So today was the reading from Matthew of the genealogy of Christ. There is so much to talk about on this, but I thought I would focus on the reference to Uriah in verse 6, which breaks the cadence of the usual formula of so and so begot so and so. Why is Uriah mentioned? The names are broken down into 3 sets of 14 names each, and the first set brings us from Abraham to David – two formidable scriptural characters indeed. Abraham’s promise was not fulfilled in David due to the sin against Uriah. Uriah the Hittite was the military officer whom David had put on the front lines in order to have him killed, since David was hooking up with Uriah’s wife. This is only part of David’s sin. The Hittite reference is key. In Genesis Ephron the Hittite gives Abraham land to bury Sarah. This grand act of philoxenia is turned on its head by David against another Hittite. Scripturally, this shameful dishonoring is almost as bad as setting up Uriah for death.
As westerners I think we often lose sight of the role shame plays in the eastern environment of scripture. Shame is much worse than mere defeat because it is demoralizing and dehumanizing. Think of Ezekiel being forced by God to shave his beard, or Noah’s drunken episode. David’s act against Bathsheba’s husband was horrible but is compounded scripturally by the lack of return grace to a Hittite, thus making it a shameful act as well.
There is much more material in this gospel selection. As always with reading the gospel in a liturgical setting, it was a thrill and honor to read it today, and it continually gives much food for thought.