When King David learns that he has impregnated Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, one of his best warriors who is away fighting battles, he tries various schemes to cover his adultery. He orders Uriah home and tells him to visit Bathsheba in hopes that he will have sex with her. When the loyal Uriah refuses (as was the custom for soldiers then), King David gets him drunk hoping that he will visit his wife and have intercourse with her. Again, Uriah does not go to her. Finally, King David orders his field commander Joab to place Uriah “in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die.” (KJV) Upon hearing of Uriah’s death, King David sends a letter to Joab in which he writes: “Let this thing seem not evil in your eyes, for the sword devours sometimes one way and sometimes another” (Alter translation). The king’s words, “Let this thing seem not evil in your eyes” are empty ones for a brave commander who became part of a horrible crime committed to cover another.
King David’s words should be held close to our hearts because they remind us how easy it is to lie or rationalize to others and ourselves. King David uses Joab to murder an honest man, then tells him that he should not allow the evil surrounding Uriah’s murder “seem” evil. After all, King David tells his loyal commander, the sword devours both ways. He is telling his commander that the murder committed is not evil, and he uses a strongly passive verb to make that statement. King David is using “alternative facts” that softly lie and distort. King David is giving Joab permission that he does not possess because he cannot make the deed anything in the mind and heart of Joab. But he tries, and because we never hear from Joab about Uriah’s death, we do not know how he seemed this evil not to be evil.
In our modern world of “fake news” and cheap chants, we need to heed the words of King David and hear them as what they are: A lie and a lie that cannot undo what has been done.
We need to be vigilant and keen and seekers of honesty. “Fake news” is a slogan without substance, and if we follow that chain of belief, we will be swept away like Joab. A victim of a despot who uses us for his glorification.