The story of the biblical King David is perhaps best remembered in the David versus Goliath story, but this scene was but one small vignette in the struggle between the icon David and Saul. Recently, there have been some attempts to tell this story on network television (Of Kings and Prophets in 2015-16 and Kings in 2009). Perhaps done to tap into the sensation that was Game of Thrones and the concurrent fetishizing of biblical stories on the big screen, these renderings were polished but ultimately poorly done.
The David/Saul story is a compelling one, built with the kind of melodrama that just begs retelling and re-imaging. It is from this fount the Victor Sutch gives us his David the Great, not so much a work of fiction as a dramatic sermon. Sutch surveys the entirety of David’s stories to give us a biblical biography.
The great strength of the human mind is its natural tendency towards narrative. We are storytelling creatures; we make sense of the world through metaphor. This is what makes mythology so compelling and endlessly fascinating. One doesn’t have to be religious to feel the draw in the stories of the Vedas, Toran, Bible, or Quran. What is wonderful about these stories is their metaphoric prowess; it’s what gives them narrative strength and deep meaning.
So to take these stories as literal does a disservice to them while cheapening the import and impact one can experience. And this is my only negative criticism of Victor Sutch’s David the Great, by presenting his book as simply a retelling of the Bible and taking it as literal, there is a stark lack of nuance and purpose. One asks, why read David the Great when one could just read the King James version of the Bible, from which Sutch garners his information?
Make no mistake, Sutch has compiled an excellent resource for Bible study groups, Protestant home-schoolers, and Sunday schools to use. Yet for anyone with interest in theology, biblical history, or moralistic storytelling, this is not the book for you. I think that many faithful Christian believers will find David the Great satisfying, for non-believers it holds little draw.
However, Sutch does well to focus in on the moments in David’s stories that are meant to convey a moral or divine law such as Samuel’s great rebuke of Saul, “To obey is better than sacrifice.” These are the moments in the narrative of David that warrant commentary, Sutch rises to the occasion. Also, Sutch goes manage to interject some of his own commentary such as his identification of “the Cainish period of man’s history” which allows him to segue into the rather Hobbesian statement, “Civilization is a thin veneer, and does not affect everyone, not then and not today.” Thus, we can see how our cultural’s current love of dystopian melodrama isn’t such a new thing.
All in all, Sutch’s David the Great finds it strength in its plain language as it condenses disparate biblical stories into one flowing narrative. Again, this biblical biography or dramatic sermon would serves as a good supplement to devotions and/or group study for believers.
Victor Sutch is currently living in Kansas City, Missouri, where he retired after an active life of flying, teaching, and writing as well as being involved in some engagements in the business world from time to time. He most enjoys visiting with his children, his grandchildren, and his great grandchildren. He is still actively writing.