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Clear Words

The Bible Reading Club: Clear Words – The fruit of giving (2 Samuel 12:8)

Today’s Reading: 2 Samuel 12-14

Today’s Reflection: 2 Samuel 12:8

And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more

Many people (mostly men) take this text to mean that God would happily have given David more wives had he wanted them.  But truly in light of what God demonstrates in Genesis, and Jesus reiterates in the Gospels about one man and one woman united in marriage, this interpretation doesn’t make complete sense.  So what is it saying?

Let’s begin by making clear that David’s adultery with Bathsheba was a heinous sin against God.  His refusal to repent immediately made this the one and only instance when David was considered by God to be unfaithful towards Him (1 Kings 15:5).  When Nathan the prophet confronted David about his sin, he relayed this profoundly misunderstood message from God.

The key to understanding this text is “if this were too little”.  It’s more than a matter of whether more than one wife is allowed by God.  It’s a question of the God-given desire within David.  Did David, as led by God, truly desire Bathsheba as a wife?  If he had then yes God would have happily fulfilled the desire he had placed within David—just as God had previously made it possible for David to marry Abigail, a woman who had impressed him with her excellent character but who had been married to another man when they first met (see 1 Samuel 25).

Now if you look at David’s conduct towards Bathsheba, it isn’t that of a man considering a potential wife.  His behaviour is that of a man hiring a prostitute.  He’s home when all of the other men are off to war – likely why Bathsheba was bathing nude on the rooftop in the first place (there should have been no men to spy on her).  He sees her naked and immediately sends for her—no knowledge of her character or personality, just of her, um, assets.   He sends for her for one reason and one reason only: to have sex with her.  Then once he’s gotten what he wanted he sends her away and has absolutely no contact with her until she informs him she’s pregnant with his child.

Even after being forced to recognize her David still treats Bathsheba like a problem to be solved rather than a person going through possibly the most intimate and vulnerable experience a human being can go through.  Instead of feeling a man’s support for her well-being Bathsheba becomes embroiled in a man’s schemes to protect himself, including attempted fraud against her own husband.  In contrast, with Abigail, David was always respectful, even while she was married and though her husband Nabal was a foolish man greatly inferior to David.  When Abigail became a widow, David respectfully requested her hand in marriage and took her as a wife. So a critical part of David’s sin was the disrespectful and disreputable way he treated Bathsheba—regarding her as an amusement rather than as a person.

But after their child died, the Bible says David went to comfort Bathsheba.  Even though he had already had sex with Bathsheba, fulfilling the physical dimension of the marital covenant, this moment was the first time David treated her like a wife.  It was the first time he put her needs and her feelings ahead of his own.  And it was in this moment that Bathsheba conceived Solomon.

2 Samuel 12:24 – Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him.

The Bible says the Lord loved Solomon, but I don’t think this is suggesting God loved him more than David and Bathsheba’s first child. I believe what it’s really saying is that the Lord recognized and honoured Solomon as a product of love, rather than David and Bathsheba’s first child who had been a product of lust.

God blessed Solomon, the fruit of giving, rather than the fruit of taking.  This was a sign to David and to us, and shows us just how far the consequences of our choices can go.  Selflessness and giving brings about blessings.  Greed and taking brings about tragedy.  Let this understanding guide you in your choices.

Acts 20:35(b) – Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

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