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David's Truth: In Israel's Imagination and Memory, Second Edition

Author: 
Walter Brueggemann (Author)
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Description

In this completely revised edition of a true classic, Walter Brueggemann thoughtfully examines four different sets of David narratives. Each narrative reflects a particular social context, a particular social hope, and a particular community. Thus these stories offer a distinctly different "mode of truth" concerning this pivotal biblical figure. The tribe, the family, the state, and the assembly each has a different agenda and thus draws a very different portrait of the one who helps define them and is defined by them.
ISBN: 
9780800634612
Price: 
$17.00
Release date: 
June 7, 2002
Pages: 
176
Width: 
5.50
Height: 
8.50

Excerpts

Excerpt from Chapter 1

The first offer of truth we will consider is the story of how David first appears as a nobody in the narrative of Israel. By the end of this story, David is fully established on the throne. The story is a study in how this nobody becomes the key figure in the life and memory of Israel. For good reason this narrative is conventionally referred to by scholars as "The Rise of David." Here David is on the rise, and we may believe that the community that treasured this portrayal of David cherished his rise, for in it they saw the possibility that they also might rise to social power and social access. And wherever this narrative is rightly practiced, it makes available that same hope that the story of David may become the story of all the others who also yearn to rise.

The Rise of David
The beginning point in 1 Sam 16:1 is clear because it is there that David appears in the narrative life of Israel for the first time. Moreover, the narrative of 1 Sam 16:1-13 seems to be peculiarly placed to make an artistic beginning. But the ending is less clear, though many would end this narrative at 2 Sam 5:5 with David well established as king over Judah and Israel. The narrative is commonly thought to contain a number of independent and very old pieces, but these have now been organized together into a quite intentional narrative that reports on David's move from a nobody to a royal somebody. The interplay of old narrative and intentionality is our main interest. This intentionality has been variously characterized. One scholar sees it as a statement of legitimation for this man and dynasty. Another sees it as an apology. And yet another sees it as glorification and propaganda. It will be observed that all of these judgments move in the same direction: they see the narrative as having an intentional purpose, concerning itself with a major political transition that required this literary justification, and focusing on the person of David. Now if we take all these labels of intentionality — legitimation, apology, glorification, and propaganda — it is clear that we do not have a descriptive account of what happened, nor do we have a critical account that means to balance evidence and assess the data for accuracy. Rather, what we have (all are agreed) is an uncritical narrative that on the one hand is naïvely enthusiastic for David and on the other hand is relentlessly polemical against Saul. This narrative is not disinterested. Its telling and retelling must pay attention to the vested interest for which the narrative was articulated.

I have characterized this narrative as the trustful truth of the tribe. Such a theme indicates not only why it was told, but how it was heard. It also indicates how it must be told and heard now if we are to honor it and take it seriously. This thematic title for the narrative contains three clues:

First, the story is the truth. It is not the whole truth, nor objective truth, but it is, for this community, our truth, the discernment of honor. Every storyteller in the moment of the telling must believe the truth of the story, must for that moment suspend disbelief. That undoubtedly happens here, each time in the retelling. No matter how much of it is imaginative reconstruction, as we have already conceded, the tellers and the listeners must in this moment take the narrative at face value.

Second, I have called it trustful truth, that is, it is naïve and pre-critical. This narrative does not notice David's affronts, or if noticed, celebrates them. The story is focused completely on the worth, courage, and destiny of David. The narrative has no critical distance from David to view him either objectively or as an outsider might. It is unambiguously celebrative of him and in that sense I call it trustful. It is incapable of noticing or reporting or objecting to anything critically or negatively.

Having said that, we should notice that the glorification is of a certain kind, even if we use the words "worth," "courage," "virtue." David is not "cleaned up" in the sense that he is innocent, respectable, or puritanical. The virtues valued here are not those of social gentility nor courtly propriety. The David who meets us here is cunning, mocking, and self-serving. He has a kind of animal magnetism, toward both men and women, and things are left raw for imagination. He is not above murder and confiscation of women married to other men, if things fall out that way. He is willing to seize holy bread for survival. So there is narrated here a buoyant, charismatic quality that does not censure, but trustfully celebrates what in other contexts might be an embarrassment.

Third, and finally, we may ask why is this? Here we may ask questions of social criticism and social function. Who would value such a text? Who would experience reality in this way and find it credible? I have called this the truth of the tribe. I use "tribe" in Norman Gottwald's sense—a unit of society standing apart from and over against the regimentation and legitimation of the state.6 I do not mean simply rustic, ethnic, pre-state communities, but units of the marginal who are cast into the marginal role by social necessity and social coercion, who do not have access to the wealth and power of the state and who tend therefore to be irreverent to the civilities of the state. Such communities, without great intentionality, tend to be counter-cultural. And it is for that reason that David might appear to John L. McKenzie as a bandit and to Niels Peter Lemche as a Habiru (the sociologically marginal).

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Edition
Preface to the First Edition

Introduction: Truth in Its Strangeness

1. The Trustful Truth of the Tribe

2. The Painful Truth of the Man

3. The Sure Truth of the State

4. The Hopeful Truth of the Assembly

Conclusion: Truth Free, in Jeopardy

Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture Passages