Thursday, June 28, 2018

Thoughts on Sunday School Lesson 24 (David and Bathsheba)

        I haven't posted about Sunday School lessons before, mostly because I don't read the lesson until in class! But the Gospel Doctrine teachers had to switch weeks, so we wound up having Lesson 24 last week, and will have Lesson 23 this coming Sunday.
"David and Bathsheba" by Henry Bone

         Lesson 24 primarily covers chapters 11 and 12 of Second Samuel, and, in particular, David's affair with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, Uriah. Before going further, I think it is important to step back and look at First Samuel, chapter 8, where Samuel rehearses to the people the evil that will come from selecting kings:
11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. 
12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 
13 And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. 
14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. 
15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 
16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. 
17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants.
All of these came true under the rule of Saul, David, and Solomon. Rather than looking to these three kings as great men, they should all be object lessons that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Saul became bitter and tyrannical, David's reign was an endless round of warfare both external and internal, and Solomon heavily taxed the Israelites to support his ostentatious lifestyle to the extent that, following his death, the northern tribes revolted and broke away to escape the heavy taxation. Moreover, Solomon foolishly allowed migrants to flow into Israel with their alien religions, which was a significant cause of Israel turning to pagan worship; which, as we know, was the primary reason that the Lord ultimately allowed both nations (the northern tribes of Israel and the southern Judah) be carried away into captivity.

         Turning back to the story at hand in 2 Samuel 11, we read:
 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. 
3 And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 
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. 
5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
Now, my Sunday School teacher tried to claim that Bathsheba was innocent in all of this: that her bathing was that required of women after menstruation (Leviticus 15:19-29) and that she was merely submitting herself to the King. But there is nothing in the account to indicate that this was the reason for her bathing, especially where she could be seen. (Update: I realize that the passage quoted above indicates that the woman was purified of her uncleanliness, but if you read the passage in Leviticus, the woman must first be cleansed, then wait seven days, before she is considered clean--see verse 28. The story related in 2 Samuel may have omitted this period, but it appears that David had his way with her shortly after seeing her bath; and, in any event, it doesn't explain why she bathed where she could be seen). And given the hypergamous nature of women--always seeking to maximize social standing and seek the best mates--Occam's Razer would suggest that what was going on here was a deliberate attempt to attract the eye of the King with the intention of initiating an affair.

       In this regard, it is notable that Bathsheba did not cry out or resist David's advancements. Under the Mosaic law, a woman that was raped within a city must cry out, or the incident was considered to be consensual. (See Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Thus, since she apparently did not cry out for help, we must conclude that the intercourse was consensual. But more damning for Bathsheba, in my mind, is that she said nothing to her husband, even though she knew she was pregnant. She was complicit in covering up the affair.

       Of course, we know the tragic end to this tale. David attempts to cover up his sin by first having Uriah return from the battlefield in the hope that Uriah would spend time with his wife. However, Uriah's devotion to David and his fellow soldiers is such that he refuses to take comfort while his comrades in arm are still in danger. That plan foiled, David then determines to have Uriah killed by secretly ordering that Uriah be sent to the most dangerous front of the battle, and then for his support be withdrawn so he would be left alone to be killed by the enemy. (See 2 Samuel 11:6-17). David's plan in this regard was successful. (2 Samuel 11:18-25).
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.
I wouldn't read anything into Bathsheba mourning for her husband as the time and culture demanded a public mourning. She mourned to keep up appearances.

       So, at the end, we have David and Bathsheba having both committed adultery, and David having gone further and having ordered the murder of Uriah. Chapter 12 of 2 Samuel continues the story with the prophet Nathan confronting David over it, showing David to also be a hypocrite (and we all know what the Lord thinks of hypocrites). David and Bathsheba are cursed: the son of their sin dies, and David will face rebellion and civil war from within his own house.

       Now, my Sunday School teacher had to discuss why it was so unfair that the child died, and that she was upset because she couldn't imagine God being "cruel" so as to take the life of an innocent child, even though it was pointed out to her that children that die before the age of accountability are saved by the grace of the Lord. So, it is not like the child lost out on any eternal blessings. We are sent here for two purposes: to obtain a body and be tested. The child obtained his body and, apparently, had no need to be tested (or will be tested after the resurrection), so from God's eternal perspective, it was of no real consequence to the child that the child died, but it did serve God's purpose by carrying out an express punishment, as declared by Nathan, directed toward David and Bathsheba.

       In any event, David goes on to spend the rest of his life attempting to somehow obtain forgiveness for his sins, although we know that by his murder of Uriah, he forfeited any opportunity for exaltation. (D&C  132:39).  Some people believe this is unfair, but the reality is that, notwithstanding David's desire to serve the Lord, he never submitted himself to Mosaic law (i.e., God's law at time) but held himself above it. The scriptures are clear that, under Mosaic law, an adulterer and adulteress were to both be put to death. (See Leviticus 20:10Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Murderers were also to be executed. (See Numbers 35).  In chapter 12 of 2 Samuel, David was willing to execute a subject merely for having taken the lamb of his neighbor. (See 2 Samuel 12:5). Yet, neither Bathsheba nor David ever submitted themselves to the law.

      Finally, adding insult to injury, David betrayed one of his most loyal and brave supporters for his person indulgence. The Lord taught: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." David took the life of a devotee, if not a friend. A truly despicable act.

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