The Book of Samuel was originally one big book, of course, and was divided simply because it was easier when you wrote out books on scroll paper to split such a large book into halves so that you could physically handle it more easily. (Psalms actually has FIVE books, when you look into its structure.) So we really consider “First” and “Second” Samuel as one book – and in saying that, the middle portion of the book is about King David, “the man after God’s Own Heart”, as he’s often described. We looked at the chapter that first made David’s reputation (“Saul has killed his thousands, and David has killed his tens of thousands”, the saying went after his warrior days. More than anything, that’s what drove Saul mad and sent him off trying to kill David.), and now, we’ll take a look at the episode that forever marred it.
1In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
So, when David was supposed to be going off to war (battles waited until the spring because the transport mechanisms of the day were difficult to use in the wet wintertime), he instead was home at the palace, sleeping until late afternoon, and doing the 10th century BC equivalent of watching porn: walking on his roof and spying on a woman bathing on a separate rooftop.
Despite being TOLD she was MARRIED (and bravo to whomever had the guts to remind the king he shouldn’t do what he was obviously considering doing!) David used his authority to “invite” Bathsheba (always an ironic name, at least in English!) to “visit” the palace, and it doesn’t sound like she resisted very much. (Hidden lesson: it takes two to tango. That doesn’t make David less guilty, but it includes her in the guilt.). God being God, their guilt wasn’t going to be hidden very long: “I am pregnant.“
So David did the only responsible thing. He apologized to Uriah and Bathsheba, face to face, and used his wealth to pay for the baby’s expenses from birth until adulthood.
I’m just kidding.
6So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. 8Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
(Some explanation: “Wash your feet” was a euphemism for “go relax at home and sleep with your wife”, which itself is another euphemism for “have sexual relations with your wife”. The reason was obvious – if he did so, the baby could reasonably be credited to him as father. Unfortunately for David…)
10When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” 12Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
Okay, a few more things to note: Uriah’s reason is more noble than David can believe – “as YOU live, King David, I will not do this” while the ark and your troops are in the field! And if the king doubted his veracity, Uriah backed up his words by living up to them even when drunk. (Note to readers: Being drunk is no excuse for your bad behavior. If anything, being drunk reveals who you might really BE, deep down.)
So, on top of failing to cover up his crime, David discovered that Uriah was far more noble than he was. That must’ve stung.
Unfortunately, it didn’t bring David back to his Godly heritage. It pushed his guilt farther forward, and he went to reprehensible lengths to salvage what he thought was his intact reputation.
14In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. 18Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. 19And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, 20then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”
22So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
David’s reaction was to have Uriah killed.
“A man after God’s own heart,” indeed.
But that’s part of the lesson of Second Samuel 11. Even King David sinned – and sinned BIG. But when you read on (and you MUST read 2nd Samuel 12 to gather the full impact of this event on David. I’m not suggesting. You MUST read it before you pass your own judgment on David.), you will come to understand how it affected him. But for now, it’s hard to be sympathetic….
26When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. 27And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.
And they ALL lived happily ever after, right? Well, it sure looks like they (literally) got away with murder, doesn’t it?? And Bathsheba is certainly guilty here too, isn’t she? But, that’s that….
But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
Uh-oh, David. I think you’re still in trouble.