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Sunday, January 6, 2013

King David, Paralyzed by Guilt and Traitors, 1 Kings Chapter 1 מְלָכִים א

I've been studying about our Biblical King David for a couple of years already in Matan, taught by Dr. Yael Ziegler.  We have finally finished the Book of Shmuel, Samuel, and began  1 Kings Chapter 1 מְלָכִים א.  This section is also the Haftara, the Prophets portion, 1 Kings 2,1-12 for the Torah Reading  Chayei Sarah , The Life of Sarah, Genesis 23,1-25,18.

King David was our most vibrant and charismatic leader and fighter, so it's terribly surprising and upsetting to see this description of him.  What could have happened to have changed him in such a negative way?
א וְהַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד זָקֵן, בָּא בַּיָּמִים; וַיְכַסֻּהוּ, בַּבְּגָדִים, וְלֹא יִחַם, לוֹ. 1 Now king David was old and stricken in years; and they covered him with clothes, but he could get no heat.
King David's age, 70, was not all that old for Biblical figures of the time. Those who died young, like that, were generally killed in battle. Illness as we know it today is rarely mentioned in the Bible, just blindness.  And David is not described as blind, just old and cold.

Hebrew is a wonderful language, so let's look more carefully at what is written:
וַיְכַסֻּהוּ, בַּבְּגָדִים
vayichasuhu, babigadim
translated as:
and they covered him with clothes

That English translation doesn't do justice to the Hebrew, because the letters in the word בְּגָדִים bigadim can have a very different meaning:

בוגדים bogdim,  traitors
And this story takes place after the rebellions of King David's sons and the rape of Tamar and other tragedies, which are considered punishments for David's sins of sleeping with the married Batsheva and having her husband Uriah sent to die in battle.

KLing David did do teshuva, repented for this sin, but instead of feeling cleansed and resuming his position, he descends into a very serious depression.  And that's where we find him here as the Book of Kings begins.  He gets no warmth nor comfort from anything until the brave Natan, who had the guts to originally remind him of those sins suddenly reappears on the scene by sending Batsheva to David.
יא וַיֹּאמֶר נָתָן, אֶל-בַּת-שֶׁבַע אֵם-שְׁלֹמֹה לֵאמֹר, הֲלוֹא שָׁמַעַתְּ, כִּי מָלַךְ אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ בֶן-חַגִּית; וַאֲדֹנֵינוּ דָוִד, לֹא יָדָע. 11 Then Nathan spoke unto Bath-sheba the mother of Solomon, saying: 'Hast thou not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not?
יב וְעַתָּה, לְכִי אִיעָצֵךְ נָא עֵצָה: וּמַלְּטִי, אֶת-נַפְשֵׁךְ, וְאֶת-נֶפֶשׁ בְּנֵךְ, שְׁלֹמֹה. 12 Now therefore come, let me, I pray thee, give thee counsel, that thou mayest save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon.
יג לְכִי וּבֹאִי אֶל-הַמֶּלֶךְ דָּוִד, וְאָמַרְתְּ אֵלָיו הֲלֹא-אַתָּה אֲדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לַאֲמָתְךָ לֵאמֹר, כִּי-שְׁלֹמֹה בְנֵךְ יִמְלֹךְ אַחֲרַי, וְהוּא יֵשֵׁב עַל-כִּסְאִי; וּמַדּוּעַ, מָלַךְ אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ. 13 Go and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him: Didst not thou, my lord, O king, swear unto thy handmaid, saying: Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? why then doth Adonijah reign?
יד הִנֵּה, עוֹדָךְ מְדַבֶּרֶת שָׁם--עִם-הַמֶּלֶךְ; וַאֲנִי אָבוֹא אַחֲרַיִךְ, וּמִלֵּאתִי אֶת-דְּבָרָיִךְ. 14 Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I also will come in after thee, and confirm thy words.'
Suddenly we see the King David of old.  Why?
כט וַיִּשָּׁבַע הַמֶּלֶךְ, וַיֹּאמַר: חַי-יְהוָה, אֲשֶׁר-פָּדָה אֶת-נַפְשִׁי מִכָּל-צָרָה. 29 And the king swore and said: 'As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
ל כִּי כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתִּי לָךְ בַּיהוָה אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר, כִּי-שְׁלֹמֹה בְנֵךְ יִמְלֹךְ אַחֲרַי, וְהוּא יֵשֵׁב עַל-כִּסְאִי תַּחְתָּי: כִּי כֵּן אֶעֱשֶׂה, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. 30 verily as I swore unto thee by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying: Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; verily so will I do this day.'
Notice that King David suddenly mentions G-d and says that G-d has finally redeemed him.  That is what David had been waiting for, a sign that his Teshuva had been accepted.  King David had felt that without a clear notification/sign of forgiveness he could not have continued to function as the King of Israel.

If only today's leaders/politicians would care about what G-d commands and wants from us....


Cindy said...

Last year I read through 1st and 2nd Kings and remembered him being depressed and older than he should have been. I didn't catch the part though, of him needing a sign that the Lord had forgiven him. That's a great insight.

Batya said...

Cindy, in the discussion we had during the class in Matan someone asked why/if G-d had forgiven him for his Batsheva/Uriah sin, since it is recorded that he had repented. As the class continued, it hit me that he only felt forgiven after Batsheva and Natan appeared together to him. Since Natan had been the one to tell him that his sin was great, it took Natan to tell him the sin was forgiven.

goyisherebbe said...

Very nicely done, Batya (or Yael in the class). Unfortunately we yeshiva guys don't get enough Tanach. The young hesder guys that I learn with in Ma'ale Efraim are getting more of that background. At this point I have to pick it up piecemeal. The minute I read the verses I understood where you were going. I just have to do the reading and focusing.

Batya said...

goyish, it's an awful problem that Tanach isn't taught in yeshivot. These points I blogged were from my comments, thanks.