Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bathsheba: Victim or Seductress? Part 3 of a series based on 2 Samuel 11 & 12

It must be wonderful to live in a King’s harem. Ask Sarah about it. She was in two, and glad, I presume, to escape from both. Ask Vashti. She had the courage to defy the unreasonable demands of her monarch husband. Ask Abigail or Michal, forgotten in David’s harem. Ask all of David’s wives and concubines who were locked away after Absalom defiled them publicly. No, some honors cost more than they are worth.

I always thought Abigail should have had the prime place in David’s harem. She was said to be beautiful, a not insignificant attribute in David’s eyes, and she showed her wisdom in deflecting David from murderous intentions that would have haunted all his days as king. Nonetheless, she disappeared with all the rest, replaced at last by Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite.

The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Bathsheba. We learn at the end of David’s life that she was the queen who had David’s ear. And, we see her determination, seconded by Nathan the prophet, to have her son, Solomon, succeed his father as King of Israel. We discover, through the genealogies in Matthew and Luke, that trace the lineage of Jesus, that one of her sons, either Solomon (Luke) or Nathan (Matthew) was in the Messianic lineage. (She could not have known that, of course, but it was important to those who compiled the genealogies.) And, we know that Bathsheba continued to exercise influence upon her son, Solomon, even after he became King. She was no shrinking violet, and she apparently did not live in a hovel at the back of the harem.

All of this has made me wonder if David’s sighting of Bathsheba, bathing in her back yard, was planned, not by David, but by Bathsheba. Her line of vision was the reverse of his. She could have observed that her bathing place was in view of the king’s rooftop. She could have chosen her bathing place because it was in view of the king’s rooftop. Her timing was perfect; she knew what the king could not have known, that she was ceremonially clean – a point emphasized by the narrator of the story – so that no laws governing menstruation would be broken by their copulation. Her husband was away at war. We hear of no protestation on her part when the invitation came to spend the night with the king. And, after a brief mention of her mourning over the death of Uriah, she readily took up abode with the king, assuming, it appears, first place among the king’s wives.

Admittedly, my scenario is speculation. So is the assumption that she was an innocent victim. We just are not told what her role and motivations were. What we are told is that the union between David and Bathsheba greatly displeased God. Why then did God, through his prophet Nathan, direct the king to choose a son of Bathsheba to carry on the line of David? Surely there were more worthy women in his harem that this adulterer.  Once again, we are left only with speculation.

The answer to the mystery must lie in God’s grace. In all of history, God has had only one Servant who never failed him. From Adam to David, from David to you and me; from Eve to Bathsheba, from Bathsheba to you and me, He has had to endure flawed (sometimes horribly flawed) servants. Some were so flawed He had to lock them out of the garden, exile them for murder, forbid them entrance to a promised land for losing their temper, blind them for messing with prostitutes, strike dead the children they conceived in iniquity, take away their land and send them to forced labor in far away places because they would not remain faithful to Him. It would seem to have been easier, and more just, to wipe out the whole race and start again. But that is not His way. He is a Redeemer!

Bathsheba may have been a victim, innocently caught up in one of the most despicable crimes of all time, or she may have been the instigator of it. In either case, her life stands as a reminder to all of us, trapped in a sinful world, that God, who hates and punishes sin severely, also loves and redeems sinners. God could have chosen another of David’s wives through which to build a line leading to the Messiah; He could have chosen a line other than David’s. But where would he have found one less sinful? It isn’t that God is unconcerned about sin. To the contrary, He is so concerned that He will not give up; He will find a way to work, even through corrupt human beings, to accomplish His salvation.

God knew where Bathsheba’s line would end a thousand years down the ages. The goal was the birth of a Son of David, the Son of Mary, the Son of God. David’s and Bathsheba’s imperfection was an obstacle, arranged as much by Satan as by human lust. But it was insufficient to keep God’s plan from coming to fruition. Perhaps the story of Bathsheba is a parable to give us hope that God can redeem the mess we make of our lives.

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