Bathsheba. Is she a white sheep or a black sheep?
Jesus genealogy in Matthew chapter one is made up of five women. So far, I’ve covered Tamar and Rahab. Twice widowed, Tamar represents the black hopelessness of our sin. Rahab’s scarlet rope is the shed blood of Jesus who rescues us. Next, I’d like to take a good look at Bathsheba. Is she a Black sheep or a white sheep? Bathsheba means ‘daughter of an oath’, or ‘7th daughter’ which indicates that she is important.
Bathsheba has important family connections
Not only that, but Bathsheba has important family connections to King David. She is the daughter of Eliam or Ammiah, one of David’s valiant warriors (2 Samuel 23)who is the son of Ahithophel. Ahithophel, is one of King David’s chief advisors. His final story is directly connected to King David’s fateful decision. Hint: teaser for a future blog. Eliam, whose name means “God is gracious,” is one of David’s valiant men. (2 Samuel 23:34). Bathsheba is the wife of Uriah, 0ne of the most loyal of David’s men as he too is listed as one of David’s valiant warriors (2 Samuel 23:39).Why then would David target Bathsheba?
David remains in Jerusalem
Bathsheba. Is she a white sheep or a black sheep? The answer begins with a significant phrase in 2 Samuel 11:1, ” In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.”
First observation: David is not where he should be. While his whole army is fighting a war and instead of King David leading them, he sends his nephew Joab, the commander of his army. David’s decision has dire consequences, not just for what he does next, but also for Joab’s future.
David is the one on the roof
11 Samuel 11:2, “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, 3 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.” 4 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. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.””
It is vital for God’s Word to be studied historically and culturally so that we understand the true meaning. It this story especially, it brings such light on what is actually happening and why the author makes a point to include the fact that Bathsheba is purifying herself from her monthly period. There’s a lot going on in these verses so let’s break them down point by point.
What is a Mikveh and why is it important?
- We already know that David should be at war with his army but he stays home instead.
- One evening, David gets up from his bed and walks around on the roof of the palace. We don’t know why David gets up. What we do know is that David is the one on the roof, not Bathsheba. How many times have we heard this story told with Bathsheba bathing naked on the roof of her house?!
- From the roof of the palace he sees a woman bathing. The woman is very beautiful. She is bathing because she is purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness (Leviticus 15). According to Jewish law given to them by God, women are made unclean by their menstrual period. After it is over and seven days have passed, they take a ritual bath in a mikveh. The ritual bath includes full immersion, naked. Further, Bathsheba does not choose her bathing location. She goes to the community mikveh which must have a source of running water such as a spring.
A Mikveh from antiquity – historical and cultural
- Here is a description with a picture of the ruins of a mikveh from antiquity. According to the classical regulations, a mikveh must contain enough water to cover the entire body of an average-sized man (Babylonian Talmud, Eruvin 4b). The rabbis calculate the necessary volume of water as being 40 seah (most contemporary authorities believe this is about 150 gallons). The rabbis also specified that a mikveh must be connected to a natural spring, or to a well of naturally occurring water—like rainwater. Hard to find that on your roof wouldn’t you say? She bathes according to the requirements of the law. David is walking on the roof of his palace, the highest building in Jerusalem. He has a bird’s eye view into the community mikveh. The mikveh walls are not tall enough to conceal Bathsheba from the eyes of a man on the roof the palace, no fault to Bathsheba.
David makes the decisions
- David sends a servant to find out who she is because she is at the community mikveh, not in her own home—if she’d been bathing at her house and he’d seen her there, he would simply have needed to find out whose house it is.
- He is told exactly who she is yet he still sends for her. David knows she’s married, he knows her husband and he knows her father. They are both at war where David should be.
- Bathsheba goes to the palace when David sends for her. Who knows what Bathsheba is thinking when she gets word to come to the palace. Since both her husband and father are at war, it is very possible that she may think there is a message for her about them. That being said, when summoned by the king, a subject doesn’t disobey.
David sleeps with Bathsheba
- David sleeps with Bathsheba. Again, we do not know what occurred between them. I can only repeat that David is king and Bathsheba is his subject. The Bible records no protest from Bathsheba. However, the Bible also records no protest when Sarah is taken by Pharaoh and Abimelech, when David himself reclaims Michal from Paltiel, or when Esther is taken by Xerxes (Genesis 12: 11-20; 20:1-18; 2 Samuel 3:12-16; Esther 2:8-9). It is plausible then to conclude that Bathsheba doesn’t protest because the king’s power and authority make it impossible for her to do so.
- Bathsheba goes back home. The coverup begins. There is no reason for Bathsheba to stay at the palace because palace gossips would easily have noted her presence – especially since David sends for her in the first place. At least one other person knows she’s there.
- Bathsheba is pregnant after her sexual encounter with David and she sends word to him. How? Her servant? With a sealed note? How many others’ must be used?
David’s lust and lack of duty drive his decision
David is not where he should be but he is restless. He sees Bathsheba, lusts after her, finds out who she is and sends for her anyway. He sees her, wants her, sends for her and takes her. The outcome is devastating. Tune in next blog to see what takes place.
Have you ever been used by someone dear one? Maybe not in this way, but have you been or felt helpless and without control in a situation? I am sorry. I’ve been there. More than once. Maybe you have been the one who has taken advantage of someone or of a situation. Does God care about what happens to you in any given situation especially one in which you are being used? Yes. Yes, He does. Jesus cares intimately about you. He knows what you are going through or have been through. Take it to Him. Trust Him. He will bring beauty for ashes. Do not keep it to yourself. Get Godly help if you need to. Ask Him. I am praying for you as you read this.