ACTIONS AND REACTIONS
Father, I commit this day to you. As I read your Word today, inspire me to do your will with new vision and confidence.
Read 2 SAMUEL 11
David and Bathsheba
11 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents,[a] and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”
16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.
18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle. 19 He instructed the messenger: “When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, 20 the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth[b]? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’”
22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”
25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Fight the good fight with all thy might! / Christ is thy strength, and Christ thy right; / lay hold on life, and it shall be / thy joy and crown eternally.’1
A primary task for Israel’s king was to lead the army. Saul was called to fight the Philistines.2 For David, the enemy was different but there is no indication that this task had been removed. The writer’s implicit criticism of David in 2 Samuel 10:7 is made explicit here. There seems no doubt that verse 1 deliberately makes that point. David was apparently abdicating his responsibilities. The criticism of David in this chapter is clear and severe. We know that he later repented, but the story as written does not allow readers to escape the inference that his reputation as a great king was, at this point, totally unjustified. Afternoon rest was normal, but it was evening (v 2) before David got up from his bed! He had clearly not sent Joab off to war because he was concentrating on other kingly tasks. We again see spiraling consequences. His lust leads to adultery, which, given the imbalance in their status, was probably, in effect, rape. When Bathsheba became pregnant, he tried to avoid responsibility by deceiving, cheating, and eventually murdering an honorable and innocent man. At the same time, he made himself vulnerable to undue influence, if not blackmail, from Joab. No wonder the thing, or indeed things, ‘David had done displeased the Lord’ (v 27).
Too often we have seen instances, both in nations and sadly also in churches, where popular, charismatic leaders, particularly if they claim to support our own political stance or religious preferences, are allowed to avoid responsibility for serious behavioral failures. Scripture here does not permit us to take up that position. We will need to read on to see if this chapter presents an aberration or a norm for David’s fulfilling of his kingly role!
Discuss with a friend whether our tendency to view biblical characters as heroes might lead us to underestimate criticisms in the text. Might this influence how we critique modern leaders?
Holy Spirit, plant the words of Scripture deep in my heart. Help me to think and feel and do what is right as a sacrifice of thanksgiving and praise.
1 JSB Monsell, 1863 2 1 Sam 9:16
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