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There Was a History

by Tim O'Hearn

Sometimes we look at things as if they happen independently of anything else, like in a bubble. For instance, Americans think of the War of 1812 as a conflict between Britain and the recently-formed United States. Usually it is only the historians that look at it as part of the larger global conflict of the Napoleonic Wars. We might listen to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture on the Fourth of July as a rousing background for cannon fire and fireworks. We don’t usually make the jump to the realization that the conflict in Russia commemorated by that work and the conflict between Great Britain and the United States were related. (The War of 1812 was fought because the British were impressing Americans into their navies in order to help them fight Napoleon.) We look at the American bubble only. Sometimes we are the same way with incidents in the Bible.

One particular incident stands out. We look at David’s affair with Bathsheba in a bubble, when there was probably much more to it.

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 enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. (2 Sam 11)

When David found out about her pregnancy, he essentially murdered her husband. Uriah was, after all, a Hittite and not an Israelite. He then marries Bathsheba. The child dies, but a subsequent child, Solomon, becomes the next and greatest King of Israel.

That is the bubble we see. But there was probably more to it than this. This passage makes it look like David did not know who she was. But how could he not know? He had probably met her frequently at state dinners or other social events. Just look at her pedigree.

Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was one of David’s “Mighty Men.” (2 Sam 23:39; 1 Chron 11:41) These were not mere soldiers; they were special forces. It is not inconceivable that David socialized with these men and their wives.

But it goes beyond that. Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, probably by a wife named Sheba. (Bathsheba translates as the daughter of Sheba.) Eliam, also one of the Mighty Men, was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite. (2 Sam 23:34) This Ahithophel was one of David’s counselors, whose counsel “was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God.” (2 Sam 16:23) As the granddaughter of a chief counselor, she was probably known to David from her childhood. When David saw her bathing next door he may not have realized that this was “little Bathsheba” all grown up.

David probably knew Bathsheba as a child. He may have known her as an adult, married to one of his generals. The lust he felt for her in this incident may have been growing for some time.

Sin can sneak up on us like that. Something unremarkable may suddenly become the most remarkable thing in our lives. As with David, it is what we do with it that makes a difference. We can put it in a bubble and say it won’t ever happen again. Or we can recognize the history that led us to sin.