Bathsheba and One Greater than David
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).
Now, 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 cleansing outdoors when sighted by David.
We return to our story to find a silent Bathsheba. Little is said to the woman in the story and she herself says little. Almost nothing is told of her thoughts concerning the events of 2 Samuel 11. And her silence is interesting. Should we understand Bathsheba's voiceless presence as that of a vulnerable woman before an overpowering king? That interpretation would certainly seem right when compared with the silent concubine -- raped, murdered, and dismembered in Judges 19:22-30; we never hear her voice either.
But what do we do with Bathsheba's silence when set against a passage like Deuteronomy 22:23-24?
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.
Second Samuel 11 is set in a city and our narrator paints a wordless Bathsheba, does this imply consent? After all, we are given Tamar’s fervent appeals to Amnon as he treacherously raped his sister in 2 Samuel 13:12-14. And we are told of Abigail who crushes David’s passion to kill with wise words (1 Samuel 25:23-31). Why silence with Bathsheba? The narrator doesn't say but this we do know: David is said to be guilty of a heinous violation and it is he that Nathan later addresses (2 Samuel 12:1-14).
The tragic story grows more wicked when David arranges for the murder of godly Uriah as a cover for his sin (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). What were Bathsheba's thoughts? How did she experience the stages of grief and change? Were there feelings of guilt and shame? 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...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. David’s sin is not forgiven by God and “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 (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 Savior, the One whose blood is shed to wash us, once and for all, from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7). Jesus, the greater David, dies for, cleanses, and sanctifies His bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).
*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!