The Politics of Sexuality in the Story of King David
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Among the stories surrounding the most famous of biblical kings—David—are a number of episodes that contain sexual components. Aspects of the sexual can be found especially in the narratives of David’s reign but also to a certain extent in the accounts of his rise to power and the succession of his son Solomon. Though David is not always directly involved, the episodes involving sexuality are closely intertwined with the story of David’s kingship over Israel and Judah. The sustained recurrence of sexual episodes surrounding David suggests that sexuality should be considered a literary motif in the David story found in 1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 2. In this thesis, I provide a systematic treatment of sexuality in the narratives of David’s rise to power, his reign, and Solomon’s succession as presented in 1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 2. Specifically, I focus on sexuality and kingship by examining how sexuality relates to royal ideology and political pragmatism in the narratives surrounding the establishment of the Davidic dynasty. This study considers how the sexual episodes in 1 Samuel 16-1 Kings 2 function within the overall narrative of David and what they might suggest about cultural conceptions of gender, sexuality, and kingship in ancient Israel and Judah within their ancient Near Eastern cultural context. From my analysis of the sexuality theme in the David Narrative, it appears that the motif of sexuality largely functions as a literary device for pro-David writers in their composition of a narrative supportive of the founding king of the Judahite dynasty. Sex, when assumed and not central to the narrative, is licit and helps to justify David’s kingship over Israel, as seen in the stories surrounding David’s early marriages. In contrast, when sex does appear in the David Narrative, either in characters’ discourse or explicitly narrated, it is illicit and irregular. Sex often represents a political threat that provokes a decisive response but also explains ruptured interpersonal relations with important political fallout.