Sometimes we hear retellings of Biblical accounts and instead of searching the Scriptures for ourselves, we just take it as truth. We then interpret these passages of Scriptures based on what we have always heard.
When you take the time to study for a Bible test or teach a Bible class or answer questions in a devotional book, etc., it really gives you time to pause and reflect. It, in essence, forces you to research culture and the context of the passage and the actual verbiage. As I have taught through, “ICU: In Christ Unconditionally – Old Testament Case Studies” by Francie Taylor, I have learned something new in each chapter. Studying Biblical accounts that I have heard since childhood seemed overly simple at first. However, each week I have been encouraged to study the context and the culture. Francie encourages the leader to bring up observations we have read in the passages. I have really enjoyed doing this.
I’ve heard and read about David and his sin with Bathsheba for most of my life. I’ve heard different perspectives and opinions. I’ve heard that Bathsheba was bathing on her rooftop, I’ve heard that she knew better than to be exposed in such a public place, I’ve heard that both were guilty, etc. This has almost made me picture a cunning Bathsheba in some kind of bubble bath on her rooftop.
However, as I began studying the passage and culture, it appears that Bathsheba could have been participating in a cleansing ritual at a Mikveh. A Mikveh is a place where, in Bathsheba’s case, she would go to ritualistically purify herself after Niddah (her menstruation). It was a place where stairs led down to freshly sourced waters. They would bathe before entering and then dip themselves 3 times to purify themselves physically and spiritually. It was a communal place. Men had a Mikveh for various health reasons, etc, and women had a separate Mikveh. Though we often picture Bathsheba on her own property, bathing for the world to see (the Bible actually never says SHE was on her rooftop, but that David was on HIS rooftop), it could very well be that she was just following the custom of purifying herself just as she should have been doing. The Bible says in 2 Samuel 11:4, “…for she was purified from her uncleanness.”
Anyways, so here we have David, the King. He SHOULD have been in the battle that his men were fighting. Instead, he stayed behind and rested. He had idle time on his hands. He went out on his rooftop (see pics above of the City of David I visited last year. If this is how things were built in this time of 2 Samuel, you can see why this would be a birds’ eye view of the entire area). From his rooftop, he looked, he lusted and he decided to pursue and take Bathsheba. King David was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, looking in the wrong direction. He would have known right where the Mikveh was located. He would have known according to customs that in the evening is when these purifying rituals would take place. In fact, he would have known that the consequences could have been a child out of wedlock…but his lust overtook him. King David had it all – extreme wealth, the hearts of his people, victory in battle, a wife….but as he and Bathsheba’s future son would one day reflect on as he wrote Ecclesiastes, mankind can have everything and still want more. Enough is never enough. David had to have Bathsheba. The Bible doesn’t mention if Bathsheba fought the king’s demands, however, it’s not absurd to think that a woman during that time period would have had little to no argument against a king’s wishes. Perhaps we have been a little too hard on Bathsheba.
As we know, this sin resulted in a pregnancy which led David to cover up one sin with another and with another. He called Urriah the Hittite from battle and tried to deceive him into sleeping with his wife so as to avoid suspicion. However, Urriah had way too much character to allow his men on the battlefield to suffer while he was at home living the good life. David’s plan had backfired, so he had Urriah killed and then took Bathsheba as his own wife. One sin led to another which led to another which led to another. After repenting of his horrendous sins following a sobering visit from the prophet, Nathan, David was told of the earthly consequences he would face for these atrocities. He represented God and though God forgave him, his sins had consequences. From this one sin, we have the death of their firstborn son, the sin of Amnon and Tamar, Absalom’s murder of Amnon, Absalom’s stealing the hearts of David’s people, forcing him to leave Jerusalem, the public defilement of David’s wives and then eventually the death of Absalom. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:15) So much sorrow, so much death…how many of us can understand how one temporarily pleasurable sin wasn’t worth its consequences?
So far, the story is quite depressing! However, the amazing part of this whole account is that STILL David was called a “man after God’s own heart”. I’m convinced that this is because 1) God is just that loving, forgiving and merciful and 2) David knew how to repent. He didn’t just have worldly sorrow. He had true, godly sorrow. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)
David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51 is one of the most beautiful passages in all of the Bible. He fully admits to his awful sins and asks the Lord to wash him white as snow. He asks for a clean heart, a renewed spirit and restored joy in his salvation. He then resolves that he will use this experience to point others to the Lord. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” Ever feel useless after you look at your checkered past? If God can forgive an adulterous murderer, then he can also forgive you. If God can USE a man like David after such egregious sins, then my friend, He can use you, too.
I encourage you to not just scan the chapters of the Bible and check it off your to-do list. Go deeper. Meditate on the mistakes of people throughout history that the Bible records, study the cultures that differ so much from our own, understand the context, and glean truth that you can mull over and share with others!
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. (2 Timothy 2:15)