Saturday, March 13, 2010

2 Samuel 11-21: Things Go Downhill

In an effort to catch up to where I've read, I'm doing a very large section today.  The good news is there's a theme to these 11 chapters: bad stuff happens.

Now, I am going to disagree with the heading my Bible has for chapter 11.  It calls this chapter "Bathsheba, David's Great Sin."  I would like to inform Zondervan that Bathsheba was not a sin, she was a person; David sleeping with her and murdering her husband, was a sin.  Remember what I said about David and his relationship with women?  This is the part where we see what happens when power goes to a guy's head and when he gets into the habit of having any woman he wants, no matter how recently widowed she is (Abigail) or who else she's currently married to (Michal, although to be fair she was David's wife first).  As much as I love David, at this point he's gotten kind of fat and lazy.  He's supposed to be out at war (apparently it was a regular yearly function for kings, maybe like the Olympics?).  But he stays home - mistake #1.  He's checking out his view and he sees a lady on the roof taking a bath.  Why she was taking a bath on the roof, I have no idea.  Now, I don't want to be too hard on David.  I'm sure it would have been hard not to look.  But he was a married guy - actually a multiply-married guy - and he could look at any of them any time he wanted.  But instead of remembering that, he kept looking at Bathsheba - mistake #2.  Then he asked about her and found out she was married, to one of his best soldiers, no less (he's listed at the end as one of the "mighty men"), which should have been a major red light, but no, he invites the married woman to his house - mistake #3.  He sleeps with her, mistake #4.  When she gets pregnant, he tries tricking her husband into sleeping with her, but he is too honorable to have a good time while his fellow soldiers are at war.  Uriah is a more righteous dude than David is at this point.  So David arranges with dear Joab for Uriah to die in battle - mistake #5.

Now David's got a dead guy and a pregnant widow on his hands; at least he has the decency to marry her after her period of mourning is over (a courtesy he didn't make with Abigail, but her husband was a jerk and it doesn't say anything about mourning him).

Anyway, you know what happens.  His pastor comes and tells him a story to get David to realize what an idiot he is; he wises up and repents.  God forgives him, but there is a consequence: Bathsheba's baby dies.

But since Bathsheba isn't David's only marital sin, she's also not his only problem.  Some time after that, one of his sons falls in love with one of David's daughters (they're half-brother and sister) - yet another reason why polygamy is a bad idea.  He rapes her and sends her away in disgrace.  The woman's name is Tamar - ironically, the last Tamar we saw in the Bible was also a victim of incest - and she happens to have a big brother named Absalom.  Ring a bell?  It should.  Absalom kills his half-brother (Amnon) for raping his sister, and then he gets banished.  But clueless David only cares about how much he misses Absalom, so he mopes around until Joab convinces him to un-banish Absalom.  Then Absalom starts a conspiracy to take over the crown.

Absalom gets pretty much all Israel (minus Judah) to support him, and things get tense to the point that David has to evacuate Jerusalem and go into hiding again.  David goes on the run once more.

Remember our friend Meph from last time?  He has a servant - well, he was really Saul's servant - named Ziba.  Ziba comes to David and tells him that Meph has stayed in Jerusalem thinking he was going to reclaim Saul's throne.  David then decrees that all Meph's property will go to Ziba.  This story really discouraged me because I liked Meph, but the story isn't over yet; there's a twist later on.

David passes some city and a guy curses him.  One of his followers requests permission to impale him, but David says to just let it go.  Around this time, Absalom enters Jerusalem.  It looks like he's going to become king.

Then Absalom's people get advice from two counselor-type people.  One of them, who is like a really important prophet , tells Absalom to sleep with David's concubines, and so he does - in view of all the city.  This is actually a fulfillment of something God told David would happen as a result of his sin with Bathsheba.  But this prophet also tells Absalom to send an army after David's men until they run away and David is left alone.  Absalom considers this, then gets advice from another guy.  The other guy says David's men will never desert, and that Absalom himself should ride in battle with everyone in the whole country and basically overwhelm David's tiny crew.  Absalom decides this advice is better.  Then the author gives us a little commentary: he says that the first guy's advice was actually better, but that God was planning to thwart the good advice and bring calamity on Absalom.

Then the second guy who gave advice goes and warns David about the advice he gave, so David is prepared ahead of time.  He tells all his soldiers to spare Absalom for his sake, and everybody knows everybody hears it.  Then somebody tells Joab that Absalom got stuck in a tree and is hanging there.  Joab tells the guy he should've killed him but the guy says no way, you heard David.  So what does our pal Joab do?  He finds Absalom and sticks him with three javelins, then has his minions finish the job.

David finds out about this, and of course he is really sad.  Joab mouths off to David and tells him not to mope about his son's brutal murder, and does Joab get in trouble? No!  David actually listens to Joab and tries to brighten up to improve his P.R.  But finally, when David gets back to Jerusalem, he replaces Joab with another army commander.  Maybe he doesn't know Joab killed his son.

Then we hear from Meph again.  We fight out that Ziba is a dirty liar and Jerusalem only didn't leave with David because, well, apparently he couldn't.  He's crippled, remember?  So David has Meph and Ziba divide Saul's property - I'm not sure why, because Ziba lied.  Maybe David couldn't tell who was telling the truth.    But Meph actually offers for Ziba to take all the land, because all he cares about is that David is home safe.  I like Meph.  I think he's a good guy.

So, we think that things are going to settle down now, but some random person revolts against David.  Amasa, the new army commander, takes all the people out.  But Joab, the little weasel, goes up to Amasa to hug him, and whilst hugging him, he stabs him with a sword and kills him.  What a jerk!  And so Joab assumes command over David's army, just like he did before.

Finally, there are some Gibeonites who have a grudge because Saul tried to kill them all, so David says he'll give them whatever they want.  They want seven men from Saul's family to be given to them to kill them, and David says okay.  What?  I don't know why that's okay, but there you go.  He doesn't give them Meph, but apparently there are 7 other relatives of Jonathan that David didn't provide for.  I find that really interesting.

So almost everything that could have gone wrong for David, has gone wrong now.  The moral of this story is, what goes around comes around.  David was messed up in his relationships with women, and it came out in his children's relationships with him and with each other.  The other moral of this story is, Joab is a jerk and he should be fired!  I am really upset that he's still alive right now.  Hopefully that won't last for long.

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