[b-hebrew] XSD (really Uriah)

Rob Barrett rcbarrett at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 08:11:41 EDT 2005

Bill Rea wrote:

>I see Harold Holmyard agrees with you. But if you're both right
>why does Uriah explicitly mention lying with his wife if he did not
>understand David's intention for him to do precisely that.
>On a literary front we could say that the writer is using this to
>heighten our awareness of David's problem. He turns the heat up on
>David. But underlying any literary purpose there must be a context
>within the society it was written for. If there was no pre-existing
>connection in the minds of the readers between David's ``wash your
>feet'' in v8 and Uriah's ``lie with  my wife'' in v11 then I
>think the dialogue takes on a contrived feel.

In Sternberg's "The Poetics of Biblical Narrative", he has a fascinating 
discussion of the use of ambiguity in Hebrew narrative.  He uses this 
story as an example of extended ambiguity around the question of whether 
Uriah knew what David was/had-been up to or not (see pp. 201-9.  He 
argues that the story works both ways.

If Uriah does not know, he is a simple idealist who is itching to get 
back to the battlefield where he belongs -- it is the reader who must 
generate the contrast between the simple, faithful Uriah and the ugly, 
conniving David.  This Uriah simply brings up sex as an example of what 
he must not allow himself while Israel is in battle (unlike David, of 

If Uriah does know, he is a complex tactician who is trying to outwit 
David.  He knows what David has done and what he wants Uriah to do, but 
he's not going to fall for it.  He knows David wants him to lie with 
Bathsheba, and he also knows that the king may have him killed at any 
moment.  But he refuses to let David's offense lie hidden, so he brings 
up David's unspoken intention in an innocent-sounding way that points 
the finger at David, as the reader watches.

While one may not agree with Sternberg that both meanings are 
simultaneously intended by the narrator, both interpretations are fully 
plausible and neither demands that "feet" be read as anything other than 

(I take no stand on the larger philological debate)

all the best,

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