David and Bathsheba

David’s life is exemplary throughout his childhood and early adulthood. He trusts God to defend His people when fighting the giant Goliath (1 Sa 17). He trusts God to give him the kingship in His timing rather than take matters into his own hands by killing Saul (1 Sa 19, 1 Sa 24). In a beautiful culmination of his intimate relationship with God, David promises to build a house for God, and in turn, God promises to build an eternal house for David and his descendants (2 Sa 7). It is surprising, then, that soon after this exchange, David becomes an adulterer and a murderer. 

Although David’s actions concerning Bathsheba are unique, his fondness for women is not. Scripture clearly states that God intended for one man and one woman to unite in marriage (Ge 2:24), but within several generations of creation, God’s people distorted His vision through polygamy (Ge 4:19). David was a polygamist, and by the time he saw Bathsheba he already had at least six wives (1 Sa 25:44, 2 Sa 3:2-5). It seems, then, that David had a weakness for women.

In addition to his lack of sexual self-control, David became complacent once he was established as king. He sent his commander and army into battle without him (2 Sa 11:1) even though his rightful place was at the head of his army. It would not be surprising if he had internalized the perks of kingship, assuming that as king he could do whatever he liked. When he saw Bathsheba bathing, he used his power as king to bring her to his bed (2 Sa 11:2-5). It seems he had no concern for her beyond using her once and sending her home, but things became complicated when Bathsheba announced she was pregnant.

Here David becomes a murderer as well as an adulterer. In an effort to fix everything, he arranges for Uriah to come home to his wife so that the baby can be assumed legitimate (2 Sa 11:6-8). Uriah, unlike the king, understood his duty to the warfront, and would not sleep with his wife. When a second plea would not convince Uriah to go home (2 Sa 11:10-13), David became desperate. Perhaps David knew that he had acted unlike himself in sleeping with Bathsheba; knowing he had sinned, he became blind to consequences in his effort to pretend it hadn’t happened. Regardless of his emotional motivations, David sent word to his army commander to make sure Uriah died in battle (2 Sa 11:14-15). With Uriah dead, David brought Bathsheba into his palace as his wife (2 Sa 11:26-27). Were it not for Nathan’s prophetic intervention (2 Sa 12:1-14), David might have convinced himself that all had been made right.

David is obviously culpable, but what of Bathsheba? Some have insisted that she deliberately bathed in plain sight, knowing that David would pass by and see her. There is no textual support for this claim, and it sounds like a sad attempt to defend David’s honor. In fact, there is little evidence that Bathsheba would have anything to gain by seducing the king other than bragging rights. If she hadn’t become pregnant, she would have been sent back to her house permanently. Motivations can be argued all day, but the fact remains that the Bible is silent on Bathsheba’s thoughts throughout the whole ordeal. This silence is actually telling, since Scripture often records women’s stories in important matters, whether or not they act negatively or positively. Within the Samuel narratives, Michal’s disdain for David’s exuberance is explained (2 Sa 6:16, 20-23) and Hannah’s desperation for a child is told in detail (1 Sa 1:1-2:11). If Bathsheba had been an active participant in the adultery and murder, it seems as though Scripture’s precedent would be to mention it. Since instead there is silence, the logical conclusion is to assume she was a victim of David’s lust.

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