16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
Lately I’ve been reading Psalms and boy is that a great book! I especially like Psalm 63. It is a praise written by David while he was in the Desert of Judah. I also like Psalm 51. This is David’s confession and cry for mercy after committing adultery with Bathsheba. And of course I love Psalm 23.
I’m getting very interested the story of David. He wrote Psalms and it reflects many of my own feelings.
– October 7th, 1998
Dear Former Self,
Psalms certainly contains some good poetry, and the story of David is very interesting. However, I’m afraid your perspective is a little skewed. You are reading this book with the assumption that the words were penned by God (through David, apparently), so you believe this is the greatest poetry ever written.
I’ll let this slide since you haven’t read any great poetry yet. But in a few years you will discover the beautifully crafted verses of Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot, Edgar Allan Poe, and many others. When that time comes, you will be disillusioned by the realization that God isn’t such a great poet after all.
As for David, I know you think he was a righteous man who merely slipped up when he slept with Bathsheba, but do you know about his concubines yet? Probably not. A concubine is a woman who sells herself into sexual slavery, and David had many of them. The only reason David felt guilty about sleeping with Bathsheba is because she was married to someone else. He probably didn’t feel a twinge of guilt about sleeping with his concubines whenever the mood struck him.
That’s right, God himself allowed this arrangement. Some people argue that although God didn’t approve of concubinage, he had to allow it so that women who were unable to support themselves wouldn’t end up starving. Funny that he thought it better to let women prostitute themselves than to issue a command that desperate women be supported with funds from the king’s treasury.
I won’t even go into the subject of his many wives (yes, God allowed polygamy as well). David isn’t a very righteous man by today’s standards, but that’s because the morality of the bronze age was cruel and primitive. Morality is not a list of commands and prohibitions set in stone by God. Morality evolves and changes as society changes.
If the goal of morality is to improve the happiness and well being of all humans (and I believe it is), then it has made great strides over the last hundred years. In fact, your personal morality is far superior to that of the Bible, and you are much more righteous than King David. The book of Psalms may reflect your feelings of guilt, but those feelings are unfounded.
— Matt, October 7th, 2014
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.