Friday 29 January 2010

Bible Book:
2 Samuel

"In the letter he wrote, 'Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.'" (v.15)

2 Samuel 11:1-17 Friday 29 January 2010


This brilliantly told narrative about King David could almostcome straight from a modern magazine or film script (and it hascertainly engendered countless works of art which had biblicalpermission to depict a naked and beautiful woman taking herbath).

First there is seduction and adultery, resulting in Bathsheba'spregnancy by David. Then David makes the effort to trick Uriah intothinking the child is his by giving him home leave so that he maymake love to his wife. This is scuppered by Uriah's loyal refusalto forego a soldier's normal hardships at a time of war - he won'tgo. So David cynically arranges for Uriah to be exposed toparticular danger in battle and then be abandoned by his comradesso that he will die and David can marry Bathsheba himself. David iswilling to deceive and effectively commission a murder whichinvolves subverting good military practice (you will seefrom verses 18-25, if you read on, that the plotputs other soldiers in danger too). Joab, the commander, iseffectively David's 'fixer' in this matter, as in manyothers.

This story is in shocking contrast to some earlier passages whichpresent David as the ideal king, full of the spirit of God.

However, there are some interesting points to note. At the timewhen this story was told, most contemporary monarchs would have hadno scruple in openly taking for themselves whatever women theyfancied, married or not. Or they would have had inconvenientindividuals killed without needing to make it look like anaccident. Brutal as David's behaviour is towards Uriah, it is clearthat he is trying not to look like a tyrant - there is a higherstandard for the kings of Israel.

It is also fascinating that the Israelites, who came to revereDavid as the greatest king of Israel, still preserved thetraditions that show him in a very poor light as a sinful humanbeing. In the majority of ancient archives, whether carved on stoneor in manuscripts, only the 'official' and impressive version of amonarch's doings is retained.

To Ponder

Why do you think a story like this has beenpreserved by the biblical writers when it shows David in such apoor light?

What modern examples can you think of where thosein power have put their own agenda first, even at the expense ofthe lives of common soldiers?

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