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2 Samuel 11:1-15

David is one of our favorite heroes, he is the original underdog. We are introduced to him as the forgotten youngest son who is surprisingly chosen by God to be Israel’s next king. David is our boy king, who slays Goliath, is God’s chosen, is hounded by a king who wishes him dead, and after much time finally becomes king. He is not just any king; he is the king of legends. As such, he gains the superlative, “a man after God’s own heart.” Yet somewhere along the way, the events of the passage we have before us muddy the waters. David violates Bathsheba. Then when it comes to light that she is pregnant with his child, he tries to create a situation where the child could be passed off as her husband Uriah’s. When that fails, he then sets Uriah up to be killed in battle and then takes her as his wife. Problem solved. What? No! What we do with David and David’s sin now says much about our tendencies when it comes to handling our own sin.

When we encounter a text like this one we want to “fix” it. We want to make it right and we do this by reading into the story, by filling in the gaps. We want David to continue to be our unsullied hero. So we retell the story, changing things around, so that it doesn’t seem so bad. Over years the story gets told and retold in differing ways and often times in ways to justify the actions of David. If we can better understand what happened maybe we can see why David did what he did and maybe his actions won’t seem to so sinful to us. If we can explain the circumstances around the sin, it is easier to understand the sin. A sin easier to understand sometimes seems like less of a sin.

We do not need to go very far to find ways to clean up the mess David makes in this episode. The Chronicler skips over this account altogether, pretending it did not even happen, sweeping it under the rug. If we ignore it all together then we do not even need to worry about “fixing” the problem it makes for us. If we do not have to face David’s sin, perhaps we do not have to face our own.

If we cannot ignore David’s sin, the next “best” thing is to point the finger in another direction. The easiest and most obvious thing to do is to blame the victim, “What was Bathsheba doing bathing where she can be seen from David’s roof anyway?” “She must have been seeking to catch David’s eye.” Bathsheba is painted as the seductress, luring David into sin with her feminine wiles. After all, what is a good honest guy going to do when he sees a beautiful woman seductively bathing next door? This question is wrong on so many levels. First, please let us stop blaming the feminine body and the female person for the wandering male gaze and the lack of restraint any particular male might have. Secondly, the roof was usually considered the proper and private place to bathe; she was most likely trying to be discreet. Finally, we cannot fix David’s sin by shifting the blame to Bathsheba. Moving the blame for the sin to another person never fixed the problem of the sin in the first place. When we shift the blame from the perpetrator of the sin to the victim, we are compounding the sin.

The fact of the matter is when David comes to Bathsheba, she is the one who is at his mercy not the other way around. This was not an exchange between equals or two consenting adults. He was king! When he called her into his presence she could do nothing but comply. This in no way could ever be construed as Bathsheba’s fault or happening because Bathsheba is behind the scenes manipulating events to gain power for herself through David.

If we cannot blame Bathsheba, perhaps we can blame Uriah. This works into our paradigm of David the hero. In some retellings of this story, Bathsheba is in a loveless marriage. Uriah mistreats her. She is being abused. David becomes a knight rescuing the fair maiden and saving her from a lifetime of unhappiness. So what if Uriah dies? He was a bad, awful man anyway. So what if David and Bathsheba get the cart before the horse for a little while. In the end David is setting things right.

This brings us to another popular way to retell this story, and that is as a love story. The two see each other. They fall madly in love. And people will do anything for love! This story becomes so much more compelling when we combine this reimagining with the previous one. David now becomes the virtuous lover saving his true love from a lifetime of abuse and unhappiness. This makes a great story, but it has no foundation in the biblical narrative. Even when we dress up this sin and take it to the ball, it is still sin in a fancy dress. This way of understanding the narrative may be more palatable but it is a fiction. No amount of filling out the story with conjectured details can change the fact that David has to sin repeatedly for Uriah to end up dead and Bathsheba to become his wife.

The truth is David sees Bathsheba naked and instead of averting his gaze and respecting her as a person, he lusts after her. Sin. He has her brought to him and he rapes her. Sin. When she becomes pregnant, he tries to trick Uriah into believing the child is his. Sin. He then creates a situation in which Uriah will die in battle, thus freeing Bathsheba up to become his own wife. Sin. Sin. Sin. Sin. Sin. It is all sin. David sins, repeatedly. And with each sin, he creates more and more victims of his sin.

God does not ignore his sin. We cannot ignore his sin. If we think we can ignore David’s sin, then we can ignore our own. We cannot ignore either. There is no amount of justification, that can justify David’s sin away, nor is there enough for ours. We must face David’s sin and we must face our own.

As preachers of the truth we cannot call sin something other than what it is. We cannot blame Bathsheba for what David does. We definitely cannot stand with the abuser against the one he abused, no matter how good or righteous he may be. He may be a man after God’s own heart but he raped a woman and had a man murdered because he could not control his own lust. David sinned. Please, in your teaching and preaching this week do not cover this over, do not sweep it under the rug, do not justify it or clarify it. Let us hurt with Bathsheba and let us be disappointed in our hero who not only fails us, but fails God and fails Bathsheba in everything at every turn throughout this narrative.