WAS BATHSHEBA A PAWN OR THE CHESS MASTER?

david_balcony-1As Daily Rite 1 continues, this week the story of David and Bathsheba comes up. A chess master is always thinking several moves in advance; in the “opening” alone he may be thinking seven to ten moves in advance. A mere pawn is only moved one space at a time, always straight ahead unless it is moving to capture. Yet, for the chess master the pawn can be a most dangerous piece as it can become a queen. Was Bathsheba a chess master, skillfully planning her moves well in advance? Or, was she a pawn in the hands of David, being moved one space at a time?

The key to answering the question lies in two places. First, how one interprets II Samuel 11:2 has a direct influence on the answer: One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful. For Bathsheba to be a chess master, here in the opening moves the skill of knowing the opponents next move would show. She would be opening with a Gambit knowing which piece would be sacrificed. She would have to know the following. First, David would get up and walk around. Second, he would notice her bathing. And lastly, that he would send for her. And, the last point is where the waters get muddied with calling Bathsheba a chess master.

David could have been in the habit of getting up in the evening and walking on the roof and Bathsheba could have been well aware of this habit, be the habit daily, weekly, or monthly. As the skilled chess master she could have set the trap that would eventually lead to checkmate. The problem with this theory is that Bathsheba would have no way of knowing that David would have taken the bait. Unlike the chess pieces that have certain set moves for different positions on the board, the human piece is not as predictable. While David’s schedule could be predicted, his actions upon seeing Bathsheba bathing could not be quite so predictable. While it is the position of this paper that Bathsheba was no chess master, it has to be remembered that the human, in this case David, is unpredictable. As well it must be remembered that sexual sin has been the downfall of a many a man “after God’s own heart.” It should also be noted that whether one takes Bathsheba to be a pawn or a chess master, David’s actions constitute sin.

The second avenue that needs to be explored lies in the Book of James: each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death (James 1:14-15). It seems a more plausible conclusion that David was a victim of sin in much the same way Achan was (Joshua 7:21). As David walked he saw Bathsheba. He coveted Bathsheba. He got Bathsheba.

Bathsheba was a pawn in the game of life. David saw Bathsheba’s beauty and was “lured and enticed by his own evil desire.” David’s “desire was conceived” causing him to inquire as to who she was. The desire gave birth to send after David found out who she was and “sent messengers to get her” (II Samuel 11:4).

While it could be argued that Bathsheba was a chess master, and as a skilled master she set a trap which David fell into, the Biblical evidence doesn’t give enough information to make that assertion. No one can doubt that David’s actions following the event were those of a guilty man. But, guilt could come from either conclusion: Bathsheba being a chess master or being a pawn. It seems much more plausible, and the Biblical record seems to be more in support of, that David followed the sin pattern of Achan and the progression into sin laid out by James 1:14-15: David saw Bathsheba; He coveted Bathsheba (tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire); He took Bathsheba (desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin).

 

A Collect for today:

O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Until next time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You!

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HERE’S THE DEAL JOB!

job5Job chapter 8 brings in one of my favorite characters: Bildad the Shuhite. It was always the running gag in seminary to ask the incoming freshmen who has the shortest character in the Bible. Of course they would always answer together, “Zacchaeus!” We would correct them right away that it was Bildad, as he was only a Shuhite—a Shoe Height—[insert groan]. But, as chapter 8 seems to bear out, Bildad was short—short in his dealing with Job’s circumstance.

Bildad begins with a technique familiar to Israeli wisdom literature: attack that last speaker’s speech. And in true form and fashion Bildad attacks and does not seem to let up until possibly at the end. If it was thought that Eliphaz was easy on Job, after reading chapter 8 no-one will make that assertion about Bildad.

“How long will you say these things and the words of your mouth be a great wind?” Bildad could have well said, “Come on Job, how much longer are you going to continue speaking all this nonsense?”  Job follows it up with a question—possibly a rhetorical question—asking, “Does God pervert justice?” Yet, that is not exactly Job’s complaint. Job’s lament was that God was treating him rather harshly.

Bildad differs from Eliphaz though in his appeal is to past history and nature to justify his message 8-10. Eliphaz justified his message recanting a dream. Then, in verses 11-19, Blidad launches into a series of rhetorical questions (11-13) and answers/explanations (14-19) to begin closing out his speech.  The bottom line of Bildad’s speech however, is summed up in verse 20: Behold, God will not reject a blameless man [remember we have been told that Job is blameless], nor take the hands of the evildoers. If we think of Israel as the legalists that they have always been made out to be, this might bear some weight. But we have to actually see Israel as they were; they were never ones who believed their salvation was in perfect Law keeping. There was atonement for sins in Israel. Yet, it must be remembered that this story comes before the Law and possibly Israel. So, while we have been told that Job is blameless, there were none who were blameless before God. And, this statement by Bildad, in all his bluntness and shortness sets the stage for Job’s reply in chapter 9.

COLLECT FOR TODAY:

Lord God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ triumphed over the powers of death and prepared for us our place in the new Jerusalem: Grant that we, who have this day given thanks for his resurrection, may praise you in that City of which he is the light, and where he lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

Until Next Time, May the Good Lord Bless and Keep you!

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