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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 11:40-47 Uriah the Hittite

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, November 30, 2023

40 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite,  41 Uriah the Hittite, Zabad son of Ahlai,  42 Adina son of Shiza the Reubenite, a chief of the Reubenites, and thirty with him,  43 Hanan son of Maacah, and Joshaphat the Mithnite,  44 Uzzia the Ashterathite, Shama and Jeiel sons of Hotham the Aroerite,  45 Jediael son of Shimri, and his brother Joha the Tizite,  46 Eliel the Mahavite, and Jeribai and Joshaviah sons of Elnaam, and Ithmah the Moabite,  47 Eliel, and Obed, and Jaasiel the Mezobaite.

Here we begin with two men who were probably cousins, Ira and Gareb the Ithrites. The Ithrites were a clan or family in the tribe of Judah (see 1 Chronicles 2:53), descended from Caleb and his second wife Ephrath (1 Chronicles 2:19-20).

Some of the names here are also listed in chapter 12 as “the deserters from Manasseh,” warriors who left Saul’s national army to join up with David when he was an outlaw (1 Chronicles 12:20). Two of those men are here among the mighty men: Jediael and Eliel. It’s likely that Jediael’s brother, Joha, was also one of the deserters. More about that in twenty verses or so.

We’ve seen now that among David’s mighty men were many men from Judah, and some from other tribes, even including Saul’s family of Benjamin. But there were also some foreign men: A Moabite, an Ammonite, and a Hittite. These were nations that the Israelites were commanded to destroy, and yet a remnant was saved. This was not out of disobedience to God, for gain or profit, but out of mercy, to put into the Lord’s service.

For example, let’s consider Uriah the Hittite. 2 Samuel 11 and 12 present the account of David’s adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba. That story is not given here in Chronicles. In fact, this is the only mention of Uriah at all, and Bathsheba is also only mentioned once in Chronicles, where she is called “Bathsheba daughter of Ammiel” in the list of David’s children by his various wives. We will pass by the sad story of David’s sin to focus our attention on the positive things that we know about Uriah, taking them from the same account, to give glory to God:

  1. Uriah was given God’s grace. As a Hittite, Uriah’s people were condemned to be wiped out by God and his lethal “hornet” (Exodus 23:28). This was so that Israel would not be corrupted and tempted by the false teachings of the Canaanites, but God also promised to do this slowly, so that the land would not be overrun with wild animals (Exodus 23:29). This left time for a few, like Uriah, to be rescued from the destruction and to join with Israel.
  2. Uriah married an Israelite woman. Uriah’s wife was an Israelite. Both she and her father had Hebrew names. Therefore Uriah chose to marry into the family of God’s people. For although “those who marry will face many troubles in this life” (1 Corinthians 7:28), it is also God’s will that we marry, for “he who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).
  3. Uriah was a good husband. Uriah trusted his wife while he was away at war, and his wife knew that she had married a soldier. Marriage is not meant to be an option for men and women to consider, as if it should be subordinate to a career, a farm, a business, an option like that of teaching, nursing, plumbing, painting, or herding goats. Marriage, our Catechism teaches, “precedes them all, and surpasses them all, whether those of emperor, princes, bishops, or anyone else. Important as the spiritual and civil estates are, these must humble themselves and allow people to enter the estate of marriage. It is not an exceptional estate, but most universal and the noblest, pervading all Christendom and even extending throughout all the world” (Large Catechism).
  4. Uriah was almost certainly circumcised and brought under the covenant. Since Uriah chose to marry an Israelite woman, he would probably not have been accepted as such unless he was willing to undergo circumcision (Exodus 12:48).
  5. Uriah was given a godly Israelite name. His name, Uriah, means “Flame of Yahweh” or “My Light is Yahweh.” This is not the name a Hittite would give to a child, but a name an Israelite would adopt as a nickname or a second name after coming to faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who looked ahead to the coming of Christ. We see the same word element, Uri-, in the name of some Levites (1 Chronicles 15:11; 2 Chronicles 13:2) and others (Exodus 31:2), and in the apocryphal book 4 Esdras, the name of an angel, Uriel “Flame of God” (4 Esdras 4:1). We might expect that Uriah had originally been named something like Uri-anu (Anu was the Hittite sky god), or Uri-Enlil (Enlil was the storm god).
  6. Uriah was obedient to the commands of his king. When David and Joab gave Uriah commands, such as in 2 Samuel 11:6, Uriah was obedient and did what he was commanded. He obeyed the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:12). He did not only do what he was told, but he showed by his actions that he respected David with the highest honor. For the Fourth Commandment “requires us not only to address them (our superiors) affectionately and reverently, but above all to show by our actions, both of heart and of body, that we respect them very highly and that next to God we give them the very highest place. For anyone who we are whole-heartedly to honor, we must truly regard as high and great” (Large Catechism).
  7. Uriah was a humble soldier. When David recalled Uriah from the battle with the Ammonites, Uriah did not go home to sleep, but slept “at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants (2 Samuel 11:9). He did not demand special treatment, but was content “whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).
  8. Uriah was a wise soldier. Not only did Uriah obey David and sleep in the city when commanded, but he knew that this would not sit well with the other soldiers under David’s command if he went home. So he stayed in the palace, saying, “My lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house and eat and drink and lie with my wife?” (2 Samuel 11:11).
  9. Uriah was a faithful servant. Uriah thought of his role in the army, and he did it to the best of his ability. “Who then,” Jesus asked, “is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns” (Matthew 24:45-46). Who can hold anything at all against Uriah?
  10. Uriah showed reverence for the Ark of the Covenant. The very first objection Uriah raised when told to go home for an evening was about the Ark: “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents… How could I go to my house?” (2 Samuel 11:11). Was this a reference to the Ark being out with the army in the battle, as it had been in the days of Eli when the Philistines captured it? This seems incredible, judging from the way David handled the Ark so carefully. Rather, the Ark did not yet have its rightful home, dwelling as it did in a pitched tent in the city (2 Samuel 6:17) while the tabernacle was at Nob (1 Samuel 22:11).
  11. Uriah used David’s words as a guide in his life. David had said, “Here I am, living in a palace of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent” (2 Samuel 7:2). Uriah, as we have seen, said, “The Ark is staying in a tent… How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife?” (2 Samuel 11:11). The Hittite took his king’s words to heart and used them to guide his actions when there was a hard choice to be made. He made David an example to be considered and followed. A good leader should be able to say: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).
  12. Even drunk, Uriah stood by his faithful ethics. David asked Uriah to remain one extra day in the city, and “David made him drunk” (2 Samuel 11:13). But even then, the mighty man did not go home, but slept on a mat among his master’s servants—the soldier lying among the butlers, cooks, scribes, floor-scrubbers, and others. He was a servant at heart, and he was content to behave as a servant. Jesus said, “He who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:11).
  13. In death, Uriah remained faithful. His commander made a military decision that Uriah probably knew was unwise and doomed to failure. At the same time, he trusted his commander Joab to know his business, and when the battle was driven forward, Uriah was put “at a place where Joab knew the strongest defenders were” (2 Samuel 11:16). He willingly went and fought, even though it cost his life. If he ever imagined that there was a conspiracy between his commander and his king against him, he did not let on. He did not fly into a rage to confront Joab and then to storm the gates of Jerusalem to confront David and hold out his wife’s growing belly for all the city to see. He did nothing like that. He was obedient to death. Does this mean that Uriah prefigured Jesus, with the government killing an innocent man for personal gain? We might well be reminded of Jesus in this way, and, indeed, Matthew include’s Uriah’s name obliquely in the genealogy of Jesus by saying, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife” (Matthew 1:6). Uriah’s innocent and obedient death stands there in that list of names to help us remember that the Savior came to perish and to be slaughtered for the sins of all mankind (John 1:29).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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