Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Bathsheba’s Legacy- the Woman Behind Proverbs 31

When we think of David’s sin with Bathsheba we  usually consider the events surrounding the incident  (2 Samuel 11:1-26), the horrible consequences (2 Sam. 12:10-15),   David’s agonizing repentance (Psalm 51),  and  maybe the subject of  babies going to Heaven (2 Sam. 12:23).     But we seldom ponder the valuable lessons to be gleaned from the life of Bathsheba herself.
Bathsheba, meaning “daughter of the oath”, was a beautiful and reputable woman from a prominent patriotic family.     Her father, grandfather, and husband were  part of David’s  mighty men  “who gave him strong support in his kingdom,  together with all Israel,  to make him king.”  (I Chron. 11:10).   Her grandfather Ahitophel was one of David’s advisors at the time.    Uriah, her husband, was a Hittite whose Hebrew name meant  “The Lord is my light”,  and  Nathan’s prophetic parable reveals  that they had  enjoyed a blessed and monogamous marriage  prior to these tragic events  (2 Sam. 12:3).   We also know that Bathsheba followed the Hebrew cleansing ceremonies  (2 Sam. 11:4) and that she mourned her husband’s death (2 Sam. 11:26) .

To recap the story, it happened in the springtime when David’s men were off to war,  but for reasons  unknown David stayed home.   Arising from his couch, David walked out onto his roof  overlooking Jerusalem and his eyes landed on Bathsheba bathing.    The  Bible doesn’t say whether she was bathing inside with an open window or door,  or if she was outside.    And so David inquired and sent for her,  lay with her,  and she became pregnant.   The only recorded words of Bathsheba during this whole period were, “I am pregnant”  (2 Sam. 11:5).    To cover his sin, David arranged to have Uriah sent to the frontline of battle where he was killed.

Speculations abound about both David and Bathsheba that are not clearly backed in Scripture.   Some blame Bathsheba for deliberate enticement and collusion in her husband’s death, while others have accused David of coercion, and even rape.   
Bathsheba’s indiscretion in bathing  where she could be seen is no proof that she had ulterior motives.   It is equally presumptuous to say that David  took her by coercion or force.    Rape was a heinous crime in Israel punishable by death   (Dt. 22:25-26) and when this was committed against Jacob’s daughter Dinah  (Gen. 34) and David’s daughter Tamar (2 Sam. 13:12-13), it was plainly stated.    But when Nathan confronted David he leveled no such charge.     
Others have suggested that Bathsheba was pressured into this relationship by David’s powerful position and by cultural views regarding women. Given our modern sensitivities concerning women’s rights, I think we need to be careful not to read more into this account than is actually there.
In the expression “he took her, and she came to him,” there is no intimation whatever that David brought Bathsheba into his palace through craft or violence,  but rather that she came at his request without any hesitation, and offered no resistance to his desires. Consequently Bathsheba is not to be regarded as free from blame.” 1.
Though David bore the responsibility, it appears the adulterous relationship was entirely consensual. 

Nathan’s prophecy included the death of their baby, family scandal, and national insurrection, which drove David to repentance.   But God’s  mercy soon followed.
  “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.”   2 Sam. 12:24 
 “Bath-sheba, no doubt, was greatly afflicted with the sense of her sin and the tokens of God's displeasure.  But, God having restored to David the joys of his salvation,  he comforted her with the same comforts with which he himself was comforted of God.  ...[God] gave them a son… They called him Solomon - peaceful, because his birth was a token of God's being at peace with them” 2
Bypassing his other sons, David promised Bathsheba,
“’Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,' even so will I do this day.”  Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and paid homage to the king and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”   (I Kings 1:30) 

Most Jewish and Christian scholars agree that King Lemuel, the author of Proverbs 31, was  Solomon.

“The words of King Lemuel.  An oracle that his mother taught him”
The chapter tells of Bathsheba’s teachings as a mother but also as the wife of a king.   There’s so much more here than just providing a list of suggestions for “how to be a good wife”.   

The chapter begins by saying the King was “taught” these oracles by his mother.  The Hebrew word  for “taught” isn’t as genteel as it sounds in English,  but means “to discipline, chasten, admonish”.    So we can sense Bathsheba’s emotion when she gets up in her son’s business:
     "WHAT are you doing, my son?” x 3! 

She begins by giving him some royal advice.
The Wise King - vs. 3-9
  1. Don’t give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings”.  Perhaps Bathsheba had already witnessed her son’s proclivity for choosing the wrong kind of women (I Kings 11:1-2)   
  2. Watch out for the booze—it will make a King do stupid things.
  3. Advocate for the defenseless and downtrodden.   
The Excellent Wife - vs. 10-31
The remaining verses describe godly traits of an outstanding wife and the rewards she and her family will reap.   In light of Bathsheba's background, these three stood out. 
  • Vs.11. “The heart of her husband trusts in her…she does him good and not harm all the days of her life”.    This statement was packed with painful personal experience.  What regrets Bathsheba must have had!   In a moment of foolishness she betrayed her godly husband leading to his demise and ending a beautiful monogamous marriage.  
  • Vs. 30. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain”.  Living in a polygamous household with concubines,  Bathsheba certainly knew a thing or two about beauty and vanity—not to mention it was her own beauty that had tempted the king.
  • Vs. 31. “But the woman who fears the Lord is to be praised”.   Who would understand the redeeming power contained in these words  any better than Bathsheba!   Solomon also wrote, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight”  (Proverbs 9:10),  and I’ll bet  he learned that from his mother too.
The sorrowful lessons Bathsheba learned through a time of rebellion helped train this extraordinary son God had given her.   It is written that Solomon’s “wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.” I Kings 4:30.    
Bathsheba’s life beautifully illustrates how God’s abundant mercy is greater than our worst failings.   Whom the Lord loves He chastens, but He does not stop there.  The rod produces in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness and blessings  we would never have imagined.    Because of Christ we have been pardoned, our shame has been removed, and He has guaranteed “a hope laid up for us in Heaven”.
1. Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament;  Vol.2; pg. 383,  Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1985
2. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible;  2 Samuel 12
Painting:  Bathsheba makes an appeal to David by Govert Flinck 1615 – 1660


  1. Great insight into an often overlooked or misunderstood woman.

    FYI, Tamar was David's daughter, not granddaughter.��

    1. Thank you Sharon for pointing that typo out. Don't know what I was thinking.