A common rabbinic strategy when dealing with the problem of biblical heroes, whose conduct neither shares the same ethical values nor the normative command structure of the mitzvot that is the bread and butter of rabbinic concern, is to recast them in rabbinic mold. What has often been overlooked in classical rabbinic literature is the conscious use of irony and satire that can transform an apparent approbation into its opposite. Paradigmatic of this literary strategy is the case of aggadot regarding David. This article focuses on such passages in the Bavli normally understood as laudatory of the biblical King David yet, on closer reading, one can detect either an inner incongruity or a deliberate allusion to scandalous aspects of David's career in the biblical account. That allusion signals the reader to a covert ironic subversion of the aggada's patent meaning. Rabbinizing David in the texts examined, rather than rehabilitating David by rescuing him from his biblical persona and, in the process, effacing the biblical text, actually drives the attuned reader back into that text to judge David's character by the rigorous standards of rabbinic morality. Rabbinic irony establishes a bridge between the prospective reader and the Bavlian authorship that would seductively lure that reader into its God-suffused universe preserving an esoteric legacy of rabbinic reflections on David.


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pp. 373-426
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