Preaching on 2 Samuel 11-12.
David and Bathsheba. The current passage of study is 2 Samuel 11. Now when it comes to the story of David in the books of Samuel this is one that everyone is familiar with. I’ve preached on it before and I’ve heard sermons on it before. But what a delight and privilege (see last post) it is to be able to return and examine it closely again.
I found online John Bright’s comments on preaching on this passage (Bright, The Authority of the Old Testament, pages 226-33). That was stimulating to read although I also found some parts unsatisfactory. I did like some of Bright’s overall thrust and big picture connection with the New Testament. But, I’m not convinced by some of his summary of the passage. He has pulled out some salient themes but, to my mind, he has skipped over details that are significant in the text and our preaching of it.
Bright begins by asserting that ‘the story of David and Bathsheba is not one that requires a great deal of explanation’ (p 226). He then refers to David’s sin being plain and the rebuke and goes on to reflect upon the aim of the story. He also places the account within ‘the so-called History of the Throne Succession’ and, in my opinion, gives this far too much weight (but that’s another argument for another day!) My beef with Bright’s opening assertion is that although the story line in 2 Samuel 11-12 is clear, there are a multitude of questions which to me are crying out for explanation. Here are just a few that I have found myself grappling with as I return to it:
1 First, the Ammonites. How does 2 Samuel 11 connect to the previous chapter, and indeed chapter 9? That is, what do we make of the ‘hesed’ links and why is it all in the context of the Ammonite war? 2 Samuel 10-12 clearly form a unit through the Ammonite war, and, at the end David is the one who is crowned? How does that fit with his manifestly sinful actions as the king of Israel? Does the history of the Ammonites have bearing on the understanding of this passage? I have commented in an earlier post about the link with the ‘right eye and adultery’? What about the story of Jephthah? Does Nathan’s reference to the ‘poor man’s precious ewe lamb’ have any allusion to Jephthah’s own daughter? And what is meant by ‘the sword of the Ammonites’ in 12:9?
2 There are many questions that arise about the way the story is told. What do we make of the name of Bathsheba only being used twice while Uriah’s name occurs 20 times in chapter 11 and a few more times in chapter 12? Is the reference to the ark significant? Why is there a threefold repetition of ‘shalom’ in David’s enquiry in verse 7? Is there anything to glean from the fact that we are informed that both David and Uriah lie on a ‘couch’ (v 2 and v 13)? What do we make of the lengthy interaction with Joab and the messenger? And why does the millstone incident in Thebes get included?
I find these kinds of questions draw me to examine the text more closely and to search through more carefully what is being communicated. And to search the Scriptures more extensively. Sometimes a question will be answered from reading a commentary. I remember wondering why there was the sidenote about Bathsheba ‘purifying herself from her uncleanness’ and then reading a commentary which explained the obvious – this serves to underline that she could not be pregnant through Uriah. (There is more that could be said but, at very least, that is made clear.) Other times a commentary will raise issues I had not considered or help develop wider themes in my mind.
Next post…I’ll talk about some commentaries I’ve read and used.