Tuesday, October 22, 2019

David, Bathsheba, The Baby and God

This morning I read 2 Samuel 11 and 12, the story of how David committed adultery (rape, really, considering the power differential) with Uriah's wife Bathsheba, then had him killed in order to cover it up. Three things gave me pause to reflect.
First, Nathan confronts David using a story about a rich man who takes a poor man's sheep in order to feed a traveler. The traveler represents David's passing urge to have Bathsheba just because she's attractive.
What are the "travelers" you have to deal with? Things that are passing, that you have a hard time not "feeding?"
In a way,I think my depression episodes are like that. They are travelers in my life, passing through (although often staying way too long like bad house guests). And I feed them with the attention that really belongs to others in my life.
Second, the story tells how God punished David by killing the baby boy born to him and Bathsheba. How do we understand or interpret that? I see three options and there are probably more.
The first option is to take it at face value. That's really what happened and why. This leads to a dilemma. If I believe the text is literally true, I can't understand how God could be considered loving and just by killing the child. But if I believe that God is loving and just and would never do such a thing, then I can't see how the text could be literally true. Personally, I can't accept the idea that God would act in this way. So I find myself looking for different ways to understand the text, rather than different ways to understand God.
A second option is to simply say that the events never happened at all. The story was made up or constructed from other bits of fact and rumor, and included in the Bible perhaps for the way it shows there are consequences for sin, and for the example of God's faithfulness (to David) by being willing to forgive him.
A third option is to accept that the *events* are historical, but that the *interpretation* is something that made sense to the writers, but is not one I can accept. So, the real David had a real child with Bathsheba and the child really died. The writers see this and conclude that the death was caused by God as punishment. They don't seem to struggle with the way that portrays God as I do, perhaps because they think it *does* reflect the true character of God to act that way, pr perhaps because they don't view children as having the same value as adults, the way we do.
How do you read the text?
He treated them just like the way the Egyptians treated his own ancestors, even to the point of forcing them to make bricks. (Exodus 1:13-14)
It's just unbelievably tragic that the oppressed have now become the oppressors.
It's astonishing that God continued to be faithful to his people in the face of this. Even so, God is faithful to us in whatever atrocities we may be guilty of.