Motherhood & Sanctity

Motherhood, with its joy and toil, is a useful instrument in God's hand for our sanctification. And yet the Word of God remains the primary means of God's work in us (John 17:17).  

Bathsheba: Sin Consumed by Mercy

Bathsheba is a beautiful woman living in Jerusalem when we meet her in Scripture. She comes from a politically connected family. Her father is Eliam, possibly one of King David’s thirty mighty men (see 2 Samuel 11:3 and 2 Samuel 23:34). Ahithophel of Gilo is said to be Eliam’s father. If this Eliam is Bathsheba’s father, then Ahithophel—one of David’s trusted counselors—is Bathsheba’s grandfather (2 Samuel 15:12; 16:20-23). Ahithophel later gives his allegiance to Absalom in his revolt against his father, David. In fact, it is Ahithophel who directs Absalom to sleep with David's concubines openly on the palace roof—an interesting (and perhaps vengeful) move if Bathsheba is indeed his granddaughter (also see 2 Samuel 12:11-12).

In addition to being beautiful, Bathsheba is also a married woman when we meet her in 2 Samuel 11. Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah the Hittite--a name also mentioned among David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39). And although a foreigner, Uriah carries a Hebrew name meaning “the LORD is my light”—an indication of a man led by the God of Israel.

Bathsheba’s family affiliations might explain her close proximity to the King’s palace. For we are told that one late spring afternoon, King David strolls along the roof of his house and sees a woman bathing outdoors (2 Samuel 11:1-2). He inquires and learns that she is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah. David sends for her and sleeps with her. Weeks later, Bathsheba sends a three word message: “I am pregnant” (2 Samuel 11:3-5).

Please permit me to interrupt the story here with a quick word concerning the roof and the bath. Ancient Israeli homes had flat roofs that served much like the patios of today. Houses were built with side stairs leading up to the roof. These spaces provided a cool area for entertaining or even sleeping in the evenings. As for the bath, the Mosaic Law declared a woman unclean for seven days during her menstrual cycle. After this period, she was to cleanse herself by washing (Leviticus 15:19-28). Scripture states that Bathsheba “had been purifying herself from her uncleanness” (2 Samuel 11:4). Not having indoor plumbing, Bathsheba is conducting this ritual bathing outdoors when sighted by David.

Now back to our story! We return to find a silent Bathsheba waiting for us. Almost nothing is told of this woman’s thoughts concerning the events of 2 Samuel 11. In fact, the only words offered are “I am pregnant.” We are left to wonder the rest. Was she afraid or curious when summoned by the King? Did she suspect his intentions? Was she horrified, flattered, enticed? Deuteronomy 22:23-24 provides an interesting consideration. It states:

If…a man meets [a woman] in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife.

Without question, David stands guilty of a heinous violation. But what of Bathsheba? According to the above passage, a woman’s silence in such encounters implies mutual consent but her cry for help upholds her innocence. Where then are Bathsheba’s cries in this chapter? We are given Tamar’s fervent appeals to Amnon as he proceeds to treacherously rape his sister in 2 Samuel 13:12-14. Where are Bathsheba’s pleas? We are told of Abigail who overpowers David’s passion to kill with the wisdom of God’s word (1 Samuel 25:23-31). Where is Bathesheba’s resolve to crush David’s lust with wise words? Given the zeal of these other women, Bathsheba’s silence is curious in light of Deuteronomy 22:23-24.

But a tragic story grows more wicked when David arranges for the murder of godly Uriah as a cover for his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:6-17). And “When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband…when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son” (2 Samuel 11:26-27). Within two verses, Bathsheba goes from a mourning widow—likely a period of seven days (Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel 31:13)—to a newly married queen.

For some time, David appears perfectly indifferent to these shocking events (2 Samuel 12:1-23). Did Bathsheba share this early indifference? Or was she repentant? Did she pray similar words as those prayed later by David in Psalm 51:1-2? “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” A washing of the soul that no one but the LORD could see.

According to the Mosaic Law David’s sin is worthy of death (Leviticus 20:10; 24:17). But instead he is told: “The LORD also has put your sin away; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13-14). Now, while the child born to the couple dies as a temporal consequence of sin, another Son of David also dies. You see, David’s sin is not “put away” as though swept under a rug and forgotten. Instead, it is placed on the head of his Greater Son, the man Jesus, and He suffers the full punishment demanded by the law (1 Peter 2:24).

And who is listed as an ancestral mother of this Great Son? Bathsheba herself (Matthew 1:6)! Of David’s eight wives, she is chosen to carry the line of the Messiah. Bathsheba is listed as a distant mother of the sinless Christ, the one who is made to be sin, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). Now that’s amazing grace! In Christ, “even [the believer’s] most blasphemous sins are insignificant in comparison with the mercies of God.”[1]

*Thanks for reading! This post is part of my Mothers in the Bible Series; we are looking for glimpses of the gospel in the lives of biblical women--from Eve to Mary, the mother of Christ. Click here to see other writings. And please let me know your thoughts!

[1] Kuyper, Abraham, Women of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961), 113.