to.

From Kirkus Reviews

Like The Book of J, on which Rosenberg collaborated with Harold Bloom, this is a highly speculative theory about a biblical author--here, of the novella-like section on King David in 2 Samuel--plus a very free adaptation of that biblical narrative. Poet and critic Rosenberg hypothesizes that the author of the Davidic narrative was ``S,'' a member of the royal court during the end of the tenth century b.c., a ``companion'' of J's and also an ``aboriginal'' who was revising the poems and narrative of an earlier Canaanite culture. The problem is that Rosenberg never specifies what the aboriginal culture consisted of or how it interacted with the civilizations that migrated to Canaan. For that matter, he provides not a shred of evidence for his thesis from Hebrew or other ancient Middle Eastern texts. Further, his perspective on David's character and relationships is highly romanticized, utterly distorting the text, as in the claim that ``David and Bathsheva demonstrate an intimacy based on equality.'' Really? The biblical narrative plainly states that David lusts after Bathsheva, has her brought by his men to his court, and arranges for her husband to be killed so that he may possess her. As for Rosenberg's poetic and prose adaptations, they too often are clumsy, as in his rendering of 2 Samuel 13:2: ``Amnon is sick with a mess of feelings for his sister Tamar--she is a virgin besides- -and it is a forbidding task to imagine what to do with her.'' Finally, there is a long, tiresome, and often esoteric appendix, mainly written by Rhonda Rosenberg (the author's wife), condemning such biblical scholars as Richard Friedman and Robert Alter. Both Rosenbergs are so focused on pseudo-scholarly speculation, creative flights of fancy, and polemics, that for pages on end they almost entirely lose contact with the beguiling, ever-contemporary narrative that the author of the David story, whoever he was, offers. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harmony; 1st edition (October 21, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0517708000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0517708002
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #891,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on December 15, 1997
Format: Hardcover
What a revelation! It's hard to read a novel or poem again in the same way after the illuminations in The Book of David. I suppose this must be infuriating to some who want things to stay just as they are, but I was glad to see that the Publishers Weekly review had an intelligent response: (Oct.13, 1997) "In this imaginative and provocative work...Rosenberg's interest is in evoking the characters who inhabit the biblical narratives, and his translations and transformations of the text are powerful and moving...It tells David's story in a way that reveals the characters of David, Rosenberg and "S"." What Publishers Weekly leaves out is that this will not only change the way a reader thinks about the Bible but also how we view contemporary writers as well. I always thought there was an element of creative fiction and poetry in the Bible, yet now I can see just how it was transformed by great writers.
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Format: Hardcover
Remember David Rosenberg? The guy whose strange, awkward but inaccurate translation of parts of Genesis and Exodus led Harold Bloom to expose his ignorance of both the Hebrew language and the biblical world in THE BOOK OF J? Rosenberg is back and ready to make more trouble for anyone who trusts his view of ancient Israel. This time he plays both translator and literary critic, about equally well.
Here is Rosenberg's translation of the beginning of 2 Samuel 11:
"Here we are: a year was passing, and it is the season best for the wars of kings. David sends out Joab, his own retinue, and all of Israel's army; and they bring the Ammonites to their knees, beseiging Rabbah. Meanwhile David lingered in Jerusalem. It happens one late afternoon that David rises from his bed, takes a walk around the palace roof, and from there, his glance falls upon a woman in her bath. The woman appeared very beautiful in his eyes."
Breathlessly dramatic but the tenses are all wrong, and words like "lingered" and "glance" miss the simplicity of the Hebrew text. Rosenberg subsequently has David try to "uncover more" about the naked woman in her bath, and has his messengers "beseige" Bathsheba, just as Joab is beseiging Rabbah. These coy, leering figures are not in the Hebrew text, either, which presents the affair in eight blunt words: Vayishlach David malachim vayikachah vatavo eilav vayishchav imah (literally "And David sent messengers, and he got her, and she came to him, and he slept with her"). This story is filled with ironies. Why is it necessary to add ones that aren't in the text?
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Format: Hardcover
David Rosenberg, co-author of The Book of J, offers his own translation of the parts of the Bible that he considers the original story of the rise and reign of David as the king of all of Israel. Because Rosenberg omits much of the biblical material, his story, told in easily readable and engaging English in only 28 pages long. For example, the death of David is told by Rosenberg in only eleven lines, while the Hebrew original relates a tale in 65 sentences. He also devotes a chapter to David's Psalms. He states that "a great Hebraic writer at the Solomonic court whom scholars call the Court Historian, or S," was the author of the David tales. The letter S was chosen since the David narrative begins in the biblical book Samuel. This writer was a friend of J. Rosenberg offers his readers an interesting speculation about the identity of S and many of his own and other scholars' ideas about what is considered the authentic David.
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Format: Hardcover
There are many reasons to by this book, but two come to mind most clearly...
First, the brilliant modern translations of portions of the story of David from 2 Samuel, and several of the most beautiful Psalms.
Second, the tale of the remarkable relationship between "S", the writer behind much of 2 Samuel, and "J", the writer of the Pentateuch. (The first five books of the bible - the books of the law.) According to Rosenberg, J, the brilliant woman writer and poet of Solomon's court, most likely acted as mentor and mother-figure to the young male prodigy S. Many of the Psalms and stories of David seem to reverberate with this close relationship.
As well, Rosenberg studies the indigenous or "Shamanistic" nature of S's relationship with the land, as reflected in his poetry, which provides new insight into the intense yearning for Israel experienced by Jews through the ages.
I highly recommend this book both for its scholarship and its artistic qualities. Anyone with any interest in David, the Jewish experience, Biblical studies, or poetry in general, will find this book a delight.
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Recent Comments for The Book of David

"The Biblical David taught us what it is to be, as David Rosenberg puts it,
'a poet and thinker, a warrior and peacemaker, a leader and innovator.' We
think we know David, but Mr. Rosenberg teaches us how to see this great
figure with fresh eyes. No readers ideas of religion, politics or
literature will go unchanged--or unimproved--by Mr. Rosenberg's profound,
yet always lively work of scholarship and art. He has written a soulful,
heartfelt, important book."

--James Carroll

"Rosenberg not only dusts off the traditional image of David, he restores
to us one of the great visionaries of all time. The Book of David is one
of those unexpected, exhilerating books that forces you to rethink the
nature of the human condition, and that awakens a strange, rare sense of
spiritual reality."

--Jay Parini

"Like his translation of The Book of J, Rosenberg's version of this
biblical text is striking for its music, imagery, and human compassion. In
an intriguing commentary, King David emerges clearly as a poet, and as the
herald of a court of writers that blossomed under Solomon. Here Rosenberg
unveils a portrait of the artist whose vision has no boundaries."

--Grace Schulman

"David Rosenberg has used his intelligent, poetic, and most genre-bending
mind to reimagine King David, the turbulent world into which he was born,
and to reassess the writers and religious figures who later appropriated
his life. The Book of David provides us with first-rate intellectual excitement."
--Barbara Probst Solomon
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