The story of David and Bathsheba is often presented mostly as David's story. This is, in fact, how the Bible narrates it in 2 Samuel 11-12. It's a story about David's failure and the way that failure spiralled out of control.
But Bathsheba has unfortunately been either overlooked or misunderstood in many cases. We often stop thinking about her at the point where she and David start having children, and we miss how her story actually reinforces a point that we do get about David's story: that God can bring good out of a horrible situation.
The overall strokes of the story are familiar - in 2 Samuel 11, David sees Bathsheba, decides he wants her, and uses his power and authority as king to get what he wants, whether she likes it or not. When Bathsheba ends up being pregnant, David creates an elaborate cover up plot that almost succeeds, except for the interference of Nathan, one of God's prophets. Nathan's confrontation with David and the accountability that follow are narrated in 2 Samuel 12. The chapter ends tragically with the death of the child that David and Bathsheba had conceived. Somewhere during this time, David composed Psalm 51.
But the death of the child is framed in the story as a punishment against David for his actions. The story does not tell us much about Bathsheba's feelings - though we can pretty safely assume that she felt a mix of sadness, fear, regret, and likely anger. We know from 2 Samuel 12:24 that she needed to be comforted, understandably. These events would have been extreme ones for anyone to go through. They must have been terrible for Bathsheba.
It's important, though, for us to remember that Bathsheba's story does not end here. She and David ended up having four sons together: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon (1 Chronicles 3:5). It's fitting that Bathsheba would name one of her children Nathan - since it was the prophet Nathan who stood up to David when he had manipulated and abused her. It raises some interesting questions: How did Bathsheba feel about David in the time that followed? Was she able to enjoy being around him, or did their initial meeting cloud their relationship? They seem to have been able to have several children together. But what does that mean for their relationship, and for Bathsheba's mental state?
We do know, in fact, that Bathsheba and Nathan remained friends for many years, even into David's old age. In 1 Kings 1, we encounter the elderly David. He has become sickly and frail, and can barely retain body heat. He is reigning from his bed. His family has fallen into chaos. One of his other sons (David had six other wives), Adonijah, was plotting to make himself the next king.
Bathsheba and Nathan approached David, told him about the plot, and reminded him of a promise he had made - that Bathsheba's son Solomon would be king of Israel after David. This promise isn't recorded anywhere else in the Bible, so we have to take Nathan's word for it. Perhaps it was a private conversation.
David agrees, and reaffirms this promise to Bathsheba. Solomon is set to be the next king. There are, of course, issues to sort out with Adonijah, but eventually David passes away and Solomon takes the throne.
Then, later in 1 Kings 2, Bathsheba enters the throne room of the king of Israel and no longer sees David on the throne, but the son of David - her son, Solomon. Adonijah, his coup foiled, had approached the mother of the new king, asking if she'd make a request on his behalf. Having agreed, she brings the request to Solomon, and this scene plays out:
"19 When Bathsheba went to King Solomon to speak to him for Adonijah, the king stood up to meet her, bowed down to her and sat down on his throne. He had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand."
Now, the conversation they have afterward does necessarily go well. Solomon does not agree to the request and it turns into a whole problem unto itself. The men in this family have ... issues. But, we shouldn't overlook what this moment means for Bathsheba. Where once she was a young women being manipulated by the man on that throne, she has now become the mother of the King, with a throne of her own beside him. That is a taste of redemption, which is something that is often talked about for David, but not for Bathsheba.
In the case of both parents, their story is evidence that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whp have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28). God brings good out of terrible situations, and this isn't only true for people who cause harm, but also for those who are dragged into disastrous situations against their will.
- Read 2 Samuel 11-12. What parts of the story stand out to you?
- How would you rate Bathsheba's willingness to go along with David's advances? Do you think she felt like she had a choice?
- How does David come across to you in these two chapters? What do you observe about his character?
- How would you feel if you were Bathsheba in this situation?
- What do you find most significant about Nathan's story that he tells David at the start of chapter 12?
- Read 1 Kings 1-2. Answer the following qusetions:
- There are some strange things that take place in these chapters. Write down anything you observe that seems unusual or odd. Maybe it means something, maybe not. Just write it down. Why do these things stand out to you?
- How does David, in the first four verses of 1 Kings, compare to his younger self in terms of his sexual enthusiasm? Do you think that contributes to the story in any way?
- Before marrying Bathsheba, David had six other wives. Take note of what is happening in 1 Kings 1, and compare these events with what Nathan said in 2 Samuel 12:11-12. What do you think is the significance of David having so much trouble coming from a son from another marriage?
- Do you think Bathsheba ever got closure or justice for the things that happened between her and David? How do you think it made her feel to see her son become king?
- Think about the relatioship between Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan. Bathsheba named one of her sons after him, and the two seemed to be able to work together for a long time. What is the relationship between prophecy and justice? What role can spiritual leaders play in supporting victims of abuse?
- Do you think Solomon ended up being more like his father or his mother? Look at Solomon's interactions with Bathsheba in 1 Kings 2, and compare them to his final moments with David before his death in the same chapter. Also, do you notice anything strange in 1 Kings 2:1-10 about David's final advice to Solomon? What might this suggest about patterns of disfunction repeating across multiple generations of the same family? What lessons might that teach us today?