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Go to Bible: 2 Samuel 11
“in the spring of the year.” The Hebrew reads, “at the return of the year,” a reference to springtime.
“his servants.” This refers to the military officers and officials of the king, not his household servants or slaves. Because everyone serving the king was technically a “servant,” the word “servant” was used for all kinds of officials of the king. This was commonly known in the ancient world and so the text was not confusing to the ancients. However, we do not use the word “servant” that way today. We would never call the Vice President of the United States a “servant of the President,” nor would we call the captain of a battleship the “servant of the Admiral.” So the modern reader must learn the jargon of the ancient world, and pay attention to the context when the word “servant” is used. Sometimes it is clear from the context that “servant” refers to high officials (Isa. 42:1), sometimes to military officers, and sometimes both may be blended but it can be difficult to determine (Exod. 9:34; 1 Sam. 8:14; 2 Sam. 13:24; 1 Kings 20:6, 23; 22:3; Esther 3:2; Jer. 22:2; 37:18).
“Rabbah.” The capital city of Ammon, now much bigger and renamed Amman.(top)
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“Bathsheba.” The name means “daughter of an oath.”
“the daughter of Eliam.” Eliam was one of David’s mighty men (2 Sam. 23:34). Eliam’s father was Ahithophel (2 Sam. 23:34), who started out as one of David’s trusted counselors (2 Sam. 15:12; 16:23). However, after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had Uriah killed, Ahithophel sided with David’s son Absalom against David (2 Sam. 15:31). There is no evidence, however, that Eliam also turned against David.(top)
“now she had just purified herself from her uncleanness.” The Law of Moses required that a woman was unclean for seven days after her menstrual cycle ended (Lev. 15:19-33), and then she could lawfully have sex with her husband. At the end of those seven days of uncleanness she would wash herself and be clean. Bathsheba was washing herself at the end of her uncleanness. This also happens to be the time when a woman is very fertile, which seems to be the reason that this parenthesis is even in the text—it is letting the reader know that it would not have been unusual for Bathsheba to get pregnant from intercourse at that time of the month, which of course is what happened.(top)
“I am with child.” For the army of Israel to be fighting the Ammonites when David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and for them to still be in that fight when Bathsheba knew she was pregnant shows that David’s army had been in the field battling for weeks.(top)
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“the ark.” Uriah’s statement shows us that the army carried the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield with them, a seemingly precarious move. Given that the ark had been captured by the Philistines years earlier, one would think that David and his advisors would have left the ark in Jerusalem.
“staying in booths.” The bedouin had tents, and lived in them, but the army would not have had tents, they would have constructed temporary dwellings wherever they camped.
“encamped in the open field.” More literally, “are camping on the face (“surface”) of the field.” It seems most of the army simply laid on the ground at night.(top)
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“where he knew that valiant men were.” The fortress in Aman Jordan has steep sides all around except on the north side. That would seem to be the natural point where the fighting would be the fiercest.(top)
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“Jerubbesheth.” This is Gideon, “Jerubbaal” in Judges, but Jerubbesheth here in Samuel. “Jerubbesheth” means something like “shame will contend.” Due to the way Gideon ended his life, David referred to him as one with whom shame contended. This is ironic, because what David did was so shameful. Gideon’s sin was shameful, but David was in no position to point fingers.
“Didn’t a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall.” This record is in Judges 9:50-55.(top)
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“Do not let this thing be evil in your eyes.” David’s words are ironic. What David and Joab did was evil. To an outsider who did not know the situation, the “evil” was the death of a good man in a battle with the enemy. But the real “evil” was the plot that David hatched and Joab carried out to kill Uriah. What David did was clearly evil in the eyes of God (2 Sam. 11:27).
“So you are to encourage him.” David tells the messenger to encourage Joab.(top)
“she lamented over her husband.” 2 Samuel 11:26 is saying that Bathsheba openly and publicly wept and wailed over her husband. The Hebrew word translated “lament” is saphad (#05594 סָפַד) and in general, it refers to the more public lamentation and crying and wailing than the word 'ebel (#0060 אֵבֶל), which is used in 2 Samuel 11:27 and is translated “mourning.” Although the words may sometimes be used synonymously, generally saphad refers to the outward and public lamentation that occurred when someone died, while 'ebel refers to the longer and more personal mourning that occurs in a person’s mind and heart after someone dies, although especially with women in the biblical culture, it was common to wear clothing that indicated that the person was mourning the death of a loved one.
In the ancient biblical world there were women who were professional mourners, who would come to a funeral and loudly weep and wail, and often speak various laments (cp. Jer. 9:17). Those women helped draw the emotion of loss out of the people present. In the biblical world of the Jews, a person’s dead body was buried the same day the person died, and death often came quickly and unexpectedly. That meant that it often happened that there was no time to inform the extended family and gather them for the funeral, which could mean that some funerals did not have many family members present. But it was customary and considered important to make a loud weeping and wailing when someone died to demonstrate one’s feeling of loss and make a kind of tribute to the dead person. The professional mourners helped with the serious and sad tone of the funeral. Also, when other people at the funeral cried, it was easier for family members to feel the emotion and cry too. All this contributed to there being professional mourners, women, who would loudly cry and lament the death of the person. It also meant that the culture had a word for the loud, public lamentation at the funeral or announcement of someone’s death, and a different word for the internal mourning in the heart of a person who had lost a loved one. Here in 2 Samuel 11:26-27 we see both aspects: the lament and then the mourning. It is also worth noting that if there were musicians available that could help with the sad emotional tone, they might come to, as we see at the funeral of Jairus’ twelve-year-old daughter (Matt. 9:23).
The crowd that came to the house of Jairus when his daughter died would have had professional mourners in it, and that is part of the reason that crowd could go from “crying and wailing loudly” (Mark 5:38) to laughing out loud (Mark 5:40) so very quickly (cp. Mark 5:38-40).(top)
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