In the Lectionary

July 25, Ordinary 17B (2 Samuel 11:1–15)

Scripture does not accept David's behavior for business as usual, and neither should we.

It is difficult to parse the original intent of the opening to the story of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him.” This could be a sarcastic jab at the ways of kings and armies. Wars are still commonly launched in spring for the sake of convenience.

But this passage is not about war, nor about David the hero or even David the leader. This is about David the schmuck. The story’s first line makes more sense as a subtle comparison of David with the men who serve him, an evaluation in which the king comes up decidedly short. He apparently can’t be bothered to do his duty, delegating the job to his top general and opting to loaf around at home. At loose ends one afternoon, he spots Bathsheba and decides he must have her.

So the woman is abducted from her home by palace guards, and when she is brought to the king, the Hebrew text says simply that David “took her,” a phrase often given the euphemistic translation “he lay with her.”