Bathsheba: The Rest of the Story (Part 1)

What's the first thing you think of when I mention the name Bathsheba? It's safe to say that most will probably not think of a woman with a godly heritage or a woman who was a good mother. Instead most will immediately be reminded of a singular event recorded in II Samuel 11.

"It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, 'Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, 'I am with child'" (II Sam. 11:1-5).

It is unfortunate that while we are familiar with David's fall and forgiveness, Bathsheba remains forever etched in our consciousness as an adulteress and perhaps a seductress. However, I'd like to expand your thinking regarding Bathsheba and give you "the rest of the story." The Scriptures provide some additional information about Bathsheba, particularly her godly heritage and life after the incident that made her infamous.

It is somewhat unfair that we tend to focus on the skeletons in people's pasts and define them by such rather than by their life overall. It would be better for us to acknowledge, based upon the evidence we will examine, that Bathsheba was a godly woman who made a mistake. How serious was the mistake? Deducing this with certainty is more difficult than you might initially think. I absolutely believe she did sin, although the Scriptures repeatedly stress David's sin in the matter (e.g., II Sam. 11:27 records - "The thing that David had done displeased the LORD"). This is to be expected since the narrative is focused on him and not her. I do believe David's responsibility for the affair was significantly greater than her own, however. There is no evidence she was trying to seduce David while washing from her monthly impurity. It's presumptuous for us today, with the blessings of indoor plumbing and heated water, to judge a woman who would bathe in a place where she might be seen by someone above. There is no indication she did anything wrong in so doing. David was on his roof. David allowed his eyes to become fixed upon his neighbor's wife. David should have turned away and saved himself a lot of grief and suffering. Furthermore, after his inquiry about the woman's identity and his invitation, what options were available to Bathsheba? It's easy to say from our perspective today, where women have many rights and privileges, "She should have said 'No!' and declined his advance." Ultimately, this is correct, but the text simply doesn't detail the role she played in the adultery. Was she actively pursuing infidelity to her husband? Was she infatuated with the king and thrilled at his invitation? Or, was her participation more out of fear and a reluctance to deny the most powerful and influential man in the country, King David? There is certainly no evidence she was raped. So, although she was a willing participant in the affair, we may never know whether she was reluctant or brazen. This is a point often overlooked.

The fundamental truth I want you to take away from this series is simple: Bathsheba was a godly woman with a skeleton in her closet. To only remember the skeleton is a mistake and unfair. Do we believe in grace or not? Can one commit a terrible sin and be forgiven? There is much more to Bathsheba than the fact that she had illicit sex with the king. There are, of course, many applications of this for our lives today and how we view others whose sins become widely known.

We will continue this study in our next lesson.