And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? – 2 Samuel 11:2-3

*   *   *

The very qualities that make David such an engaging personality – poet, musician, dancer, defender of the people, passionate lover, decisive ruler, man of faith – also carry a dark undercurrent. Maybe we get a glimmer of that in his role as a parent, which can be found quite wanting; by and large, the children are a disaster. What we see, ultimately, unmasks the celebrity.

I must wonder how his lovers would tell of his actions. The initial infatuation, of course, would have been quite the whirlwind. To be desired by the king, well, that must have been quite flattering – to be picked out, despite all the competition. But over the long haul? He could obviously be fickle.

The events that follow in his adulterous pursuit of Bath-sheba and the arranged murder of her husband are dishonorable and bring strong rebuke from the prophet Nathan as well as disaster on the household.

Often Bible stories show how not to behave!

*   *   *

We need, too, to be careful not to impute our contemporary, European and American notions of authorship onto these texts: many of the things attributed to Solomon, for instance, may mean nothing more than “in the style of” or “in imitation of.” It may help us to think of today’s “ghostwriters” who lend their talents to another’s name, just as a White House speech writer’s work will be considered the product of the President’s own pen and mind. In previous times we see instances when a monarch would claim authorship of anything produced by the artisans of the court, each of them laboring to the monarch’s glory. For perspective, too, consider Greco-Roman tradition, where Homer turns out to be an entire succession of Homeric bards, rather than the single blind poet we’ve come to honor in history. Even Shakespeare may turn out to be more communal than individual. So much for our contemporary cult of individuality!

So I wonder, too, just who was present with David as he watched the bather. What was their banter? What crude jokes accompanied their lust?

*   *   *

Howbeit, while two Spirits are striving together, the Soul cannot but be sensible of an Hour of Sorrow; I surely know, that Day is a Day of Mourning, of Weeping and of Lamentation; when Zion sits solitary with her Tears upon her Cheeks; clad in Sackcloth, covered with Ashes, in a spiritual Sense, fearing and quaking exceedingly before the Lord, and trembling in herself, because of his fierce Wrath, and just Indignation, that burns as a fiery Oven against Sin.(Elizabeth Bathurst, 1655?-1685)


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