FORGIVEN AND FRUITFUL: A Study of Bathsheba









This study is somewhat different than the previous ones. It’s a study of Bathsheba. Her story is important to us for many reasons. She is best known as the one with whom David committed adultery. But there is more to her story than that. We can learn from Bathsheba about repentance and then being useful and fruitful for the Kingdom.


2 Samuel 11:1-3: “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?’” (Emphasis mine.)


Problem number one: It’s the time of year when kings go out to battle, but David stayed home, and instead, sent his commander and servants without him. He’s not where he should have been. Interestingly, they are destroying the people of Ammon, which are descendants of Lot. Had David joined in the battle, he would have been a part of defeating the enemy that had sprung from sexual sin, and he would not have engaged in his own immorality and given a victory to the enemy. Many commentators believe that David showed lack of restraint and indulgence of his passions in the area of women and disregarded the Lord’s plan by having more than one wife. In that regard, this had been in the making for a long time. This particular evening he went up to the roof...perhaps he couldn’t sleep, and saw a very beautiful woman bathing. From what I understand the word walk suggests that he paced back and forth, maybe because he knew he wasn’t where the Lord wanted him. He sent to inquire who this woman was, and found out her name is Bathsheba and she is the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.


Bathsheba means “daughter of an oath.”

Eliam means “God of the people” or “God is kinsman.”

Uriah means “Yahweh is my light (flame).”


Bathsheba had taken the “oath” of marriage to Uriah. There is little doubt that Bathsheba knew she was visible to the roof of the palace, and though some commentaries state that she acted immodestly, we don't know that for sure.  We know that David was in the wrong place and he committed adultery in his heart first of all. As with the case of Adam and Eve, where Adam is held primarily responsible for the original sin, it seems that David is held primarily responsible for this sin. However, this study will, for the most part look at Bathsheba.


We live in a world that constantly and perpetually sends a message to women that we are to be desired by men and to not only fulfill men’s desires, but to be fulfilled by men. We are bombarded with this message day in and day out. Advertisers woo us into this message with their seductive pictures and wording. So it’s very hard to recognize the lies when our culture is consumed with this. The truth is that we are only truly fulfilled by Jesus and that sex is an expression of love that God designed for a man and woman within the covenant of marriage. Our culture tells us that sex is really only satisfying outside of marriage, and that sex inside of marriage is boring or unfulfilling. Movies and television shows that have a couple wait until marriage before they engage in sex are virtually non-existent. So often, extramarital affairs are presented in such ways to show how bad the spouse was in order to justify the affair. And it’s called an affair instead of adultery. We get drawn into this. We begin to have thought-life and fantasies that only lead to destruction.


Titus 2 tells the older women of the church how to teach the younger women. It says in verses 4 and 5 “that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Emphasis mine.)


Strong’s definition of the word discreet sophron is “safe (sound) in mind, i.e. self-controlled (moderate as to opinion or passion): —discreet, sober, temperate.”


The Blue Letter Bible Outline for Biblical Usage says “curbing one’s desires and impulses, self-controlled, temperate."


Strong’s definition of the word chaste hagnos is “clean, i.e. (figuratively) innocent, modest, perfect:—chaste, clean, pure.”


1 Thessalonians 4: 3-8: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis mine.)


Strong’s Definitions for defraud pleonekteo is “to be covetous, i.e. (by implication) to over-reach:—get an advantage, defraud, make a gain.”


Jesus said in Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her.” (Emphasis mine.)


Ladies, we have to be very, very careful not to dress in provocative ways that will defraud our Christian brothers. We aren’t responsible when we’ve been obedient to His Word in how we present ourselves, but we most definitely are responsible when we behave immodestly and do not show discretion. Adultery begins in the heart. Sexual sin begins in the heart.


It is possible that Bathsheba, like most of us females, knew what she was doing. We all know the effect we can and do have on men. So while David is in the wrong for letting his eyes linger, Bathsheba may have been guilty of immodesty, indiscretion and enticement.


2 Samuel 11:4-5: “Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, ‘I am with child.’”


This text indicates that she came willingly. We don’t know what was in Bathsheba’s mind at the time. Many women today have thoughts of sleeping with powerful men or celebrities. Perhaps this was Bathsheba’s mindset, but we aren’t given that information. Regardless, the act was done. Someone has been quoted as saying, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” Thus the damage was done and consequences would follow. Bathsheba was most likely in a panic for several reasons. If found out, the penalty for adultery was to be stoned to death. She would be attached to scandal with the king. Her husband would know that the child was not his, since he had been away for some time. There were all kinds of issues that reared their ugly head, just as it always does when we sin. David would sink further into sin by trying to cover his initial sin.


2 Samuel 11:6-15 : “Then David sent Joab, saying, ‘Send me Uriah the Hittite.’ And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, ‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’ So Uriah departed from the king’s house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. So when they told David, saying, ‘Uriah did not go down to his house,’ David said to Uriah, ‘Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?’ And Uriah said to David, ‘The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then og to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will no do this thing.’ Then David said to Uriah, ‘Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.’ So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, ‘Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die.’


There’s an old expression, “Your sin will always find you out.” So true, but we just always seem to think we can cover it up. It goes back to Adam and Eve making their covering out of fig leaves. Instead, it always leads to more sin. What started out with adultery, escalated into deception, mistreatment, manipulation, murder and death. How much better to confess our sin first thing. To repent first thing.


2 Samuel 11:16-17: “So it was, while Joab besieged the city, that he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew there were valiant men. Then the men of the city came out and fought with Joab. And some of the people of the servants of David fell; and Uriah the Hittite died also."


2 Samuel 11:26-27: “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”


I would urge you to read the next chapter. In it we see that the Lord sends Nathan the prophet to speak with David. He tells David a story that depicts exactly what David has done and he sees his sin clearly for the first time. Nathan relays the message from the Lord that because of his sin, that He will raise up adversity against him in his own house, and that his wives will be given to his neigbor. David confesses that he has sinned against the Lord and Nathan tells him, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 1:13-14)


We know that the child died. We know that tragedy followed David and his household just as the Lord told him, as punishment for this sin. We know that David was truly repentant and wrote the beautiful Psalm 51 that speaks of his repentance, his broken and contrite heart. Psalm 32, also speaks of the Lord’s gracious forgiveness and mercy. What wonderful things, forgiveness, mercy, repentance. I was saved when I was 9 years old. Yes, I was born a sinner in need of a Savior. But a 9 year old has not quite committed as many of what we think of as the really bad sins. Most of my sins have been committed this side of my conversion. So when I was in my thirties, I began to feel uncomfortable about my sins. I started to fear that since they were done after I was saved, that maybe they weren’t forgiven. I really struggled with this issue for a while. Then I heard my favorite Bible teacher, Chuck Missler, ask how many of your sins had been committed when Jesus died on the cross. Of course, the answer is all of them. What a relief I felt as I saw that all my sins, past, present and future were paid for by my wonderful Savior. But there’s more. Chuck talked about how we can, in some cosmic way, not add any more pain to Him on that cross two thousand years ago, by choosing not to sin from here on. What a deep thought! I began to really hate my sin and see what I had done to my Savior. Repentance for me came later than my actual conversion. Each of our journeys with the Lord looks different. He deals with us in different ways and at different times in our journey. What is important is to have a tender, open heart to Him to let Him do with us what He wants. And another thing, we think of adultery as one of the really bad sins. Yes, it’s bad, but all sin is bad. The sins of self-righteousness, judgmentalism and gossip are just as heinous in God’s eyes.


2 Samuel 12:24-25: “Then David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in to her and lay with her. So she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. Now the LORD loved him, and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD."


Solomon Shelomoh means “peace.” Jedidiah Yediydeyah means “beloved of Yah.”


Though the Scripture is silent about Bathsheba’s repentance, it would seem from the name of Solomon that she experienced repentance and forgiveness, also. Solomon’s name seems to be an expression of God’s mercy and pardon for both David and Bathsheba. It would seem that they had made peace with their God. Solomon’s writings reflect his own godly upbringing. Tradition has it that it was Bathsheba who composed Proverbs 31 as instruction and admonition to Solomon when he married Pharoah’s daughter. If so, it sounds like she had learned from her mistakes and knew what virtue was now. Most often we learn more from our mistakes and failures than we do our successes. It’s important that our lessons not be wasted. We need to learn from our sin. It’s good to look back at how things happened so as not to let them happen again.


We don’t hear from Bathsheba again after she marries King David until 1 Kings chapter 1 when David is old and Adonijah, his son with Haggith, is positioning himself to take over the kingdom of his father. Our old friend Nathan the prophet goes to Bathsheba to get her to talk to David and remind him of the promise that Solomon would be heir to the throne. Bathsheba talks to David and the proper steps are taken to anoint Solomon as King and Adonijah surrenders. In chapter 2 we see Adonijah appeal to Bathsheba for one thing. He wants Abishag, the young concubine of David that was put in his life during his final days to care for him, to be his (Adonijah’s) wife. In other words, Adonijah is asking Bathsheba to ask her son, Solomon, the king, if Abishag can be his wife. You can really get a feel for Bathsheba’s wisdom in how she handles this. She tells Adonijah that she will talk to Solomon, and indeed does. I get the impression that Bathsheba knows exactly what is going to happen to Adonijah if she does what he asks. Sure enough, Solomon is outraged, and has Adonijah put to death. Bathsheba could have said so much to Adonijah to get things off her chest, but she kept her cool and handled it appropriately.


Bathsheba is not mentioned by this name again in scripture after this passage. It is interesting how names are changed in the different stories of the Bible. For instance, Abram was changed to Abraham, and Sarai was change to Sarah. Jacob was changed to Israel. They all reflect a change in the person’s life, namely the Lord comes into their lives by His Holy Spirit and changes them. They get a new identity. When Bathsheba was involved in her adultery she was referred to as the wife of Uriah. Later she was called by her name Bathsheba. But most interestingly, in 1 Chronicles 3:5 she is called Bathshua: “And these were born to him in Jerusalem: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon—four by Bathshua, the daughter of Ammiel.” 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.” When we are saved, we are place “in Christ” and our identity changes. We are no longer the sinner enslaved to sin. Romans 6:5-9 says, “For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.”

My identity becomes who I am in Christ. What is true of Him, is now true of me. Our sin longer defines us. We are a new creation.


We see from this 1 Chronicles passage that Bathshua went on to have four more sons after the one died. I love that one of them was named Nathan. I imagine that was after the prophet Nathan. Here’s what is interesting to me, though. Bathshua Bathshuwa means “daughter of wealth.” Bathshua was no longer known as the “daughter of oath” but the “daughter of wealth.” She would gain a wealth of wisdom and fruitfulness for the kingdom. Not one, but two of her sons are mentioned in the genealogy of Christ. And Bathsheba herself is mentioned also. It’s so like our God to use the sinners, the downtrodden, the fallen for His kingdom. Yes, we’re pretty useless and unfruitful if we stay in our sin and refuse repentance. But when we receive His forgiveness and taste His mercy, and turn from our sin and walk with Him, He makes us fruitful and uses us for His kingdom. And there is absolutely no one that has not been in need of forgiveness and repentance and mercy. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.


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


Luke 3:31 “the son of Melea, the son of Mena, the son of Mattathah, the son of Nathan, the son of David.”


Genealogies always give us special insights. There is much to study from the genealogies in the gospels. For our purposes, it’s important to see that Bathsheba is there in her adulteress name. There are four women mentioned in the Matthew genealogy: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba. Three of the four had issues from their past. Yet they were part of God’s plan to bring Emmanuel to us. And we see in Matthew the legal right to the throne for Jesus through the bloodline of Solomon that goes down to Joseph, the adoptive father of Jesus. But since there was a curse on the bloodline, Jesus also is Heir to the throne through Bathsheba’s other son, Nathan that goes down to Mary and skips the blood curse. This is found in the Luke passage. Is it not wonderful how our sovereign Lord weaves His plan through all our mess ups? His plan cannot be thwarted.


May we hate our sin and turn from it. May we not let our sin define us, but know what our true identity is. May our lessons not be wasted, and may we know that we have a Wonderful Lord who shows us forgiveness, mercy, and love and restores us to make us fruitful and useful for His Kingdom when we repent and turn to Him.









Comments

  1. I’m enjoying your Bible studies – thanks for sharing them with us! I agree with what you've written here about Godly womanhood and about God's delight in offering forgiveness and restoration after we sin. But recently I've started to rethink my view of Bathsheba's story. I’ve always read it as a story of a joint sin between David and Bathsheba, but as I’ve been studying it again I’m seeing it differently. It seems to me that Bathsheba is portrayed as the innocent party in this whole mess. I wondered if you’d be willing to discuss a couple thoughts I had? I'd really value your insight!

    To me, verse 4 ( “for she was purified from her uncleanness” ) indicates that Bathsheba was observing purification laws when she was bathing – it wasn’t a regular bath. I think that the author adds this detail not only to confirm that there was no chance that the child was Uriah’s, but also to indicate that Bathsheba was a righteous woman. I don’t see any indication in the text that she was bathing with the purpose of enticing the king, or indeed anyone else – she was literally honouring God at the moment when David looked down on her and lusted after her.

    It’s true that verse 4 says “and she came in unto him” which implies that she came willingly – ie/ she wasn’t carried in kicking and screaming. (Although the phrase “…sent messengers, and took her” not only harkens back to Samuel’s warning in 1 Sam 8, but sounds very ominous.) But I wonder if she had a choice. She was a powerless woman, bidden to the palace by the king – did she have an option? Did she even know what David’s intention was?

    The text goes on to say that “he lay with her,” not “she lay with him.” The wording is important, I think – David, not Bathsheba, was responsible.

    This is just a small detail, but I think it supports the reading of Bathsheba as the object of sin, not as the instigator: throughout the description of the sin in 11:2-5, she is consistently referred to as “the woman.” She is a nameless object in these specific verses. Again, just a detail, but I think it’s an important one.

    When Bathsheba receives word that Uriah has died, “she mourned for her husband.” The author doesn’t tell us that she rejoiced in his death, or even responded with fear for her own predicament – although that fear must have been horrific. To me, this phrase reinforces my suspicion that Uriah’s and Bathsheba’s marriage was a happy one, and that she genuinely loved him and mourned him. This idea is definitely supported by the description of the love and care between the lamb and the poor man in 12:3. I don’t see any hint that she was seeking anything or anyone else besides her own husband.

    By far the most compelling argument, to me, is that there is no hint in Nathan’s rebuke that Bathsheba is to blame. She is compared to a helpless lamb, always a picture of innocence in the Scriptures. The lamb doesn’t entice the traveller, but is taken, slaughtered, and devoured. She is defenseless against someone much more powerful.

    Nathan lays the blame wholly at David’s door, and doesn’t say a single word against Bathsheba. David, not Bathsheba, is taken to account for lusting after more than the abundant gifts he’d already been given. (12:8) Nathan doesn’t say “David, you sinned *with* Bathsheba.” Instead, he says “David, you killed Uriah and you took his wife.”

    Nathan repeats twice that David has “taken” Bathsheba (12:9,10) then pronounces that God will “take” David’s own wives – and when that prophecy is fulfilled in chapter 16, the concubines are also powerless to defend themselves against Absalom. To me, there’s a clear link here: all these women were helpless to defend themselves against more powerful men.

    I hope my super long comment doesn’t come across as belligerent or like I’m picking a fight – that’s not my intention at all! really wrestling with this one, and after reading many of your entries I would truly value your insight!

    Gwen

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  2. Hi Gwen. Thank you for your kind words and I truly appreciate the feedback. You really have presented some thought provoking questions. Let me start by saying I consulted different commentaries as I was studying the Scripture for this lesson. Most that I read seemed to agree that Bathsheba would have been aware that her bath would have been visible from the palace. However, there is a possibility that she was unaware. We certainly don't need to read into Scripture what is not there, so point well taken. In regards to her bath, she was observing the purification laws in regard to her monthly cycle, as all women were expected to do. And yes, I think that detail is there to show beyond a doubt who fathered the child. I don't really think that is there to show she was a righteous women. The Scripture could have just said that if that is what it meant. I agree that the responsibility lies with David. However, I do not believe that this clears Bathsheba of her part in the sin. And I do not believe that David forced himself on her. The Bible has no problem making it clear elsewhere (for example David's own son when he rapes Tamar) when a man forces himself on a woman. That is not the language in this passage. This story through the ages has been understood as adultery. Yes, David was the one held responsible in this passage, but that does not mean that God did not deal with her also, as we see in the name given to Solomon. As far as your points about loving her husband and being in a happy marriage, yes, that seems evident. And had David not approached her, chances are she would have remained faithful. However, those circumstances can be in play, and still one can find herself in an adulterous situation. It is possible to not be looking for that and still wind up in that kind of situation. So just because one has a good marriage and loves her husband, is not a guarantee of faithfulness, nor does it excuse any sinful behavior.

    You're exactly right about Nathan's rebuke and what he says in that passage. However, I think we have to be careful, again, not to insert things into Scripture that aren't there. Nathan does use the imagery of the lamb, which in the story is seen more or less as a pet, an animal that grew up with his children, "like a daughter." It seems to me, it's more to point out the dearness and preciousness of something that belonged to someone else, rather than the purity of the possession. If the Bible wanted to portray Bathsheba as an innocent lamb, it could have done so in far more obvious ways. I would be careful not label Bathsheba as a helpless woman unable to defend herself. Of course there are many women who have been victimized by powerful men. There are also many women who have been complicit with powerful men and used their wiles to entice them. I want to be very careful in this time where people are labeling the Bible as patriarchal and oppressive to women, not to portray it that way. I'm in no way saying that is what you are doing! I just want to be careful as we study this together, that we don't let ourselves be influenced with that mindset. Again, thanks for your thoughts and I'm interested in hearing more of them.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughtful reply. I particularly appreciate the reminder not to allow our modern social context (ie/ “down with the patriarchy!”) to influence our reading of the Word. Lately I’ve become aware that this is creeping into my mindset; I’m a mature believer who loves the Lord and delights in His Word, but the pull of society is strong. It’s all too easy to get dusty feet while walking through this world. :) I need to guard against this more vigilantly. Thanks for that reminder!

      I also appreciated your remarks about a happy marriage not being a guarantee against temptation and unfaithfulness, and about the lamb imagery focusing more on the preciousness of the lamb rather than its purity. Excellent points. Thank you again for your reply!

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    2. Gwen, please note that I made some revisions to correct some assumptions that I made about Bathsheba. I took my own advice and revised so as not to read into Scripture something that wasn't there. I appreciate your input. One of my favorite Bible teachers was Chuck Missler and he used to admonish his followers to be like the Bereans and not take what he said as truth, but to search the Scriptures daily to see if what he said was true. I want the same. Thank you again for your thoughts and communication...."as iron sharpens iron."

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