2 Samuel 11:1-15 – the 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for July 29, 2012
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…”
Lust. Sex. Deceit. Scheming. Murder. Ah, it must be the Bible!
David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”
Who was Uriah the Hittite? Was he merely collateral damage in the war of lust King David surrendered to before any royal, internal battle was waged?
Uriah . . .
Married Bathsheba, though in the Bible’s stark tale, the two never share a scene together in any verse.
Served as a soldier, one who wielded a weapon when a king or general demanded action.
Was a Hittite, able to claim a specific homeland and lineage.
Had a Hebrew rather than a Hittite name, meaning Yahweh Is A Light.
Only a little more could be said about this warrior servant. However, the remaining sparse details chronicled in the Bible are troubling. Indeed, the fateful, final details about Uriah were and are an embarrassment for believers, whether Jewish or Christian. David—anointed by God—had raped Bathsheba (is it fair to wield such a despicable word?) and then schemed to deceive the Hittite about his princely indiscretions. Correction, David’s crowning opprobrium.
The king encouraged Uriah to spend a night with Bathsheba. Yahweh Is A Light did not. The king then plied the Hittite with an ancient version of a bottomless glass of whiskey, thinking the soldier, like millions of soldiers before and after him, would stagger home, tumble into bed and—it wouldn’t matter what happened next—remember or never remember if he screwed his already screwed-up wife. Instead, as before, Yahweh Is A Light settled near David’s door. A good soldier, even drunk as a skunk, guarded his king.
One scheme remained. David concocted a letter—to be carried by the victim himself—to set in motion events leading to Bathsheba’s husband’s death. The words of the king sent to Uriah’s commander were as callous as any ever scratched on papyrus (or typed from a keyboard): “Set Yahweh Is A Light in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
David demanded that blood-soaked order.
Bathsheba never told her husband the truth of her rape (or, more politely, her royal seduction). Off Yahweh Is A Light hurried, back to war, his wife as silent as the child growing in her womb.
Joab, David’s general, sweat-stained and weary from relentless battle, apparently scanned the royal missive, then dotted the “i” and crossed the “t.” A king’s command soon became a corpse riddled with the enemy’s spears and arrows.
With only a dollop of embellishment, those are the Biblical “facts.”
What might a faithful reader of the Bible conclude?
The Hittite acted the fool, a naïve country bumpkin, as clueless and malleable as a lump of clay.
The stalwart soldier manifested the best of humanity—loyal, humble and more honest than a summer day is long.
Both work. Country bumpkin or humble soldier, dead was dead.
Poor fella. No. I really don’t think that way about Yahweh Is A Light.
In my life I can honestly say I’ve only had one person intentionally scheme against me. Many have hurt me, many have made me look silly or react angrily. But only once in my life—and the person, of course, held power over me—did someone metaphorically send me to “the forefront of the hardest fighting.” To this day—decades later—I don’t know why a clergy colleague lied about me . . . but lie he did.
Maybe you’ve had a David manipulate you or a Joab blindly follow hurtful orders. Maybe you view yourself as Bathsheba, an object desired or bullied, powerless and abused.
The Bible’s a grand story of the Creator’s love for humanity, and it’s also a seamy, sad account of the worst, least and lost of creation.
We rightly sing songs and retell stories so David is never forgotten. And yet, especially after reading the fatal chapter eleven of Samuel.2, we might wonder how bankrupt our faith is . . . because how could David ever be considered “the anointed?” Don’t shrug and mutter about knowing the whole story: David chastised by the prophet Nathan and soon to reel from the tragedy of Bathsheba’s child’s death. And don’t run to Jesus and glibly proclaim he’s the true anointed and thus hurl the rapist/king under the wheel of the New Testament. David and Jesus are part of an ongoing testament, serving (or in David’s case when he kills Uriah, not serving) the same God. I’m grateful the Bible’s honest about its heroes; still, I grit my teeth while reading some of the sordid and sacred scripture.
Lust. Sex. Deceit. Scheming. Murder. Ah, it must be the Bible! But—thank you Yahweh Is A Light—there is also trust and even just enough hope found in God’s ongoing story. In this scurrilous tale, begun when a king gazed from a window, my hero is Yahweh Is A Light, country bumpkin and stalwart soldier.
*The illustration comes from the GCI.org webpage.