If you haven’t taken a close look at the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, my headline might seem shocking, maybe even blasphemous. However, she is listed, not by name, but simply as Solomon’s mother, “…the wife of Uriah.” And, at least to me, Bathsheba’s story is one of the greatest accounts of God’s grace and redemption in the entire Bible.
Bathsheba came to my attention as I was trying to come up with a subject for this week’s column. My sister mentioned that my home church’s (First of Potosi, Mo) pastor and his wife had written a Christmas program that features the stories of the five women listed in the Matthew genealogy. She suggested that I might find some inspiration by revisiting the stories of these women.
I got more than I bargained for. The stories of Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba and Mary are, without exaggeration, amazing ― especially because they each played a role in the eventual coming of the Messiah.
But for some reason ― perhaps because somebody out there needs to read this ― I felt drawn to write specifically about Bathsheba.
I know there are many opinions on Bathsheba, but I am convinced that she was a true victim, not a manipulative woman of the night.
The text in II Samuel 11 implies that the bathing Bathsheba was doing at the time she was seen by David was the mikveh, the ritual washing required after a woman’s menstrual cycle. This bath couldn’t have been performed just anywhere as the pool required had to be of at least a certain size and contain a certain amount of water from a purely natural source.
David was supposed to be away at battle, but he wasn’t where he should have been. As a matter of common courtesy, David knew that this time of day was when the ritual was performed, and he should have not been strolling about his rooftop, looking down into the private courtyards of his subjects. (We know that David was on his roof. Given the requirements of the mikveh, Bathsheba was likely not on hers.) Given that the king was probably presumed to be at battle by the people, there was probably no reason for Bathsheba to think she would be spied upon from the royal palace.
We also find no condemnation of Bathsheba in the text. The prophet Nathan’s metaphoric commentary of the situation compares what David did to stealing a precious lamb from a man. We also know that Bathsheba mourns over her husband’s death. For those who think she could have said, “no,” to David; she couldn’t. He was king. She was summoned. I believe the text shows that Bathsheba was raped. You probably know what happened shortly after.
Rape. Murder. The death of a child. This is basically as bad as it gets. Why would I write about these things so near to Christmas?
Redemption. Forgiveness. The birth of another child. Those things eventually came from the marriage (what other choice would Bathsheba and David have?) of the adulterous king and his object of lust. David had several wives. God could have continued the Messianic line through any of them. Why did God choose to use Bathsheba to bring about Solomon and eventually Jesus?
You see, God is in the redeeming business; meaning, He doesn’t do His work in spite of evil, He does His work through evil. God did not desire that David take the wife of Uriah, but God was able to work through that evil action by renewing David’s heart, doing an amazing work of forgiveness in Bathsheba’s. What began as an unholy union became intwined with the story of our salvation. In fact, the relationship between David and Bathsheba must have been amazingly repaired. Solomon was not the oldest son, but David promised Bathsheba he would be king. Bathsheba trusted David’s promise enough to take action and ask David to appoint Solomon king before Adonijah, another son of David, could take the throne behind David’s back. Had she failed, she would have been killed by Adonijah for treason.
When tragedy strikes, we often say, with a complete lack of conviction, that God “is working all things for the good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” But some things are so bad, we really don’t expect anything big. Maybe the family will “come together” and get along at the death of a loved one, but sometimes I wonder at just how huge God’s plans really are even if we can’t see them. After all, Jesus didn’t come until about 1,000 years after David. While nothing can match the coming of the Savior, and we might not find comfort in thinking that perhaps our tragedies might bring something good 1,000 years from now; we can still look at Bathsheba’s life with hope for our own.
This woman was as wronged as any could be. Yet God worked miraculously through her.
Have you been wronged? Are you hurting in a way that you don’t see any possible redemption? You might be right, and in no way would I ever trivialize the suffering that goes on in this world. But don’t lose hope, because God isn’t interested in what seems possible, He is very happy to do what is impossible.