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  • Writer's pictureBarbra Davis

Bathsheba, Scheming Temptress or Innocent Victim?

What Happened ?

Here’s the basic story: David can’t sleep so he walks out on the palace roof to get some air. Bathsheba is bathing at her home below, and David sees her. She’s so beautiful that he sends servants to find out who she is. Even though the servants report she is married – and to one of David’s elite fighting men – David sends for her and has sex with her. (Keep in mind, David already had six wives, as well as multiple concubines, so he didn’t need to steal another man’s wife.) Both go on with their lives just as before until Bathsheba discovers she is pregnant. David tries to cover his sin by recalling Uriah (the husband) from battle, hoping he will sleep with her and cover the pregnancy, but he does not. Finally, David arranges for Uriah to die in battle. When his sin is made public, David repents, but the child dies as a result.

Why Bathsheba Has a Bad Reputation

Over the centuries, it has been assumed that Bathsheba was bathing out in the open air on her roof, hoping to attract the attention of the king. She knew she was beautiful and she used her charms to seduce David and gain the throne for herself.

These ideas were largely based on speculation as the Bible gives us no details of what she was thinking or feeling during this situation. What we know for sure is that Bathsheba was a beautiful woman who was married to Uriah. He is described in scripture as one of King David’s 37 “mighty men,” who were like our Green Berets or Army Rangers. Uriah was away, fighting for Israel, while David, his commander-in-chief, was home enjoying the luxury of his palace.

When Bathsheba sends word she is pregnant, David recalls Uriah hoping he will sleep with her. Unfortunately for David, the soldiers of his day believed that sex robbed a man of his strength, so soldiers were required to abstain from intercourse while serving. And Uriah was a superb soldier...

The final sin was David’s scheme to place Uriah in the heat of battle, then withdraw his supporting troops so he would die.

Why I Think Bathsheba Was Not a Guilty Party

The way story is written, the sin is David’s alone. It was David who stated, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13) and took the responsibility upon himself. I don’t think this was said to protect Bathsheba, as God would know what really happened.

The Bible doesn’t tiptoe around the truth. If Bathsheba had deliberately been trying to entice David, the text would have probably made that clear.

All the verbs paired with David are active: He “saw” Bathsheba, “sent” someone to find out about her, “sent” messengers to get her, and “slept” with her. The Bible says David’s messengers “took” her. This word, in the Hebrew, means “to seize, take captive, to be captured.” Nowhere does it mention Bathsheba’s reaction to all that, or imply that this was what she wanted.

According to the text, this happened in the spring of the year, when kings were traditionally away at war. Even though Bathsheba was visible from the palace, she could have thought David was away (as was her husband).

David was on the roof (2 Samuel 11:2). Where was Bathsheba? The Bible doesn’t say. The NIV notes that Bathsheba was, “purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.” Jewish women were considered unclean during their menstrual flow and for a week after. At that point they would perform a ritual bath to become clean again.

Archeological evidence indicates that bathing during this time was done by pouring water over the body and using a cloth, not by immersing in a a tub. Remember, water was a scarce commodity in that arid land. Thus, Bathsheba could have done this “bathing” in any room of her house or in a closed courtyard. If David was on the roof of the palace looking down, he could have easily seen Bathsheba in either location.

Nowhere does the text say she was naked. Again, tubs were not used, so there would be no reason to be fully nude.

Though the text contains no mention of Bathsheba resisting or objecting to David’s advances, there is nothing in the text to suggest that David forced himself on Bathsheba, either. She lived in a time when women were seen as property. I think David’s position as king of the nation would have made it impossible for Bathsheba to say no when he summoned her or took his pleasure from her.

She probably had no idea why she was being taken to the king, but refusing his request would have dire consequences. Besides, Bathsheba’s husband was away at war, as was her father, another “mighty man.” She may have thought David wanted to share some news about them. She may have even worried one of them was injured.

David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord” (2 Samuel 12:13), taking sole responsibility. Nowhere did God condemn Bathsheba either for tempting David or for committing adultery with him.

Bathsheba is one of the five women mentioned in Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew, though she is referred to as, “the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” If she had been an unrepentant sinner, I don’t think she would be included.

David is the Sole Sinner Here

Since Bathsheba’s husband was away at war, it would be obvious to anyone that her child was not fathered by him. Under Old Testament law, adultery carried a death penalty. As king, David was probably not at risk, but Bathsheba, considered the unfaithful wife, was. She could have died as a result of David’s lust.

Nathan’s parable in 2 Samuel 12 puts the blame squarely on David. This is not the story of a godly man being led astray by a seductive woman.

Bathsheba experienced grief from this encounter twice. First, she mourned for her husband, Uriah, then for her child born from the adulterous affair. Both deaths occurred within a short time frame, too.

But, There was a Happy Ending...

Bathsheba not only became the wife of King David (not a concubine), but she was her husband's favorite. She had four more children, and one of them (Solomon) grew up to be not only the wisest man in the world, but also one of the greatest Kings of Israel.

So those are my thoughts about this woman – what do you think?

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