Old TestamentGospel Doctrine lesson 24- 2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51

As I gather most people are past these chapters, and I happen to be crazy busy, I am not updating them as much as I (and perhaps you) hoped.

First, take a look at my separate post on Psalm 51. Second, here is my podcast on these chapters. I strongly recommend taking a listen/look, because it’s the counterbalance to what is below.

I’ve often seen Gospel Doctrine lessons end up debating whether David or Bathsheba was to “blame” for this. The answer is probably, in some sense, both, though not at all distributed evenly; to be clear, while the vast majority of responsibility lies with David, Bathsheba is unlikely to be completely blameless. Here, though, the text is simply not interested in exploring how Bathsheba managed to engaged in a ritual bath (normally a full-immersion miqveh) in a way that was visible to David. These baths, in a city, tended not to be public or visible, but this is making assumptions off norms. One scholar says, “There is no real reason to assume that Bathsheba actually intended to be seen by the king”- Word Biblical Commentary on 2 Samuel.

On the other hand, “The reason for Bathsheba’s bathing in a place where she could be seen is not explored by the narrator, whose only concern at this point is with the irresponsible actions of the king.” ZIBBCOT. That is, the text simply doesn’t care to answer this question.

The character of Bathsheba and her motivations are particularly puzzling. The author gives no clues to the emotions of a woman who commits adultery, becomes pregnant, loses her husband, and marries her royal lover. From a literary perspective, according to Berlin, Bathsheba is simply an agent, a person necessary for the plot, and not a full-fledged character. Since 2 Samuel 11 is a story about David’s adultery, and since such a story requires a married woman, Bathsheba fulfills this function.- “Bathsheba” Anchor Bible Dictionary

Bathsheba later shows that she is politically ambitious as well as clever, leading some scholars to suggest that in this first episode, “David and Bathsheba are co-conspirators in a political scheme to marry.” (Ibid.) This, however, is beyond the point. Clearly, regardless of Bathsheba’s emotions or intentions here, this is the Ancient Near East and David is The King. That is an extremely asymmetrical divide of social power between the man and woman in this relationship. David is the one who is not where he should be (namely, at the front per 2SA 11:1; it was normal for the king to walk about on his flat roof), David is the one who pursues the relationship and indeed, David is the only one with the power to do so, and it is abuse of power.

Regardless of the specifics, this temporal clause [in v.1] clearly places the events of chapter 11 in the historical context of David’s Ammonite wars given in chapter 10, so that the military action of 11:1 is intended to finish what was begun by Hanun and his Aramean allies. In striking irony, David is thus described as performing his rightful (and righteous) role as king of Israel; that is, he is defending the nation against those who want to destroy her (1 Sam. 9:16). The irony, of course, is that David stays home, and rather than defend his subjects, he abuses them (i.e., Bathsheba and her family)….

So what is David doing in Jerusalem? Approximately one year after the Ammonites start the conflict, while Joab and the army are risking their lives for the good of the nation, David is at home “killing time.”

-Arnold, The NIV Application Commentary, 1&2 Samuel, 523.

Much like today’s #MeToo environment, the focus of the text is on the mismatch of power and the misuse of that power by a man in a position of authority.

Since the rest of my commentary would be repetition of my podcast, let me save time by pointing you that direction again. I’ll also include this excerpt from a book I’ve recommended before. The Protestant authors are more conservative than I am, and I disagree with some of their readings (e.g. “the text never says, or even suggests, that she was Jewish” runs against every commentary I’ve seen and the clear implication of her purification in 11:4), but it is useful in illustrating some cultural differences. They use the story to illustrate differing conceptions of honor and shame. It’s a good book and one I continue to recommend. Richards and O’Brian, Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

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3 thoughts on “Old TestamentGospel Doctrine lesson 24- 2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51

  1. I’m trying to get a handle on whether David’s sin with Uriah (murder) was unpardonable (see D&C 132:27, 39) or whether the only unpardonable sin is the knowing rejection of the Holy Ghost.

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    1. Step aside of unclear Mormon “doctrine” for a moment and realize David by psalm 51’s confession is forgiven for his murder and adultery and confirmed by God in ” David is a man after God’s own heart.”

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    2. Bruce McConkie:
      “Murderers are forgiven eventually but only in the sense that all sins are forgiven except the sin against the Holy Ghost; they are not forgiven in the sense that celestial salvation is made available to them. After they have paid the full penalty for their crime, they shall go on to a telestial inheritance.”

      Revelation 22 describes David’s sin, who adulterated, lied, and killed:
      14 “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.
      15 For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.”

      D&C 76 applies repeatedly to David and his forgiveness:
      83 “These [of telestial glory] are they who deny not the Holy Spirit.
      84 These are they who are thrust down to hell.
      85 These are they who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection, until the Lord, even Christ the Lamb, shall have finished his work.
      […]
      89 And thus we saw, in the heavenly vision, the glory of the telestial, which surpasses all understanding;

      […]
      103 These [of telestial glory] are they who are liars, and sorcerers, and adulterers, and whoremongers, and whosoever loves and makes a lie.
      104 These are they who suffer the wrath of God on earth.
      105 These are they who suffer the vengeance of eternal fire.
      106 These are they who are cast down to hell and suffer the wrath of Almighty God, until the fulness of times, when Christ shall have subdued all enemies under his feet, and shall have perfected his work”

      So, this is “spirit prison”, or LDS “purgatory”, that is said to have an end to its misery through Christ, and result in incomprehensibly glorious salvation tempered by lost opportunities for “exaltation” and “enlargement”, which essentially mean, as per D&C 132, both sharing godly “dominion” (“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” – Rev. 3:21) and future creativity of life and family (“which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever” – D&C 132:19). It is not equal with the unpardonable sin.

      D&C 132:27 says,
      “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which shall not be forgiven in the world nor out of the world, is in that ye
      [1] commit murder wherein ye shed innocent blood, and
      [2] assent unto my death,
      [3] after ye have received my new and everlasting covenant…”

      Matthew 12:
      31 “…All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
      32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

      Also, refusing to forgive others precludes repentance and forgiveness (as in Matthew 6:15, Luke 6:37, and elsewhere), but it’s not clear that this sin reaches the seriousness of “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” rather than the forgivable “all manner of sin and blasphemy … against the Son of man”.

      So, according to 132:27, in order for a murderer to expect to lose all hope of possible forgiveness instead of earthly punishment (the scriptural penalty was, of course, death), a temporary hell, and then possible forgiveness in a limited but still incomprehensible glory, he must kill a completely innocent person, in similitude to and actually AGREEING with the betrayal of Jesus (not some other situation), and must also do so after being in a special covenant relationship with God (not before). …In other words, a willful, Satanic attempt at God-murder in the form of human-murder, a situation completely unapproachable by mere atheism or simple Holy-Ghost-rejection, far past circumstantial, wrathful, or insane homicide, and even beyond genocide (which, again, may be insane or uncomprehending).

      David’s raping/embarrassed husband-murdering/wife-stealing sin was a tragic mistake and fairly extreme, but not that extreme, not a campaign of God-betrayal. Even Apostle Judas, a prototype for this sin, may not have measured up to it. Especially if one humours the now disfavoured doctrine of “blood atonement” (basically capital punishment as the only just recompense for murder), and considers his apparently poor mental health, Judas at least seemed to recognize his sin, backtrack on his assent, and try to make amends, the only seeming pathway for which was his own suicide.

      So redhat333 above was right, in a way. David being “after God’s heart” was a statement spoken of him in his youth, obviously not an eternal guarantee of sinlessness or a pre-emptive forgiveness of all possible sins. But David’s penitence surely was necessary for his eventual forgiveness, “not being left in hell”. In relation with his Psalmic confession (made upon Nathan’s visit), he was forgiven to the point of being spared from immediate death (“Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”), though he was not spared three other curses: losing his wives, losing his new child, and losing his dynasty — nor, in LDS doctrine, was his murder magically forgiven because of his great personality. Even so, it WAS a great personality, given the constraints of his culture, and we can only hope that heavenly mercy for David, for his victim Uriah, and for all other sinners everywhere, will indeed surpass our understanding. Otherwise, we’re all equally dead men, and dust.

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