2 Samuel 8-12
Well it took some doing, but David’s behavior in v 2 hit a new low for me. And in verse 4, the number of charioteers captured varies between versions because of discrepancies in the original texts (Dead Sea scrolls vs Masoretic text). The same perfect god who made David victorious in every battle had a hard time expressing himself clearly. There goes David ham-stringing the poor horses. And the slaughter continues.
We finally get to the story of Jonathon’s crippled son. This is where the misplaced verse from 2 Sam 4:4 should go. Yahweh’s editing is not very divinely inspired.
David makes a goodwill gesture by sending condolences to the king of the Ammonites on the death of his father – the same guy who was gouging everyone’s eyes out in 1 Sam 11. Why would David mourn him? The Ammonites don’t trust David – well seriously, would you? So they insult David’s ambassadors and that sparks another war. Surprise, surprise.
Now we get to the interesting part, the story of David and Bathsheba. It starts in the spring, when kings normally go to war (v 1). (Could’ve fooled me; they seem to always be at war….) So here come the family values.
First, David lusts after a woman he knows is married to one of his soldiers, Uriah; he sends his men to fetch her and has sex with her. Then it becomes sordid. Bathsheba tells David she is pregnant. David wants to pass the fetus off as Uriah’s, so he tells Uriah to go home and ‘wash his feet’. Another quaint euphemism – what he really wants is for Uriah to go home and have sex with Bathsheba so that she can attribute the pregnancy to him.
Uriah doesn’t want to go home because he is gearing up for battle. So to cover up his adultery, David has no choice but to off Uriah. For the conniving David, this isn’t difficult. He simply sends Uriah into a battle he’s guaranteed to lose. A few other soldiers become collateral damage, but no mind; they’re not important. As soon as Bathsheba’s mourning is complete, David adds her to his collection…. er, marries her. But wait, what? God isn’t happy with David about this? Well that’s a first; why didn’t he intervene and prevent the behavior?
David is a terrible human being. One of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was “Once in Royal David’s city, stood a lowly cattle shed….” Reading about the real David has ruined that for me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to listen to it at Christmas again and not think of this chapter.
Things get worse for David. Yahweh sends the prophet Nathan to tell David a parable explaining what a despicable man he is. What, all of a sudden Yahweh has developed a conscience? Pot, meet kettle!
And here comes the punishment, arguably the most egregious and creative curse yet – “I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” (v 11-12,KJV). In more modern language: “I will give your wives to another man before your very eyes, and he will go to bed with them in public view.” (NLT)
Well now, there’s poetic justice! But that’s not all – David’s and Bathsheba’s child will die…. wait, where’s the justice in that? But Yahwah makes good on this threat, and the child takes ill. David weeps and wails until the baby dies, then picks himself up, takes a shower, and dines, saying to his servants, well I can’t bring him back, so might as well carry on (v 22-23). Nice! He doesn’t waste any time getting Bathsheba pregnant again, either. On with the old, off with the new. Another baby, another town to capture, a few more slaves to add to the fold…. Sickening. But it makes a great movie plot.