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Bath-sheba

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David and Bathsheba (detail), by Jan Matsys, 1562 Louvre

Bathsheba (Hebrew: בתשבע, Bathshẹḇaʻ; "Name means::daughter of an oath"), in the Hebrew Bible, was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David. She was the mother of David's sons Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.

Biblical data

In the Gospel of Matthew 1:6 she is listed as an ancestor of Jesus.

The daughter of Eliam (2_Samuel 11:3 ; also called Ammiel according to 1_Chronicles 3:5 ), who became the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and afterward of David, by whom she became the mother of Solomon. Her father is identified by some scholars with Eliam mentioned in 2_Samuel 23:34 as the son of Ahithophel. The real meaning of the Hebrew form of the name "Bathsheba" is not clear. The second part of the name appears in 1_Chronicles 3:5 as "shua" (compare Genesis 37:2 ).

The story of David's seduction of Bathsheba, told in 2_Samuel 11 : et seq., is omitted in Chronicles. The king, while walking on the roof of his house, saw Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, taking a bath. He immediately desired her. David then committed adultery with her and she conceived.

In an effort to cover up his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hopes that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba, and thus the child could be passed off as his. However, Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service (see Robertson Smith, "Religion of the Semites," pp. 455, 488). Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.

After repeated efforts to get Uriah to lie with Bathsheba, the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be abandoned during a heated battle, and left to the hands of the enemy. Ironically, David had Uriah himself unknowingly carry the message that ordered his death. After Uriah was gone, David made the now widowed Bathsheba his wife.

According to the account in Samuel, 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 (2_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 smitten with a severe illness and died at a few days old, which the king accepted as his punishment.

However, 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 sex in public with ten of his father's concubines - which could be considered a direct, tenfold Divine retribution for David's taking away the woman of another man.

In David's old age Bathsheba secures the succession of her son Solomon instead of David's eldest surviving son, Adonijah. (1_Kings 1:11-31 ).

In rabbinical literature

Sheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor.

The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bathsheba was on the roof of her house, perhaps behind a screen of wickerwork.

Satan is depicted as coming in the disguise of a bird. David, shoots at it, strikes the screen, splitting it; thus Bath-sheba is revealed in her beauty to David (Sanhedrin 107a).

Bathsheba may have been providentially destined from the Creation to become in due time the legitimate wife of David, but this relation was prematurely precipitated by David's impetuous act.

References

  • This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.