Welcome Back to the Bible Blog!
Whew! Feels like we’re flying through the Bible now, doesn’t it? Can you believe that we’re 1/4 of the way through the Bible already? And you probably looked at this book at one time and thought, “I could never read a book that big!” Well, good job! You’re on your way, and probably changing a little along the way as God penetrates your heart with His Word!
So on to this week’s blog…
David & Bathsheba! A true romance of Biblical proportions! This story couldn’t have been written any better if it had been written by Hollywood itself! Romance, power, passion, love, intrigue… at least that’s how it’s been portrayed to us.
However, the story of love and romance couldn’t be farther from the truth! Sadly, the story is much darker than this and really isn’t about Bathsheba at all…it’s about David and Uriah the Hittite.
What I’m about to describe will probably be shocking to you. In fact, you may think I’ve gone off the deep end when you hear it, but bear with me and follow the story. The ancient Hebrews understood what we’ve misunderstood for decades or more. Perhaps it’s our Western way of thinking or our obsession with romance novels and love stories, but many of us have a picture of David & Bathsheba that could only have been made up by Hollywood, because it’s not what the Bible describes.
David raped Bathsheba.
You didn’t misread that. David raped her. This was no story of love at first sight, romance and mystery. This was rape. Let me explain what the Scriptures make clear…
2Samuel 11 opens with, “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.” Immediately an ancient Hebrew reading this story would be wondering, “What’s wrong with David? Why didn’t he go out with the army as he should have done?”
This first line should signal to us that something is wrong. The king is not acting like a king right now. Verse 2 describes David as walking around on the roof. In the original Hebrew it is clear that David is looking for something wrong to do! This isn’t as clear in English, but the Hebrew is unmistakable.
In verse 4 we read, “Then David sent messengers to get her…”, but the Hebrew puts it this way, “And David sent messengers, and took her“. This verb of taking (he took her) is clear in the Hebrew that he took her by force. It doesn’t describe love or romance. Had David wanted her to be his wife it would have said something to the affect of, “he took her to be his wife,” but it doesn’t. It simply says, “he took her”.
Ok. Take a deep breath. I remember what was going through my head when I first learned this. Hopefully I’ve earned some level of trust with you by now, but this teaching may be straining your ability to trust me. How can this be? So unless I can read the ancient Hebrew text I can’t really understand what the Bible says?!? What if David (still currently my pastor, but that remains to be seen) is twisting the Scriptures? It clearly doesn’t appear to say to me what he is saying it says.
I understand and if this was the only evidence in Scripture to explain what really happened I’d be more reluctant to point it out. Thankfully it is not. You don’t have to know Hebrew to see that rape is really what happened here. You only need to keep reading and watching the context. Even in English this will become blatantly clear. Just follow me a little further…
Remember I said that this story really isn’t about Bathsheba at all, but it’s about David and Uriah the Hittite? Watch the descriptions of these two men and their actions as you reread the story.
Bathsheba informs David that she’s pregnant (2 Sam 11:5). Uh oh. David wasn’t counting on this. So what does he do? He sends for Uriah (which meant Uriah had to leave the fighting and return to Jerusalem, to David in the palace) and asks him how the war is going. He then sends him home to his wife, Bathsheba, and also sends a gift after him. It’s probably the messenger attempting to deliver the gift who witnesses what is reported to David next. “Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.” (2Sam 11:6-9)
When David is informed and asks Uriah why he didn’t go to his home, here’s his reply, “The ark (which represents God’s presence) and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men (David’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!” (2Sam 11:11 with notes in parentheses added by me).
Uriah is a man of great integrity!
What kind of character has David exhibited so far?
- He’s home when he should be with his men in battle.
- He’s been walking about looking for something evil to do.
- He sees Bathsheba, the wife of another man, summons her to the palace, rapes her and sends her home.
- When he learns that she’s pregnant David attempts to trick her husband into thinking the child is his own by sending him to his home to make love to his wife.
Uriah’s explanation to David basically points out that God (the ark), Israel, Judah, Joab and all of David’s men are all where they should be. Only David is where he shouldn’t be.
When this first attempt at deception fails for David, he redoubles his efforts. The next night he has Uriah come feast with him at the palace where he purposely gets Uriah drunk before sending him home thinking Uriah would surely sleep with his wife if he’s drunk and not thinking clearly.
This attempt fails as well. By now the reader should be seeing the stark contrast between the deep character of Uriah the Hittite and the absolute depravity of David, Israel’s King!
When David realizes that he cannot break the integrity of this great man, his actions get even more sinister. Now, instead of trying to break Uriah’s integrity, he writes Uriah’s death sentence and asks Uriah to deliver it to his commander, Joab, counting on Uriah’s integrity not to read the order while on his way!
He also is counting on the integrity of his general, Joab, to carry out what has to be seen as a wicked order. Joab does obey and Uriah is killed in battle.
At this point David is probably thinking that he’s gotten away with his evil deed(s), finally. That is, until he’s called on the carpet by Nathan the prophet. I love Nathan’s exclamation, “You are the man!” Only this isn’t a positive declaration.
As Nathan rebukes David and points out his wickedness, and the fact that none of his deeds were hidden from God, he begins to predict the destruction that David’s deeds will bring.
“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” (2Sam 12:11-12)
Here’s where even the English translations make clear that David raped Bathsheba, as we see how this prediction plays out in the lives of David’s sons.
First of all, Nathan says God will give David’s wives to one who is close to him. David did this same thing. Uriah was literally David’s neighbor (David could see Bathsheba from the roof of his palace) and, perhaps more importantly, Uriah was one of David’s Mighty Men (2Sam 23:39).
Of the hundreds of thousands of soldiers in Israel’s army, there was an inner circle of 30 men (or 37), David’s Mighty Men; warriors known for their bravery and valor in fighting for Israel and Israel’s King. No doubt, David knew who Uriah was as soon as it was reported to him that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
God says that what David did in secret He will do in broad daylight before all Israel. The very first instance of this punishment being carried out is in the very next chapter (13) where we read that David’s son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar, David’s daughter. Tamar pleads with Amnon saying he should marry her, so this will not be a disgrace to each of them; that King David would not refuse to allow them to be married. Amnon refuses, and being stronger than Tamar, he rapes her.
David’s son Absalom, Tamar’s brother and Amnon’s half-brother, later takes revenge on Amnon and kills him (2Sam 13:28-29). Later in his rebellion against David, Absalom pitched a tent on the roof of David’s palace and, “slept with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.” (2Sam 16:22)
What David did in secret, taking the wife of one close to him, raping her (sleeping with another’s wife) and thinking he got away with it, is played out for all of Israel to see.
You see, this story really isn’t about Bathsheba (not to lessen the devastation of her being raped by the king). The story is really the stark contrast of a common man of great integrity, Uriah, with a “great” man of uncommon depravity, King David of Israel.
The ancient Hebrews understood this as we’ll see later in 1Kings 15:5 where it’s recorded for us, “For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life – except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”
This is not a love story of David and Bathsheba, but a tragic story of contrasting character between David and Uriah the Hittite.
David, a man after God’s own heart, was after all, a man. Flawed like the rest of us, much of his life should be emulated by us, but David wasn’t perfect. He just whole-heartedly served a perfect God.
David’s repentance is no more clear than in the psalm that he wrote as he cried out to God, Psalm 51. Read it for more insight.
I can imagine that this blog, more than any of the others, may have your mind spinning with questions. Fire away. That’s why we’re here…
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