I know I make bold statements on occasion, and I try to be intentional about them. But I recently read a bold assertion that made me stop and think about how intentional the author really was in making the statement.
In her very interesting chapter on Leviticus 21, Dr. Johanna Dorman drops in this assertion:
“Although David feels a deep hatred for blind and deaf persons . . . (2 Sam 5:8)” (Dorman, p. 26).
I remembered the Biblical reference, but I did not recall concluding that David felt hatred towards people with these disabilities. So I looked it up again:
And the king (David) and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” 2 Samuel 5:6-8
Frankly, I don’t see the hatred. David is being taunted – “even our weakest members could keep you out!” David responds in kind to the taunt.
It looks remarkably like school-yard behavior from my childhood – “You throw like a girl!” “Oh, yeah, well, you ARE a girl!” Thankfully, nobody died on the schoolyard. But passions would rise at such words.
Both my ESV Study Bible and the MacArthur Study Bible agree that this was probably a taunt:
“The Jebusites probably meant that the fortifications were so strong that the city needed no able-bodied defenders. David quotes their words in ordering the attack, referring to the Jebusites as “the blind and the lame.” ESV Study Bible, p. 549.
“The Jebusites taunted the Israelites and mocked the power of David by boasting that the blind and the lame could defend Jerusalem against him.” MacArthur Study Bible, p. 426.
Probably the greatest argument that it was only a taunt and not really about people with disabilities at all comes from the second half of Dr. Dorman’s sentence:
Although David feels a deep hatred for blind and deaf persons (2 Sam 5:8), he returns to Mephibosheth all the land of Saul, and invites him to eat regularly at his table (2 Sam 9:10-13).
Mephibosheth was lame, and ate at the King’s table. Of course, David is honoring the promise he made to his dearest friend, Jonathan, but that did not need to include the invitation to eat at David’s table. If he really felt hatred or revulsion, he could have made sure Mephibosheth’s needs were taken care of, but out of his sight. Eating at the king’s table is a very intimate, personal affirmation of Mephibosheth’s standing before King David.
So, I think Dr. Dorman simply wasn’t careful, both because the Biblical reference doesn’t include people who are deaf at all, and because the reference isn’t really about hatred towards people with disabilities.
But statements like that start to bleed into the general assumptions about what a passage means or about the character of the person making the statement (in this case, David). I can almost guarantee I will see that assertion about David again somewhere else. Only that person might not be as careful as Dr. Dorman in providing the Biblical reference, further disconnecting the assertion from the source.
Mostly I take this as a personal warning that I should be careful in how I read (and write about) any Biblical passage. The Bible is worth being careful about!