Firth on Samuel

The cover up – 2 Samuel 11.

David Firth has written quite a long commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel in the Apollos series. I haven’t found the commentary style and format the easiest to work with though there are helpful snippets of insight along the way. An example is the connection of 2 Samuel 13 with the theme of wisdom as well as 1 Samuel 25. This theme in the chapter seems underplayed in my reading of commentaries and it was refreshing to read Firth here. I will comment on this in a later post on 2 Samuel 13.

In general, I have found myself in agreement with Firth’s commentary. But, I have not been convinced by Firth’s assessment of David’s actions in 2 Samuel 11.

Firth argues that David is not seeking to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba. He argues that “the cover-up approach promotes the subplot above the main plot. Rather than uncontrolled lust, David’s actions with Bathsheba attempt to claim authority from Uriah.” (p 416). And a little later on 11:6-7: David “is not trying to cover his tracks but rather trying to create a legal pretence for Uriah’s execution.” (Firth, p 418).

I find that this simply does not do justice to the description in 2 Samuel 11. Firth makes a lot of the fact that David sent for Bathsheba after he discovered her identity. He comments: ‘David does not send for a woman because he sees her beauty. He sends for her because he knows who she is, and that identity is important to David…in his assault on Uriah through Bathsheba.’ (Firth, p 417). Firth’s analysis seems completely unfounded to me. Surely the identity note here highlights the wrongdoing of David’s action – this is another man’s wife.

But Firth’s line of approach leaves us wondering what exactly David is concerned about with Uriah. And to say that it is not to do with her beauty when that is explicitly the way she is depicted in verse 2 is very strange. In addition, if David’s action is ‘not simply an act of lust but a claim of power over a rival’ (Firth, p 422) then one wonders how that was achieved. Wouldn’t David have wanted to summon Uriah back at once regardless of the pregnancy? Firth’s proposal creates difficulties and does not deal with the flow of the text. It all becomes fanciful and stretched.

It seems very plain to me (and many readers and commentators) that David is shaken up because he has taken another man’s wife and is worried that will become plain to all. The whole scene and the way it is described is a classic portrayal of a cover up. In my opinion, Firth’s argument just does not add up.

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