Saturday, November 8, 2014

Narrated Time in Historical Documents

Narrated time allows an author expressive liberties in the way that thoughts, ideas, and events are conveyed to the reader.  According to Bar-Efrat, since the narrative is revealed gradually, the author can use this as an exploitation to increase suspense and interest in the topic at hand[1].  This technique would make it easier for the author of 2 Samuel to direct and focus attention of certain topics and events that they placed a high level of importance on, and gloss over others that they didn’t.  The uncleanness that the author is referring to with Bathsheba is her menstruation cycle.  The significance of her “purification” from this uncleanness is significant because it means that she had just finished her menstruation cycle, with which in those times came a ban on sexual activity.  Also, because she was menstruating, it proves that she was not pregnant at the time[2]. 
In the passage of 2 Samuel 11:6-13, David is attempting to get Uriah to go and have sex with his wife, Bathsheba, so that he could cover-up the pregnancy that his indiscretion caused.  His motives behind this are obvious; he committed a grievous sin and crime and rather than repenting of it, he was trying to cover it up so that he would not be discovered.  After Uriah refused multiple chances of sleeping with Bathsheba, David finally committed the worst sin of murdering Uriah by ordering him to the front lines of the war to cover up the adultery, rather than just face the music.  His preoccupancy with his sin with Bathsheba would also serve to explain his actual reaction to the list of fatalities in 2 Samuel 11:18-25 as opposed to the perceived one that the messenger was warned about.  This suggests that David felt some remorse for what he had done, but it was perhaps too little too late.   
The conclusion that the author wants us to derive about David depends on the section of 2 Samuel that is being read, or if it is taken as a whole.  It also depends on which aspect of David’s life is being examined and highlighted.  Is the David that killed Goliath or the one that killed Uriah being looked at?  What about the servant that refused to raise his hand against the Lord’s anointed, or the anointed of the Lord that raised his hand against a loyal and faithful servant?  An example of the good man that David was can be seen in his actions upon learning of Saul’s murder.  Even though Saul had gone mad and tried to hunt and kill David, when he learned of his death, “…David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son.”[3]  Contrary to this is David’s actions and lack of remorse with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah to try and cover the situation up[4].  From the examples throughout the text of 2 Samuel, it appears that the author wants the readers to understand that David was a great man, loved of the people and of the Lord, but that even he was weak and eventually succumbed to a temptation. 


Bar-Efrat, S. (1989).  Time and Space in Narrative Art in the Bible.  Ch. 4.  The Almond Press.

Holy Bible, The.  King James Version.  1989.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  Salt Lake City, UT.

Klein, L. (2003).  Bathsheba Revealed From Deborah to Esther Sexual Politics in the Hebrew Bible.  Fortress Press, Minneapolis.

[1] Bar-Efrat, Time and Space, p. 141
[2] Klein, Bathsheba Revealed, p. 56
[3] 2 Samuel 1:17
[4] 2 Samuel 11:2-27

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