Search the Site


King David’s Public and Private Lives

David represents a very intriguing intersection and modeling of the tension between the private and the public.  We have here a representation of a man who does things in the public arena that show him to be a wonderful politician, very astute, very sensitive to political and social and religious issues and manages them brilliantly so that he rises from nowhere to become the most beloved king.

At the same time, the Bible shows us a figure who doesn’t manage home life very well to the point that his children seek to dispossess him.  One tries to kill him so that David has to escape.  Another son kills another son.  There’s quarrel and disaster in the household so that there’s two sides to the David figure.  In addition, what we see is that even though David manages the public life so well, when he crosses the line and mishandles personal life, everything that he built becomes unraveled.

And what he loses is the success story; the accomplishments that he achieved all come under attack and begin to fall apart. So that we see two different dimensions to David in terms of political animal on the one side and the man at a loss when it comes to intimate, familiar relations.  And yet, we at the same time are told you have to be able to handle both because when David mishandles the familial/personal side, the enterprise begins to come apart.

  • Tamara Cohn Eskenazi

    Tamara Cohn Eskenazi is professor of Bible at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Dr. Eskenazi is editor-in-chief of The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, winner of the 2008 Jewish Book of the Year Award, and co-author (with T. Frymer-Kensky) of the JPS Bible Commentary: Ruth, winner of the Jewish Book Council Award in Women’s Studies in 2012. She is completing the Anchor Bible commentary on Ezra-Nehemiah.