Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Olympian Gods in David's Life (2 Samuel 11)

Yahweh has Samuel anoint Saul as first king of Israel. He later comes to regret this decision and so has Samuel anoint the David of the unimportant village of Bethlehem, the eighth and youngest son of Jesse, a shepherd, as king in place of Saul. By the power of the Holy Spirit which rushes upon David at that moment, Yahweh enables David to become king of Israel, center that kingdom in the new capital city of Jerusalem, subdue all traditional enemies of Israel, bring the Ark of the Covenant into the city, and even have his descendants established as dynastic rulers of Israel (1 Samuel 16-2 Samuel 10). 

Had the story ended there, everyone would have lived happily ever after. Instead, David commits adultery with Bathsheba while her husband Uriah is off fighting with the army of Israel. When Bathsheba informs David she was pregnant, David tries to hide his infidelity by calling Uriah back to Jerusalem and sending him home to Bathsheba. When Uriah refuses to find comfort in the arms of his wife while his companions are in combat, David has Uriah sent back to the front and placed where the fighting is fiercest so that he will be killed by the enemy. He is. 

For this story of David to serve us as a cautionary tale, we need to reflect on how false, conventional, yet malicious Olympian gods managed to corrupt David even though he was Yahweh’s anointed king of Yahweh’s people Israel. 

David’s troubles begin when he commits adultery. This brings up Venus: goddess of sex or self-centered love. David accidentally sees a woman bathing and notes she is beautiful (2 Samuel 11:2). He inquires and is told she is Bathsheba wife of Uriah (v. 3). David sends for her and lies with her (v. 4). David knows that committing adultery breaks the seventh of Yahweh’s Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14). He does it anyway. It is Venus who tempts him and provides the justification he needs to break Yahweh’s commandment. According to her, sexual intercourse between anyone at any time is good. 

Justifying murder, however, is a separate question involving a different Olympian god. It is Jupiter, god of politics, who tempts David and provides the justification he needs to plot and execute, with malice aforethought, the death of Uriah. David is king. As far as Jupiter is concerned, David can do anything he wants. He is not subject to any law; quite the contrary, his word is law. So David has Uriah, a potential source of embarrassment, eliminated despite knowing that he is breaking the sixth of Yahweh’s Ten Commandments.

Yahweh does not enjoy David’s destructive behavior—especially when it is being justified by David’s sinful loyalty to other gods. So Yahweh, unimpressed by David’s abuse of power, sends a man of his own—the prophet Nathan—to confront David. Yahweh, now as then, raises up ordinary people to challenge those suffering delusions of grandeur. Nathan confronts David with his sin and its harmful consequences (2 Samuel 12:1-2). 

The other god involved in this sordid little story? He’s indicated in the opening sentence of 2 Samuel 11: In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war… Yes, Uriah was away from his wife because David had him, and so many others, doing the bidding of Mars, god of war. How the gods love to work together to our harm.

Copyright © 2022 by Steven Farsaci.
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