We continue working through difficult passages of the Bible. Let me be clear that I begin with the belief that God is good but He is also Holy and “wholly different” from us. Thus, His actions are often confusing and this series is an attempt to try to understand the actions recorded in Scripture that tend to befuddle us.
Last week we asked why God “gave” David multiple wives and came to the provisional conclusion that the verse was referring to the conquests of other kingdoms, which included taking the wives of the vanquished king. However, there is no evidence that David actually slept with these wives but may have simply cared for them in line with the teaching of the Old Testament.
But we also saw last week that God punishes David by killing the child of David and Bathsheba. Doesn’t that seem harsh? The pertinent text reads:
And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
One of my former profs argued that God wants to kill David but can’t because He has covenanted with Him, so the baby must take David’s place. I have a hard time believing that God has put Himself in to such a horrendous position.
As scholar Robert Bergen points out, the child dies on the 7th day. That is significant because Jewish males were to be circumcised on the 8th day. The child is therefore “cut off” from the covenant blessing in response to David violating said covenant. But does that mean the child’s soul is doomed? Not necessarily.
Scripture seems to indicate that non-Israelites like Rahab would be saved. Thus, the only clear punishment is against David and Bathsheba and, despite their grievous sin, God grants them another child (2 Samuel 12:24-25).
It is important to note that this tragic episode also points to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. In the end, David, Bathsheba and possibly even their fallen child are saved by the death of the son of God not because of His sin but because of ours. God the Father felt more anguish as His son suffered and died on the cross than David felt and He felt it in order to save us all from punishment.
Tune back next week for another tough passage of Scripture. Until then, grace and peace.