This woman is the only person within Jesus’ family tree who is described solely by status. And she’s not even mentioned as the wife of King David, who fathered her child.
This was a challenging thought to me. If I was to be known forever after as the ex-wife of my first husband, I would balk at the prospect – those who know me will know that’s putting it mildly. I’m more than my past!
But Bathsheba’s mention as Uriah’s wife specifically directs us to the story that led to Solomon’s birth – the reader can’t forget it, and that seems to be the writer’s intention.
Bathsheba was married twice. Firstly to Uriah and then secondly, to David. She was probably the victim of circumstance; David, the king of Israel, noticed her, sent for her, slept with her and then had her husband placed in the direct line of fire to ensure his death and cover his own sin.
History does not record how Bathsheba felt about Uriah or David, except to say that once she had mourned Uriah, she was taken to be David’s wife. One can only imagine how she felt about marrying the man who commanded the death of her husband.
And then once again, at this point in the story, she becomes a victim of circumstance. Not only has she recently lost her husband, she then loses her child. The prophet Nathan tells David a story of a rich man who robbed from a poor man; an absolute injustice in David’s eyes. Except Nathan opens his eyes to David’s role in this story: David is the rich man, and Uriah the poor. At that moment David recognises his sin for what it is.
“Then David said to Nathan: ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’
Nathan replied: ‘The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” (2 Samuel 12:13)
But as punishment for David’s sin, Nathan tells him that the son that is born to him will die. In a world where Jesus, if we choose to accept the offer, takes our sins and was punished for them, this seems unthinkable, yet in a world before Jesus’ sacrifice, punishment for sin was on the individual – it could kill you.
In our post-resurrection world, it’s too easy to forget the consequences of our sins, except for the everyday impact it has on our lives. So David and Bathsheba’s baby son becomes ill, and dies seven days later.
This is heartbreaking. Punishment for sin meted out on David that makes us cry out. It feels unfathomable. Why should one be punished for another?
But despite and in spite of David’s sin, the story points in so many ways to the grace of God; the grace that He extends to us through the line of David and Bathsheba’s second son, Solomon. David’s sin resulted in the gravest of consequences; his first son paid the ultimate cost, mirroring God’s sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
And as we know, David and Bathsheba’s next son, Solomon, is a king who requests wisdom over wealth; a king who is famed for rebuilding the destroyed temple. And so Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, victim of circumstance, not only becomes the mother of one of Israel’s greatest kings, but also enters the lineage of the king of kings himself: Jesus.
This post is part of a series on the female ancestors of Jesus. Read the other posts here.