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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

King David Was Wrong (Psalm 51)

Sometimes I find myself arguing with scripture.  I know this isn’t what preachers are supposed to do.  We’re supposed to affirm and proclaim the words of the bible, not contradict them.  We’re not supposed to stumble over them.   But sometimes I do.

And here another of those places: in Psalm 51 when David is confessing his guilt in the affair of adultery and murder with Bathsheba and her husband Uriah [i]   and he says, “Against you only have I sinned…”
(Psalm 51: 4). 

No, David. You also sinned against Uriah, the Hittite, and his family, against Bathsheba, against the army of Israel (who suffered in battle because of your orders- and how many others died in that battle besides Uriah?) and against the people of Israel in general.

Some commentators seem to go out of their way to excuse or defend David’s statement here (assuming it was, after all, King David who wrote this psalm…).  They provide hair-splitting justifications for his statement, but I think he was just wrong.

[i] Ostensibly this is David’s confession, but the rebuild the walls of Jerusalem” in verse 18 would seem to argue for a much later date. 


  1. But what if one saw the image of God Himself in Uriah, the Hittite, and his family, against Bathsheba, against the army of Israel? How could one do such to whom God loves? Perhaps you have a false dualism. Perhaps you (and who knows, maybe "David" too) are failing to see God in the other. If God's presence is within oneself and God's image is in the other, how would we behave differently? I fail to see how remotely externalized concepts of God do anyone any good.

    1. Thanks Anonymous (wish you would have left a name...)

      I absolutely believe that the image of God is (or should be) seen in the other. That's why we're able to say David sinned against Uriah, Bathsheba, and etc... it's the word "only" in David's confession that gets me.

  2. Never sent my comment - and I lost it :| Profound I am sure. Similar to anon - to have sinned against God is to have sinned against the whole process of building the new humanity. God's righteousness is in the middle of all three sets of circles in ps 51 (even the build thou the walls section). Poetically, it is proleptic of Ephesians 4.

    1. Sure. And I don't disagree.

      But if I were to screw around with someone other than my wife, and then to apologize to God - would that be enough?

      I'm sure she wouldn't say so.

      (thanks for the comment....)


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