The fourth woman in Christ's family line is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah and the daughter of Elam, both of whom were among David's mightiest soldiers. She was also the granddaughter of Ahithophel who was David's chief counselor. Many articles about Bathsheba paint her as a seductress, an adulteress, and a manipulator seeking power for her son, which was what I heard growing up. Other articles, that took into account the role of women in Bathsheba's culture, presented a very different point of view. As I read these, my heart ached for Bathsheba, a victim of both her culture and a king, misusing power and position to rape her. She has been widely mischaracterized by commentators putting on her the blame for the actions of a king, struggling with sin. Yet, she was a woman with incredible strength who rose above horrible circumstances to become a woman of great influence.
Bathsheba's story began in the spring when kings go to battle. King David, however, sent his troops into battle without him. One afternoon he went to his rooftop to walk around and saw a beautiful woman washing herself, according to the purification laws of their time. I had always heard she bathed on the roof top, but there is no where in the text that says that. She could have been bathing near a stream, near a well, in her own courtyard, or on her roof top and would have still been visible from the palace roof. We also don't know how much clothing she had on or didn't have on during the ceremonial bathing as people didn't have private places to bathe at that time. Because of this, they often wore some type of garment or wrap. She was doing what she needed to do to fulfill the law.
We know from the text the king saw her and lustfully chose to watch her. He could have chosen to turn away or summon one of his wives or concubines to meet his needs, but he didn't. He chose to summon his men and asked who the lady was. His men identified her through references with both her father and her husband, indicating she was a woman of integrity. It could also have been his men's subtle attempt to remind him she was unavailable and related to two of his best soldiers. Yet, David chose to send the men to summon her. When she came, he made the decision to take her and lay with her and she conceived a baby.
Some believe she had a choice in the matter, but there is nothing in the text that indicates she knew why she was being summoned to the palace. Even if she did, as a woman and as a subject in a kingdom, she didn't have the right to tell the king "no." It is also imperative we remember that when Nathan the prophet came to confront David on his actions, he used a lamb--the symbol of innocence--to represent Bathsheba in the allegory.
When Bathsheba realized she was pregnant, she messaged the king, placing herself at the mercy of David and Uriah. She knew her husband could legally take her life if he heard she was pregnant. She also knew she couldn't appeal to the law to protect her because it was the king who has violated her. She had to sit and wait as her future was decided by the choices the king and her husband made.
David chose to call her husband from the battlefield and tried to send him home to Bathsheba, hoping the baby would be passed off as his. But, Uriah, being a loyal soldier, chose defy the king and chose not to go home to his wife while his men were still in the thick of battle. So, David chose to send him to the front lines, ordering his commander to remove all support from him so he would be killed. After Bathsheba's time of grief, David chose to bring her into the palace to be in his haram.
While Bathsheba did not lose her life, she did experience many losses. She was raped by a king, literally losing ownership of bother her body and her life. She lost her husband because the king wanted to cover up his actions. She lost her home when she was placed in David's haram. She even lost the baby they conceived during the rape after he was born. And, all of this loss was because of the king's lust and the king's abuse of power.
Later Bathsheba conceived several other children, one of whom was Solomon who was promised the throne of David. However, the fulfillment of that promise was endangered by strife that occurred as David's sons jostled for power. On advice of Nathan, the prophet, Bathsheba approached the elderly, ailing king and informed him that his son Adonijah was plotting to take the kingdom. She reminded him that she and Solomon would be in danger if he didn't act quickly and David crowned Solomon that very day.
The story didn't end there like I originally thought. God took the painful things Bathsheba experienced and brought good out of them by raising Solomon to kingship. This elevated Bathsheba from being one woman out of many in a king's Haram to being the only mom of the king. God also used those circumstances to place her into the family line of Christ. Maybe Bathsheba was placed there to remind us that God has a heart beating passionately for those who have been victimized by powerful people.
I had always thought Bathsheba faded into the background after the encounter with David, but she didn't She remained close to Solomon and had the privilege of crowning him with his wedding crown. She was also given a place of honor as Solomon's advisor and sat on a throne that was placed at his right hand, something unheard of at the time. It would not be surprising that some of the wisdom Solomon penned was passed down to him through Bathsheba. Maybe it was even because of her experiences that he wrote these words in Proverbs 31:8, "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Maybe she was placed in the family line so victims understand victimization doesn't have to define one's future. For, in Christ, each of us has been given great power and a new heritage.
Maybe she was put in the line of Christ to remind us our God is not limited by the boundaries a society or a church places on women. God alone chooses whom He will use to bring about His perfect will. No man, no government, no church leader will ever be able to thwart that. Maybe Bathsheba was put in the family line so her story would remind women that while their stories may go untold, unnoticed, or be mischaracterized, God can still use them powerfully to usher in His kingdom. He did this in the past. He is doing it now. And, He will do it in the future.
In closing, we all must wrestle long and hard with the fact that King David. whom we have grown up loving as a young shepherd boy who alone was brave enough to slay a Giant, as a loyal friend to Jonathon whose dad was a king with evil intentions, as a mighty warrior who won untold battles, and the "man who chased after God's own heart" was also a man who misused power, who raped a woman, and who orchestrated a murder. Isn't that a good reminder to each one of us that we are all one glance away, one step away from walking into ugly, devastating sin? Isn't It a good reminder that we are a people who are in desperate need of grace? Oh, that we who are in Him would choose to rise above our sinful tendencies and our victimization to live powerful lives that full of integrity--lives that honor the Savior who sacrificed His own life on our behalf.
(For more information: A Sympathetic Look at Bathsheba, by Marg Mowczko and "The Junia Project: What You Need to Know About Bathsheba, by Dalaina May.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!
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