2 Samuel 11:1-15 is in the lectionary this week. The story of David and Bathsheba has been twisted and turned over the centuries, and I’ve struggled with it myself. Many see Bathsheba as a villainess who lured King David into a compromising situation. My early experiences with the church and my father’s opinion of women caused me to see David as an innocent victim seduced by a woman. My father had a famous saying he loved to repeat, “Water is the second most destructive force on earth.”
That begged the question, “What’s the first?”
He would smile and say, “Women!!”
My opinion of myself, and of women in general, was forged by my father’s opinions. I saw myself through his eyes for decades, but I’ve since learned to look through the lenses of my Father’s eyes to see the real me. Friends who see me as He does help with that process.
Six years ago, I was sitting in a Wednesday evening church service broken and confused. When I realized the topic for the evening’s Bible study was David and Bathsheba, my heart sank. I braced myself to hear the familiar tale of David’s demise caused by a wanton woman, but what I heard was something completely unexpected. There was something different about this message. I heard love in the story, and I didn’t hear the usual blame and judgment.
I listened intently as the familiar story was told honestly without vilifying or victimizing Bathsheba or David. I never realized Bathsheba was going through a purification ritual required of all women when their monthly menstrual cycle ended. Perhaps that aspect of the story was left out because it was deemed too sensitive for Sunday school or perhaps it didn’t fit the more convenient version. 2 Samuel 11:2-5 explains:
One late afternoon, David got up from taking his nap and was strolling on the roof of the palace. From his vantage point on the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was stunningly beautiful. David sent to ask about her, and was told, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent his agents to get her. After she arrived, he went to bed with her. (This occurred during the time of “purification” following her period.) Then she returned home. Before long she realized she was pregnant. (The Message)
I remember feeling my heart relax as I listened to the story unfold. Some folks were not comfortable with this new version. An angry woman to my left barked, “She liked the attention!!”
A lady on my right saw David as the villain and said, “He was the king! She couldn’t say no!!”
I sat still in the middle and listened. God used that moment to remind me that His Word must pass through the filter of my heart. What I hear depends upon how much fear is in my filter. How close am I to the subject at hand? What’s going on in my own life that relates to the verses before me? How open am I to hear the truth? The scriptures came to life in a beautiful way that evening as I forgot about my fears for a moment and listened with an open heart.
I’ve set myself up as a victim many times during my journey because it’s a comfortable position that causes others to sympathize with and protect me. Attention is addictive, and being a victim is the surest way to get a fix.That isn’t what God wants for me. Hearing the story of David and Bathsheba in a new light made me see my own story in a new light. Only God knows what happened on that rooftop, and only God knows what is going on in my own heart. There is great tragedy in the story of David and Bathsheba, but there is also hope. God chose their son Solomon to do great things, and Christ’s own lineage traces back to David and Bathsheba. God will, indeed, use all things for my good if I yield to Him.
I imagine folks will always vilify Bathsheba. I recently heard a woman speaker make fun of a girl named Bathsheba during her message. She made the remark, “Who would name their daughter Bathsheba!!??”I sighed and thought it was no wonder women are seen as they are when even women perpetuate myths that cement negative thoughts and lay a false foundation beneath God’s precious Word. It is frustrating and heart-breaking to hear.
There have been many attempts to capture Bathsheba’s image over the years. Most show her as a seductive nude reclining on a bed. I prefer this one from the History Channel because it shows the restoration God made possible. Bathsheba was the love of David’s life, and their son went on to be a great king. David, Bathsheba, and Solomon were not perfect, but they loved God. Instead of making villains or victims out of them to suit our own hearts, I think it’s best to see the story as an example of God’s ability to restore in any circumstance. I think that’s the point of the story.