Some of President Trump’s apologists of a religious inclination have defended his character and private behavior by invoking the biblical David, much as apologists for Bill Clinton did two decades ago. Thus, referring to David’s adulterous liaison with Bathsheba, and his subsequent decision to send her husband to the front lines so that he would be killed, one such apologist recently claimed that “God himself chose morally compromised individuals to accomplish some greater good.” This argument, writes Meir Soloveichik, betrays a woeful misunderstanding (or deliberate manipulation) of the book of Samuel:
The [ancient] rabbis observe that David’s predecessor, Saul, lost the kingship when he failed to fulfill God’s command to destroy the egregiously evil nation of Amalek, whereas David committed more severe sins and yet remained king. The answer, the rabbis suggest, lies not in the sin itself but in the response. Saul, when confronted by the prophet Samuel, offers obfuscations and defensiveness. David, meanwhile, is similarly confronted by the prophet Nathan. [But] David’s immediate response is clear and complete contrition: “I have sinned against the Lord.” David’s penitence, Jewish tradition suggests, sets him apart from Saul. . . .
[A] study of the book of Samuel and of the Psalms reveals how utterly incomparable David is to anyone alive today. . . . [F]or David, . . . intimacy with the divine was central to his existence, and the books of Samuel and Psalms are an eternal testament to this fact. This is why simple comparisons between David and ourselves, as tempting as they are, must be resisted. . . .
We need to understand David better because we can use his life to comprehend what we are missing, and how utterly unlike our lives are to his own. For even the most religious among us have lost the profound faith and intimacy with God that David had. It is therefore incorrect to assume that because of David’s flaws it would have been, as Amos Oz has written, “fitting for him to reign in Tel Aviv.” . . . David’s complex humanity inspires comparison with modern figures, but his faith, contrition, and repentance—which lie at the heart of his story and success—defy any such engagement. And so, to those who seek comparisons with modern leaders from the Bible, the best rule may be: leave King David out of it.