Journey to Preterism — 2 Samuel 22

What does an Old Testament passage not about eschatology have to do with eschatology? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

When I had that talk with two Preterists, I remember distinctly hearing about 2 Samuel 22. This is not a prophecy or a passage about eschatology. This is about the life of David and what happened during his days. So what on Earth does this have to do with eschatology?

Let’s look at the passage. We’re not going to go through the whole thing. It’s just going to be the relevant parts.

David sang to the Lord the words of this song when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said:

“The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
    from violent people you save me.

“I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and have been saved from my enemies.
The waves of death swirled about me;
the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me.
The cords of the grave coiled around me;
the snares of death confronted me.

Here, we can recognize a lot of poetic license going on. This is the ways of poetry and even the hardest internet atheist could understand that this is not to be taken literally. This is David talking about how he felt hopeless. Those Christians who say we should always take the Bible “literally” will recognize this as well.

But what happens when we get to the next part?

“In my distress I called to the Lord;
I called out to my God.
From his temple he heard my voice;
my cry came to his ears.
The earth trembled and quaked,
the foundations of the heavens shook;
they trembled because he was angry.
Smoke rose from his nostrils;
consuming fire came from his mouth,
burning coals blazed out of it.
10 He parted the heavens and came down;
dark clouds were under his feet.
11 He mounted the cherubim and flew;
he soared on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness his canopy around him—
the dark rain clouds of the sky.
13 Out of the brightness of his presence
bolts of lightning blazed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded.
15 He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.
16 The valleys of the sea were exposed
and the foundations of the earth laid bare
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of breath from his nostrils.

17 “He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
18 He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Whoa. What happens with your interpretation here? This is quite an amazing  event in the life of David. David is surrounded by enemies and here comes YHWH flying out of Heaven on the backs of Gabriel and Michael. He is preceded by a massive earthquake and then YHWH starts shooting arrows at all of the bad guys.

This is a fascinating event and as we look back at the books of 1 and 2 Samuel, we find that this battle took place in…

Wait. I can’t find it….

It’s got to be here somewhere! An earthquake and then YHWH flying on angels shooting arrows at the enemies of David! Surely this would be worth mentioning! Where is it?!

Wait. Wait. You mean this whole chapter is poetic license? This is not a literal reading? This is David describing political events, such as ordinary battles and running from Saul, in cosmic language?

Who on Earth ever talks this way? Who uses over the top language to describe an event?

What? You mean a football team was described as destroying their opponents? That political announcement was said to be Earth-shattering? America’s story has a history of a shot heard around the world?

So you’re saying that if David is an Old Testament prophet, as is said in the New Testament such as in Acts 2, then maybe we should see this is how prophets spoke? Maybe prophets did use this kind of language regularly and it’s a mistake to take it “literally”?

It might be tempting to think this is an isolated incident, but it isn’t. There are several passages like this in the Old Testament. As we go through, we will find that this is the way that Jews spoke of events in their lives. Something literally happened, of course, but language used to describe it is often highly apocalyptic in nature. For us, a football team does get defeated, but the language we use is often very far from literal.

I had read this passage several times before and never considered it. This opened me up to a whole new way of reading the text. I had always understood it was poetic license, but I never had considered that this could be done in prophecy as well as the exact same language shows up there.

And as we’ll eventually see, the New Testament does the same, but that’s for the future.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

She Who Must Not Be Named

Why does Matthew not like her? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The women in the genealogy of Jesus so far have been named, but when we come to verse 6, we meet an exception. We are told that David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife.

Oh we’ve read that story several times! We all know that that woman is Bathsheba!

Do we?

It is my contention that Matthew did not think highly of Bathsheba. In fact, it could be the Old Testament writers didn’t either. The name Bathsheba could be a placeholder in fact. It literally means “Daughter of an oath.” What oath? We don’t know. This could be a name given to avoid giving her real name. She had to be addressed in some way. In fact, the entire account in 2 Samuel 11-12 is meant to be a shameful one. Let’s go back and look at it.

The writer starts off that saying it was spring when kings go off to war, since battle in the snowy conditions was much more difficult. Yet immediately, we see that David is not going to war. David sends out all the king’s men, but he himself stays behind in Jerusalem. The writer wants you to know that David is not where he is supposed to be. A king is meant to act likea king and David is not doing that. Will this lead to any sort of disaster on his part?

As the king is on the roof, he sees a woman bathing and notes how beautiful she is. This is Bathsheba. There were numerous places where a woman could have bathed and not been seen, and yet this woman chose to bathe near the king’s palace, where there would be several men who could see her. Matthew and the author of 2 Samuel likely see this the same way as not an innocent action. This is the case of someone trying to gain reputation using her body. Of course, in our modern world, we no longer have any idea what it would be like for a woman to use her body to try to get something and certainly not in the public eye.

David sends people to find out about her. Note this might sound private, but it is not. Privacy was not the norm in the ancient world. The right to privacy that we claim would make no sense to them. This would be the word that would be spreading all around the palace. Everyone would know “David wants to know about Bathsheba.” Word comes to him and he sends for her and Bathsheba dutifully comes to the king and does not have any problem with sleeping with him. (Strange that a woman who was concerned about monthly uncleanness would not mind that little weightier matter in the law about adultery)

David’s had his fun however. All is taken care of. Right?

Well, until word comes that the woman is pregnant. Note that this would have been a number of months later at least and no one has confronted David on this. David knows that this will lead to his shame if it is found that he committed adultery. What does he do? He orders Uriah to be brought back to the palace to see David with the hopes that he can entice Uriah to sleep with his own wife so everyone will think the baby belongs to Uriah. Note that Uriah is a gentile as well, a Hittite, and he is going to be acting more honorably to the God of Israel than the king is, something even more shameful to David.

The first night of his visit, Uriah refuses to go home to Bathsheba. What does he say to David when David asks why he didn’t?

““The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!””

Ouch! We can miss all that is said in here and see it as just a statement of facts, but Uriah has essentially slammed the king. Let’s look at the points.

First, the ark of Israel and Judah are staying in tents. That’s right. That which was to represent the manifest presence of God to the people is in a tent. Where is the king? He’s in a palace! The king should be out there with the ark and he is not. Why does the king get better treatment than the ark of God does?

Second, Joab is referred to as the commander of Uriah and not David. This is saying that Joab is playing the role of a real king going out and leading the people into battle. Why is David not being the king? In fact, these are camped in the open country. They are placing themselves in a position of danger. Why is the king not doing the same thing?

Therefore, Uriah will not enjoy the pleasures of home and at this point, it is quite likely that he knows all about what David has done and that David is trying to cover his own tail. Uriah is not going to do it. David tries again even getting Uriah drunk, and yet Uriah is more righteous when he’s drunk than David is when he’s sober.

David now has to try something else. He sends Uriah back with his own death warrant. At this point, David is endangering the army of Israel in a raid, all to cover his own sin. We say Uriah died, and rightly we do, but let’s be clear that the text tells us that some of the other men in the army died. There were other casualties to this action besides Uriah. In fact, David doesn’t really care about this. All that matters to him at the time is that Uriah is dead. David can take Bathsheba and no one will be the wiser.

David is fine with what has happened because no one exposes him. In the ancient world, there was not an internal conscience of guilt. Instead, your actions were shown to be right or wrong based on what others told you. That is why David is completely caught off-guard when Nathan confronts him on the matter and only then does he repent. Let’s be clear. This is something important about David that makes him a righteous man. When he’s called out, he does repent.

We know that the child born first to David and Bathsheba died, and that later there was a son born to them whom God loved and that one was named Solomon. As we see later in chapter 12, Joab continues attacking the city that they had been at war against and sends words to David to muster the troops for the final confrontation or else he will take over the city and name it after himself. In other words, Joab also wants David to act like a king as well.

Matthew refuses to name Bathsheba in his account. It is quite likely that he did this to remove honor from her. He sees her as one who vaunted herself to get into the royal family. Bathsheba must not be named and if a theory like this is correct (Which more can be found about this in “Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes”) then the writer of 2 Samuel had a similar position.

What can we get out of this for Christmas?

Most of us can look back at stupid decisions we’ve made in our lives. Note that God took no doubt a wicked act, what happened between David and Bathsheba, and stil used it in his plan of redemption. We know that God redeems us as sinners, but we do not realize often times that He also redeems our actions. Anything that we do, He will use towards His good. We should not see this as a license to sin, but we should not on the other hand view our sins as the end of everything. We can never ruin God’s plans by them and He has already taken them into account and will use them for good.

And let’s keep in mind that that good was once the birth of the Messiah.

In Christ,
Nick Peters