|Queen consort of Israel|
|Spouse||Uriah the Hittite|
|Issue||Unnamed son |
|House||House of David|
Bathsheba[a] was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, according to the Hebrew Bible. She is most known for the biblical narrative in which she was summoned by King David, who had seen her bathing and lusted after her. She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Queen mother.
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (2 Samuel 11:3, Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5). An Eliam is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34 as the son of Ahithophel, who is described as the Gilonite. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
David's first interactions with Bathsheba are described in 2 Samuel 11, and are omitted in the Books of Chronicles. David, while walking on the roof of his palace, saw a very beautiful woman bathing. He ordered enquiries and found out that she was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah. He desired her and later made her pregnant.
In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hope that Uriah would have sex with her and think that the child belonged to him. But Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service. Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.
After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to have sex with Bathsheba the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be placed on the front lines of the battle, where Uriah would be more likely to die. David had Uriah himself carry the message that led to his death. After Uriah had been killed, David married Bathsheba.
David's action was displeasing to the Lord, who 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 first child by David was struck with a severe illness and died, unnamed, a few days after birth, which the king accepted as his punishment. Nathan also noted that David's house would be punished for Uriah's murder.
Bathsheba later gave birth to David's son Solomon. In David's old age, Bathsheba, based on David's promise, secured the succession to the throne by Solomon, instead of David's elder surviving sons by his other wives, such as Chileab (2 Samuel 3:1–6), Adonijah (1 Kings 1:11–31) and others (2 Samuel 3:1–6). David's punishment 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 sexual intercourse in public with ten of his father's concubines, which could be considered a direct, tenfold divine retribution for David's taking the woman of another man in secret (2 Samuel 16:20–23).
John Gill mentions that in Rabbinic literature Bathsheba is supposed to have been the granddaughter of Ahitophel. The argument is that she is called the daughter of Eliam in 2 Sam. 11:3, and 2 Sam 23:34 mentions an Eliam, the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, one of David's "thirty". The assumption is then that these two Eliams are the same person.
However in 1 Chronicles the names are very different: Bathsheba is called Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5. And in the list of David's thirty in 1 Chronicles 11:36 we have Ahijah the Pelonite. Some have also questioned whether Ahithophel would have been old enough to have a granddaughter.
Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor. The Aggadah states that Ahithophel was misled by his knowledge of astrology into believing himself destined to become king of Israel. He therefore induced Absalom to commit an unpardonable crime (2 Sam. 16:21), which sooner or later would have brought with it, according to Jewish law, the penalty of death; the motive for this advice being to remove Absalom, and thus to make a way for himself to the throne. His astrological information had been, however, misunderstood by him; for in reality it only predicted that his granddaughter, Bathsheba, the daughter of his son Eliam, would become queen (Sanh. 101b, YalḲ. Sam. § 150).
The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bathsheba was bathing, perhaps behind a screen of wickerwork. Satan is depicted as coming in the disguise of a bird. David, shooting at the bird, strikes the screen, splitting it; thus Bathsheba is revealed in her beauty to David (Sanhedrin 107a).
In medieval typology, Bathsheba is recognized as the antetype foreshadowing the role of Ecclesia, the church personified, as David was the antetype for Jesus. As a queen and mother, she was also associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Bathsheba's son, King Solomon, rises to greet her, bows down in veneration, and furnishes her a seat at his right hand. This demonstrates her exalted status and share in the royal kingdom. Bathsheba acts as intercessor for her subjects, delivering their petitions to the King: "Pray ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife".
When Jesus founds the Church, he maintains continuity with his hereditary House of David: Mary, who is mother of Christ the King, is accorded the highly-favored status in Catholicism as the Queen Mother in the Kingdom of God, and continues to intercede on behalf of the faithful who pray to her.
In Islam David is considered to be a prophet, and some Islamic tradition views the Bible story as incompatible with the principle of infallibility (Ismah) of the prophets. A hadith quoted in Tafsir al-Kabir and Majma' al-Bayan expresses that Ali bin Abi Talib said: "Whoever says that David, has married Uriah's wife as the legends are narrate, I will punish him twice: one for qazf (falsely accusing someone of adultery) and the other for desecrating the prophethood (defamation of prophet David)".
Another hadith narrated from Shia scholars states that Ali Al-Ridha, during the discussions with the scholars of other religions about prophets' infallibility, asked one of them, "What do you say about David?" he said "David was praying, when a beautiful bird appeared in front of him, and David left his prayer and went after the bird. While David was walking on the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba having a bath... so David placed her husband in the front lines of the battlefield, in order to get killed, so that he could marry Bathsheba." Ali Al-Ridha got upset and said: "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un, you assign sluggishness in prayer to the prophet of God, and then accuse him of unchastity, and then charge him with the murder of an innocent man!" He asked "so what is the story of Uriah?" and Ali Al-Ridha said "At that time, women whose husbands passed away or got killed in the war would never get married again (and this was the source of many evils). David was the first person to break this tradition. So after Uriah was incidentally killed in the war, David married his wife, but people could hardly accept this anomalous marriage (and subsequently legends were made about this marriage.)
Bathsheba's name appears in 1 Chronicles 3:5 spelled "Bath-shua", the form becomes merely a variant reading of "Bath-sheba". The passages in which Bath-sheba is mentioned are 2 Samuel 11:2–12:24, and 1 Kings 1:2—both of which are parts of the oldest stratum of the books of Samuel and Kings, part of that court history of David, written by someone who stood very near the events and who did not idealize David. The material contained in it is of higher historical value than that in the later strata of these books. Budde later connected it with the Jahwist document of the Hexateuch.
The only interpolations that concern the story of Bathsheba are some verses in the early part of the twelfth chapter, that heighten the moral tone of Nathan's rebuke of David. According to Karl Budde the interpolated portion is 12: 7, 8, and 10–12; according to Friedrich Schwally and H. P. Smith, the whole of 12: 1–15a is an interpolation, and 12:. 15b should be joined directly to 11: 27. This does not directly affect the narrative concerning Bathsheba herself. 1 Chronicles omits all reference to the way in which Bathsheba became David's wife, and gives only the names of her children in 1 Chronicles 3:5 -- Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.
The father of Bathsheba was Eliam ("Ammiel" in 1 Chronicles 3:5). As this was also the name of a son of Ahithophel, one of David's heroes (2 Samuel 23:34), perhaps Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahithophel and that the latter's desertion of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion was in revenge for David's conduct toward Bathsheba.
Kenneth E. Bailey interprets the passage from a different perspective: he says that David's Jerusalem was tightly packed and Bathsheba's house may have been as close as twenty feet away from David's rooftop; people in ancient times were exceptionally modest about their bodies, so he suggests that Bathsheba displayed herself deliberately, so that instead of being an innocent victim, it was actually she who seduced David in order to rid herself of Uriah, and move in with King David.
David summoned Bathsheba for sex. Lawrence O. Richards states that the biblical text supports the innocence of Bathsheba, that David took the initiative to find out her identity and summon her, and that she was alone at the time and had no way to refuse the requests of a King. David J. Zucker writes that "[s]he is a victim of 'power rape'". Andrew J. Schmutzer stated that "David's 'taking' Bathsheba makes him responsible for her coming to him." Antony F. Campbell states "The 'violation of Bathsheba' may be the least unsatisfactory terminology, especially given the ambivalence of the text's storytelling." According to Michael D. Coogan, the faulting of David is made clear in the text from the very beginning: "It was springtime, the time when kings go forth to war... but David remained in Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 11:1); if David had been away at war, the incident would not have taken place.
The Bathsheba incident leads to a shift in the book's perspective; afterwards David "is largely at the mercy of events rather than directing them". He is no longer able to control his family, and ends up being overthrown by Absalom. And in 2 Samuel 13 the story of David's son Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar, told so soon after the incident of Bathsheba, seems to draw a parallel between the sexual misconduct of father and son.
Along with Eve, Bathsheba was almost the only female whose nude depiction could easily and regularly be justified in Christian art, and she is therefore an important figure in the development of the nude in medieval art. Though sometimes shown clothed at other points in her story, the most common depiction, in both medieval and later art, was Bathsheba at her Bath, the formal name for the subject in art showing Bathsheba bathing, watched by King David. This could be shown with various degrees of nudity, depending on the pose and the placing of clothes or towels. One of the most common placements in the 15th century, perhaps surprisingly, was in miniatures illustrating a book of hours, a personal prayer book, that overtook the psalter as the most popular devotional book for laypeople. This was especially the case in France.
In art the subject is one of the most commonly shown in the Power of Women topos. As an opportunity to feature a large female nude as the focus of a history painting, the subject was popular from the Renaissance onwards. Sometimes Bathsheba's maids or the "messengers" sent by David are shown, and often a distant David watching from his roof. The messengers are sometimes confused with David himself, but most artists follow the Bible in keeping David at a distance in this episode.
Paintings with articles include:
Bathsheba has been portrayed by:
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Bathsheba.|