WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS
© by Ross Cochrane
“I still think that a king should lead his men into battle!” Absalom had insisted. David’s other sons had been discreetly silent on this point but it was obvious that they were in agreement.
Weakly David had tried to defend his position,
“Joab is my most trusted general. He is certainly able to lead my men to victory.” He walked out of the room annoyed, yet the truth of Absalom’s words persisted.
The Lord had given David rest from his enemies for a while, until he had decided to show some sympathy to Hanun the Ammonite at the death of his father. That kindness had been abused and now he was at war again. The major part of the war had been won but the Ammonite capital itself was still resisting.
David had built a comfortable palace for his family, and he was discouraged at the prospect of yet another battle. Was it this that made him stay at home? He wasn’t sure. Perhaps he could fast and pray? In any event it was Joab who went to battle for him while he remained in Jerusalem. He wanted to be alone, and have opportunity to think through the issues of his kingdom. He had also hoped that his sons would agree with his decision, but this wasn’t to be. Absalom had criticised him for staying at home. He had snapped back at Absalom for his insolence and left the room even more depressed.
With the stress of all, he had to bear David wasn’t feeling well of late. He would get away from matters of war and judgmental counsellors. It was late afternoon when he rested on his bed. He was alone and the weight of his kingdom in war was heavy on his mind, despite Absalom’s inference that he was not leading his men as he should.
When the sun’s heat had gone, he walked around on the roof of the palace that he had built for his family, to catch the cool evening breezes. From this vantage point he saw a woman bathing. She was a very beautiful woman. The law required that after menstruation a woman wait 7 days and then bath ceremonially as a sign of her being clean once again. She was bathing, as the law required. The inner law of discretion, however, would have prevented her from being in a place so easily observed by the king.
Bathsheba knew that David was still at home. She had seen him walk on the roof of the palace on a number of occasions and knowing that her husband and all the men were at war, she decided to risk the attention of the king as she bathed in the cool evening breezes on the roof of her house. Her grandfather, Ahithophel was away for a few days attending to some matters of intelligence concerning the war and she was alone.
If she had examined her motives, Bathsheba would have found that she desired David much more than she wanted to believe. She was a beautiful and desirable woman and had often dreamed of what it would have been like to marry a king, especially a handsome king like David, but destiny had not permitted her dream to be a reality. The closest she had come was to live beside the palace, married to a man chosen by the family.
She would bathe where she liked and dream of what could have been, and if she attracted David’s attention from the palace roof, so be it. She longed for an opportunity to get closer to this man she had come to love as her king. This night, she succeeded in getting too much of David’s attention. David lusted for another man’s wife.
On that same night Absalom was brooding in his room and lusted for another man’s kingdom. The war that raged in his heart was not dissimilar to the battle that waged within David. His war was also against his God. He warred in his spirit with his desire to rule a kingdom which was never intended to be his. He warred against the feelings he had against his father for being God’s anointed. He warred with his legalistic attitudes that left him embittered rather than discerning when he encountered injustice.
At this moment, king David, known for his discernment, was exercising none of it. Home when he should have been at war, he was susceptible to temptation. He would make inquiries about this woman, to see if she was single. He discovered that she was the wife of Uriah, the Hittite. That’s when his enquiries should have stopped. But of course, Uriah was away at war and her company seemed to be irresistible.
Two wars continued to rage that day. For David it would have been preferable for him to have been at war with the Ammonites than to be at war with his own spirit, and ultimately with God.
David forged ahead with his intentions to sleep with this woman, despite the fact that she was married. He sent messengers to get her. She came willingly to her king and into a situation that led her to his bed.
Bathsheba ceremonially purified herself of her uncleanness afterwards and returned home. If charges were laid, the law demanded stoning those who were unfaithful, but the law only highlighted David’s lack of defence, and he would try desperately to cover the stain of his sin. David did not return to his kingly office that night purified, ceremonially or otherwise and concealment and excuses would continue to dog his waking steps. Confession and repentance became faded shadows in the dimly lit corridors of his soul.
A month or so had passed, but the evidence of David and Bathsheba’s lust was still present in a tiny life which had come into being that night. Bathsheba, in distress, told David that she was pregnant.