King David and seeing the woman

King David at the Cathedral
King David with Melchizedek on the mural at our altar in our Cathedral.

“You are the man,” or so says our first reading for the Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time. The passage ends, “you have looked down on me and have taken the wife of Uriah to be your wife.” Hebrew has two words for “Man,” as does German. German has “Der Mann,” and “Der Mensch.” Hebrew has “Adam,” and “Ish.” “Ishah,” is the Hebrew word for a wife. “Ish,” is also the Hebrew word for “Fire.” The passage begins and ends in fire.

“You are the “Ish,” it says. You took the Ish/fire of Uriah/My God is Light, to be your wife/fire.  The key word here is “Took.” Fire is light and heat. King David takes the heat and kills the light. In the process, he returns to Sheol. Another interesting pun is upon Saul, which also means Sheol/Hell. In Hebrew, Saul, and Sheol, spell the same. I took you from Hell, and gave you many nice things, our passage tells us. You then took. Sheol also means to borrow. God gives us his light on a loan, under the premise that we will share it with others. Hebrew has no words for “Mine,” “Yours,” et cetera. Everything is “to me” or “to him,” et cetera. Prepositions are nasty things. If something is to me, it is from someone and for something. David, which means beloved in Hebrew, takes things for himself and for his own purpose.

Ruth and her wheat on the mural at our altar in our Cathedral.

David kills “My God is Light,” with the sword of the Ammonites. This generally translates as the sons of the Father. Ammonite might also come from the root word meaning, “Leaven,” as in the Ammonites are related to the Moabites, those who gather as sheaves of wheat are gathered stalks of wheat. We do this when we gather statements about those we do not like, without investigating their truth value. We say things we cannot back up, whether or not these things are true.

Our Catholic Catechism states: 2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty:  of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor. Of detraction who, without objectively valid reason, discloses another person’s faults and failings to persons who did not know them.
Of calumny who, by remarks contrary to the truth, harms the reputation of others and gives occasion for false judgments concerning them.

We can say things, and believe things that are true, but believe them without foundation. When we do, we violate the Eighth Commandment.  Mainly, however, our passage speaks to taking God’s Torah, his law, and shaping it to our ends. John 8 has a classic example of this. A woman is guilty of adultery and the leadership wants her dead. They also want to trap Jesus. Will he pronounce the guilty verdict, and show he really does not believe in mercy, or will he have mercy, and turn his back on Torah. They take the Torah, the instruction, the law, and use it for their own ends. Jesus wants no part of this. For Jesus, the ultimate cause, the ultimate end, is God. That is why he writes on the ground, giving pause to reflect on this taking of the law, and not sharing it, causing passion/heat, and not light.

This instruction, Torah, also comes down to a key line in the Gospel reading for this Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time:


Jesus turns to the woman and tells Simon, “Do you see this woman?” The phrase is pregnant with meaning. “Do you see this woman, Peter, or do you see an occupation?” “Do you see this woman, Peter, or do you see what she did in the past?” “Do you take Uriah, God’s light and turn it into the darkness of passionate love of rules, or do you borrow the light and let it shine on others?” Simon Peter makes the same mistake as King David. The Hebrew word for King is the same as the word for Angel and for messenger. The king’s role is to be a messenger from the people to God and from God to the people. He is to be the people’s messenger to each other. King David means, “Beloved Messenger.”

When a Jewish girl wears a necklace, it is likely to say, “Dodi Li, U Ani Lo.” I am to my Beloved/Dodi/David, and he is to me.” If we are going to be leaders, kings, beloved, we must borrow the light and shine it on others. We must see the woman in others, not their occupations, what they did in the past, or their cultural heritage.  This is using the Torah for God’s ends, and not our ends. Genesis 2:15 tells us God put us in the garden/the Latin word is paradise, to guard it and to keep it. No place in scripture reverses this commandment. We guard the garden and keep it. This is putting God first, borrowing his word to bring light to our world.  To be beloved we must love, not be filled with passion as was King David, but light/love.


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