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. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.” So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house. David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’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!” Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home. In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.” So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died. – 2 Samuel 11:1-17
This passage begins like a fairy tale and ends like a nightmare. “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…” It makes it sound like a very regular occurrence like – spring training for a baseball team or something. Clearly the view of war was different back then, more like a past time than an all consuming conflagration like our world wars. I knew this story was coming and to be honest I have been dreading it. My opinion of David falls so far so fast.
David sees a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, bathing from his rooftop. He becomes inflamed with lust for her and begins a series of very bad choices. David abuses his high position in two ways. First David takes advantage of his position on the rooftop of the palace to see into the courtyards and lives of those “below” him. If this happened in another context we might call David a “peeping tom”. He also took advantage of his high position as king, given to him by God, to sleep with Bathsheba and she ends up pregnant. Not a good day for the house of David.
In trying to cover up the fact that he had gotten Bathsheba pregnant David compounded his sin. He brings Uriah back from the wars and tries to convince Uriah, an honest and loyal man, to do something that he felt honor-bound not to do. Uriah did not want to partake of a privilege that the soldiers under him could not partake of, namely to sleep with his wife at home. The irony here is quite striking…Uriah the honorable honest man unwilling to dishonor himself by sleeping with his wife; and David a deceitful and dishonorable man who sleeps with Uriah’s wife because he can. God will still use David even though he has clearly demonstrated that he is a flawed follower.
There are several cultural things going on here that I do not pretend to understand, and David is unquestionably one of the bible’s perplexing people. The first is the polygamous palace life. David, and apparently other wealthy and powerful men of his day, had multiple wives and concubines. Women seem to be treated like trophies or commodities – a status symbol like the number of garages your house has. I am somewhat appalled by this treatment of women, but there are men who treat women in a similar manner today. Our culture does not do a good job of honoring women.
The Clippers owner Donald Sterling comes to mind. He used his wealth and power to be with beautiful young women openly while he was still married. Very few people even mentioned this when the scandal surrounding his racist remarks arose. I am sure his illicit relationships ended up costing him, but I suspect he has enough money that it will not make him a pauper.
The current rape scandal swirling around Bill Cosby makes me feel sick to my stomach. If even a smidgen of what he is accused of doing is true he has done things that were very wrong and hurt others by trying to cover it up. David was clearly abusing his power as king to satisfy his selfish needs. Based on the accounts coming out about Bill Cosby it sounds like he also abused his power to satisfy his selfish needs when young women came to him for advice and guidance.
God made us sexual beings, so how come this aspect of our lives is so often messed up. The sexual revolution promised freedom and the end of “repression” and yet sexual sin seems even more rampant than in the past. Sexual sin seems to have a unique ability to ensnare otherwise faithful followers. I guess it is not so different from other flaws that God is able to hammer and shape out of us, if we let Him, but this particular flaw has the ability to wreak generations of havoc on our relationships. Clearly David changed the trajectory of Uriah’s family through his poor choices. How many people you know who have been impacted by someone’s poor choices in the area of sexual sin?
Prayer: God help us to keep sex in a proper perspective and within the context you have provided.