Wednesday, 21 July 2021

One wedding and Uriah's funeral (2 Samuel 11)

 So at what point did the heroic King David become "bad to the bone David"? As he turned 50 and looked at his paunch and slowed down, I expect. 

The time of year when kings go off to war.  But not David. The slingster of old is no longer a ruddy-faced youth. More a gammon-faced geezer now. He's too old to charge into battle. And the arthritis gives him terrible gyp when he slings a stone. These days he has people to do his slinging for him. So he could go off to war, but Joab's a loyal chap and unlikely to do unto David as David did unto Saul. So Joab's in charge in the field.

David also has people to do his courting for him. Well, I say "courting".

Bathsheba (modesty covered by wisps of cloth and arms) is attended by her servants while a very small David peeks down from above
Bathsheba at Her Bath - Artemisia Gentileschi

Bathsheba is beautiful. She's not pregnant, as she's washing off her ritual impurity. She's also the young wife of a loyal subject of David - loyal even though he's not an Israelite.

And David wants her. So the "courting" may well be along the lines of "King David would like you to call. If it's not too incovenient, which it won't be of course."

The method David uses to get his end away is not confined to the early Israelite kings. It has been used all over the world, including by such lovely types as Stalin's hitman, Beria, and the sons of Saddam Hussein. We're not told if Bathsheba had any choice when David's henchmen came along to tender his respects. So probably not.

So Bathsheba's purity and innocence stand in opposition to the lusty old goat she is brought to see. And when Uriah comes on the scene, we see it again. David wants Uriah to go off to make up for lost time with Bathsheba, and cover up David's dirty deeds. But Uriah's just your humble bloke. He won't leave the palace while he's on duty. He won't have a happy homecoming with Bathsheba until the boys are all back home. He's faithful to the Hebrew God - even though he's a Hittite himself. What can a lusty old king do with such a faithful man?

 Kill him, obviously.

Joab is, it has to be said, not a blameless man. Loyalty is generally regarded as a virtue. But when you're getting your soldiers killed because your uncle can't keep it in his ephod, you've probably pushed your loyalty too far. It's a loyalty that will also kill Joab when David dies.

But David's spun completely out of control. His self-control has gone. He has killed to cover up his lust, which he only got the chance to enjoy because he indulged his laziness.

God will give him the bad news next week. But in the mean time, consider. For David, it is now downhill effectively all the way. He rose on the wreckage of relationships and sheer brute youthful energy, but also his closeness to God. And now he will sink under his own weakness, his own failings, his own betraying body. He cast himself free of God. And now, free from God's guidance he is like, as someone said, a trolley careering out of control in a supermarket. 

He was already toxic to his first wife. Now he's toxic to his sons, to his followers, to his sons and daughters.

From now on in, he's not the hero. He's the fall guy.

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