Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Bathsheba’s Story: An Advent Study

By: Rebekah Hargraves

Photo Courtesy Of: Mel Poole

“…David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah.” ~Matthew 1:6

Though not expressly named here in Matthew, we know this verse to be referring to Bathsheba, the woman with whom King David had an affair. What is particularly sad about the way in which many Bible teachers handle this account is that oftentimes Bathsheba is the primary one who is blamed for the sin committed by King David. To help illustrate for us why this is an unfair and an unBiblical treatment of the story, all we need to do is take a look at how the relationship between King David and Bathsheba is described at the beginning of 2nd Samuel 11:

“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent

Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and

besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David

arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a

woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired

about the woman. And someone said, ’Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of

Uriah the Hittite?’ Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay

with her” (verses 1-4a).

Bathsheba’s Circumstances

Several telling statements in this narrative point to David as being the one to blame here, not

Bathsheba (even though she is commonly demonized in our day!):

First, because it was springtime, it was David’s duty as king to go out to battle. He chose

instead to remain at home and sent Joab and his servants in his place. This failure to live up to

his duty as the ruler of Israel was the first mistake he made, and it was that which put him in

the perfect position to fall into temptation.

Second, it’s important to note that, interestingly enough, common bathing practices in ancient

Israel were not at all the same as what we are accustomed to today. Many like to point to the

fact that Bathsheba was “bathing” in a place where she could be seen by the king as somehow

proof that she was a seductress bent upon getting the king to fall head over heels for her. The

problem, though, is that people in Bathsheba’s day didn’t commonly have bathtubs as we do

now. For them, “bathing” in this context would have been more like a sponge bath using a

basin of water. If she had needed to fully “bathe” as we consider it, she would not have been

attempting to do so on a roof - she would have gone down to a body of water as we see

Pharoah’s daughter doing in the book of Exodus. Because of this, the likelihood is very slim

that Bathsheba was even unclothed like she would be if she were bathing in the same way we

do in modern times. It is even possible that she was doing little more than merely washing her

hands and feet free of the grime of the day. To somehow view the text through modern,

Western eyes and thereby come to the conclusion that Bathsheba was in the nude for all the

world to see is, at the very least, a case of twisting and adding to the text.

Third, the Word says David “took her” (2 Samuel 11:4, 2 Samuel 12:4, 9). This is forceful

language. What is incredibly sad about this whole story is that, far from being a seductress or

vixen, the real likelihood is that Bathsheba was actually a victim of rape. David inquired after

her, sent for her, took her, and lay with her knowing full well that she was a married woman.

Think for a moment how Bathsheba must have been feeling as this whole sordid story began to

play out. Far from the picture some paint of Bathsheba as a flirtatious, loose, Proverbs 7-type

woman bent on bringing down David, she was in all likelihood the victim. Because she was

home alone as her husband Uriah was out fighting in the army (where David himself was

supposed to be!), when she discovered that she was being summoned by the ing, she

probably felt one primary emotion: grief. Why? Because, as a military wife myself, I imagine her first thought upon hearing that the king wanted to meet with her would be the same thought I would have if a dark car containing two men dressed in military uniform pulled up in front of my house: my husband has died in the war.

Here she is thinking she is having a meeting with the king, when in reality she is walking into a

far more intimate encounter. Not only does King David have what at first appears to be a one

night stand with her (this is the best case scenario - the worst case scenario is that he actually

raped her), he then proceeds to have her husband, Uriah, killed in battle. Her worst fear comes

true. Her husband is dead now - at the very hands of the king who had his way with her.

Bathsheba’s Calamity

The initial encounter between Bathsheba and King David results in Bathsheba conceiving a son who, to make matters even worse, is doomed to die as a result of his father’s sin (2 Samuel

12:13-23). Bathsheba’s story goes from bad to worse as she grieves the loss of her first

husband and now must grieve the loss of her little son.

From then on, Bathsheba all but fades into obscurity. Little else is said of her, apart from the

fact that she goes on to conceive and bear David’s son, Solomon, who would become known

as the wisest man who ever lived. By and large, Bathsheba’s story consists of much loss,

heartache, trial, and mistreatment. We don’t even have much to prove that King David ever

actually truly, deeply, tenderly loved Bathsheba. In fact, David himself was already married

when he took Bathsheba to be his wife (Saul had given his daughter Michal to be David’s wife

back in 1 Samuel 18, and he had also married Abigail back in 1 Samuel 25). Bathsheba was

certainly lusted after, but whether or not David truly loved her? That we don’t know.

Our Call

How does Bathsheba’s heartbreaking story speak to us today when we feel as if hope is hard

to be found in our own lives? Well, we are reminded that even if man mistreats us, even if we

feel unloved, hurt, and betrayed, we always, always have the Lord to lean on. His love is sure,

His compassion and grace unending, and His acceptance and approval eternal when we are

covered in the blood of His Son.

Friend, as we have just closed out our Advent week of hope, I pray that you are beginning to see and understand the depth of Christ’s love for you. Just as He included women in His genealogy who were used and abused, mistreated, unloved, misjudged, and even thrown to the side, so, too, He seeks to include you in His family. Answer the call to follow Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. He yearns to be your Heavenly Father and to adopt you forevermore into His enteral kingdom and redeemed family. His love is for you, friend. Let that realization bring you hope today.

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