In the previous posts In the Same Boat and Who Reveals Whom?, the issue of David’s treatment of Uriah the Hittite came up. One of the points made there was that Uriah, as a Hittite, was a foreigner, and so the horrible abuse David meted out to him should be seen in that light as well.
In listening to some of the recent Tarazi Tuesday podcasts at the Ephesus School Network, I learned something that puts David mistreatment of Uriah in a new light. Uriah is actually not a foreigner; he is living on his people’s (as we would say today, ancestral) land. This new lesson just reinforces that reading and re-reading the Bible without preconceptions brings out important nuances we would otherwise miss if we do not keep reading.
Uriah, as Father Paul reminds us, is a Hittite. The introduction of the Hittites does not appear with the story of David, but much earlier, with Abraham. In Genesis 23, we are told of Sarah’s death. Abraham, as a sojourner trusting God to provide, has no place to bury his wife. So he approaches the Hittites and asks from them a burial place. They offer him the choicest place, gratis. Abraham does not want to take advantage of their generosity, and for a nominal price offers Ephron of Zohar some money. Ephron eventually agrees, and the cave and surrounding land in Machpelah become Abraham’s land to bury his wife.
Abraham receives hospitality and generosity from the Hittites who long inhabited the land. He was a stranger in the land where they lived for generations. He had nothing, not even a plot for his wife and they graciously gave him one. But later, his descendant David would abuse one of the survivors of those people still living on that land, Uriah, and treat him as expendable.
The inclusion of the Hittites in the Bible is thus a powerful indictment of human arrogance, power, and ingratitude.