Bathsheba is the final woman in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ before Mary. Like Tamar, Rahab and Ruth, she is a surprising choice: Bathsheba’s fame comes from being one half of the world’s most famous extra-marital affair.
The story, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, is a shameful one on many different levels. From the roof of his palace, David sees Bathsheba bathing and desiring her, he has her brought to him. The two are intimate and Bathsheba becomes pregnant. When she informs David, he panics and begins enacting an elaborate plan to hide his sin.
Bathsheba’s husband is Uriah the Hittite and is one of David’s best soldiers, serving his king on the front lines. David calls Uriah home and attempts to trick him into sleeping with Bathsheba so that Uriah will think he impregnated his wife. Uriah honourably refuses to enjoy the luxuries of home life, including sleeping with his wife while his comrades remain on the battlefield. When his plan fails, David effectively resorts to murder by sending Uriah back to the front line and ordering that he be left exposed, guaranteeing his death.
Under the guise of comforting the grieving widow, David brings Bathsheba to his house and so avoids the public scandal. Although the pair managed to keep their adultery secret from the public, they forgot one thing: God sees everything. As a result of their sin, in an act of divine justice, the child dies shortly after birth.
Like the histories of other women included in Matthew’s genealogy, this seems a strange story to reference, however by referring to Bathsheba as ‘Uriah’s wife’ (Matt 1:6), it’s clear that this is the story Matthew wants his readers to recall. In fact, this is an incredibly important story for the flow of the Bible. David was considered by the Jewish people in Jesus’ day to be as close to perfection as any human could be – the chosen King of God’s people in God’s country, described in 1 Samuel 13:14 as “a man after God’s own heart”. Nevertheless we see that for all his qualities, David was a sinful and flawed man, a point made clear by his encounter with Bathsheba.
It is important to note that the focus of the story, while not on Bathsheba’s guilt but David’s, never absolves her of her sin. It is safe to assume that she is not an entirely innocent victim in this story. Rather, she is one of two sinful people in a broken relationship born out of death and adultery. Bathsheba and David are undeserving of God’s kindness and forgiveness, yet when they turn back to him and acknowledge their sin, God reveals his abundant love for them, causing Bathsheba to fall pregnant again with a son – Solomon (2 Sam 12:24).
In world where adultery, sexual immorality and family break-down are so tragically common, Bathsheba’s story should both warn us and encourage us. It should warn against the perils of sexual immorality but even more importantly it should give us a greater vision of God’s grace – that God would bless David and Bathsheba after all they had done is staggering. God’s grace is so far-reaching and powerful; there is nothing that it cannot overcome, no mistake too big, no sin that cannot be forgiven. Praise God!