Friday, April 04, 2008

When David Acts Saulish

In order to get Uriah out of the way, David orders Joab to place Uriah in the fiercest fighting, then to withdraw from him. David seeks to use the battle to kill faithful Uriah.

David here seems to be re-enacting Saul's strategem against David himself: "Saul then said, 'Thus you shall say to David, "The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king's enemies."' Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines" (1 Sam 18.25).

Perhaps David even got the idea of what to do to Uriah from what Saul attempted to do to him.

Even more, David's humility (or is it his shrewedness?) initially confounds Saul's designs. When Saul offers Merab to David, David initially declines, saying, "Who am I, and what is my life or my father's family in Israel, that I should be the king's son-in-law?" (1 Sam 18.18).

Similarly, in an attempt first to cover up his sin with (a now pregnant) Bathsheba, David brings Uriah back to Jerusalem, with the expectation that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba, and thereby provide cover for her pregnancy. But Uriah's sense of honor and humility will not allow him to go to his wife and his home while "The ark and Israel and Judah" are in the field campaigning (2 Sam 11.11).

Ironically, even in his evil, David is better at achieving his objectives than the clumsy Saul. Saul simply trusts the Philistines to kill David in the ordinary course of the fighting. But David insures that Uriah will die in battle by ordering his own troops to withdraw from Uriah in the midst of the fighting, thereby dooming him with certainty.


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