Pierpoint Morgan Library/Art Resource, NY

Two men, dressed as medieval bishops, carefully set a jewel-encrusted crown on the head of David. A pair of angels, floating gracefully above David’s head, supports a Latin scroll that reads “Here is the Coronation of David,” in this illumination from the Hachette Psalter (c. 1225).

Like any nascent empire, the monarchy of David and his son Solomon faced numerous obstacles. David may well have been challenged by those who questioned his right to the throne, his decision to make Jerusalem the capital and his efforts to expand Israel’s borders into enemy territory. To quiet these critics, David relied on a powerful political tool: propaganda. Under David, the scribes of the tenth-century B.C.E. royal court rewrote Israel’s earliest history in order to justify the establishment of the monarchy, author Gary A. Rendsburg suggests. Rendsburg scours the first five books of the Bible—especially Genesis—to determine just how much these books tell us about David’s reign.