David and the Philis­tine Woman

By – May 16, 2017

This work of bib­li­cal fic­tion con­cen­trates on the peri­od of David’s youth, from his days as a shep­herd until his famous clash with Goliath. Based on chap­ter 17 of the first Book of Samuel, the nov­el pro­vides imag­ined details about back­ground, char­ac­ters, and con­ver­sa­tions that col­or­ful­ly and cre­ative­ly enhance the orig­i­nal text.

Paul Boorstin is an award-win­ning doc­u­men­tary film­mak­er and screen­writer with expe­ri­ence work­ing for Dis­cov­ery, His­to­ry, and Nation­al Geo­graph­ic. He brings his trained eye to the sto­ry of David before he becomes King of the Israelites, delv­ing into David’s strained rela­tion­ships with his father and broth­ers, and dif­fi­cult encoun­ters with the unsta­ble King Saul. His moth­er, who isn’t men­tioned in the Bible, has a large role here. We wit­ness the ten­ta­tive bud­ding romance between David and Michal, daugh­ter of King Saul and the hard-won friend­ship between David and Jonathan, the fear­less war­rior son of King Saul, who is next in line for the throne.

David the shep­herd wan­ders alone, wor­ship­ping G‑d through his kind­ness for the flock and atten­tion to the rhythms of nature. He is belit­tled by his war­rior broth­ers and by his pious father, who spends his days and nights pray­ing alone. His moth­er, how­ev­er, believes he is des­tined for great­ness, so David isn’t sur­prised when he is anoint­ed secret­ly by the prophet Samuel. David con­stant­ly awaits to hear the voice of G‑d but is dis­ap­point­ed again and again; instead he learns to fol­low his own heart and instincts to gain the high lev­el of con­fi­dence need­ed for leadership.

Boorstin also places the bib­li­cal sto­ry with­in a broad­er reli­gious land­scape, high­light­ing four dif­fer­ent types of wor­ship preva­lent at the time. The Israelites are for­bid­den graven images and believe in the invis­i­ble one G‑d whose Ten Com­mand­ments are housed in the Ark of the Covenant and pro­tect­ed by priests. The Philistines wor­ship Dagon, who is depict­ed in men­ac­ing graven images that neces­si­tate the con­stant sac­ri­fice of ani­mals. A hid­den soci­ety of hunt­ed women believe in the female god­dess Ash­do­da, a beau­ti­ful idol whose tears became pow­er­ful stones when they fell to earth; women secret­ly pray to her for fer­til­i­ty and oth­er bless­ings. There are Nubian traders who wor­ship ser­pents, which are tat­tooed onto their skin.

Goliath is a sin­gu­lar giant war­rior who leads the Philistines of Gath in their mor­tal fight against the Israelites. The Dagon priests search for a bride for Goliath, a woman who equals him in stature and strength to cre­ate an army of giants. Nara ille­gal­ly forges excel­lent iron weapons for her father Ezel which the Philistines use against the Israelite’s less­er weapons. Nara’s devel­op­ment pro­vides a back­drop for the ulti­mate bat­tle­field meet­ing between David and Goliath.

In the vein of Ani­ta Diamant’s The Red Tent, Anne Roiphe’s Water from the Well, Rebec­ca Kohn’s The Gild­ed Cham­ber, and so many more, David and the Philis­tine Woman may engen­der enough curios­i­ty to encour­age the read­er to go back the orig­i­nal texts of the Bible. This is just one more rea­son to devour this lus­cious nov­el and look for­ward to more smart, enter­tain­ing books by Paul Boorstin.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.