We pick up with Bathsheba’s story by starting in chapter 11 of Second Samuel finding King David (of David vs. Goliath fame) at the peak of his power. He’d relaxed a little, gotten a little soft or lazy, and wasn’t leading his campaigns the way kings were supposed to. This is when Bathsheba first enters the story, so let’s look at a few things from her perspective:

Her husband kept from her (v. 1). Uriah was one of David’s trusted warriors, one of his royal guards. A doggedly faithful soldier. He had presumably been gone for some time on this military campaign. For Bathsheba, think of a wife who has her husband stationed overseas. She doesn’t know when, or if, he’s coming back, but she’s expected to go on as if life is normal.

The rape (v. 4). If you know me at all, you know that I’m not going to lightly toss that word around. Here’s the thing though, we have this image of David being out and about minding his own business when this seductress tempts him. I want to make a case for another point of view.

Bathsheba was out taking a bath. A normal small house didn’t have room for bathing facilities. The wealthy had own room with a tub. More common was a shallow earthenware bowl with a ridge in the middle for the feet. In ancient Israel, a great deal of the business of living was done on roofs. Kings took their meetings there (I Samuel 9:25). In a city, water would have been collected in cisterns on the rooftop. It is a logical place to bathe. Otherwise, a full bath had to be taken in a spring or at a river.

Let me give you an example from my family, though keep in mind that examples of what my family does are seldom especially helpful. My mother was raised in rural Jamaica. They didn’t always feel like going down to the cave or a river to carry back water, so sometimes, when it rained, people would rush outside to take showers. (Yeah, she regaled us with this story at dinnertime, so we’d have this mental picture of our mother and her neighbors prancing about their homes, naked with soap, while we’re trying to eat.) Getting back to Bathsheba, people typically washed at the end of the day. Keep in mind, this wasn’t high noon, this was evening. She wasn’t parading about for everyone, especially the king. David had to get out of bed.

v. 4 she came to him and he slept with her. All the commentaries I read emphasized that she was an unprotesting partner in this thing – and she may have been. However, a woman, in that time and culture, disobeying a king? Let’s start with why Israel had a king in the first place. Israel looked around at other nations, saw how they were ruled, grew jealous, and thought that was what they wanted. They had an idea of what kings were and how they ruled and what kind of power they held. It wasn’t too long before this that the Israelites escaped the bondage of the Pharaoh. Kings ruled by divine appointment at the very least and were gods incarnate at the other extreme. Their whims were commands, their power absolute, and disobedience punishable by death. Think about that king/prince from Braveheart, when he rode around claiming the right of the first night, sleeping with the brides on their wedding night. It’s not like those women were exactly willing partners either.

The pregnancy (v. 4-5). v. 4 She had purified herself from her uncleanness. This is the Biblical equivalent of one of those Jerry Springer “Are you my baby daddy?” episodes. She had just become ceremonially clean. Leviticus 15:28-30 details what the ceremonial cleansing was about, after the seven days of her menstruation. In other words, she wasn’t already pregnant. [She had the doves to prove it].

Now in verses 6-25, David schemes to get Uriah drunk then later conspires to kill him. Bathsheba knew none of this. She’s at home dealing with the guilt and other mixed emotions that come from her encounter with the king, whether she was willing or not. The next thing she enters the story is in the next verse.

Her husband’s death (v. 26). Now her husband was dead. Whether or not she was out to seduce a king or was taken by him, he died without knowing her guilt. She bore the guilt alone. Then she gives birth to David’s son. Think about how even more devastating this must have been if she was an unwilling partner.

She gets remarried. At first glance, this might seem like the beginning of a healing process, you know, the king makes right. However, think of this: she was forced out of a one man-one woman relationship that she had with her husband. How she’s forced (again, is she going to turn down the king?) to enter into a one man-many women situation. The “royal household”, the harem, was a status symbol. Saul had a small one, David increased it, and Solomon’s was the greatest. I’m sure they weren’t over-compensating for anything. Harems were not only culturally acceptable, but were even expected of kings. And they were politically useful for the king to make alliances.

As chapter 12 opens, verses 1-14, Nathan rebukes David, David repents, and the Lord renders judgment. Bathsheba’s story picks up again here.

Her son gets sick and dies (v. 15). When my oldest son, Reese, got sick during his first year, my wife and I were both up all night worrying. We kept giving him these room temperature baths to break his fever. We hovered over him, praying and worrying together. What does Bathsheba see?

Her husband’s all over the place, everywhere except with her. Don’t get me wrong, I never want to judge how another person grieves, but I do want to think about what Bathsheba sees when she looks at her husband’s reaction. David was a man after God’s heart and we don’t know where she is spiritually. We do know this, she’s the mother of a sick child and the wife of a husband who isn’t around. He may be off doing “godly” things, but all she knows is that he isn’t with her. And you know that if his servants have to ask him questions, Bathsheba’s hurt and pissed. Only after this is it then recorded that he comforted her.

Bathsheba gets pregnant again.

All this happened in the span of a year. Sometimes life can take so many sudden or unexpected turns that it can take on a surreal quality. Almost like you are standing there watching it happen to someone else, except that it’s you. Now, David was also a psalm-writer, which means that he had a creative outlet for what he was dealing with. This struck close to home for me because I’m also a writer. Life with a writer is often no joy for the spouse. For example, I don’t journal. I used to beat myself up because writers are supposed to journal. However, my wife pointed out that my stories (and this blog) are my journal. Whatever I’m struggling with or working through comes out in my project at the time. She hated it when I was working on my first novel. It dealt with racial tension and all these demons I was working through regarding race. And she hated the moods it put me in, with me storming around the house hating white people.

I mention this because David went on to write Psalm 51. He was broken and contrite, the right place to be when coming before God after you’ve sinned. But I keep coming back to verse 4. How do you think Bathsheba
reads that after the year that she had?

[to be continued …]

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