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2Sa 11:1 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth [to battle], that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
Ver. 1. After the year was expired. ] Heb., At the return of the year: Namque in se sua per vestigia volvitur annus. This year was David’s seventh climacterical, the forty-ninth of his age, as is generally held, and the nineteenth of his reign, 1Ch 21:1 to him a woeful year, because, left to himself, he "fell into temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts," &c. Augustine thanks God for himself, that the heart and temptation did not meet together. Joseph, a young man, was fiercely assaulted, but stoutly resisted; when lo, David, an old man, and one that had many wives and concubines, is shamefully foiled, and made to defile himself in sin’s guzzle. Turpe est senecere aetatem, non tamen senecere lasciviam, saith Nazianzen. What more odious than an old lecher? Were it not monstrous to behold green apples on a tree in winter? So to see the sins of youth in an old decrepit goat! Take heed; corruption doth as easily creep into the white head as the canker into the white rose.
At the time when kings go forth to battle, ] i.e., At spring time, when there is store of food and forage to be had. But we have lately seen great things done, and forts taken in the depth of winter. But this expedition was undertaken in Martio, quo Mars dominari solet. Our navy is now gone forth this present March 1655; the good Lord bring them back with victory!
And besieged Rabbah. ] That great city, Megalopolis, the metropolis of the Ammonites; called afterwards by Ptolemy Philadelph, second king of Egypt, Philadelphia.
But David tarried still at Jerusalem. ] Who was used to be abroad, and about fighting the Lord’s battles in his own person, as was before noted: and then he was safe. Res age, tutus eris.
“ Otis si tollas periere Cupidinis arcus. ”
David’s giving himself to ease and pleasure was the root of all his wretchedness. Standing waters gather filth. Flies settle upon the sweetest perfumes when cold, and corrupt them. As the crab fish seizeth upon the oyster gaping, so doth Satan upon the idle. No moss sticketh to the rolling stone: which if it lay still would be overgrown.
2Sa 11:2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman [was] very beautiful to look upon.
Ver. 2. And it came to pass in an evening tide. ] When David should have been at his devotions, as his wont was. But now, belike, the devil had caused him to come from his trench, and then did presently wound him. While Joab is busy in laying siege to Rabbah, Satan is to David, and far sooner prevailed.
That David arose from off his bed. ] Somno et cibo pastas distentusque ideoque in Venerem proclivis; full feeding and being idle, two of Sodom’s sins, disposed him to the other of lust and uncleanness. The rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. The water that hath been heated, soonest freezeth: the most active spirit soonest tireth with slacking. The earth standeth still, and is all dregs; the heavens ever move and are pure. Beware of ease and idleness: here began David’s downfall. Say not of this, as Lot did of Zoar, Is it not a little one? The parvity smallness of a sin taketh not away the pravity depravity of it: and a less maketh way for a greater, as wedges do in wood cleaving. Pompey desired that all his soldiers might come into a certain city; when that was denied, he said, Let my weak and wounded soldiers come in; they did, and then soon opened the gates to all the army.
“ Principiis obsta. ”
And from the roof he saw a woman. ] This was another occasion of David’s foul fall, curiosa circumspectatio. His eyes had no sooner the sleep rubbed out of them, than they roved to wanton prospects. He had once prayed, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity"; and should have still continued his suit: that as he might keep a door in God’s house, so God would keep the doors and windows of his, - those, otherwise, windows of wickedness, and loopholes of lust, the eyes; through which the old serpent easily windeth himself into the heart, and maketh himseff master of the whole man. This made good Job to step from a prayer to a vow. Job 31:1 Yea, from a vow to an imprecation, Job 31:7 as knowing the danger of irregular glancing, or inordinate gazing. Those who abuse the outward eye, are worthy to have the inward eye darkened, saith Gregory. David’s eye became an inlet of lust into his soul: let them look to it who think they may look at liberty, a et se illis spectaculis non moveri. Nunquid tu fortior Davide, Solomone, sapientor? saith Augustine. Art thou stronger than David, wiser than Solomon? See therefore to thy cinque-ports, five gates to thy senses: for of looking cometh lusting, and contemplative wickedness. Valerius fitly calleth the eyes the spies, that lie in ambush for the undermining of other men’s marriages. And Quintilian saith, that by the eyes way is made to manifold wickedness. b
Washing herself, ] viz., From her legal uncleanness, according to the Law. Leviticus 15:19 ; Lev 18:19 David, Actaeon-like
“ vidit sine veste Dianam;
Praeda fuit canibus nec minus ille suis. ”
Lust is quick sighted: it metamorphoseth a man into a beast, and maketh him a prey to hell’s huntsman. The Vulgate rendereth the text thus, Videtque mulierem se lavantem ex adverso, he saw a woman washing herself opposite him: he saw her washing either in her garden, which was near the palace, saith Adrichonius, or else in her chamber per fenestram, through a window, as Vatablus thinketh, by some casement accidentally open, he chanced to see her: he espied her, where she could espy no beholder.
And the woman was very beautiful to behold. ] This was an eyesore to David, in the same sense that the Persian maids were by Alexander called oculorum dolores, eye maladies to his Macedonians. The basilisk slayeth with his sight. Circe will enchant all that behold her, having faculty attractive with the jet, and retentive with the adamant.
a Sit casus maiorum tremor minorum. - Aug.
b Ut vidi, ut perii. Oculi sunt in amore duces.
2Sa 11:3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And [one] said, [Is] not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
Ver. 3. And David sent and inquired after the woman, ] viz., Who she was, and whether maid or wife. He should rather have checked himself for looking and lusting after a forbidden beauty - he should have taken an antidote of mortification, before the venom of lust had got to the vitals. But it is hard for him who hath fallen down the ladder of hell a round or two, to stop or step back, till he come to the bottom, without extraordinary help from the hand of Heaven. Can a man commit one sin more, and but one sin more? Unclean creatures went by couples into the ark: so do sins into the soul. Fornication is the devil’s nest-egg, saith one, and causeth many sins to be laid one to and upon another.
Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam? ] Or Ammiel, 1Ch 3:5 who was the son of Ahithophel, 2Sa 23:34 who might, for the dishonour done by David to his niece Bathsheba, be the readier to conspire against him, and to take part with Absalom. a
The wife of Uriah the Hittite? ] Bathsheba therefore was an honourable lady both by parentage and marriage, for both her father and husband were of the number of David’s worthies: the greater was his sin. Uriah might be called the Hittite, as Scipio was called Africanus, for doing some notable exploit against that accursed nation, the worst of the Canaanites. Eze 16:3
a Hugo, Salianas.
2Sa 11:4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
Ver. 4. And David sent messengers, and took her. ] Unbridled lust, like the wild fig, will soon mount over the wall, and break out into unclean practices. It is a law of the members in a double sense, &c. It is, as Reuben, the eldest child of old Adam’s strength. It is the butter which the devil presenteth in so lordly a dish, that the soul spieth not; the hammer and nail in his hand, till he have driven it into the temples. Cavete.
And she came in unto him. ] Not so well fortified as she ought against such a temptation: as the window of her house had before been too open, so now the window of her ark was not so well shut, but that the waters of wickedness entered into it. She resisteth not David’s unchaste motion that we read of, no not in word; but too easily consenteth. So did not Susanna, Lucretia, or that other Roman lady, who being taken from the table by Augustus the emperor into a chamber, and afterwards brought back again, her eyes were very red, and her hair all disordered. a
And he lay with her. ] Wherein he received a foul foil, saith Mr Bradford, b and in this sin lay long asleep, as many do now-a-days: God give them good waking! The best of God’s children, saith another, may not only be drenched in the waves of sin, but lie in them for the time: and perhaps sink twice to the bottom. This and other foul faults in David the Holy Ghost hath recorded, not to encourage any to do the like, but as sea marks, that they may avoid these rocks, against which such a choice vessel dashed, and had surely split and perished, had not God’s grace and Holy Spirit, as a timely gale of wind, blown him off, and reduced him into his right course by unfeigned repentance.
For she was purified from her uncleanness, ] i.e., Her monthly flows; and so was the more apt to conceive with child. Or, And when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned home; that is, from that legal uncleanness contracted by her carnal copulation with David, - yea, though he had been her own husband. See Exo 19:15 Lev 15:18 1 Samuel 21:4 . But doth Bathsheba make conscience of ceremonial, and none of moral purity? Or, doth David’s deceitful heart make him think that he may the more safely lie with Bathsheba, because she was purified?
And she returned unto her house. ] But a far worse woman than when she went out of it, and with a sting in her conscience: for transit voluptas, manet dolor.
“ Habet omnis hoc voluptas,
Stimulis agit fruentes, &c.
Laeta venire Venus, tristis abire solet. ” - Boet. c
b Serm. of Rep.
c Lib. iii. metr. 7.
2Sa 11:5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I [am] with child.
Ver. 5. And sent and told David. ] Chrysostom saith, She went to David, and said, O king, I am undone, I am with child, the fruit of my sin buddeth, I carry an accuser within me, my betrayer is in my womb, my husband will slay me, &c. Whereupon that father inferreth, Videte et admiramini fratres, See here and admire, my brethren, what a mischief there is in sweet sins, what a happiness in freedom from foul offences. a Hoc curabat ne lapidaretur, saith Vatablus here. Now all her care was, lest she should be stoned to death, according to the law of God.
a Chrysost., in Psalms 50:1-23 .
2Sa 11:6 And David sent to Joab, [saying], Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.
Ver. 6. And David sent to Joab, &c. ] To prevent Bathsheba’s miseries, wherein he also was sure to have a great share, David casteth about how to colour and cover his sin with fair pretences, - as Alcibiades embroidered a curtain with lions and eagles, to cover his pictures of owls and apes, - but all would not do, God so disposing that David’s sin should come to light.
Send me Uriah the Hittite. ] As before, like the devil, Mat 13:25 he had sowed another man’s ground, so now he would fain father upon him his bastardly brood, intrudens filium suum in agros Uriae, thrusting his son into Uriah’s inheritance.
2Sa 11:7 And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded [of him] how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.
Ver. 7. How Joab did, and how the people did. ] David was but a bungler at committing and covering his sin. Lust was but a stranger to him, as Peter Martyr observeth from that passage in Nathan’s parable. 2Sa 12:4 What poor queries were these to put to such a man as Uriah! What weak pretences for fetching him home from such a service! Might not a meaner man have made as good a messenger? Some conceive that Uriah hereupon began to suspect somewhat, and to grow jealous of his beautiful wife, so that he would not come at her.
And how the war prospered. ] Heb., Of the peace of the war; that is, in what forwardness the war was for a peaceable conclusion.
2Sa 11:8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess [of meat] from the king.
Ver. 8. Go down to thy house and wash thy feet, ] i.e., Cura corpus et recrea te cum uxore tua, Refresh thyself after thy travel, and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
And there followed him a mess of meat from the king. ] Ferculum regium, a mess royal, that Uriah might pamper his flesh, and then lie with his wife. Veneris enim stimuli sunt deliciae regale,: ut sine Cerere et Libero friget Venus. a
2Sa 11:9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
Ver. 9. But Uriah slept at the door, &c. ] This was much; but it is like he smelt something: and God had a hand in it.
And went not down to his house. ] Though much urged thereunto by his fair but false wife, very likely.
“ Lis est cum forma magna pudicitiae. ”
And some think that there might be some discord betwixt Uriah and his wife before for her seeming levity, he feared she was sick of a pleurisy.
2Sa 11:10 And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from [thy] journey? why [then] didst thou not go down unto thine house?
Ver. 10. And when they had told David. ] They, that is, his corycaei, his brokers; such as was that hangby, Hiram the Adullamite.
Why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? ] Shouldst thou not have obeyed me as thy prince, or at least listened to me as thy friend, since all was for thine own good?
2Sa 11:11 And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? [as] thou livest, and [as] thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.
Ver. 11. And Uriah said unto David. ] Vir robustior spiritu quam corpore Urias: Uriah was a man all over, having a golden soul in an iron body. His name signifieth the fire of God; and surely the fire of zeal was kindled by God’s Spirit upon the hearth of his heart, which made him thus resolute to abridge himself even of lawful delights, in a time of common calamity. See the like in Nehemiah, Neh 1:4-5 Daniel and his fellows, Dan 1:9 those good captives. Psa 137:1-9 And that any Baruch at such a time seeketh great things for himself, and is not even sick at heart for the breaches of Joseph, father Latimer’s reason holdeth good; Deest ignis; there wanteth that flame of God, Son 8:6 Uriah’s public spirit. Common dangers or calamities should, like the rapt motion, carry our hearts contrary to the ways of our own private occasions.
And my lord Joab. ] Josephus saith that Uriah was Joab’s armourbearer. See here how he fortifieth his resolutions against evil with strongest reasons: we had need to do so daily, looking well to our hearts, as the Dutchmen do to their banks, which if they should not, the sea would soon make a breach upon them. Hereby we shall become "steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." But what a dead lethargy had sin and Satan cast good David into, that hearing all this from Uriah, he yet repented not of his unlawful pleasures, taken at such an unfitting time! How can any presume of not sinning, saith a reverend man, a or despair for sin, when we find David thus fallen, risen?
a Dr Hall.
2Sa 11:12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow.
Ver. 12. Tarry here today also. ] All this was the worse in David, because done upon deliberation, and in cold blood, seeking a cover for his sin, plotting and ploughing up further wickedness, not leaving till he had wiped off all his comfortables. Psa 51:1-19 Take heed that your hearts be not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, Heb 3:13 those sensual sins especially, - those "fleshly lusts that war against the soul," 1Pe 2:11 that "take away the heart," Hos 4:11 that disable nature, and so set it in a far greater distance from grace, which is seated in the powers of nature.
2Sa 11:13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
Ver. 13. And made him drunk. ] Thus doth David still proficere in peius, proceed from bad to worse; So plying good Uriah with cup after cup, that at length he was intoxicated. Vina parant animos Veneri. a A stomach boiling with wine easily foameth into lust, saith Jerome. Wine is the milk of Venus, saith another. David’s design here was to make Uriah, contrary to his oath, to lie with his wife. Tiberius, otherwise spare of speech, yet when drunk, arcana effutiebat omnia, would utter all the secrets of his heart. b So David hoped that Uriah, when well heated with wine, would lay aside all his austerities, and take his pleasure. All this was so much the worse done of David, because though he was drunk, with lust, when he lay with Bathsheba, yet he was sober enough when he made Uriah drunk; he went quietly and sedately on in it. Ruina maiorum sit cautela minorum. Be not highminded, but fear.
With the servants of his lord. ] With the hinds and household servants; not with the guard, as before; perhaps because ashamed that he was overcome with drink.
But went not down to his house. ] And so David was still disappointed, and by God Almighty counterplotted, that he might at length awake "out of the snare of the devil, who had carried him alive captive at his pleasure." 2Ti 2:26
a Ovid, De Rem. Am., lib. ii.
2Sa 11:14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent [it] by the hand of Uriah.
Ver. 14. David wrote a letter. ] Not with black, but with blood. Sic ex vitio vitium gignitur. a This is the last but worst link in that woeful chain of David’s lust: non evitavit adulteriam, perpetravit et homicidium, saith Isidor; to palliate his adultery he committeth murder. This was to do worse than that non-such, Ahab, who only coveted Naboth’s vineyard, and then took away his life: but David coveted first the wife, and then the life of this valiant Uriah; yea, and of many more that fell with him by like treachery, Joab also being involved in the same guilt. Well might Gregory say, David rectior fuit in servitio quam in regno: servus enim adversarium retire timuit, Rex factus luxuriae, persunsione Uriam fraude extinxit: David was better while a servant than when a king; for being a servant, he feared to kill Saul his adversary, but becoming a king, he basely slew his most faithful friend and dutiful subject.
And sent it by the hand of Uriah. ] Qui abiit ferens gladium suae caedis, saith Theodoret, who went his way carrying a sword to Joab to cut his own throat. So did Bellerophon to Jobata by the command of King Praetus; unless that fable were feigned by Satan’s subtlety out of this true story, to elude it. Lysander carried letters to Lacedemon from Pharnabarus against himself. And the like do all those, saith Aquinas, b qui sciunt et docent, et non faciunt, who know and teach others the will of God, but practise it not themselves. Knowledge without virtue draweth a greater judgment, and oftentimes condemneth the bearer.
b Praef., in Epist. Canon.
2Sa 11:15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
Ver. 15. Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle. ] Here David schemes it indeed with hellish skill: little thinking how heavily this crimson sin would shortly lie upon his conscience, putting him to no less pain than if all his bones had been broken. Psa 51:8-14 Joab possibly might not know the cause of this bloody letter, but gather by it that Uriah had some way deserved death, howbeit he could not but know that by the law none should be put to death without witnesses, two or three, produced against him; his obedience, therefore, to so tyrannical a command cannot be justified.
2Sa 11:16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men [were].
Ver. 16. He assigned Uriah, &c. ] He thrust him into the jaws of death, and basely betrayed him: as holding that unsound principle, Whatsoever pleaseth the king shall please me, be it right or wrong. How much better he in the tragedian, a Obediemus Atridis honesta mandantibus; sin vero inhonesta mandabunt, non obediemus; We will obey the prince if he command things honest; and not, if otherwise. But Joab haply hoped hereby to ingratiate, and to come off the better, for the murder of Abner, which he had not yet answered, since David was now no less guilty than himself.
a Euripid., in Iphigen.
2Sa 11:17 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell [some] of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
Ver. 17. And Uriah the Hittite died also. ] Unjustly in respect of David and Joab, who were ipso facto children of death; but justly in respect of God; for Uriah owed a death to him, and he might call for it how and when he pleased.
2Sa 11:18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war;
Ver. 18. And told David all the things. ] But all was to bring in that one thing which he knew would be most pleasing to David’s palate, the death of Uriah. Such a dead and dedolent disposition had seized upon David’s heart, such a hoof had overgrown it, that he could hardly ever recover his ancient tenderness to his dying day.
2Sa 11:19 And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king,
Ver. 19. Of telling the matters of the war unto the king. ] Who would be inquisitive after the full truth of things, which yet kings seldom are so happy as to hear, as Alphonsus complained; and Augustus therefore took the death of Varus very grievously, because now there was not one about him that would tell him the naked truth of things.
2Sa 11:20 And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall?
Ver. 20. And if so be that the king’s wrath arise.] As that is the best reward oft times that is given to generals and other officers, though never so well deserving, unless they prove prosperous, that they are discountenanced and discarded; as were Bellisarius, Trajan general to Valens, Hunuiades otherwhiles, qui pro tantorum laborum praemio vix veniam impetravere. a
a Ut de Aria, Mont. Thuan.
2Sa 11:21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
Ver. 21. Who smote Abimelech. ] See Judges 9:53 . See Trapp on " Jdg 9:53 " A commander-in-chief had need be a good historian, ne fiat historia. Tamerlane read much at spare times, in a certain book, wherein was contained the lives of his ancestors and other valiant worthies; not therewith vainly to deceive the time, but to make use thereof by the imitation of that which was by them worthily done, and declining of such dangers, as they, by their rashness or oversight, fell into. a
a Turk. Hist, 218.
2Sa 11:22 So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for.
Ver. 22. And showed David all. ] Playing his part notably to flatter, and make all fair weather, as they say.
2Sa 11:23 And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate.
Ver. 23. Surely the men prevailed. ] Sallied out upon us, and slew some of us, but we beat them in again, albeit not without loss.
2Sa 11:24 And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and [some] of the king’s servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
Ver. 24. And thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. ] This the messenger maketh haste to tell, as that which would salve all; not staying till David should object as Josh had before conceived he would, and had accordingly devised a form of answer.
2Sa 11:25 Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
Ver. 25. Let not this thing displease thee. ] Thus he smootheth up Joab, slights the slaughter of so many gallant men, and deeply dissembleth with the messenger, to the intent that neither his cruel command, nor Joab’s fawning obedience, may be discovered. But was this David? O quantum mutatus!
For the sword devoureth one as well as another. ] Heb., So and such; lords and losels lowlies together. Mars est αλλοπροσαλλος : down they go pell-mell, without difference.
2Sa 11:26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
Ver. 26. She mourned for her husband. ] Fictis lachrymis; there is little doubt to be made but that she was inwardly glad, considering her danger of being punished for an adulteress, and her hopes of being now made a queen: but if her great sin had come before her - as afterwards doubtless it did - she had cause enough to mourn with "the voice of a dove, tabering upon her breast," as Queen Huzzab. Nah 2:7
2Sa 11:27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
Ver. 27. And when the mourning was past. ] And long it lasted not; seven days Josephus saith was the ordinary time, but here more haste might be made. Theodoret saith there was little time given to mourning.
And she became his wife. ] He marrieth her when with child, and as soon as he could with any honesty, as they say; in some hope thereby also to cover his sin.
And she bare him a son. ] Of his own begetting, though before wedlock. Howbeit this was not all out so bad in some respects as that act of Augustus, who took Livia Drusilla from her husband Tiberius Nero, when she was great with child with Drusus, who proved an unhappy hackster, and came to an untimely end. a
But the thing that David had done. ] All the whole business set down in this doleful chapter, displeased the Lord, and cost David very dearly, as shall appear in the next. b
b Principium dulce est, sed finis amoris amarus.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter