And then he decides it’s OK: (שמואל ב יא:ד) וישלח דוד מלאכים ויקחה. Who were these relatives, and what do they have to do with the story?
At the end of ספר שמואל, there is an appendix with a list of David’s lieutenants from the days before he became king. Uriah is the last mentioned:
We have no patronymic for him, so he may have been a convert:
And Rav Medan speculates that this may be part of the reason David feels it acceptable to take his wife:
But as he says, there is no textual support for this, and no classical commentator proposes it. There is a fascinating aggadah about Uriah and his history:
The Kli Yakar cites what Ginzberg (Legends of the Jews, volume VI, p. 252) calls “an unknown Midrash”:
We talked last time about how, when David sees Bat Sheva, it is a sign from G-d, but that doesn’t justify sinning:
We discussed how, in David’s eyes, his vision of Bat Sheva echoed the experience of his ancestor, Yehudah, with Tamar:
So when David sees this beauty before him, he “logically” concludes that this is also וְהַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא הָיָה עוֹסֵק בּוֹרֵא אוֹרוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶךְ הַמָּשִׁיחַ, and he is driven בְּעַל כָּרְחוֹ to take her.
The irony is that, as one of David’s heroes, he was a leader of the army:
And he would have gladly gone on a suicide mission and thanked David for marrying Bat Sheva after his death. This could have been an act of חסד that established David as the true מלך ישראל.
And who was אליעם, the father of Bat Sheva? He is also one of David’s גִּבֹּרִים:
We have nothing more about him, but we know a lot about his father, אחיתפל. He was one of David’s chief advisors (who will end up betraying him and joining with Avshalom):
The חז״ל saw Achitophel as David’s חברותא:
(We will deal with the logical problem of this קַל וָחֹמֶר later.)
And Rashi connects this to a chapter of תהילים that we will understand deals with Achitophel:
The Rema brings another fascinating aggadah (that he clearly has some doubts about, citing only ספר אחד ישן מאד), but it’s cool:
I wouldn’t say it’s literally true that Achitophel was the father of Western philosophy, he clearly was seen as a very wise man, an adviser to the king.
So it makes sense that when David finds out that this mysterious woman is the granddaughter of Achitophel himself, he thinks that this would be a perfect match, marrying מלכות to תורה.
But it’s clear that Achitophel didn’t see it that way:
חז״ל further saw in Achitophel a profound misunderstanding of what kingship was all about:
But the נבדל מן הכלל that goes with צרעת is incompatible with the נבדל מן הכלל that goes with מלכות:
Achitophel becomes the symbol of the king who doesn’t feel himself a servant of the people, who wants the power but not the responsibility of leadership. This is Avshalom’s failing, and it will be the failing of David’s own grandson and will lead to the division of the kingdom:
There is another aggadah that connects Achitophel to the building of the בית המקדש:
Incidentally, David doesn’t start building the מזבח until שמואל ב פרק כד, well after the story of Achitophel’s death in פרק יז. This is evidence that פרק כד is an appendix, describing a story that happened well before.
It’s a very strange aggadah. Rav Medan makes the connection to the last time the תהומות threatened to flood the world:
In Rav Medan’s reading, David is guilty of the same sin as the בני האלהים—the people of power. He also ראה את בת האדם כי טבה הנה; ויקח לו מכל אשר בחר. And ה׳ threatens to flood the world again. Achitophel “paskens” that their (and David’s) sin was one of ערוה, immorality, and is similar to the sin of the סוטה. a religious ritual like the סוטה can alleviate the threat.
But this analogy of the generation of the flood to the סוטה is wrong, and Achitophel is wrong. The sin of the בני האלהים and of David is not ערוה, adultery. David and Bat Sheva are not two star-crossed lovers. Bat Sheva never consents to be with David. The crime is חמס, violence, rape.
As if to emphasize this point, Bat Sheva as a literary character is consistently portrayed as passive. In the examples of the Biblical antecedents of this story, the woman is active: Tamar goes out to Yehudah, Ruth goes out to Boaz, Avigail goes out to David. Bat Sheva is always just following someone else:
If, in the eyes of the midrash, Achitophel is willing to see David’s sin as סוטה-like, and thus allow שמי שנכתב בקדושה ימחה על המים, then why does he turn on David after? Because of the outcome: it becomes clear that in the eyes of G-d, this was a case of rape, not adultery. David marries Bat Sheva, and, with the birth of Shlomo, ה׳ approves of the marriage. Adulterers can never marry, but in the society of תנ״ך, a violated woman is damaged; through no fault of her own, she will be unable to get married. The Torah mandates that the perpetrator marry her (she has the option of refusing, but he does not) to continue to support her:
And that is how the gemara understands how David can marry Bat Sheva:
The question of כל היוצא למלחמת בית דוד גט כריתות כותב לאשתו we will look at later—was Bat Sheva technically not married to Uriah, or was David guilty of adultery as well?—but Achitophel turns on David עבור שלקח את נכדו בחזקה.
There is a פרק תהילים that חז״ל associate with Achitophel and David’s relationship with him: תהילים פרק נה. The middle section is what makes it clear that the perek is about Achitophel, so I will start there.
The only person that David could call אלופי ומידעי who betrays him is Achitophel. And as we said above, this section is the source of the Mishna that says David learned two things from Achitophel:
The question everyone asks about this mishna is that the קל וחומר makes no sense. Achitophel teaches two things, so you should respect someone who teaches you one? Rav Chaim miVolozhin explains that in the eyes of חז״ל, Achitophel may have known a lot but was not a תלמיד חכם in the sense that he did not internalize the lessons of the Torah. If he had, he would never have betrayed David. Therefore, his lessons did not have the essetnial unity that true Torah has:
Going back to the beginning, this is a prayer, but a prayer of despair. David does not ask for the defeat of his enemies, but to be allowed to give up:
But if this is a sad song, the כותרת is very strange:
A משכיל we’ve translated as lecture, which is fine, but בִּנְגִינֹת ”with musical instruments“ sounds very happy. The Alshich says that is the point; David needs cheering up:
But really the word “נגינת” can mean “broken”; this is a song of David’s depression:
And he is depressed because the enemy here is internal, part of the Jerusalem he loves:
The irony here is of David looking at his city and seeing חמס in Achitophel’s and Avshalom’s behavior, when it was his חמס that started the cycle of violence. ראיתי חמס וריב בעיר really started with the story of Bat Sheva. Then in the perek we have the reveal that he is speaking of אלופי ומידעי, about Achitophel his teacher and friend. But after that, we have the volta:
David goes from ארחיק נדד to ירדו שאול, when he realizes that the very fact that he can call out to ה׳ means not all hope is lost and his enemies can be defeated. This is one of the sources of our thrice-daily prayer, and the gemara attributes it to Achitophel:
And then the poetic tense changes, from the future (ישמע קולי) to the past: פָּדָה בְשָׁלוֹם נַפְשִׁי.
The gemara understands that David is composing this perek after the entire story of Avshalom’s rebellion and Achitophel’s betrayal.
He looks back when composing תהילים, and realizes that ה׳ had guided his words. He was literally saved with the word בְּשָׁלוֹם:
And the other reason that he had to turn back and not give up was because ברבים היו עמדי, people depended on him. So he turns back to his enemy, his best friend:
And we quote those words when we complete a section of learning Torah. Achitophel, Bat Sheva’s grandfather, is the symbol as well of those who learn Torah but not לשמה:
Achitophel, while he never appears in the Bat Sheva story, is the thematic glue that ties it all together, from the wars that start in פרק י to the return of David as מלך ישראל in פרק יט.