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Bible Lives  

6. David


6-4-2 Bathsheba: Saint or Sinner?

Having established how precisely David's sin is the summation of our every transgression, it is worthwhile attempting to capture something of the background of the incident. The majority of our sins are the outcomes of complex webs of pressures and circumstances. So often there is an element of spiritual reasoning somewhere along the slide into sin; rarely do we instantly capitulate to a major temptation, even if it appears so outwardly. David's sin can appear to be one of momentary weakness. But closer examination reveals a number of points which indicate that it's motivation was far more complex than a temporary lapse into sensuality. Consider the following points:

- David was a spiritual man. Was he really likely to have fallen so deeply just at the sight of a beautiful woman? Remember that he had a number of attractive wives.

- The act of intercourse recorded seems to have occurred straight after Bathsheba ended menstruation. Whilst pregnancy was possible, it would have more likely been caused by other acts of intercourse before or after that recorded. It could be that the record we have gives as it were a snapshot out of a photo album of their relationship, as if the thing that turned David on that time was the way she was washing herself so obedient to the Law which he loved and was his study all the day. But like the early church, in his zeal for the Father and for all his knowledge of the Law, he missed some essential points and principles [in their case, e.g., to accept the Gentiles].

- Bathsheba was a spiritual woman, married to a man of faith (Uriah). Solomon (the Lemuel of the book of Proverbs) was brought up by a very spiritual mother. The spiritual woman of Prov. 31 whom Solomon likens to his mother is a cameo of the sort of woman Bathsheba was. Note how Lemuelís mother (Bathsheba) warns her son not to give his strength to women, to those relationships which destroy kings. She surely said this with a sideways glance back at her own failures with David. So again- Bathsheba: saint or sinner?

- There is an undoubted link between sexuality and spirituality (witness the typical meaning of the Song of Solomon). The Hebrew text of Gen. 39:6,7 suggests that it was Joseph's spiritually attractive personality that mesmerized Potiphar's wife; and what good living, socially aloof Christian office worker has not experienced the attention this attracts from colleagues of the opposite sex?

- David and Uriah knew each other very well; they had spent David's long wilderness years together. All that time, Bathsheba had been brought up by Uriah (2 Sam.12:3). She was the daughter of Eliam, who had been another of Davidís mighty men (2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). Presumably he had been killed and Uriah adopted her, bringing her up from babyhood, mothering her by feeding her from his bowl and letting her sleep in his bosom. This may imply that his own wife died early, and that he brought her and his own children up alone, and then married her when she was older. A very special spiritual and emotional bond must have been forged between those who stuck with David as a down and out, and who later on shared in the glory of his kingdom. That Uriah had such easy access to David would have been unthinkable for an ordinary soldier whom David hardly knew. Nathan criticizes David for having " no pity" on Uriah, implying that David well knew  the relationship between Uriah and Bathsheba. Moreover, David would have been a larger than life figure for his follwers, and Bathsheba would have grown up with this image of David as the saving hero.

- That David married Bathsheba, when the normal procedure would have been to quietly send her away as a kept woman, surely indicates a degree of genuine love for Bathsheba by David. If their sin was a one-off act between two virtual strangers, his marrying her would be hard to understand. Again- Bathsheba: saint or sinner?

- That David could see into the back yard of Bathsheba's house shows that they were almost next door neighbours in Jerusalem. Nathan's parable emphasized this: " There were two men (David and Nathan) in one city (Jerusalem)" (2 Sam. 12:1). That Uriah " went not down to his house" after meeting David in Jerusalem could imply that it was just at the end of David's back garden (2 Sam. 11:13 etc.).

- 1 Chron. 3:5 could imply that she had no other children before those she had by David. This means that she may have been barren until that point; her conception was certainly brought about by God. Was it that they would both have been aware of the unlikelihood of her bearing children, and therefore perhaps more inclined to take a chance?

- Bathsheba's washing of herself which exposed her nakedness would have been in obedience to the Law. David " lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness" (2 Sam.12:4) adds weight to this. However, the Law didnít actually state that the woman must wash herself after menstrual uncleanness; but the man who touched her must. So it could be that she had gone beyond the Law in washing herself; such was her spiritual perception, which was a factor in Davidís attraction to her.

- David confessed that he had sinned against God (Ps. 51:4), using the very language of faithful Joseph who refused ongoing temptation with these words (Gen. 39:9). Could this not imply that Bathsheba wife of Uriah was similar to Potipharís wife? 

Bathsheba: saint or sinner?

Putting all these things together, we emerge with the impression that David and Bathsheba knew each other well, and would have developed a close spiritual relationship. Having only known Uriah, both as a father and husband (12:3), Bathsheba would have been strongly attracted to David, yearning for a relationship with someone other than Uriah. David would have been an alternative father figure to her, and also the same age as her husband Uriah . He would have become her physical and spiritual hero. David must have allowed his feelings for her to grow, until the sight of her quiet obedience to the Law, artlessly exposing her beauty against the setting sun, was just too much. With her husband far away, kidding himself there was a spiritual motive, David shrugged off the voice of conscience. What happened to David's family was related to David's sin. The obsessive love of Amnon for Tamar may have similarities with David's for Bathsheba (2 Sam.13:2). 

It takes two, and Bathsheba's compliance seems to be recognized by David when he prays: " Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned" (Ps. 51:4). There is no hint in the psalms of David's regret for having sinned against an innocent Bathsheba. Her child had to die; the retribution did not just come upon David. The incident is referred to as " the matter of Uriah" (1 Kings 15:5); her name does not figure in those sinned against. " She came in unto him, and he lay with her" (2 Sam. 11:4) is an odd way of putting it; it reverses the usual Biblical reference to intercourse as a man coming in to the woman. The reason for this inversion seems to be to balance the blame. And there seems an evident similarity between the way the sin occurred within the city, and the way Dt. 22:24 says that in cases of adultery both parties were to be stoned if the sin occurred within a city and the woman didnít cry out. Bathsheba doesnít seem to have cried out- and so she bears equal blame, it would seem. This makes Bathsheba more of a sinner than a saint. This said, Nathan's parable describes David as killing the sweet lamb (Bathsheba); if she was partly guilty for the actual act, this may suggest a killing of her spirituality by David, at least temporarily.   And so we are left with the question of interpretation- Bathsheba: saint or sinner?

 


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