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Mothers of the Bible — Bathsheba

In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her; and when she came to the palace, he slept with her. She had just completed the purification rites after having her menstrual period. Then she returned home. Later, when Bathsheba discovered that she was pregnant, she sent David a message, saying, “I’m pregnant.” Then David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent him to David. When Uriah arrived, David asked him how Joab and the army were getting along and how the war was progressing. Then he told Uriah, “Go on home and relax. ” David even sent a gift to Uriah after he had left the palace. But Uriah didn’t go home. He slept that night at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. When David heard that Uriah had not gone home, he summoned him and asked, “What’s the matter? Why didn’t you go home last night after being away for so long?” Uriah replied, “The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.” “Well, stay here today,” David told him, “and tomorrow you may return to the army.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. Then David invited him to dinner and got him drunk. But even then he couldn’t get Uriah to go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. So the next morning David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” So Joab assigned Uriah to a spot close to the city wall where he knew the enemy’s strongest men were fighting. And when the enemy soldiers came out of the city to fight, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with several other Israelite soldiers. Then Joab sent a battle report to David. He told his messenger, “Report all the news of the battle to the king. But he might get angry and ask, ‘Why did the troops go so close to the city? Didn’t they know there would be shooting from the walls? Wasn’t Abimelech son of Gideon killed at Thebez by a woman who threw a millstone down on him from the wall? Why would you get so close to the wall?’ Then tell him, ‘Uriah the Hittite was killed, too.’” So the messenger went to Jerusalem and gave a complete report to David. “The enemy came out against us in the open fields,” he said. “And as we chased them back to the city gate, the archers on the wall shot arrows at us. Some of the king’s men were killed, including Uriah the Hittite.” “Well, tell Joab not to be discouraged,” David said. “The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow! Fight harder next time, and conquer the city!” When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. When the period of mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her to the palace, and she became one of his wives. Then she gave birth to a son. But the Lord was displeased with what David had done. After Nathan returned to his home, the Lord sent a deadly illness to the child of David and Uriah’s wife. Then on the seventh day the child died. David’s advisers were afraid to tell him. “He wouldn’t listen to reason while the child was ill,” they said. “What drastic thing will he do when we tell him the child is dead?” Then David comforted Bathsheba, his wife, and slept with her. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son, and David named him Solomon. The Lord loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that they should name him Jedidiah (which means “beloved of the Lord”), as the Lord had commanded.
2 Samuel 11:1-27, 12:15, 18, 24-25

Dear God, as I think about Bathsheba as she experiences this course of events, I can’t help but think of the illustration I’ve used a few times over the last three or so weeks about the blind men who experience an elephant for the first time. Each one has a different description of the elephant because they are touching a different part. Here’s what I perceive to be a point-by-point experience for Bathsheba:

  • Her husband Uriah is gone to war and she is home alone. Living all alone? With any family? I don’t know, but we’ll presume she is alone.
  • She gets summoned to see king David and doesn’t know why. Did David have a reputation for doing this? Had he done this before with other women? Did she know what to expect when she got there?
  • She slept with David. Did she want to sleep with him? Did he force her? Did she have a choice? She had just finished her period. Was there a part of her that was lonely with Uriah gone and wanted to sleep with the King? In any event, she slept with him and I’m sure felt shameful as she went home.
  • She finds out she’s pregnant several weeks later. Let’s say it’s about 6-8 weeks. I don’t know how long it took to figure it out back then. I can’t imagine the horror she must have felt. Her husband is away at war and she is pregnant by the King. Well, she won’t be able to handle this problem alone so she involves David.
    • At this point I’d like to point out that apparently at least one other person knows about this whole situation. Someone had to summon her for David and someone had to deliver the pregnancy message to him. It might have been the same person, but the total number of people who know about that is at least three. I would venture to say more.
  • We aren’t told that David responded directly to her, but all of a sudden Uriah is back! What? How did she feel when she saw him? Did he know? Do the king tell him? Would someone else tell him? Why is he here? But he wouldn’t sleep with her. David had finally met his ethical match. Uriah followed his own code of honor.

    Uriah is gone again.
    She gets word that Uriah is dead. She is pregnant with, presumably, her first child and now her husband is dead. She mourned appropriately for him.
    David publicly moved her to the palace and married her, pregnant and all. Was it the worst kept secret in Jerusalem that the baby was his? Was the company line that it was Uriah’s from when he visited home and David was being a great guy by marrying her. How much shame and confusion did she feel during this time? What a whirlwind! What a tragedy.
    But something worse is coming, and she doesn’t deserve it. David does. The child is going to die. I have to tell you, Father, this seems so mean to me.
    After the son dies she is now left with a dead husband (I assume she loved him–he was apparently an honorable man) and a dead son. She has nothing.
    She has another child with David. This one turns out to be Solomon. She gets word from Nathan that he is “beloved of the Lord.” Who will this boy be?
    We saw yesterday how she orchestrated Solomon’s attaining of the throne. He wasn’t the obvious choice from a line-of-succession standpoint. Adonijah was. And I don’t know when David made his promise to her about Solomon getting the throne (1 Kings 1:17), but did he do it as part of his comforting of her back when she was pregnant with him or when he was born? Either way, it seems that she was ready to do what it took to see that Solomon became king.

Father, this seems like such a terrible deal for her. It seems so unfair. She got caught up in circumstances that were so much bigger than her. She made the best of them, but I can’t help but not like this story even more when I think about how she must have experienced it. But I guess life can be like that. We can get caught up in circumstances that are beyond us. It’s not fair. But as you ultimately did with Solomon, you can come along and redeem it. You can redeem the divorce. You can redeem the criminal. You can redeem anything. You can make us stronger through driving us to depend upon you. Thank you for ultimately providing for Bathsheba. In the end, she got to see her second-born son become king of Israel. I hope that at the end of her life she was able to be at peace.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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