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Archive for January, 2015

Now he (Joab) went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, even Beth-maacah, and all the Berites; and they were gathered together and also went after him. They came and besieged him (Sheba) in Abel Beth-maacah, and they cast up a siege ramp against the city, and it stood by the rampart; and all the people who were with Joab were wreaking destruction in order to topple the wall. Then a wise woman called from the city, “Hear, hear! Please tell Joab, ‘Come here that I may speak with you.’” (2 Samuel: 20:14-16)

In His providence God raised up two wise women during King David’s time to give good counsel to David and Joab. These women fit into the larger picture of God’s redemptive plan. The wise woman of Tekoa (See last week’s post) urged David to bring his son Absalom home.

Recall that Absalom was in hiding since he killed his half-brother and fled from David’s presence. David heeded the words of the wise woman from Tekoa and allowed Absalom to come home. However David was still angry with Absalom and commanded that Absalom “turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So Absalom turned to his own house and did not see the king’s face.” (2 Samuel 14:24) Absalom retaliated by burning down Joab’s field. Eventually David admitted Absalom into his presence and gave him a kiss of peace.

Absalom was very handsome and much loved by the Israelites. They expected him to be the next king. Absalom decided not to wait for David to die but took steps to make himself king. Many people followed Absalom so David fled from Jerusalem. You can read this story in 2 Samuel, chapters 14-20. I will just summarize by saying that Joab went after Absalom. Absalom was eventually killed.

When David returned to Jerusalem, a dispute arose between the people of the tribe of Judah against the other tribes. The other tribes accused those from Judah of keeping the king for their own use. “Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba,” (2 Samuel 20:1). Sheba rounded up the other tribes and they foolishly decided to follow him against the king. Sheba was a troublemaker.

After David was settled in again as king in Jerusalem, he set about punishing those who had rebelled against him. Of course one of those was Sheba and David sent Joab to find him and bring him to justice.

Joab traced Sheba to Abel Beth-maacah and began to lay siege to the town. We are not told why Joab Abel Beth-macaahjust decided to completely destroy the town rather than just ask them to give up the refugee. Perhaps he was tired after searching for so long. Abel was some distance from Jerusalem. It was six miles to the west-northwest of the city of Dan. Perhaps Joab was just being the hothead that he was. After all, Joab had slain many men before including some innocent ones. He had no patience.

An unnamed wise woman realized what was going on and decided to save her city. This woman may have been a prophetess. She certainly had the respect of the people. She decided to open the communications with Joab and asked his officers to get him for her. Joab consented to speak with her.

Just like the wise woman from Tekoa, this woman skillfully began her plea for her city. She reminded Joab that Abel Beth-maacah was a special place in Israel. The town was known as a peacemaker in that province for many years. There was a saying in fact about Abel – “They will surely ask advice at Abel, and thus ended the dispute.” (2 Samuel 20:18)

The wise woman respectfully asks Joab why he would want to destroy such a peace-loving city. She said to Joab, “I am of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You are seeking to destroy a city, even a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the Lord?” (Verse 19)

What courage this woman had to speak to the commander of a besieging army this way. Joab had a reputation for being ruthless. She knew that. The wise woman took a chance but God was with her. The wise woman was successful in calming Joab down. Joab realized that she was being more just than he was. He explained to her that all he really wanted was the traitor, Sheba. He explained to her the Sheba had lifted up his hand against King David. Sheba was a traitor and needed to be brought to justice. He told the wise woman, “’Only hand him over, and I will depart from the city.’ And the woman said to Joab, ‘Behold, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.’” (2 Samuel 20:21)

sheba-rebellionThis woman must have had a lot of respect and even authority as a “wise woman” or prophetess. The people of Abel were happy that she had negotiated with Joab for them. They listened to her advice now. After all, they were faithful subjects of King David. They wanted no part of a traitor. They were willing to wield the sword of justice immediately. They cut off Sheba’s head and threw it over the wall. Joab returned to Jerusalem to King David. The city of Abel was saved.

The stories of the wise women from Tekoa and Abel Beth-maacah show that wisdom comes from the Lord. This is a biblical principle. Deliverance comes from the Lord not from strong armies. Thanks to these wise women much less blood was shed during the struggle between King David and his rivals.

What makes a “wise woman”? Wise women lead people in righteous ways. They love the Lord and they must study God’s ways. They grow in wisdom as they age and are able to achieve their goals by using carefully chosen words. They are good psychologists! They know how to speak to those in authority in respectful ways. They use “more honey than vinegar”. The wise woman wins support and cooperation through her peaceable and humble attitude. She is also mature enough to know how to keep the conversation going well. She is quick witted and can adapt. Through her many years of living and serving the Lord she has earned the title “wise woman”.

The Bible doesn’t really tell us much about the wise woman’s early life. But we know from the skillful way that she engaged Joab during a life and death situation that she must have spent her youth learning wisdom from God. Her words and actions show that she worshipped and glorified her Maker.

 

 

 

 

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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. (2 Samuel 12:10)

We saw in last week’s post about David and Bathsheba that God graciously forgave King David for his terrible sins of adultery and murder. However sin has consequences. First of all, David and Bathsheba’s child died. Secondly, Nathan foretold that there would always be trouble in David’s family. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy starting in the very next chapter of 2 Samuel and it continued until the end of David’s life.

 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was inclined toward Absalom. So Joab sent to Tekoa and brought a wise woman from there and said to her, “Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning garments now, and do not anoint yourself with oil, but be like a woman who has been mourning for the dead many days; then go to the king and speak to him in this manner.” So Joab put the words in her mouth. (2 Samuel 14:1-3)

Trouble in David’s family started immediately with the story of Tamar and Amnon. (2 Samuel 13) These two children of King David were stepsister and brother. Amnon raped Tamar and left her devastated. Absalom was the eldest son of King David and Tamar’s full brother. He sought vengeance against Amnon for humiliating his sister. Absalom set a trap for Amnon and had him killed. Then fearing the king’s wrath, Absalom fled. Thus began the bloodshed predicted by the prophet Nathan.

Three years went by and Joab, the general of David’s army, perceived that King David really loved andtekoa map missed his son, Absalom. Joab thought of a way of bringing Absalom back home. He enlisted the aid of a “wise woman” from Tekoa. Tekoa, a city now in ruins, was on the Eastern slopes of the Judean hills about twelve miles south of Jerusalem. This would have been about a day’s journey. It was also far enough away so that David could not immediately check up on the woman’s story.

The term “wise woman” is used three times in the Old Testament. This woman from Tekoa is described as a “wise woman” as well as the woman from Abel Beth-maacah (2 Samuel 20) and the wise woman from Proverbs 14:1. This phrase seems to describe an older woman who is noted for giving good counsel and thereby may have considerable influence.

Joab sent for this woman and instructed her how to dress and what to say. He was basically asking her to pretend. Apparently this woman agreed with Joab’s purpose for the deception. For the sake of the people she was willing to face the king and risk his wrath, especially if he found out she was sent deliberately by Joab.

The woman of Tekoa went before David and fell on her face and said, “Help, O king.” David asked her what her trouble was. She proceeded to tell him a story that was purposely made up to be like David’s own story.

B21-488408 - © - J.D. Dallet“Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. And your handmaid had two sons, and they quarreled with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. And now the whole family has risen against your handmaid, and they say, ‘Give up the man who struck his brother, that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he slew’; and so they would destroy the heir also. Thus they would quench my coal which is left, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant upon the face of the earth.”

King David told her to go home and said that he would do something about it. But the wise woman would not be put off until her purpose was accomplished. She wanted the king to grant mercy to his son Absalom. Of course the king did not know at first that that was her only purpose in coming.

In a very respectful way she continued pleading with David, carefully leading him to the conclusion that Absalom’s banishment should be ended.

This wise woman even rebuked the king gently, “Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again.”

The woman was saying that the death of her own son was a small thing in comparison to the death of the king’s son. Absalom was looked upon as David’s successor to the throne. David owed it to the people to make amends with Absalom.

At this point David asked the woman if Joab had something to do with her coming to him for help. Indeed the woman proved how wise she was and replied, “As your soul lives, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything that my lord the king has spoken. Indeed, it was your servant Joab who commanded me, and it was he who put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant; in order to change the appearance of things your servant Joab has done this thing. But my lord is wise, like the wisdom of the angel of God, to know all that is in the earth.” (2 Samuel 14:19,20)

The wise woman accomplished her purpose. This woman was not just flattering David, but she was showing her devotion to God and to the king. She clearly understood the issues and she showed wisdom in how she approached the Lord’s anointed leader. Because of her humble attitude and wisdom she won David over. David told Joab to go and bring Absalom back home.

What are some lessons to be learned from this story? We might wonder whether or not it is ok to tell “stories” even for a good purpose. The wise woman allowed herself to be used by Joab for a greater purpose. If we understand that there is something bigger going on than just our own concerns, we may be justified in using deception. A good example of this is Corrie ten Boom who lied to the Nazi soldiers about the Jews that she was hiding in her home during World War II. We must be very careful. We have an obligation to pray for discernment so that we don’t harm others or lead them astray.

We must pray that what we are doing is in God’s will.

Obviously, the wise woman of Tekoa thought that the reconciliation of David and Absalom would please God. It was part of God’s gracious plan. God used this wise woman to accomplish His purpose. We will see in continuing stories that it was part of God’s overall plan of redemption. Perhaps the wise woman could not know it, but modern readers know that God had planned for Solomon to be the next king.

This story is part of the continuing saga of the fallout from the strife amongst the children of David that was predicted by the prophet Nathan. Next week we will continue this story. What a tragedy sin is. But more importantly, how good God is Who brings good out of the bad.

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bathsheba old davidSo Bathsheba went in to the king in the bedroom. Now the king was very old, and Abishag the Shunammite was ministering to the king. Then Bathsheba bowed and prostrated herself before the king. And the king said, “What do you wish?” She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your maidservant by the Lord your God, saying, ‘Surely your son Solomon shall be king after me and he shall sit on my throne.’ … As for you now my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are on you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. Otherwise it will come about, as soon as my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be considered offenders. … Then King David said, “ … surely as I vowed to you by the Lord the God of Israel, saying, ‘Your son Solomon shall be king after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place’; I will indeed do so this day.” (I Kings 1:15-30)

Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. Taking time out to read what the Bible actually says about her reveals that Bathsheba was a woman of strong character. She found grace to put her husband’s sins aside and forgive him. She found the strength to forge a good marriage and become one of the foremost mothers in Israel.

In last week’s post we saw that Bathsheba was violated, widowed, and then married by King David. Historians and Hollywood have often tried to say that the adultery was all her fault. I hope that I made it very clear in the previous post that King David was responsible for what happened. At any point during the night he could have stopped looking at Bathsheba and gone back to bed and forgotten the whole thing. Instead he pursued her to satisfy his own lust. (You will notice that in most of my posts I try to include at least 2 pictures if not 3. But it was impossible to find a decent picture of Bathsheba that portrayed her as the Bible does and not as Hollywood does.)

In spite of even horrible sins as adultery and murder, God is good and forgives when a sinner truly repents as David did. God graciously went further and blessed David and Bathsheba with a good marriage. Of course they suffered the loss of the son that was conceived in sin. God then blessed them with four sons including the future king, Solomon.

The years rolled by and when David was really old and close to death, one of his sons decided not to wait for him to die but to have himself declared king. Adonijah, the son of one of David’s other wives, called together all of his other brothers except Solomon and threw a party. Those who attended celebrated with eating and drinking and exclaiming, “Long live King Adonijah!”  (I Kings 1:25)

Nathan the prophet, who was not invited to the party either, went to Bathsheba and told her to hurry to the king before it was too late. David assured Bathsheba that Solomon was his choice (and God’s!) to inherit the throne. David gave orders for Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet to anoint Solomon as king and have him sit on David’s throne immediately. The people watched as Solomon was anointed. Trumpets blew and the people proclaimed, “Long live King Solomon!”       (I Kings 1:39)

Adonijah and his followers fled. Solomon showed Adonijah mercy and let him return home. Solomon was safely on the throne now. Adonijah unfortunately would not learn his lesson. More about that in a moment.

Bathsheba had acted wisely and courageously when her son Solomon was threatened. It seemed that all of Israel was going after Adonijah. She and Nathan were alone in approaching David. Yet Bathsheba relied on God’s promise and David’s faithfulness that her son would be the next king. David respected this intelligent, resourceful woman and acted upon her request immediately. Bathsheba’s son was promptly made king.

Bathsheba was a wise woman. But in the last story we read of her in the Bible we see her acting in a rather puzzling way. It has to do with her stepson Adonijah.

King Solomon loved and respected his mother and he welcomed her visits. Solomon had another throne placed at his right for Bathsheba when she was present as the queen mother. After his ascendancy to the throne Bathsheba went to see Solomon with a request from Adonijah (1 Kings 2:13-25).

Though Adonijah tried to make his request seem like a small thing to Bathsheba, he really wanted to be king. He believed that it was his right as the older brother and he thought of a way to usurp Solomon’s rule. In those days, a new ruler would often take the wives of the previous king to prove that he was now the reigning king. (Another of David’s sons, Absalom had already tried this. See 2 Samuel 16:21-23.)

And so Adonijah approached Bathsheba and asked her to get Solomon to give him David’s concubine, Abishag. Though David had not cohabited with Abishag, she was still considered a concubine. Whether or not Bathsheba knew what Adonijah was really asking, Solomon did. The king sent one of his men to execute Adonijah immediately.

Either Bathsheba was fooled by Adonijah or perhaps she just had a very tender heart. It is difficult to see why she would even think that Solomon would grant Adonijah’s wicked request. Perhaps she really hoped that Adonijah meant the best. After all, when he greeted her he assured her that he had come “peacefully”. Others have suggested that Bathsheba was wise enough to know that Adonijah had not repented and would always be a threat to Solomon. Perhaps Bathsheba took his request to Solomon so that Solomon would have an excuse to remove this rival and consolidate his throne. I guess we’ll have to wait until we get to Heaven to know for sure, but I believe that Bathsheba was a kind and forgiving woman. She certainly showed that in her relationship with David. She raised her sons the same way.

Solomon loved and respected Bathsheba. Some commentators believe that the “Excellent Woman” of Proverbs 31, written by Solomon, was modeled on Bathsheba. The worthy woman in Proverbs 31 is a trusted companion and a devoted mother. Bathsheba fits the description of the honored and noble woman whose “children rise up and bless her; her husband also, and he praises her, saying; ‘Many daughters have done nobly, but you excel them all. Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.” (Proverbs 31:28-30)

proverbs 31 woman

Don’t waste time with the Hollywood version of Bathsheba. Read what the Bible says about her. She should be remembered as the wise, gracious, godly wife and companion of two of Israel’s greatest kings.

 

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Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.

Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. (2 Samuel 11:1-4)

Scholars are divided in their opinions of Bathsheba. The main controversy seems to be over david_bathshebaBathsheba’s guilt or innocence in her involvement with King David. I am taking the position that Bathsheba had no choice when King David summoned her to the palace. As a vassal and a woman she was not allowed to refuse the king. Some commentators want to cast Bathsheba as a seductress and blame her for David’s sin. But the Bible does not describe Bathsheba that way.

Bathsheba was clearly a victim. The Bible gives us the details:

  1. It was the “spring, at the time when kings go out to battle…” David should have been with his troops but for some reason he stayed home.
  2. During the evening “David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing;” It was nighttime and Bathsheba was at her own home. She had every reason to expect privacy. It is not clear exactly where her bath was. Some portray her as on the roof of her home. But why would a bathing pool be on a roof? It is more likely that she was in an enclosed courtyard. It was the family’s private space. No one should have been peeping at her.
  3. David saw “a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.” David could have looked away and respected Bathsheba’s privacy. Not only did he not turn away, he decided to take steps to get her for himself.
  4. “So David sent and inquired about the woman.” Even if David had not looked away but indulged his lust by watching Bathsheba, he could have turned and gone back to bed and forgot about the whole thing. Instead he decided to further his sin.
  5. “David sent messengers and took her,” When David’s men told him that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, he would have known that Uriah was away at the battle. He knew that Bathsheba was alone and helpless. Bathsheba could not refuse the king and David knew it. At this point David could still have let the matter drop, but he didn’t.
  6. When “she came to him he lay with her,” The Bible is clear – David lay with Bathsheba. He is the one who controlled the situation from first to last. Frankly, David sinned against Bathsheba. The Bible makes it clear that she was a victim. Bathsheba soon found that she was pregnant. This was a terrible situation for her. She told King David about her predicament.

David decided to deal with it by getting Uriah home as quickly as possible. David thought that Uriah would naturally sleep with his wife upon returning home. Then the child would be presumed to be Uriah’s.

But Uriah was a dedicated, disciplined soldier and refused the comforts of home while the other soldiers were “staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life or your soul, I will not do this thing.” (2 Samuel 11:11) David tried several times to get Uriah to go home, but Uriah would not.

David then committed another sin. He had his general Joab put Uriah in the fiercest place of a battle knowing Uriah would be killed. David added murder to adultery.

Bathsheba mourned for her husband when she learned of his death. David had not only offended her physically, but he also caused her to be a widow. Not only that but the laws in Israel were plain – a woman found pregnant out of wedlock was to be put to death. David raped her, made her a widow, and then put her in danger of her life.

david_and_nathanThough David had sinned grievously, he was a “man after God’s own heart.” God sent Nathan the prophet to speak to David. David repented of his sins. When Bathsheba’s time of mourning for her husband was over David sent for her and married her.

Sins have consequences even if God has forgiven them. The child that was conceived by this unlawful union died. Bathsheba must have mourned greatly over the death of her first child.

But God is good and He helped David and Bathsheba have a good marriage after this. What could have caused such a transformation from a forced marriage beginning on shaky ground and grief of the death of a child to a marriage of happiness and joy?

First of all, David did repent. God works in the hearts of His children when they are truly sorry for their sins. David had forced a woman and murdered her husband. God was very angry with him. But David’s repentance was real. Nathan the prophet told David that while his sins were forgiven, there would be consequences. Not only did David and Bathsheba’s son die, but God also said, “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.” (2 Samuel 12:10) (We will see more about the devastating consequences of David’s sin in part 2 of this series on Bathsheba.)

Bathsheba must have forgiven David. The Bible does not tell us much about how the two of them reconciled and truly fell in love and had a wonderful marriage. It must have meant a lot to Bathsheba when David repented publicly. This exonerated her. As a child of God she would have known that repentance and forgiveness are important. As a godly wife it was important to her that her husband be right with God. Bathsheba could love, honor, and obey a man who turned from his sin and did what was right.

David loved Bathsheba until the end of his life. God gave Bathsheba four sons, one of which was the future king, Solomon. (I Chronicles 3:5)

Bathsheba is one of many women in the Scriptures that have been misunderstood or portrayed badly by scholars. Taking time out to read what the Bible actually says about her reveals that Bathsheba was a woman of strong character. She found grace to put her husband’s sins aside and forgive him. She found the strength to forge a good marriage and become one of the foremost mothers in Israel.

Bathsheba’s story reminds us of the kindness of God Who brings good things out of our sinful lives. Yes, there are consequences to our sins, but God moves on after His forgiveness giving us blessings. There is always hope for a better future.

 

 

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