There are a number of cautionary tales in the Bible, but few are as seamy and sad as this one.
Looking down on the city of Jerusalem form the atop his royal palace one fine spring evening, Israel’s King David spotted a fine young woman. She wasn’t merely attractive; she was “very beautiful.” And, of all the things she might have been doing, she was bathing.
The already-married David should have ordered some shutters. Instead he ordered an aide to find out the woman’s identity. Even after he learned Bathsheba was Mrs. Uriah-that is, the wife of one of his most decorated military leaders (1 Chr 11:41)-David sent for her. She made her way over to the palace. And after a night of passion, Bathsheba found herself pregnant.
She notified the king. David immediately went into frantic, damage control mode. He tried to cover up his inexcusable behavior by ordering Uriah home from the front. He met with him and pretended to care about his well-being. Next he casually suggested Uriah go home and spend time with his wife. Uriah wouldn’t hear of it, as he was unwilling to selfishly enjoy luxury and pleasure while his fellow soilders were camped on a battlefield. Even when “David got him drunk.” (2 Sam 11:13), Uriah refused to go home.
David panicked. The king after God’s heart made an extremely horrible decision: he would add the heinous crime of murder to his hideous sin of adultery. He wrote a letter to his top general that read. “Put Uriah at the front of the fiercest fighting, then withdraw from him so that he is struck down and dies” (2 Sam 11:15).
David’s plan seemed to work like a charm. Uriah was killed in the battle. After his funeral and an appropriate time of mourning (and probably just before Bathsheba got her “baby bump”). David married Uriah’s young widow and moved her into the royal palace. She gave birth to David’s child a son. And perhaps for a brief time David thought maybe he’d managed to cover up his greatest scandal.
Not even close.
God sent the prophet Nathan to confront the wayward king with his sin. After rebuking David, but before leaving his presence, the bold Nathan also foretold of grim, irreversible consequences: long-term unceasing turmoil within David’s family. And in the short term? The death of the newborn child. Bathsheba (also known as Bath-shua; 1 Chr 3:5) pulled out her black dress again. Another funeral. Another round of grief. She eventually gave David four more sons-most notably Solomon-to go along with the many other sons he fathered by at least six other wives and an untold number of concubines (1 Chr 3:1-9).
If we only glance at Bathsheba, we might feel envious. All that beauty. All that privilege. Married to Israel’s greatest king. The mother of the wisest man on earth, who she shrewdly helped rise to the throne.
But when we take a closer look, we see a lifetime of tragedy. Beyond the pain of saying goodbye to her husband Uriah, burying her infant son, and living as one of David’s many wives and numerous concubines, Bathsheba’s life was in constant crisis. She had to stand by and watch as her big, new dysfunctional family dealt with sibling rape and murder (2 Sam 13). She had to flee the royal palace when Absalom, one of her stepsons, attempted a coup (2 Sam 15). When she tried to help broker a marriage for Adonijah, one of her stepsons, her efforts led to his execution (1 Kings 2:13-25).
All that makes one wonder how many times Bathsheba thought back to the ill-fated spring evening she took a rooftop bath and washed for a do over.