Amidst the battles and war of David making Israel mighty in the land again, there is the story of him and Bathsheba. It’s the more infamous part of this book because of the way things go down. It’s told as if it’s terribly romantic, but it’s really not. Nor are the circumstances surrounding it.
David is gathering up his men and the ark of the covenant to go up against the Phillistines again. There’s a strange incident where a man tries to catch the ark after the ox that was carrying it “stumbled” and is struck dead on the spot. Personally, I thought it was a bit drastic for God to be so mad he was struck dead for that. It seemed like he was trying to do the right thing, even for the right reasons, as opposed to the way some others have been trying. This guy just caught the cart, why did that upset Him? Then again, I understand that it was put down at some point that would be the punishment and God does not make empty threats.
Because of this event, David was not comfortable putting the ark in his house at first, so he stashed it elsewhere for a while before bringing it home. He’s happy and dancing around and Michal gets mad at him for it. She even chastises him, because he was “uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”
Then her being barren until her death is attributed to this spat between them. David rebukes her for it and basically says that he’ll still be happy celebrating the way he was and that everyone else would be just as happy with him.
Another prophet comes on the scene here, his name is Nathan. The first thing that happens is God telling Nathan to tell David to built a house for Him. This is where the ark will be kept. Samuel has a long prayer of praise and thanks. God also promises David some things that sound quite kingly on their own but also sound a little like the promise of Jesus one day:
I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son.
There’s some more that distracts from the thought that this might refer to Jesus but then it goes right back into it. I don’t know, it’s just the forever stuff that makes it a little suspect for me.
After hearing the promise mentioned above and praying on it, David goes a conquering. Everyone is given over to him and pays him a tribute. Then there’s an interesting line, not sure how true it is or if it’s just perspective:
So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people.
Things haven’t exactly been equitable between women and men up to this point. Does this mean that it was David’s policy to do that? Or was it just overlooked because the person who wrote this part down (or who translated it) was ignorant of the plight of women or priviledged above them?
And, yes, I get the whole thing about the infallibilty of scripture, but I don’t necessarily believe it. I don’t think that is an actual requirement, but we’ll see.
The disabled son of Jonathon has a return here, I had hoped his mention was a bit of foreshadowing. He is brought back for David to pay his respects to the family Saul. He’s brought in and given his father’s land back and a place at the table.
There’s an upset with the Syrians and the Ammonites that David squashes.
In this chapter, we come to the story of David and Bathsheba. The much romanticized scene of David seeing her bathing takes place and then the next part is carefully phrased:
So David sent messengers to her and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.
“Took her” invokes one thought of how things went down, but then “she came to him” invokes another. I’m going to go with that while this may not be the most moral thing on either part, it wasn’t rape or sexual assault.
When she tells him that she’s pregnant, he tries to get her husband home in time to have impregnated her, but the husband doesn’t do it. He won’t go spend time with her because of his sense of camaraderie with his fellow men who were still at the front. David seems to get it and sends him back to his men. So what to do?
He sends a message back with him to the general in charge of the battle:
Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him that he may be struck down, and die.
THEN DRAW BACK.
I knew the highlights of this story, but that detail just got to me anew. Then draw back. As if impregnating his wife and then sending him to the front lines wasn’t enough. Uriah may seem like a good guy, but he’s a Hittite, so he’s not an Israelite. But isn’t he a sojourner? I mean, his normal dwelling is within site of the castle and he’s fighting on their side. Aren’t they supposed to treat sojourners of this nature like their own?
I’m not sure, but there’s no excuse for this behavior. There’s even a note that God was “displeased” with David over all this. And taking Bathsheba as his wife after having her husband killed. I mean, the only respectable thing he did in the whole situation was wait the mourning period before marrying her.
Now, let’s take a moment to talk about Bathsheba herself. She was a lonely soldier’s wife and I’m not about to shame her for doing something that is still fairly common and totally human, if it’s not the best way to be a good wife. What I want to talk about is the way this story is told as if it were so romantic. He sees her bathing on the roof. Just because she is up there does not mean that she was there fore the purpose of attracting the male gaze. The poor woman is just trying to take a bath and the king himself goes all creeper on her. This is not romance. He uses his power to have her brought to his home. Now, I’m not saying that he forced her, and I don’t think the sex was forced, but that doesn’t make the whole thing romantic. It might start to lean toward romantic if he had somehow humbled himself, but he doesn’t. He sees her in a vulnerable state and has her later brought to him so they can have sex. It’s a booty call. Nothing against booty calls, but we’re talking about a guy who had not even met her. He saw that she was there and beautiful and didn’t care about what was going on in her life, he wanted to have sex and so he had some people go pick her up.
Not romantic. Stop romanticizing it. Romanticizing creepy and stalker like behavior because a guy is cute or hot somehow is a problem. This was not a romantic gesture then and it certainly isn’t romantic in every YA book that’s come after it. I digress.
Nathan delivers the news from God that there will be consequences and that they will include the death of the child. Personally, I find this a little unfair to the child, but I’m sure God took care of him in other ways, right? We don’t actually know what happens after, even to children, but it can be the hope at this point.
After the death of the child, David gets Bathsheba pregnant again, this time with a son who they name Solomon.
The chapter ends with David’s victory that was mentioned back in chapter ten.