09 Bathsheba

 

Frymer-Kensky, Tikva   Reading the Women of the Bible: A new Interpretation of their Stories.  (Shocken Books, New York, 2002).

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Prologue   Springtime in Jerusalem    2 Samuel 11:1

1 At the turn of the year, the time when kings go to war, David sent out Joab along with his officers and all Israel, and they laid waste the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David himself remained in Jerusalem.

 

David and Bathsheba   2 Samuel 11:2-5

 

2 One evening David rose from his bed and strolled about on the roof of the king’s house. From the roof he saw a woman bathing; she was very beautiful. 3 David sent people to inquire about the woman and was told, “She is Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, and wife of Uriah the Hittite, Joab’s armor-bearer.”  4 Then David sent messengers and took her. When she came to him, he took her to bed, at a time when she was just purified after her period; and she returned to her house.  5 But the woman had become pregnant; she sent a message to inform David, “I am pregnant.”

 

Sending for Uriah  2 Samuel 11:6-9

 

6 So David sent a message to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 And when he came, David asked him how Joab was, how the army was, and how the war was going, and Uriah answered that all was well. 8 David then said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and bathe your feet.” Uriah left the king’s house, and a portion from the king’s table was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with the other officers of his lord, and did not go down to his own house.

 

A Man of Honor   2 Samuel 11:10-15

 

10 David was told, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So he said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why, then, did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah answered David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my lord Joab and my lord’s servants are encamped in the open field. Can I go home to eat and to drink and to sleep with my wife? As the LORD lives and as you live, I will do no such thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day. On the following day, 13 David summoned him, and he ate and drank with David, who got him drunk. But in the evening he went out to sleep on his bed among his lord’s servants, and did not go down to his house. 14 The next morning David wrote a letter to Joab which he sent by Uriah. 15 This is what he wrote in the letter: “Place Uriah up front, where the fighting is fierce. Then pull back and leave him to be struck down dead.”

 

Away with Uriah       2 Samuel 11:16-25

 

16 So while Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to a place where he knew the defenders were strong. 17 When the men of the city made a sortie against Joab, some officers of David’s army fell, and Uriah the Hittite also died.

 

18 Then Joab sent David a report of all the details of the battle, 19 instructing the messenger, “When you have finished giving the king all the details of the battle, 20 the king may become angry and say to you: ‘Why did you go near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall above? 21 Who killed Abimelech, son of Jerubbaal?  Was it not a woman who threw a millstone down on him from the wall above, so that he died in Thebez?  Why did you go near the wall?’  Then you in turn are to say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”  22 The messenger set out, and on his arrival he reported to David everything Joab had sent him to tell. 23 He told David: “The men had the advantage over us and came out into the open against us, but we pushed them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall above, and some of the king’s servants died; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” 25 David said to the messenger: “This is what you shall say to Joab: ‘Do not let this be a great evil in your sight, for the sword devours now here and now there.  Strengthen your attack on the city and destroy it.’ Encourage him.”

 

Bathsheba Acquired   2 Samuel 11:26-27

 

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband had died, she mourned her lord. 27 But once the mourning was over, David sent for her and brought her into his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. But in the sight of the LORD what David had done was evil.

 

The Parable    2 Samuel 12:1-7a

 

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David, and when he came to him, he said: “Tell me how you judge this case: In a certain town there were two men, one rich, the other poor. 2 The rich man had flocks and herds in great numbers. 3 But the poor man had nothing at all except one little ewe lamb that he had bought. He nourished her, and she grew up with him and his children. Of what little he had she ate; from his own cup she drank; in his bosom she slept; she was like a daughter to him. 4 Now, a visitor came to the rich man, but he spared his own flocks and herds to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him: he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the one who had come to him.” 5 David grew very angry with that man and said to Nathan: “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves death! 6 He shall make fourfold restitution for the lamb because he has done this and was unsparing.” 7 Then Nathan said to David: “You are the man!

 

The Punishment   2 Samuel 12:7b-13

 

“Thus says the LORD God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel. I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  8 I gave you your lord’s house and your lord’s wives for your own. I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were not enough, I could count up for you still more. 9 Why have you despised the LORD and done what is evil in his sight? You have cut down Uriah the Hittite with the sword; his wife you took as your own, and him you killed with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.  11 Thus says the LORD: I will bring evil upon you out of your own house. I will take your wives before your very eyes, and will give them to your neighbor: he shall lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You have acted in secret, but I will do this in the presence of all Israel, in the presence of the sun itself.”

           

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”

 

 

 

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NOTES 

Rough Timeline:

Pre-History / Myth      Adam & Eve, Noah & Flood               Gen. 1-11

2,000 BC or so             Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph           Gen. 12-50

1,200BC                       Moses, Exodus from Egypt                 Exodus

1,200 to 1,000BC        Judges (Joshua, Deborah, Samson)     Joshua, Judges

1,000 to 900BC           Saul, David, Solomon                          Kings, Chronicles, Samuel

Divided Kingdom (North and South)

727 BC  Northern Kingdom conquered by Assyrians

586 BC  Southern Kingdom conquered by Babylonians

 

Samuel, the last judge, is not able to lead the 12 tribes.   Nor is Saul, the first king.  But “three is a charm” – David is chosen to replace Saul, even while Saul is still alive and functioning.  Saul’s problem?  He is too responsive to the needs and wants of the people!

While David is better than Saul he still has to learn the limits of kingship.  He cannot do just whatever he pleases.  In particular he is not a priest for the Temple / LORD and he is not a prophet who speaks intimately with God.

 

Prologue   Springtime in Jerusalem    2 Samuel 11:1

Wars were not fought during the rainy season (chariots, mud, etc.), though sieges of cities would continue.

F-K p. 143: “Reading when the kings go out, one expects the king to go, and this provides an ironic backdrop to David on his rooftop, perhaps anticipating that he in this story will not live up to our expectations.  On the other hand kings can die on the battlefield.  Saul did, and Ahab was later wounded fatally during his attack on Rabbat-Ammon (1 Kings 22:35).”

F-K p. 144: “Whatever his reasons, David sat in Jerusalem.  We don’t know it yet (nor does David), but this is the turning point of his reign.  His defeat of the Aramean coalition was the height of his power.  Staying in Jerusalem begins his decline, and the decline of our expectations that the Davidic kingship will save Israel.”

 

 

David and Bathsheba   2 Samuel 11:2-5

F-K p. 144: “Some modern readers have been very suspicious of Bathsheba, questioning her motives for being on her roof and suggesting that she went up to entice the king.  But this suspicion is not warranted.  If she wanted to bathe, where else would she be?  It is spring, when the cisterns and water jugs on the roof stand full of the winter’s rain.  And when better to bathe but in the cool of late afternoon, after the day’s work is done?  To say that Bathsheba set out to entice the king is to say that violated women “were asking for it” because they smiled or wore tight clothes or went to a club.”

In F-K’s translation David asks others “Isn’t that Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam, wife of Uriah the Hittite?”.  In our translation David asks others who she is, and is told the answer.

F-K p. 145: “In the social order of Israel and the ancient world, adultery was a serious transgression.  Ancient texts from Ugarit and Egypt call it “the great sin,” and the law codes prescribe death for the adulterous parties.  But David is not stopped by the knowledge that Bathsheba is married, and does not leave her alone.”

Both her father and her husband are part of the inner circle of David’s advisors.

The king does not hide his interest or activities.  It is as if he is daring anyone to say or do anything to interfere.

F-K p. 147: “Menstrual impurity is regular and time-linked, and time itself, rather than water, brings an end to it.  The same is true for a woman’s impurity after childbirth.  She is to wait the appropriate period of the “blood-purification” and then bring a sacrifice and resume attending the temple (Lev. 12).  Nothing is said about bathing as a rite of purification for women.  Bathsheba’s bath on the rooftop was simply that: a bath, and probably had nothing to do with postmenstrual purification.”

F-K p. 148: “David does not send her away abruptly after he has satisfied himself.  And she does not hurry off.  …  Their affair is deliberate, measured, slow, and obvious.  And most likely, David didn’t give it another thought.  Until Bathsheba sent word that she was pregnant.”

Sending for Uriah  2 Samuel 11:6-9

F-K p. 148 “Pregnancy changes everything.  Even though people might see a woman come to the palace and stay with the king for a day, they could shrug off the evidence and go on with their lives.  A baby makes such denial impossible.  A wife’s pregnancy while her husband is gone is undeniable evidence that she has not been faithful.”

F-K p. 149: “She knows that she cannot stay silent.  As David sent for her, now she sends to him – and there by becomes like the other women who “send” in these historical books (Rahab, Deborah, Delilah, Jezebel), a player in history.”

 

F-K p. 149:

  • His return would  muddy the evidence, allow the presumption that the child was his
  • It would solidify her relationship to her husband

He had, still at that time, a life and death power within his household.  No one could have stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, none could stop Jephthah from killing his daughter.

The pregnancy puts her in danger but not David.  It “proves” she committed adultery but not that David was the specific father.

If Uriah goes home and sleeps with her – all can pretend.  If he just goes home – all can pretend.  But he refuses to go home.

He may not want to sleep with her and then go back to war un-purified.  OR someone has told him that his wife spent the day (more days?) with the king.

 

A Man of Honor   2 Samuel 11:10-15

F-K p. 151: “Uriah is a man of piety.  And a man with a strict sense of justice.  A man of principle and a man of honor.  Such a man can be dangerous.  He will not be willing to lie down and play the cuckold, even if there is no public scandal.  And just as he is unlikely to go through the motions of claiming paternity, he is unlikely to pardon Bathsheba.  He might even feel that he has to avenge himself by committing a grand crime of honor, killing Bathsheba and possibly David himself.”

Away with Uriah       2 Samuel 11:16-25

F-K p. 153: “In order to make sure that Uriah dies, Joab has to conduct the battle stupidly.  He has to “forget” that coming close to a fortified city can be dangerous, that there can be men with arrows and even women dropping millstones.  And then Joab has to cover himself by subtly reminding David that there was a reason for his strategic mistake: Uriah the Hittite also died.

How many others also died in this charade?

Bathsheba Acquired   2 Samuel 11:26-27

David’s wives to this point:

  • Ahinoam (Saul’s wife)
  • Michal (Saul’s daughter)
  • Abigail (Nabal’s wife, after he dies)
  • Bathsheba (Uriah the Hittite’s wife)

 

F-K p. 154: “There is one last ironic twist on words to end chapter 11.  David thought he had laid the matter to rest, telling Joab: Let not this matter be evil in your eyes.  But the narrator tells us, And the thing that David did was evil in the eyes of the LORD.  There is, after all, someone who can indict and convict the king.”

 

The Parable    2 Samuel 12:1-7a

F-K . 155: “Nathan specifically condemns David for the murder when he unveils the parable.  Nor does the parable ignore the murder, but our own gender stereotyping leads us astray.  Bathsheba is the poor man, the one whose husband lies in her lap and eats from her bread until David, who has many wives has him killed.  As a result, says God, the sword will not leave David’s house.”

The Punishment   2 Samuel 12:7b-13

F-K p. 155: “David took Uriah’s wife; God will give David’s wives to someone else, publicly, to dishonor him.  This is no empty threat, for when David’s son Absalom took over Jerusalem, he publicly slept with ten wife/concubines that King David had left in the city (2 Sam. 16:20-24).  Though unfair to the wives, such measure-for-measure retaliation for male misdeeds is a feature of ancient law, and the Middle Assyrian laws even call for the rape of a married rapist’s wife.”

Absalom slept with those women on the roof!

F-K p. 156: “The death sentence that David pronounced on himself (as the rich man in the parable) was commuted because of his repentance.  But there had to be some punishment.  The baby conceived in adultery died.  God visited the sin of the father on this infant, taking his life in return for the life David had caused to be taken.  This allows David to begin again.  Bathsheba bore another son for David whom he named Solomon…”

 

 

 

 

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