Most Christians are aware of the incident between King David and Bathsheba, and the resulting murder of Uriah, her husband. We recoil at Bathsheba’s abuse and the oppression of her husband by the most powerful man in the nation at the time. And we discern in the episode how easily power can corrupt and ultimately destroy a person’s legacy.
For those who may not be conversant with the account, here’s a very brief summary*.
Many centuries ago, while David was king of Israel, he saw a lady right from his palace and took an interest in her. Being king in such a culture, it was commonplace to take on a new wife. But the problem with this instance was that the woman in question, Bathsheba by name, was married. And she was married to one of David’s soldiers, a Hittite named Uriah. This did not deter the king, though. He slept with her and she became pregnant.
In an attempt to cover up his sin, he sent for her husband from the battlefield and asked him to go home to his wife. But Uriah refused and instead stayed with the king’s servants. After several attempts by David to get him to go to his house, Uriah would not budge. Frustrated, David conspires to kill him and instructs the head of the army to ensure he is killed in battle. This was done. Uriah was killed. Bathsheba mourned him. And then David takes her as his wife.
It is a tragic tale, no doubt. However, there is a deeper significance to the story which is often missed. And this is important in light of the Bible’s overarching redemptive message. We hardly notice that Uriah, the loyal and dutiful husband, was actually a type of Christ.
Uriah was so committed to his task as a soldier that he would not go to his house while a military campaign was on (2 Samuel 11:9). A man of honour and character, he sacrificed personal convenience for the sake of his calling. We can recall Christ’s agony in Gethsemane, painfully considering whether to drink the cup of agony staring him in the face (Luke 22:41-44). Thankfully, he chose to submit to the will of his father, sacrificing his own comfort for the world’s redemption.
In this incident, we see a juxtaposition of 2 images of Christ. David (though flawed) represents the grandeur and majesty of Christ as King, while Uriah is the image of Christ as the Suffering Servant, the Sacrificial Lamb, killed for the good of the nation (John 11:49-52).
Uriah was one of David’s mighty men (1 Chronicles 11:41, cf. 2 Samuel 23:39). This means David had probably known him long before he became king, during the years of struggle as an outcast fleeing the envy of King Saul. Yet Uriah was betrayed by his own and driven away to his death by those close to him. David himself experienced such betrayal and described the anguish in Psalm 55:12-14. Judas’s kiss of death was all the more painful because it was from a friend. He was not a mere disciple; he was a member of Christ’s team of apostles. He had received power from Jesus and had gone on kingdom outreaches with the other eleven (Luke 9:1-6). Still, he turned against him in order to enrich himself.
Like a lamb, Uriah meekly submitted to his master’s wish. Uriah did not object to delivering David’s message or following Joab’s later instruction; it was his duty. He must have felt Joab’s strategy was flawed, a point Joab also clearly acknowledged (2 Samuel 11:20-21). Yet he obeyed to his death. Like Jesus, he was a victim of the political intrigues and power plays of our world.
The crucifixion of Jesus was an act of political machination. Pilate needed to keep the peace in Jerusalem or he could lose his position. And he knew the Jews to be a fiercely anti-Rome nation. Any slight displeasure could have resulted in civil unrest. He was also smart enough to see that the religious leaders were simply moved by envy; they hated Jesus simply because they saw him as a threat. Hence his unjust proposal for them to choose between a confirmed criminal and an innocent man. Thus for the sake of pleasing his constituent and maintaining his office, Pilate was willing to crucify justice.
The circumstances surrounding Uriah’s death also produced the era of Israel’s supreme glory, wealth and peace under Solomon. As punishment for David’s crime, God took away the child borne to him by Bathsheba. Afterwards, she gave birth to Solomon who became the wisest king ever to grace the earth. The splendour of his kingdom was unparalleled. Under his rule, the people enjoyed peace like never before or after (1 Kings 4:25).
Christ’s death and resurrection, likewise, has ushered in the era of God’s kingdom which will be fully consummated when he returns. With his coming, the Spirit of God has been poured out on all nations, resulting in remarkable changes in individual lives and societies over the past 2,000 years. We also look forward to a new heaven and a new earth, glorious and resplendent beyond words. A world in which there will be no more crying, no more pain, and no more political oppression nor sexual abuse. It will be an age beautiful beyond what human language can possibly describe. We look forward to that time when the crucified Lamb will be seen in all his majesty. And not only will he be seen as the light of that city (Revelation 21:23), he will be its King.
*The full story can be found in 1 Samuel 11 and 12.