I was sitting in Jewish History class and I was bored (in addition he was grading tests and he gives us a study period whenever he does so if I could get him off topic long enough we would have another free day.
On the test one of the questions was, “True or False Israel and China are the only countries which have had the same religion practiced by the same group in their country as 3,000 years ago.” Wanting to have some fun I asked, “3,000 years ago wasn’t the religion of Israel more Baal than Judaism, I mean this was the time of the Shoftim and for most of that time they were worshiping idols.” So he said that this was only a small fraction of the Jews and I asked why we couldn’t assume that the Navi was talking literally. He was silent for a couple of seconds and then said that Rabbi Avigdor Miller said it wasn’t like that then he brought up three examples which he said proved that you could not learn the Torah without the Oral Torah. The first was Moshe after the rock being told he wouldn’t enter Israel because he didn’t believe in Hashem and Moshe obviously did believe in him however in the case of the rock Moshe quite literally did not put his faith in G-d going against his express command (not to say that we would have done better). The second and more convincing one was the story of the loss at Ai. Hashem told Yehoshua that there was a great sin which caused the loss. It turns out that the great sin was only one person looting from the city of Yericho. However, this can be deflected by saying that there must have been some other people with knowledge of his theft, which was not minor, and covered it up.
The final proof was flawed in many ways. This proof was that if you read the Navi literally is that you will conclude that Dovid committed adultery when we know from the Talmud that he didn’t. Aside from the circular nature of this proof (if you don’t learn Navi to correspond with the Talmud you’ll disagree with the Talmud at times) and the fact that it is only one opinion which says he didn’t sin, you can argue with the Gemara’s interpretation of a non-halachic story in Tanach. However, lets examine the story more closely. First the whole assumption that it wasn’t adultery is based on the assumption that if he committed adultery he couldn’t have married her. However, the whole concept of being forbidden to the man you committed adultery which may have been instituted after they could no longer practically institute the death penalty. Furthermore throughout the narrative Batsheva is called the wife of Uriah which makes it more likely that he was truly married to her at the time. The other question which could be asked is why is there an emphasis about her being ritually clean, shouldn’t that pale in comparison to adultery? However, in truth the fact that she had just come back from the mikvah is crucial because it kept Dovid from calling it Uriah’s child. In the end people who take an apologetic view of Dovid say that Uriah had made a conditional divorce if he died in battle. Therefore once he died in battle in retroactively became no adultery. However that still leaves you with the problem of how Dovid could kill Uriah. On this point the standard defense is that Uriah rebelled against the king and therefore was rightfully killed. However given the timing the offense could have only come while Uriah was called back from the front. There are two possible rebellions during this period. The first is him referring to his commanding officer Yoav as Adoni Yoav. However, this seems to be a very weak possibility as Adoni seems like a title of respect not a title of lordship. The other time is when he refuses to go home and sleep with Batsheva. There are two possible reasons for this
- He knew that Dovid had slept with Batsheba. In this case he was forbidden by the Torah from sleeping with her. It is generally accepted that the Torah takes precedence over a kings orders.
- His stated reason was, how can I sleep at home while the Ark and my soldiers are out in battle. In fact if this was stated by any other person it would be taken as evidence of his righteousness not rebellion.
Furthermore, Dovid’s words were probably construed as a suggestion and a polite way of saying he was of duty for the moment rather than an order.
The last and largest issue was that Dovid ordered the Jews to lose a battle to have Uriah killed. Having your men retreat from behind Uriah and his unit is murder plain and simple and if it is possible is treason.
Now the Talmud doesn’t say this, but it is a serious story and one which does not have to be interpreted the way R’ Shmuel bar Nachmani does.