2 Kings xi.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Year. Hebrew, “at the end of the year,” (Chaldean; Syriac) which may be explained either of the year after the preceding engagement, or at the end of the civil year, in the autumnal equinox, (Calmet) or of the sacred year, which begins in the spring, (Haydock) when kings more commonly go to battle, about the month of March. (Menochius) — In hot countries they make a campaign also in autumn. — Ammon. They had not been sufficiently chastised, as they had saved themselves within their strong cities. They had added to their other crimes, that of stirring up the Syrians against David. (Calmet) — Rabba, the capital of Ammon, which Polybius calls “Rabatamana.” See chap. v. 8. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Noon. He had been reposing, according to custom, chap. iv. 7. (Calmet) — But the devil was not idle. He was meditating a temptation and crime, which involved a great part of the remainder of David’s life in misery. (Haydock) — He had reigned 18 years, and lived 48, almost without blame. (Salien, the year of the world 2998.) — His house, as the Hebrew explains it. The Vulgate might insinuate that the woman was upon “the roof of her house.” But she was probably in her garden, as the Jews have their baths in the open air. They are frequently obliged to purify themselves. (Calmet) — The house must have been very near David’s palace. (Salien)
Ver. 3. Eliam. By a transposition of letters, he is called Ammiel, in 1 Paralipomenon iii. 5. Both words signify “my people is God’s.” This son of Achitophel (chap. xxiii. 34,) was one of David’s valiant men, as well as Urias, who is styled the Hethite, being born at Eth; (St. Jerome; Salien) or on account of his extraction, or because he or his ancestors (Haydock) had performed some great exploit against that nation; as Germanicus, Africanus, &c., received those titles among the Romans, for conquering the Germans, &c. (Calmet) — Eth was a place near Hebron. (Adrichomius 128.) (Menochius) — The name of Bethsabee is also different in Paralipomenon; the last b in Hebrew being changed into v. Both-shua, both-al-i-ám; instead of Both-shobá, both-ám-i-al. (Haydock) (Kennicott) — The grandfather of Bethsabee is supposed to have revolted against David, to revenge the wrong done to her. (Tirinus; Cornelius a Lapide) “Let the weak tremble at the fall of the strong.” (St. Augustine, in Psalm l.)
Ver. 4. Purified. Literally, “sanctified.” Hebrew and Septuagint, “for she was, ” &c. (Haydock) — Hoc ideo additum ne miraremur illico eam concepisse. (Grotius; Aristotle, Anim. vii. 20. — Women were obliged to bathe after such actions, Leviticus xv. 18.
Ver. 8. Feet. As they did not wear stockings, this practice was very common after a journey. David thus insinuated that Urias might take his rest, and go to his wife, that so he might suppose that the child was his own, and the crime of Bethsabee might be concealed. (Calmet) — King, as a mark of honour, but in reality that he might be more excited to indulge his pleasures. (Abulensis) (Menochius)
Ver. 9. House, in the court, for the guards. See Athen. v. 2., &c.
Ver. 10. Journey, of thirty hours’ length. (Adrichomius)
Ver. 11. Ark. Most people suppose that the ark and the priests were before Rabba, as they seem to have been present in all expeditions of consequence. (Menochius) (Calmet) — But, at any rate, the ark was covered with skins or veils, even in the tabernacle at Gabaon, or at Sion. (Haydock) — Thing. He binds himself by an oath not to gratify his natural inclinations, that the king might desist from pressing him any farther. (Salien) — But David resolves to endeavour to make him forget his oath, during the moments of intoxication. The valour and temperance of Urias, and divine Providence, render all his craft useless; and a concatenation of crimes cannot hide the original offence. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Couch. It seems he was one of the guards. Josephus says he was Joab’s armour-bearer, (Antiquities vii. 7.) and one of David’s heroes, chap. xxiii. 39.
Ver. 14. Morning of the fourth day, as Urias staid three nights at Jerusalem. It is not clear that he was intoxicated the last of them. On that night David permitted him to act as he should think proper; and finding that he obstinately persisted in the resolution of not going to sleep with his wife, he had recourse to the last and most barbarous expedient of making way for his own marriage with the woman, as he saw this was the only method left for him to save her honour. The utmost expedition was requisition, as many days must have elapsed before she perceived her situation; (Haydock) and if many more should pass over, it would be manifest to the world that she had been guilty of adultery, and must either be stoned, or, if David spared her, he must bear the blame. (Salien) — Urias. The fable of Bellerophon being sent by Prœtus to Jobates, king of Syria, with a letter, desiring the king to put the bearer to death, seems to have been copied from this history. Their letters have become proverbial. (St. Chrysostom)
Aha Bellerophontem jam tuus me fecit filius,
Egomet tabellas detuli ut vincirer. (Plaut. Bacchide.)
Ver. 15. Die. We no longer behold the genius of that David who would not hurt his persecutor. What a change does a shameful passion introduce in the whole conduct of a man! and how does one false step conduct from one abyss to another! Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem læseris. (Tacitus) — David could no longer bear the sight of a man whom he had injured so grievously. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Also. Hence David prays with reason; Deliver me from blood (sanguinibus) of many slain. He was answerable for all (Cajetan)
Ver. 21. Jerobaal? Hebrews write Jeroboseth, to avoid the mention of Baal, as they also do with respect to the name of Isboseth, who was probably called Isbaal. (Calmet) See Judges, ix. 57. — Joab supposed that David might probably adduce this instance, to shew the danger of approaching too near the wall, as it had proved destructive to part of his army, and had been fatal to Abimelech. But it seems the messenger did not allow him time to express any resentment, before he told him the agreeable news, which he desired so much to hear [in] ver. 24. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. For him. We may apply to her tears those words of Lucan:
—–Lachrymas non spontè cadentes
Effudit, gemitusque expressit pectore læto.
“None affected more sorrow for the death of Germanicus, than those who rejoiced the most at that event.” (Tacitus, An. ii.) — The mourning for the dead usually lasted seven days; (Ecclesiasticus xxii. 13.) and after that period, David seems to have married Bethsabee. (Abulensis, q. 21.)
Ver. 27. Lord; not that David had married the woman, but on account of his former conduct towards her and her husband. (Menochius) — The canon law forbids the marriages of those who have been accomplices in the death of their former partner; and some have thought that this marriage of David was null. But this is inaccurate; and the fruits of it were (Calmet) all deeded legitimate. See 1 Paralipomenon iii. 5. (Haydock) — The Rabbins even pretend that David was guilty of no sin in marrying Bethsabee during the life-time of Urias; as the latter, they say, must have given her a bill of divorce when he went to war. (Grotius) — But why should we excuse an action which was so severely condemned and punished by God? (Chap. xii. 1., &c., and Psalm l.) (Calmet) — In David’s conduct, we here behold a complication of the basest passions of lust and cruelty; which make David neglect the sanctity of an oath, (ver. 11) and attempt to ruin, by drunkenness, the soul of one to whom he was much indebted; and, afterwards, to expose him to an untimely death, perhaps without repentance; if indeed Urias exceeded the bounds of moderation. This however is not certain; as the word drunk is often used to denote a degree of blameless conviviality, Genesis xliii. 34. Yet the design of David was equally criminal. How soon may the man according to God’s own heart, fall from his elevated station into the depth of the abyss! Wherefore let him that thinketh himself to stand, take heed lest he fall, 1 Corinthians x. 12. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
David falleth into the crime of adultery with Bethsabee: and not finding other means to conceal it, causeth her husband, Urias, to be slain: then marrieth her, and she beareth him a son.
1 And *it came to pass at the return of the year, at the time when kings go forth to war, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel, and they ravaged the country of the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabba: but David remained in Jerusalem.
2 In the mean time it happened that David arose from his bed after noon, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and he saw from the roof of his house, a woman washing herself, over-against him: and the woman was very beautiful.
3 And the king sent, and inquired who the woman was. And it was told him, that she was Bethsabee, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Urias, the Hethite.
4 And David sent messengers, and took her, and she came in to him, and he slept with her: *and presently she was purified from her uncleanness:
5 And she returned to her house, having conceived. And she sent and told David, and said: I have conceived.
6 And David sent to Joab, saying: Send me Urias, the Hethite. And Joab sent Urias to David.
7 And Urias came to David. And David asked how Joab did, and the people, and how the war was carried on.
8 And David said to Urias: Go into thy house, and wash thy feet. And Urias went out from the king’s house, and there went out after him a mess of meat from the king.
9 But Urias slept before the gate of the king’s house, with the other servants of his lord, and went not down to his own house.
10 And it was told David by some that said: Urias went not to his house. And David said to Urias: Didst thou not come from thy journey? why didst thou not go down to thy house?
11 And Urias said to David: The ark of God, and Israel and Juda dwell in tents, and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, abide upon the face of the earth: and shall I go into my house, to eat and to drink, and to sleep with my wife? by thy welfare, and by the welfare of thy soul, I will not do this thing.
12 Then David said to Urias: Tarry here to-day also, and to-morrow I will send thee away. Urias tarried in Jerusalem that day and the next.
13 And David called him to eat and to drink before him, and he made him drunk: and he went out in the evening, and slept on his couch, with the servants of his lord, and went not down into his house.
14 And when the morning was come, David wrote a letter to Joab: and sent it by the hand of Urias,
15 Writing in the letter: Set ye Urias in the front of the battle, where the fight is hottest: and leave ye him, that he may be wounded, and die.
16 Wherefore, as Joab was besieging the city, he put Urias in the place where he knew the bravest men were.
17 And the men coming out of the city, fought against Joab, and there fell some of the people of the servants of David, and Urias, the Hethite, was killed also.
18 Then Joab sent, and told David all things concerning the battle.
19 And he charged the messenger, saying: When thou hast told all the words of the battle to the king,
20 If thou see him to be angry, and he shall say: Why did you approach so near to the wall to fight? knew you not that many darts are thrown from above, off the wall?
21 Who killed Abimelech, the son of Jerobaal? *did not a woman cast a piece of a mill-stone upon him from the wall, and slew him in Thebes? Why did you go near the wall? Thou shalt say: Thy servant Urias, the Hethite, is also slain.
22 So the messenger departed, and came and told David all that Joab had commanded him.
23 And the messenger said to David: The men prevailed against us, and they came out to us into the field: and we vigorously charged and pursued them, even to the gate of the city.
24 And the archers shot their arrows at thy servants, from off the wall above: and some of the king’s servants are slain, and thy servant Urias, the Hethite, is also dead.
25 And David said to the messenger: Thus shalt thou say to Joab: Let not this thing discourage thee, for various is the event of war: and sometimes one, sometimes another, is consumed by the sword: encourage thy warriors against the city, and exhort them, that thou mayst overthrow it.
26 And the wife of Urias heard that Urias, her husband, was dead, and she mourned for him.
27 And the mourning being over, David sent and brought her into his house, and she became his wife, and she bore him a son: and this thing which David had done, was displeasing to the Lord.
1: 1 Paralipomenon xx. 1.; Year of the World 2969, Year before Christ 1035.
4: Leviticus xv. 18.
21: Judges ix. 53.