Now we fast forward a few years, and our story gets truly sordid. I know, right?
Ruth had Obed, and he begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David. Everybody knows about King David. Everybody loves David – he’s the Biblical real deal, so popular that David remains the second most popular boy name in the United States. He slew the giant Goliath, he became a good king over Israel, he wrote the beautiful Psalms.
Oops. There is that little adultery-murder thingy though. So let’s not forget about Uriah.
Does anybody know a person named Uriah? Likely not, as the name is ranked 1,127 in the United States. Poor Uriah is lost in history unless you are really paying attention. So let’s do a brief review of the story and see who is the villain – and who is the victim.
There was a war going on and, as is usually the case with governments, the king sent his best out to fight it. He stayed home though, and while hanging out at the palace he couldn’t help but notice the “very beautiful to behold” Bathsheba, who happened to be taking a bath on a roof nearby. David had some options here – he could enjoy the delightful view, he could look away, or, being the king, he could do the obvious and send his servants to fetch this lovely lady.
King David did the obvious.
He knew full well who she was, that she was married, that her husband was one of his valiant officers fighting (and winning) the battle against Ammon, and now besieging Rabbah. But he could not resist her beauty, so he had to have her. Now some have said that Bathsheba was a willing participant, and maybe she didn’t resist. But, really, is a woman in a subordinate position ever able to offer resistance? Of course not – he was King David after all. So “he lay with her” (wink-wink – the Bible is so polite sometimes) and she went home. Soon after she dropped David a note that said, “I am with child.”
David spun into action and, as we have seen with our previous three women, all sorts of deviousness ensued. He sent his servant to fetch Uriah from battle. Oh no, not to own up to his deed. Exactly the opposite. Any soldier returning to war is going to head straight home and “lay with” his wife. But not Uriah. He was too honorable, and pointed out to David that he couldn’t enjoy the trip home and sleep in his house if his men were sleeping out in the open and engaging in battle.
This caused David to come clean, right? Nope, didn’t happen. Instead he upped his game and had Uriah come over to feast and drink. He was sure that a good buzz would make Uriah a bit more amorous, and he would go home to Bathsheba, have his way with her, and David’s adultery would be safely covered up.
Rats, foiled again! This Uriah guy was the real deal – honor, integrity, fidelity. He should be promoted and awarded highest honors.
But instead David, being desperate, sent an order to the front lines that Uriah should be placed in the heat of the battle, exposing him to great danger and, hopefully, death. It worked, and Uriah died. So add murder to David’s adultery charge, and he’s not looking so good.
Once the news hit, our girl Bathsheba went into mourning. This period was seven days (Shiva) followed by twenty-three more days (Shloshim) for a total of thirty days. The Biblical narrative tells us that after this period, David sent for her (at least he was respectable, I guess) and she came to him, married him, and bore him a son.
Keep in mind, as the story progresses, that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Bathsheba’s part. She was an innocent victim of the advances of a person in power, and marrying after her husband’s death was a prudent move as she would not have much in the way of opportunities going forward. Especially as a soon-to-be single mom in a society that did not deal kindly with such. I find no reason to cast shame on her – she was looking out for her and her child’s future. Besides, David was the baby-daddy.
Apparently, God was not amused either. Remember, David was king because God anointed him to be. So He sent the prophet Nathan to spin a little parable about a rich man taking a poor man’s little ewe. He spun quite the tale of the misdeed of this rich and powerful man. 2 Samuel 12:5-6 records David’s reaction:
So David’s anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity.”
Nailed it, David. Except for one teeny-tiny little detail – you are the rich man in the story!
Finally, David gets it (we men are slow on the uptake when it comes to our failures) and understands that he has sinned. And as God is wont to do, He forgave him, but Nathan noted that because of his tarnishing the name of the Lord, the child of his transgression would die.
There must be a reason this sordid little tale is part of our Christmas Story, right? Before you get your chestnuts roasting and your Bing Crosby records spinning, give me a minute. We will be ho-ho-hoing before you know it.
The story ends on a positive note, with David comforting his new wife Bathsheba by impregnating her yet again. He was a virile one, that David. And that baby was named Solomon, who grew to be the wisest and wealthiest man on the planet, sort of a BC era Elon Musk.
And David and Bathsheba lived a lovely and blessed life ever after. Except they didn’t really, with loads of drama and intrigue to come. But those stories are for another time, or you can read them yourself picking up the tale in Samuel, chapter 13.
Which brings us to eggnog, and the moral of our story. Because that wretched Christmas concoction is the result of a bizarre assemblage of ingredients that have no business in a drinking glass, but many find it to be the very essence of the season, while others need to add yet another ingredient (can you say rum?) to make it palatable. Still others, (me, for instance) find the drink repugnant no matter how you try to present it. It just does not go down well.
And so is our story here. A powerful and much-admired king mixes up with another man’s wife, swirls in murder and deceit, and somehow it comes out okay. Our heroine, Bathsheba, is the unwilling ingredient in the story, and maybe it is her innocent essence that makes it all palatable.
David went on to a long life of kingly greatness, ultimately penning the Psalms that we all know and love. And in that book of praise, worship, prayer, and insight into the divine, we find this ode to his infidelity:
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin…
… Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Psalms 51:1-2, 10-11
Maybe, just maybe, the story of Uriah’s wife (because she is not named in Matthew’s genealogy, only inferred) is included as part of the Christmas Story because it shows how the mighty have fallen, and yet God is always in the restoration business. Maybe, just maybe, the intent is to get us to look at wonderful King David and see just how not-so-wonderful his character was, and how he had it all but still made poor choices.
You may not identify with Tamar, who tricked herself into a good position, you may not identify with the harlot Rahab, who used her dubious position to gain acceptance, you may not identify with Ruth, who had nothing and nowhere to go until she was redeemed by a rich man.
But maybe, just maybe, you identify with the dashing and smart and brave success story of David. You have it all – but without the redemptive offering of the God who made you, you actually have nothing.
That is the story, or stories, of Christmas. Jesus came for all: the outsider, the weak, the downtrodden, the cast out. But He also came for the rich and powerful and confident. He came for “whoever” as the famous verse tells us:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
Somewhere in the Christmas Story is your story. As you make the journey towards Christmas, find yourself and, in the looking, find the One who makes your life worth the living.