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2 Samuel 11:1-17 and 2 Samuel 11:26-27

We now look at another of David's wives: Bathsheba. She was one of eight because David, in common with many other biblical figures during Old Testament times, had followed the practice of many other societies that allowed a man to marry more than one wife. To some extent, this was also driven by economic necessity because women in those days had little or no opportunity to make or earn money for themselves. Christians now regard God's creation of Eve as a suitable helper for Adam to indicate His expectation that marriage should be between one man and one woman only. (Genesis 2:22-24) This is reinforced by Jesus' comments on divorce where He also refers back to Genesis as being the guiding principle for marriage. (Mark 10:2-12)

As we saw in our previous study, Abigail had unexpectedly become the wife of the king of Israel. She had showed great wisdom in dealing with the problems caused by her husband, Nabal, managing to calm David's anger and divert him from a course of action which could have caused hurt and suffering to many people. She had great respect for David but also demonstrated her strong faith in God and willingness to follow His direction. Bathsheba was not so wise and certainly didn’t help David to keep away from sin.

"How the mighty have fallen" (2 Samuel 1:19)

David had fulfilled the great future foreseen by Abigail. (1 Samuel 25:28-31). He restored peace to the nation of Israel and consolidated its military power and reputation. After serving as king of Judah for seven and a half years, he became the ruler of a united kingdom, comprising Israel and Judah together. In large part, this was due to his close and loving relationship with God that made him constantly willing to follow God’s directions in his life and always ready to give God the glory for his success.

However, David (like all of us) was not perfect. In particular, he had a weakness for beautiful women. Perhaps, too, he had grown weary during his years of living on the run and then continually being at war with Israel's neighbours. Had his previous success gone to his head? Was he just tired? We don't know, but we do know that "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." (2 Samuel 11:11) This one decision to ease up a little and to have some "me-time" led to his adultery with Bathsheba, the murder of her husband and the death of a baby that was born as a direct result of David and Bathsheba's wrongdoing. One small sin had a massive impact on the two of them, their families and even the entire nation! All sin has a powerful ripple effect, even when we are not always aware of all its consequences.

Temptation and foul play

Bathsheba was an exceptionally beautiful woman, the daughter of Eliam (one of David's "Mighty Warriors") who was married to Uriah - a foreign soldier who was serving with the Israelite army but had a strong sense of loyalty to his adopted nation. One evening, whilst Uriah and the army were away laying siege to Rabbah, David could not sleep and went up to the roof of his palace (where the air would be much cooler). From his vantage point, he was able to look down on many other houses round about and noticed Bathsheba who had waited until nightfall to go up to the roof and wash. David was smitten and used his position to find out who she was and then to summon her to his presence. He slept with her, then sent her back home again. Some while later, Bathsheba realised that she was pregnant and sent word to David to let him know.

David then came up with a cunning plan. He sent a message to his commander-in-chief, Joab, asking for a report on how the siege was going and asking him to send back Uriah to present the report. Uriah duly presented hiumself at the palace and gave his report. David thanked him then sent him home to see his wife and refresh himself. David was hoping that Uriah would sleep with her so that Bathsheba’s pregnancy could be credited to her husband. Unfortunately, Uriah had scruples and refused, saying: "the ark and Israel and Judah, my lord Joab and your servants are all camping in the open field. How can I go home and eat and drink and sleep with my wife? I will not do this thing!" (2 Samuel 11:11) David kept Uriah hanging around for an extra couple of days, entertaining him and getting him drunk, but Uriah insisted on bedding down with the royal servants, rather than going home. David had to find a "Plan B". He had tried subtlety but that hadn't worked and he now saw that sterner measures were needed. How often, when we are trapped by the consequences of some sin, do we find that all our efforts to cover it up simply spin out of control as the problem gets bigger and more complex. David's next tactic involved dragging Joab into his murky scheme. This must have been hard for Joab, knowing what an honourable and courageous officer Uriah was.

Weakness and tragedy

None of the main characters in this painful story come out of it well. We could be forgiven for feeling sorry for Bathsheba as the victim of a powerful man at at time when she was lonely and vulnerable, with her husband away at the war. Was she also rather naïve in not thinking through the consequences of accepting the king's invitation instead of trying to find some excuse to turn him down? Alternatively, was she perhaps flattered by the king's attention and prepared deliberately to flaunt herself in the hope of getting something out of it? Whatever her state of mind may have been, she would have been brought up in full awareness of the law of Moses about adultery and knowing what was right and wrong.

Where Abigail had been at pains to warn the king about the potential consequences of his action, Bathsheba seems to have been meekly prepared to submit to his demands and appears to have raised no objection, despite the fact that she was a married woman and just coming to the end of her period (when sexual relation were forbidden by Jewish law). (2 Samuel 11:4; Leviticus 18:19) One word from her might well have brought David up short to consider that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and needed to step back. However, as the two of them allow themselves to be overtaken by the power of sexual attraction, it becomes impossible to stop and disobedience serves only to harden their hearts and push them into more and more sinfulness. This progression is seen so clearly in the book of James: "Every person is tempted when drawn away, enticed and baited by evil desire [lust and passions]. Then the evil desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin and sin, when it is fully matured, brings forth death." (James 1:14-15) The outcome of this one night of passion is death for Bathsheba’s husband Uriah; death for the baby, born as a result of their sin and a violent death for three of David’s sons. Furthermore, his son Absalom later echoes his father's adultery by setting up a tent on the roof of the palace and sleeping with all of David's harem as a public act of defiance to his father. (2 Samuel 16:21-22) Above all, David's actions displeased God. (2 Samuel 11:27)

Coming to repentance

The first instinct for all of us in dealing with sin in our lives is to try and cover it up. (Think of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Genesis 3:10) David tried really hard to cover up what they had done, especially after finding out that Bathsheba was pregnant. We all commit sin on a regular basis. Sometimes, it is deliberate; sometimes it can be something that we find ourselves doing through force of circumstances and - often - weakness on our part. It is always so much better to admit our mistake as soon as we can. David hardened his heart and it took nearly nine months before God asked Nathan the prophet to confront him about it in such a way that David was brought to repentance. (2 Samuel 12:1-14) Arranging the death of Uriah must have really eaten away at him and not allowed him any peace of mind whilst, all the time, he was watching his wife getting larger with the pregnancy as a constant reminder.

David’s sorrow over their sin led to him writing Psalm fifty-one in which he expresses true repentance, acknowledging his wrong, taking full responsibility and asking God to "create a pure heart within me and renew a right spirit within me". (Psalm 51:10) Bathsheba went on to have a baby which was very poorly and, after seven days, during which David fasted and prayed, he died. He accepted this outcome as God's final word on the affair and turned to comfort his wife, Bathsheba, who became pregnant again. This time, God showed great mercy and blessing, giving them a son whom they called "Solomon" ("beloved of the Lord"). From infancy, Solomon was set apart and raised to be a prince and ruler. Bathsheba instructed him daily in the fear of the Lord and in God’s commands. (Proverbs 4:3-5; Proverbs 6:20-21)

Repentance means completely turning round - one hundred and eighty degrees - from the thing that we have done wrong. (Acts 3:25-26)

Action

It requires some action from us: saying sorry, showing love, making restitution where appropriate, determining never to do it again. We have to show by our life that there has been a change of direction.

Examples

Characters in the Bible who illustrate clearly what repentance involves include Simon Peter (Luke 24:33-34) and the people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:10).

Remorse

Remorse is simply guilt by another name. Without repentance, remorse alone is deceptive because we think we have repented but there is no heart change, no true humility. Consider Judas (Matthew 27:3-4) and King Saul (1 Samuel 26:21)

After repentance:

  1. We must stop sinning. (1 John 1:7; 1 John 3:6)
  2. We can receive peace. (Romans 5:1)
  3. We are free of condemnation. (Romans 8:1)
  4. We can be spiritually refreshed. (Acts 3:19)
  5. We can anticipate joy in heaven. (Luke 15:8-10)
  6. We can be baptised with the Holy Spirit. (Mark 1:6-8)
  7. We can worship. (John 4:23-24)

This amazingly beautiful woman, who attracted a king and gave birth to his son, experienced great extremes of emotion (through the death of her husband and her first baby) to her gratitude towards David for standing by her and caring for her and their son. She was able to marry the king, even though the law of Moses stated that she should have been stoned. Nonetheless, her life with David and his extended family must have been difficult because there were endless problems. David's daughter, Tamar, was raped by her step-brother, Amnon; her full brother, Absalom, later murdered Amnon and eventually rebelled against his father, suffering a violent death as a consequence. Bathsheba had to intervene on behalf of her precious son, Solomon, when an older son, Adonijah, tried to "jump the gun" as David was on the point of death and get himself installed as king instead of Solomon. Even after David’s death, once Solomon had been crowned as king, Adonijah tried again to manipulate Bathsheba into undermining Solomon, who was forced to intervene and have Adonijah (David’s third son) killed immediately (1 Kings 2:13-25)

So much violence and trauma in one family must have been a strain for this woman, but she was determined that Solomon would be the one chosen to succede his father, David. She was a woman who knew what she wanted and went after it. (1 Kings 1:11-35)

Today we need, as women, to recognise the problems that we can cause for men in the area of seduction if we do not behave in a way that is in line with God's word and honouring to Him.

  • Do we dress as becoming a "holy woman of God"? Do we speak with a clean mouth or is our conversation full of innuendoes and suggestions?
  • Do we keep a lookout for any men who have lustful thoughts towards us and keep well away from any trap - or are we flattered by such attention?
  • As married women, do we speak kindly to our husbands and behave as real helpers when they go through their own trials? Do we support or criticise them?
  • When it comes to our children, are we always pushing them forward for positions that they may not have the character to complete successfully?
  • Do we have a clear picture of the holiness of God?

Pray:

"Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear Your Name." (Psalm 86:11)

"Create in me a pure heart O God and renew a right spirit within me." (Psalm 51:10)


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