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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...

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  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!


  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.

    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!

    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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