Bible Review 17:1, February 2001

King David Loves Bathsheba

Is what the historical David did or said more important than what the Bible relates?

By Ronald S. Hendel

Bible Review

In his final volume of poetry before he died last year, the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai wrote:

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot
about King David.

Not the one who is alive forever
in the song,

and not the one who is dead

under the heavy carpets on his tomb
that is not really his tomb,

but the one who played and played
for Saul

and kept dodging the spear
until he became king.1

Amichai, who seemed to live simultaneously in the biblical past and in the turmoil of modern Israel, found solace in David’s story, suggesting that David’s modern heirs, like their greatest king, won’t have to dodge spears forever. But in some ways, we moderns are David’s opposites: “David changed his tune and pretended to be mad to save his life; as for me, I change my tune and pretend to be sane to save my life.” Such musings show how the David story remains a rich resource in modern times, even in the graffiti style of Amichai’s line “King David loves Bathsheba.”

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