17 January 20222 Samuel 11:1-13
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go into battle, David sent Joab and his officers … But David remained at Jerusalem. (v. 1)
As the writer explains, springtime is the campaigning season and kings were expected to be at the head of their armies. But for some reason, David decided not to go. We are not told the reason why, but the description of him lounging on a couch and wandering around the roof of his house suggests he may have been suffering from what St Evagrius calls acedia – the strange mixture of boredom, restlessness and depression. Alternatively, he may have been tired of the responsibilities of kingship or, perhaps, having been campaigning all his life he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Whatever the cause, what then follows is a very real depiction of temptation, desire and the abuse of power. What we don’t get from the narrative is any sense of how Bathsheba felt or what she thought about these events. Presumably, she had no choice and no say in the matter.
Whatever the cause of David’s malaise, he was soon distracted by the beauty of Bathsheba as she bathed. His first sin is not, therefore, adultery but voyeurism. The act, however, moves from voyeurism to adultery simply because he can. His is the king and he is therefore able to summon a woman to lie with him. And, what’s more, the majority of the men are away campaigning, so who would know? It is a classic story constantly used in propaganda against soldiers away from home. Who is sleeping with your partner while you are away?
In contrast to David, Uriah the Hittite is portrayed as a foreigner who is righteous and loyal to the cause. When summoned from the front by David, he refuses to go and sleep with his wife and enjoy the comforts of his home. The Ark of the Covenant would have been taken out campaigning with the army and as long as the Ark and his fellow soldiers are not at home, Uriah refuses to do as suggested. Even when David gets him drunk he still doesn’t go home. You can imagine the rising sense of panic in David as he hears first that Bathsheba is pregnant and then the failure of each of his schemes.
- Has a failure to not do what you were supposed to be doing ever got you into more trouble?
- How have you countered temptation in your own life that comes in the form of "Go on, nobody will know."
- St Evagrius spoke of eight different types of temptation or weaknesses that each of us is more prone to be tempted by than others. What is your weakness?
First published 21 January 2019.