May 4, 2009 David Lang

David’s Midlife Crisis

One of my favorite features of the Timeline is the ability to option-drag from one point to another to see how much time elapsed between them. For example, if you display Individuals and Events in the Conservative dating scheme, you'll see the life of David along with the various events in David's life. If you option-drag from the beginning of David's life to one of those events, you'll see in the Instant Details box how old he was at that moment.

For example, if you option-drag to "Samuel Anoints David," you get an age of about 11 years. Frankly, that's a little younger than I tend to picture him being. If you drag to "David Slays Goliath," you get an age of about 17 or 18, which is about what you would expect. But if you drag to "David's Adultery with Bathsheba," you get an age of about 48 years, which is much older than we tend to picture. Hollywood certainly doesn't depict a middle-aged David seducing a much younger Bathsheba!

David's Age at Time of Adultery with Bathsheba

If this chronology is correct, it suddenly puts a whole new spin on this particular episode in David's life. Far from being a young despot who can take whatever he wants, David becomes a man going through a midlife crisis!

Is there support for this chronology? The Timeline Supplement, which is a PDF manual located in the Manuals & Documents folder inside your Accordance folder, lists the sources upon which the Timeline dates were based. The dates for David are based on Eugene Merrill's Kingdom of Priests. If I remember correctly, Merrill bases the date of this episode on his dating of David's two Ammonite campaigns. Whether or not you agree with Merrill's analysis, a moment's reflection shows that David had to be around middle-age when he took Uriah's wife. After all, if David did not become king over all Israel until he was 37 years old (2 Samuel 5:4-5), and he spent the next several years consolidating his reign, he had to be in his forties at the time of this affair.

Interestingly, there is another passage which might corroborate the notion that David's adultery with Bathsheba was part of what we now refer to as a midlife crisis. 2 Samuel 21:15-17 speaks of a war with the Philistines in which David became exhausted and was nearly killed. Rescued by one of his mighty men, David's soldiers urged him never again to go out with them to battle, lest the "lamp of Israel" be extinguished. Could this story, which is told without any mention of chronology, have been the reason why David "remained in Jerusalem" at the time "when kings march out to war" (2 Samuel 11:1)? It's certainly plausible, though of course there's no way to know for sure.

At any rate, one can certainly imagine that this warrior king, who has long fought beside his soldiers as their brother in arms, might have trouble accepting the fact that he must now remain behind. Lacking the stamina to survive on the battlefield, he wonders if he's still the man he used to be. Unable to sleep one night, he paces the roof and sees a beautiful young woman. Could his wanting her have been about restoring his ego as well as satisfying his lust?

Whether or not David's adultery with Bathsheba was, in fact, a midlife crisis, understanding it that way certainly will preach! And it's being able to flesh out a biblical narrative like this which makes the Timeline extremely useful.

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