Saturday 30 January 2010

Bible Book:
2 Samuel

"Nathan said to David, 'You are the man!' ... David said to Nathan, 'I have sinned against the Lord.'" (v.7, 13)

2 Samuel 12:1-17 Saturday 30 January 2010


It says a lot for the respect in which the Israelite prophetswere held that Nathan was able to challenge the king about his evilbehaviour - first in seducing Bathsheba and then having her husbandkilled when she inconveniently became pregnant. It also says a lotfor Nathan's courage, and it is not surprising that he used aroundabout method to get David to see what he had done. He uses aparable - an innocent sounding story with a challenging meaning.Wisely, he engages David's own compassion before he points out thatthe king himself has acted without mercy.

It is to David's credit that he makes a full confession of hiswrongdoing rather than taking it out on the messenger.

The story outlines two forms of punishment for David. One is thathis reign will be beset by continuing violence - "the sword shallnever depart from your house". This may seem to us a reasonablecommentary on David's life so far, and how he is likely to act inthe future, given the enemies he has always made along with hisloyal supporters. But the other punishment is a lot harder for thecontemporary reader to stomach - the child of David and Bathshebais struck with illness and eventually dies.

It is problematic for us to think of a god who really strikes achild to punish its father, and perhaps it is easier to read thisas an association that could have been made by a guilty mind afterthe event. Of course, in the ancient world infant mortality was avery common occurrence and perhaps some fathers took it in theirstride. David however is shown fasting and praying for his doomedchild's life, a poignant story that engages our sympathy once againfor this very mixed character.

To Ponder

Have you ever needed to, or felt you should,challenge the behaviour of someone who had more power than you?What happened?

Do you think that God punishes us with suffering,or through the suffering of other people? If not, how do you makesense of personal suffering?

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