Saturday, March 17, 2007

something must be going around

Catherine, Aurelia, Sara, and Lori all had recent thoughtful posts about trying to assimilate the death of a child into a system of beliefs that includes the existence of an all-mighty, all-loving G-d.

These made me think of the one story in the Bible that comes to mind (at least to my mind) involving the death of an infant. King David, while standing on his roof, saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing, and, struck by her beauty, sent his messengers to bring her to the palace.

When Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, David arranged for Uriah's death in battle and married Bathsheba. But although David, with some prodding from the prophet Nathan, later repented, as punishment for David's sins, the newborn son of David and Bathsheba sickened and died.

I thought I recalled David's intense grief at his baby's loss. However, when I read the passages again, I saw that I had remembered the story precisely backwards. While the child was gravely ill, David fasted and prayed. However, once the baby had died, David arose, stopped fasting, and resumed his normal life. When asked to explain his actions, David replied "Now that he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."

What Bathsheba felt is not recorded.


LeRoy Dissing said...

And if I am not mistaken, their second child together was none other then Solomon. Very few women's feelings are recorded in the Bible unfortunately.

niobe said...

You're absolutely right. And, if I recall correctly, Bathsheba plays an extemely active role in obtaining the kingship for Solomon, even though he was not the designated heir.

Sara said...

Perhaps she thought, G-d rewarded Abraham for his adultery with two sons. Eve brought sin into the world and was rewarded with two sons. Am I really so terrible?

LeRoy Dissing said...

I think it says something about God gracious He is inspite of our condition. Some could argue that though.

niobe said...

Sara: But didn't one of Eve's sons kill the other? Or am I missing your point entirely?

Sara said...

Yeah, Cain did kill Abel. And some midrashim say that Abraham did sacrifice Isaac and that Ishmael died after Hagar was banished.

But all of their mothers were allowed the joy of at least giving birth to living children, and when Bathsheba lost her son (not knowing she would have another), she may have rightfully questioned G-d's justice. I think I was trying to say we cannot always be expected to look past our grief.

frumiousb said...

Rachel did not lose a child, but was barren in the face of her sister Leah's ability to have children. And when she finally was able to have children, she died in childbirth. Different, I realize.

I'm not a huge fan of Romans, but Peter's line about God not being a respecter of persons has come back to me a great deal lately.

niobe said...

frumious b: It is extraordinary to me just how much of the Old Testament (I know we're *suppposed* to use the term "Hebrew Bible," but to me it just doesn't have the same heft) is about women who are unable to bear children.

Of course, it may not be the most comforting reading for an infertile woman, since, in general, the women of the Bible are eventually blessed with children, thanks to G-d's intercession.

LeRoy Dissing said...

Its also interesting to note in the Old Testament how many women had children who were non-Jewish like Rahab and Ruth for which blessings flowed from/thru.

Katie said...

Niobe - thank you for the comment on my blog. I'll look forward to reading yours, too.

This post compelled to re-read the story of David and Bathsheba. I, like you, had remembered the intense grief of David's as being over his son's death - how surprised I was to find that his grief seemed to lessen when his son died.

Mothers and fathers grieve so differently, I've found (not to say that all fathers respond the way David did...but it's an interesting comparison).

Mrs. Blessed said...

Niobe, I found your blog via Thank you for the story of Niobe and Leto. I can't tell you how much your posts have helped me tonight.

Lori said...

I realize this discussion is sort of over, but I am just catching up. Thanks for the link to my Blog, but I'm not sure I really deserved it based on your topic. I do plan on giving more time to my thoughts on faith and loss in the near future, but in the meantime whatever I have said on the subject doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.

And just as another perspective: Many theologians interpret David's reaction to his infant son's death as his unshakable faith that his son was in heaven and they would one day be reunited. While there was still hope that his son might be able to stay with him in this life he prayed and fasted, but once he had died he instead began looking ahead to a heavenly reunion. I prefer to view his response as an expression of faith, rather than a lack of grief. That's just me though. And the Bible isn't always known for giving much insight into the emotions of its characters.

And one other side note: Rachel was indeed barren for a time but then had the beloved Joseph- Jacob's favored son. It wasn't until some time later when she gave birth to her second son, Benjamin that she died in childbirth.

niobe said...


I think you're exactly right.

When David says "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me," it certainly can be read to mean that father and son will be reunited in the world to come.

MissedConceptions said...

This is way after the topic, but a good read is the book "The Red Tent," a fictional account of the "Hebrew Bible" (or "Old Testament," if you prefer).

It is a really nice version of the early Biblical stories told by the women.

WARNING: Wrenching childbirth scene at the end of the book. I read it before my miscarriages, but I found it very emotional, then.