What Grace Can Do
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God is the author of history; it’s His story. In God’s sovereign plan, He “works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). That’s why some call God’s providence “the hand of God in the glove of history.”
But how do the stories of our individual lives fit into God’s story? Bathsheba must have wondered about that often as her dramatic life unfolded. And though she is associated with King David’s greatest sin, her name appears prominently in the lineage of Israel’s King-Messiah.
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, one of David’s elite, mighty men (2 Sam. 11:3; cf. 23:34–39). She married one of Eliam’s comrades, Uriah the Hittite, who was also a mighty soldier in David’s fighting force. Though Scripture often refers to Uriah as “the Hittite,” he probably bonded to David and became a proselyte, believing in David’s God.
Scripture’s first reference to Bathsheba describes her as beautiful and the focus of King David’s gaze while he took an evening walk on his palace rooftop and saw her bathing. Her beauty transfixed him, and he sent someone to find out who she was.
Even after he learned she was Uriah’s wife, David sent messengers to take her, “and she came to him, and he lay with her” (11:4).
This incident has fascinated Hollywood and spawned endless speculation about Bathsheba’s culpability. Did she know David could see her bathing, or did she assume he was away in battle, as he usually was? Once summoned, could she have resisted David’s advances, or was she merely a pawn in an ancient society dominated by men?
The Bible fails to blame Bathsheba, but it strongly condemns David. In fact, David would suffer the rest of his life for his lustful choice. So would Bathsheba, David’s family, and the entire nation of Israel.
Bathsheba Becomes a Widow
When Bathsheba sent word to David that she was pregnant, David hatched a plan so cold-blooded we can hardly believe he was “a man after [God’s] own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14). His treachery proves that even the godliest people are sinners; and though God forgives the truly repentant, the consequences of sin linger on.
David summoned Uriah from the battlefield and encouraged him to return home and sleep with his wife. When Uriah nobly refused, David tried again the next night by getting him drunk. When that plan failed, David sent Uriah back into battle with a letter for Joab, the captain of David’s army. The letter contained Uriah’s death sentence: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die” (2 Sam. 11:15). The plot succeeded, and Uriah was killed.
Bathsheba became a widow and mourned for her husband (v. 26). When her mourning was over, she became David’s wife and bore him a son. “But the thing that David had done displeased the
LORD” (v. 27).
Bathsheba’s Roller-Coaster Life
Nine months passed before David repented. The prophet Nathan’s poignant confrontation led to his confession: “I have sinned against the LORD” (12:13).
Nathan told David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die” (vv. 13–14). The infant soon became ill and died, despite David’s heartfelt intercession before God for seven days.
Few things hurt more than losing a child. Bathsheba’s heart no doubt was broken. David comforted her, and she conceived another son, whom David named Solomon. The Bible tells us, “The LORD loved him, and He sent word by the hand of Nathan the prophet: So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD” (vv. 24–25). Jedidiah means “beloved of the Lord.”
How merciful and gracious is our God. Though He punished David, He did not withhold His love from him or from Bathsheba and their child. And He did not renege on His promise to establish David’s line forever. In fact, God would pick Solomon to carry on the kingly line of David, in keeping with the Davidic Covenant (cf. 7:12–13). Bathsheba bore David three more sons, but Solomon was uniquely chosen.1
Bathsheba spent the remainder of her life in the palace, tossed about by the consequences of David’s sin with her. Her life was a roller coaster of history-
shaping events. God had promised David a life of “adversity” and vowed the sword would “never depart from [his] house” as punishment for what he had done (12:10–11).
Among the most painful of those adversities was the rebellion of David’s son Absalom. Bathsheba’s grandfather, Ahithophel, joined Absalom to fight against David (15:31; cf. 11:3; 23:34). Many speculate Ahithophel turned against David as revenge for David’s seduction of his granddaughter and murder of her husband.
Imagine how Bathsheba felt when she heard her grandfather had committed suicide after Absalom spurned his counsel and Ahithopel realized David’s victory was likely (17:23). Our lives can be full of painful disappointments.
As David advanced in age and neared his death, Bathsheba became influential in the royal court (1 Ki. 1—2). One day Nathan approached her to tell her that David’s son Adonijah was preparing to make himself king. The prophet urged Bathsheba, “Go immediately to King David and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord, O king, swear to your maidservant, saying, “Assuredly your son Solomon shall reign after me, and he shall sit on my throne”? Why then has Adonijah become king?’” (1:13).
Bathsheba heeded Nathan’s advice. David respected Bathsheba and immediately ordered Solomon’s coronation, thwarting Adonijah’s short-lived rebellion.
After David’s death, Bathsheba remained a respected influence on her son King Solomon. Though he did not always grant his mother’s requests, he respectfully bowed to her and placed a throne for her beside his (2:19–24).
Bathsheba knew God’s story included Solomon carrying on King David’s royal line, which would somehow continue “forever” (2 Sam. 7:12–13). But she did not know just how far it would take her story: Bathsheba would become part of the Messianic line.
What a God!
The New Testament begins with a genealogy, hearkening back to God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 to send the “seed” of a woman—the Redeemer—to crush Satan and the sin he caused. The Old Testament proclaimed, “He’s coming!” and provided information about this promised Savior. The New Testament declares, “He’s here! His name is Jesus, and He is from the correct promised line—the line of David and Abraham” (cf. Mt. 1:1).
Against Jewish protocol, Matthew’s genealogy includes five women: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, “her who had been the wife of Uriah,” and Mary (vv. 3–16). All were trophies of God’s grace. Their inclusion emphasizes the truth of Jesus’ name—“Salvation.” He came to “save His people from their sins” (v. 21).
What a God! He is writing His grand story. Ephesians 1:11–12 says God “works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.” God receives glory by displaying His grace—His undeserved kindness to people who deserve punishment.
We all deserve punishment because we all are sinners. As Bathsheba’s son Solomon wrote, “There is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin” (Eccl. 7:20). We need a Redeemer to remove our sin so we can face a holy, righteous God.
Like Bathsheba, we need God’s mercy and grace. And there is no better time to ask God for it than at Christmas, when we celebrate the advent of His Son, the One who came specifically to bear our sin and set us free (Isa. 53:5).
- The Gospel writer Luke included Nathan, one of Bathsheba and David’s four sons, in Mary’s ancestral link to David (Lk. 3:31; cf. 1 Chr. 3:5).