Bathsheba: 2 Samuel 11:1-27
Mrs. Uriah is the final woman mentioned before Mary in Matthew’s recorded family tree of Jesus. The first three women were called by their first name – but this lady is called the wife of Uriah in other words – Mrs. Uriah. One wonders why call her “Mrs.” Uriah? She has a name: Bathsheba. Why didn’t Matthew immediately go ahead and called her by her name? So, is this some kind of a slight to her? I do not think so. My thinking is that the slight is not towards her, but the man who had an affair with her.
Who was on the other side of the affair with Bathsheba? None other but the beloved King David. It is interesting to see what God does through Matthew as he records the family tree of Jesus. I think King David is a metaphor for how many of our look at our own lives. Any honest person that was part of the genealogy that Matthew lists has to see that there are some shady characters in their family tree. But there was an inclusion of a hero that trumped them all – King David. King David was like Robin Hood – a loveable, noble outlaw who lived a life of intrigue and adventure. Surely having King David in your family tree more than makes up for any of the shady characters. Although King David was such a great man, here was a dent in his life and its consequences and story.
I think we do our own version of this when we take stock of our own lives. We know we have made some poor decisions, we probably have some regrets that we wish we could take back, and we usually know that we have been far from a paragon of morality and right behavior. But then we find something about ourselves – a positive behavior, something in our pedigree, something about our morality that is superior to others – and we feel like that trumps our shortcomings. It is our version of having King David in the family tree.
That is why Matthew calls Bathseba “Mrs. Uriah.” He is reminding us of the story of Uriah, and shedding unwelcome light on both sides of King David’s life.
Who was Uriah? Uriah was one of the best friends of David before and during his Kingship. He repeatedly demonstrated his loyalty to his friend and king, often at the risk of his own life. Early in David’s career King Saul was out to kill him, and Uriah was one of the first people to put himself in harm’s way to protect David.
When you reflect on the story of Uriah, it becomes clear why God has Mathew include it in the genealogy in association with David. Matthew is reminding everyone that even the crown jewel of the family tree was deeply flawed. Though everyone in that line felt such great pride to be related to King David, and felt so much corresponding shame about many of the others, Matthew won’t let them stay there. He is reminding them that their beloved King David did something far worse than any of the other misfits – he committed both adultery and murder.
Bathsheba (“Mrs. Uriah”) – the final woman of Christmas – reminds us of the most important message of Christmas: the grace of God. Christmas reminds us that Jesus has come to save people from their sins, and King David reminds us that the need to be forgiven of our sins is a human universal.
The Story of Bathsheba: The relationship between Bathsheba and King David did not begin well, but she later became his loyal wife and mother of King Solomon, the wisest ruler of Israel. Though married already, she was coveted by King David.Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was a soldier in the army of King David. She and David had an adulterous affair. When David discovered Bathsheba was pregnant, he tried to cover it up by summoning Uriah home from war, hoping that Uriah would have intercourse with his wife. Uriah came home to Jerusalem, but refused to lay with Bathsheba as long as the armies of Israel were at war.
So, David sent Uriah back into battle, with orders that Uriah should be withdrawn from when the fighting became fierce. After Uriah was slain in this manner, David took Bathsheba as his own wife. God punished them for this by killing their first child. Bathsheba later became the mother of Solomon. She then manoeuvred to have Solomon made the next king, and got rid of his older brother who should have succeeded King David. A beautiful, clever and unscrupulous woman she was.
Bathsheba: Bat ‘daughter of’, sheba ‘abundance’. The Book of Chronicles, written after she died, changed her name to Bathshua, since ‘sheba’ might link her with the sibitti, the Seven Demons of Babylonian mythology, or with the constellation of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades, shown on the Nebra Disk at right. This disk dates to 1,600BC and shows the Pleiades stars, whose position at a certain time of year signalled the beginning of harvest. The writer of Chronicles was trying to distance Bathsheba from worship of agricultural gods. Bathshebameans beautiful, intelligent, very much a political animal. Good at manipulating people. Solomon, Hebrew ‘shelomoh‘, means ‘his replacement’, perhaps referring to Bathsheba’s first baby who died soon after birth. Uriah, Bathsheba’s first husband, means ‘Yahweh is my light’ and David means ‘beloved’.
Bathsheba’s Accomplishments: Bathsheba was a faithful wife to David. She was especially loyal to her son Solomon, making sure he followed David as king, even though Solomon was not David’s firstborn son. Bathsheba is one of only five women listed in the ancestry of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1:6.
Bathsheba’s Strengths: Bathsheba was wise and protective. She used her position to ensure both her and Solomon’s safety when Adonijah tried to steal the throne.
Life Lessons: Women had few rights in ancient times. When King David summoned Bathsheba, she had no choice but to sleep with him. After David had her husband murdered, she had no choice when David took her for his wife. Despite being mistreated, she learned to love David and saw a promising future for Solomon. Often circumstances seem stacked against us but if we keep our faith in God, we can find meaning in life. God makes sense when nothing else does.
The rest of the story of Bathsheba.
Bathsheba was beautiful, young, well-connected. She married Uriah, one of the top soldiers in King David’s army.
One evening when her husband was away at the battlefront, she was bathing on the curtained flat roof of her house – this was considered a private place for women. King David was above, on the castle walls. He saw her, and was mesmerized by her beauty. He sent for her. She went. They made love. Then she went home. Later she discovered she was pregnant…. She sent a message to the King. Do something, she said. My husband has been away, so he will know the baby is not his. David sent for Uriah, who left the fighting and came back to Jerusalem. He went straight to the palace. What do you want of me, he asked the king. Give me a report of what’s happening at the battlefield, said David.
Her Husband Becomes Suspicious
When that was finished, David told Uriah to go and visit his wife. If he did, the inconvenient pregnancy could be hushed up. But Uriah prevaricated. He stayed all night with the other soldiers at the palace, while Bathsheba waited for him at home.
Next day, David tried again. He got Uriah drunk, urging him to go to his wife. But still the wretched man would not go down into the city and visit his home. It was all too obvious that Uriah knew Bathsheba was pregnant, and refused to ‘play the gentleman’.
David got desperate. He wrote a letter to his most trusted general at the front. Kill the bearer of this letter, but make it look like he died in battle, the letter said. Then David gave the letter to Uriah and told him to return with it to the front.
Uriah took the letter, gave it to the general, and was treacherously killed. The Bible says Bathsheba ‘wailed’ for her dead husband, as well she might. Then King David sent for her, took her into the royal harem, and married her. Read 2 Samuel 11:7-2
Bathsheba Marries King David
Her baby was born. It died. Bathsheba became pregnant again, and this time the little boy lived. He was called Solomon. Bathsheba got older, and the boy grew up. She had other children. She was beautiful and clever, and David loved her. But David was getting older – much older. There came a time when he couldn’t have sex anymore. This was serious, since a king who was no longer virile was not fit to be king. He’d lost his credibility.
The courtiers did everything they could. They brought in a beautiful young girl, Abishag, and put her in bed with David, but even that didn’t help. It was time for one of his sons to take over, in a co-regency. But which son? Everyone assumed it would be Adonijah, David’s eldest living son – there had been other sons, but one way and another they had each died violent deaths. Read 2 Samuel 12:15-25
Who Will Succeed to the Throne?
Bathsheba was in a dangerous situation, but she was not going to give up without a struggle. She had formidable allies – the royal adviser Nathan, the head of the mercenary soldiers Benaiah, and the priest Zadok.
Between them, these kingmakers devised a plan. Bathsheba went to David in his bedroom and told him that Adonijah had already usurped the throne. She told him that, almost alone among his children, Solomon remained loyal. She feared for her own life. You are still king, she said. Do something. There was a coup d’etat in Jerusalem, and when the dust died down Solomon was on the throne. Bathsheba was now Queen Mother, the most powerful position a woman could hold. Read 1 Kings 1:1-31
Bathsheba Gets Rid of a Threat
But Adonijah was still alive, and still a threat. Solomon could not kill his brother outright. He was after all the older brother, and a lot of people still wanted him as king. But no-one knew better than Bathsheba that the situation had to be resolved. How to get rid of Adonijah?
Again, she devised a plan.
She went to Solomon in the throne-room of the palace, and there in front of the courtiers she told her son that Adonijah had asked her if she would help him marry Abishag, the young woman who had been put into David’s bed.
It sounds reasonable enough, but it wasn’t. A man who married the wives of a previous king could claim the throne himself. Bathsheba was accusing Adonijah of treason. No-one dared question whether Bathsheba’s accusation was true or not. She was too powerful now. Solomon had to execute his half-brother, like it or not.
There was no trial, just a swift dagger to the heart. Bathsheba’s son was secure on the throne, and her position was safe. She could rest on her laurels