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…David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
1 Kings 15:5 ESV
Was there plausible reason for David to remain at home while his troops went to war? And why was he wandering around the palace roof? And – I ask this one as seriously and respectfully as I know how – why was Bathsheba bathing in public?
And what do we do with the rest of what happens during 2 Samuel 11-12 in light of God’s thoughts about David as recorded above in the opening passage of this post? 
For this final Sunday of April, His Own Heart is diverging just a bit from its general routine to wrestle with some nagging questions.
But we’re diverging for a good reason.
The ESV Archeological Study Bible, Crossway Publishing, 2,048 pages, ISBN 978-1-4335-5040-9
This week’s post will be published just hours before The ESV Archeological Study Bible officially hits shelves in local bookstores. Crossway, the publisher of the project – as well as a few online retailers – have made it available for pre-order over the past month. I was excited to finally receive a copy of my own and find that it meets the description from the publisher’s website. The project, says Crossway:

roots the biblical text in its historical and cultural context, offering readers a framework for better understanding the people, places, and events recorded in Scripture. With editorial oversight from Dr. John Currid (PhD, University of Chicago) and Dr. David Chapman (PhD, University of Cambridge), as well as contributions from a team of field-trained archaeologists, the Archaeology Study Bible assembles a range of modern scholarship—pairing the biblical text with over 2,000 study notes, 400 full-color photographs, 200 maps and diagrams, 200 sidebars, 15 articles, and 4 timelines. These features bring life to the ancient texts, helping readers situate them in their historical context while recognizing the truth that the eternal God became flesh entered human history at a specific time and in a specific place.

While Crossway’s words are spot on, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that neither their remarks nor any formal review I could write would absolutely, without a doubt, convince you – from individual believers to small groups to Sunday school classes to pulpits, to go out and get this Bible.
And I so want you to go out and get this Bible.
So if you’ll stick with me this week, I’d like to show you the value of The ESV Archeological Study Bible within the context of my thoughts on How to Ruin Your Life (and Starting Over When You Do) from B&H Publishing Group.

 

How to Ruin Your Life (and Starting Over When You Do) by Eric Geiger. B&H Books, 208 pages, April 2018. ISBN: 978-1462780914.
In his book released early this month, author Eric Geiger wastes no time getting to the heart of what he wants you to know: you can, in fact, ruin your life. In the process he offers a sobering reminder that many great and godly people allow their lives to implode everyday and – more importantly – that neither himself nor myself nor you are above the risk of having our own lives implode. He follows up with a point all-too-often ignored is our culture today: that we aren’t above bearing the responsibility or ongoing consequences that these implosions bring.

If your life has not yet imploded, my prayer is that the Lord will use the first half of the book to serve as a warning and the second half of the book to motivate you with His grace. If your life has imploded, my prayer is that you will walk away from the book with a helpful view of what happened to your heart and be filled with hope for your future (Geiger, 16).

Geiger uses as his case-in-point the story of Old Testament Israel’s King David, the God-appointed leader whose ruin culminated in adultery and murder. He uses the first part of his text to examine what he deems to be three qualities that weakened the foundation of David’s character and eventually led to self-destruction. Through the pages of David’s fall and redemption, Geiger instructs readers on how to ruin to their lives (so they won’t ruin their lives, he says), and also on how to find hope through Christ’s grace if ruination does occur.
The following excerpt from the book provides a good overview of the point that Geiger, a senior vice president of LifeWay Christian Resources, aims to drive home to his readers:

Just as demolition experts place explosives inside of buildings so they will weaken and implode, there were three explosives on the foundation of David’s life that led to his implosion. These three explosives can lead to your ruin as well. They are easily hidden from those who watch us from a distance, but they threaten to destroy the foundation of our lives.

The three explosives are isolation, boredom, and pride.

First, David was alone. He was isolated. It was the time that kings go off to war, and David remained in Jerusalem. He sent his community away. Friends who would have held him accountable were gone. Friends who would have stopped him from pursuing Bathsheba were nowhere around.

Second, David was bored. He got up from his bed in the middle of the night looking for something, anything. The Lord, on that night, was not enough for Him. He wanted something else, something else to look at, something else to conquer, something else to pursue.

Third, David was filled with pride. When he was told that Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife, David instructed the servant to get her anyway. “I am the king and I get what I want.” In his mind, David deserved whatever he desired. Pride corrupted his heart.
Isolation. Boredom. Pride. They must not be taken lightly. They will ruin a life. (Geiger, 45-46).

Each statement from the previous paragraph is absolutely true; this book should be read and discussed by churches, small groups and individuals alike as a booster of sorts for maintaining spiritual health and guarding against complacency in the life of the Christ-follower. That said, readers would likely benefit even further from Geiger’s theory were he to spend a few more pages digging deeper into the cultural details of the three explosives he cites above.
It’s important that you know up-front that the statement you just read is intended as an observation and not a criticism; some of the best Christian books are those that leave the reader evaluating – and hopefully investigating – points made by the author. In the case of King David, Geiger’s text brought questions to my mind like the ones that opened this post.
While neither this post nor its sources in any way seek to minimalize, condone or describe David’s affair with Bathsheba as anything other than the blatant sin that it was, I did supplement the reading of Geiger’s book with notes and articles from the ESV Archeological Study Bible. And doing so significantly enhanced my understanding of why the scene unfolded as it did.
According to factual timelines, for example, David would have been 20 or 30 years past the usual age of a soldier in this battle. So we can’t exactly bank on an assumption that he was away from his men as a matter of laziness or complacency. Isolation comes in a variety of seemingly legitimate disguises.
According to the notes associated with 2 Samuel, David lived in a culture where a number of tasks took place on the flat roofs of the day. Some of these tasks were good and others not-so-good for an Israelite, as explained in the contributive notes by Catherine McDowell, Ph.D. We should be slow, therefore, to conclude that David ascended to the palace roof out of pure boredom. The point here is that boredom isn’t always prevalent in a person’s life. Left unattended, in fact, it can take root even amid the busy-ness of everyday life.
Dr. McDowell – an instructor for Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary – even addresses the matter of Bathsheba’s bathing habits. (After guiding me through a year of Hebrew language and biblical interpretation, she probably knew I’d be the one who’d need a note on the topic.) As it turns out, the reason behind Bathsheba’s public bath – with her husband away at war, no less – remains a mystery as public bathing wasn’t generally the norm in the Ancient Near Eastern culture or tradition of the day. That being the case, I would suggest that the sight of a person bathing in public would naturally have catch a person’s attention. David obviously didn’t handle the situation well because he didn’t turn away. At times we think we’re strong enough, saved enough, to take one more look – one more step – toward spiritual danger without slipping into the unthinkable. That’s pride that goes before destruction (Proverbs 16:18).
And make no mistake: when one of God’s own children falls, he or she falls hard. They’re in no way down for the count, but hear me as I say this to you in love: they are down for the accountability of their actions. This is the disciplinary consequence of sin that God administers as a loving Father. God held David accountable for adultery and murder. He mapped out the consequences David would face:

“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the Lord, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun’” (2 Samuel 12:10-12 ESV).

We would all do well to notice here that the God Who delivers us from sin when we repent and turn to Him is the same God Who does not deliver us from the consequences of that sin. With the help of Crossway’s new Bible, I watched the curse of the House of David unfold chronologically. Get this:

  • Bathsheba’s son dies (2 Samuel 12:19) and
  • Amnon rapes his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13:10-14) and
  • Absalom kills Amnon for raping Tamar (2 Samuel 13:28-29) and
  • Absalom escapes to a foreign land for three years (2 Samuel 13:38) and
  • Absalom returns (without any recognition from David) to Jerusalem and dwells there for two years before seeing David(2 Samuel 14:28) and
  • Absalom steals the hearts of the people deliberately and rebelliously. Also tries to overthrow father(2 Samuel 15:6) and
  • David has to leave Jerusalem, with the mass of the people against him (2 Samuel 15:14) and
  • Absalom sleeps with ten of David’s concubines (2 Samuel 16:16-22) and
  • Absalom dies in battle in the forest of Ephraim, defeated by David’s forces (2 Samuel 18:6) and
  • Even as David lay on his deathbed, his son Adonijah attempts to take the throne by force, and is later executed as a traitor (I Kings 1:5; 2:25)
Those are some pretty serious consequences, and along with the sin that set them into motion, have led some people to claim that they stand in clear contradiction to 1 Kings 15:5 as printed above. Let me be clear: God’s Word has never and will never contradict itself; sound interpretation skills and a bit of elbow grease show this to be true every time the accusation is made.
The argument often goes like so:
1 Kings 15:5 claims that David was without sin except what he did to Bathsheba and her husband. It credits David with not “turning aside from anything that God commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” The is just not true; it directly goes against even the most basic statements about fallen man like Genesis 6:5 or Jeremiah 17:9or even what Paul says in Romans 3:10–23 plus specific condemnations of David on other occasions. Look at what David said himself after God confronted him for disobedience in (1 Chronicles 21:1); that he had “sinned greatly” (1 Chronicles 21:8).
But in reality, this argument is misinformed, misplaced and, well, it’s just plain wrong. Digging a little deeper into Scripture and making good use of reliable resources, we see that 1 Kings 15:5 by no stretch of the imagination proclaims David to be virtually sinless. Several factors account for this.

 

  • First and foremost, the words in this passage create a general and true characterization of David’s life. Consider this: Job was human and therefore not without sin, yet Scripture describes him as “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1); David’s life was likewise without the major fault of turning away from God.
  • Second, look at the context surrounding the passage. This commendation of David is neither absolute nor is its meaning intended to stand independently apart from that context; rather, the passage is relative to the plethora of sins that Abijam commits (see 1 Kings 15:1, 3). With the glaring and consequential exception of his sins involving Bathsheba, Scripture shows that David truly did seek to do “that which was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:5).
  • Further, as reliable sources like the ESV Archeological Study Bible reveal, there’s the matter of the exception clause. The phrase, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite,is actually absent from a number of early Old Testament manuscripts. Its absence, many scholars argue, further suggest that the original statement was made as a general commendation of David.
  • Next comes an examination of the passage’s phrase that David had not turned aside from God. In its original Hebrew language, the tense and wording of the phrase indicates that God is speaking of the generally steadfast direction that David’s life has taken as opposed to referencing every specific sin David committed. This is an important factor to take into account when considering a reason for David’s other sins going unmentioned here. The suggestion is that these sins did not take his life off-course in terms of his service to the Lord up to that time.
  • This idea leads, in turn, to a final point and important take-away from David’s life. David sinned, yes, but when confronted by God through Nathan the prophet, he did what was right. Grieved not because he was facing consequences, but because he had rebelled against and grieved the heart of the righteous and holy God, David repented genuinely and immediately, turning deliberately from his sin (see 2 Samuel 12:1ffand 1 Chronicles 21:8).
In Geiger’s language, that action is how David started over once he ruined his life. In many ways, the willingness to do so is a telling mark of any believer then, now and tomorrow who truly is in love with and committed to Christ.

– Copyright 2018, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.