Here is one of the stories we don’t learn in Sunday School. The lovely Bathsheba caught David’s eye. Being king, he could have anything or anyone he wanted, and he wanted her. Unfortunately, she was already married. But this didn’t matter to David. He had her brought to his home where he slept with her and she became pregnant.
At first, he tried to trick Uriah into sleeping with his wife so that the origin of the baby would not be found out. (Yeah, that’s what “wash your feet” really means.) But men active in war did not have relations, so Uriah would not lay with his wife.
In order to keep Bathsheba as his own, and to keep his indiscretion secret, David had Uriah sent to the front lines of battle, where he was sure to be killed. Once Uriah was dead and Bathsheba’s mourning was over, he brought her up to become his queen.
So why don’t we teach this story? We want so badly to believe there are good people and bad people; saints and sinners. We want to believe David was one of the best kinds of people. At Christmas we celebrate David as the one whose descendant would become the Messiah. It’s hard to reconcile Jesus’ ancestor and highly esteemed king could do such a despicable thing. But nobody is fully saint nor fully sinner. We are all a blending of both. We all do despicable things. We all do honorable things. This story must be one that we tell because it tells the story of humanity – messy, ugly, beautiful, flawed, brilliant, and everything in between.
2 Samuel 11:1-26
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting; and he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling the king all the news about the fighting, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech son of Jerubbaal? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead too.’” So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king’s servants are dead; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; press your attack on the city, and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.” When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.