King David is a well-known biblical figure, and known as the author of biblical psalms. PETER FEINMAN untangles David’s lesser-known authorship, and his incredible contributions that changed the course of human history.
David changed the course of human history. There, I said it. I finally put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. What an audacious statement. What possessed me?
David, of course, is a well-known figure. Everyone knows about David and Goliath. Many people know about David and Bathsheba. People know about David and Absalom. And then there is David as the ancestor of the messiah. So it is not exactly as if he is an unknown quantity.
David also is known as the author of psalms. But as it turns out he was a far more extensive writer than previously realized. And it is through his writing that he changed the course of human history. He did so by creating the King David Bible (KDB).
The KDB was a seven-day fall new-year performance produced, directed, written by, and starring David. It was performed in Jerusalem. It was performed at multiple locations there. It included music, dance, processions, food, and intensely personal dramatic acting. Nothing like it had ever occurred before and nothing like it would ever occur again. Perhaps the opening (and closing) ceremonies of the summer Olympics with the procession of the Olympic flag from Greece to the host site comes closest but it lacks the charisma of the David as the ruler of a political entity to breathe his spirit into it.
Writing certainly existed before David. Stories could be quite long and contain a multitude of episodes. Think of the story of David’s own rise to power in the Books of Samuel, or Gilgamesh or Sinuhe from the older writing civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt. Notice that all these examples are the stories of one individual. By contrast the KDB began in the garden with the first man of Yahweh and ended at Zion with David and the ark of Yahweh.
David brought a four-dimensional mind to the state of the art information technology and its application of his time, the alphabet prose narrative. The same four-dimensional thinking that enabled him to succeed in the military and political worlds now enabled him to be an artistic revolutionary and visionary. He saw in time and created an art form to express his vision.
The KDB was not only written, it was performed. Not only did David tell a story over the seven days of the new year festival, he performed in it. He performed as the first man in the garden. He performed as Cain. He performed as Noah. He performed as Abram, as Jacob, as Moses (over two days), as Joshua, and finally as himself in the closing scene. His very performances over the seven days helped deliver the message that the entire KDB really was a single story.
David did not invent the fall new year ceremony. Traditionally such festivals celebrated the king. The king was the representative of the great warrior deity (Baal, Marduk, Horus) whose cosmic triumph in the heavens over the forces of chaos was celebrated through the son who represented him and his royal rule on earth. David changed the location of the story. The story now took place on earth and it included the people.
David also introduced audience participation. Typically the little people observed the great procession of royal splendor just as we do the inauguration of a president, king, or queen. In the performance of the KDB, the people joined in the procession led by the king and the ark of the Lord. They were not spectators but part of the theater.
Nothing before ever had come close to being the experience of the KDB and perhaps nothing would again. Then he died. Now what?
To excavate the KDB from the Bible is an overwhelming task. Rather than try to accomplish it all at once, I am approaching the project piecemeal. In the battle for power in Jerusalem after the death of David, four individuals supplemented the KDB with their own stories. I have chosen six of them concentrated in the first cycle or day 1 of the performance from the beginning of the Book of Genesis. I call them “son” stories as they represent the second generation of writing to the KDB (sons of Cain, sons of God, sons of Noah).
By identifying and understanding them in the context in which they were written in the 10th century BCE of Solomon and his successor Rehoboam, it is possible to peel back a layer on at least part of the KDB. This book, Jerusalem Throne Games: The Battle of Biblical Stories after the Death of David represents that effort. It then becomes possible to extend the effort into the son stories of Abram from day 2 following the same template or to hone in on the KDB from day 1 now that the supplements have been peeled off. I doubt I can complete this journey in my lifetime but it does keep me busy.
9781785706165 | OXBOW BOOKS | PAPERBACK | 352 PAGES | £30.00
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PETER FEINMAN is the founder and president of the Institute of History, Archaeology, and Education, a non-profit organization which provides enrichment programs for schools, professional development program for teachers, and public programs. His research interests cross disciplinary boundaries including American history, ancient civilizations, biblical history, and New York history.