Bathsheba has been unjustly criticised and judged by a number of people. She is described as a seductress by some, and as a conniving political opportunist by others, but I do not believe either of these descriptions match with how she is portrayed in Scripture. In this article, I present a more sympathetic view of Bathsheba, and I aim to highlight, without imaginative or salacious embellishments, how Scripture depicts her.
Bathsheba’s Bath – 2 Samuel 11:1–2
Almost everyone knows the story of when King David saw Bathsheba while she was bathing. This part of her story is mentioned in just a few verses of the Bible with few details. Commonly held assumptions, however, have influenced our understanding of the story. For instance, many people assume that Bathsheba was completely naked and brazenly exposed while she was bathing, but the Bible simply doesn’t say this.
Customs of bathing in the ancient world, and in some cultures today, are very different from the way most westerners bathe. In many cultures, women do not have the luxury of a private bathroom, and they bathe in more public places. Sometimes they bathe with clothes on, or with a cloth or sarong wrapped around their bodies so that they are never completely naked.
We do not know if Bathsheba was naked or not. We also do not know where she was bathing. She may have been bathing by a spring, like Judith (Judith 12:7–9). Or in a garden courtyard, like Susanna (Susanna 1:15ff). When Josephus wrote about the account, he said that David “saw a woman washing herself in her own house” (Jewish Antiquities 7.7.1 §130) What we do know is that it was evening—the usual time for bathing—so the light level may have been low. It is likely Bathsheba was neither naked nor brazenly exposed when she was bathing.
2 Samuel 11:4b may indicate that Bathsheba’s bath was part of a ritual cleansing. (This is how the CEB, ESV, NIV and NRSV, etc, understand it.) Devout Israelite women washed seven days after their period had finished, as indicated in the Law. If the cleansing in 11:4 b is before David had sex with her, then we are meant to understand that Bathsheba has had her period and that, when she does become pregnant, the baby cannot be her husband Uriah’s. But others think the cleansing in 11:4b occurred after David has sex with Bathseba. (There is a useful discussion on this point on professor Claude Marriotini’s blog, here.)
The Bible does not tell us where Bathsheba was bathing but it does tell us where David was. He was on his rooftop. David’s palace would have been the largest building in Jerusalem, built on high ground with the highest rooftop giving him a unique vantage point of the surrounding area. This was essential for security reasons.
Some assume Bathsheba was hoping to attract the king’s attention and that she bathed in a seductive manner. However, it is likely she believed that David had gone to war with his fighting men—men who included her husband (2 Sam. 11:1). Bathsheba probably had no idea she was being watched.
A Royal Summons – 2 Samuel 11:3–5
After seeing the young and beautiful Bathsheba, David sends for someone to tell him who she is. As was the custom in biblical times, Bathsheba is identified by her relation to a man. In fact, she is identified in respect to both her father and her husband. This double identification indicates that she was a respectable person, as women with a dubious reputation were sometimes not identified by, and associated with, a named male relative.
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, one of David’s top “Thirty” warriors (2 Sam. 23:34; cf. 1 Chron. 3:5). And she was the wife of Uriah, also one of the “Thirty” (2 Samuel 23:39). The Bible depicts both as men of valour and honour. These men had fought alongside David; they were his trusted comrades.
When David found out who Bathsheba was, including the fact that she was a married woman, the text tersely states, “So David sent messengers to get her. When she came to him, he had sex with her” (2 Sam. 11:4a CEB). Did Bathsheba have a choice in any of this? Could she have refused the king’s messengers who had come with a royal summons? Could she have refused the king’s sexual advances?
The Bible portrays Bathsheba as a young, respectable wife who was following the Law, but she was probably powerless to refuse the king. On this point, John Piper states, “we are not exaggerating to use the word rape for David’s abuse of his power in the indulgence of his sinful lust in the way he took Bathsheba.” (Source: Desiring God)
After David has sex with her, she returns home, defiled. And she becomes pregnant. David expected Bathsheba to resume her life as Uriah’s wife. He did not want her as a wife. In his senseless lust, however, he seemingly did not anticipate that Bathsheba might become pregnant. (If she was ritually bathing seven days after her period had finished, then her cycle was at an optimum time for conception.)
A Grieving Widow – 2 Samuel 11:6–14, 26–27
The narrative in 2 Samuel 11:6–14 recounts the ways David tries to cover up his involvement with Bathsheba’s pregnancy. David recalls her husband Uriah from active military service and sends him home to rest. David wants him to sleep with Bathsheba. He is hoping that Uriah will take responsibility for the pregnancy.
Uriah, however, has a strong sense of honour and stays with David’s servants instead of going home to his wife. He was “unwilling to violate the ancient Israelitish rule applying to warriors in active service.” (Source: Jewish Encyclopedia) Uriah’s refusal to sleep with his wife because of his sense of military duty is in contrast to David staying idly in his palace and not going to war (2 Sam. 11:1).
David then plots Uriah’s murder. He writes a letter to Joab, the commander of his army, with instructions that ensure Uriah will be killed—a letter that David callously places in Uriah’s own hand to deliver to Joab. In the letter, David orders Joab to place Uriah in a vulnerable position in battle and then withdraw military support from him. And so Uriah is exposed to the enemy and killed (2 Sam. 11:14–25).
Bathsheba is now pregnant and widowed, and she mourns for her murdered husband.
Bathsheba is not mentioned by name in the second half of 2 Samuel chapter 11, rather she is referred to as “the wife of Uriah.” This has the effect of distancing her from David’s schemes, crimes, and his guilt.
Chapter 11 finishes with a succinct update on the situation and a frightening insight into God’s view of what David had done.
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for her husband. After the time of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her back to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. But what David had done was evil in the Lord’s eyes (2 Sam. 11:26–27 CEB).
God holds David, not Bathsheba, responsible for what has happened. This becomes even clearer in chapter 12. It is important to note that Bathsheba is nowhere blamed or criticised in the Scriptures.
A Little Ewe Lamb – 2 Samuel 12:1–14
David is blind to his guilt, so God sends Nathan the prophet to him with a message. Nathan tells David a parable about a rich man with many sheep and cattle, and a poor shepherd with one precious lamb. In the story, the rich man takes the one lamb of the poor shepherd. David sees the injustice in the story. He becomes angry at the rich man and exclaims that the man must die. He does not realise that he has acted just like the ruthless rich man, and Nathan has to point out to David, “You are that man!”
David finally realises what he has done. He writes a song, Psalm 51, that expresses his contrition. David has broken three of the Ten Commandments: he coveted his neighbour’s wife, committed adultery, and had Uriah murdered. God spares David life, but others will suffer because of his sins.
Adele Berlin summarises the situation: “David bears the responsibility and the condemnation, and from this point on he is beset by problems within his family that have political implications for his reign. This David is quite different from the man depicted in the Abigail story.” (Source: Jewish Women’s Archive)
A Bereaved Mother – 2 Samuel 12:15–24
David marries the widowed Bathsheba and she gives birth to a baby boy, but the baby becomes dangerously ill. David fasts and prays, hoping that God will spare the boy’s life, but seven days later the boy dies. The biblical text devotes several verses that relate David’s prayers and grief for the baby, but we are not told of Bathsheba’s distress. She seems to suffer in silence. I feel for Bathsheba and the ordeal she faced because of David’s wickedness.
David takes care of Bathsheba as his legal wife and we are told he consoled her (i.e. had sex with her) after the death of their son. Bathsheba conceives and gives birth to another boy and names him Solomon “and the LORD loved him” (2 Sam. 12:24). Things are beginning to look up for Bathsheba.
A Queen Mother – 1 Kings 1:11–31; 2:10–12
Many years pass. David has become an old man and is losing competence, and his eldest son Adonijah has set himself up as king. Nathan the prophet goes to Bathsheba and says,
Did you hear that Adonijah, Haggith’s son, has become king, but our master David doesn’t know about it? Let me give you some advice on how you and your son Solomon can survive this. Go to King David and say, ‘Didn’t my master the king swear to your servant, “Your son Solomon will certainly rule after me. He will sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’ While you are speaking there with the king, I’ll come along and support your words. (1 Kings 1:11b–14 CEB)
Bathsheba follows Nathan’s instruction and goes to David and tells him what has happened. For those who think Bathsheba was a political opportunist, it is important to note that she acted on Nathan’s advice here and not from her own initiative.
David tells Bathsheba, “As surely as the Lord lives, who rescued me from every trouble, regarding what I swore to you by the Lord, Israel’s God, ‘Your son Solomon will certainly succeed me; he will sit on the throne after me’—I’ll see that it happens today” (1 Kings 1:29b–30 CEB). David commands that Solomon be immediately anointed and announced as his successor.
Shortly afterwards, David dies and Solomon becomes king of Israel (1 Kings 2:10-12). Bathsheba had been one of King David’s many wives but now she is the king’s only mother. Being the king’s mother, or the “queen mother,” is a step up for her.
Her Royal Throne – 1 Kings 2:13–25
After David’s death, Adonijah, who had hoped to be king, approaches Bathsheba and makes a request: “Ask King Solomon to let me marry Abishag from Shunem—he won’t refuse you” (1 Kings 2:17 CEB). (Abishag was the young woman whose job it was to keep the elderly King David warm and virile.) Bathsheba doesn’t seem to have had a problem with Adonijah’s request.
Adonijah, as well as Nathan, used Bathsheba as a go-between. They both seem to have recognised that she had diplomatic skill and influence with the king.
Bathsheba went to meet with King Solomon. The text says, “The king stood up to meet her and bowed low to her. Then he returned to his throne and had a throne set up for the queen mother. She sat to his right” (1 Kings 2:19 CEB). Bathsheba is in a position of power and honour. She is on a throne at the right hand of her son, the king.
Bathsheba presents Adonijah’s request to her son, but Solomon perceives that gaining David’s “concubine” is part of a plot for gaining David’s throne, and he orders Adonijah’s execution (1 Kings 2:22ff). With the removal of Adonijah, Solomon’s kingdom is now established (c. 968 BCE).
In Wisdom Literature
The nation of Israel thrived under Solomon’s wise leadership. His wisdom is also seen in his writings. Solomon is traditionally credited as the author of the biblical books of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. In the Song of Solomon, he mentions his mother fondly: that she crowned him with a wedding crown (Song 3:11).
Solomon also wrote some of the material he compiled in the book of Proverbs. From a couple of these proverbs, we can see that Solomon respected the teaching of his mother (Prov. 1:8–9; 6:20 cf. Prov. 31:1ff). “Mother” is mentioned fifteen times in Proverbs, always with some sense that mothers deserve respect and should be spared the dishonour and grief caused by foolish children. Did Bathsheba experience grief by witnessing Solomon’s foolish foreign marriages and later idolatry (1 Kings 11:1–13 cf. Deut. 7:3–5)?
In Jesus’ Genealogies
Bathsheba bore other children with David, including three more sons after Solomon: Shammua, Shobab, and Nathan (1 Chron. 3:5). Solomon is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:6. Nathan is mentioned in the genealogy in Luke 3:31. However, it is not clear if this Nathan is Bathsheba’s son or a son of one of David’s other wives or concubines but also named Nathan. (He is not the prophet Nathan.)
In Matthew’s genealogy, four women are mentioned, three by name: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Bathsheba, however, is referred to simply as “the wife of Uriah” even though she was married to King David when she conceived and gave birth to Solomon. (A few English translations add Bathsheba’s name in Matthew 1:6, but her name is absent from the Greek text.) Being referred to as “Uriah’s wife” seems to be a reminder of David’s treacherous behaviour (1 Kings 15:5).
Bathsheba was a respectable young woman who suffered greatly because of King David’s actions. She was taken advantage of by David and probably sexually abused. Her husband was murdered and then her first-born baby died. There is not the slightest hint of impropriety or guilt on Bathsheba’s part in the biblical text. David alone is held accountable. He bears the responsibility for these terrible events, while Bathsheba seems to suffer in silence. Her situation improves with the birth of Solomon who was especially loved by God. Solomon becomes king in David’s place and Bathsheba becomes the queen mother. Solomon had a great deal of respect for his mother and he gives her a place of honour.
After a royal summons that brought about a wretched entrance into palace life, Bathsheba’s circumstances improved to the point that she had her own royal throne in the palace. Ultimately, Jesus was born through David and Bathsheba’s lineage. So she has the distinction of being a great, great … grandmother of the Messiah. Bathsheba is depicted as an honourable woman in the Bible.
 For an unsympathetic look at Bathsheba, riddled with unfair assumptions, see Herbert Lockyer’s chapter on Bathsheba in his book All the Women of the Bible (on Google Books.) Even his title, Bathsheba: The Woman Whose Beauty Resulted in Adultery and Murder, seems to put the blame on Bathsheba’s beauty, rather than squarely on David’s actions. Lockyer’s chapters on Dinah and a few other Bible women are equally heartless and unjust.
 Most of the following accounts were composed hundreds of years after the David and Bathsheba story, but they illustrate that respectable women (and goddesses) could innocently bathe outside and might be seen while bathing. (Private bathrooms are a relatively modern innovation.)
~ In the Book of Susanna, which is part of the Septuagint, two elders lust after the virtuous Susanna when they see her walking alone in her husband’s private garden (Susanna 1:7–8). When she bathes in the garden, things get nasty (Susanna 1:15–16ff).
~ In the Book of Judith, also part of the Septuagint, the heroine bathes at night in the stream of the enemy camp. However, we are not told that she was seen. I include this quotation because of the unsupported claim that respectable Israelite or Jewish women did not bathe at night for ritual purification.
“… [Judith] stayed in the camp three days. Each night she went out to the valley of Bethulia, where she bathed herself at the spring of the camp. After bathing, she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, to direct her way for the triumph of her people. Then she returned purified (kathara) to the tent and remained there until her food was brought to her toward evening.” Judith 12:7–9
~ In the pseudepigraphical Testament of Reuben, Reuben laments that he had sex with Bilhah after he watched her “bathing in a covered/ secret place” (Test. Reub 1.37–40; cf. Jubilees 33:2–4).
~ In chapter one of The Shepherd of Hermas, a Christian work written in the early second century, Hermas, a slave, struggles with lustful thoughts after he helped Rhoda, his owner and a Christian, out of the river where she was bathing. We are not told what Rhoda was wearing, if anything.
~ In the Coptic fragment of the apocryphal Acts of Peter there is a disturbing story of a ten-year-old girl who was bathing with her mother and seen by a rich and powerful man. (The text doesn’t say where they were bathing.) The man sends many messages to the mother asking to marry the girl. The mother refuses, and the man kidnaps the girl.
~ In Callimachus’s version of the myth of Actaeon, the Greek goddess Artemis turns Actaeon into a stag after he happens to see her bathing naked in the woods. He is then torn apart by his own hunting dogs.
~ Clement of Alexandria makes a reference to Dion, a contemporary of Plato, who had commented on the modesty of two women. Dion’s comment seems to presuppose that the women bathed in public spaces and that their modesty was extraordinary.
Dion, too, the philosopher, tells that a certain woman Lysidica, through excess of modesty, bathed in her clothes; and that Philotera, when she was to enter the bath, gradually drew back her tunic as the water covered the naked parts; and then rising by degrees, put it on. Clement, Stromata 4.15.
~ Exodus 2 contains a story that occurred well before the story of David and Bathsheba. Here Pharaoh’s daughter goes to the river to bathe (Exod. 2:5). This story also shows that even princesses could bathe outside and might be seen.
 In book 2 of his Jewish War, Josephus writes about first-century Essene women and men bathing in mikva’ot (ritual baths) with some clothing on: “Now the women go into the bath with some of their garments on, as do the men with something girded about them” (Jewish War 2.8.13 §161; cf. 2.8.5). (See the following footnote also.)
 Mikva’ot, ritual Jewish baths, were common in Jerusalem between 100 BC–AD 70 (less common in other parts of Judea and in Galilee), but there is no surviving literary or archaeological evidence of similar ritual baths that date from around David’s time, 1000 BC. (More on mikva’ot here: Jewish Virtual Library)
 Nathan’s parable recorded in 2 Samuel 12:1–4 of the shepherd and his “one little ewe lamb” might indicate Bathsheba’s young age. In some Rabbinic literature, Bathsheba is said to be a young child; however, she was fertile when David had sex with her, so she must have been at least in her teens. (In biblical times, new brides were often in their early or mid-teens.)
 In 1 Chronicles, Bathsheba is referred to as the daughter of Ammiel, rather than Eliam (1 Chron. 3:5). The name Ammiel has the same components as in the name Eliam but arranged in a different order. Ammiel means “my kinsman is God” while Eliam means “my God is kinsman”. Eliam’s father was Ahithophel, one of David’s top advisers (2 Sam. 15:12; 1 Chron. 27:33).
 Cheryl Exum makes an interesting comment on Bathsheba’s difficult situation: “Whether David rapes Bathsheba is a moot question . . . What Bathsheba might have done or felt is not the point; the point is we are not allowed access to her point of view. The issue of force versus consent, which is crucial for constructing the woman’s point of view, is not raised. Nor does the text describe an attempted seduction, which would give the woman a role, even if one in which she is manipulated. Bathsheba’s rape is semiotic; that is to say, her violation occurs not so much in the story as by means of the story. By denying her subjectivity. Plotted, Shot, and Painted: Cultural Representations of Biblical Women (Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 22.
 The instruction in Leviticus 15:19, about the days of separation (being unclean) because of menstruation, isn’t clear. Is it seven days all up? Or seven days after the bleeding has stopped? In Leviticus 15:13, 15:24 and 15:28, the “seven days” of separation are after the discharge has stopped and is no longer an immediate issue. A similar principle may be meant in Leviticus 15:19
 The lamb and the poor shepherd, allegorically representative of Bathsheba and Uriah, are portrayed as innocent and helpless in Nathan’s parable. However, the three main characters of the parable were not designed to correspond with Uriah, Bathsheba and David in all, or even most, details. The parable was primarily designed to vividly show David that he had been cruel and unjust. And it worked.
 The parable of the little ewe lamb is about ownership and theft. This perhaps tells us about the view of patriarchal men at that time. It does not tell us about how God views his daughters.
 Haggith was Adonijah’s mother (2 Sam. 3:2–5 cf. 1 Chron. 3:1–9).
 Solomon had previously shown clemency to his half-brother Adonijah (1 Kings 1:51–53).
 “Mother” is mentioned in Proverbs 1:8; 4:12; 6:20; 10:1; 15:20; 17:25; 19:26; 20:20; 23:22, 25; 28:24; 29:15; 30:11, 17; and 31:1ff.
 Josephus wrote that David “was overcome by that woman’s beauty, and was not able to restrain his desires, but sent for her, and lay with her” (Jewish Antiquities 7.7.1 §130). In both Josephus’ account and the biblical account, there is no hint that Bathsheba consented, or that she had the power to consent or refuse either the royal summons or the seduction. The imbalance of power between the king of Israel and Bathsheba was stacked against her. In the past, what happened between David and Bathsheba has been referred to as adultery but, with today’s understanding, we call what happened to Bathsheba as rape. It was a terrible abuse of power on King David’s part.
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I like the note the CEB Study Bible has for 2 Samuel 11:2–5. It assumes, however, that Bathsheba was bathing on her roof which may not have been the case. The last sentence is telling.
David was pacing on the roof of his palace. Bathsheba was bathing on the roof of her house. Neither one of these activities was unusual in the crowded setting of a walled city. Bathing was often on the roof. There was no drainage system inside a house for bathing. Bathsheba may have been doing ritual cleansing related to her menstrual period (11:4). There is no suggestion that Bathsheba intended to attract David’s attention. The text gives no support to the idea that she was a seductress. David’s palace would command a view of the rooftops of most of the city, and many people might have been in view while bathing. The text does tell us that he found her beautiful (11:2), and he inquired about her identity. The report came back that she was married to Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s own officers (11:3). This doesn’t discourage David, however. He sends messengers to get her, which can be translated as “he took her” (11:4). The prophet Samuel used the same verb in his warning to the elders about kings who “take” from the people (1 Sam. 8:10-18). David’s sex with Bathsheba is adultery under the menace of power. The narrative gives no indication that David would have seen this woman again, except that she sent word that she is pregnant.
The only reason we hear about Bathsheba is because she became pregnant, she told David she was pregnant (a risky move), Uriah didn’t comply with David’s schemes, and her son Solomon became king. If not for these factors, we probably would never have heard of her. Did David send for and have sex with other women that we’ve not heard of?
Postscript: 2 July 14, 2022
Dr Carmen Imes tweeted a 31-part thread, see here, about the situation between David and Bathsheba. It’s well worth a read.
Mary and the Women in Matthew’s Genealogy of Jesus
Abigail: A Bible Women with Beauty and Brains
The Disturbing Story of David’s Ten Concubines
King Lemuel’s Mother: The other Proverbs 31 Woman
Leading Together in the Home: Honour Your Mother and Your Father
Richard M. Davidson, “Did King David Rape Bathsheba? A Case Study in Narrative Theology,” Journal of the Adventist Theological Society, 17.2 (Autumn 2006): 81–95. (Source)
Bathsheba’s “other” David: The Marginalization of Women and Christ as Answer by Tanya Riches
What you need to know about Bathsheba by Dalaina May
67 thoughts on “A Sympathetic Look at Bathsheba”
“… aim to highlight, without imaginative or salacious embellishments, how the Scriptures depict her.”
To build up Bathsheba you make King David into a rapist. I wouldn’t call that an objective biblical look at Bathsheba. Also her husband was one of King David’s mightiest, I don’t believe their is any indication her father was.
Having sex without someone’s consent is rape and there is no hint that Bathsheba consented, or had the power to consent, to either the royal summons or the “seduction”. The imbalance of power between the king of Israel and Bathsheba was stacked against her. In today’s language we call what happened to Bathsheba as “rape”.
It was a terrible abuse of power on King David’s part. And then he “dumps her”, sends her home. I think what King David did to Bathsheba was despicable.
As to Bathsheba’s father, 2 Samuel 11:3 says: “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”
Eliam is mentioned in the list of David’s Thirty warriors, as is Uriah (2 Samuel 23:24-39, See 2 Sam. 23:34)
In 1 Chronicles, Bathsheba is referred to as the daughter of Ammiel (1 Chron. 3:5). The name Ammiel has the same components as in the name Eliam but arranged in a different order. Ammiel means “my kinsman is God” while Eliam means “my God is kinsman”. (Several people in the Bible have more than one name. Even Solomon was named Jedidiah by God (2 Sam. 12:24-25).)
Have I built up Bathsheba? Have I ascribed to her anything other than what the Bible says of her? Is saying she was innocent building her up? The Bible says nothing about guilt on her part.
So Dean, I’m curious to know what you would call it, then. I doubt if she could have refused when the men came to take her away from her home. It is hard to say what the cultural pressures would have been like to refuse the king’s orders, wouldn’t it? Regardless of what David did or didn’t do, I don’t see how this is building up Bathsheba as much as setting the record straight. So much has been read into the text that isn’t there.
God, however, is extremely objective – and must be if he is just – and portrays all Biblical “heroes” in truth. Marg did not turn King David into a rapist; David, as a powerful, head-removing king abused his power over his subjects and sinned against the Lord. Scripture does not hide from us the many flaws of its central characters. Adam coveted his wife, Abraham lied, Jacob deceived, Moses murdered, Solomon lusted, Peter denied, Paul persecuted, and on and on. Yet God used each and every one of them in spite of their record of sin. What a picture of grace!
To read anything into Bathsheba’s character is to add to the Word (seductress, whore, etc). Even if she was, that would not take the blame off of David. He is responsible for his actions, as are we all.
It is, unfortunately, the default of both men and women to blame the victim rather than the perpetrator. David knew that it was highly unlikely that he would be denied what he wanted, even when it was another man’s wife. His decision to stay home from what he was anointed to do as a warrior indicates that he was tired of the season of his life and as a result, he ended up using the wife of one of his most loyal supporters. Shame on him…
and shame on those who try so hard to make it the victim’s fault. Even supposing the rape was not violent, rape is the expressing of power over another human being sexually, which is what David did.
I love the clarity of your thoughts and arguments, Marg.
Someone who has a problem with what I’ve written even holds Bathsheba responsible for Uriah’s death. His logic is that if Bathsheba had said “no” to David, assuming that was even possible, Uriah would not have been murdered. *sigh*
The person who feels that Bathsheba had any ‘rights’ to say no is clearly a man… who has no idea what it feels like to be disempowered in a relationship
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone take a male blogger to task over how they’ve written their blog… but I’ve seen it often with female bloggers… it’s hard to understand why that is, but it feels very patronising…
Vashti, who was queen, had the audacity to say “no” to her husband’s summons. And look at what the king did to her! Kings were powerful!
Bathsheba did not have the same kind of power or status (or experience?) as Vashti.
I agree it was a power rape by David. Scripture says David sinned but does not say Bathsheba sinned.
A few quibbles:
1) Overlook in US English means to not see (something) as in “I overlooked the scarf on the floor.”
2) Going into a mikveh does not imply being naked; if she was this implies she thought no one was watching.
3) In Nathan’s parable, I would not use the word “compared” to describe the relation between the ewe lamb and Bathsheba, as the parable was meant to describe the situation in a cloaked way, so that David’s own words would condemn him.
4) I think Abishag’s job was to keep David warm and attend to him, but since he did not “know” her, I do not think it was to keep him virile.
5) It is traditional for Ecc. and Song of Solomon to attribute Solomon as author, but it is not actually stated that this is the case, at least in an unambiguous way.
In the LXX it is perhaps clearer that Abishag’s role was to invigorate David’s virility. I wouldn’t want to go into the specifics of how she may have done this. While it says that “David didn’t know her”, it also says that Abishag slept with David, she nursed him, and she ministered to him. Abishag was the more active person in this unusual relationship.
Also, there is no evidence for mikvehs until hundreds of years after David’s time.
Several Hebrew stories in the Bible are coy about sexuality, especially where sexuality is used by a woman. I don’t know why this is – my friends who teach Hebrew seem to agree that the texts contains these allusions in a humorous manner “wink, wink, say no more” as the British manner of such allusions has it. Wherever there is a degree of sexual tension in the narrative this mechanism pops up. If this is applied to the story of David’s last days, Abishag is brought in to test whether David is still potent enough to be king, and he fails – and the manoeuvring for the crown begins. Bathsheba and Nathan are first off the mark, and the long battle for the succession comes to a fairly satisfactory end. Those who don’t want to see the sexual innuendo in the Hebrew stories therefore may do so, but are up against the grain of the way Hebrew narratives are told. Hence the LXX is more specific, the Greek culture lacking this element.
Because Solomon’s kingship is the result of so much intrigue – traced all the way back to David’s use of his power to exercise his will over Bathsehba and Uriah, tarnishing his best warriors in the process – his reign is tainted from the beginning. In the Deuteronomistic scheme of things, the text is able to draw out both positives and negatives about Solomon. In my view the negatives outweigh the positives – even his much vaunted “wisdom” is purchased from Egypt in the form of educated civil servants.
Peter, can you be specific on the Greek elements? Maybe I’m just not hip to it, but LXX reads pretty straightforwardly to me. I’m not seeing any innuendo not present in the Hebrew original. (btw, I agree with the sexually charge interpretation.)
And can you offer a source on Solomon’s wisdom deriving from Egyptian civil servants?
In US English an “overlook” is also a place where one gets a spectacular scenic view as in a scenic overlook or it can refer to a window, balcony, roof overlooking a sight
In a certain sense, I don’t want to compare Nathan’s little ewe lamb story too closely to David’s. For example, it is the lamb that is slaughtered and Uriah that is slaughtered, so a straight comparison between Batsheba and the lamb is too direct.
For that reason, I would not assume she is very young from the “little lamb” part, or that a woman was dehumanized in comparing her to a sheep.
But the point is that she is never blamed at all, and the comparison is to a slaughtered lamb. God could, if he saw 2 people as guilty, have made it a story about 2 sinners in cahoots. He did not. The likely answer is that there was two innocent-as-lambs people in this situation, and David should take all the blame for killing one innocent person, and for sleeping with another innocent person who does not share in his sin.
Because lambs usually stand for the innocent, I find Nathan’s story even more reason to believe this was rape.
In the Old Testament Law, if a man acted improperly to a woman, the man had to pay a recompense to her father or other senior male member of the family. Sexual misconduct was seen as a crime against the family rather than just a crime against the woman herself. So Uriah is the victim twice over in this story about David and Bathsheba: his wife is defiled and he is killed (1 Kings 15:5).
This idea that women were somewhat “owned” by men may be one of the reasons Bathsheba is so silent in the text, and why she is referred to as a lamb in the parable, while Uriah and David are referred to as men. I don’t think the concept of slaughtering is highlighted in the parable, but ownership.
Good observation on David and Bathesheba. I wasn’t aware of Bathsheba being villified. I do believe David was villified in this story by sending away Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, leading to his death in order to have Bathsheba for himself and he later repented after Nathan the prophet compared him to rich man who stole froma poor man. I also think it is a bit of stretch to say David raped her as it was not very clear in the bible that it was rape. However, it is clear David pursued and lay down with another man’s wife and therefore sinned before God but later repented. Great post anyway.
Other people have told me that they weren’t aware of Bathsheba being vilified and I am heartened to hear of it. I was graphically reminded of her vilification when I was searching for images to go with this article. Almost all the images of Bathsheba on the internet were of a totally nude woman, some were very stark. I initially decided to go with a beautiful image by Picasso of a woman somewhat discretely drying herself with a towel, an image that wasn’t based on Bathsheba. But then I thought, “I’m sick of Bathsheba being so strongly associated with her bath, I’ll find an image of a throne.” So that’s what I went with. I want to focus more on Bathsheba’s powerful and honorable end, not her miserable beginning.
As to her “rape”: I clarify this in an endote. According to the values of that time, what David did to Bathsheba was adultery. According to values in modern western society, it was rape.
As far as I can make out, the Old Testament Law only recognises rape when the victim is an unmarried, virgin. The reason seems to be that a young woman who has been raped has much less monetary value than an “undefiled” young woman. That is, her family get a lower dowry if the raped girl gets married, and there’s a big “if”. For example, Tamar and Dinah never marry.
The following passage sheds some light on ancient attitudes:
Adultery: Verse 22 If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel. [A married woman is guilty of adultery with or without consenting to the sex.]
Fornication: Verses 23-24 If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you. [A virgin raped in town is guilt, with or without consent.]
Rape: Verses 25-28 But if out in the country a man happens to meet a young woman pledged to be married and rapes her, only the man who has done this shall die. Do nothing to the woman; she has committed no sin deserving death. This case is like that of someone who attacks and murders a neighbor, for the man found the young woman out in the country, and though the betrothed woman screamed, there was no one to rescue her. [A virgin raped in the country is innocent.]
Dowry: Verses 28-29 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay her father fifty shekels of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives. [The young woman must be looked after. More about these two verses here.]
These laws do not cover every situation but are meant as guiding principles. Moreover, these laws were made for the nation of Israel in ancient times and have been superseded by Christ’s law – love.
Mathews Gospel does not mention her name, She is known only as She who was the Wife of Uriah the Hittite. So obviously, she is not respected by the writer of Mathews Gospel
Actually, being identified by a male relative was, and is, a sign of respect in honor-shame cultures, such as those in Bible times. The confusing thing in Matthew’s gospel is that Bathsheba is identified by her deceased husband, and not by David who was her husband at the time that she conceived and bore Solomon.
I have written about honor-shame culture and customs of identification in my article “The ‘Shame’ of the Unnamed Women in the Old Testament”. Needless to say, values and customs in Bible times are very different to those in modern western society.
I agree, Marg, that the way Matthew refers to Bathsheba is both honourable and a sharp reminder to the reader that she, along with the other women in Jesus’ genealogy and of course Mary herself, is the subject of at least dubious innuendo and probably vilification, along the horrible lines all too familiar in patriarchal societies including the Christian churches. Matthew’s Gospel anticipates this and presents only these “tainted” women in the genealogy. I see it as an indirect legitimation of the extra-marital conception of Jesus.
It has been my experience that Bible Gateway will remove offensive sexist articles if you call them on it. I can only imagine that if multiple people wrote and offered an alternative the bigotry might stop.
I emailed Bible Gateway a while ago about the article on Dinah where Herbert Lockyer stated that if Dinah had stayed at home she would not have been raped. While I never heard back from them, I noticed that they removed the offending statement. Perhaps I should write to them about the Bathsheba article too.
Update: Bible Gateway have extensively edited Herbert Lockyer’s chapter on Bathsheba and removed the unjust claims made by the author. They also removed the incriminating title of the chapter on Bathsheba. Appallingly, Lockyer’s book All the Women of the Bible, which was first published in 1967 has recently (2016) been republished with all the original unjust remarks.
This is all about cultural divide trying to use todays culture to explain yesterday’s.
William, your comment is an exaggeration. I have stuck to the biblical text throughout this article, and brought in the cultural context of the ancient Near East to help explain certain situations in the narrative. Only once have I made a reference to today’s culture, and that is in an endnote.
It seems to me that you have it backwards William. The traditional reading imposes today’s culture on the text, ignoring the realities of the power connected with David’s monarchy. The post gives a more clear picture that takes into consideration the place of women in that culture.
David absolutely raped Bathsheba. The prophet’s allegory is an exact Amd very clear charge of the crimes David truly committed. He became a rapist, murderer, liar, and schemer. If he could have caused the baby to be aborted, he would have. Rape and murder recycled itself in his house due to the sins of the father. The depravity of man is severe. This brings home the true extent to gods mercy and grace. Why David wept over the death of the baby, unique to any man in scripture, may testify to the possible illegitimacy of David’s own birth (he said he was conceived in sin in the Psalms). Paul was also a raging murderer and killed countless people. I think most people just find rape to be more unforgivable that murder. To properly identify rape and murder with a major author of the psalms is too much for most.
I’ve find it interesting that some have balked at the idea David was a rapist, but not at the idea he was a murderer.
David was living in another time and place, with a culture and value system very different to that of first world countries today, and I find much of his behaviour reprehensible. God saw beyond that. This is indeed testimony to God’s mercy and grace.
I don’t believe David was illegitimate. He was speaking about the extent of his own sinfulness in Psalm 51, not his mother’s. Moreover, it is likely that in his deep remorse he used some exaggeration or poetic license in his song. I don’t think we can take Psalm 51:5 at face value. I don’t think David meant verse 5 to be understood an expressive outpouring of his guilt and sorrow, not as a historical or theological statement.
Psalm 69:8 (which uses a poetic device common in Hebrew poetry: the repetition of concepts) shows that David’s brothers and his mother’s sons are the same people. Whatever the case, the Scriptures are clear that David was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. Jesse is undeniably David’s father.
No one questions that David was a murderer, because that’s a plain fact of the text. Arranging someone’s death makes you just as guilty as actually being the killer. Rape, however, is not stated, and indeed, the Torah imposes a duty on a woman who is being raped to cry out for help. That David took advantage of the power difference is a reasonable conclusion; that Bathsheba was innocent is not.
There is no Hebrew word for “rape” or “rapist” in biblical Hebrew as there is for “murder”, etc, so we have to go by what actually happened as the Bible records it.
The regulations of the Torah do not cover precisely what happened to Bathsheba. Her situation is not the same as described in Deuteronomy 22:23.
Unlike what it says in Deuteronomy 22:23:
~ David did not just happen to meet Bathsheba (NIV). He did not encounter her (CSB) or find her (KJV). David saw her and summoned her.
~ Bathsheba was not a betrothed virgin, she was a married woman. David knew she was married when he got his men to get her.
~ Bathsheba was not simply in the city. She may have even been bathing in her own home and then summoned to David’s palace, where the crime happened.
~ Screaming was useless. Had she screamed, it is highly unlikely one of David’s friends or servants would have rescued her from the king.
David did not just “take advantage” of the power difference. He instigated the entire event. And since the biblical text puts all the blame on David, and none on Bathsheba, I presume her innocence.
Likewise, I presume Tamar’s innocence even though she does not seem to have screamed (2 Sam. 13:1-19).
Yet the prophet Nathan has words of judgment only for David, not Bathsheba.
Paul didn’t kill anyone! He certainly had them arrested and imprisoned. Even at Stephen’s death he didn’t throw a single stone but just held the coats of those who were doing the stoning.
Hi, Marg. Great treatment of Bathsheba. I’ve always been perplexed by the unsympathetic views of this woman who was in an impossible position.
Just one quibble. You made the point that Solomon referred to his mother’s teaching in Song 8:2. But the speaker in that verse is Shulamit, not Solomon. The 2nd person pronoun is masculine, so it must be Shulamit speaking.
(Solomon does refer lovingly to his mother’s Torah in Proverbs 1:8 & 6:20.)
Ah! Thanks for picking that up, Timothy. I appreciate you letting me know! I’ll fix it now.
Thank you for this fascinating blog post.
Perhaps I could contribute one minor detail to our understanding of why she’s not refered to by name but as her father’s daughter or Uriah’s wife. It’s exacly the same in modern western culture. When I was single I was called Miss then my father’s surname. Now I’m Mrs and my husband’s surname. So not some weird ancient habit, it’s a weird modern habit.
I’ve written about the custom of identifying women in Old Testament times primarily by her connection to a male relative: https://margmowczko.com/the-shame-of-the-unnamed-women-of-the-old-testament/
This custom continued into the Christian era, and still today, in some cultures, women’s names are not spoken. But as you say, even in modern societies we identify women, to some extent, by her relation to her father or husband.
What would have happened if David did not have Uriah killed? What if Uriah survived and knew of course that he could not be the father? He seems such an honourable man I think he would have understood and stood by her. But what would the law say? Only the soldiers he was with would have known he didn’t ‘go into her.’
Could Bathsheba have been punished by the law and what would David have to do to restore her good name?
If David had left well enough alone Uriah may still have died or if he had not sent for Bathsheba her husband may still have died as it seems Solomon was meant to come from that union and oh how much better it would have been if it happened honourably.
Also he must have loved her as they had a lot of children together.
Also David was shattered when his wife Michal had fallen out of love with him. They had been very much in love. The other wives he had did not seem to lighten him up though he did seem to have a lot of respect for Abigail (whose children were supportive of Solomon). So with Bathsheba David seems to have recapture that love he once had as a youth. He was very attracted to Bathsheba and certainly you feel he really loved her. But what a disservice he did to her.
I also think what would Prince Jonathan have done if he was alive. To me Prince Jonathan is the most noble man in the Old Testament. (I named my third son after Prince Jonathan and he lives up to that name).
My ancestors were German Jews living in Lithuania. They had a big shipping industry but in the 1800s they became Lutherans as it was financially better. My great grandfather came out in the late 1800s to Australia. On my mother’s side my great grandfather was a Gypsy Hungarian and he jumped ship in Australia at age 12.
We are worlds apart from the society these people lived in, and what was honourable for them is sometimes very different to what is honourable for us.
I see no evidence that David loved Michal. The Bible plainly states a couple of times that Michal loved David, but it never says he loved her. Marriages, especially among the more elite families, were made for political reasons, not love.
I am not sure if rabbinic law was this in David’s time, I have read that according to Hebrew law a child of a married woman is legally the child of her husband. This came up in context of a woman who was impregnated by a rapist. If that was the case then, Bathsheba’s first child would have been considered Uriah’s although, clearly, that could have caused marital issues as well as political issues when the truth came out.
Rabbinic teachings began (very) roughly 1000 years after the time of King David. And there is no Hebrew law in the Bible that says a child born from rape legally belongs to the husband of the victim.
I have read that Hebrew law considers the child of a married woman to be the child of her husband. This was in the context of a woman who was impregnated by a rapist. Not sure if that was the law at the time of David. In this case there still would have been marital and political problems caused once circumstances became known.
You are completely correct because after all is said and done it was David who “comforted” Bathsheba. That alone should tell us who fault it is. Unless she “knew” that David stood out on that roof every night she holds no blame for what happened. Even after he knew she was someone else’s wife and summoned her anyway. And you are right we don’t know she was completely undressed. I’m guessing heating up water probably took quite a lot of time.
2 Samuel 12:24-25 King James Version (KJV)
24 And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the Lord loved him.
25 And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.
His life went downhill after that. Bathsheba lost her husband and baby son because of his actions. I’m guessing David thought it was okay to have Uriah killed since he was fighting a war. Hey, you know people die in battle except David wanted Uriah to be killed. The only way out of this was to have Uriah dead.
His oldest son raped his half-sister and his son Absalom had him killed because David did “nothing” about it. I’m guessing Absalom lost all respect for his father and probably thought he’d make a better king.
In a sense three of his sons died because what he did two of them indirectly.
Then 10 of his concubines was forced to have sex with Absalom. I always wondered how long it took Absalom to do this. Then the 10 concubines had to live under house arrest for the rest of their lives.
What he did hurt many people. The lesson is whatever you do might affect many lives.
David tells Bathsheba, “As surely as the Lord lives, who rescued me from every trouble, regarding what I swore to you by the Lord, Israel’s God, ‘Your son Solomon will certainly succeed me; he will sit on the throne after me’—I’ll see that it happens today” (1 Kings 1:29b-30 CEB). David commands that Solomon be immediately anointed and publicly announced as his successor.
I used to question if Nathan was telling her this to save her and Solomon’s life. I never read in 2 Samuel where David promised to make Solomon king. But then I read 1 Chron. when David was making plans on how the temple and often it mentions Solomon. In I Chron. 28 David say that the Lord has chosen David’s son Solomon. So maybe he did pick Solomon and forgot. I mean the man was sick and dying.
Here is one verse from 1 Chron. 28. 5-6 it says this.
5 Of all my sons—and the Lord has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel. 6 He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father.
So I believe he did promise and was being reminded indirectly by Bathsheba and Nathan the prophet.
Thanks for this, Doris.
I stumbled onto your website while doing research. I am writing a series of Bible Studies on the women in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. It is refreshing to find a few people out there who see Bathsheba the way I do. Thanks. God Bless.
Thank you so much for your helpful, biblical scholarship, Marg.
Last night, I was horrified to read that the commentary for my 1995 New American Study Bible puts equal blame on Bathsheba. The footnote to 1 Samuel 11:4 reads, “Bathsheba evidently was not an unwilling participant in this sin. Purification after intercourse was required by Mosaic Law (Lev. 15:18).”
Marg, what do you make of that?
I’d say that whoever wrote that footnote did not stop to think how difficult it would have been for a young woman, whose husband was away at war, to refuse a royal summons from a king who was more like a warlord. And once she was in the palace, it would have been difficult to refuse the king’s advances. She may have been helpless. The biblical text simply never says that Bathsheba sinned.
The footnote also seems to assume that the reference to purification in 2 Samuel 11:14 was after David had sex with Bathsheba. This is how the NASB reads. However more modern translations read that Bathsheba had just finished her purification bath before she went to the palace.
As you probably know, bodily discharges from wounds and from the genitals were regarded as making a person unclean. The discharge of semen during sex required bathing and then a one-day quarantine period of being “unclean.”
“When a man has sexual relations with a woman and there is an emission of semen, both of them must bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening” Leviticus 15:18 NIV.
Note that Israelite/Jewish days begin and end at sunset (i.e. “evening”).
Oops, 2nd Samuel! Anyway Marg – you knew which verse I meant. Many thanks for your response.
MacArthur’s Bible commentary says that Bathsheba’s ritual purification bath took place after David had sex with her, because this shows clearly that her child was David’s. However, I tend not to trust any interpretation that puts equal blame on Bathsheba as both MacArthur and my NASB do.
Also, even if Bathsheba had ritually bathed after the fact, is that so different from how sexual assault victims feel today – impure, through no fault of their own? And wouldn’t the OT law have commanded such a bath, whether or not the sex had been consensual?
Someday, I should learn Hebrew and Greek…
I must confess, I really struggle with David – both the biblical text itself, and what the church has made of it.
It seems as though Bathsheba’s purpose is only to show how amazing it is that God loves David so much, and forgives him. This then provides Christians with all kinds of license to “forgive” male sexual sins in leadership (“forgiveness” taken to mean entitlement to hang onto one’s job / ministry position). In fact, that’s exactly what I was told – by a women’s minister, no less! – when I confronted a #ChurchToo situation in my former church that had been handled poorly.
It’s very curious to me that the most damning thing David does receives no comment whatsoever by the biblical author – namely, David’s cowardly inaction in the face of his own daughter’s rape. David proclaims in his confessional Psalm 51:13, “… Then I will teach transgressors Your ways…” but that is exactly what David does not do when he learns that Amnon has raped Tamar.
Sure, the disastrous, violent family strife around Absalom’s rebellion is part of David’s punishment for his sin with Bathsheba. as foretold by Nathan.
However, I think David must have felt so much shame over Amnon’s behavior that he could not bear to condemn Amnon’s sin. Deep down, David must have known that in raping Tamar, Amnon was only following in his father’s footsteps – although the biblical text doesn’t spell this out.
MacArthur’s comment doesn’t make any sense. How does Bathsheba bathing after sex prove the child was David’s? On the other hand, if Bathsheba’s bath was to purify herself when menstruation was over, plus seven days (Lev. 15:19), then this “proves” the child was David’s, as she was not already pregnant before she went to the palace and was in the middle of her cycle, the optimum time for getting pregnant.
I struggle with several things David did, including his treatment of Michal and his raids deceit that seemed like a game to him (1 Sam. 27:6-12).
Also, it has been suggested that David may have summoned other women to his palace, but it became complicated in Bathsheba’s case because she became pregnant and told David about, rather than deal with it herself, and Uriah wouldn’t sleep with her. It seems the murder of Uriah put David’s deed in a different category.
What Christians and others need to do is ask the Rabbis about stories in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Christians are operating without the aid of the Talmud, which explains what’s written in the Hebrew Bible. I understand Christians don’t take the Talmud to be authoritative, however, that is their own error and they will never understand the stories in the Hebrew Bible without the Talmud. In fact, I won’t attend ANY Christian church whose pastor isn’t fluent in Hebrew. Anyone who relies on a translation of the Hebrew scriptures isn’t worth listening to.
My question is why were these so called God fearing men even allowed to have concubine s in the first place? That is adultery as well
Technically, adultery is having sex with a person who is already married to someone else. David had sex with Bathsheba, a married woman; he committed adultery, and worse, by taking her.
Having concubines is not adultery unless the concubines are taken when they are already married. Having concubine is not usually adultery; it is polygamy.
Between the fall and the cross, God made allowances for many things that are part of a fallen society. He made allowances for polygamy, slavery, patriarchy, wars, etc. But these things are not God’s perfect will for humanity.
Wow and double wow.
Firstly I applaud your just elevations in the picture of Bathsheba. The girl deserves it. And she deserves much more.
If I may indulge in a quote from a book I just completed (and want to send you if you have a location I can mail to from the U.S.), this is the 2nd & 3rd paragraphs in a long chapter on Bathsheba (per 2Sa 10-12). It is followed later by a 2nd chapter on her (per 1Ki.).
NOT ALL WOMEN ARE WIVES
The key semantic issue has been brewing since Genesis: What does it mean for a woman to be assigned to, or belong to, a particular man? What is meant by the term ‘his woman’? Despite the illustrations of breadth and complexity, such as with Hagar, interpreters assume a ‘wife’ unless explicitly told otherwise.
Bathsheba is called, “Uriah’s woman,” which is routinely changed to read “Uriah’s wife.” Yet any careful reading of the remarks by the Prophet Nathan, plus God’s words of formal conviction of David, indicates that Bathsheba was never the wife of Uriah. She was not his mate but a purchased nanny who was “like a daughter to him” (2Sa. 12:3). That is why God never charged David with adultery. David never committed adultery. He took someone’s property, but he did not take anyone’s wife.
That quote begins a 26-page look at all the evidences ignored in the traditional feeding frenzy.
Consider merely one verse that is stampeded over, 2Sa. 12:3:
Uriah “bought” Bathsheba. (past tense, years ago)
She was a “little ewe lamb” (immature, probably 8-10 yrs old).
Uriah “brought her up”
She “grew up with him and with his children”.
While tending to meals, service and Uriah’s small motherless children, she would pause to recline at Uriah’s lap and “eat of his food and drink from his cup”
“She was like a daughter to him”
And there is so much more.
David’s sin: disregard of Lev. 19:20-22.
As for Uriah, that is a bombshell of its own. I better not even start.
Much of Scripture is plain, and much is a test. Beware the leaven of the scribes. They misunderstood much more than just messianic prophecies.
Anyway, glory be to God above all we say. Good night from the prairie, and may God and fireflies and the grace of Jesus Christ be with y’all.
Thanks Derek. However, I see things differently.
I do not think the ewe lamb in Nathan’s parable is comparable to Bathsheba is every detail, or even in most details. I don’t think Uriah bought Bathsheba as a person buys livestock and she wasn’t Uriah’s daughter. The parable was designed to vividly show David that he had been cruel and unjust. And it worked.
Bathsheba is the daughter (bat) of Eliam—bat is the same Hebrew word used in 2 Samuel 12:3—and she is Uriah’s wife (ishshah) (2 Sam. 11:3). Bathsheba is consistently referred to as an ishshah, a “woman/wife” in 2 Samuel 11 (2 Sam. 11:2 (twice), 11:3 (twice), 11:5, 11:11, 11:26, 27). Ishshah is not one of the Hebrew words usually used for young unmarried women or for daughters.
Also, Uriah is called “her husband” in 2 Samuel 11:25 (ish X1; ba’al, exact form balah X1). Bathsheba is his “woman” and Uriah is her “man.” Furthermore, David called Uriah back from the war just so he would go home and have sex with his wife Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:8). But Uriah doesn’t do as David hoped.
Uriah speaks plainly to the king, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and have sex with my wife (ishshah)? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
In 2 Samuel 11:27, Bathsheba becomes David’s wife (ishshah).
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, one of David’s top “Thirty” warriors (2 Sam. 23:34; cf. 1 Chron. 3:5). She came from a respectable family and married a respectable man. She was not a slave. So I can’t see how Leviticus 19:20 applies.
Nathan does not call David an adulterer, and he does not call David a murderer, but David did commit adultery (or rape) and he was responsible for the murder of Uriah.
I don’t think anyone blames Bathsheba. We are all guilty of cherrypicking what it is we seek from scripture. We are not being completely honest and we are certainly never objective. It’s not about us.
Hi Mark, I’ve read numerous comments from Bible teachers and remarks from pastors that blame Bathsheba. And artists typically portray her as being completely naked and in full sight. Though artists do, of course, take artistic license.
Your comment about the absence of Bathsheba’s name in the Matthew genealogy isn’t congruent with the fact that Ruth and Rahab are mentioned by name in the preceding verses. Both Ruth and Rahab were from pagan nations Moab and Canaan respectively with Rahab being a prostitute. So, a prostitute can be mentioned by name, but not Bathsheba? I think there is a clear implication by Matthew that Bathsheba had a tainted reputation. Clearly, David and Bathsheba were married when they sired Solomon, yet Matthew calls Solomon’s mother the wife of Uriah, not the wife of David which is also a little perplexing. Uriah was long dead and David was the father and husband when Solomon was conceived. Thoughts?
Also, nothing bad happened to Vashti as far as we know. Her punishment was banishment from the presence of the king, but that’s what she wanted anyways?? If you ask me, she played the king and won. LOL
I can’t see how this point in the article is incongruent, and it contains my “thoughts” (which I’ve italicised in this quotation):
“In Matthew’s genealogy, four women are mentioned, three by name: Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. Bathsheba, however, is referred to simply as “the wife of Uriah” even though she was married to King David when she conceived and gave birth to Solomon. (Some English translations such as the NASB add Bathsheba’s name in Matthew 1:6, but her name is absent from the Greek text.) Being referred to as ‘Uriah’s wife’ seems to be a reminder of David’s treacherous behaviour (1 Kings 15:5).”
I have more about the four women in Matthew’s genealogy, and what they have in common, here:
For several reasons, I’m fairly certain that the book of Esther, including the character of Vashti, is fictional. I write about this here:
It is safe to assume that David sent someone(s) capable of overcoming Bathsheba’s resistance when he took her. Possibly soldiers or guards, not gardeners or grocers. Read: force.
It sounds like David was confident that Bathsheba would not tell her husband what David had done. Otherwise he would have gotten rid of Uriah first, not sent him home to his wife. Did David threaten her?
And even if he didn’t, David may have been sure of his power over Uriah even if he objected. How was Bathsheba’s husband supposed to defend her or seek justice for her, against the king?!
How much credence did a woman’s testimony have anyway? Her word was not likely to carry any weight against the king’s.
I completely agree, Brenda. David treated Bathsheba as a powerless, voiceless pawn. Did you see the CEB commentary that implies Bathsheba may not have been David’s only victim? The only reason we know about Bathsheba is because the situation “escalated”: Bathsheba became pregnant and had the courage to tell David about it, and David had Uriah executed. How many other victims remained silent?
I was listening to a sermon about this today, the minister mentioned that it was common for people to bathe on rooftops because this was the only place they could do it. I would love to know where she got that information but it’s a few decades old.
I’ve also heard that it was common for ancient Israelites to bathe on rooftops. This may well be the case. I imagine this idea comes from observing what people do in similar cultures. Up until a couple of hundred years ago, some cultures had changed very little from more ancient times.
However, we have actual literary evidence that women bathed in courtyards and at rivers, etc. Did you see footnote 2?
Bravo! So illuminating and helpful. Deep appreciation for your scrupulously researched and clarifying explanations.
In regard to your Postscript 2 about what was “trending” on July 12 — (name removed) also noticed Bathsheba trending, and did his own “take” on the matter. Briefly, he does not accept the “rape” accusation, but does ascribe most or all of the wrongdoing to David. He also draws support from “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes,” Richards and O’Brien, 2012. Several of the assertions of those experts seem… well… bizarre.
The article is here: (link removed)
I strongly dislike how the author disrespects people he disagrees with. And his intentionally “controversial” tone is offputting, to say the least. I’ve removed identifying information. I don’t want to give the author and his website any more notoriety.
I’m aware of the assumptions of Richards and O’Brien, and of the ignorance they admit to. We simply do not have information about where or at what time of the day women bathed for ritual purification in 1000 BC. However, if the story of Judith is anything to go by, respectable Jewish women, at least sometimes, did bathe ritually at night.
Judith bathed when she was in the enemy’s camp. She bathes before she prays, and the text uses the word kathara, which can simply mean “clean,” but is used in the context of purification in the Septuagint (cf. Lev 7:19; 13:6, 13, 17, 34, 37, 39–41; 14:7–9; 15:13; 17:15; 22:7; Deut 23:10–11; Isa 1:16).
“… [Judith] stayed in the camp three days. Each night she went out to the valley of Bethulia, where she bathed herself at the spring of the camp. After bathing, she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, to direct her way for the triumph of her people. Then she returned purified to the tent and remained there until her food was brought to her toward evening.” Judith 12:7-9
I’ve just added this quotation to footnote 2 even though Judith wasn’t seen.
This paper argues for the idea that Judith purified herself for military action, namely, the assassination of the Assyrian general Holofernes: Joseph Scales, “Preparing for Military Action: Judith’s Purificatory Washing in Judith 12:7,” Vetus Testamentum 71 (2021): 687–703. (PDF)
I really should write a rebuttal to Richards and O’Brien’s assumptions.