David, Bathsheba and The Sly Manipulator

Do ya know the story of King David and Bathsheba? Bathsheba is bathing, unclothed, on her roof (why she’s doing that, we’re not told) and David is relishing every minute of the view.

He invites her to the palace, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and arranges for her husband to accidentally, uh, get cut down in battle.

His #1 trusted advisor hears about it. What follows is a lesson that every copywriter, everyone who aspires to be a Strong Persuader should burn into memory. Here’s what happens next:

The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story:

“There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor. The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle.

The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter.

One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”

David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die! He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”

Then Nathan said to David, “YOU ARE THAT MAN!”

Suddenly David admitted to everything.

Sly manipulator, that Nathan guy.

Sly manipulator, that God guy.

Wanna talk about writing for Influence, Authority and Impact? That story is 3,000 years old and still going strong. I betcha almost a billion people in the world can recite it from memory.

Nathan COULD have used the 10 commandments on David. That would be “Rational Logic.”

Rational logic is:

A bad thing >> Which needs to be changed >> creates a condition >> in which a person is feeling pain

But Nathan used Emotional Logic instead.

Emotional Logic:

A person is feeling pain >> because of a condition >> which was created by a bad thing >> which needs to be changed

Nathan knew that with real human beings – especially humans who are already busy avoiding certain truths – you have to speak to the heart.

CONFESSION: I’m a Rational Logic guy. Engineer. In fact the original subject line I wrote for this email was “Emotional Logic vs. Rational Logic.” I was about to launch into this rational explanation and eventually get around to the heart stuff.

But I am trained to understand, that’s bass ackwards. You gotta start with a story that plucks heart strings, then deliver the truth in the punch line. After all, if David was logical, he wouldn’t have done the deed in the first place.

Almost every time I sit down to write, I have to flip everything around backwards before I’m done. A lot of people naturally start with the heart, but not me. I have to fix it as I go.

So if you ever feel like Nathan, whose #1 customer is really smart and really powerful and “ought to know better for crying out loud!!!” – take a move out of Nathan’s playbook.

Pluck the heartstrings first.

Perry Marshall

Writing For Influence, Authority And Impact – private retreat in Chicago




About the Author

Entrepreneur Magazine says: "Perry Marshall is the #1 author and world's most-quoted consultant on Google Advertising. He has helped over 100,000 advertisers save literally billions of dollars in Adwords stupidity tax."

He is referenced across the Internet and by The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune and Forbes Magazine.

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Posted by Perry on March 21st, 2013. Filed in Marketing Blog. Tagged as . Follow responses thru Comments RSS. Follow responses thru Comments RSS.

Comments on David, Bathsheba and The Sly Manipulator »

  • Calvin says:


    Great post! One question though:

    Does the effect weaken if a story omits actual people?

    You inspired me to craft a story of my own for an email blast:

    Do you know the story of Grace – the sheep who was raised by wolves?

    A pack of wolves saved Grace the sheep from a hunter.
    The pack of wolves treated Grace like she was one of them.
    They shared meals. They slept in the same den. They hunted together.
    Grace never killed anything of course, she was really a sheep.
    But she fit in so well, she even began howl at the moon like a wolf.
    Soon she forgot how to baa and bleat.
    One day, the hunter came back to kill them.
    During the hunt, Grace broke off from the wolf pack.
    She ran out of the woods and into the rolling pastures.
    A confused flock of sheep awaited her.
    Grace howled and growled, trying to warn them of the hunter.
    But the flock of sheep paid no heed to her.

    People judge how smart you are from the way you speak.

    For this reason, how much you are worth depends on your pronunciation.

    The way you pronounce your words can add or subtract from the power of your ideas.

    Stay credible and learn to pronounce your words the proper way.

    Read this special report:

    I kept the human elements but used animals instead. It would be interesting to see if omitting people in stories have an effect on response rate.

    Anyways, great post Perry.


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