She Who Shall Not Be Named

There is no hint in the text that Bathsheba is anything other than the unwilling victim of the king’s sexual exploitation.

David has a sudden surge of sexual desire and acts on it recklessly and impulsively. Whether by strength or seduction he takes what is not his. Then the deed is over and right at this moment we can make an observation about a small detail in the text. After the text’s description of David’s deed it says, “the woman conceived.” Brueggemann points out that “David does not call her by name, does not even speak to her. At the end of the encounter she is only ‘the woman’ (v. 5).” Only “the woman”? Why?

 

You never know where your Bible study will take you. You never understand how perfectly God has woven his Word until you follow a single thread from author to author, culture to culture, millennium to millennium, and see how God’s revelation of himself and his purposes is so perfectly consistent. Recently I followed a thread that began in a New Testament epistle and then ran past ancient priests and prophets, cultures and kingdoms, until eventually it wrapped around the life of King David. And here I found something that challenged me, something that I believe can challenge you too. It is something that speaks poignantly to a situation we face here, these thousands of years later.

King David’s infamous act of adultery has long been held as a powerful case study of the nature of temptation. Through its consequences to his life, family, and kingdom, it has been held as well as a case study of the terrible ravages of sin. As each generation has grappled with the sins of its age, David’s depravity has provided new and timely lessons, new warnings, and new rebukes.

You know, I am sure, how the story unfolds. As David walks on the rooftop late one spring afternoon, he spots a woman bathing—a particularly beautiful and desirable woman. As David investigates, he learns that she is also particularly vulnerable—vulnerable because her husband is off fighting David’s war. “So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her” (2 Samuel 11:4). Shortly thereafter, she would report to David that she was pregnant with his child. Adultery would lead to murder, making it an evil, ugly story of sin begetting sin begetting sin.

It makes a fascinating study to observe the difference between older and newer commentaries when it comes to Bathsheba’s role in what unfolded. If you do this, you will see that many of the older commentators lay a measure of blame on her. What was she doing bathing then and there? Didn’t she come willingly when the king summoned her to his palace? Didn’t she later prove herself a formidable woman who was angling for her son to be David’s successor (see 1 Kings 1)? Maybe she was the victimizer and he the victim!

By contrast, most modern commentators (rightly, I believe) attach the full measure of blame to David.

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