Thursday, December 3, 2009

An Unusual Heroine: Bathsheba

By Dina Sleiman
So I chose a Biblical character, which may be cheating a bit for life lessons, but I've read multiple fictionalized versions of her life. And, since your mom probably didn’t encourage you to emulate this woman, I think she should make for an interesting post.

What do we know for sure about this story? One night Bathsheba was taking a bath (ironic right) on her rooftop. David saw her and desired her. He called for her and made love to her. She got pregnant. David summoned her husband back from the war, but no matter how David and Bathsheba connived, the husband wouldn’t sleep with her. So, in danger of being exposed, David decided to have her husband deserted on the front lines, and essentially plotted his murder.

Okay, so why did this happen? How did this happen? Most importantly to me, what sort of woman was Bathsheba? What can I learn from her, other than not to take a bath on a roof? I've read a lot of Biblical fiction, and I’ve seen Bathsheba characterized many different ways.

One common depiction played her as a scheming woman who plied her wiles atop her roof to catch the eye of the richest, most powerful man in town. In this version she’s a seductress. Now, I don’t buy this version, and I’ll tell you why. First, David was a man after God’s own heart. Second, he was brilliant. We’re not talking about some stupid muscle-head like Samson here. Third, if Bathsheba was such a seductress, I think she could have lured her husband back into her bed. And last but not least, God does not bless evil seductresses, as he later blessed Bathsheba.

Another typical version is that she was victimized by David. That bathing on roofs was common practice, and the only reason he saw her was because he took advantage of the high towers of the castle. In this version he’s practically a rapist. I don’t buy this version either because of David’s character, which I’ve already mentioned. If Bathseba had cried, or refused him, or been afraid, I can’t imagine the gentle writer of the Psalms forcing her to have sex.

I once heard a creative telling of the story where Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was an abuser. Interesting, but far-fetched, and unsubstantiated.
Here’s what I think.

Plain and simple.

I think David and Bathsheba fell in love. I imagine they must have met before this encounter. Jerusalem wasn’t that huge in those days, and Uriah was a general in David’s army. Bathsheba’s father was thought to be a member of David’s inner circle, and her grandfather was probably one of his advisors. So I’m guessing that at some point they met and developed feelings for one another, even if David didn’t immediately recognize her at a distance on the rooftop.

Or at very least, David called for Bathsheba and they discovered a mutual attraction and fell in love. Now whether Bathsheba bathed on the roof because of her desire for David, or whether David was spying because of his desire for her, doesn’t really matter. Maybe it was a little of both. David was a musician, and like most of his breed, he was an emotionally driven and passionate man. And yes, things got of control, and David and Bathsheba made a mistake.

They sinned.

Now where they took one sin of passion and managed to turn it into something far uglier, was when they attempted to cover it up. Free bonus lesson from David and Bathsheba. You can’t make your sin go away by trying to hide it. You can only make it worse. After David had Uriah killed, judgment came upon David and Bathsheba. Nathan the prophet spoke out against what they had done. And they lost their child.

But here’s where the story gets interesting to me. After all of that, David and Bathsheba’s marriage is blessed by God. They have another son named Solomon, who by most accounts grew to be one of the wisest and richest kings who ever lived.

Oh, but that’s not all.

David is in the lineage of Jesus, through his son Solomon, his child with Bathsheba. Which means, this woman you may have misunderstood to be a conniving seductress is in Jesus’ lineage.

Oh, and did I mention that many people believe her to be the model for the Proverbs 31 woman. The paragon of Christian femininity.

So what lessons can we learn from this woman? Maybe we need to go back and ask what went wrong. Were David and Bathsheba destined for each other, but they were impatient and rushed into things, thereby messing up the plan? Were they never meant for each other, but God turned all things for good? Or, in a way, could this have been something that needed to happen? Could they both have had character flaws that needed to be dealt with? That needed to be brought out of hiding and into the light?

I’ll leave that part for you to decide.
But here are the lessons which surface no matter what.
1) God is a redeeming God.
2) God takes our messes and turns them into something amazing.
3) He gives us beauty for ashes.
4) He gives us the oil of joy for mourning.
5) And even when we give up on God, he never gives up on us.

And that’s why Bathsheba fascinates me. She is the embodiment of God’s redemptive love. Perhaps these aren’t the typical “life-lessons.” We can always fall back on “Don’t take a bath on a roof.” I’d say that’s pretty good as practical advice goes.
But I think we can draw a rather deep life lesson from this story as well. How easy would it have been for Bathsheba to have let her mistake destroy her? To let shame, depression, or bitterness overtake her? Instead, she dusted herself off and went on to become an incredible wife, mother, and queen.

What practical life advice or inspirational thought would you like to share with our Inky audience today?


  1. Boy am I glad I beat everyone to the computer this morning. I've been sick this week and found two blaring typo's right off the bat. All is well now, hopefully :)

  2. Dina,

    LOL about the typos! That happens to all of us. Hopefully, I too catch them before they're seen by others.

    I like your perspective on Bathsheba. You've really thought it through, and it makes so much sense. Thanks.

    Now, I'm going to hit "Publish," without pruffing ferst. Hoop I'm oKay.

    Because of Christ,

  3. Dina, I saw those typos early and never got into our secret underground technology lab to fix them because I got too caught up in the story and started to 'think' about it. You know how dangerous that can be.

    So . . . David and Bathsheba-- admittedly I haven't taken them off the page like this before. I imagine David was a hunk. Okay, I said it. Plus he could sing, write music and lyrics, and think deep thoughts. Bam. The most powerful man in the land and all those attributes?

    In the case of Jesus' human ancestry, two women involved in flagrant sins are noted. But we need to remember they were all sinners and we can't judge Bathsheba as a 'worse' sinner than any of the rest of them/us. Hers was just more public. Her sin had a big price but God's grace is always priceless for us.

  4. Happy to have amused you this morning, Sharon. Most people think writers have perfect grammar and spelling. But, creating is a right-brained activity and proof-reading is a left-brained activity. For me it's hard to do them both at the same time.

    I like to study Biblical women. They tend to be minor characters, so it's fun to go back and try to learn all we can from them.

  5. Yes, Deborah, I agree about David being a hunk. I mean a soldier and a poet, come on. Poor Bathsheba. She was doomed.

  6. Great post, Dina. So often we think things couldn't happen to us. That in itself is a trap.

  7. Here's another interesting note I ran across while studying Proverbs 31. The chapter begins by saying these are the instructions King Lemuel received from his mother. Lemuel was a "pet" name for Solomon, whose mother was Bathsheba. So the whole "virtuous woman" description came from her.
    I agree Dina, it's too easy to say she was a wily temptress (as my sons say) or that David was a peeping Tom who got out of control one day...
    That said, I now have to find a copy of this old film with Gregory Peck, who may just be the hunkiest guy ever shown on the silver screen. : )

  8. Intriguing post, Dina! I appreciate how you looked at several of the arguments about what "really happened..." No matter what, the events were tragic.

    But our God is a redeeming God and takes our tragedies and turns them into glories for His sake. Thanks, and I hope you're feeling better today!

    And yeah, Deb, David had to have been hunky. Working man's brawn, artistic soul, the guy could write and play music... The Bible calls him "ruddy and handsome," I think.

  9. great post on Bathsheba. I like your conclusions and lessons a lot. A number of years ago, I did a study on Rahab and came up with similar results! I grew to like Rahab a lot in spite of her "career"!!
    Elaine King

  10. Hi Dina,
    I love the story of David and Bathsheba. I like the realness of it and the vulnerability. God gives a glimpse into how willing He is to redeem and restore even when we get ourselves into BIG trouble.

    I'm so glad you didn't make Bathsheba out to be the one who caused this infidelity. It does take two.

    I recently bought Daily Insights with Zig Ziggler and Dr. Ike Reighard. Would you believe (and i don't think this is coincidental) that Zig's devotional today is titled, ACCOMPLSHING HIS WILL?

    "After David had done the will of God in his own generation, he died and was buried with his ancestors. ACTS 13:36, NLT.

    I just love this entire devotion. If you own this book, look up today's devotion. Zig goes on to say, "Our service, even for the most dedicated of us, is checkered." And later he says, ... "God is very gracious to overlook our flaws if we follow Him with our whole hearts." And that includes Bathsheba. I believe that's why she was blessed.:)

    We're here to accomplish God's will in our generation. Thanks for an insightful and thought-provoking post Dina. What's your hubby think about Bathsheba? Dani always has something fun to add. :) Hopefully, I spelled his name right. But were not going to worry our heads about that today.:)

  11. Lisa, so true. We Christians tend to be quick to cast stones and hand out scarlet letters, but we each have our weaknesses. And if we think we don't, we probably struggle with pride and judgementalness.

  12. Yes, Niki, that's what I've heard too, that Solomon probably modeled her after his mother. I like the Proverbs 31 woman, although I think she probably had a lot of servants. She ran her own businesses and made her own decisions. Pretty progressive for her day.

  13. Feeling a lot better, Susanne. Good Biblical proof on David being a hunk by the way.

  14. Elaine,

    Yes, I've also read some Biblical fiction accounts of Rahab's life. Can you imagine growing up in a culture where orgies and murder are considered worship, and then coming around full circle to be included in the lineage of the savior of mankind.

    We have a pretty amazing God.

  15. To Jill and everyone,

    I first had the idea to write this article after hearing a lady at a writer's conference talking about a book she was writing about not being a Bathsheba. Something in her snotty tone gave me the impression she had the story all wrong. I cut in and said, "But the great thing about Bathsheba is that she made it into the lineage of Jesus."

    The teacher, Eva Marie Everson, took over from there and gave some very nice insights about Bathsheba.

    When I saw we had a slot open in life lessons, I did a little tweaking to the article and came up with this post.


  16. Dina,

    I loved this post...Your insight cast a new viewpont on my recollection of Bathsheba. I especially took heart of the fact of God's unfailing grace and mercy.

    Glad that you are feeling better.


  17. Karen, if you enjoyed this post, I'm sure you will enjoy the book Story: Recapture the Mystery that you won. It's in the mail

  18. Loved, loved this post. The women in Bathsheba's day were pawns for men--especially KINGS!!! Yet somehow David was a "man after God's heart." Don't you know Bethsheba ALSO loved the Lord and was a WOMAN after His heart?


  19. Dina, what an interesting post. I really enjoyed this. I have to say, I have never heard that Bathsheba was the inspiration for the Psalms 31 woman. I like the concept. And I'm with Niki: I need to find the version of this story where David is played by Gregory Peck. I love the picture of him on that movie cover.

  20. Yes, Patti, that's so true about women being pawns at this time. I don't think any woman would have had the right to refuse the king. That probably messed with David's head a little.

    I'm currently reading A Stray Drop of Blood by our frequent visitor Roseanna White. It is about a Jewish slave girl, and wow, what a reminder of how powerless women were at that time. So sad.

    The book is amazing by the way. I highly recommend it.

  21. Suzie, that's pretty cool, huh. I'm glad Niki knew more of the details than I did. As I somewhat mentioned earlier, it is a bit comforting to know that the Proverbs 31 women was probably a queen with a lot of servants. It can seem a little overwhelming sometimes to live up to that standard, especially for mothers with young children.

  22. Dina, I really enjoyed your post. I read it this morning and it's stayed with me all day.

    David and Bathsheba's story is one of my favorites although it sounds awful to say that, but I'm a real sucker for a real love story and this one is a doozie.

    Not only is it a love story between 2 mortals, but it's a love story between God and His mortals.

    Now that's an amazing love.

    Thank you for posting this.

  23. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Anita. I love this story too, obviously. I need to figure out what books I read about Bathsheba when I was younger. I wonder if they were Christian or secular? I know I got them from some library, but was it my Christian school library or the public library? Hmm...

  24. Great post Dina,
    While reading the post I would think of some ideas and few seconds later you would cover them.

    Very well thought of...

    This article is a good reminder about God's love and forgiveness. I'm glad that God is God and no one else :)
    Love you.


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