Sunday, July 29, 2018

2 Samuel 11.26 - 12.13: David Has Slain...Two

"Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands." So sang the women as they danced and celebrated David (1 Samuel 18:7). A Renaissance manuscript and this reading from Hebrew scripture (2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a) help us focus on two of the tens of thousands. One is David's most famous instance of killing. The other his most infamous.

It is David's orchestration of Uriah's death that sets in motion the events in the text, which begins with the announcement of his death to David and then to Uriah's wife Bathsheba. She mourns for him, but when the mourning is done, David brings her into the palace as his wife. And Uriah is seemingly forgotten.

Clovio has chosen to imagine a moment after Uriah has been killed. Here he lies on the ground, nude, his horse, perhaps injured(?), beside him. The other soldiers have pulled back, leaving Uriah visible on the ground. David's plan has succeeded. Uriah is dead. David has slain this one.
Giulio Clovio. Farnese Hours (Folio 63v). 1546. NY: Morgan Library.
In the oval grisaille vignette below the central scene, David raises his sword to cut off the head of Goliath. The figure to the left of the central scene is David, wearing a helmet and some kind of armor. In his right hand he holds the severed head of Goliath. To the right of the central scene is David, slightly draped, carrying the sling in his left hand. Three of the four sections of the page are of David's triumphal, almost salvific killing of Goliath. But the central scene is one showing a David who seems hardly a man after God's own heart. The David whose faith in God made the impossible possible seems completely gone.

Nathan seems to think so, too. He calls David to account. Not for the thousands but for the one. 

This week on Art&Faith Matters on Facebook, considering Bathsheba.

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