Bathsheba, beautiful, intelligent, but was she a schemer or a victim?
King David, powerful, charismatic. Politically clever, but often governed by his emotions, especially in family matters
Uriah, noble husband of Bathsheba, who almost certainly knew about her infidelity with David
Solomon, son of Bathsheba and David
Adonijah, popular older son of David, expected to be king after David
Nathan, shrewd adviser to David. Called a ‘prophet’, he spoke in a fearless way
Abishag, an exceptionally beautiful young virgin
Who seduces whom? Bathsheba? David?
Bathsheba was beautiful, young, well-connected. She married Uriah, one of the top soldiers in King David’s army.
One evening when her husband was away at war, she bathed on the curtained flat roof of her house – this was considered a private place for women.
King David was above, on the castle walls. He saw her, and was mesmerized by her beauty.
He sent for her. She went. They made love. Then she went home.
Later she discovered she was pregnant….
She sent a message to the King. Do something, she said. My husband has been away, so he will know the baby is not his.
David sent for Uriah, who left the fighting and came back to Jerusalem. He went straight to the palace. What do you want of me? he asked the king. Give me a report of what’s happening at the battlefield, said David.
Read Bible Text 2 Samuel 11:1-6
Uriah becomes suspicious
David then told Uriah to go and visit his wife. If he did, the inconvenient pregnancy could be hushed up.
The gates of a city had soldiers’ quarters and storerooms built into the wall
But Uriah prevaricated. He stayed all night with the other soldiers, while Bathsheba waited for him at home.
Next day, David tried again. He got Uriah drunk, urging him to go to his wife. But still the wretched man would not go down into the city and visit his home. It was obvious that Uriah knew Bathsheba was pregnant, and refused to ‘play the gentleman’.
David got desperate. He wrote a letter to his most trusted general at the front.
Kill the bearer of this letter, but make it look like he died in battle, the letter said.
Then David gave the letter to Uriah and told him to return with it to the front.
Uriah took the letter, gave it to the general, and was treacherously killed.
The Bible says Bathsheba ‘wailed’ for her dead husband – as well she might.
Bathsheba mourns for her husband, James Tissot
Then King David sent for her, took her into the royal harem, and married her.
Read Bible Text 2 Samuel 11:7-27
Bathsheba marries King David
Her baby was born. It died.
Bathsheba became pregnant again, and this time the little boy lived. He was called Solomon.
Bathsheba got older, and the boy grew up. She had other children. She was beautiful and clever, and David loved her.
But David was getting older – much older. There came a time when he couldn’t have sex anymore. This was serious, since a king who was no longer virile was not fit to be king. He’d lost his credibility.
The courtiers did everything they could. They brought in a beautiful young girl, Abishag, and put her in bed with David, but even that didn’t help.
David & Abishag, by James Tissot
It was time for one of his sons to take over, in a co-regency.
But which son? Everyone assumed it would be Adonijah, David’s eldest living son – there had been other sons, but one way and another they had each died violent deaths.
Read Bible Text 2 Samuel 12:15-25
Which Bible prince will get the throne?
Bathsheba was in a dangerous situation, but she was not going to give up without a struggle. She had formidable allies –
the royal adviser Nathan,
the head of the mercenary soldiers Benaiah, and
the priest Zadok.
Between them, these kingmakers devised a plan.
Bathsheba went to David in his bedroom and told him that Adonijah had already usurped the throne. She told him that, almost alone among his children, Solomon remained loyal. She feared for her own life.
You are still king, she said. Do something.
David’s Promise, Goodall
There was a coup d’etat in Jerusalem, and when the dust died down Solomon was on the throne.
Bathsheba was now Queen Mother, the most powerful position a woman could hold.
Read Bible Text 1 Kings 1:1-31
Bathsheba gets rid of Adonijah
But Adonijah was still alive, and still a threat. Solomon could not kill his brother outright. He was after all the older brother, and a lot of people still wanted him as king.
But no-one knew better than Bathsheba that the situation had to be resolved. It was just too dangerous for her son.
But how to get rid of Adonijah?
Again, she devised a plan.
A royal throne covered with small ivory carvings; thrones of ancient kings were probably like this
She went to Solomon in the throne-room of the palace, and there in front of the courtiers she told Solomon that Adonijah had asked her if she would help him marry Abishag, the young woman who had been put into David’s bed.
It sounds reasonable enough, but it wasn’t. A man who married the wives of a previous king could claim the throne himself. In fact, Bathsheba was accusing Adonijah of treason.
No-one dared question whether Bathsheba’s accusation was true or not. She was too powerful now. Solomon had to execute his half-brother, like it or not.
There was no trial, just a swift dagger to the heart. Bathsheba’s son was secure on the throne, and her own position was safe. At last she could rest on her laurels.