December 7, 2007

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: The beautiful Bathsheba

John F. Fink(Nineteenth in a series of columns)

Did Bathsheba know that King David would be able to see her while she bathed on the rooftop of her home? The Second Book of Samuel gives no indication that she did but, having looked down from the site of David’s palace, I can easily understand how easy it would have been to see someone bathing below (2 Sm 11:2).

The Bible, though, only tells us that David did see a beautiful woman, Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing one afternoon. It was a spring day when David’s army was battling the Ammonites, and Uriah was with the army since he was the armor-bearer of Joab, David’s general.

David sent messengers to Bathsheba’s home to bring her to him. Then he had sex with her. Surely in our day the question would arise of whether or not it was consensual, but David was king and Bathsheba really had no choice.

Bathsheba returned to her home. Within a month, it was clear that she was pregnant so she sent the information to David, “I am with child” (2 Sm 11:5).

Bathsheba probably had no inkling about what happened next until she received the news that her husband was dead. First David recalled Uriah from the battlefield and tried to get him to go to his home, where he would make love to his wife and then believe that Bathsheba’s child was his. But when Uriah didn’t return to his home after two days in Jerusalem, David gave instructions to Joab to put Uriah in the front, where the fighting was the fiercest, and then to pull back so that Uriah would be killed by the Ammonites. It happened just as David planned (2 Sm 11:17).

When Bathsheba received the news of Uriah’s death, she naturally mourned because there is no reason to believe that she didn’t love him. But after the time for mourning was over, David again sent for her. She became another of David’s wives.

She bore the son she had conceived. But God was displeased with David’s sin and punished him by striking the child with a fatal illness. The Bible tells us about the anguish David felt while the baby was dying, but certainly Bathsheba felt just as bad—probably worse, since she was the baby’s mother(2 Sm 12:14-19).

At least the Bible says that David comforted Bathsheba after the baby’s death. They slept together again and Bathsheba conceived another child. This time the baby lived. They named the baby Solomon. As he grew up, David assured him that he would succeed him as king of Israel (2 Sm 12:24).

When David grew old, though, some of his other sons had other ideas. Adonijah, son of David’s wife, Haggith, made plans to have himself crowned king. He went so far as to slaughter a great number of oxen and sheep for a feast (1 Kgs 1:5-48).

When the prophet Nathan learned about it, he and Bathsheba took the news to David, who assured them that he meant for Solomon to succeed him. Those faithful to Solomon then anointed him as king. †

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