Last week a pastor friend of mine tweeted a photo displaying a painting he had done of Bathsheba. It set something off in my heart so I posted a thought or two about Bathsheba’s plight and since thousands of you read it and some posted back with questions and comments, I thought I’d share my thought a little more carefully/deeply with you.
I’ve been a Christian for over 4 decades. That means that I’ve heard plenty of sermons about David’s “adultery” with Bathsheba. I’ve listened to pastors do everything from blame Bathsheba for David’s fall to insinuating that, at the very least, she was somehow complicit with him.
I completely disagree.
I disagree first of all because I’ve read the Bible a lot and if there’s one thing I know it’s that the Bible’s writers (ultimately the Holy Spirit) aren’t queazy at all about uncovering sin. Hence, if Bathsheba had been culpable at all, we would have heard about it. But we haven’t.
What we do hear is that David decided to grab a little “me” time and one afternoon, after he got up from napping, he went up on his roof to check out the doings in his kingdom. It was from there that he saw Bathsheba bathing herself. BTW, she wasn’t on a roof. He was. She was probably in a private courtyard. The Bible clearly states that she was being godly, “She had been purifying herself from her uncleanness” (2 Sam 11:4). She was performing what the Lord required of her after having her period.
So, David said to his servants, “Oh, I like the looks of that…get me one.” So his servants went to her house and “took” her. That Hebrew word means, “to get, lay hold of, seize, snatch, take away, acquire, or buy.” What the Bible doesn’t say is that she cunningly arranged a peep show so she could entrap the king, kill off her husband, and set herself up in cushiness for life. If that had been the case, the Bible would have said that. But it doesn’t. Don’t misunderstand,
When the king’s servants come to take you, you go or you die.
The next time we hear about her, she’s telling David she’s pregnant. The Bible doesn’t tell us her state of mind but it tells us David’s: He’s going to scheme and eventually murder to cover up his sin. When the prophet Nathan confronts him, he doesn’t say, “Well, you know if Bathsheba hadn’t been porning it up, I know you wouldn’t have sinned. Your sin is understandable.” Instead he said, “You are the man!”(2 Sam 12:7) It was David’s sin. Not Bathsheba’s.
At the death of her righteous husband (notice both of them were more righteous than David), she lamented and grieved for him (2 Sam 11:26). Later, she grieved for her dead firstborn son. David brought nothing but death and grief into the house of a righteous woman.
Afterward, David married her and she bore him other children. Again, we don’t know how much say she had in that, but one thing we do know, is that as a disgraced woman in the ancient near east, she really didn’t have much of a choice.
Finally, we get one more glimpse into her relationship with David. When it was time for him to name his successor, Bathsheba reminded him about a promise he had made to her that her son, Solomon, would be king (1 Ki 1:13). We don’t have any record of him making this promise but he honored her request. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that at some point he tried to make amends for ruining her life by promising her that her son would be king. And she held him to it.
Here’s my concern: that we not assume that women are to blame for the lust and sin in men’s hearts. Rules about how women dress (see my post about modesty) are of absolutely “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23).
Case in point? The Burka.
If covering ourselves from head to toe stopped men from lusting, then Iraq wouldn’t be the leading consumer of pornography in the world. But it is.
Okay, now to my point: It’s time that we stop blaming women for the sin that men commit. It’s also time that we stop blaming men for the sin women commit.
It’s time that we all owned our own sin and that’s not a terrible thing to do
because, if we’re in Christ that sin is forgiven and we’re completely righteous. Of course there are precipitating factors, but ultimately rules about outward behavior never transformed anyone’s heart. Only the gospel does that. David’s sin is forgiven. And Bathsheba is listed in the genealogy of Jesus as the wife of Uriah–and she, his little ewe lamb, is in paradise rejoicing with him now.
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Doug Kelle says
I guess I need to understand more about the purification cleansing rituals of that time. I have a hard time understanding how any person, male or female, can be “accidentally” seen naked on a roof top.
The Bible does not say Bathsheba was at fault, but does that automatically mean she wasn’t culpable to some degree? Not sure.
I don’t think it focuses on her sins because the story is about David, a “man after God’s own heart.”
And, I’m not a person who desires to blame women for all men’s troubles, so please try to understand where I’m coming from. Good men and good women sin. I believe it’s possible she was attracted to this very handsome king. Not being dogmatic about this, but I have concerns about how this all came about.
Lastly, to say that she was a “victim” and had no choice in the matter because kings do what they want, and compare her story to Esther’s, I believe paints a wrong picture. David was a godly king. I believe if she vehemently refused David’s affection, David would’ve relented and this incident wouldn’t have happened.
This is all conjecture on my part. Like I said, I don’t want to be dogmatic about my perspective, but I’d be hard pressed to go so far as you have done and be dogmatic that it was ALL David’s fault.
Thanks for hearing me out.
Thanks for reading and being willing to ask about my perspective.
It’s been a false reading/assumption of the passage that makes us think Bathsheba was on a rooftop. The passage actually says, “One evening David got up from his bed and strolled around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing…” (2 Sam 11:2). The CSB Bible note is, “The roof of the king’s palace was probably on the highest ground, providing the king a commanding view of Jerusalem. He saw a woman bathing (lit. “washing); the text does not suggest that she did so to lure David into an encounter.” She was undoubtedly in a walled off part of her house where she was washing in private. Don’t think in terms of American bathrooms. They didn’t exist then. Because she was ritually unclean after her menstrual cycle, she was cleansing herself in obedience to the Law and places of cleansing were not elaborate showers with roofs.
Also, don’t assume that she had any idea what David was thinking or that he had even seen her when he called her. She may have thought he had news about her husband.
The text is clear that God held him completely responsible for the event and for the 2 deaths that ultimately followed. He had complete power in the situation and once she realized what he wanted she was powerless to escape.
Okay, that’s it from me. Be at peace, brother. Elyse Fitzpatrick
Val Riley says
I thoroughly enjoyed your perspective. I think some men unconsciously blame Bathsheba because of the culture in which we live. Instead, we should analyze what the Bible says and stop making conjectures about what it doesn’t say. Thanks so much for your input. I’ll surely share your article.
Thanks so much! Elyse
Mary Jo Fletcher says
All women in bathsheba day bathed on the roof that’s the only place they had to bathe.