The story of David and Bathsheba is well known. We know of David’s successes, we know of his failures and we know of God’s love and forgiveness for him. But did God love Bathsheba?
2 Samuel Chapter 11 tells us the story of David the king of Israel, whose army is out at war, being so confident that he’ll win that he decides to stay back and relax.
Verses 2 and 3:
One evening, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”
Finding someone beautiful is not wrong. But then he finds out she’s Uriah’s wife and Uriah we know, is one of David’s mighty men out in the battle field. Now instead of David thinking, “I’m glad I found that out!” let’s see what David does.
“Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
David needs to cover this up so he calls Uriah back from battle, tells him to have a night with his wife, hoping that they’ll sleep together and he will think it’s his child. But noble Uriah responds, “how can I go home? when my mates are out fighting?”
Plan B: David holds a feast and gets Uriah drunk, but Uriah still sleeps at David’s door, refusing to go home.
Plan C: David puts Uriah where the fighting is the heaviest, and Uriah gets killed. Bathsheba mourns, her dignity stolen and her honorable Uriah dead.
David’s story should alarm us, because it shows us if a good guy like David can fall, then so can we. God’s kings were meant to represent Him, by ruling with justice and righteousness and until this episode, David did!
Many Christians blame Bathsheba – incorrectly depicting her bathing for attention on the roof while the bible says it was only David watching from the roof. Victim blaming still happens today with questions like “what was she was wearing?” as if the amount of clothing she has on, is a valid excuse for someone to abuse her.
Abuse still happens from people we expect better of and who should represent God. Clergy abusing innocent children they were called to nurture while their colleagues turn a blind eye. Pastors abusing their wives. Outside the church it’s the voices of women and men crying out ‘me too’, victims of Hollywood actors who we once idolized.
It’s easier to skip over this passage and keep the image of David as a hero. It’s easier for us to pretend that bad things don’t really happen in the bible. But when we do this, we fail victims of abuse. We fail when we only read out psalms of praise when the victims need to hear psalms of lament.
Although her words are not recorded, it’s not hard to imagine Bathsheba asking, “Where are you God?” But even, when it doesn’t feel like it, God is there.
Verse 27 reads, “but the thing David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord.” But God doesn’t just watch. He’s about to act.
In Chapter 12, Nathan the prophet arrives on the scene and tells David a story. There was a rich man, who kills a poor man’s ewe, his beloved and only pet. This injustice pulls at David’s heart strings – after all David was once a humble shepherd boy. David responds in anger, calling for the death of the rich man.
And Nathan’s simple response is, “you are that man.”
David’s conscience is awakened and he realises that the poor man is Uriah… and the ewe is Bathsheba.
Nathan tells David that there will be consequences.
David comes to swift and thorough conviction. There are no excuses, just “I have sinned against the Lord” (verse 13). And just as swift, is God’s forgiveness – Nathan relays the message, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.”
True repentance met with instant forgiveness and this is great news for us all.
But what about Bathsheba?
What about the fact, that when God punishes David by killing his child, this was Bathsheba’s child too?
Unfortunately, in our fallen world, sin affects the guilty and the innocent alike. Does that mean there’s no hope for Bathsheba or for any of us who fall victim to abuse today?
The first answer to justice was when Nathan was sent by God to confront David. Nathan again arrives on the scene when David is on his death bed and his son Adonijah is trying to steal his kingdom. Nathan orchestrates a plan for Bathsheba, so that her and David’s son, Solomon, would become king instead.
In 1 Kings Chapter 2 verse 19, we see Bathsheba approaching King Solomon.
“the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand”.
Unheard of, the king of Israel, to whom everyone bows, unashamedly bows to honor his mother. Thus, he uplifts her worth above his throne. Bathsheba is placed at the right hand of Solomon; an esteemed place of power and authority. Just as Jesus, now sits at the right hand of God.
Solomon also installs a throne for Bathsheba in his counsel room. There she lives out the rest of her days as mother and trusted adviser to the one who we hail, as the wisest king…
God can redeem even the most painful stories
Jesus is born through Bathsheba’s lineage. Her story continues in Matthew Chapter 1 verse 6 which reads, “David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife”. Yes, David’s sins were forgiven but Bathsheba is recorded in the gospels not as David’s wife but the wife of Uriah.
God did not forget Bathsheba and what happened to her. He is a God for the oppressed. While David did not rule with justice and righteousness, as kings ought to do, the son of David, Jesus, does.
Just as Bathsheba was the ewe in the story, Jesus is our lamb. Both led as sheep to the slaughter, silent in their suffering, awaiting God to resurrect and lift them up.
If you have been hurt, believe that God is fighting for your redemption. And for the rest of us, let’s consider how we might be Nathan’s voice, in providing God’s justice, healing and hope, to those who are hurting.
Melissa Ramoo is a physiotherapist, student minister at St Anne’s in Strathfield and is studying Bachelor of Theology at Morling College in Sydney. She is married to her husband Roshan and has a Boston Terrier named Hercules who is completely doted on.