There’s a very difficult paragraph at the end of this week’s parasha:
I spoke about this paragraph 5 years ago, and about how hard it is to translate בני האלהים:
אלהים meaning “judge” or “ruler” is attested in תנ״ך:
And that’s how Onkelos (and Artscroll) translate it:
The story of the בני האלהים is the story of the chaos of the antediluvian world; without laws or limits, the strong oppressed the weak:
droit du seigneur
The putative right of a feudal lord to have relations with his vassals’ brides (French, “right of the lord”)
And punishment via a flood is a form of מדה כנגד מדה. ה׳ created laws and limits in the universe. If people won’t accept those limits, then the universe won’t:
And this is problem throughout history: בימים ההם וגם אחרי כן אשר יבאו בני האלהים אל בנות האדם. We read a chapter of תהילים every Tuesday:
And it’s worth remembering that אסף was the Levi who led the שירה in Jerusalem, and was also a נביא. His תהילים have a message, and are addressed to the powerful of his time. There is an echo of ויראו בני האלהים את בנות האדם כי טבת הנה; ויקחו להם נשים מכל אשר בחרו specifically in the story of David and Bat Sheva.
The gemara discusses the ceremony of נסוך המים on Sukkot. Part of that ceremony was the recital of the 15 (שירי המעלות (תהילים קכ-קלד. The gemara brings a very strange aggadah to explain the connection betwen שיר המעלות and bringing up the water:
Rav Yaakov Medan sees this aggadah as hinting at the affair of David and Bat Sheva. ה׳ is accusing David of being guilty of the same sin as the בני האלהים—the people of power. And ה׳ threatens to flood the world again. I dealt with the role of Achitophel, Bat Sheva’s grandfather, in detail in the Tanach shiur, and I won’t go into that now. But the bottom line is that Achitophel considers David’s sin to be akin to סוטה, a problem of adultery. But it’s not. The sin of the בני האלהים and of David is not ערוה, adultery; Bat Sheva never consents to be with David. The crime is חמס, violence:
In the aggadah, the waters retreat but go so far as to threaten drought. We’ve talked many times about the response to the chaos of דור המבול: the fascism of דור ההפלגה, the tower of Babel. Rules are necessary, but so is recognizing the importance of each individual. Government is like water: too little is bad; too much is equally bad. The שירי המעלות reflect, in part, David’s learning this lesson, about creating a kingdom of (שמואל ב ח:טו) משפט וצדקה.
One שִׁיר הַמַּעֲלוֹת explicitly makes the connection between the power of evil men and the flood:
One points out that we need the divine guidance to avoid the trap of fascism; even the צדיקים can find themselves wielding the שבט הרשע:
And David offers this advice to his successor: without ה׳'s help, there is no hope for an enduring civilization: