David: David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-17)

It was spring, and David's troops were at war (led by their commander Joab). They had destroyed the Ammonites and besieged the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed in Jerusalem. One day, when walking on the roof of his palace, he looked down and saw a beautiful woman called Bathsheba bathing below. She was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David's soldiers. David sent for Bathsheba, slept with her, and made her pregnant. Then he summoned her husband Uriah to the palace. He told him to go home and sleep with his wife, sending a gift to his house in order to entice him there. This way, when Bathsheba's baby was born, people would believe it to be Uriah's and not David's. But for two nights, Uriah refused to sleep in his own house, saying that as his troops were camping in the open (with the Ark of the Covenant) he would not allow himself the luxury of sleeping with his wife at home; he slept at the palace gate. Even when David got him drunk on a third night he still refused to go home: he slept in the guard room instead.

So David sent him back to the troops, with a message to Joab asking for Uriah to be sent into battle in the front line, where the fighting was heaviest. Then, those around him were to retreat. David's plan was successful and Uriah was killed. David then took Bathsheba as his wife.

*  *  *  *  *

Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-14)

God was not pleased with David's actions, and sent the prophet Nathan to tell him a parable. There were once two men in a town: a rich man with a great many sheep and cattle, and a poor man with just one little lamb. The poor man had nurtured the lamb like his own daughter - it shared his food, drank from his cup and slept in his arms. However, the rich man stole this lamb when he needed to provide food for a traveller, as he did not want to kill one of his own flock, even though he himself had many animals.

David burst out that the rich man should die for his actions, paying for the lamb four times over because of his lack of pity. Nathan said to him, "You are the man". He carried on to rebuke David, explaining that God had anointed him as king and given him everything that he could possibly want. Yet David had repaid this kindness by arranging for the death of Uriah the Hittite.

As a punishment, David and Bathsheba's son became ill and died within seven days of birth, and David's descendants would suffer public humiliation in the future [in contrast to David trying to conceal his actions]. However, God forgave David and did not kill him.


Themes

  • Breaking commandments - don't commit adultery, don't kill, don't steal, don't be envious.
  • Jewish religion - reference to Judaism and scripture: Bathsheba had just finished her monthly purification ritual; Uriah spoke of the Ark of the Covenant (i.e. 10 Commandments).
  • David's cunning - David tried to make it seem that the child was Uriah's son, not his.
  • Uriah's loyalty - Uriah refused to go home while the other troops were still sleeping outside.
  • Punishment - Nathan was sent by God, to illustrate to David exactly what he had done wrong. He used a parable. As punishment, David's child died within seven days of his birth.
  • Judgement - David, judge of Israel, inadvertently judged himself following Nathan's parable.

Contemporary Issues

  • Private lives of world leaders. Morality and leadership.
  • Was David a good or a bad king?
  • Abuse of Power.
  • Qualities necessary for a leader in the modern world.
  • Lust.
  • Forgiveness.

 

Revision

 

In which city was David?




In which city was David's army?

 



Compare the characters of Uriah the Hittite, and David.

 



What did David do wrong in this story?

 



Why do you think the prophet Nathan used a parable to show David's guilt?

 



Explain the significance of David's reaction to the parable.

 



Do you think that David's punishment was appropriate?

 

      

 

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