Bible study 14th July 2020 David & bathsheba


I am a big fan of the TV series MASH which was set in the Korean war but was, in fact, a commentary on Vietnam. Famously, it lasted longer than the Korean war itself. I remember one episode which showed the surgeons in their blood-stained aprons operating on one casualty after another but then the scene would change to show the pursuits and entertainment of folks back home in US. The incongruity was startling- people were having lunches on the lawn while young men died.

The story of David and Bathsheba begins in 2 Samuel 11:1 with ‘In the Spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men’. David is a warrior king. He is meant to be seeing off invaders but instead he is safely in the palace and sending someone else. Power becomes dangerous when leaders forget their purpose.

Have a look at this painting by Jean-Leon Gerome in 1899 of Bathsheba bathing.

  1. How do you feel about the characters in this scene?
  2. (Try to be honest….no judgments) how does this picture make you feel?

 Read 2 Samuel 11:1-5.

It is clear that David is walking around on the roof of the palace. He has a high position of privilege but nothing to suggest that Bathsheba was displaying herself to him on her roof! She was cleansing herself after her monthly period as was the Jewish law. This whole story (as is Gerome’s painting) is set up for the male gaze. We are meant to be a man looking at a woman touching herself. Bathsheba was probably totally unaware of David’s gaze and thus she is already humiliated and exploited before she is even summoned to the palace. As was the custom of the time she is defined by the men in her life both of whom are part of David’s ‘Mighty Men’ and thus David’s actions towards Bathsheba are a betrayal of his closest allies. The verbs in this short passage all show David’s initiative and power ‘saw, sent, get, lay with her’.

Verse 4 says simply ‘and he slept with her’. How much choice did she have before a king? The only thing Bathsheba does is come before the king as a loyal subject would. Uriah later does exactly the same thing. I’ve read commentaries that said it was consensual because she didn’t put up a fight. Part of the problem is that in Hebrew there is no legal or technical term for rape. You have to go on the context. Certainly, the term ‘lay with’ does not stress overwhelming brutality as in the rape of Tamar or Dinah in the biblical text…..but still. It shows that defining rape/abuse has always been problematic and power is a dynamic that has been historically ignored.

3-Are passages like 2 Samuel 11:1-5 helpful or harmful for modern women? What do we do with passages like this in the church?

Bathsheba’s voice is silent in this. Her only initiative is to go home and not stay in the palace. Perhaps she wants to pretend the whole thing has not happened and to continue to be Uriah’s wife. Then in a sad reversal of David’s messengers she sends word to him that she is pregnant. That is the first statement we hear from her lips.

Read 2 Samuel 11: 6-15

Uriah’s actions as a military man of honour (and a foreign Hittite!) stand in stark contrast to David’s own. David tries to get Uriah to sleep with his wife so that the baby can be passed off as his. It would be almost comic if it wasn’t so tragic. Eventually, David in effect murders Uriah by putting in the frontline and then getting the other men to withdraw. Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11:26 is called ‘Uriah’s wife’ and mourns for him before David had her brought into the palace. In terms of blame verse 27 declares ‘But the thing David had done displeased the Lord’.

4-Have you ever noticed that sin tends to spiral, one sin tends to lead to others? Can you give any examples? Why is that? What can stop it?

Read 2 Samuel 12:1-14

5-Why do you think the prophet Nathan tells the story about the lamb rather than just come out with it?

6-David is forgiven but there are still terrible consequences. Is the same true for us? We can be eternally forgiven but the consequences of our mistakes may still play themselves out in the next generation?


We might not be David and we hopefully have not committed his particular sins but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is sin. We might want to say that some are worse than others but the Bible doesn’t. David’s confession is simple and honest. Tradition has it that David composed this psalm after Nathan confronted him. What lines strike home for you? What is overwhelming is God’s forgiving love.

Generous in love—God, give grace!
    Huge in mercy—wipe out my bad record.
Scrub away my guilt,
    soak out my sins in your laundry.
I know how bad I’ve been;
    my sins are staring me down.

You’re the One I’ve violated, and you’ve seen
    it all, seen the full extent of my evil.
You have all the facts before you;
    whatever you decide about me is fair.
I’ve been out of step with you for a long time,
    in the wrong since before I was born.
What you’re after is truth from the inside out.
    Enter me, then; conceive a new, true life.

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean,
    scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life.
Tune me in to foot-tapping songs,
    set these once-broken bones to dancing.
Don’t look too close for blemishes,
    give me a clean bill of health.
God, make a fresh start in me,
    shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life.
Don’t throw me out with the trash,
    or fail to breathe holiness in me.
Bring me back from grey exile,
    put a fresh wind in my sails!
Give me a job teaching rebels your ways
    so the lost can find their way home.
Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God,
    and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways.
Unbutton my lips, dear God;
    I’ll let loose with your praise.

 Going through the motions doesn’t please you,
    a flawless performance is nothing to you.
I learned God-worship
    when my pride was shattered.
Heart-shattered lives ready for love
    don’t for a moment escape God’s notice.


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