If you were ever “blessed” to sit through a sermon about Bathsheba, you probably left the service believing she was a harlot, a whore. Many preachers have twisted the story to suggest that she knowingly knew David was home instead of at war and purposefully bathed on a rooftop in order to seduce him. Many have even preached that she also plotted to have her husband killed and got pregnant on purpose so David would have no choice but to marry her. In my reading and research, I have found nothing to uphold these claims.
Modern society has a propensity for victim-blaming and placing insurmountable pressure and responsibility on women. And it’s ironic because women are the most oppressed population in the world. In every culture, European, Middle Eastern, and African, women did not, and sometimes, still do not, have the same legal and political rights as men. They are often treated either like children or like property, and even today, still under the control of their fathers and husbands.
Not only cultures but religions justify the oppression of women by attributing sexual power to them. In order for men to maintain their own purity and power, they require women to cover their bodies and faces. Even women’s reproductive functions, including childbirth, breastfeeding, and menstruation, are seen as disgusting.
And that’s where we find Bathsheba. She had been in isolation because of her culture’s belief about the menstrual cycle and was purifying herself from her “monthly uncleanness.” In those days, indoor plumbing and bathtubs didn’t exist. Archeological evidence suggests that bathing was done by pouring water over the body, something that could have been done in the confines of a private home. So no, Bathsheba was not on a rooftop bathing. But if you don’t believe me, read the Bible. It says that David got up from bed and walked around on the roof of the palace (2 Sam. 11:2). From there, he could have easily seen Bathsheba bathing. And before you argue that she was bathing in a place where she could easily be seen, the Bible doesn’t say whether she bathed in a courtyard, near a window, or on a rooftop. So regardless of where she was bathing, she would have been in her right because all of the men were supposed to be off at war but we’ll discuss that a little later.
Let me be clear: where Bathsheba bathed was not the sin.
If Bathsheba’s intention was to entice David, the Bible would have said so. Its stories always made the characters’ intentions very clear. For example, when Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph, Genesis 39:6-7 reads: “Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while, his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’”. No ambiguity there. It also makes it clear when Lot’s daughters got their father drunk so they could sleep with him in order to carry on their family line (Genesis 20:30-38). When Tamar dressed as a prostitute and sat on the side of the road to force her father-in-law to fulfill her rights under levirate law, the Bible doesn’t leave any doubt about what she was doing (Genesis 38:13-19). If Bathsheba had deliberately been trying to seduce David, the text would have said so.
Still, we only learn about Bathsheba indirectly, through the optics of the men in her life. She has no dialogue throughout the entire ordeal. While I first thought this was to indicate her weakness, there could possibly be another reason for this. Men controlled the reputation of women and determined whether they lived or died. John 8:3 tells of a woman who was sentenced to be stoned after being caught in the act of adultery so it would be logical to conclude that the opinions of the men in her life were a testimony to her character.
Bathsheba’s grandfather, Ahithophel, was the chief counselor of David and ranked even above the priests Abiathar and Jehoiada (1 Chron. 27:33, 34).
When Absalom rebelled against his father, King David, Ahithophel switched sides and became Absalom’s counselor, giving him two pieces of strategic advice, his advice being like an oracle from God (2 Sam. 16:23). The first was to publicly take possession of the king’s harem and by doing this, he would show himself to be mightier than the king (2 Sam. 16:21, 22). His second piece of advice was to immediately pursue David and kill him while he was in flight from Absalom (2 Sam. 17:1, 2).
The Bible never have an explanation as to why Ahithophel advised Absalom to take David’s harem, but one possible motive is obvious. As the patriarch of Bathsheba’s family, he must have felt shamed and betrayed by David when he took his granddaughter, another man’s wife, as his own. He may have even felt justified in light of Nathan’s prophecy that this would happen (2 Sam. 12:11).
The father of Bathsheba was Eliam (2 Sam. 11:3), also known as Ammiel (1 Chron. 3:5). He was ranked as one of the thirty-seven " mighty men of David" (2 Sam. 23:4) and would have been a frequent guest at the palace. Other than these relationships, we know little of him except for the fact that he had a daughter and gave her a name.
Bathsheba’s birth name was Bathshua (1 Chron. 3:5) which meant "daughter of my prosperity." It was later changed to Bathsheba, which meant “daughter of an oath" and is often used of the oath-bound covenant made with Abraham.
The name change noted progress in her father’s spiritual growth and his appreciation of her. While he first names her due to his own prominence and prosperous position, his values change and he honors her by calling her the "daughter of the oath" or "daughter of the oath-bound covenant."
First Husband, Uriah
Uriah is described in the Bible as loyal and one of David’s best soldiers. Like his father-in-law, he was also one of David’s "mighty men" (2 Sam. 23:39).
When David learned Bathsheba was pregnant, he attempted to cover it by encouraging Uriah to sleep with her. If Uriah had slept with his wife during that time, there was greater possibility that he would think the child was his own. But Uriah, displaying more character and honor than David, refused to do so; tradition was that soldiers did not sleep with their wives during a war. David’s next move was to invite him to eat and drink until he was drunk, hoping he would go home and sleep with his wife. But instead of lying down at home, Uriah stayed with the men of the army (2 Sam. 11:13). David’s final attempt to cover his sin was to have Uriah murdered (2 Sam. 11:15).
Bathsheba mourned the death of her husband (2 Sam. 11:26). Nowhere in the Bible does it mention his distrust or lack of love for Bathsheba. If she was a dishonorable woman, it would have been mentioned by him.
Second Husband, David
It’s customary for men in power to have their own way and exclude themselves from the law. According to scripture, King David had become accustomed to the perks of his position and had multiplied wives and concubines unto himself (2 Sam. 5:13). If you recall, the Bible also told us that at "the time when kings went out to battle" that "David tarried at Jerusalem" (2 Sam. 11:1). In this chapter, we find him rising from his bed "at eventide," a time when others are only beginning to think about retiring to their beds, suggesting he had spent some time in the afternoon at ease. These are all suggestive of a natural moral laxity that comes with prosperity and position.
After Uriah's death, David took Bathsheba as his legitimate wife and she and David had the son that was entitled to be in the messianic line. We don’t learn anything more about their marriage, her true feelings for him, nor his true feelings for her. We do know that he comforted her twice - upon the death of Uriah (2 Sam. 12:24) and the death of their infant son (2 Sam. 11:17). When she went to him upon the advice of Nathan the prophet, he listened and kept his word, naming Solomon king over his eldest son (1 Kings 1:29-30).
Bathsheba had been one of King David’s many wives, but in this act, he appoints her Queen Mother, a decision he made without hesitation or thought. If she was indeed a manipulator and temptress, I doubt Nathan would have urged her to go to David and David would not have honored the oath he swore to her.
Her Son, Solomon
Bathsheba’s first son, the one conceived out of wedlock with David, died (2 Sam. 12:19). David comforted her and they conceived another son (2 Sam. 12:24) and he, like his mother, was awarded two names. But both of his names were given at birth—one by David and the other by the prophet Nathan. Nathan named him Jedidiah, meaning "beloved of Jehovah," though some commentators take it as "pardoned by Jehovah" (2 Sam. 12:25). David named him Solomon (v. 24), meaning "peaceful." The two names taken together present a beautiful thought—"I have peace because I am still beloved and have received pardon for my sins."
God moved David to crown Solomon king and the nation of Israel thrived under his leadership. Solomon’s wisdom is noted in his writings as he is the author of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon where he mentions his mother fondly: she crowned him with a wedding crown (Song 3:11).
Solomon also wrote some of the material in the book of Proverbs. From a couple of these proverbs, it’s obvious that he respected the teaching of his mother (Prov. 1:8-9; 6:20 cf. Prov. 31:1ff). “Mother” is mentioned fifteen times and always with some sense that mothers deserve respect and should be spared the dishonor and grief caused by foolish children.
The first verse of Proverbs 31 says this chapter is “the prophecy that his mother taught him” which means that Bathsheba is the author and Solomon is the scribe. Through the writings, it’s obvious that Bathsheba taught her son what godly womanhood looks like, and resultantly, the chapter has been standard on which all Christian womanhood has been held. Bathsheba set this standard. If she had been a hypocrite, it would seem unlikely that her son would be so careful to preserve her teachings or have so much admiration and respect for her.
(God isn't man but to maintain order, I've listed Him here.)
Not once did God blame Bathsheba for what happened. Nathan the prophet was aware of David's transgressions, listed them, and blamed him for it. Afterward, David admits that he sinned against the Lord and Nathan lets him know that the Lord has taken away the sin but the son he bore with Bathsheba must die (2 Sam. 12:13).
This brings up another point: during David's confession, he never blamed Bathsheba either. Even with all of King David's transgressions, he never once argued, "she should not have been bathing where she was" or "she knew what was up when I sent for her."
The depiction of Bathsheba was one of virtue throughout the entire Bible which means that the story of Bathsheba was never a lesson in women’s purity. It was a warning to men about their inappropriateness and lust. Because Bathsheba was simply a victim, a vessel, the focus of this story should be about the transgressions and temptations of men and living an opulent lifestyle.