Voices of Faith | On Bathsheba and Beersheba

05/02/2014 1:00 PM

05/01/2014 4:28 PM

Herbert Mandl, rabbi emeritus and Rockhurst professor:

King David is one of the most fascinating personalities in the entire Bible. He is revered in both Judaism and Christianity. In the Jewish tradition the Messiah is seen as a descendant of King David. Furthermore, King David is idealized in the Jewish tradition because of his authorship of the Book of Psalms, which is traditionally ascribed to him.

Historically, King David was responsible through many wars and conquests for the creation of the Kingdom of Judah, a period in which he was the second and perhaps the most powerful king of the Jewish people.

David always had the desire of building the Holy Temple; however, he was stopped by the Almighty because of “blood on his hands” from his many wars. But it is Bathsheba who makes King David a very controversial figure in both Jewish and Christian biblical history.

King David became aware of this beautiful woman and summoned her. He was aware she was married and did not let that deter him. When Bathsheba announced she was pregnant by him, David immediately tried to “cover his tracks.” He summoned home her husband, a famous and noble warrior. David dined with her husband, Uriah, and told him to go home to his wife, trying to set a scene where Uriah could possibly be seen as impregnating his wife.

Uriah refused, saying “how could he sleep with his wife when his troops are out at war.” Nevertheless, he went home but slept on the doorstep for that night. Realizing how complicated his relationship and pregnancy with Bathsheba had become, David then ordered Uriah into battle, where he was slain.

As a result of the king’s sin, the prophet Nathan informed David, their sickly baby would die. But with the death of Uriah, King David married Bathsheba, and they bore a second child, namely Solomon, who later became the famous King Solomon.

What I find personally interesting is that other kings, particularly King Saul, David’s predecessor, also sinned in disobeying G-d; Saul by not executing Agag, the anti-Semitic king of the tribe of Amalek. As a result of this transgression, G-d took away the Kingdom of Israel from King Saul and from his son Jonathan. Both Saul and Jonathan died in battle shortly thereafter.

Yet, in the case of King David, the sin of adultery and sending a man off to his death in war was punished by the death of one love child. Other than that, King David remained the high and lofty leader of the Jewish people.

Syed Hasan, Midland Islamic Council:

Beersheba was the site of a well dug by the Prophet Abraham to water his flocks, but according to Islamic history and traditions, he lived there only once (2066 B.C.) during his long life of 175 years.

Mecca actually occupies a more central place in the lives of Abraham and Ishmael, and there is a more famous and holy watering place there.

After abandoning his hometown of Ur (Iraq) in about 2105 B.C. and having resided in Harran (Turkey) for about 14 years, Abraham with his wife, Sarah, had a two-year sojourn in Hebron (Palestine) before moving to Egypt.

After living there for about five years, Abraham, along with Sarah and an Egyptian slave woman, Hagar, moved back to Hebron, where Sarah gave him Hagar as his second wife; it was in Hebron where Ishmael was born in 2080 B.C. When Ishmael was an infant, Abraham traveled to a barren and desolate place called Becca (Mecca) with the baby and Hagar; but following God’s command, left them behind soon after arriving there.

In no time Hagar ran out of water and when desperately searching for it, heard a voice and pleaded for help.

The next moment she saw the angel Gabriel standing next to the dying Ishmael. The angel struck the ground with his heel, causing a spring to emerge. This spring — named Zam-Zam for Hagar’s cry “Hold! Hold!” as the water threatened to escape — is still yielding water in Mecca.

Abraham returned to Mecca three or four times. During one of these visits, around 2067 B.C., Abraham was about to fulfill God’s command to sacrifice his 13-year old son when God replaced Ishmael with a ram. Muslims commemorate this ultimate sacrifice annually during the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha.

On a subsequent visit and with the help of his grown up son, Ishmael, Abraham built Ka’aba, the first house of worship dedicated to Allah. After the structure was finished he prayed: “Our Lord, accept this from us; for you are all hearing, all knowing; Lord, make us submissive to you; raise from our descendants a nation that will submit to you. Teach us our rites of worship and turn to us with mercy; you are the forgiving and the merciful.”

The Qur’an tells us that many prophets came from Isaac (Abraham’s son with Sarah): Jacob, Joseph, Moses … John and Jesus (peace be on all of them), but only one, Mohammad (peace be on him), from Ishmael. He is regarded as the last prophet and messenger sent to humanity, and the divine verses revealed to him — preserved in the Qur’an — as the final words of God.

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