During the Spring time, when the farmers of the land would neither sow nor harvest their crops, the kings would utilise this downtime and go off to wars to invade new territories. This was the war season for Israel and their neighbouring countries, as the conflict with the Ammonites was escalating rapidly. The Israelites had even destroyed and besieged the capital city of Rabbah, a town just twenty miles to the east of Jordan. Given the proximity of the war to his homeland, it is strange to find that David himself did not go with his commanders but chose to remain in Jerusalem. The author specifically calls out David’s idleness during this crucial time to set up the unfortunate events that would follow.
Kings were in charge of not only peacetime activities of the country but were quintessential in planning wartime strategies. Israel’s demand for a king was based on this criteria as they wanted protection from their raiding parties and not-so-friendly neighbours. David himself rose to fame due to his military accomplishments and strategic prowess when it came to planning for a war. Given these expectations from the king of Israel and especially David, it seems weird he would not go out when Israel was battling the fearsome Ammonites so close to home. Perhaps as a king, he found comfort in his palace and immense confidence in his commanders that he found no need to go in-person to the battlefield. He might have been waiting for Joab to give him the green signal so that he could bring up the tail end of the infantry and provide support to his commanders. Whatever be the reason for his conspicuous absence, satan used this opportunity to bring David at the doorstep of temptation as the king succumbed to his desire in this moral battle.
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.”2 Samuel 11:2-5 (NIV)
With this incident, Samuel’s prophecy came true as he had warned them that the king would take their daughters for himself (1 Samuel 8:13). David not only raped Bathsheba but also betrayed two of the men who had supported him from his early days when he was running from Saul as Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite, both part of David’s mighty men. According to the law, if Bathseb had any part to play in David’s sin, it would be called as adultery and both would be stoned to death (Deuteronomy 22:22). However, in all likelihood, Bathsheba would have been defenceless against the advances of the mighty king of Israel and this incident, would be labelled as a royal rape, the penalty for which should have been death to David.
The Cover Up
After learning that Bathsheba was pregnant, David sent word to Joab, to send back Uriah, not to man up and confess to his sinful act but to cover it up as part of an elaborate plan. When Uriah came to David, the king casually took an update from him on the war, the morale of the soldiers and their commander Joab. Uriah would not have understood the urgent matter that David had called him back to Jerusalem for but being a faithful servant, he obliged and gave an update to David.
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.2 Samuel 11:8 (NIV)
Washing one’s feet was considered a euphemism for sexual intercourse as David was not hiding his desperation in the fact that he wanted Uriah to sleep with his wife that day. David was trying to cover up his mistakes in a very obvious way and had no qualms about letting Uriah raise his kid. He even sends a gift to Uriah’s house which was probably an aphrodisiac to entice the homecoming soldier. But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.
Sexual intercourse was regarded as making one ritually impure. Uriah knew the urgency with which he was needed back on the battlefield and did not want to disqualify himself and leave his comrades in a lurch. Upon being asked why he didn’t go back, Uriah tells David that he could not make love to his wife while his comrades are fighting for their lives. It seems that Uriah the Hittite cared more about the Ark of God and the people of God than the king of Israel. However, David shamelessly kept on trying to send Uriah back home and have him lay with his wife. He got him drunk and out of his senses, but even in that state, Uriah could not betray his master. David on the other hand did not need the help of alcohol to betray God.
A Fallback: Murder
After giving up hope that Uriah couldn’t be persuaded, David plotted another plan to get rid of his problems. David asked Uriah to hand-deliver instructions to his commander Joab. Unbeknownst to Uriah, he was carrying his own death warrant with him back to the battlefield. When Uriah returned to the battlefield, Joab put him at the forefront where the fighting was the fiercest. Uriah died at the hands of the enemy as David assumed that he had gotten away with no one finding out about his grievous sin.
David had sunk so low that in one fell swoop, he committed multiple heinous acts and kept on covering them up to protect his image. He was so arrogant in his ways, that he is sending his instructions to Joab through the hands of Uriah himself. On the other hand, Uriah has blind loyalty to his king, that he is not even curious to know what the letter contains and delivers it straight to Joab’s hands. the name Uriah meant the Lord is my light or the Lord is my fire. Being a Hittite, it is quite possible that he got his name after his association with David and the men of Judah. Ultimately his undying loyalty and trust in his king was his downfall as he fell on the battlefield just as David had planned.
Sometimes we do the same when we put our pastors and priests on a pedestal. We give them our unflinching loyalty and when they eventually fall from grace, satan shakes our faith to its core. Blind faith and rituals may be the cornerstone of religion but they lead us away from the path of God and put us on to the doorstep of godmen.
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.2 Samuel 11:26-27 (NIV)
The Author lets us know that this act of David displeased the Lord. There are so many other acts in the Bible committed by the “heroes” which don’t get called out and people accept them as the norm. As far as Bathsheba was concerned, she was coerced by David into sleeping with him and when he could not trick her husband into fathering his child, David had Uriah murdered. To the outside world, David would have come off as the caring and devoted king who took in the widow of his fallen soldier and was going to support her and the child.
The chapter is bookended with two distinct notes by the author. The first one was that David stayed back in Jerusalem when it was time for kings to go to war and satan used this time to tempt David into betraying God. The second one was that God was greatly displeased by David’s action and the following coverup.
This was the turning point during David’s reign, post which his life went into a downward spiral. Just like Saul, David also failed to live up to God’s expectations and committed grievous sins along the way. The supporters of Saul would still argue that David still had his kingdom even after this incident and the son born to him through Bathsheba would succeed him. But on a closer look, we can see that the relationship between God and David was never the same after his betrayal. His kingdom crumbled due to forces within his house and the remainder of his reign would turn out to be a tumultuous time for him.
David was a man close to God’s heart but still, we don’t see him praying to God and bringing his temptation before Him. He brought every little problem before God and time and again, God helped him come out of it. But with this incident, talking to God was the last thing on his mind as he jeopardised his deep-rooted relationship with his Maker. We also make this same mistake as we have no problem coming to God asking for blessings but seldom come to him when we need His help to overcome our temptations. This is because we don’t treat sin as a problem and underestimate its hold over us.
On the battlefield, we all are against the giant standing in front of us and will come together to defeat it. However, in the battlefield of our hearts, we are not actually at war with sin. We don’t want God’s help to protect us from temptation because we don’t see it as a threat but rather, we desire it ourselves. The first step in resisting temptation is submitting ourselves to God. We must trust Him and let Him take over our lives completely and only then can we overcome our temptations.
- 11:1 – Why is David not going out to war when it was the time for kings to go to war?
- 11:4 – Would they be charged with adultery or David with rape?
- 11:4 – Why don’t we pray to God to help us resist temptations?
- 11:9 – Why is Uriah not going back to his house?
- 11:14 – What can we say about David and Uriah through this interaction?
- 11:16 – Why did Joab not second guess his king’s motives?