May 30, 2017
She understood all too well what was at stake. Back then, there was rarely such a thing as peaceful transition of power. There were contenders for the throne, and failure to succeed often meant forfeiture of life. So when the elder son by another of the king's wives proclaimed himself king, there was little time and much power to lose. So she maneuvered and manipulated for her own interests. The son who by general understanding of the times should have been king was bypassed in favor of her own.
Years ago when she was a young woman, her husband had been murdered to cover up the king having raped her. The baby born from that unholy union died, and after the minimally appropriate time of mourning, the man who had violated her and murdered her husband took her into his harem as his own wife, soon fathering the child for whom she now fought.
I wonder what kind of wife she was all through those intervening years. Did she seethe with a secret rage? Did she manipulate the king with guilt, reminding him of what he had done to her, her husband, and by implication, to her firstborn son? Was it the memory of that sin that provoked him into promising the throne to her son instead of the king's firstborn?
Where do people learn to be ruthless and cruel? Bathsheba was once young and beautiful, married to a valiant soldier with a promising future. Until she was violated, used, widowed, bereft of her son, then forced into a marriage with the very man who had by his own pride and lust destroyed life as she knew it. She learned early on that the only protection she would ever have against the whims of a proud and powerful husband was her own sly and ruthless wisdom. Beauty had over the years, bowed to brains, of which she had plenty. But it also bowed to a grasping brutality.
Life has a way of teaching us our lessons. Stupidity does not long survive. But bitter ruthlessness is hard. Life is more than survival, and the price we pay for the latter is often more than it's worth. Bathsheba may have been the wife of the king, but though her home was a palace, it was not a place of peace. Maybe that's why they named their son Solomon, hoping for a peace that never came.
Jesus offered us a better way when he told us that we must give up our life in order to find it. It's not easy when you've been violated, when the one who hurt you still has power over you. Contrary to popular lore, justice is often only a word. The tyrant kills, the bully threatens, the rich and powerful lord it over the poor, and hatred often overpowers love. But the end of all these is death...of dreams, of hope, of simplicity and innocence. Forgiveness frees us to live in the future instead of dying in the past. Lord, thank you for your forgiveness of us. Grant us grace to forgive even when we cannot forget, through the grace, love, and strength of our Lord Jesus Christ.