Uriah the Hittite
2 Samuel 11:2 – Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold.
If you’ve been around church long enough, you know the story. King David is walking on his roof one day and looks down to see a woman bathing. That woman is Bathsheba. David has his servants go tell her that he wants to see her. She arrives to his quarters and he sleeps with her. The Bible isn’t clear as to whether it is rape or adultery. In the grand scheme of things, that is inconsequential to the story anyway because both are acts of evil and depravity regardless of our emotions about each act.
After he sleeps with her she becomes pregnant. David then proceeds to hatch a plan to kill her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and take her as one of his wives.
I have heard this story over and over again in church settings. It has been used in two different ways. The first is about the dangers of adultery. The second is how sin always takes you farther than you want to go.
But one thing is clear during every re-telling of this story: it is always about David and Bathsheba. There is usually something that is either missing or glossed over, Bathsheba’s husband had a name.
2 Samuel 11:3 – So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
If we believe the Bible to be inerrant and infallible, then there clearly needs to be a meaning behind why we learn about the name of Uriah the Hittite. In the New Testament, can you tell me who the church leaders were for most of the churches that Paul wrote letters to? Can you tell me the names of the 70 others who followed Jesus? The Bible is filled with many times where names aren’t significant so they aren’t mentioned. But in this case, the person who is sinned against is named.
It is Uriah the Hittite.
So what do we know about him?
First, he was a Hittite. That means he was a gentile convert to Judaism. Many scholars believe that Uriah was one of the original Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem and of Hittite origin. Depending on the etymology of the word, if it came from the Hurian name Ariya then it would mean king or ruler. If it is related to the name Araunah then it would show he is a successor in leadership in the Jebusite society, possibly even the successor to the king.
Many translate the name to mean “Light of Jehovah” or “God is my light.”
Under David’s reign, Uriah was one of 30 commanders of the army in how it was divided. Many of David’s officers were foreigners, so having Uriah, a Hittite and foreigner, was not unusual. He was married to Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam. This is perhaps the same Eliam related to Ahithophel. Based on Nathan’s story in 2 Samuel 12, Uriah loved Bathsheba and was devoted to her. He was recalled from the war with Ammon around 1035 BC. David recalled him so that he would hopefully have sex with his wife and hide the pregnancy. What David didn’t expect was Uriah’s strong sense of duty. He refused to go home when his brothers in the war were sleeping alone on the ground so he did the same in Jerusalem. David sends him back into the battle and tells his supreme commander to send him on a suicide mission in which Uriah perished.
The touching part of this story is that Uriah died never knowing his wife slept with David.
The reason I bring up this story, and the reason I believe we actually learn of Uriah’s name, is because it sets up a typical Hebrew parable that teaches through repetition of contrast. On three separate occasions we learn that Uriah is different from David.
2 Samuel 11:6 – Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David.
In the first scenario, when David recalls Uriah from the war to sleep with his wife. Uriah refused. He said he could not stand to be in comfort and in the arms of his wife while his fellow soldiers were in harm’s way on the battlefield. Yet, during this war, this is where we find David. We see him in comfort and in the arms of women. This places more integrity on Uriah than on David in this circumstance. But it must only be a short lapse in judgment on David’s part, right? Surely he will make everything right.
In the second scenario, David gets Uriah drunk in hopes that he will stumble home and have sex with his wife in the comfort of his bed. But he didn’t. He went back to sleep on the ground. Even while drunk it is shown that Uriah’s principles are stronger than David’s. Unfortunately, we find that Uriah’s principles are just the thing that is going to get him killed.
2 Samuel 11:15 – And he wrote in the letter, saying, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.”
Finally, David hatches a plot to kill Uriah. Not only Uriah, but others will also die. David hands a message for Joab, his commander, that says to send Uriah on the suicide mission. Uriah goes back into battle, not caring for his own safety but for the safety of the king. David send Uriah to die so that David didn’t have to come clean.
The contrasts in those scenarios remind me of Peter denying Jesus.
David’s response to Joab is classic humanity. Basically, David tells Joab, “Don’t be upset, that’s the way life works.”
It is amazing how we can look around and get so cynical and say, “It’s no big deal, that’s just life.”
But how often do we not see the effects of choices we, or others, make? The injustice that David thrust upon Uriah and his family is clear. And David simply says, “That’s life.”
That’s not life. David orchestrated multiple sins to make life happen in this way.
Sadly, we see a theme that those who live a righteous life often realize, these things do happen, but mostly to the righteous.
But there is even more to this story.
Uriah is a Hittite. David is Jewish.
Could this be an even deeper example of God using the lost to witness to the saved?
Could this be a Jesus example in this story?
During the entire story of Uriah, he never once mentions God. Also, since he maintained his identity as a Hittite means that while he might fight in Israel’s army and adopted an Israelite name, he doesn’t necessarily follow Israel’s God.
Jesus came to seek and save the lost, not the found. Those lost would be used in the future to lead people to the risen Christ.
Could this be an example of that?
This story could be used to show a person who doesn’t believe to show those who believe how they should be glorifying their God.
Many times in my life God has used those outside of the community of faith to show me what He needs me to see. But all too often, Christians close their eyes to anything that is outside Christendom.
While we need to be wary of what happens in the world, realize that God can, and will, use whatever He wants to get our attention.
2 Samuel 11:27 – And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.