Bathsheba: Vixen or Victim?

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
30 December 2018
First Sunday after Christmas

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[ sketch notes ]

2 Samuel 11-12 (selected)

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going…David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died…When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LordAnd the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. On the seventh day the child died…Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the Lord.

Daily News / Men in power taking advantage of women #metoo

Sadly, we are subconsciously accustomed to blaming women for the failures of men. In fact, it has gotten to the point where many people presume men are innocent until proven guilty, but women are often presumed guilty until proven innocent.

This is the case even among biblical theologians.

Take this story for example. Some of the more conservative scholars I read take the view that Bathsheba was either to blame for David’s fall, or at least complicit in it.

Some teachers imagine a series of events wherein Bathsheba is portrayed as an ambitious young woman who put herself out there to seduce David and played the role of an accomplice in the power grab.

Dutch Reformed theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper speculates that:

If she had been appropriately modest, David would not have been tempted, and the Anointed of Israel would never have become guilty of such an outrageous disgrace. What has been said does not, however, represent the whole of her sin. She should never have assented to come when David sent for her. It may be supposed that she had no presentiment of the reason for the summons. Even then, in the king’s palace, and in his bedchamber, she should have wrestled to death, rather than to have yielded to adultery. Beyond doubt, therefore, Bathsheba was not merely the provocation of David’s sin, but his accomplice as well. Her later conduct confirms that opinion. When her husband, Uriah, returned to Jerusalem and remained lying before the door of his house, she made no attempt to see him. She did not charge the king with rape, and she did not confess her guilt with tears. She simply remained in her house. It is true that when the news of Uriah’s death reached Jerusalem, she observed a formal period of mourning for him. Thereupon, she immediately went to live at the palace. She supplemented David’s many wives. And all these events moved so swiftly that she was already in the palace at the time that she gave birth to the child she conceived in sin.

Kuyper, Abraham. Women of the Old Testament: 50 Devotional Messages for Women’s Groups (p. 114). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

All due respect to Dr. Kuyper, but I totally disagree with his unfair assessment and attack on Bathsheba’s life and character.

It is not based on God’s revelation but on man’s speculation and imagination.

The scriptures take the view that Bathsheba was a victim of David’s lust and power, not a vixen enflamed by such things. The scriptures nowhere suggest that she was at fault for taking a ritual bath of purification from her menstrual cycle, for bathing in the evening or for being power-raped by David or for anything else that happened that night.

As the prophet Nathan showed, David and David alone was the one God blamed. And David confessed that he alone had sinned against God in this matter. See Psalm 51.

In the scripture reading above, you might have noticed that I edited the text — not to leave out details, but to draw attention to the young woman Bathsheba.

She has been objectified and sexualized for so long that we forget to humanize and personify her.

I want to introduce you to Bathsheba the young woman — again, for the first time.

Biographical Sketch

Bathsheba was the grand-daughter of one of David’s trusted counselors (Ahitophel). According to tradition, a man so wise that some called him “the oracle”.

Bathsheba was also the daughter of Eliam, one of David’s special forces units known as the mighty men. Eliam and David were about the same age. David was old enough to be her father. Eliam had served David in many spectacular ways from the time before David took the throne until the present story.

Bathsheba was also the sister of Machir, a man who was known as a loyal supporter of David.

Bathsheba grew up around David and his royal family. Her family interacted with David’s family. He watched her grow up. He watched her get married. He knew her husband and where they lived near his palace.

Bathsheba was married to Uriah the Hittite. He was also one of David’s mighty men who served alongside Bathsheba’s father Eliam.

Bathsheba was a devout young woman. The fact that she was keeping the purification rites of the Law prescribed for women after their menstrual cycle is evidence of her devotion to God.

The point of all is to say that Bathsheba was more than just a beautiful young woman. She was a beautiful young woman with a real life and real family. She was not just some sex object to gaze at; she was a woman made in the image and likeness of God. She was somebody’s daughter, somebody’s sister, somebody’s wife. She had hopes and dreams.

But because of David’s she lost them all.

She lost herself to the power and passion of a man she had admired and respected all her life.

She lost her husband, not in a tragic accident, not in the normal course of war, but to a murder plot orchestrated by a man she had trusted.

She lost her firstborn son to the curse of an incurable sickness as a consequence to one man’s sin. This is the kind of loss that mothers do not ever forget. This wound never heals.

Eventually, during Absalom’s rebellion, she will lose her grandfather as a consequence of David’s sin. He took Absalom’s side, perhaps out of vengeance for the way David mistreated his grand-daughter and her husband.

Note: Paul to Timothy – “treat older women as mothers with all due respect, and treat young women as sisters with absolute purity” – that counsel is just as true for non-pastors as it is for pastors.

Like Bathsheba, the women that come across your field of vision, whether at the workplace, in the church, at worship, at a coffee shop, on instagram, in the movies, across the street, are not just some sex object to gaze at. They are creatures made in the image and likeness of God. They are somebody’s daughters, somebody’s sisters, somebody’s wife, somebody’s mothers.

PSA – drive safe ad “Johnny didn’t like the song on the radio, so he killed six people” (by wrecking his car while messing with the radio.) Ads against texting/driving do the same same thing.

Likewise, we might say, David didn’t like sitting at home bored, so he wrecked his life, and Bathsheba’s, and the lives of several others.

As Nathan warned David, although God purged David’s sin and washed him whiter than snow, the consequences and repercussions of his sins were still felt in his life for the rest of his life. The sword never left his house.

If her story ended here, it would be a total loss and tragedy.

But her story does not end here.

As we say, “God draws straight lines with crooked sticks.”

God redeems our twisted and crooked and stories and works them together for our good and his glory.

After God dealt with David and his sins, he showed mercy and grace to both David and Bathsheba.

What David’s sin devoured from Bathsheba God’s grace restored to her. What she lost in a few months, she regained over the course of many years — all because of God’s grace.

She gained a new husband. David took her as his wife. He comforted and consoled her. He took counsel from her.

She gained four sons. One son, in particular, stands out because he is the son God loved and chose to sit on David’s throne. David named him Solomon, but God renamed him Jedidiah. (Another son stands out because he was named after Nathan the prophet, who showed David the depth of his sins.)

To our ears, Jedidiah sounds like someone from the Beverly Hillbillies.

As someone on the interwebs put it: Jedidiah “sounds like the name of a racist, Bible-thumping redneck from the American South.”

But his name means, loved by God, friend of the Lord.

Unlike the child conceived in adultery and born out of wedlock, this child was not cursed, but blessed and rose to become King.

She gained a throne. Bathsheba became the wife of King David and the mother of King Solomon. After David’s death, she became the Queen Mother.

1 Kings 1 tells us that she reminded David to keep his promises to make Solomon king.

1 Kings 2 tells us that she advised and counseled King Solomon. In this story, she foreshadows Mary the mother of Jesus.

She gave birth to a son who was chosen and loved by God, who became King of the Jews and sat on David’s throne.

She nudged her son to make decisions and take actions.

Think of the way Mary nudged Jesus to do something at the wedding at Cana when the wine ran out.

Solomon did not always follow his mother’s advice, but he loved and respected her. The same was true of Jesus and Mary.

Another thing Bathsheba and Mary had in common as queen mothers is this: They counseled everyone around them to do whatever their wise sons said to do. They deferred to their kingly sons.

This series on the mothers of Jesus has shown us that Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba foreshadowed Mary, the mother of Jesus. Each woman, in her own way, foreshadowed something about Mary.

Without them, we would not be here.

They remind us that God’s redemptive purposes in Christ cannot be thwarted by Satan’s schemes nor by man’s sins.

By grace, God ordained everything that comes to pass for his glory and our good.

Resources: 

http://www.biblicalhorizons.com/biblical-horizons/no-93-bathsheba-the-real-story/

https://margmowczko.com/a-sympathetic-look-at-bathsheba/

https://juniaproject.com/what-you-need-to-know-bathsheba-in-new-light/

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