Victim or Adulteress?

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

2 Samuel 11:2-4a

For context, read 2 Samuel 11 and 12

Was Bathsheba a victim or an adulteress? It isn’t easy to answer this question because we are not given Bathsheba’s perspective in this account. Over the years, pastors and commentators have made assumptions as to Bathsheba’s guilt or innocence but the reality is that we just don’t know. Here is what we do know concerning David and Bathsheba.

First, David was supposed to be away at war. Verse 1 emphasizes that it was “in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle” but David did not go. Because David was home instead of at war, he saw Bathsheba bathing when he was on the roof of the palace. I have heard the fact that she was bathing on her roof used as evidence that she was a temptress. But we do not have proof of her intentions. Did she know the king was home from war? Did she know that he could see her from the roof? Was she intentionally trying to get his attention? We just don’t know that information. The fact is she was bathing and David saw her. He is not at fault for accidentally catching her bathing. But he is at fault for looking again instead of running from temptation.

After a second look, he inquired about her. What he found out should have stopped him in his tracks. She was a married woman. What’s more, she was married to Uriah, one of David’s 30 mighty men. She was also the daughter of Eliam, meaning her grandfather was likely Ahithophel, David’s most trusted advisor. Despite this information, he still sent for her.

Many translations say that “David sent messengers and took her.” This implies that she was taken by force. But it goes on to say, “she went with them” or “she came to him”. There is no mention of a struggle. We simply do not know from the text whether or not she was a willing participant in adultery or if she was wrongly taken and essentially raped. She likely would have felt intense pressure to comply given that she was being summoned by the king. Refusing the king could have meant serious consequences, even death. But the Bible is clear that we are to obey God, not man, and adultery is wrong in God’s eyes. There are many accounts of men and women who disobey kings and those in authority in order to obey God. Could she have refused David and been kept safe by God as a blessing for her obedience? Possibly. But we’ll never know because she didn’t. She slept with David and she became pregnant.

In a cover up attempt, David summoned her husband to get him to go home and sleep with his wife. But Uriah was too loyal to his fellow men and wouldn’t indulge in that when his comrades were separated from their wives and sleeping in tents. Even after David got him drunk, he still held to his principles. So, David resorted to murder. He gave orders to send him to the front lines and then have everyone else fall back so that Uriah would be overcome by the enemy. It worked. Uriah was killed in action and Bathsheba mourned for him. But when the period of mourning was over, David took her as his wife.

2 Samuel 11:27 says that what David did “was evil in the sight of the LORD”. He sent Nathan to rebuke him. Nathan tells David a story of 2 men, one rich and one poor. One had many flocks, but the poor man had only one little ewe lamb. The rich man ends up taking the poor man’s lamb to prepare for a traveler who had come by instead of taking from his own flock. David was so upset at the rich man for taking the only sheep the poor man had. He didn’t see himself in the situation until Nathan said, “You are the man!”

We don’t have to know Bathsheba’s level of participation in order to grasp the message of the story. The WORD about women in the story of Bathsheba is that God intended marriage to be between one woman and one man and for sex to remain in the boundaries of marriage. Whether she was a victim of rape or a willing participant in adultery, we can clearly see that what occurred was not what the LORD had intended for a sexual relationship. Sisters, Bathsheba’s story is both a warning and a comfort. God cares when a marriage has been defiled. We need to heed Hebrews 13:4 and keep the marriage bed holy and undefiled. But if you have been sexually abused and wrongfully taken, take comfort in knowing that God sees your pain and He is not pleased that this was done to you.

Reflect
Put yourself in Bathsheba’s shoes. What might she have been feeling as she was summoned by the king to be his lover, she became pregnant with his baby, he killed her husband, and then she became his wife?

Pray
God, it is comforting to know that You care when a marriage has been defiled. May I always regard marriage as holy and a gift from You. Amen.

We look forward to your comments and questions below!

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