The Difficult Case of David, Bathsheba, Uriah, Nathan, and the Baby Boy

In 2 Samuel 11 and 12, we find the story of David and Bathsheba and Uriah, a story of sex, conspiracy, betrayal and murder. Bathsheba gets pregnant, Uriah carries his own death sentence from one friend to another, then gets murdered by his friends, and the baby dies.

If the story itself is not enough to capture one’s attention, for some reason, the Spirit of God had Matthew bring it back to our attention when introducing Jesus by way of his heritage. Matthew observes that Solomon was born to David from Bathsheba, and Matthew puts in the words “the wife of Uriah”.

Why is this story so important?

The story starts long before the time of David, Uriah, and Bathsheba.

History – the song of the sword

Uriah is a Hittite.

Many things happen in the modern world that are immediately lost to human knowledge. The further we try to look back into history, the less we know. In an effort to know more about what happened many years ago, we modern humans dig up the debris from the past and attempt to build a history out of it. One of the nice things about this activity is the conclusions we come to are open to debate, but not by the people who were there. This is nice because we can happily assume we are correct. Anyway, the consensus of opinion in our time is that the Hittites had formed one of the long line of empires – governments that killed enough people to claim rulership over large areas.

Maintaining authority over people has always been a relatively short term status, as most people deny the claim to authority. Eventually, enough people fight to throw off the old rulers and impose themselves as the new rulers. In the case of the Hittite empire, the borders of the empire fluctuated dramatically over more than 500 years (we guess), at times including Canaan, the land in focus in the Bible.

The recorded histories of David and Uriah go back to before the Hittite empire – Abraham bought land from a Hittite before the rise of the Hittite empire (as best they guess at the timing of the rise of the empire). And it appears that Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan during some phase of the Hittite empire. Given the other peoples mentioned in addition to the Hittites at the time of Joshua’s invasion, one can guess the Hittites did not have complete dominance at that time.

It is important to call back to awareness the fact that all the peoples, the ethnicities, are related. Since God broke them (us) into language groups, each group has been involved in an endless battle against the others. Ceaseless family bloodshed and hatred. The symphony of the sword.

So the Hittites had killed large numbers of people in Canaan, then, in turn, been killed and removed from power. The Hittite empire was a couple hundred years before Uriah, with the empire dwindling in power over a long time. In the intervening years many things happened that are lost to our knowledge, but it is generally safe to assume that the normal events happened – continuous violent struggle.

We know that Joshua was commanded to kill most, if not all, the inhabitants of Canaan when the Israelites finally invaded. The Hittites are specifically included in the list. The sword sings its visceral song.

We know the Israelites did not obey that command completely, as is true with most of the commands.

We know that Uriah’s Hittite heritage in Canaan would include a long history of life by the sword, violent human conflict. If Uriah’s ancestors did not live in Canaan, but he or they came to Canaan close to David’s time, they still would be completely familiar with constant vigilance and conflict – the sword.

We know that Uriah has a Hebrew name that exalts God and we know that Uriah married a Hebrew wife.

We know that Uriah is listed as one of the mighty warriors that fought beside David, on whose strength David’s kingdom was built.

David was an Israelite, a Hebrew. He came to the nation’s attention by killing a mighty warrior that everyone else was too afraid to face. Incapacitated the opponent then finished him with a sword. And went on from there to achieve hero status by killing large numbers of the invading and resident enemy ethnicities. His mighty men, including Uriah, were in good company with David – he was skilled at battle, the sword never left his house.

God never wanted Israel to have kings. His style of government was very different. But the people, by democratic voice, made it known that they wanted government. So God had a man named Saul appointed as king. Saul was the king before David.

After some years of deteriorating rulership, Saul took action reserved for a priest. God told Saul he would be replaced by “a man after my own heart”. Then he selected David. The phrase “A man after my own heart” could refer to the bloody nature of David’s life because a shallow review of the actions of God could show similarities, but I think not. But God left that trail for those who are determined to claim status before him.

We should know some things about Saul. Saul was in pursuit of God when he was made king, Samuel finds him among a group of men filled with the Spirit of God Most High. But Saul progresses down the path so common to man, elevation of self. That is evidenced when he does not trust God enough to wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice or to go to war without a ritual of sacrifice. Note that the Deuteronomy commandments specify some specifics about going to war. The commandments include a requirement for a priest to give an encouraging talk to the troops. Then many of the troops are to be encouraged to go home. Send troops home when facing destruction? That commandment requires that you trust in God in the face of battle. Saul, it seems, had slipped from knowing God to manipulating God. It seems he thought that the sacrifice is what would make God be on his side. It wasn’t. It still isn’t.

[I know some will say – NO – Saul took the place of the anointed priest to offer a sacrifice. Well – it does not appear that the Law required a sacrifice in these circumstances – going to a battle. Yes, only a priest was allowed to offer sacrifices in the temple, after proper cleansing. But that is not these circumstances. Homework: how many other violations of the Law can you find in these stories? You do the work.]

So what did God mean when he announces his intention of replacing Saul with “a man after my own heart”?

I think it refers to a heart that is visible through David’s actions such as showing complete mercy on Amnon, David’s son who had sex with his sister. David refused to follow through with punishment for a crime worthy of death. And there are other cases where David showed mercy. One is when David’s son Absalom takes over the kingdom and attempts to kill David. When Absalom is defeated (which is quite the story), David orders that his life is to be spared, an order ignored by David’s top commander Joab who killed Absalom with a sword. David commanded mercy. And we can see David’s heart in the clear and beautiful songs David wrote expectantly calling to God for Mercy and Love. Read Psalm 51, especially the verse about sacrifice vs. mercy.

We probably are more intimately knowledgeable of David than of any other person in scripture. If we read with the Law in mind we can find many issues, but we can see his heart poured out in the full spectrum of human emotion, in pursuit of knowing God through mercy. Different than the heart of Saul, who was claiming status as the God appointed king, which was true but not the heart God has.

In this story of sex and murder, David seems to be slipping into a Saul type heart. He is very much taking the role of every leader since the dawn of time. “My existence is vital”. So very far from true. David also seems to be taking this path in the other debacle that the chronicler described as his “only” other sin: the census issue. That is another subject that is widely misunderstood, in fact many are honest enough to admit confusion. Because it is confusing. But we will not cover it here.

Another character in this story is Joab, another of the mighty men – the leader of the mighty men. Joab is the commander who receives the letter Uriah carries from David. In this letter, David commands Joab to send Uriah into battle, arranged in a way where he is certain to be killed. Joab, and beyond doubt several others, maybe even Uriah himself, knew what was happening. Remember that Uriah is a superb warrior, surely he knew it was a death mission. When Joab sends a status report back to David, he includes a defense of his actions, in case David plans to accuse him next. Knowing Joab from the stories, he is brilliant and understands the governmental machine. He would know that if David was now killing the Mighty Men, there is likely more to follow. Joab shares guilt (penal responsibility) in the murder of Uriah.

In summary, the sword was a dominant theme before and after this story.

History – the song of passion

Building our concepts to encompass the situation of the story, we should consider the sex aspect. The Bible confirms that our modern social environment is nothing new. Throughout history, by all accounts, sexual issues share the spotlight with violence. Rules swing back and forth; no one obeys the rules anyway; the respective societies destroy with extreme hatred the caught offenders of the current rule set while constantly changing the rule set. During many epochs, the most constant rule is that a wife is the sexual property of the husband. Modern societies are progressing or have progressed away from this, with the woman able to choose sex partners at will. What is right and what is wrong? The current laws in your region? The current social media driven hatred? The law of Moses? The Roman laws? The Greek Laws? The laws of the Shia or Sunni Muslim countries? The laws of the indigenous Zoe tribe in the Amazon?

The larger story that God gave us starts with Adam and Eve. It is a very concise story, with few details. This lack of wide ranging details, leaves the details given as very important. One detail that carries this significance is that Adam and Eve are described as being naked – but having no shame. Then the pair choose to believe Satan instead of God. They eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Then the story describes them as suddenly having shame about their sexuality.

As mentioned before, all people groups have been furiously defining what is Good and Evil about sex ever since. Seeking to eliminate shame and guilt. And eliminate people that bring such shame and guilt. Unless, of course, the offenders are important to the people group.

The law of Moses says some strict rules about sex, although the language issues introduce some vague English translations. These laws were given by God for specific reasons. David and Bathsheba violated these laws and, subject to other laws, earned death as the penalty.

Jesus, while clarifying the situation we face when earning eternal life and blessing from God, takes the situation to the impossible: whoever has desire for a woman has committed adultery with her – his ability to establish righteousness has vanished. In the eyes of God, whose opinion I hold as the important opinion.

The concept I am trying to bring into focus is that sex is an emotionally charged topic. And each people group, including the one you are a part of, holds opinions about it that you are ready to kill or destroy for. Yet sex happens in vast amounts every day, in many different forms and states of acceptability. And it was the same in the time of David and Bathsheba. Their story is far from unique in the aspect of unrestrained passion. Nathan makes some more statements about sex, involving David’s wives. The situation in these other references to sex are also not unique.

In most, if not all, cultures in this world, there has been another common institution in addition to the husband/wife institution. As mentioned above, most cultures have laws attempting to enforce the tribe’s view of the husband/wife relationship, including property and inheritance. But also, most cultures have rules to accommodate the propensity to initiate additional relationships. Most ancient and several modern cultures have instituted a relationship that is similar to husband/wife but generally includes less property and inheritance privileges. We have an English term used to describe the woman in this formal relationship of ancient civilization. The word is “concubine”. In modern western society, it is not generally needed or used, as the concept of sex without responsibility has been set as a trap. And the trap has worked. Maenads unleashed.

For the context of understanding, it is important to note that using a consensus of tribal/society laws to define right and wrong is as profitable as using a similar consensus to define God.

For the context of our ancient story of sex, murder, and conquest, the institution of husband/concubine has a role.

So as we ponder the statements of God, it is important to keep in perspective the ubiquitous sex saga of the world.

History – the song of death

Mortal Life: The life we are in while we ponder this story. The word “mortal” means subject to death.

Death comes for all.

It is common to interpret someone’s death as either abandonment by God, or more extreme, as penal judgement by God. Being self focused beings, if someone we love dies, we feel abandoned by God and that God abandoned the dead person, allowing them to die. If someone we hate dies, we feel that God finally took some good action and killed them as a penal judgement against their despicable beings.

But what does God say?

Isaiah was a man who God trusted to deliver his thoughts to us. In chapter 57 of his accumulated writings in the Bible, we have clear thoughts from God on this important subject:

the righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.

What righteous?

What evil?

If the word “righteous” means someone who has not violated the commands of God, who qualifies for that? While I mean that as a rhetorical question (a question where the answer presents itself), I realize that in order for the answer to present itself, a person must have pursued with true diligence such a path, both in study and in practice. Which is rare – many are still in process, convinced that with “one more chance” they can stay righteous. Or having not yet completed the required studies, the rules governing righteousness are custom designed to facilitate an achievable goal. It is fine to be in process, continue my friends.

For me, the Bible has built concepts in me that make it clear that my righteousness is based on my belief in the nature of God, which he tests, dismantles, and rebuilds with extreme difficulty and persistence. It is a process for which I would not volunteer. But I must know God, there is nothing else. So he uses my selfish desire to know him as a tool to drive me to know him. Who he is, his nature, is of an importance that infinitely approaches monolithic importance.

So Isaiah, speaking the thoughts of God, say the righteous are taken to escape evil. The righteous being those that believe in the nature of God, waiting on his mercy and deliverance. As was David.

What evil?

We have very briefly reviewed the history of Uriah and David – there is our first clue. Read the news, listen to the gossip, consider the attitudes of the people in your society. Consider the constant demands for the destruction of others, the action of the constant destruction of others, the long history stretching back from now to time out of mind, like a long dry desert littered with piles of human remains, watered by their blood. As soon as our ancestors left the Garden, Cain killed Abel, God said “his blood cries out to me from the ground”. Then God protected Cain lest anyone kill him as just punishment for murder.

Our whole existence is evil.

Solomon, whom God (Jesus) said was the wisest man ever, said that the child who dies at birth is better off than us, because he/she does not have to endure this world. He escapes the evil.

One day I will escape this evil. Soon I hope. But I will continue school while here.

So death can be the action of God to retrieve his people at the right time. The punishment aspect of death, the penalty called for by the Law of God, becomes somewhat confused with this view of death in mind. While we choose to view the law, any law, as the tool to force good behaviour, it is of paramount importance that the ultimate penalty is unequivocally repulsive. Any deterrence presented by Law depends on dreadful punishment. Which then renders mercy abhorrent.

But if we choose to view the law, God’s commandments, as the tool to make us acknowledge our need for his mercy, Mercy becomes the beautiful fulfillment of the purpose of the Law. Especially when you keep in concept the whole teaching of the Law with its commandments that cause extreme difficulty in ever convicting anyone. One begins to see that God designed the Law to communicate the beginners level understanding of righteousness by performance, yet made it difficult for people to use it to destroy each other.

Death changes shape completely when the dying does not wish to know God. Eternity without God is the most overwhelming weight of emptiness without end. When my mind approaches it, I recoil in abject terror. Please no. Please, please, please, no. God have mercy, please. He says yes.

So the nature of death is at two extremes. The doorway to the presence of God, or the doorway to the absence of God. Which one sounds better depends on what you think about God.

The Story

At the time of this Uriah, David, and Bathsheba story, David has quit leading the armies in the continuous battles. He stays in the palace. He appears to be changing into a normal king.

David is enjoying his day at his palace while his armies fight a continuing battle against Amorites (another ancient empire). He sees Bathsheba, who is bathing in full view of the palace. Read into that what you will. He sends for her. Note that this means palace staff know of the event. They have sex, she goes home to clean up. Later she sends word that she is pregnant. Obviously this means David has been away from the battle for several weeks. And that, again, the palace staff know about the pregnancy. David sends for Uriah, her husband, to come home from the war. Of course, David expects Uriah to take the opportunity to have sex with Bathsheba. But he doesn’t. You can read into this many different things, but the storyline is important simply that the pregnancy is going to be publicly known as the product of adultery. The disaster will take one of many different paths:

– the least result is the shaming of Bathsheba. If no one takes action and no one reveals the father, everyone would happily despise her as a promiscuous woman. The titillating gossip would entertain many, all the social media channels would carry the story. Gossip, the ultimate expression of hatred.

– Bathsheba may or may not expose David as the other half of the adultery crime.

– The palace staff may or may not expose that David is the other half of the adultery crime.

– It could result in the death of Bathsheba for the sin of adultery, if the court (under David’s control) chooses to ignore the requirement for 3 witnesses, or redefines the requirement to be 3 people that saw her go into David’s chamber. It seems unlikely that there would be any witnesses that actually saw them having sex. Under the commandments of the Law of Moses, David also would be at risk of death. But under the rules of government for all time – not likely.

So David, in a very Saul-like manner, takes action to correct the situation – the integrity of the kingdom is at stake, the promised bloodlines of the messiah are at stake. David realizes the only hope is to exercise his extreme authority as king: he must ensure that Uriah dies by the sword, a hero’s death.

Ask any warrior if he would prefer to die in battle or as an impotent, feeble, mostly blind, mostly deaf, tolerated old man. Compare the last chapter of Ecclesiastes with the stories from David’s prime. Perhaps Solomon, David’s second son from Bathsheba, wrote that last chapter of Ecclesiastes after observing the end of David’s mortal life. Such thinking provides a seed of justification – a warriors death is superior to the humiliation of having your wife stolen, then living a useless existence waiting to die. Perhaps such thoughts helped David choose his plan, driven by the desperate need to conceal the pregnancy.

Apparently, the modern remedy, abortion, was not acceptable in David’s mind. It certainly would be a known technique.

Also, the other common solution for despots was not acceptable to David: have Bathsheba disappear. Perhaps she was too sexy to lose, or perhaps he had deep feelings for her. He has become despotic enough to kill his long time battle companion, he would have some other reason than chivalry to not murder her.

David devises a plan to keep the kingdom intact. He will have Uriah be placed into a heroic, futile, doomed position in battle.

David writes these instructions and gives them to Uriah to carry back to the war and give the instructions to Joab.

Why would David give the instructions to Uriah? If Uriah were to read them, it seems likely that worse problems could arise. Uriah is one of the great leaders of battle, a powerful man in the armies, a formidable adversary in the realm of rebellion/coup.

So why have Uriah carry the message? Perhaps Uriah knew of the plan and was resigned to his fate for the “greater good”. Perhaps David knew Uriah would never open a private communication. Perhaps Uriah couldn’t read Hebrew. Perhaps David and Joab used encryption. Who knows? But scripture records that David sent the evil plot through the victim’s own hands. Further demonizing David.

Joab receives the instructions from Uriah’s own hand. Joab apparently has no objections powerful enough to cause him to revolt, even though we have other instances where Joab did not obey David. Joab arranges Uriah’s glorious battle death.

As is common in the tales of this world, the story relates that other men died also, an inevitable consequence of sending men to battle in useless and hopeless scenarios. Surely not approved by God, to whom each life is important. But in war, men consider it “For the greater glory, the glory of the kingdom”. The sword dominates history.

Then Joab sends word back to David – mission accomplished. In the message back to David, Joab anticipates that David will criticize the hopeless and useless action of sending men forward in a tactical mistake. Joab anticipates that David will quote what is probably part of their joint tactical play book – “don’t make the mistake of Abimilech”, where a fierce warrior was killed by a woman dropping a millstone on him – the warrior was too close to the wall. We could go into that story and see the lessons to be learned, but allow me to summarize: more death and judgement. Like the summary of this story of David.

Joab tells the messenger that if David points out the criminal tactical stupidity, then the messenger is to simply say “Also your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead”. Joab expects that phase will remind David of the assignment. Joab apparently expected that David might forget, despotic leaders often do.

The servant relates the message, including the death of Uriah as part of it. David sends the messenger back to Joab with the justification that warfare takes many lives. And commands Joab to continue with the battle and defeat the enemy. Business as usual. That part of the story was told to make us aware of the mindset of Joab and David ,and the general environment in which the story is told, in my opinion.

The plan works. Uriah is mourned. David and Bathsheba are married in the view of society. The baby is born.

When God chose David to replace Saul, God used the words “a man after my own heart”. Does David fit that description at this point? When does he change back to alignment?

But God is not going to let David follow the path of Saul. He intervenes. His plan of salvation for the world includes future events that are planned (predestined) to have the Messiah to come in the most astonishing context. David’s heart for God is needed.

So God sends Nathan to speak to him.

Imagine what it would be like to know Nathan. He gets what he thinks is a message from God. Delivering such a message to most authorities would take more self-confidence than most of us would like to be around.

Nathan delivers the message and it gets past David’s defences. The message gets in through a part of his heart like God’s: his concern for the oppressed.

David repents. This means David changes from justifying his actions as the supreme warrior of his kingdom, the one whose existence is so important for the kingdom. David changes to a man aware that he is guilty of sin, worthy of death and separation from God.

God says his sin is forgiven. God says It has been removed. He will not pay the penalty. YOU CANNOT BE PUNISHED FOR A CRIME THAT DOES NOT EXIST.

Here is where the story gets complicated from a theology perspective. Theology being the human attempt to systematically and logically assess and categorize God Most High. Kind of like mice in a maze convening to assess the maze builder – absurd – unless you are a mouse, desperate to know that there is meaning that transcends the existence of hopelessly wandering through a maze. “Meaning” is a concept that requires retrospectively simple, yet continuously complex refinements.

In the essay “Who Pays?” we explored the difficult statements of God about “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children”. As we read the statements of God related to this subject we saw that God, very forcefully, clarifies that he does not kill anyone for the sins of someone else.

Yet here in this message from God to David, it appears that he is saying just that. He says the sword will never leave David’s house (swords are for killing people) and he says that the baby will die. And, with the common reading, it appears that these things will happen as a penalty for David’s sins of adultery and murder.

With that reading in mind, we hear God saying “David, I have removed your sin, you are forgiven. I won’t kill you, but many other people will die at my hand as punishment for your sin, starting with this baby.”

Many people through history have defended this with the logic “If God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Which is, of course, an important element of faith. We must believe God. Otherwise, we don’t really believe he is God. We reduce him to a wise old man, whose opinions are interesting but not compelling.

But in this case, we have God saying two opposite things. Which brings us to dilemma. Dilemma is an invitation to address poorly formed concepts. We are invited to find the concepts that fit together with least or no dilemma. Here are 4 possible concepts to use.

Did God contradict himself? – Not possible, accepting this requires a massive downgrade of the concept of God. If you know God, this is at the level of humour, funny because it is so absurd. Like other funny sayings such as “If God is all powerful, can he make a rock so big he can’t lift it?” With my response – ask him.

Did Nathan miscommunicate the message from God? Certainly there are examples of message garbling to be seen. But this path requires very significant diligence and logically must start from the place of approaching impossible. So, no. I will accept the words of Nathan in this passage.

Did the person recording this story garble it, or did one of the long series of manuscripts garble it? Certainly there are possibilities here. For the person to whom such statements cause fear, this general issue should be examined. Fears left in the closet become larger than reality. The journey through all the issues that affect accuracy of modern Bible versions is complicated and requires astute thinking. For me, this journey has brought me to a place of deeper trust that God Most High is not merely alive, but shows god-like cleverness at dealing with the inevitable ravages of time, language evolution, and human nature. Is God so powerful that he can make a language problem he can’t lift? Ask him.

For the final possible explanation of the dilemma between the statements of God, there is the possibility that the language in the documents we do have is adequate to see God’s words about the death of the baby and others in a different way. This is the path we will pursue in this essay.

First we must ensure that we are thinking with the concepts God has taught us, including the corrections he gave the descendants of David in Babylon (Ezekiel 18 and 20). They needed these corrections because they thought, like we want to, that God brings destruction in innocent people’s lives as a payment (penal justice) for other people’s sin. You can easily see how they thought that – this essay esists because we still think that, fueled by the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah.

But in Ezekiel, God himself rejects this idea that he brings destruction in innocent people’s lives as a payment (penal justice) for other people’s sin. So, based on our rejection of other possible explanations, and accepting that we are misunderstanding his words from Nathan: we must conclude that he is not saying that here in the statements of Nathan to David.

We learned some other things from studying the subject of “Who Pays”. The second very important thing we learned is that “visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children” leads to the least conflict when we understand the word “iniquity” to mean a propensity to sin. Leading us to grasp the concept that God allows/causes our propensity to sin to exist in a rolling set of 3 generations, which by simple logic refers to all people.

Here is the text of the future announcements from Nathan, copied in from the Literal Standard Version, which I find helpful for the Hebrew origin scriptures. Do not be confused by the use of English past tense, this is a result of the attempt of literal translation: ancient Hebrew language did not use verb tense in the same way as we use verb tense in English (and many other languages). According to Hebrew scholars, in ancient Hebrew the speaker conveyed the time frame through context and other grammatical hints. Ancient Hebrew future prophecy expresses future events powerfully, using the Perfect state (completed state) for events that have not yet transpired. Please note that the large majority of ancient Hebrew scholars translate these phrases in an English future tense (when using dynamic equivalence, which they all do) – unless the phrase is clearly about the events that clearly transpired as a preceding part of the story. We would be wise to depend on their scholarship unless there is strong evidence against it.

10And now, the sword does not turn aside from your house for all time, because you have despised Me, and take the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be for a wife for yourself; 11thus said YHWH: Behold, I am raising up calamity against you, out of your [own] house, and have taken your wives before your eyes, and given [them] to your neighbor, and he has lain with your wives before the eyes of this sun; 12for you have done [it] in secret, and I do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

13And David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against YHWH.” And Nathan says to David, “Also—YHWH has caused your sin to pass away; you do not die; 14only, because you have caused the enemies of YHWH to greatly despise by this thing, also—the son who is born to you surely dies.”

In these statements of Nathan to David, I see three important statements about resulting actions:

– and now the sword does not turn aside from your house for all time

– calamity raising in his house, wives taken and given to a neighbor, sex happening, all will know. (this could be 2 separate happenings, or it could be that the calamity is, or causes, the wives/sex pain)

– enemies despise, the baby dies (again, this could be viewed as separate events, but the joining words cause a connection between the two events)

Future – the sword

– and now the sword does not turn aside from your house for all time

Literal Standard Version verse 10: And now, the sword does not turn aside from your house for all time, because you have despised Me, and take the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be for a wife for yourself;

When we examined the history of the players in this story, we built a concept of continuous dominance of the sword through their respective histories, both in their lives and in their ancestry.

With that concept in place, we see that God is not saying anything new is going to take place.

But God is making this statement about the sword for some reason. What are our options, given that we have accepted that he is not punishing other people for David and Bathsheba’s sin (and Joab and ???).

Sword theory – rescinded removal plan

It could be that God was planning to remove the sword from the house of David and now has changed his mind. Let us ponder that for a moment: to accept that concept, we must accept that God was going to remove the propensity to sin with the sword from the house of David, without regard for David’s other violations of the Law and without regard for God’s own statement in the 2nd commandment that the iniquity of the fathers is visited to the 3rd and 4th generation.

God is the God, he can do anything he wants. But he wants us to trust him. So he told us he is consistent (the same yesterday, today, and forever).

David’s sins: Some might say that David did not have other violations of the Law, based on the statement of the chronicler that David only sinned in two matters – Bathsheba and the Census. The Census probably had not happened at this time, so perhaps God was not including that future event in his penal judgements on David’s forgiven sin. For the concept that “David only sinned in the 2 matters” to stand, you must rearrange your concept of what is being referred to as sin by the chronicler. I say this with confidence as there are several actions listed in David’s life where violations of the Law can be found. So what did the chronicler mean? Possibly the chronicler had a deeper understanding of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is possible to see that David was not trusting the nature of God in these 2 items. For me it is plainly visible in this David and Bathsheba story. I can see it in the Census story as well, but one must first arrive at an understanding of the sin. Understanding the Census sin also helps deal with this statement of the 2 sins: there is no direct commandment that forbids taking a census, yet the chronicler lists this as one of the 2 major failures in David’s life. This fact establishes that the chronicler is not referring directly to Law violations.

We should look at David’s life with scribe concepts in place, the concepts of the Law. We see that he did violate the Law in various places, which then makes his family’s continuing existence align with the predictions against the Law violators found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Which include multi-generational hard-living predictions.

David was already in the same situation of all mankind – the propensity to sin was already guaranteed to the future. His children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren were already set to have desire to act and think against God. Just like Adam. Just like Noah. Just like Abraham. Just like me. Just like you. And a dominant category of sin, possibly even ubiquitous (present in all), is violence – the sword.

So, for me, I don’t think that God was planning to remove that propensity from David’s family. So the Rescinded Removal Plan is a weak theory in my opinion.

Sword Theory – Vital Concept Restatement

Perhaps the statement about the sword not departing from David’s house is a clarification, a restatement of an extremely important concept for all humans.

God is not reacting to human events. God has specific goals. God made the statement “visiting the propensity to sin on each and every generation (iniquity)”. He made that statement as a carefully designed premise supporting his goal. As we learned in our examination of “Who Pays?”, Ezekiel 20 makes clear the goal of God: so that we will finally come to a place of complete dependency on the mercy of God.

In Ezekiel God was clarifying because people have a very difficult time maintaining this concept. And Ezekiel was long after our Sex and Murder story, so it would not be the first time he said it. God restates this concept many times in many ways through many stories.

Here God is telling David, and more significantly, EVERYONE, that the continuous story of human history is one of failure, illustrating that the propensity to sin is always present. As in Ezekiel 18 and 20, we are tempted to call out “UNFAIR”, to which God answers “I AM the one that has mercy, rendering all your propensity moot (not affecting real outcomes). You humans are unfair because you do not have mercy.”

Here in this story with David, God states it again. He has before. As he will later in Ezekiel. AND DAVID GETS IT: in his song of repentance for this event (Psalm 51) he acknowledges that he has always had a propensity to sin, as did his parents.

Here is an example anecdote: A teacher teaches a math course over many years to different students every year. He has written a book to explain all the concepts of math. The students always struggle with the use of imaginary numbers. One year, he has a really brilliant student, but the student gets lazy and begins to fail. The teacher reprimands the student, points out the mistakes, and explains again why imaginary numbers are important. The information is in the book, but the teacher is skilful and knows that timely restatement of important concepts brings enlightenment.

In the statements about the sword, God is restating the truth, nothing new. Your sin will continue to produce propensity to sin in others, as it always has and it always will, in all people, for all mortal life. God is not just talking to David, he is talking to me and you. Feel despair? Good – turn to God for mercy. He freely gives to all this absolutely undefeatable technique for salvation. Salvation based on who God is, not on who you are.

Future – Out-of-bounds Sex

In our story of sex, betrayal, and murder, the second action that God is saying will result is very emotionally painful events that involve David’s wives.

11thus said YHWH: Behold, I am raising up calamity against you, out of your [own] house, and have taken your wives before your eyes, and given [them] to your neighbor, and he has lain with your wives before the eyes of this sun; 12for you have done [it] in secret, and I do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

This pronouncement from God is easily and often explained as God ensuring that punishment happens, because he (God), does not want anyone to think they can “get away” with sex and murder. To accept this explanation means that you must accept that God is allowing the murderer to be forgiven with no consequences to his person. But this forgiving God is then taking the man’s wives and giving them to other people as a punishment to the murdering adulterer. This is the punishment for murder and adultery? Is God following the general consensus of human civilization, that important leaders are not punished, but other people are?

To believe that, you must ignore the words of God himself in other passages. We already observed some such passages. We also must ignore his many statements about forgiving sin. And his many statements about loving people. Surely he loved and loves David’s wives.

David had another son, Absalom, from another of David’s wives. Many consider that David’s son Absalom fulfilled this prophecy about David’s wives having sex with someone else. It certainly is possible. There is a difference: note that Nathan has God saying wives, while the chronicler specifically says that Absalom had sex with David’s concubines. This Absalom-sex story still could be the fulfillment as God certainly does not recognize all the various human legal games about sex. In one of the very first instructions in the Garden of Eden, God says a man shall become one flesh with his wife. In the Law God gave Moses, there are precise guidelines on what created the husband/wife relationship. Those guidelines (commandments) eliminate legal games like concubinage. But the chronicler is carefully recording the events from the human perspective and the Israelites were not very different from other people groups: they had created word/legal tricks to fool themselves into thinking they were still earning salvation through their good behavior.

When Absalom overthrew his father David, I expect most of the concubines (wives per God) were very frightened by the change in regime – a time of fear of displacement, violation and death. They would be especially vulnerable: beautiful women, with high public status, but that status indicates the underlying nature of their relationship with the king. They are less than a wife, they have little remaining status after the demise of the king. Surely some of David’s concubines would dread the inevitable events resulting from David’s departure that left them behind at the royal palace. They knew they were facing several possible outcomes, ranging from death to impoverished banishment.

It is possible that some of David’s wives were not opposed to intimate relations with the incoming king. That is not uncommon, especially in situations like the coup/takeover of the kingdom of Israel. These women, loved by God, were sex partners that had high status to make a pretense of righteousness for all involved – concubines. But when violent coup changes the game, and given the opportunity to reclaim that high status, many would be willing, even if they did not have a choice. That perspective may help us understand the societal concepts that could have existed. But such a concept moves us further from God’s view of human life. God loves those women, they are not property.

Can we accept God giving them to another man as a punishment to David, when God’s own laws make such actions evil? For me, such a concept is beyond the realm of the acceptable.

Jesus taught often in ways that are designed to change our concepts. But change to what? Change to believe that God punishes people for other people’s sins?

We have many examples of God doing things that require that our concepts shift. Such as the first few chapters of the story of Job. Where God allows Satan to cause many bad things to happen to Job. Then Job and his friends discuss the justice of God in relation to Job’s sin. They debate for some time about sin causing Job’s extreme suffering, which has all the appearance of penal retribution from God. Job’s friends argue that Job has hidden sin that is the cause. Job denies that, and spends much time proclaiming that there is a divine injustice happening: that God is punishing him when he does not deserve it. Here is some sarcasm: they missed the point, it was someone else that sinned and God is punishing Job for a third party’s sin. NO. God allowed the events to happen because he had a longer term plan that worked out for the better. But Job did not endure hardship as punishment for someone else. (This principal applies to Job’s children as well – they are not collateral damage, people killed because they happen to be in the path of a just cause. Again, this deserves an in depth study, but the foundation for understanding is what we are discussing here in this essay.)

The ancient Hebrew word for “give” deserves a brief look. This is the word used in our verse “given” as in “given [the wives] to a neighbor”. It is a very common word used thousands of times in the Hebrew Bible. The meaning can include transferring property or objects, which is the foremost way we understand the word. But it can mean a slightly different implication of “allow”, as in giving someone tolerance to do things. God gives us all freedom to continue eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It helps to understand many actions of God reported in the Bible, to understand that he is not forcing an action, but definitely NOT preventing the bad actions of people. In our modern understanding of Good and Evil, as expressed in some current law systems, failure to take action to protect someone is the equivalent of taking action to harm. Under such laws we can attempt to convict God. Care to side with the prosecution in that case? Even skipping the ridiculous idea of prosecuting God, such logic inescapably leads to utter destruction: culpability for failure to intervene in potential crime appears to lead to boundless culpability.

But when people violate each other, consequences often continue.

Do people suffer as a result of other people’s sin? All the time, in every life, in large and small ways. It is impossible to travel through this world of human interaction and not cause problems in another person’s life. Did David and Bathsheba’s actions result in suffering? Yes, and not only the actions listed, and not only in the people listed.

One of the events that may be coming in the “end times” is what is sometimes called the judgment seat of (the) Christ, where the believers stand in review. If it is to be an actual event, it will be quite the event. I do not wish to cast doubt on the event, quite the contrary. I welcome the event and hope it is not allegorical language. All people who believe in the mercy of God(trinity) will be present as our lives are reviewed, things done for the Kingdom of Heaven (love) and things done for the other kingdom(s). By the time the proceedings get a short time past Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel, we will all fully expect the outcome of each believer’s life, if we didn’t already know. Each life will be reviewed from the perspective of the ONLY righteous being in existence – God(trinity). All the many things in that believer’s life that are considered vile by God, and all the few things that are not. Then God(Jesus) will say “It is finished” for that person, and all people present will break into unrestrained delight at the power and beauty of the Holy and Merciful God, THE righteous one.

Which brings us back to David, who took Uriah’s wife and killed Uriah. The Gospel of Matthew ensures we remember this sordid story as he introduces Jesus, the Christ, God with us, the Savior of the world, who fulfilled his promise to Zachariah to remove all sin in a single day. God(Holy Spirit) made sure we remember the factor that redeems all the sordid stories. At the beginning of telling the redemption story, he refers us to the best known sordid story (David, Uriah, Bathsheba). The redemption story brings Heavenly Perspective to the pain of the sordid story. The sordid story brings clarity to the redemption story by its integration into the story. That is the role of God(Holy Spirit): to teach us about sin, righteousness and judgment. Sin: people do not believe in God(Jesus). The only unforgiven sin as Jesus said. Righteousness – because we can’t see God(Jesus) physically – we lose our perspective about the true nature of righteousness. Judgment because Satan has been judged. Apply that statement of God(Jesus) to the sordid story of David, Uriah and Bathsheba. Jesus – Jesus alone – is our righteousness. The word “our” includes David and the others. In the Jesus story, Matthew includes the murdered Uriah and the unfaithful Bathsheba, and the murdering, betraying, adultering, sinful man in pursuit of God’s heart – David. Because God redeems the irredeemable in Jesus.

God was not punishing David, by making his wives have sex with Absalom (or whoever did this). In Nathan’s prophecy about the wives, God is again reinforcing that sin is evil and brings suffering. He has had this plan since before Adam and Eve, he predestined this plan of making a world full of people know that they need to know who he really is, not what the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil makes us think he is.

All humans manipulate right and wrong, creating custom law. Then they can feel righteous through their disgust, anger, hatred, and destruction of those that violate their laws. Jesus said “remove the log in your own eye”. He did not say you might have a log in your eye. He said you have it. I’ll leave it to your thinking to consider how your views of sexuality have caused you to have a log in your eye. Just be cautious, Satan has made society paint a picture on the back of your log – it looks so clear, but it is still the back of a log.

God set up the people of David’s time. They would have to face the game of wife vs concubine. They would have to face the fact that their view of righteousness would in no way save them. God used the David, Bathsheba, and Uriah story to ensure the people in the story had yet another opportunity to say, “I am not capable. Have mercy on me, Oh God!”.

God ends the section about the wives with the observation that “all will know”. We are speaking of it now, 3000 years later. David, Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, the wives, and many others are in heaven, part of the “great cloud of witnesses”. They are there if they finished the race knowing God. Not because they were perfect.

Nathan spoke the message from God to David, foretelling this painful story of his wives and sex. Examining the factors involved, we can see this foretelling of the ongoing sex saga of David’s house makes us fully aware of the continuous battle with shameful, destructive sex sin. And ultimately gives us the opportunity to see God’s eternal nature. Savior. He Redeems all such stories.

Future – loss of precious baby

Nathan, speaking the thoughts of God, gave 3 resulting actions. The third resulting action is that the baby would die.

Here is the text:

13And David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against YHWH.” And Nathan says to David, “Also—YHWH has caused your sin to pass away; you do not die; 14only, because you have caused the enemies of YHWH to greatly despise by this thing, also—the son who is born to you surely dies.”

This statement of God is difficult. Any subject dealing with small children is highly emotionally charged. Because they are precious to us and most of us feel fiercely protective of small children. As we should. As does God, but his perspective is much different than ours. He lives in eternity, a concept in which our world is fully contained, but much more limited in scope. As we discussed in the section about the Song of Death, there are important concepts that we need to maintain while we examine this:

– God does not view death the same way that we do.

– God states emphatically that children are not put to death for the sins of the father.

These 2 concepts make the idea that the death of the child is punishment for David and Bathsheba’s sin(s) outside the realm of possible.

So, of course we must ask Why will the child die?

Here is some wisdom from Solomon (Ecc 6 – Literal Standard Version with inserted phrases for clarity):

Better [than the successful man] is the untimely birth [the baby that died around birth]. For in vanity he came in, and in darkness he goes, and in darkness his name is covered, even the sun he has not seen nor known, more rest has this [baby] than that [man who has lived a successful life].

Solomon is the brother of the baby in Nathan’s words. Perhaps years of reflecting on his older brother helped form this piece of wisdom. His brother died unnamed and inexperienced, just as in Solomon’s example. But Solomon is confident that the unnamed child is in a place of complete “rest”.

Note also that the 2 Samuel 12 story goes on, with God doing what is required to bring the baby to the place of rest. David attempts to change God’s mind by fasting and laying on the ground for seven days. We and the people around David see his great grief and love and desire to keep his loved one close.

But David then shows wisdom like Solomon. After the baby dies, David stops mourning. He explains : “While the boy is alive I have fasted and I weep, for I said, Who knows [if] YHWH pities me and the boy has lived? And now, he has died, why [is] this—I fast? Am I able to bring him back again? I am going to him, and he does not return to me.” David is convinced of the nature of God, David knows the baby is in the place of rest, and David knows he is going there as well. David knows he goes to rest after bad sex crimes, murder of Uriah and the men that died with Uriah, lying, and all the other things he alludes to in Psalm 51.

Solomon and David, the brother and father, had confidence that an “early” passing out of mortal existence did not mean punishment from God. Surely we can as well.

But, then what does God mean when he says: “only, because you have caused the enemies of YHWH to greatly despise by this thing, also—the son who is born to you surely dies”?

That is the Literal Standard Version. The various versions of the Bible vary more than a little on this passage.

Some are like the version above, with language that does not require the death of the child to be punishment. Others lean much more towards punishment style language. I must point out that the versions that claim more of a literal approach are like the Literal Standard Version.

In acknowledgment of the efforts of the translators of the other versions, one can see that the Hebrew is imprecise enough to allow either reading. The choice one would make depends on the concepts one carries into the passage. Always.

As in the Sword statement and the Out-of-bounds Wife Sex statement, it is possible to see this statement about the baby in a different light.

Note that the literal versions all have David and Bathsheba’s sin as causing the enemies of God(yhwh) to despise. And this situation is related to the statement that the baby boy is taken.

Who are the enemies of God? Always Satan and all his emissaries. People move in and out of the enemy’s camp. When Peter wanted to defend Jesus against Peter’s perception of injustice, he was in the camp of the enemy. When we call to God for mercy, we are not in camp of the enemy.

What is the predestined plan of God up to the point in time of Nathan and David? To create people, give them a certain tree, allow Satan to lie to them, allow them to make a small but devastating action, bring people to awareness of how badly they need mercy, and wait for the right time to do the rest of the plan.

We are looking at this story from after the Key Events of the plan. God(Jesus) has come, taught us about his eternal Kingdom of Heaven, fulfilled all the punishment requirements of God’s justice, then rose from the dead. Making the enemies of God unable to ever lie to us again about the Tree – if we believe.

David and Nathan are in an earlier segment of the plan. God has always used the decisions of men as teaching tools. He is doing that here in these statements about “enemies despising” and the baby dying.

Here is the text again:

13And David says to Nathan, “I have sinned against YHWH.” And Nathan says to David, “Also—YHWH has caused your sin to pass away; you do not die; 14only, because you have caused the enemies of YHWH to greatly despise by this thing, also—the son who is born to you surely dies.”

Note that the same connecting word is used twice, translated here as “also”. David says “I sinned” God says “also I removed your sin”.

Then he(God) says “only, you (David) [will surely cause] my enemies to greatly despise. ALSO, the baby will die.”

The despising must be English future tense to align with the other statements that are presented in the Hebrew perfect (completed) state. We understand those statements to be future, so we must be consistent and use the English future here.

Be aware that “to despise” and “to slander” are components of the concept that includes the ancient religious term “blasphemy”. One of the other commandments God said is that people must not blaspheme or slander him. This is not a complex concept. One must not say or even believe things about God that are not true. God says David’s sin will cause the enemies of God to say false things about him. God says this immediately after saying that he had the ultimate mercy on David.

And how clear can it be? Who has not despised the mercy of God? All men love mercy when applied to themselves, but hate it when applied to people they hate. And every human hates (despises) most other people. Hate and despise are synonyms. Shortly after this Absalom despised David’s mercy in the Amnon/Tamar sex story. As do most people throughout history. And you can see Absalom building hatred (despising) of David in the entire kingdom of Israel by sitting at the gates and bemoaning the lack of justice under David, promising justice if only he (Absalom) were king. Just like his spiritual father, Satan, the promoter of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The enemy greatly despised during David’s mortal years. And continues to this day.

In his godlike brilliance, God continues with his statements through Nathan. The baby will die. And the next verses are clear that God brought on the baby’s death.

Back up a bit: David repented. God says “ALSO, I removed your sin”. David causes the enemies of God to despise. God says “ALSO I am taking the baby”. It is a consequence of the same type – a further action by God towards his predestined plan. It is not penal retribution. It is the master game move, using the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil rules to break the game. Mercy or nothing.

If you wish to know God, you must come to believe that you are dependent on God. If you have built a system of justice through which you will be able to please God, then God has blocked your strategy. Here God has taken the mercy that enemy despises and made it even harder to accept. Looking at these pronouncements of Nathan through mortal vision, God is acting in a way all humans despise. If you accept God’s actions as retributive then all meaning is lost from God’s statement that David’s sin is removed (in the mortal, “under the sun” as Solomon, the baby’s brother, says. And God says here in Nathan’s words.).

Then God ensures your attention is called back to this when introducing his own incarnation in Matthew.

God pre-told this in the desert with Moses and the fatal snakes. To be miraculously healed from the fatal snake bite, you had to look a snake on a pole. To be healed from your spiritually fatal condition, you must look at the savior on a pole, whose heritage is through shameful sex and murder, which story includes the mortal death of a baby directly killed by God.

In your spiritual journey this death of the baby will greatly distress you at some point (ALSO). Either you ignore it, or you strive to understand. You have the opportunity to depend on the nature of God, Love and Mercy, even while the evidence appears opposite. The snake on a pole. Once you choose to apply your correct concept of God, your spiritual vision clears and you can see that God appears bad to the enemies of God, but you know him. You know that Solomon was correct, the child born to death skipped the hell of mortal life and is with God. You know that David was correct, and David is now with the child in perfect rest, leaning on his elbows, looking at you and saying, “Do you believe?”

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