5.27 2 Samuel -- David and Uriah

So David had a problem with women. Nathan's parable of the rich man who stole the poor man's one sheep reveals that, in God's view, it was not merely the sexual sin that was the problem, but the theft of another's cherished possession and the abuse of power. The crime of murder doesn't even come into the parable!

         

Our concern is with what this crisis in the reign of David reveals about his treatment of foreigners. The Bible records the lists of the mighty men of David (2 Sam 23 and 1 Chr 11), and these show that there were a number of foreign men who served with David for years, indeed who were part of his picked men, his inner circle. Uriah was one of "the Thirty." Other men in this group inlcuded an Ammonite, a Moabite, and a Gibeonite. It is clear that race or national origin was not a limiting factor in gaining promotion to military leadership. Consider the origins of most of these men. The Bible tells us that 400 discontented and detached men gathered around him during his flight from Saul and internal exile (1 Sam 22:2). The Gibeonite may have been a survivor of Saul's slaughter of his people (see below, 2 Sam 8:41). David's nucleus of leaders was formed on the run from Saul, hiding in caves, seeking refuge among the Philistines, raiding the Ammonites. This was a fellowship of the dispossessed. Bonds of personal loyalty would have outweighed ties of tribe or national origin. And these men, who had suffered with David, were promoted to leadership when he was anointed king.

         

Uriah the Hittite was one of this select group. The Hittites were the children of Heth (Gen 10:15), a Canaanite people possibly related to an empire in Turkey (Wikipedia). They were one of the Canaanite nations which God commanded Israel to utterly destroy (Ex 34:11Deut 7:1,Deut 20:17). Yet here was one of their descendants, a member of David's elite fighting unit! From a Levitical standpoint, it makes no sense. Yet we have encountered this before: the problem of the righteous Gentile -- Rahab, Jael, Ruth. Sometimes real life can be so much more complicated than even the most ideal plan.

         

Thus David's act of adultery led him into a viper's nest of deeper crimes: betrayal of the loyalty shown him by Uriah, deception (trying to cover up his deed by having Uriah sleep with Bathsheba), and ultimately murder by proxy. And what was the worst of these crimes? The act of adultery? The attempt to cover it up? Enlisting Joab, a man who was already a killer, in his murder scheme? No, beyond all these is what is recorded in 2 Sam 11:14:

           And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.

           David made Uriah an accomplice in his own death, knowing that such an honorable soldier would not read the message addressed to Joab: Joab was to send Uriah close to the Ammonite walls and then withdraw the other soldiers, leaving him exposed to enemy fire.

          

And so we reach the bottom of the abyss: what Saul attempted to do to David (have him killed by the Philistines (1 Sam 18:17)), David accomplished against Uriah (have him killed by the Ammonites). O the temptations of the powerful! Perhaps the temptations are no different than those of the common man, but the king has power to indulge them.

         

Here again, we see one of the frequent ironies of Biblical morality: David, the "anointed of God", surpassed Saul in his sordid behavior, while the victim of his plotting, though a Canaanite, was a righteous man! Look what Uriah said when he refused David's invitation to have some respite from the war:

          Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!" (2 Sam 11:11)

This is an astounding statement. Here was David conniving at covering up his crime of adultery, and Uriah lectured him on honoring the ark of the Covenant and the armies of Israel! No wonder God sent Nathan with words of thunder in his mouth against David: "Thou art the man!" (2 Sam 12:7). Just as the acts of the young David were the antithesis of Saul's disobedience and disloyalty, so Uriah's honorable conduct highlighted the disgraceful scheming of David.