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2 Samuel 12:15b-23, Bathsheba’s Child Dies

Narrative Lectionary Key Verse for Today

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died.
— 2 Samuel 12:15b-18a

NL Daily Devotion for Monday, October 22, 2018

 grieving parents at headstone memorial

by Daniel D. Maurer, Clergy Stuff


If we were to put together a book highlighting a compilation of all the “darker” stories in the Bible, this story would definitely make it in the top ten.

David and Bathsheba’s child, the fruit of their adulterous relationship, had been struck down. The actor in striking the child down was God. The Bible itself says so. I find this extremely disturbing. It was no fault of the child’s that he was the firstborn son of an illegitimate relationship. Still, Nathan had prophesied that such a terrible thing would come to pass, and God followed through on the threat, even after David had fasted and plead to God to save the child’s life.

It’s tough to make anything out of this! What are we to learn in a daily devotional using this text? That God can be really mean to our innocent ones if we’re the ones at fault? I honestly don’t know.

There are several commentaries I read online interpreting this passage. They all seem to work mental and spiritual gymnastics to make David the bad guy. Well, that much is obvious—David did commit adultery and the penalty for that in ancient Israel was death. But . . . the kid?!

For anyone who has ever lost a child to illness or accident, I cannot see how it would ever be the answer to state that it was the parents’ sins who condemned the child and that God was the actor in bringing about a child’s death. Certainly, I would have never stated that to a grieving couple when I still served as a pastor!

How to interpret this, then? We’re back at square one. I remember a lecture once while I was in seminary. The professor stated that sometimes the theological conclusions an author reaches in any particular story in the Bible are wrong. This struck me—the Bible? Wrong? Well, yes. Not as a whole document and the whole of scripture and its message, but some particular conclusions are wrong!

With aspects about cosmology, for instance. None of us would think twice that the Bible is flat out wrong stating that the world is flat! (See what I did?)

With the death of a child, and God the one doing it? That’s a bit tougher. I choose to believe that the consequences may have set the stage for what happened to Bathsheba and David’s child. Not God.

Interpretation of scripture can be really hard sometimes. What’s your view? Please leave a comment below!


Narrative Lectionary Daily Reading:

2 Samuel 12:15b-23

Then Nathan went to his house. The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill. David therefore pleaded with God for the child; David fasted, and went in and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his house stood beside him, urging him to rise from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 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, “While the child was still alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us; how then can we tell him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.” But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, he perceived that the child was dead; and David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” Then David rose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. 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. Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you rose and ate food.” He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me, and the child may live.’ 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.”

Related & Recent Posts

 
Earlier Event: October 21
2 Samuel 12:1-9, David and Bathsheba
Later Event: October 23
2 Samuel 12:24-25, Solomon Is Born