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Studies on the Women of the Bible
by Davis W. Huckabee

Chapter 8
BATH-SHEBA—”Daughter Of An Oath”


“And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eventide that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child,” (2 Sam. 11:1-5).

Here is introduced to us for the first time Bath-sheba, who is once called “Bath­shua” in 1 Chronicles 3:5,where we are told that she bore four sons to David, namely, Shimea, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon, where she is also called the daughter of Ammiel. Her name means “daughter of an oath,” and the shortened form, Bath-shua, means “the daughter of prosperity,” although we know not what significance there is in this, if any. Nowhere is anything said about the significance of her name.

Bath-sheba is also one of the five women listed in our Lord’s human genealogy in Matthew 1, (v. 6) and one of the three with a moral blemish on her character. Of all of the wives of David, and we have at least eight that are known by name, Bath-sheba was the most prominent one. The following is a list of David’s wives, but not necessarily in their chronological order. 1. Michal, the daughter of King Saul, (1 Sam. 18:20ff), but she was later taken from him and given to another man. 2. Ahinoam, a Jezreelitess. 3. Abigail, the Carmelitess, (1 Chr. 3:1). 4. Maachah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur, (1 Chron. 3:2). 5. Haggith, (1 Chron. 3:2). 6. Abital, (1 Chron. 3:3). 7. Eglah, (1 Chrron. 3:3). And, 8. Bath-sheba. And besides these, David also had concubines by which he had sons, so that he had a number of children, including at least one daughter, Tamar, (1 Chron. 3:4-9). It is doubtful whether Scripture gives the names of all of David’s children, especially so in regard to his sons by his concubines.

  1. CONSIDER BATH-SHEBA FIRST HUSBAND.

Bath-sheba’s first husband was one of King David’s fighting men, and while he was a Hittite and not a native Israelite, (2 Sam. 11:3), he seems to have been a most admirable man and a faithful soldier. He is listed among David’s Valiant men” in I Chronicles 11:26-47 (See v. 41) and 2 Samuel 23:23-39.

When David finds out that he has gotten Bath-sheba pregnant, and in order to try to cover up his immorality, he calls Uriah in from the field on the pretense of wanting to know how the battle is going. He assumes that, like most soldiers, would do, Uriah would take advantage of the opportunity to spend the night with his wife at home, but Ukiah is more dedicated than that, (2 Sam. 11:6-11). Uriah’s explanation for not going down to his home and enjoying being with his wife shows that he was a man dedicated to the good of Israel, and especially with a concern for the right worship of the Lord. He said, in essence, How can I take my ease and pleasure while my captain and fellow-soldiers are in the field, and they and even the Ark abide in tents. His words are not the words of one that is given over only to personal ease and pleasure. By contrast, however, King David is concerned to only over up his wrongdoing, even at the expense of a good man’s life.

Even when the King made a feast especially to get Uriah drunk, thinking that he would not be so scrupulous if drunk, the faithful soldier still refused to go home to his wife, (2 Sam, 11:12-13). When none of this works, David’s sin pushes him to even greater sin in order to cover up his adultery. This is always the way of sin. It is gregarious—always desiring more company, and so, leading into other, greater sins.

David composes a letter to Joab, the captain of the armies, instructing him to set Uriah in the forefront of the battle so that he is killed in the intense fighting. And so, one of David’s most faithful soldiers is sacrificed to cover up David’s adultery with his wife, (2 Sam. 11:14-22). David tries to justify this with Joab, but God will have none of it, (2 Sam. 11:23-25). God sent Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin, and assures David that because of this, violence will never depart from his house, but David’s worthiness to die for this is graciously put away, (2 Sam. 12:1-13). Here would be another instance of the reaping as one has sowed. It might well be asked why God would permit such an awful sin in one of His own.

This is recorded to show what the best of men are, when left to themselves. How strong and prevalent corrupt nature is in regenerate persons, when grace is not in exercise; what need the saints stand in of fresh supplies of grace, to keep them from falling. What caution is necessary to everyone that stands, lest he fall; and that it becomes us to abstain from all appearance of sin, and whatever leads unto it, and to watch and pray that we enter not into temptation. And such a record as this is an argument for the integrity of the scriptures, that they conceal not the faults of the greatest favorites mentioned in them, as well as it serves to prevent despair in truly penitent backsliders. [John Gill, Commentary on the Bible, Vol. 2, p. 264.].

Bath-sheba was a military wife, and as such was often left alone at home while her husband was away at war. This is always a trying situation, and creates problems both for the husband and for the wife, for human beings are social creatures and are dependent upon their mates for constant comfort and mutual pleasure. Marriage is such that it quickly habituates both partners to its privileges, and it becomes difficult to suddenly cease to have these when one or the other is taken from the home for one reason or another. Any modern military man or woman that is deployed understands how hard this is on both parties. This was why God had ordained that newlywed men were not to go out to war the first year of their marriages, (Deut. 24:5). But the problem will continue to persist even with those that have been married for several years.

There was a blending of problems in the present situation, for King David was not where he should have been when this adultery took place. At the time when kings are usually out waging war, David was taking it easy at home. By contrast, Uriah was exactly where he was supposed to be, even though it worked to the detriment of himself and his wife, And David being at ease in his palace, because his palace overlooked the home of Uriah and Bath-sheba, it worked out to be a great temptation. In Israel the flat tops of homes were places that were cooler and more pleasant in the evening than  elsewhere and Bath-sheba took advantage of this place to bathe when she was purified from her uncleanness—her monthly period in all likelihood.

For she was purified, to wit, from her menstruous pollution, according to the law, (Lev. 18:19). Which is here noted as the reason, either why David pursued his lustful desire, or why she so easily yielded to it, because she was not under that pollution which might alienate her from it. Or rather, why she so readily conceived, that time being observed by Aristotle and others to be the most likely time for conception. [Matthew Poole, Commentary On The Holy Bible, Vol. 1, p. 606.].

There is nothing to indicate that Bath-sheba and Uriah had a bad marriage, and that this was the cause of the adultery, but the contrary, for when news of his death comes to her, she mourns for her husband, (2 Sam. 11:26). It was simply that she had been alone for too long due to Uriah’s deployment with the army, and she was lonely for her husband, and her emotions got the best of her when the King of Israel had her brought to his quarters. Some fault may be laid at Uriah’s door, judging from his out­spoken concern for his position as a soldier. For though this was commendable in a way, yet it seems to have kept him from being as diligent as he should have been in his concern for his wife and her needs. Perhaps had he taken some leave time as he had opportunity, she might not have been so susceptible to David’s enticements.

David was much the guiltier in this matter, for he had multiple wives with whom he could have taken his pleasure, but he was intrigued with the beautiful wife of one of his faithful soldiers. It is of note that while Scripture records the sin of Bath-sheba, there is not the emphasis placed on her guilt in this matter that is placed on David’s part in it, (1 Kings 15:5).

Consider for only a moment. David was a handsome man, (1 Sam. 16:10-120, and he had earned a tremendous reputation as a soldier in King Saul’s army, (1 Sam. 18:6-7), and now he is the king of the nation. Both men and women tend to give undue reverence to people that are notable in government, religion, finance, education and other realms. And it is common for women to be easily swayed and led into sin by such men that are often, by their very positions, glib tongued. All of this, with some other factors as well, gives us an insight into how this sin came about.

There is no indication of any compulsion of Bath-sheba by David, for while kings had a right to call anyone they might please to come into their presence, in all likelihood she came willingly when she was called for, and probably counted herself blessed in being called. To be called into the king’s presence was a great honor, and she was in an especially vulnerable state of mind at this time. As is usually the case, Scripture is silent as to all that was said and done by the king and his subject as they met together privately in his quarters. Probably he first asked about her husband, and upon her expression of her loneliness and how much she missed him, he sympathized with her and it would be an easy transition to then comfort her. And from this it would be a short step to the actual sin of adultery.

James 1:12 pronounces a blessing upon those that “endure temptation” without giving in to it, then it warns that temptation does not come from God in the sense of Him soliciting anyone to do evil. Then follows what someone has called “The Devil’s Modus Operandi”—his method of operating in tempting people. It is in four easy stages. One is tempted when (1) He is drawn away from paths of righteousness by his own lust. Hence, it begins with desire within the individual. Now many desires are right and good within themselves, but they become evil when misdirected to forbidden objects. (2) He is enticed as he lets his thoughts run with the possibilities that excite him. (3) This “lust” (Greek epithumiaover desire) conceives and so, brings forth actual sin. Up to this point it is temptation that may be averted if one resists the inclination. (4) The end of all sin is death, physical death certainly, but with the possibility of spiritual death if one is not delivered from his sin. Hence the old Latin admonition obstii principii­resist beginnings.

II. CONSIDER BATH-SHEBA’S ADULTERY.

We have already discussed this to some degree, but this sin was forbidden by the seventh and ninth Commandments, (Exod. 20:14, 17). It was compounded on the part of David by him already having so many wives at his beck and call. This point was emphasized by Nathan the prophet when God sent him to confront David. Nathan pictures the king as a rich man with many flocks and herds but who spared to take of them for a meal for a visitor, but took the only little ewe lamb that a poor man, Uriah, had. David is angry at such a scenario and pronounced the rich man worthy of death, to which the prophet replied, “Thou art the man!” (2 Sam. 12:1-9). However, God, for His own reasons, pardoned David so that he was not put to death as he deserved to be, (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). However, these death penalties show the seriousness of such acts in God’s sight. Alas, how many are deserving of death many times over for this cause.

From the very creation God had pronounced that, “It is not good that the man should be alone,” (Gen. 2:18), and the word used here for “man” is the generic term that includes both males and females, (Gen. 1:27). The implication is that it is “good” for men and women to be in a marital relation so that they can each supply what is lacking in each other in many areas of life, physically, mentally, morally, psychologically, socially, financially, etc. But the basic principle involved in a marriage— “two becoming one flesh” —would preclude either one bringing another partner into the union. Scripture designates this as adultery, a most serious sin in God’s sight.

But Satan has always promoted the desire for “forbidden fruit,” and since one of the needed things in all sex is excitement, he convinces many that the pursuit of any forbidden person will enhance the excitement of the act, and it often does momentarily. But what the devil does not tell people is that there is always a high cost to all low living, and that this will certainly come due in time. The excitement is momentary, but the guilt is continuing. And so it was with both David and Bath-sheba. She lost her beloved husband to whom she had been momentarily unfaithful, and David had a bad smirch on his reputation that clings to him down to this very day. And then the child that was conceived sickened, lingered and died.

Proverbs 6:32 declares that, “Whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.” Which again shows the solemnity of this particular sin, and while a genuinely saved person cannot lose his salvation, it being because of Divine grace, which sin cannot countervail, yet it will be a most costly sin. Adultery and fornication are opposites to marriage, and are under God’s judgment, (Heb. 13:4), even though the activities are the same in both instances.

The very nature of a woman, since the fall in Eden, has been such that she is more emotional than the man, and so, her will is often subject to a man’s as he may manipulate her for his own ends. This may be what is implied in the curse pronounced on the woman in Genesis 3:16. “Thy desire shall be to thy husband.” This is so true that it has passed into a proverb about men deceiving naive and gullible women with their “line” that is often a lie plain and simple, but one used to seduce her. Of course, the good and responsible thing about this is that the husband is able and has the duty to stir up and give pleasure to the wife in the marital relationship.

This is to be understood of her-being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him, whether she should have her desire or no, or the thing she desired. It should be liable to be controlled by his will, which must determine it, and to which she must be subject as follows; and he shall rule-over thee, with less kindness and gentleness, with more rigor and strictness: it looks as if before the transgression there was a greater equality between the man and the woman, or man did not exercise the authority over the woman he afterwards did, or the subjection of her to him was more pleasant and agreeable than now it would be. [John Gill, Commentary On The-Bible, Vol. 1, pp. 22-23.].

Unfortunately, proud and unscrupulous men often use this power over women for evil purposes. It was this innate part of a woman’s basic make-up that David appealed to in his beautiful neighbor, the wife of Uriah, to whom he had no right. As a handsome and charismatic man, yea, as the King of Israel, as well as being a politician of long standing in the nation, he was able to easily persuade this lonely woman to yield herself to his will. And so the deed was quickly done,

Whenever it became apparent to Bath-sheba that she was expecting his child, she sent word to David, and he immediately begins to try to cover it up, as we noted before. Finally after the death of Uriah and her time of mourning for him, David brings Bath-sheba to his home and she becomes his wife, but this was evil in the eyes of the Lord, (2 Sam. 11:26-27). And because of this, when the child is born it becomes very sick and lingers while the parents grieve and beseech God for its life. Here is another truth that does not sit well with many people, namely, that our children are not ours, but the Lord’s, and He sometimes uses them in life and in death to chastise his erring people. Often people that are out of the will of the Lord will take great offense at the sickness, affliction or death of a child, and will blame God for it. Of course, God is in control of all things, and uses all such things for His own glory for all things belongs to Him. And in no way can He speak more loudly and more forcibly to erring parents than by smiting their children with some calamity But our children are always only on loan to us from the Lord, and He has the right to use them as He sees fit to bring His own children back into the right way or even to chastise them unsuccessfully.

As a spiritual man—in spite of his ungodly actions—David recognizes the truth and his actions during the child’s illness and at its death, surprises His servants, (2 Sam. 12:15-23). Here is another truth that is little realized by most people. In spite of the total depravity of every person by nature, when a child dies before attaining to the age of understanding and accountability, it goes immediately into the presence of the Lord—a trophy of the grace of God the same as is any believer in Jesus. David knew that, as a child of God, eternal glory was his destination when he died, and that though his child could not return to him, he would go to it in due time. The same truth is seen in the prophecy of the slaughter of the infants at the time of Jesus’ birth. Their grieving parents are assured that they will be reunited with their babies, (Jer. 31:15-17; Cf. Matt. 2:17-18). Whether baptized or unbaptized is totally irrelevant to the matter, for infant baptism is a heresy brought into apostate churches several centuries after the apostolic age and has no scriptural justification. It is based solely on perverted human reasoning.

After all this sorrow over the death of this child, David comforts Bath-sheba and she conceives and bears, another child, but one that God especially loves, (2 Sam. 12:24- 25). The name “Solomon” means peaceable, and this name was given by God prophetically before his birth, (1 Chron. 22:9).

The birth of this son was a confirmation of the peace and reconciliation between God and them, and which his name carried in it. As well as pointed to the peaceable times that should be during his reign, and in which he was a type of Christ, the Prince of peace; who is the Author of peace between God and men by the blood of his cross, and from whom spiritual peace flows, and by whom eternal peace and happiness is. [John Gill, Commentary On The Bible, Vol. 2, p. 269].

However by the mouth of Nathan the prophet God named this child Jedidiah, which means “Beloved of the Lord.” For some unknown reason however nowhere else in Scripture is Solomon ever referred to by this name. This name would be especially appropriate for Solomon as the type and symbol of Christ Who is often in Scripture referred to as “the beloved of the Lord,” (Matt. 3:17; 12:17-18; 17:6).

From 1 Chronicles 3:5ff we know that David and Bath-sheba had a total of four sons, and these, together with those others listed there add up to at least nineteen named sons and one daughter, Tamar. Another listing of some of these is found in 2 Samuel 3:2ff. Plus David is said to have had other sons by some of his concubines.

We have mentioned that the Lord’s genealogy is traced through Solomon, the son of David and Bath-sheba, but there is another interesting and, we might say, almost unparalleled fact concerning this pair that sinned so grievously. There are two of these genealogies recorded in the New Testament, one in Matthew 1:1-16, and one in Luke 3:23-38, and these differ radically in some places, causing skeptics to claim that there is error in the Scriptures, but this is not so. In an article called “Sin in the Christline” the following is well pointed-out concerning these.

Adultery, murder, and God’s grace. The beautiful wife of Uriah the Hittite, pregnant with the king’s child, was now a young widow, her brave and noble husband having been killed in battle, the victim of King David’s murderous deed. And now the child was dead. What sadness! What anguish and heartache David and Bathsheba were blessed with four other sons (Shimea (Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon). Through her son Nathan was born Mary, the mother of our Lord, (Luke 3:31). Through her son Solomon was born “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ,” (Matt. 1:6, 16). What rejoicing! What joy and delight! [Wendy Gale Barkman, Women of the Bible Compared and Contrasted, pp. 16-17.].

III. CONSIDER BATH-SHREA’S INVOLVEMENT IN POLITICS.

Of all of the numerous wives and concubines of King David, Bath-Sheba was the most politically involved, and took the most interest in who was to succeed David as king. Yet her involvement was not so much personally motivated as it was a desire to see her husband’s wishes carried out, and the will of God done. In spite of her one time act of adultery, this woman seems to have been more truly spiritual than almost any of David’s other wives, unless it be Abigail, the Carmelitess, (1 Sam. 25:2-3, 14-42). Abigail seems to have been a woman that truly loved the Lord in spite of her churlish first husband, Nabal, and but for her graciousness in supplying David, the King-elect of the nation with his and his men’s needs, Nabal would have been slain by David and his men. Shortly the Lord smote this foolish man (as his name signified) with a stroke and he died, and David thereupon took Abigail to be another of his wives.

But to return to Bath-sheba. Later when Solomon is grown, one of his older brothers, Adonijah, desired to take the kingdom of Israel unto himself, and prepared men to follow him, including Joab, the captain of the army, and Abiathar the priest, (1 Kings 1:5-7). This was the second such son of David that had had kingly ambitions and tried to usurp the crown, for Absalom had done so earlier and had lost his life in the process, (2 Sam. 15:1 ff. Cf.; 2 Sam. 18:9-17).

Several of David’s most loyal men are appalled by this, and Nathan the prophet questions Bath-sheba about this matter, and declares that David knows nothing about it. She is given counsel about how to properly reveal this to the king, (1 Kings 1:9-17). In the course of this chapter three times it is emphasized that David had sworn with an oath that Solomon was to succeed him as the king, (vv. 13, 16-17, 29-30). This had been revealed as the Lord’s will prior to this, (1 Chron. 22:9-10), and it seems that this had been revealed by David to Bath-sheba, so that both hers and Solomon’s lives were at risk from the usurper Adonijah, (1 Kings 1:12). He would almost certainly have slain any legitimate claimants to the throne as usurpers generally did.

Upon learning of this endeavor of his son to usurp the throne, David calls for Bath-sheba, Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and other officials in the kingdom. He orders them to anoint Solomon as king, and cause him to ride upon the king’s own mule and proclaim him king throughout all Israel, (1 Kings 1:29-40). When Adonijah heard of this he knew that his life was at risk for his presumption, and he sues for mercy, and King Solomon grants him a reprieve so long as he behaves himself and does not take further action in regard to becoming king, (1 Kings 1:41-53).

But Bath-sheba was not very politically savvy, for Adonijah later hits upon a plan to try to come in the back door to the kingdom. Though he admits that it was from the Lord that Solomon was anointed king, (1 Kings 2:12-15), he asks Bath-sheba to intercede with Solomon that he might be given Abishag, the King’s beautiful nurse and caregiver, (1 Kings 1:1-4), and she agrees, (1 Kings 2:16-21). But with the Divine wisdom given to him of the Lord, Solomon sees through this request, for to have granted this would have been to acknowledge Adonijah’s right to rule, (1 Kings 2:22-23). Adonijah, having violated the conditions of King Solomon’s original reprieve, is put to death, and those other officials in the kingdom that had been co-conspirators with him, were either put out of their offices, or put to death, (1 Kings 2:24-34).

Bath-sheba was a woman that rose from obscurity as a soldier’s wife to being the favorite wife of King David, and the mother of two sons that are in the genealogy of our Lord’s human nature. She made some serious mistakes, but God’s grace was sufficient to overcome those as it always is with those that are a part of the election of grace, (Rom. 5:20-21; 11:1-7). Glory to God!

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