Uriah the Hittite is not the first person one remembers when one thinks about the story of 2 Samuel 11, popularly known as the story of "David and Bathsheba." However, if the readers, especially from minority groups, pay closer attention to Uriah the Hittite, his story reveals the struggle for identity among the peoples of Israel and echoes a similar struggle among the Asian Americans and other minority groups living in the U.S. Uriah was an officer of the Israelite army, a native of Jerusalem, and a faithful Yahwist, yet he is branded as a non-Israelite, as a Hittite. His hybrid identity forced the "author" of the text to give Bathsheba a double identity, "daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite," in order to clearly identify her as an Israelite. His fellow Israelites, especially David, abandoned and betrayed him violently because he was not one of them. Uriah's story is a (con)text of struggle for identity that is too familiar for Asian Americans who are involved in the ongoing struggle for identit y in the U.S. and are familiar with the tragic story of Vincent Chin.
The story in 2 Samuel 11 is one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. If we mention "David and Bathsheba," "David's Adultery with Bathsheba," "the Bathsheba Affair," or simply "David's Sin," many people will not hesitate to identify such titles with this story. Although it is remembered in the Bible as "the matter of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kgs 15:5), I wonder how many people would identify it as the story of "Uriah the Hittite." If the titles by which a story is remembered are any indication of what the readers think the story is about, then Uriah the Hittite has not been well remembered.
The story has been popular among biblical scholars and sages in the past and is still popular among scholars today. The rabbis of the distant past made excuses for David; they exonerated David by concluding that Bathsheba was given a bill of divorce and found Uriah to be a rebel deserving of death (McCarter: 288). The early Christian fathers formulated David into a theological paradigm, connecting the story of David's passion with David's repentance and pardon by God (Petit). Then the historical-critical scholars have been busy analyzing the story as part of objective history; the story has been analyzed as part of the Succession Narrative or the Court History of David (e.g., Whybray: 11-19). In more recent years, some scholars have begun to see the story as literature and applied narrative techniques to interpret the story; they have been busy filling the narrative "gaps" in the story (e.g., Sternberg: 186-229). There are others, especially woman scholars, who are trying valiantly to rescue Bathsheba from th e patriarchal text and its interpreters (e.g., Exum, 1993:170-201). However, Uriah the Hittite, the man and his story, has not received enough attention by scholars and sages.
Why am I so concerned with Uriah the Hittite anyway? It sounds a bit personal--well, it is. I am an interested reader, like everyone else, embedded in my sociocultural context. Moreover, my name also happens to be Uriah. I was a teenager when I changed my name to Uriah in order to mark the occasion of becoming a U.S. citizen and a Christian. I chose the name, somewhat innocently, because I simply wanted to be as loyal to my God and country as I thought Uriah was in the story. Obviously I became concerned with Uriah whenever I read and remembered the story. Over the years I began to see more and more similarities between Uriah the Hittite and myself. I believe that my (con)text as a member of a marginalized or diasporic community is analogous to and helpful in understanding Uriah the Hittite in his (con)text. Thus, this paper is an inter(con)textual reading between Uriah the Hittite's (con)text and my own personal (con)text. (1)
URIAH IN (CON)TEXT
Uriah Kim in (Con)Text
A member of a diasporic community. When I received my citizenship, I was naive enough to believe that I became an American. Too quickly did I learn that I was still viewed and treated as a foreigner--an outsider. I realized that it takes more than a certificate to become a member of the "us" group in the U.S.; it takes more than a U.S. passport to cross the group boundaries formed by "Americans." Theoretically, anyone can become an American, and many people still believe and experience the so-called "straight-line theory" of assimilation. Immigrants experience marginality at first, but, eventually, they become members of the dominant group through the assimilation process. The notion of marginality as a transition from one world or group to another is understood as a temporary condition that will eventually end when structural assimilation occurs. But, according to Sang Hyun Lee, there is a catch to this model. The straight-line assimilation model was based on the experience of European immigrants. Therefore, Lee concludes that the situation of marginality for some groups, mostly non-Europeans, may be permanent.
The reason for this permanent marginality has to do with the boundaries or identity markers of the dominant group. Jurij Lotman's study found that "the basic group boundary is one that distinguishes ourselves from others: the us vs. not-us boundary.... This is a fundamental distinction from which others grow" (Schreiter: 63). In the U.S., the basic boundary is the color of one's skin. Ronald Takaki explains that throughout American history, many classics in the field of American history have defined "American" as "white" (1993:2).
Although the situation of permanent marginality is helpful in articulating some aspects of my situation, it is inadequate and too simplistic to explain the complexity of my situation. It sets up a binary opposition between the communities at the margin and the dominant group; the boundaries seem too definite and stable without any sense of mobility or fluidity. James Clifford defines diasporic people as those who lost the sense of rootedness or belongingness and cautions against overdrawing the distinction between European immigrant and non-European diasporic experiences. Clifford argues that it is not possible to identify borders that can sharply define diasporic in opposition to native cultures (310) and that "diaspora experiences and discourses are entangled, never clear of commodification" (313).
The borders that separate marginalized peoples from the dominant group, or diasporic peoples from the native people, are not fixed and stable. There are movements between members of …