Bathsheba the Exploited

December 22, 2022

Christmas is almost here! So forgive me for talking about a very un-Christmassy topic.

Every couple of years, a debate breaks out on Christian Twitter on whether Bathsheba was a seductress or a victim.

"Wait a second, Erin. Bath-what? Who or what are we talking about?"

Meet Bathsheba

Bathsheba is mentioned in Matthew 1:6 as "the wife of Uriah," making her the fourth and final "grandma" of Jesus mentioned in Matthew's Begats. She is "famous" for being the woman with whom David, Israel's king, had a one-night stand while Uriah, one of David's most loyal soldiers, was away at war fighting for the country. (You can read this story in 2 Samuel 11.)

The reason a debate rages every so often about Bathsheba is that our modern sensibilities have questions due to some vagueness by the author of 2 Samuel. For instance...

  • Was Bathsheba bathing on a roof in verse 3, or is it David alone on the roof of the palace looking down through a window into Uriah's home?
  • If Bathsheba is truly taking a sponge bath on the roof of her house, why is she bathing there?
    • Is it to be in a location where anyone on the ground will be unable to see her (therefore being discrete),
    • Or was she intentionally hoping to catch the eye of the king (and therefore truly a seductress)?
  • If Bathsheba wasn't a seductress, does this make her a victim of rape? Or was she a willing participant in the adultery?
  • And if Bathsheba is a victim, then why does Matthew omit her name, only referring to her as the wife of her first husband? Shouldn't she be honored with the use of her name like Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth?

I do not intend to settle this argument definitively for all time. But I will give you my opinion (and it is just that - an opinion). Hopefully, that will help you understand what I want you to see today as we wrap up this series.

"Taken Advantage Of"

I see Bathsheba more on the "victim" side of this argument for a couple different reasons:

  1. The stories of the other "grandmas" reveal women who wanted justice, to do right, and sought the Lord. For Bathsheba to be mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus at all (albeit not by name) makes me see her in a similar light as Tamar, Rahab, and Ruth. They may not have the type of godly résumé you might expect for an ancestor of the great Messiah, yet God saw their hearts and circumstances, delighting to let them be part of the greatest story ever lived.
  2. The author who recorded this historical happening didn't seem to pass judgment upon Bathsheba, yet he clearly passed judgment on David. David was Israel's greatest king, yet this unknown author had no qualms about calling David's sin what it was. Yet the wording surrounding Bathsheba in the passage doesn't seem to paint her in a similar light.
  3. Bathsheba's husband is referred to as an upright man. While it is quite possible for a man of integrity to have a wife who lacks the same character, typically a man of Uriah's quality would look for a wife with similar values.
  4. And lastly, when the prophet Nathan used a story about sheep to drive home the grievousness of David's sin, the lamb stolen and killed is referred to in terms of affection and innocence. If Bathsheba is as guilty as some biblical commentators make her out to be, I suspect Nathan's parable from God would have been a bit different to David.

"Well, Erin, if you are right and Bathsheba is so 'innocent', why didn't she turn down the King's advances?"

Maybe she tried, and it truly was rape (however the text doesn't indicate it was rape, like it does with Amnon's rape of his half-sister, Tamar, in 2 Samuel 13). But most likely, while she may have had a bit of fear, this was her king, to whom she was expected to honor and obey in all things. And so she gave in to her king's advances, despite the reactions raging in her heart and head.

Bathsheba The Exploited • Riverwood Church

If I am right, then Bathsheba was used. As king, David had a few wives already, yet rather than call for one of his own wives to come spend the night with him, he used Uriah's wife for his own pleasure. He didn't love her. He only wanted what he could get from her for one night. She was taken advantage of by a king who should have been out with his army.

Have you ever felt taken advantage of? Felt like you were only a means to an end, a project to be completed, or just a "thing" to be exploited? You probably felt worthless, unloved, or possibly even less than human.

I recall Christmas break during my fourth-grade year; a classmate called one Saturday inviting me to go sledding. I was shocked that this super-popular kid wanted to go sledding with me! So when he asked if my mom could pick him up, I didn't think anything of it and said, "Of course!" But as soon as we got to the sledding hill, my "friend" took off and spent the whole afternoon with another classmate, while I only had my little brother to sled with. And when my mom came to pick us all up, my "friend" said our classmate had already agreed to give him a ride home.

That's a very minor example, but my fourth-grade heart sure was hurt. I felt (once again) like I didn't matter. I was simply used as a means to an end.

If you've ever felt that way, or even feel that way right now, know this: God will not "use" you like that. You are not a means to an end to then be discarded when a better opportunity comes along. God is more faithful than the world's greatest husband. He is more reliable than the sunrise. He will never treat you like David did Bathsheba. Rather, He wants to invite you to be part of His family through His Son, and let you be part of the greatest story ever lived.

So this Christmas, may you realize that Jesus came for the exploited, to redeem your story, and call you into something greater.

Erin Bird Lead Pastor - Riverwood Church

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