Opening The Old Testament
David, Mafioso Don: Reflections on II Samuel 11:1-15
And though David demands that he stay another night, and gets Uriah roaring drunk, kicking him in the direction of his house, he again sleeps in the streets. And so the king now thinks his only option is murder. He urges his general Joab, who is in reality his henchman in many a questionable deed, to set the valiant Uriah at a place in the siege of Amon where he knows the bravest men will be, and then tell the other soldiers to retreat, leaving Uriah to stand and die alone. But Joab sees immediately that this is a foolish and ridiculous plan; what will all those retreating soldiers think when they witness Uriah alone near the walls of Amon? So Joab arranges things so that several other soldiers are not told of the retreat plan in order to cover over Uriah's death with several other deaths Who will ever know?
It works. Uriah, along with a few other brave men, are killed at Amon, and when David is told of their deaths, he can only muster the following phrase, "Well, the sword devours now one and now another. These things happen. War is indeed hell." And he tells the messenger who has brought the deadly news, "Tell Joab, good work. Encourage him!" And after the days of public mourning are over—one gets the impression of just the right number of days and no more—Bathsheba enters the palace, quickly marries the king, and awaits the birth of their child.
So, why this sordid story? How about this? The great and mighty and supposedly holy David is one of us. He, along with no human being, is worthy of our veneration or worship. No matter how grand, how handsome, how seemingly wise and clever, however wealthy and talented and winsome, no human being is worthy of our worship. Even the great David, "the man after God's own heart," is finally all too human. It is often said that David most especially loved his God. And so he may have. The problem is that he rather too often loved himself more. Does that sound familiar to any of us, to you, to me?
John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.