If you’re planning on following NBC’s new drama Kings and don’t want to be spoiled, avoid reading the Bible — at least the Book of Chronicles. It turns out the characters and plot are based on the story of King David, and a quick bit of research reveals that the parallels are already obvious after just one episode.
Many characters from the David story have been given updated names, but retain their purposes. Here’s a quick primer:
Biblical Character = Kings Character
David = David Shepherd
King Saul = King Silas Benjamin
Michal = Michelle Benjamin
Jonathan = Jack Benjamin
Samuel = Reverend Samuels
Abner = General Abner
David Shepherd is the youngest of seven boys, while the Biblical David is the youngest of eight and is, naturally, a shepherd. King Saul (of the Tribe of Benjamin) is currently favored by God, but this favor is taken away and God seeks another to lead his people: namely, the youngest son of Jesse of Bethlehem. He sends the prophet Samuel, of Shiloh, to find David and anoint him as the new King of Israel. On the show, Shiloh is the new capital of Gilboa, the country ruled by King Silas (Gilboa is also the name of the mountain range where Saul died in battle against the Philistines).
The most obvious parallel between the Biblical story and the events in the show’s pilot is the famous story of David and Goliath. Instead of defeating a giant man with a slingshot, David Shepherd blows up the “Goliath”-model tank with a rocket launcher. As in the Bible, though, the battle is with the neighboring city-state of Gath and results in David’s fame and adoration by the public.
His reward for his troubles from the king is, in both cases, the princess and a high position in the military. In the Bible, David’s growing popularity in turn fuels Saul’s jealousy and causes the king to order David’s death. Time will tell whether the show will also follow this storyline, but Silas has already shown his willingness to kill for his own political gain.
Another key element to the Biblical story which remains to be seen on the show is Jonathan’s support of David. Though Jonathan is Saul’s rightful heir, he sees David as such and aids him in escaping one of Saul’s plots to have David killed (Michal also does this on an earlier occasion). Jonathan is said to love David “as his own soul,” and the relationship between the two is described as being so close that many scholars speculate it may have been homosexual in nature. On the show, Jack is revealed to be a closet homosexual, so it’s easy to envision this aspect of the Biblical story as part of the Kings plotline as well (whether or not it will involve an actual relationship between David and Jack). It’s particularly interesting because, so far, the show has set Jack up to be more jealous of David than his father. He is Silas’s only son (publicly), while Saul has four with his first wife, so perhaps he is meant to be a combination of Jonathan and Silas’s son Ish-bosheth, who vies for Saul’s throne against David after Saul, Jonathan, and Saul’s other two sons are killed at Gilboa.
Saul also has two sons with Rizpah, his concubine. Similarly, Silas is engaged in an affair with Helen, with whom he has a son, Seth. We have yet to see much of this second family on the show, but undoubtedly it will prove far more scandalous for Silas given changes in social mores since Biblical times.
One thread of the show’s plot which is harder to directly match with that of the Biblical story include the business arrangement between Silas and his brother-in-law, William Cross of CrossGen Corporation. The royal family’s treasury is apparently largely bankrolled by CrossGen, who is profiting from the war, and when Silas signs the peace treaty with Gath, Cross pulls the funds, hoping to cause Silas’s downfall, and looks to Jack to take his place.
It is also unclear what the origin is of the butterfly motif which pervades the TV series. It serves as the symbol of the Benjamins and of Gilboa, and butterflies are apparently God’s method of showing whom he favors, as both Silas and David experience a “crown” of butterflies. However, there is no such icon in the David story of the Bible.
In just two hours, Kings set up all the above characters and plot points. It will certainly be interesting to see how closely the rest of the story follows the Biblical story of David, especially since it’s clear how much care the creative team has taken already to establish the details between the two stories.