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King David, ‘vile human being’

The Biblical hero seems to have been a terrible person, argues Joel S. Baden.

The Biblical King David died some three thousand years ago. But his influence on the modern world is still profound.

In popular culture (and in Malcolm Gladwell’s latest bestseller), he’s the prototypical underdog, remembered for his victory over Goliath. In the Old Testament and Jewish tradition, he’s celebrated as the man who unified the kingdom of Israel, wrote the Psalms, brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, and planned the Temple there. The New Testament declares him to be an ancestor of Jesus, and the Koran includes him among the major prophets. Then there’s the modern state of Israel, which flies the Star of David on its flag and in many respects considers itself the embodiment of his geographical, political, and ideological legacy.

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