At this time of year in Britain we remember the dead of the Two World Wars and subsequent conflicts. The Christian Church as a whole has historically a problem with when the prospect of war arises. There is a strong element of pacifism within the Church. When King David proposed to build the first temple in 2 Samuel chapter 7 the Lord spoke to Nathan the prophet to say that it was not for David to build the temple but his son. The reason given later by Solomon was that David was a man of war. Despite David writing most of the Psalms pacifists will leap on this as support for their position. Yet come to chapter 11 when David encounters Bathsheba preachers line up to decry David for staying in Jerusalem and succumbing to temptation. It seems to me that David is in a no-win situation. Either he is a warmonger who can’t build the temple or he doesn’t fight and is a moral failure. Later in 2 Samuel chapter 21 David was nearly killed when fighting the Philistines and had to be persuaded not to go into battle in future as he was getting too old. So maybe David’s fault in staying in Jerusalem was in being premature in delegating the fighting to Joab. After all the siege of Rabbah did not take much in manoeuvring of forces, rather just a case of not letting any of the Ammonites escaping before they were starved into submission. In fact David had stayed in Jerusalem when the war broke out against the Ammonites the previous year, only coming on the scene after reinforcements were required. Yet he did not fall into temptation then. There is nothing wrong in delegation, yet the way I have heard some preachers teach on this episode you might begin to think that there was.
Actually the more I think about it, his downfall was as much as his inactions as his actions. He was idling on the roof of his palace when he saw Bathsheba. His mistake was in misunderstanding how God would fulfil His promise to David. David must have come to the conclusion that none of his existing sons were up to the job of building the temple and sought to provide another woman to be the mother of that child. Bathsheba seemed to be the “perfect ten” to David when it came her looks which seemed to have blinded him to the obvious complications of her being another man’s wife. I sometimes wonder which is the most extraordinary thing about this whole episode, that God allowed David to sin in this way, or that even after he was exposed as an adulterer and murderer by Nathan, God allowed David and Bathsheba to have another son who would build God’s temple.
David Rose, 2017.