The Word Made Fresh
1In the spring, the time for kings to make war, David sent Joab with his officers and the Israelite army to attack the Ammonites and lay siege to Rabbah, but David remained in Jerusalem. 2Late one day David arose from his couch and was walking on his roof when he spotted a beautiful young woman bathing. 3He sent someone to find out who she was and was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Elam. She is the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4David sent for her, and when she came to him, he lay with her. She had been ritually purifying herself after her monthly flow of blood. After they had sex, she returned home. 5She conceived and sent word to David that she was pregnant.
6David sent a messenger to Joab to send Uriah the Hittite to him. 7When Uriah came David asked him to report on how the army and Joab were doing, and how the war was progressing. 8Then he said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and spend the night with your wife.”
Uriah left the king, and the king sent a gift to him, 9but he slept at the entrance to the king’s house with the servants and didn’t go home. 10When David was informed that Uriah hadn’t gone home, he sent for him. “You came a long way to get here, why didn’t you go to your house?”
Uriah said, “The covenant chest and the men of Israel and Judah are sleeping in shelters. Joab, my general, and all of your servants are camping out in the open. So, should I go to my house and eat and drink and sleep with my wife? As your soul lives, I would never do such a thing.”
12Then David told him to stay through the day. “I’ll send you back tomorrow,” he said. So, Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day, and later that day 13David invited him to his table and got him drunk. But when evening came Uriah again slept with the king’s servants and did not go home.
14The next morning David wrote a note to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15The note instructed Joab to put Uriah in the front of the attack. “At the peak of the battle, pull the men back so that Uriah will be killed.” 16When Joab attacked the city he placed Uriah where he knew the enemy’s best soldiers were. 17The enemy troops charged out of the city to engage Joab’s men, and some of David’s army were slain, including Uriah the Hittite.
18Joab sent a report of the battle to David. 19He told his messenger, “When you have finished your report to the king, 20he will be upset, and when he asks why we were so close to the city walls where archers were stationed, and says, 21‘Don’t you remember who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Didn’t a woman throw a stone on his head from the wall and kill him there at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ Then you will answer, ‘Your servant Uriah was killed also.'”
22The messenger went to David and gave him Joab’s report. 23He said, “The enemy tried to gain an advantage over us by coming out of the city and attacking us in the open. We drove them back to the gate. 24Then their archers shot at us from the wall and some of the king’s men are dead. Uriah the Hittite was killed also.”
25David responded, “Tell Joab not to be troubled. The sword will strike now one and then another. Tell him I encourage him to press the attack on the city and overtake it.”
26When Uriah’s wife was told that her husband was dead she began the time of mourning for him. 27When the period of grieving was over, David sent for her. He moved her into his house, and she became his wife, and in due time gave birth to his son. But the LORD was not pleased with what David had done.
1: Spring is the time for kings to go into battle, but not David. He sends Joab to finish the job at Rabbah. He should have gone himself; that would have kept him out of trouble.
2-5: From his rooftop he sees Bathsheba bathing, sends “messengers” to bring her, sleeps with her and gets her pregnant. Such things happen when important people think they are above the law. Her bathing was the prescribed ritual for a woman following her monthly period, so she was probably a couple of months pregnant when she sent that word to David.
6-13: What to do? Cover it up, of course. He sends for her husband Uriah, a Hittite mercenary serving in David’s own army, currently besieging the Ammonite capital, Rabbah. He gets a battle report from Uriah and sends him home, but Uriah does not go home. The next day David asks him why, and Uriah explains that the covenant chest and Israel and Judah are “in booths.” (It is interesting that he makes a distinction between Israel and Judah, although they are supposed to be one nation.)
David gets him drunk and tries once more to get him to sleep with his wife Bathsheba so that David’s adultery might remain hidden (although the timing will be suspect!), but Uriah stays at the palace again.
14-21: David pens a message for him to take to Joab, and Uriah faithfully obeys the king. The message tells Joab to see to it that Uriah doesn’t survive the siege of Rabbah. The loyal soldier carries his own death warrant. Joab sends Uriah on a suicide mission against the city and Uriah is killed along with other soldiers. This is an aspect of David’s sin that isn’t often considered: it isn’t just that he has committed adultery and had Uriah murdered, but some of the other soldiers also die as a result of Joab’s orders. “Oh, what a tangled web…” Joab sends a messenger with careful instructions about how to report the incident to David.
22-25: The messenger’s conversation with David doesn’t turn out exactly as Joab imagined, but he apparently intuits the part of the report that Joab knows David will want to hear, and he goes ahead and gives David the news about Uriah’s loss. David shrugs off the news of the loss of, not just Uriah, but some his other soldiers as well, thus plumbing the depths of how low his own morals have descended.
26-27: Bathsheba mourns publicly for the prescribed length of time, then David marries her, and in due time their son is born; but the text says that God is not pleased. Duh.
Here is an intriguing aspect of the story: The phrase “in shelters” (verse 11) might also be rendered, “in Succoth.” Succoth is the Jewish festival of shelters or booths, and is the annual observance of remembrance of the time when the Israelites lived in tents in the wilderness for forty years. The implication is that Uriah, a foreigner, is more cognizant of Jewish traditions than is David, the king! David’s moral decline begins with this story, and in the following chapters he will pay dearly for it.