Forthright Magazine

Trying to cover-up sin

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In it he wrote, ‘Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and die.’” (2 Samuel 11:14-15 NIV)

Who was Uriah and why did David want him dead? Some might respond that he was the husband of Bathsheba. But there is more to Uriah than this statement of fact. That the king would order the death of any of his soldiers is bad enough. But when you realise who Uriah was, it makes it even worse.

When David was in exile he had a group of men around him that are referred to as “his mighty men” – these are listed in 2 Samuel 23 along with some of their exploits. There were some who were exceptional, who were known as “The Three” and “The Thirty” (although there were really 37). The last name listed in “The Thirty” was Uriah the Hittite.

So, when David gave the order that Uriah should die in battle, it wasn’t just another soldier: this was one of the men who had been loyal to David long before he became king. This is someone who David knew and knew well. What led to his ordering not only a friend but a close friend to die?

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman washing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant.’” (2 Samuel 11:2-5 NIV)

David had seen a beautiful woman bathing on her rooftop. A place that should have been safe from prying eyes wasn’t safe from David’s eyes because his palace was situated on top of the hill overlooking that area of Jerusalem. He saw her and desired her, even though he learned that she was the wife of his trusted friend Uriah. Sadly there is nothing in the text that indicates that Bathsheba rejected David’s advances. The result of their night together was that she became pregnant.

David’s first thought was to cover it up. He sent to have Uriah brought back from the frontlines where he was fighting with the army. Surely he would jump at a chance to spend the night with his wife whom he had not seen for quite a while! That way the baby could be passed off as his. What David had not counted on was that Uriah was a conscientious man. “Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!’” (2 Samuel 11:11)

The next night David got Uriah drunk, thinking he would stumble home to his wife. Once again, failure: Uriah fell asleep where the servants slept. Seeming to have no other alternative, David ordered Uriah to be left to be killed in battle. And this is what happened.

The problem when we sin is that we will eventually be found out. The most private of sins can be discovered even when we think we have covered it up and that no one could have possibly seen us or known about it. If we are not discovered in this life, we need to remember that God still knows because he sees everything. If we do not deal with our sin in this life, God will judge us on the Day of Judgement when we will have to answer for our sins. God will right all wrongs.

House discovered on hill beneath David’s palace in Jerusalem. Photo by Jon Galloway.

Readings for next week: 2 Samuel 3-11


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