reminds us that while bad things
may mature over many years,
good things do, too,
they are more powerful in the end.
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Matthew refers to Bathsheba as Mrs Uriah, rather than by name,
presumably because this was a difficult relationship.
Everyone agrees it started in the lowest point of David’s reign, although there is no agreement over what was wrong. The way in which David ensures that her husband Uriah is killed in battle used to be seen as murder, which was the top bad thing to do. Many people see David as a rapist, People at the time would have been horrified at the betrayal of Uriah’s trust as a subject and as a soldier, and the narrative certainly lingers longest there.
The Bible puts David totally in the wrong.
More surprisingly, David sees his sin
not in terms of his fellow woman or man,
but against God alone.
So, where is the joy, and why is Bathsheba on Matthew’s list? Wherever we place the blame – and neither your allocation nor mine is worth anything in the end – we recognize a situation where relationships have been torn apart leaving an awkward pair in the middle.
Bathsheba loses what is presumably her firstborn, while David’s rule never recovers from this but plays out to the sound of rape, murder and civil war.
Uriah, of course, died and his memorial is among the bravest of the brave
(1 Chronicles 11:41).
To families that have been shattered,
or are tearing themselves apart after the original pair have found some peace,
does Bathsheba have anything to say about joy this Advent?
Despite all that went wrong something went right.
Bathsheba’s later child, Solomon, grows to become the wisest and wealthiest
Royal to reign in Jerusalem.
Although Bathsheba is only named twice in Samuel (2 Samuel 11:2 & 12:24), she gets more coverage in Kings (1 Kings 1:11-2:19). In a struggle that the books of Chronicles miss, there is a precarious handover from David to Solomon and Bathsheba is suddenly pushed to the fore,
first of all in fighting for her son in the royal household in David’s dying days, and then as Queen Mother and royal go-between to the new monarch.
The joy story here is surely that she
emerges from horror of her early encounters with David
and takes her place in the palace.
Not just that, but her son eventually sits on the throne,
fulfilling her deepest hopes, and she lives out her days in peace.
However, the country as a whole enters into her joy as David’s war years give way to unprecedented prosperity. To the extent that
any king in Israel could reflect the world to come,
Solomon comes closest.
Psalm 72 reflects the joy of Solomon’s reign to come and is one
the most joyful in the psalter. It concludes:
Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long.
May grain abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway.
May the crops flourish like Lebanon and thrive like the grass of the field.
May his name endure forever; may it continue as long as the sun. Then all nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed
Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.
Praise be to the LORD God, the God of Israel, who alone does marvellous deeds.
This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.
(Psalm 72:15-20, NIV 2011)
Bathsheba and David unravel a catastrophe
and get back to joy and peace once more.
David’s prayer in Psalm 51,
reveals a heart that is truly sorry and grasps forgiveness.
Solomon’s accession reminds us that while bad things
may mature over many years,
good things do, too, and they are more powerful in the end.
Those around live safer lives as the suffering of the civil war gives way to peace and prosperity. Bathsheba’s joy is not a private joy: it’s an infectious joy, a joy to be shared around.
Whatever position we take, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba started out with very limited choices. It wasn’t just gutsy determination that they brought to the royal line, but an ability to act in faith and to change the world around them.
The story of David and Bathsheba is one of the most dramatic accounts in the Old Testament. One night in Jerusalem, King David was walking upon his rooftop when he spotted a beautiful woman bathing nearby (2 Samuel 11:2). David asked his servants about her and was told she was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:39). Despite her marital status, David summoned Bathsheba to the palace.
The king’s reaction was to attempt to hide his sin.
David commanded Uriah to report back to him from the battlefield.
Bathsheba’s husband dutifully answered David’s summons, and David sent him home, hoping that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba and thus provide a cover for the pregnancy. Instead of obeying David’s orders, Uriah slept in the quarters of the palace servants, refusing to enjoy a respite with Bathsheba while his men on the battlefield were still in harm’s way (2 Samuel 11:9–11). Uriah did the same thing the next night as well, showing integrity in sharp contrast to David’s lack thereof.
It became apparent that David and Bathsheba’s adultery could not be covered up that way. David enacted a second, more sinister plan: he commanded his military leader, Joab, to place Uriah on the front lines of battle and then to purposefully fall back from him, leaving Uriah exposed to enemy attack. Joab followed the directive, and Uriah was killed in battle. After her time of mourning, Bathsheba married David and gave birth to a son. “But,” 2 Samuel 11:27 notes, “the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”
When David and Bathsheba’s child was born, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to confront David. Nathan used a parable: a rich man took a poor man’s only sheep and killed it, even though he had many flocks of his own. David, a former shepherd, was so angered by this story, which he thought was true, that he responded, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5–6).
Nathan then pointed to David and uttered the chilling words, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David was the one guilty of this sin, and judgment would be upon his house in the form of ongoing violence. David repented (see Psalm 51), and Nathan said, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die” (2 Samuel 12:13–14). The child did die a week later, and David’s household experienced further hardship in later years. In total, four of David’s sons suffered untimely deaths—the “four times over” judgment David had pronounced upon himself.
In the account of David and Bathsheba, we find many lessons. First, secret sin will be found out. Second, God will forgive anyone who repents. Third, sin’s consequences remain even when the sin is forgiven. Fourth, God can work even in difficult situations. In fact, David and Bathsheba’s next son, Solomon, became the heir to the throne. Even in bad situations, God has a plan that serves His sovereign purpose.