Posted by Karl D. on June 22nd, 2010
Lesson: David and Bathsheba
Reading: 2 Samuel 11-12
1.1 A Note on approach
This represents the notes I made during my reading of the lesson 24. It is not a lesson outline but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those thing arise from within the class when I teach.
These notes were written four years ago when I last taught gospel doctrine. I think any many cases I would approach the material quite differently if I was to do it again.
1.2 Structure of the Narrative
The story of David and Bathsheba is familiar but maybe we don’t pay much attention to the structure. The narrative seems to be fairly tightly structured. Following Petter, I outline the structure chiasticly as the following:1
A. Indecisive Ammonite battle (11:1) B. David lies with Bathsheba in adultery (11:2-5) C. Death of Uriah (11:6-27) D. David Condemned: you are the man! (12:1-13) C' Death of the child (12:14-23) B' David lies with Bathsheba in marriage (12:24-25) A' Decisive Ammonite battle (12:26-31)
- What insights about the narrative does the structure give you?
- Does the structure help you understand the author’s overriding point or points? What are those points?
- Ammonite battles bracket the narrative. How does that affect the narrative? Do the battles help you understand any of the major points of the narrative?
2 The Time When Kings Sally Forth
2.1 David Sits
Read 2 Samuel 11:1:
(1) And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
What is meant by the phrases “after the year was expired” and “the
time when kings go forth to battle?” Alter2 translates the underlying phrase as, “at
the time when kings sally forth.”
According to scholars the most plausible meaning is that this refers to spring after the heavy rains have passed.3
- Alter points out that this phrase “to sally forth” in Hebrew is often attached to Kings but not messengers.4
What do we learn about David is this verse?
David’s inaction. David’s inaction is contrasted with his use of messengers and also the battle fought by his messengers and servants. David sits while Israel besieges the Ammonites. David sits when he should sally forth. Alter suggests that “And David was sitting in Jerusalem” is a more literal rendering of “But David tarried still at Jerusalem.”5 What does this more literal rendering tells us about David?
2.2 David Arose
Read 2 Samuel 11:2:
(2) And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
- What do we learn about David in this verse?
When did David get up and what does that tell us about David?
What was David doing while his solders battled the Ammonites?
These verses are full of irony and David’s actions contrast with the action in verse 1. David Gunn puts it this way: “So while the army besieges Rabbah, David takes an afternoon nap and then besieges Bathsheba.”6
- Is it important that David is on the roof?
- Is there a practical reason for why he would be on the roof? How about in a more symbolic sense? Or in other words, why is the author emphasizing that David’s location? Is it merely because it happened that way? The author could leave that detail out … Why not suppress this narrative detail?
2.3 David Inquires
Read 2 Samuel 11:3:
(3) And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
- What is the subtext here. What is David really hoping to find out?
- Uriah the Hittite? Is Uriah an Israelite or a foreigner?
- Note: Uriah means “Yhwh is my Light” which is definitely a good Israelite name. Of course, it also mentions that he is a Hittite. Does this make Uriah similar to Ruth?
- Anderson explains the background to the Uriah’s Hittite designation as follows:7
By the time of David, the great Hittite empire in Asia Minor was no more but its remnants survived in the form of Neo-Hittite states in Syria, governed by a Hittite ruling class … Uriah’s own name … is a good Yahwistic name, meaning “Yahweh is my light.” This may imply that he was born in Israel unless he had changed his original name at some later stage.
Well I think at the very least the author is emphasizing the foreignness (outsider status?) in the narrative. I think this heightens the contrast between David and Uriah. Uriah not David is the model of purity in the narrative. David’s impurity is contrasted with Uriah’s purity throughout the narrative. Is it surprising then that his foreignness is emphasized? Is this actually a theme of the Old testament?
- Bathsheba is identified as both the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite. This strikes me as strange. I can’t think of anywhere is the Old Testament where this happens in the same passage. Do you think this oddity is important? Why or why not?
- Notice, David is using messengers again. Watch how the use of messengers runs through the entire narrative.
- Anderson says that Bathsheba means “daughter of sheba” or “daughter of an oath”8.
2.4 David Sins
Read 2 Samuel 11:4:
(4) And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
Clearly this verse moves the narrative along. David has now sinned.
But does these verse merely inform? How does it make you feel?
Notice the chain of verbs at the beginning: took, came, lay. To me it conjures up an image of a machine gun firing. The action is rapid fire; it makes the passage shocking even though it is expected. Also, David goes from inaction to adultery in just a few short verses. The pace and brevity is almost shocking. I think this also heightens our reaction to the event as readers.
- Why are we told that “she was purified from her uncleanness.” Why is this important? What does it mean? How is it linked with Bathsheba’s earlier bathing?
- Is this affair really a secret? Who knows about it?
- Until the very end of chapter 11 the author doesn’t explicitly condemn David for adultery. The narrative just moves forward. Does the author condemn David in implicitly through through the way the narrative is written? How about in the way that Bathsheba is referenced most frequently in the narrative?
2.5 Bathsheba Speaks
Read 2 Samuel 11:5:
(5) And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
- Note, this is the only time in this narrative the Bathsheba speaks.
- Why is Bathsheba so silent? What does it emphasize? How does Bathsheba’s silence affect how we view her and David?
3 David and Uriah
3.1 David Tells Uriah to Wash His Feet
Read 2 Samuel 11:6-8
(6) And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. (7) And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. (8) And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.
- Put yourself in Uriah’s shoes. What do you you think is going through his mind?
What is David’s plan?
Note, “Wash your feet” probably is an euphemism for “sexual intercourse” in these verses. It is a common euphemism throughout the Old Testament.
What is a “mess of meat?”
A serving of food. He sent the Kings provisions?
3.2 Uriah Does Not Wash His Feet
Read 2 Samuel 11:9
(9) But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. (KJV)
(9) And Uriah lay at the entrance to the King’s house with all the servants of his master, and he went not down to his house (Alter)
- Notice the difference in Alter’s translation. What does it emphasize? Is this an important difference?
- Why didn’t Uriah “lay” with Bathsheba?
Why would Uriah refuse to go be/lay with his wife?
It seems likely it would break purity rules. Uriah is in a state of purification and he maintains that purity (Deut 23:9-14 and 1 Samuel 21:3-6):
9 When the host goeth forth against thine enemies, then keep thee from every wicked thing. 10 If there be among you any man, that is not clean by reason of uncleanness that chanceth him by night, then shall he go abroad out of the camp, he shall not come within the camp: 11 But it shall be, when evening cometh on, he shall wash himself with water: and when the sun is down, he shall come into the camp again. 12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad: 13 And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee: (Deut 23:9-14)
What is being contrasted here in terms of Uriah and David? Is there
anything ironic about this verse?
Uriah is among those that protect David, but it is Uriah that needed and still needs protection. David destroys and Uriah protects. David is unfaithful and Uriah is faithful. Uriah is pure and David is not. David cannot destroy his purity (but tragically he can and does destroy virtually everything else).
3.3 Uriah Before David Again
Read 2 Samuel 11:10-11:
(10) And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house?} (11) And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.
- What do we learn in these verses? About David? About Uriah?
Is it possible or likely that Uriah knows about the affair?
Well he did spend time with David’s servants and his tone seems a bit accusatory. Also, when he swears he doesn’t use David’s title. But one can hardly no fur sure either way.
3.4 David Gets Uriah Drunk
Read 2 Samuel 11:12-13:
(12) And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. (13) And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
What do these verses tell you about David? About Uriah?
Notice the contrast again. David is a polluter; Uriah remains pure.
- Why the phrase “He did eat and drink before him?”
3.5 A Message to Joab
Read 2 Samuel 11:14-15:
(14) And it came to pass in t he morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. (15) And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
- How do these verses make you feel? About David? About Uriah? Suppose Uriah Knows?
3.6 Uriah’s Death
Read 2 Samuel 11:16-17:
(16) And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. (17) And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
- Is Uriah’s actual death different then what David plans?
- Why doesn’t Joab follow David’s plan?
- Is David responsible for one death or many?
3.7 Joab’s Message
Read 2 Samuel 11:18-25:
(18) Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; (19) And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, (20) And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? (21) Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. (22) So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. (23) And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. (24) And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. (25) Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
- What do you make of Joab’s dialog with the messenger? Is Joab blaming Bathsheba or David?
- Why the reference to Abimelech dieing at Thebez (Judges 9:52-54)? What is that about? How is that story relevant to the present situation? What does it tell us about how Joab sees the situation?
- Does the messenger follow Joab directions?
“For the sword devoureth one as well as another.” Is David
resorting to cliches?
To me this is presenting a David stripped of wisdom and the spirit; all he has left is some Cliche told by soldiers.
3.8 Bathsheba and David
Read 2 Samuel 11:26-27:
(26) And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. (27) And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
- These sentences are striking here. We go for Bathsheba mourning to being “fetched” to the first interjection by the narrator. What doe these verses emphasize? How do they make you feel?
4 David and Nathan
4.1 The Lord Sends and Messenger
Read 2 Samuel 12:1
And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
- What theme is continued in this new chapter?
- Note the use of messengers again. This time Yhwh sends a messenger. David destroyed Uriah’s house with messengers and now death is brought to David’s house via messenger.9
4.2 A Parable
Read 2 Samuel 12:2-7:
(2) The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: (3) But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. (4) And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. (5) And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: (6) And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. (7) And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; (KJV)
(4) And a wayfarer came to the rich man, at it seemed a pity to him to take from his own sheep and cattle to prepare for the traveler who had came to him to took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the man who had come to him. (5) And David’s anger flared hot against the man, and said to Nathan, “as the LORD lives, doomed is the man who has done this! (6) And the poor man’s ewe he shall pay back fourfold, in as much as has done this thing, and because he has no pity. (Alter)
Like all parables it doesn’t directly map to the real situation,
but where are the points of contact?
Well, David is both the rich man and the poor man. (v. 1,7)
How do the activities of the poor man with the lamb connect with
- Look at the verbs: eat, drink, lie
- Notice the use of pity by both Nathan and David. Does this tell us about David’s fundamental flaw? In Mormon parlance what did David lack and in some sense become a foil to the is attribute?
- David condemns himself. Why is this important?
Did David pay fourfold?
Well possibly, the author could be hinting at the premature deaths of four of David’s children: The infant son of Bathsheba, Tamar, Amnon, and Absolon.
4.3 Enemies of the Lord
Read 2 Samuel 12:9-12:
9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 11 Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and 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. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.
- Note, the ironic fulfillment of David’s earlier cliche.
4.4 The Child Shall Die
Read 2 Samuel 12:13-14:
(13) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. (14) Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
- Does the death of the child make you uncomfortable? Why? How do you make sense of this as a modern reader? Is this a place where you punt?
- Do you think the author is suggesting that David’s sin was transferred to his child? Why or why not? Is this connected with the fact that David defeats the Ammonite’s at the end of the narrative?
What seems strange about verse 14? Does it make any sense?
Most scholars think this is a scribal change. They suggest something like “spurned the Lord” make more sense. Why would scribes change this?
4.5 The Child Dies
Read 2 Samuel 12:15-19
15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. 16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17 And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. 18 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead? 19 But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.
- Notice how Bathsheba is identified in verse 15. Why might the author continue to refer to her that way?
What do you make David’s actions here? What does it reveal about
Well, I am not sure but it does seem like David’s actions mirror Uriah’s earlier actions. Uriah refused to go home or eat and he slept on the ground outside.10
4.6 No Mourning
Read 2 Samuel 12:20-23
20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. 21 Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread. 22 And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? 23 But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.
- What do you make of David’s actions here? Do they make sense? What do they reveal about David? About how the experience has affected him?
1 Petter, Donna, 2004, Foregrounding of the Designation: eset uriyya hahitti in II Samuel XI-XII, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 54, 403-407.
2 Alter, Robert, 1999, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 1 Samuel, Norton Co.
3 Anderson, A. A, 1989, Word Bible Commentary: 2 Samuel, Word Books, 153.
4 Alter, Robert, 1999, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 1 Samuel, Norton Co.
5 Alter, Robert, 1999, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 1 Samuel, Norton Co.
6 Gunn, David, 2000, “2 Samuel” in Harper Collins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 266.
7 Anderson, A. A, 1989, Word Bible Commentary: 2 Samuel, Word Books, 153.
8 Anderson, A. A, 1989, Word Bible Commentary: 2 Samuel, Word Books, 153.
9 Gunn, David, 2000, “2 Samuel” in Harper Collins Bible Commentary, Harper & Row, 269.
10 Alter, Robert, 1999, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 1 Samuel, Norton Co.