The story of the seduction of Bathsheba, and of Bathsheba’s role in putting her son Solomon on the throne, all relate to the oracle of Nathan in 2 Samuel 7. In this prophecy David is promised that his descendents will rule after him in an unending dynasty in Jerusalem, and that his son will build a Temple to the Lord. Everything in Bathsheba’s story is focused on this prophecy.
David and Bathsheba commit adultery
2 Samuel 11:1-13
1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Jo’ab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.
Bathsheba Bathing, painting from the Book of Hours, Louis XII
3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathshe’ba, the daughter of Eli’am, the wife of Uri’ah the Hittite?”
4 So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.
5 And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am with child.”
6 So David sent word to Jo’ab, “Send me Uri’ah the Hittite.” And Jo’ab sent Uri’ah to David.
7 When Uri’ah came to him, David asked how Jo’ab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered.
8 Then David said to Uri’ah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uri’ah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.
9 But Uri’ah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
10 When they told David, “Uri’ah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uri’ah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?”
11 Uri’ah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Jo’ab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.”
12 Then David said to Uri’ah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.” So Uri’ah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next.
13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
The Death of Uriah
2 Samuel 11:14-27
The Uriah Letter, Govaert Flinck
The Uriah Letter, Govaert Flinck
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Jo’ab, and sent it by the hand of Uri’ah.
15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uri’ah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.”
16 And as Jo’ab was besieging the city, he assigned Uri’ah to the place where he knew there were valiant men.
17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Jo’ab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uri’ah the Hittite was slain also.
18 Then Jo’ab sent and told David all the news about the fighting;
19 and he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king,
20 then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall?
21 Who killed Abim’elech the son of Jerub’besheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone upon him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uri’ah the Hittite is dead also.'”
22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Jo’ab had sent him to tell.
23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate.
Assyrian archers, from a wall relief at Nineveh
Assyrian archers, from a wall relief at Nineveh
24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king’s servants are dead; and your servant Uri’ah the Hittite is dead also.”
25 David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Jo’ab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; strengthen your attack upon the city, and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
26 When the wife of Uri’ah heard that Uri’ah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband.
27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
2 Samuel 12:1-15
1 And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man. Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; 8 and I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have smitten Uri’ah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites.
Ancient Canaanite swords
10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uri’ah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.'” 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child that is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uri’ah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick.
David and Bathsheba’s First Child Dies
2 Samuel 12:15-23
15 Then Nathan went to his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uri’ah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick.
16 David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in and lay all night upon the ground.
Bathsheba Mourns her Dead Baby; woodcut
Bathsheba Mourns her Dead Baby; woodcut
17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground; but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.
18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us; how then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”
19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; and David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.”
20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the LORD, and worshiped; he then went to his own house; and when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while it was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’
23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
The Birth of Solomon
2 Samuel 12:24-25
24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathshe’ba, and went in to her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him,
25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet; so he called his name Jedidi’ah, because of the LORD.
The Struggle for the Throne
1 Kings 1:1-31
1 Now King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.
2 Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young maiden be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait upon the king, and be his nurse; let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may be warm.”
3 So they sought for a beautiful maiden throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Ab’ishag the Shu’nammite, and brought her to the king. 4 The maiden was very beautiful; and she became the king’s nurse and ministered to him; but the king knew her not.
5 Now Adoni’jah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; and he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.
6 His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man; and he was born next after Ab’salom.
7 He conferred with Jo’ab the son of Zeru’iah and with Abi’athar the priest; and they followed Adoni’jah and helped him.
8 But Zadok the priest, and Benai’ah the son of Jehoi’ada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shim’e-i, and Re’i, and David’s mighty men were not with Adoni’jah.
9 Adoni’jah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fatlings by the Serpent’s Stone, which is beside En-ro’gel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah,
10 but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benai’ah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother.
11 Then Nathan said to Bathshe’ba the mother of Solomon, “Have you not heard that Adoni’jah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it?
Bathsheba Reminds David of his Promise, Bernardo Strozzi
Bathsheba Reminds David of his Promise,
12 Now therefore come, let me give you counsel, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon.
13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your maidservant, saying, “Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne”? Why then is Adoni’jah king?’
14 Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words.”
15 So Bathshe’ba went to the king into his chamber (now the king was very old, and Ab’ishag the Shu’nammite was ministering to the king).
16 Bathshe’ba bowed and did obeisance to the king, and the king said, “What do you desire?”
17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your maidservant by the LORD your God, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne.’
18 And now, behold, Adoni’jah is king, although you, my lord the king, do not know it.
19 He has sacrificed oxen, fatlings, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the sons of the king, Abi’athar the priest, and Jo’ab the commander of the army; but Solomon your servant he has not invited.
20 And now, my lord the king, the eyes of all Israel are upon you, to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him.
21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon will be counted offenders.”
22 While she was still speaking with the king, Nathan the prophet came in.
23 And they told the king, “Here is Nathan the prophet.” And when he came in before the king, he bowed before the king, with his face to the ground.
24 And Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adoni’jah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne’?
25 For he has gone down this day, and has sacrificed oxen, fatlings, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s sons, Jo’ab the commander of the army, and Abi’athar the priest; and behold, they are eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adoni’jah!’
26 But me, your servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benai’ah the son of Jehoi’ada, and your servant Solomon, he has not invited.
Bathsheba: painting of a mature aristocratic woman
27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not told your servants who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”
28 Then King David answered, “Call Bathshe’ba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king.
29 And the king swore, saying, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my soul out of every adversity,
30 as I swore to you by the LORD, the God of Israel, saying, ‘Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead’; even so will I do this day.”
31 Then Bathshe’ba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live for ever!”
The Death of David
1 Kings 2:10-12
10 Then David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.
11 And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.
12 So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established.
Bathsheba gets rid of Solomon’s rival
1 Kings 2:13-25
Adonijah Petitions Bathsheba
Adonijah Petitions Bathsheba
13 Then Adoni’jah the son of Haggith came to Bathshe’ba the mother of Solomon. And she said, “Do you come peaceably?” He said, “Peaceably.”
14 Then he said, “I have something to say to you.” She said, “Say on.” 15 He said, “You know that the kingdom was mine, and that all Israel fully expected me to reign; however the kingdom has turned about and become my brother’s, for it was his from the LORD.
16 And now I have one request to make of you; do not refuse me.” She said to him, “Say on.” 17 And he said, “Pray ask King Solomon–he will not refuse you–to give me Ab’ishag the Shu’nammite as my wife.” 18 Bathshe’ba said, “Very well; I will speak for you to the king.” 19 So Bathshe’ba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adoni’jah. And the king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a seat brought for the king’s mother; and she sat on his right. 20 Then she said, “I have one small request to make of you; do not refuse me.” And the king said to her, “Make your request, my mother; for I will not refuse you.” 21 She said, “Let Ab’ishag the Shu’nammite be given to Adoni’jah your brother as his wife.” 22 King Solomon answered his mother, “And why do you ask Ab’ishag the Shu’nammite for Adoni’jah? Ask for him the kingdom also; for he is my elder brother, and on his side are Abi’athar the priest and Jo’ab the son of Zeru’iah.” 23 Then King Solomon swore by the LORD, saying, “God do so to me and more also if this word does not cost Adoni’jah his life! 24 Now therefore as the LORD lives, who has established me, and placed me on the throne of David my father, and who has made me a house, as he promised, Adoni’jah shall be put to death this day.” 25 So King Solomon sent Benai’ah the son of Jehoi’ada; and he struck him down, and he died.