Bathsheba (בת שבע), in the Hebrew Bible, was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David. She was the mother of Solomon.
The story of David's seduction of Bathsheba, told in II Samuel 11: et seq., is omitted in Chronicles. The king, while walking on the roof of his house, saw Bathsheba, who was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, taking a bath. He immediately desired her. David then committed adultery with her and she conceived.
In an effort to cover up his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hopes that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba, and thus the child could be passed off as his. However, Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service (see Robertson Smith, "Religion of the Semites," pp. 455, 488). Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.
After repeated efforts to get Uriah to lie with Bathsheba, the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be abandoned during a heated battle, and left to the hands of the enemy. Ironically, David had Uriah himself unknowingly carry the message that ordered his death. After Uriah was gone, David made the now widowed Bathsheba his wife.
Sheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor.
The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bathsheba was on the roof of her house, perhaps behind a screen of wickerwork.
Satan is depicted as coming in the disguise of a bird. David, shoots at it, strikes the screen, splitting it; thus Bath-sheba is revealed in her beauty to David (Sanhedrin 107a).
Bathsheba may have been providentially destined from the Creation to become in due time the legitimate wife of David, but this relation was prematurely precipitated by David's impetuous act.
In Qur'an and Islamic traditionThe only passage in the Qur'an which has been brought into connection with the story of Bath-sheba is sura xxxviii. 20-25:
- "And has the story of the antagonists come to you; when they climbed the wall of the upper chamber, when they came in to David? And when he feared them, they said, 'Fear not; we are two antagonists, one of us hath wronged the other, so judge justly between us. . . . This my brother had ninety-nine ewes and I had one. Then he said, "Give me control of her," and he overcame me in his plea.' David said, 'Verily he hath wronged thee by asking for thy ewe as an addition to his ewes, and verily most partners act injuriously the one to the other, except those who believe and work righteous works; and such are few.' And David supposed that we had tried him; so he sought pardon of his Lord and fell, worshiping, and repented. And we forgave him that fault, and he hath near approach unto us and beauty of ultimate abode."
From this passage one can judge only some similarities of Nathan's parable. The Muslim world has shown an indisposition, to a certain extent, to go further, and especially to ascribe sin to David.
Baidawi would seem to favor that view, but other commentators reject it. Baidawi (in loc.) remarks, this passage signifies only that David desired something which belonged to another, and that God rebuked him by this parable.
At the very most, Baidawi continues, he may have asked in marriage a woman who had been asked in marriage by another, or he may have desired that another should abandon his wife to him—a circumstance which was customary at that time.
The Biblical story of Uriah is then regarded as a slander, filled with unnecessary violences and immorality, not the sort of thing that would happen to a man who is close to God.
According to some sources of Islamic tradition, David marries Bath-sheba after the death of Uriah, and she becomes the mother of Solomon. To Muslims, the legendary Bath-sheba herself is a not a very known figure, being generally called simply the wife of Uriah. See Al-Tha'labi, "ḳiṣaṣ-anbiyya," pp. 243 et seq., ed. Cairo, 1298; and Ibn al-Athir, i. 95 et seq., ed. Cairo, 1301.
Critical viewHer name, which perhaps means "daughter of the oath," is in I Chronicles 3:5 spelled "Bath-shua," the form becomes merely a variant reading of "Bath-sheba." The passages in which Bath-sheba is mentioned are II Samuel 11:2-12:24, and I Kings 1, 2.—both of which are parts of the oldest stratum of the books of Samuel and Kings. It is part of that court history of David, written by someone who stood very near the events and who did not idealize David. The material contained in it is of higher historical value than that in the later strata of these books. Budde would connect it with the J document of the Hexateuch.
The only interpolations in it which concern the story of Bath-sheba are some verses in the early part of the twelfth chapter, that heighten the moral tone of Nathan's rebuke of David; according to Karl Budde ("S. B. O. T."), the interpolated portion is xii. 7, 8, and 10-12; according to Friedrich Schwally (Stade's "Zeitschrift," xii. 154 et seq.) and H. P. Smith ("Samuel," in "International Critical Commentary"), the whole of xii. 1-15a is an interpolation, and xii. 15b should be joined directly to xi. 27. This does not directly affect the narrative concerning Bath-sheba herself. Chronicles, which draws a kindly veil over David's faults, omits all reference to the way in which Bathsheba became David's wife, and gives only the names of her children.
The father of Bath-sheba was Eliam (spelled "Ammiel" in I Chronicles 3:5). As this was also the name of a son of Ahithophel, one of David's heroes (II Samuel 23:34), it has been conjectured that Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahithophel and that the latter's desertion of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion was in revenge for David's conduct toward Bath-sheba.
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