David and Bath Sheba

1) II Sam 11:1

What is the function of this verse?

How is David conducting the current war?  Compare it with the ascent of the ark.  Has anything changed in his approach?

Throughout the reading:

Pay attention to the מילים מנחות milim manhot (guiding words).  Such a word will appear frequently in a unit and highlight a theme of the story.  Since Hebrew works by roots of words, a root may appear in several different verbal forms and be considered a ‘guiding word.’  While this idea is common in Midrash, which will often make linguistic links within and between sections, it is Martin Buber that coined the term.  Look for some such words throughout our reading.  (Try it in the Hebrew as well. Once you think that you have found it, even if not in the Hebrew, look for it in the Hebrew.  You will probably find the root in the Hebrew text.)

2) II Sam 11:2-6

At what time is the story beginning?

In what light is David portrayed here?  Try to pinpoint how the narrator achieved this.

Topography:  Where is David watching from?  Where is the beautiful woman washing herself?  Remember that it is likely that the palace was in the highest point of the city (perhaps rivaled by a sanctuary at a higher location.)

Who is the woman?  The narrator tells us a lot about her family (‘yichus’ is an old Jewish tradition).  Here are some sources that will give you the information that the narrator assumed that you were aware of:  David’s Giborim (his elite soldiers) are listed in II Sam 23.  Check out vv 34-39.  How might this information be relevant to Bath Sheba’s life?

Were the sexual relation coerced (rape) or consentual?  (Forget current day view of the situation.  Focus on the language of the text, try the Hebrew.  You can compare it with Dina in Gen 34:2 and the rape of Tamar in II Sam 13:14.)

What is the guiding word in this section?  What does it add to the story?

3) II Sam 11:5-15

What is David’s initial plan to get out of this problematic situation?

How does he try to make sure that Uriah goes home?

Uriah spends at least 2 nights in Jerusalem, none of which he spends at home.  Could something have happened on the first night that reinforce this behavior for the second night?  Try to prove it from the text.

What makes David’s new plan extra sinister?

What 2 words (a verb and a noun) are the guiding words of this section?  What do they highlight?

4) II Sam 11:16-27

Does Joab follow the instructions sent by David?  Why?

Joab has to get the message to David that Uriah died without awakening suspicion.  What message is the messenger suppose to deliver?  Note how carefully structured it is, and that Joab even anticipates David’s replies.  However, that Uriah’s death will sooth the irate king probably made no sense to the messenger.

Does the messenger deliver the message as he was told to?  Why?

In vv. 26-27 note 3 things:  Bath Sheba appears only by title?  Why?  The narrator makes sure that we know that David is the father of the baby.  How?  We finally have God in the picture.

In light of Uriah in this story and of the role played by Obed-Edom the Gitite (last class):

What is their tribal(?) affiliation?

What does it tell us about David?

5) II Sam 12:1-7

This is one of the most famous parables in the Bible.  What is David’s reaction to Nathan’s parable?

Why did Nathan choose a parable to get the message across?

6) II Sam 12:8-15

What do you imagine was David’s reaction to Nathan’s accusation in v.7?  To David’s credit, what did he not do?

What is the main crime of David?

What will be the penalty?

7) II Sam 12:16-25

What does David’s behavior around the child’s illness tell us about him?

Whose birth do we hear about at the end of the story?

Compare 12:24 with 11:27.  What function do these verses serve in the story?

8) II Sam 12:26-31

What is the function of this passage?

We might not like the war descriptions, but it was probably considered perfectly normal at the time.

9)  If you are interested, the parallel section is found in I Chronicles 20:1-3.  What is missing?  Why?

Bringing it all together:

This class seemed to focus on a very personal story.  But it is the details in such stories that reveal the reality of life. What did you find about David as an individual and as a monarch?  What was life like in Jerusalem of that period?  What in the reality of life made this story possible?  Finally, notice that the story was recorded and entered into the Tanakh.  Why?  By whom?  What could we have expected should have happened to this story?

For Inquiring Minds…..

This section is intended to give you some background material.  Enjoy it or ignore it J.

  1. About Bath Sheba’s Yichus; two more links in the treasure hunt:
    1. I Chronicles 27:33 should give you some more information about Bath Sheba’s grandfather.
    2. II Sam 16:20-17:14, 23 gives his role during the rebellion of Absalom, David’s son, against David.  What is odd about his involvement?
  2. About Joab’s reference to other biblical-military events:
    1. The story referred to in II Sam 11:21 is found in Judges 9:50-57.
    2. After having read the story in Judges, what is ironic about Joab’s retelling of the story (to the messenger to deliver to David)?
    3. In what subtle way(s) is the story in Judges relevant to our story?
  3. The penalty that David declares fitting for the man who took the poor man’s sheep is a four-fold payback.   To see whether all of it comes true you will have to read until the end of II Samuel. (I highly recommend reading it if you have never done so.)  As you examine that material notice the four children that David will lose:
    1. Bath Sheba’’s first baby.
    2. Tamar who is raped by her half brother, Amnon.
    3. Amnon who is killed by Absalom in revenge for having raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar.
    4. Absalom, who is killed by Joab and his men as a result of his rebellion against his father, David.

Go to Next Class – Long Live the King

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