Know when to say “No”

The Bible, in 2 Samuel 11, records a sordid incident which happened during the height of King David’s reign. What is this sordid incident? Was it a war? Was it an act of treason? No, actually it started off involving 2 individuals. And then it escalated into a national catastrophe.

It was springtime and King David instead of going to war, was in his palace, in Jerusalem.

 “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. Then woman conceived and sent word to David, saying “I am pregnant[1].

What then did King David do?

He tried to cover his tracks by arranging for Uriah (who was at a battlefield) to be put on furlough and to return home to be with his wife in Jerusalem, and to lie with her. Then the tryst could be covered up.

But, much to King David’s chagrin, when Uriah returned to Jerusalem, he refused to go home to Bathsheba. Instead, Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace.

King David then tried to get Uriah drunk so that he would return home to Bathsheba. Again, Uriah thwarted King David’s offer. His reason was that it was just not right for him to relax whist the rest of the men were fighting the war[2].

Then in a last ditch effort, King David hatched a plot. He ordered Joab (his commander) to place Uriah in the front line and when the fighting was fiercest, to withdraw, leaving Uriah standing in the open to be killed by the enemy in battle.

And so the “wayang”[3] (plan) was carried out. Uriah was murdered on the battlefield[4].

After the time of mourning Uriah’s death was over, Bathsheba became King David’s eighth wife.

The evil committed by King David is obvious to all: illicit sexual encounter, taking someone’s wife, lying, plotting evil and murder.

But what about Bathsheba? What was her role in this? Was she an accomplice? Did she consent? If she did, it would be adultery. Or was she a rape victim? This evil was done to her. Basically there are two schools of thought about this:

Version 1. Bathsheba was a seductress. She used her female wiles to hook King David. After all it takes two to clap. Alternatively, even if she was not a seductress she certainly did not protest. It was adultery between two consenting adults[5].  Also, King David must be exonerated since he’s called a man after God’s own heart[6].

Version 2. Bathsheba was a rape victim. King David was a powerful man at the height of his power, whereas Bathsheba was only a woman, and in those days they had no rights. She was probably a teenager, whereas King David was in his 50’s. So, there was an abuse of power on David’s part[7]. Moreover, the Prophet Nathan referred to her as a “little ewe lamb”[8]. She was defenceless.

I surmise that the truth lies somewhere in the middle of these two versions. Bathsheba was not a simple village girl but was born of noble lineage.

Her father was Eliam, one of David’s Thirty Mighty Men[9]. Her grandfather was Ahitophel who was at one point a trusted counsel of David. His advice was so precise and infallible that he was regarded as an oracle of God.[10]

Her husband was Uriah, also one of David’s Mighty Men[11]. She showed her mastery in palace politics when she aligned herself with Nathan the Prophet. Though she was only wife no. 8, she managed to secure her son Solomon, as King – overtaking Solomon’s older brother, Adonijah. She then became Queen Mother.

Furthermore, through her manoeuvring, Adonijah was subsequently killed by Solomon and that further cemented Solomon’s position as King[12]. She was a survivor.

Did Bathsheba say “no” to King David? There is no evidence that she did[13]. Perhaps to be fair to her, we must add that she couldn’t say “no.”

However, what about the messenger who was asked to enquire about her? Could he have said “no” to King David?

What about the messengers ordered to get her? Couldn’t they have said “no” to King David. What about Joab when he was directed by David to do the dirty? Couldn’t he have said “no”? Moreover, why didn’t David say “no” to himself?

There are two people who did say “no” to King David. One was Uriah and he is honoured by God in the genealogy of Jesus[14]. Nathan also said “no” to King David.

Finally, there was God who said “no” to King David and passed judgment on the house of David,

“Now the sword will never depart from your house…. Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel” [15]

This marked the beginning of the end of the golden age of Israel.

In this life we will face many evil situations and we will face challenges to what is true and righteous. Are we prepared to say “no” even in the face of people of power? Will we be brave enough to say “no” to corruption, “no” to bribery, “no” to evil, “no” to sin, “no” to injustice?

Or will we become like Bathshebas’, the messengers, the Joabs, even King Davids’ of this world who do not say “no” when it is required of us? These questions are especially pertinent too in view of upcoming GE15. If we don’t say “no,” will we one day face the Divine “no” from God?

[1] 2 Samuel 11: 2 – 5

[2] 2 Samuel 6 – 12

[3] A colloquial term which connotes a fake performance by putting up a front before others.

[4] 2 Samuel 11:14 – 25

[5] The Bible teaching Ministry of Charles W Swindoll. Bathsheba. Walking into Adultery. by topic/women’s purity/ Bathsheba walking into adultery. Lexham British Bible –David commits adultery with Bathsheba. Also in pop culture – the song “Hallelujah” by Leonard Cohen.

[6] 1 Samuel 13: 4 and Acts 13:22

[7] David & Bathsheba: Affair or Rape. Bible Odyssey by Hilary Lipka. Also Sara Koenig. Bathsheba is one of the Most beguiling characters in the Bible. Us by Jessica Feinstein

[8] 2 Samuel 12:3

[9] 2 Samuel 23:34

[10] 2 Samuel 16:23

[11] 2 Samuel 23:39

[12] 1 Kings 1 – 2. See also Bathsheba The Kingmaker by Prof Carl S Ehrlich, the I surmise that after the incident with David when Uriah her first husband was killed, she knew David’s weakness. Since the apple does not fall far from the tree, she also knew of Adonijah’s weakness. She knew Solomon’s fears. She used all this to her advantage.

[13] Compare with the incident of Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:12 when Tamar did say “no” to Amnon

[14] Matthew 1:6b

[15] 2 Samuel 12:10 – 11

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