This woman is the only person within the family tree described solely by status. And she’s not even mentioned as the wife of the person who has fathered her child. This was a challenging thought to me. If I was ever-after to be known as the ex-wife of my first husband, I would balk at the prospect (which as those who know me will know, is putting it mildly) – I am more than my past! Bathsheba’s mention as Uriah’s wife specifically directs us to the story that led to Solomon’s birth – the reader cannot 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 perhaps the victim of circumstance; David, 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, save 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. Yet at this point of the story, once again, 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: he is the rich man, and Uriah the poor. At that moment David recognises his sin as sin.
“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.” (v13)
But as punishment for David’s “utter contempt for the Lord” 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. Perpendicular lines are drawn through Jesus’ arrival on earth, as while in Old Testament times sin had familial impact, within the New Testament our own sin is removed through the death of Jesus on the cross. In our post-resurrection world, it is too easy to forget the consequences of our sins, save 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 upon 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 that he comes to extend to us, through the line of David and Bathsheba’s second son. David’s sin has resulted in the gravest of consequences, his son has paid the ultimate cost for his sin, mirroring God’s sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. David and Bathsheba’s next son is Solomon: a king who requests wisdom over wealth and who is famed for rebuilding the destroyed temple and who is not only revered for his wealth and wisdom, he is an ancestor of the King of Kings himself: Jesus.