2 Samuel 11-12: David and Bathsheba

Bathsheba was a young woman just trying to stay clean, when David's wandering eyes got both of them into trouble. The hidden lesson in this passage confronts the double standard for men and women concerning sex.


Bathsheba was a young woman just trying to stay clean, when David's wandering eyes got both of them into trouble. The hidden lesson in this passage confronts the double standard for men and women concerning sex.

Peeping Tom?

We all know that David first sees Bathsheba when she is bathing. What we don't know is why David saw Bathsheba bathing. The narrative tells us that David arose, went to the roof, and saw a beautiful woman bathing. It doesn't seem that David went to the roof with the intention of spying on unsuspecting women, nor does it seem that Bathsheba was bathing in plain sight for all to see with the intention of luring in a man.

The same way we credit God for putting us in the right place at the right time, sometimes the devil lures us to the wrong place and the wrong time. Think about it, if David had gone to his roof 30 minutes earlier or later, he may have never seen Bathsheba or only saw her clothed and never thought twice about her. Instead, David finds himself so captivated by her that he has to inquire about who she is from his servants.

One question I had after reading these verses, was the manner in which David inquired of her identity. Unless she had distinguishing features or was so exceedingly beautiful everyone knew her, I'm not sure how David could ask about her without pointing her out. The most logical explanation is that David saw her (clothed) in the city some time after and asked about her.

The main reason it confuses me, is because if David could identify the owner of the house to inquire of a beautiful woman living there, he would have likely known that she was married, too...

David's Sins

We often focus on the adultery committed by David and Bathsheba, but David commits two sins over Bathsheba. Both sins are against the 10 Commandments, not just the ordinances, and one actually leads to another. When you're little, people say "little white lies" become big lies, because you have to keep lying to keep up with the first. The same is true of sin; often you have to sin again to cover the first sin. It always better to just confess the sin and left God be the judge.


a photographer's imagination on what Bathsheba may have looked liked
(there is no Biblical description of Bathsheba, except that she's pretty)
Photocredit: Noire3000 Studios/James C. Lewis
David learns from one of his servants that the woman he has been watching is Bathsheba. She is the wife of a high ranking soldier known as Uriah the Hittite. At the time, Uriah was away in battle.

It isn't clear whether Uriah's rank would have made him close enough to the king that David might have paused at the name. Regardless, the knowledge that she was a married woman should have been a massive, red, stop sign for David. The proper thing to do would have been to put all thoughts of her out of his mind. Knowing that David had plenty of wives as it was, I don't think this is such an unreasonable task.

Instead of entertaining himself with his own wives, David boldly seeks out Bathsheba. He doesn't beat around the bush the way things like this unfold in romance novels or on TV. There isn't an extended period where he subtly grows closer and closer to her until they "accidentally" fall in love, or a lavish outpouring of gifts and wealth to win her affection. David jumps straight to the point; he commands his men to bring her to him and proceeds to sleep with her.

Punishment for adultery was death, by Israelite law. Of course, the command condemning David to death would have had to come from himself or the priest. David wouldn't have commanded his own death, and Abiathar, the priest, was loyal to David. As king, he might have gotten away with the act in the eyes of man, but the fruit of David's sin was a pregnancy. With Uriah off fighting in battles, a pregnant Bathsheba was bound to draw attention.


When David hears the news of Bathsheba's pregnancy, he sends for her husband. He asks Uriah for a report on Joab and the war, but his real purpose is to give Uriah the chance to sleep with Bathsheba. This would make it appear as though the baby belonged to Uriah. Setting up this plan, David excuses Uriah to go home, but Uriah sleeps at the door of the kings house instead. Uriah's reason for not returning to his home is quite honorable. He asserts that since his brethren are on the battle field living in tents, it would be unfair for him to go home and enjoy the perks of normalcy.

David asks Uriah to stay one more day, to which he obliges. This time, David gets Uriah drunk. Likely, he expected the alcohol to change Uriah's resolve, however it does not. Unable to achieve his goal, David goes to Plan B (or maybe this would be Plan C and getting Uriah drunk was Plan B, but I digress).

David's next plan proves that once we sin, we enter a slippery slope of sin if we don't simply confess and repent. David could have repented and let God handle the situation, but he takes it in to his own hands trying to cover it up, only to make matters worse.

David sends a note to Joab by the hands of Uriah. The note commands Joab to put Uriah on the front line to die. Obviously Uriah was an upright man because he did not peep at the note—presumably he would not have knowingly delivered a message for his own murder. Joab complies with David's command and Uriah dies.

Joab sends a message to David about the tidings of the war, explaining their loss at this battle. Joab tells the messenger if David becomes angry that they lost, tell him Uriah is dead. David encourages the messengers and sends word for the army to grow in strength, an indication that he is not mad but also a coded message to Joab that he is pleased.
When Bathseba hears the news of her husband's death she mourns him. David allows her to mourn, but when she has finished mourning, he brings her to his home to be his wife. To the human eye, everything probably seemed fine—Joab probably assumed David's order to have Uriah killed was based on something he did/said during their meeting. However, God was displeased with David's behavior.

Double Standards

An interesting observation about David's encounter with Bathsheba is that her side of the story is completely missing. We aren't told if she eagerly hopped into bed with David, did so after a bit of sweet talk, was coerced, or was flat out assaulted. Given the nature of David and the omission of details, I think its safe to say David didn't force Bathsheba to have sex—there are several passages in the Bible where rapes are made clear, so I believe we would have been told this was part of why God was angry with David, if it was the case.

The other 3 possibilities are all quite plausible, however. Bathsheba might have been flattered to be asked to sleep with the king. Sadly, I have seen many women on social media make the claim that they would happily sleep with President Obama if they had the chance, despite the knowledge that President Obama is married (and happily at that!). Power can be attractive and some women will sacrifice their morals for a chance at power. Bathsheba may or may not have been plotting to gain access to the throne, but it is her son that will crowned king after David, so that's definitely a possibility. There's also the fact that David was supposed to be quite the looker; maybe she was equally smitten. Again, we don't know Bathsheba, so David may have had to woo her first. As a king with many wives, I'm sure David was well practiced in the wooing division. A final thought is that of coercion, which is still considered rape in our culture today, but wouldn't have been considered rape back then. David was the king and refusal of a king could mean death. Bathsheba may have agreed simply because she was afraid to say no.

Bathsheba may bear the pregnancy as a sign of the sin, but God gives David quite the earful about the situation. Unlike today's coverage of such drama, the author of Samuel rarely mentions Bathsheba and never places blame on her. He doesn't say she was wrong for bathing outside or suggest that whatever she wore to meet David drove him mad. The focus is on God's anger toward David for David's sin. God says he's going to take David's wives and that ruin will come to David. Bathsheba suffers the pain of losing her and David's first child, but her second child is loved by God and chosen to be Israel's next king.

This is evidence that God recognized the power play and also evidence that God didn't give David a pass for "being a man." God didn't put it on Bathsheba being naked in David's sight; He expected David to carry himself as a man of God and resist temptation. That's definitely a lesson for the 21st Century.

Full Circle

David's sin did not escape the eyes of God, and God was determined to bring David to justice. God sends the prophet Nathan to David with a parable designed to make it more obvious to David that he is in the wrong. Nathan tells David of a rich man and a poor man. The rich man has many flocks while the poor man has only one ewe. The poor man bonds with the ewe as we do today with our pets; he grows to love her as a daughter. When a traveler passes through their land, the rich man does not spare one of his own flock but takes the poor man's ewe to give the traveler.

Hearing this, David becomes angry and sentences the man to death for his selfishness. Nathan then reveals that the story is about David. God's message to Nathan condemns both David's act of adultery and murder. God asks why David has despised Him so that he would break the commandments. As punishment, God promises that evil will befall David. David's wives will be taken from him and someone else would lie with them. God reminds David that he may have sinned in secret, but God would punish him publicly. This is fulfilled by his own son, Absalom, when he rebels later in 2 Samuel.

When David finally confesses that he has sinned, Nathan points out that David is lucky God did not kill him for the sin; both murder and adultery carried the death penalty by law. Nathan also reminds him of the position he has put the kingdom in. Like with members of the church or churches as a whole, the world looks at God's people for an example. Just as the world sees "the church" as a community of hypocrites, the enemies of God now saw David committing the sins he was meant to keep others from committing. To see that God spared Him only fueled the fire of hatred they had for God. Similarly, no matter how great our faith or our destiny, we put God in a bad position when we screw up for the world to see. Instead of killing David (or Bathsheba, who as I mentioned earlier, is left out of the condemnation),it is determined that the child will have to die.

Killing the child seems harsh, because it isn't the child's fault his parents committed adultery. However, God would not reward their adulterous union with a heir to the throne. Bathsheba's second child would become the renowned king Solomon, but with the other son born first, technically Solomon would not have had the right to the throne. God could have given him the blessing, as was done with Jacob or with David, but both of those situation also caused animosity, bloodshed, and hatred. I think God wanted to spare the first child from such prospects, as well as the stigma that would have surrounded him in the community.

When the child is born, he falls ill. The first 7 days, David fasts and morns, pleading with God to keep the child alive, but on the 7th day, the child dies. Knowing that the child is dead, David moves on with his life. On lookers are confused that David mourned while the child was alive, but does the opposite now that he is dead. David explains that when the child was sick, he didn't know if God would preserve him or not, but now that the child was dead, nothing David did would bring him back. It made no sense for David to fast now.

David comforts Bathsheba and the conceive another son: Solomon. Unlike their first son who was born from sin, Solomon is loved by God.

Meanwhile, Joab continues to fight against the Ammonites. They defeat Rabbah, and place the king's crown on David's head. The remaining Ammonites become servants of Israel.


  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg 542-545. 2014

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