David and Donald: The Idle Kings

“And it came to pass at the turning of the year, the season when kings go off to battle, that David instead sent Joab….”  So begins II Samuel 11, and the story of David and Bathsheba.

Idling at home on his palace balcony, the King spies Bathsheba bathing and has her brought by force to his chamber.  When he learns he has impregnated her, David recalls from the front her husband, the faithful soldier Uriah, to sleep with his wife.  But David’s effort to “undo” his adultery fails when Uriah disobeys, recognizing what David does not – his place is with his troops.  And so David stoops to even further depravity:  he orders his general Joab to station Uriah in the vanguard where he will be killed, leaving Bathsheba widowed and marriageable.  Had David answered his call as King and led his army at the first, he would not later have required such machinations to protect his name.  But such is the corrosiveness of power.

The last few months have swept America along a roller coaster of anxieties.  Even in the weeks prior to November 3, as the Coronavirus raged across the country, President Trump had long since abandoned his post at the front of the battle to contain it.  And now he seems completely AWOL.

Regardless of the election’s outcome and whether or not he should challenge it, for two months more Donald Trump remains the President of the United States – the only one who can stand at the head of its government and command the nation’s resources necessary to address the pandemic.  But instead, at “the season when kings go off to battle” – when true leaders lead – he consumes his days in an attempt to salvage his political legacy, willingly undermining the incoming Administration’s efforts to do the job he has chosen to abandon.

When confronted with his immorality by the prophet Nathan, David admits his crime:  “I stand guilty before the Lord.”  It is difficult to imagine President Trump ever uttering such a confession.

About the Author
Rabbi Joshua M. Davidson is the Senior Rabbi of Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York.
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