|Queen of Israel|
|Bathsheba holding king David's letter by Willem Drost, 1654, Louvre Museum|
|Spouse||Uriah the Hittite
According to the Hebrew Bible, Bathsheba (Hebrew: בת שבע, Bat Sheva, "daughter of the oath") (Arabic: بثشبع, "ابنة القسم") was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. She is most known for the Bible story in which King David took her to sleep with him.
Bathsheba was a daughter of Eliam, one of David's "thirty" (2 Sam. 23:34; cf 1 Chr. 3:5); Eliam was the son of Ahitophel, one of David's chief advisors. Ahitophel was from Giloh (Josh. 15:51;cf 2 Sam. 15:12), a city of Judah, and thus Bathsheba was from David's own tribe and the granddaughter of one of David's closest advisors (2 Sam.15:12)."1 She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Queen Mother.
The meaning of the Hebrew form of the name "Bathsheba" is "daughter of the oath", "bat" meaning daughter. The second part of the name appears in 1 Chronicles 3:5 as "shua" (signifying "wealth") (compare Genesis 38:2).
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (2 Samuel 11:3, who is called Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5). Her father is identified by some scholars with Eliam mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34 as the son of Ahithophel, who is described as the Gilonite. (See King David's Warriors.)
The story of David's seduction of Bathsheba, told in 2 Samuel 11, is omitted in Chronicles. The story is told that David, while walking on the roof of his palace, saw Bathsheba, who was then the wife of Uriah, having a bath. He immediately desired her and later made her pregnant.
In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hope that Uriah would re-consummate his marriage and think that the child was his. Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service.2 Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.
After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to have sex with Bathsheba, the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed in the front lines of the battle, where it was the most dangerous, and left to the hands of the enemy (where he was more likely to die). David had Uriah himself carry the message that ordered his death. After Uriah was dead, David made the now widowed Bathsheba his wife.
David's action was displeasing to the Lord, who accordingly sent Nathan the prophet to reprove the king.
After relating the parable of the rich man who took away the one little ewe lamb of his poor neighbor (II Samuel 12:1-6), and exciting the king's anger against the unrighteous act, the prophet applied the case directly to David's action with regard to Bathsheba.
The king at once confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance. Bathsheba's child by David was struck with a severe illness and died a few days after birth, which the king accepted as his punishment.
Nathan also noted that David's house would be cursed with turmoil because of this murder. This came to pass years later when one of David's much-loved sons, Absalom, led an insurrection that plunged the kingdom into civil war. Moreover, to manifest his claim to be the new king, Absalom had sexual intercourse in public with ten of his father's concubines, which could be considered a direct, tenfold divine retribution for David's taking the woman of another man. (II Samuel 16:20–23)
The story of David's adultery sets up the context for the penitential Psalm 51 (50), also known as "Miserere" ("Have mercy on me, O God").
The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bathsheba was bathing, perhaps behind a screen of wickerwork. Satan is depicted as coming in the disguise of a bird. David, shooting at the bird, strikes the screen, splitting it; thus Bathsheba is revealed in her beauty to David (Sanhedrin 107a).
Bathsheba at her Bath is the formal name for the subject in art showing Bathsheba bathing, watched by King David. As an opportunity to feature a large female nude as the focus of a history painting, the subject was popular from the Renaissance onwards. Sometimes Bathsheba's maids, or the "messengers" sent by David are shown, and often a distant David watching from his roof. The messengers are sometimes confused with David himself, but most artists follow the Bible in keeping David at a distance in this episode.
Paintings with articles include:
- Bathsheba at Her Bath (Rembrandt), Louvre, the most famous painting of the subject.
- Bathsheba at her Bath (Veronese), 1575, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, France. Atypically, Bathsheba is clothed in this.
In Islam David is considered to be a prophet, and the Islamic tradition views the story of Bible opposed to the infallibility(Ismah) of the prophets. A hadith quoted in Tafsir al-Kabir and Majma' al-Bayan expresses that Ali bin Abi Talib said: "Whoever says that David, has married Uriah's wife as the legends are narrate, I will punish him twice: one for Qazf(falsely accusing someone of adultery) and the other for desecrating the prophethood (defamation of prophet David)".3
Another hadith narrated from Shia scholars states that Ali Al-Ridha, during the discussions with the scholars of other religions about prophets' infallibility, asked one of them, "What do you say about David?" he said "David was praying, when a beautiful bird appeared in front of him, and David left his prayer and went after the bird. While David was walking on the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba having a bath... so David placed her husband in the front lines of the battlefield, in order to get killed, so that he could marry Bathsheba." Ali Al-Ridha got upset and said: "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un, you assign sluggishness in prayer to the prophet of God, and then accuse him of unchastity, and then charge him with the murder of an innocent man!" He asked "so what is the story of Uriah?" and Ali Al-Ridha said "At that times, the women whom their husbands passed away or got killed in the war, would never get married again (and this was the source of many evils). David was the first person to break this tradition. So after Uriah was incidentally killed in the war, David married his wife, but people could hardly accept this anomalous marriage (and subsequently legends were made about this marriage.)4
Her name, which perhaps means "daughter of the oath", is in I Chronicles 3:5 spelled "Bath-shua", the form becomes merely a variant reading of "Bath-sheba". The passages in which Bath-sheba is mentioned are II Samuel 11:2-12:24, and I Kings 1, 2.—both of which are parts of the oldest stratum of the books of Samuel and Kings. It is part of that court history of David, written by someone who stood very near the events and who did not idealize David. The material contained in it is of higher historical value than that in the later strata of these books. Budde would connect it with the J document of the Hexateuch.
The only interpolations in it which concern the story of Bathsheba are some verses in the early part of the twelfth chapter, that heighten the moral tone of Nathan's rebuke of David; according to Karl Budde ("S. B. O. T."), the interpolated portion is 12: 7, 8, and 10-12; according to Friedrich Schwally (Stade's "Zeitschrift," xii. 154 et seq.) and H. P. Smith ("Samuel," in "International Critical Commentary"), the whole of 12: 1-15a is an interpolation, and 12:. 15b should be joined directly to 11: 27. This does not directly affect the narrative concerning Bathsheba herself. Chronicles, which draws a veil over David's faults, omits all reference to the way in which Bathsheba became David's wife, and gives only the names of her children: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.
The father of Bathsheba was Eliam (spelled "Ammiel" in I Chronicles 3:5). As this was also the name of a son of Ahithophel, one of David's heroes (II Samuel 23:34), it has been conjectured that Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahithophel and that the latter's desertion of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion was in revenge for David's conduct toward Bathsheba.
Considering that David's Jerusalem was tightly packed and that Bathsheba's house may have been as close as twenty feet away from David's rooftop, and that people in ancient times were exceptionally modest about showing their bodies, one writer has read the passage as suggesting that Bathsheba displayed herself deliberately, so that instead of being an innocent victim, it was actually she who seduced David in order to rid herself of Uriah, and move in with the king.5
The faulting of David is made clear in the text from the very beginning. "It was springtime, the time when kings go forth to war... but David remained in Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 11:1). If David had been acting as a good king and had been at war, the incident would not have taken place.6 After the incident, of course, there is Nathan's rebuke in 2 Samuel 12 and the curse and events that follow.
The Bathsheba incident, then, begins a shift in the book's perspective. David "is largely at the mercy of events rather than directing them."7 He is no longer able to control his family and ends up being overthrown by Absalom. In 2 Samuel 13 there is another way the text blames David. In the story of David's son Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar. The placement of the rape so soon after the incident of Bathsheba seems to draw a parallel between sexual misconduct of father and son.8
- The Adventure of the Crooked Man - A Sherlock Holmes story which uses the David / Bathsheba story as its main structure.
- Far from the Madding Crowd - The story of Bathsheba, David and Uriah is echoed in the Thomas Hardy novel.
- King Lemuel
- Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me, An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel, p.217, Canon Press (2003)
- Robertson Smith, "Religion of the Semites," pp. 455, 488.
- "عن سعيد بن المسيب أن علي بن أبي طالب كرم اللّه تعالى وجهه قال: «من حدثكم بحديث داود على ما يرويه القصّاص جلدته مائة و ستين(جلّدته مائة جلدة مضاعفا) و هو حد الفرية على الأنبياء»" (Tafsir al-Kabir, al-Razi, vol 26, p 379; Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol 12, p 178; Tafsir al-Muraghi, vol 23, p 111.)
"روي عن أمير المؤمنين (ع) أنه قال لا أوتى برجل يزعم أن داود تزوج امرأة أوريا إلا جلدته حدين حدا للنبوة و حدا للإسلام" (Tafsir Majma' al-Bayan, vol 8, p 736.) "لأنّ المزاعم المذكورة تتّهم من جهة إنسانا مؤمنا بارتكاب عمل محرّم، و من جهة اخرى تنتهك حرمة مقام النبوّة، و من هنا حكم الإمام بجلد من يفتري عليه عليه السّلام مرّتين (كلّ مرّة 80 سوطا)"(Tafsir Nemooneh, vol 19, p 257.)
- Tafsir Nemooneh, vol 19, p 257; Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, vol 1, p 154; Amali Saduq, p 91.
- Kenneth E. Bailey, "Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes," pp. 40-41.
- Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 210
- Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 208
- Coogan, Michael D. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pg. 212
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Bath-sheba". Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.
- Kristin De Troyer, "Looking at Bathsheba with Text-Critical Eyes," in Nóra Dávid, Armin Lange, Kristin De Troyer and Shani Tzoref (eds), The Hebrew Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011) (Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, 239), 84-94.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bathsheba.|
- Askmoses.com, "Was King David guilty of murder and adultery?" by Rabbis Mendy Gutnick and Avrohom Wineberg