Shame and Offence – Reflections on 2 Samuel 10 in the light of Westminster and Hollywood scandals

One thing about the recent sexual harassment scandals in Westminster and Hollywood that should horrify us is the way, not only that powerful men see sexual encounters as available for their enjoyment but their willingness to cause shame and offence to women.

A woman goes into a room filled with powerful men and one of them makes a joke based on double entendre. All the talk in the world about how she should toughen up and learn to play them at their game does not get us away from the fact that male politicians in this country have enjoyed the title “honourable gentleman” and I was brought up with the assumption that a gentleman would not want a lady to feel awkward, vulnerable, frightened or embarrassed in his company.

Those thoughts were in my mind as I was listening to the sermon on 2 Samuel 10 this week.  In this passage, King David hears that an ally of his, Nahash of the Amnonites has died He sends ambassadors to his son, Hanun with his condolences.  Hanun sees this not as a goodwill gesture but a threat. His advisors warn him that these men are spies. So, Hanun has their beards half-shaved off and their robes cut off, exposing their buttocks. They are mocked and shamed.

On a side point, and there’s a little bit of speculation here, it is intriguing that Nahash had ended up as David’s ally. He had been an enemy of Israel and in 1 Samuel 11, we see that he had attacked Israel and that this people had a track record for offensive gestures. Maybe at some point, there had been a change of heart on Nahash’s part and he was genuinely an ally of David.  However, I wonder if there isn’t just the possibility that Nahash had attached himself to David when he was on the run from Saul on the basis that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” If so, this is a poignant reminder about the danger of building alliances with those who do not truly love the Lord.  It is now clear to David that the Ammonites are not true allies at all.

Note as well that 2 Samuel 9 and 10 are linked by David’s desire to show hesed, loving kindness to two potential rivals. See the difference in response. Christ shows loving kindness to us in the Gospel even though we were his enemies. What has been our response?

I started my reflections by talking about Westminster and Hollywood. Over the next few weeks we are going to see what happens when men use power to control, abuse and shame others for their own satisfaction.  As I have commented here and here, we see how God’s Word has something to say both to the culprits and the victims in such situations.  However, I want to turn our focus onto something else here.

You see, at the heart of this Bible passage is a little pre-cursor to the Gospel.  God’s enemy, Satan is our enemy too. The result of his temptation in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve were left naked, exposed, ashamed. That is our true state before God because of sin. Some of us will be more aware than others of this because of our owns in as culprits or because of the sin of others against us so that we are victims. We are very aware of the shame that what we have done and what others has done to us has caused us. We know guilt and feel shame, we feel dirty, used, empty, broken, worthless.  We are all too aware to the mocking of others, the stares, or worse, averted gazes, the whispers behind our backs and the late-night comments on face-book.  It may even be that for some of you, the nakedness and shame is literary out there for people to see in photos shared from mobile to mobile or published on the internet.

Yet, whether or not we feel that type of shame, as I said above, shame is something we all carry because of sin. We all stand exposed, naked, ashamed, guilty before God.

In 2 Samuel 10, David does two things.

  1. He provides a place of safety for the shamed ambassadors where they can recover their dignity.
  2. He fights against the enemy of God’s people who has brought this shame and offence.

The Gospel goes deeper:

  1. Christ himself was exposed to public ridicule, abused, beaten, stripped naked and hung upon a cross. He bore our shame. He exchanges our nakedness for clothes of righteousness. In fact, he clothes us in himself. We are no longer naked and ashamed. We are no longer guilty. We are declared righteous, clean in Christ.
  2. The Gospel makes it clear that we are not just victims, we also sided with the enemy and were at hostility with God. In Christ, God forgives us and reconciles us to himself.
  3. The Gospel is also about God’s victory, Satan, sin and death were defeated at Calvary.

This is good news for all of us.  We no longer are ashamed. Or as Paul puts it:

“16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”[1]


[1] Romans 1:16-17.