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The Kings and Their Gods: The Pathology of Power
Daniel Berrigan

9780802860439 Retail Price: $20.00
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Format: Paperback, 202pp.
ISBN: 9780802860439
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
Pub. Date: April 14, 2008

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About the Author
Table of Contents
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From The Publisher:

The scenario that confronts us in the biblical text of 1 and 2 Kings is a turbulent one. Daniel Berrigan minces no words in his assessment of that biblical era. Prophets, kings, and the gods they worship — all are found wanting.

Berrigan examines the complex terrain of these two biblical books, opening our eyes to the deep flaws of their oft-praised characters. He shows that this dark time in biblical history is in many ways repeating itself today. The wars of these kings, Berrigan says, are our wars now, and we are fashioning our own gods to approve our misdeeds. These two books of Scripture come to vivid — and sometimes terrifying — life when we recognize these undeniable similarities.

The Kings and Their Gods reveals Berrigan in stunning form. Here this modern-day prophet distills the wisdom gained from his long learning and his remarkable life experiences. The book is both a masterful biblical commentary and a clarion call to action. It balances polemics and poetry, despair and joy. It is truly a midrash for our troubled times — both an indictment of the horror that is and an invitation to the great goodness that may be.


“I can think of few men I admire so much, yet am so grateful not to be, as Daniel Berrigan. This man’s life has been given to dark witness. Working with his back to the sun, delving in the shadows of earthly power, he has self-abnegatingly pinned tails on the donkeys and elephants of American Empire for half a century. Some find truth via fear of God, some via love for God. Grateful as I am to count myself among the latter, I thank this poet-hero of the former. Father Berrigan’s life has been a tireless song of protest against all that Love cannot bear.”
—David James Duncan author of The Brothers K

“Stunning. Irreverent. Incisive. This bold Berrigan midrash on the books of Kings brings the American way into prophetic biblical focus. Won’t we ever learn? But with Dan Berrigan among us, we are not without a witness.”Eugene H. Peterson author of The Message

“Part biblical commentary, part poetry, and part prophecy — this is Berrigan at his best.”
—Jim Wallis, President of Sojourners author of The Great Awakening

“In this powerful and disturbing meditation on the books of Kings, Father Daniel Berrigan, with all his usual prophetic fervor and scalding wit, compares Israel in the time between David and Isaiah with the United States today. The implications may keep you awake at night.”
—Andrew Greeley, priest, popular author, social critic

“Daniel Berrigan’s Kings and Their Gods is not one book but three. The first book in question is scripture’s two books of Kings, which most people ignore. The second book is Berrigan’s own poetic, piercing interpretation of the books of Kings. The third book is about us — our country, our times, ourselves. In each case, the language is elegant and the narrative is dramatic and chilling. Most of all, Berrigan’s interpretation is disturbingly real, frighteningly true. My advice is to read this book with the scripture in one hand and the newspaper in the other. But whatever you do, read it. Once you do, you’ll never think of the books of Kings as useless history again. On the contrary, you may think of them all the time.”
—Joan Chittister author of Welcome to the Wisdom of the World


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About the Author

Daniel Berrigan is a poet, peace activist, and renowned author. His other writings include Daniel: Under the Siege of the Divine, Uncommon Prayer, and Swords into Plowshares. He is the recipient of several awards, including the Thomas Merton Award.

Table of Contents


First Book of Kings

Who Shall Inherit the Grand Years of David? (Chs. 1–4)
     Solomon Enthroned (Ch. 1)
     “Blood Will Have Blood” (2:1-11)
     “The Wisdom of Solomon” (2:12-46)
     Dreams and Shadows of Dreams (Ch. 3)
     The Apotheosis of Empire (Ch. 4)

Stone upon Stone, the King Constructs Immortality (Chs. 5–9)
     The “Great Pyramid” of Solomon (Ch. 5)
     The House of the Lord? (Ch. 6)
     A Palace Fit for a King? (Ch. 7)
     The Temple Dedicated: Folly, Fiction, Obsession (Ch. 8)
     The Tyrant and the Convenient Deity (Ch. 9)

From Solomon to Jeroboam: Kings Run Amok (Chs. 10–13)
     The King and the Queen: Wisdom Compounded, Unconfounded (10:1-13)
     The Great King: Possessed by Possessions (10:14-29)
     Shadows over the Empire (11:1-8)
     Enemies and Traitors: The Decline and Fall (11:9-43)
     The Seamless Cloak, Torn (Ch. 12)
     No Strange Gods before Me (Ch. 13)

Of Kings and Their Gods: A Tale of Woe (Chs. 14–22)
     Jeroboam and Rehoboam: Undone by Idols (Ch. 14)
     A Line of Nonentities (Chs. 15–16)
     At Long Last, Relief: Elijah the Plainspoken (Chs. 17–18)
     Elijah and Elisha: God’s Chosen Chooses (Ch. 19)
     King Ahab and the Deity (Chs. 20–21)
     War, and Yet Again War (Ch. 22)

Second Book of Kings

Of Kings and Prophets: Light and Darkness Contending (1:1–6:23)
     Ahaziah: Another King Falls (Ch. 1)
     “My Father, My Father, the Chariot of Israel and Its Driver!” (Ch. 2)
     Elisha: A Prophet to Love and to Loathe (Chs. 3–4)
     A Virtuous Duet and a Dubious Spirit (Ch. 5)
     A Gift of Unexpected Mercy (6:1-23)

Famine and Fury: War and Its Shadows (6:24–17:41)
     The Horrid Banquet of War (Ch. 6)
     A Moment’s Relief: The Siege Lifted (Ch. 7)
     Something Terrible beyond Telling (Ch. 8)
     The Blood of Kings — and Queens (Chs. 9–11)
     A King’s Greed, a Prophet’s Epitaph (Chs. 12–13)
     The Spoils of War, Continued (Chs. 14, 15, 16)
     Exile: The Final Tragedy (Ch. 17)

Dawn at Last: Isaiah and the Last Days of Empire (Chs. 18–25)
     Hezekiah: King of Contradiction (Ch. 18)
     Isaiah: Prophet of Hope against Hope (Ch. 19)
     A Puzzle of Praise for a Foolish King (Ch. 20)
     Innocent Blood on Royal Hands (Ch. 21)
     The Scroll: Restored for Good? (Chs. 22–23)
     Light amid the Kings’ Dark Legacy (Chs. 24–25)

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