Tuesday, November 18, 2008

David's Origins

With thanks to Malka, who taught this to me

In spite of his piety, Jesse was not always proof against temptation. One of his slaves caught his fancy, and he would have entered into illicit relations with her, had his wife, Nazbat, the daughter of Adiel, not frustrated the plan. She disguised herself as the slave, and Jesse, deceived by the ruse, met his own wife. The child borne by Nazbat was given out as the son of the freed slave, so that the father might not discover the deception practiced upon him. This child was David.

~Legends of the Jews by Louis Ginzberg, page 911

Source: An unknown Midrash quoted by Makiri, Ps. 118, 214. On the references to this legend by the medieval authors, see Zunz, Synagogale Poesie, 129. Comp, also Kele Yakar, 1 Sam. 17; Azulai, Midbar Kedemot, s. v. Yishai, No 20; R' Elijah Wilna in his commentary on Yoreh De'ah 157.24. Comp. note 23. Josephus, Antiqui, XII, 4.6, narrates a similar story about Hyrcanus the son of Joseph the tax collector. As to the names of Nazbat and Adiel (which occur only in Baba Batra 91a), see Gudermann, Religiousgeschichtliche Studien, 49, seq. The reading Adael and Ada instead of Adiel are incorrect; see 1 Chron. 27.25 where a son of Adiel is mentioned as King David's treasurer.


Compare to: Tamar deceiving Judah, Rebecca deceiving Isaac by covering Jacob in the hairy goatskins, Leah deceiving Jacob, the story of Shulamit who slept with the Egyptian because she thought it was her husband, loads of fairytales and mythological tales in various forms (Uther taking the form of Gorlois, Siguror and Gunnar in the Brynhild story), Sanhedrin 75a


Uri said...

Thanks for sharing.

Tobie said...

I have heard a version of this midrash, connecting it to Jesse's doubt that he was officially Jewish, in the halachic sense, given the controversy over Rut. He therefore divorced (or separated from) his wife and freed one of his slaves, reasoning that if he was Jewish, then freeing her would make her Jewish as well. If he was not, then there was no problem sleeping with her. The slave, however, felt bad about the whole thing, and worked it out with the wife to switch places. The ensuing baby, of course, was David, but nobody was ever really certain on the question whether he was from Jesse or not. This, according to the midrash, is why Jesse didn't bring him forward when Samuel asked to meet all of his sons- he honestly wasn't entirely sure this was one.