Religion Wiki

David and Bathsheba (detail), by Jan Matsys, 1562 Louvre

According to the Hebrew Bible, Bathsheba (Hebrew: בת שבע‎, Bat Sheva, "daughter of the oath") was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. She was "a daughter of "Eliam", one of David's "thirty" (2 Sam. 23:34; cf 1 Chr. 3:5); Eliam was also the son of Ahitophel, one of David's chief advisors. Ahitophel was from Giloh (Josh. 15:51;cf 2 Sam. 15:12), a city of Judah, and thus Bathsheba was from David's own tribe and the granddaughter of one of David's closest advisors (2 Sam.15:12)."[1] She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king.

Biblical narrative

The meaning of the Hebrew form of the name "Bathsheba" is "daughter of the oath", "bat" meaning daughter. The second part of the name appears in 1 Chronicles 3:5 as "shua" (signifying "wealth") (compare Genesis 38:2).

Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (2 Samuel 11:3, who is called Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5). Her father is identified by some scholars with Eliam mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34 as the son of Ahithophel, who is described as the Gilonite. (See King David's Warriors.)

Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and afterward of David, by whom she gave birth to Solomon, who succeeded David as king. (United Kingdom of Israel and Judah).

Bathsheba, Solomon, Nathan and Abishag tend to aging David, c. 1435

The story of David's seduction of Bathsheba, told in 2 Samuel 11, is omitted in Chronicles. The story is told that David, while walking on the roof of his house, saw Bathsheba, who was then the wife of Uriah, taking a bath. He immediately desired her and later made her pregnant.

In an effort to conceal his sin, David summoned Uriah from the army (with whom he was on campaign) in the hope that Uriah would re-consummate his marriage and think that the child is his. Uriah was unwilling to violate the ancient kingdom rule applying to warriors in active service.[2] Rather than go home to his own bed, he preferred to remain with the palace troops.

After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to fertilize Bathsheba, the king gave the order to his general, Joab, that Uriah should be abandoned during a heated battle and left to the hands of the enemy. Ironically, David had Uriah himself carry the message that ordered his death. After Uriah was dead, David made the now widowed Bathsheba his wife.

According to the account in Samuel, David's action was displeasing to the Lord, who accordingly sent Nathan the prophet to reprove the king.

After relating the parable of the rich man who took away the one little ewe lamb of his poor neighbor (II Samuel 12:1-6), and exciting the king's anger against the unrighteous act, the prophet applied the case directly to David's action with regard to Bathsheba.

The king at once confessed his sin and expressed sincere repentance. Bathsheba's child by David was smitten with a severe illness and died at a few days after birth, which the king accepted as his punishment.

Nathan also noted that David's house would be cursed with turmoil because of this murder. This came to pass years later when one of David's much-loved sons, Absalom, led an insurrection that plunged the kingdom into civil war. Moreover, to manifest his claim to be the new king, Absalom had sexual intercourse in public with ten of his father's concubines, which could be considered a direct, tenfold divine retribution for David's taking the woman of another man.

In David's old age, Bathsheba secured the succession to the throne of her son Solomon, instead of David's eldest surviving son Adonijah. (1 Kings 1:11-31).

In rabbinical literature

Bathsheba by Karl Brullov

Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor.

The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bathsheba was bathing, perhaps behind a screen of wickerwork.

Satan is depicted as coming in the disguise of a bird. David, shooting at the bird, strikes the screen, splitting it; thus Bathsheba is revealed in her beauty to David (Sanhedrin 107a).

Bathsheba may have been providentially destined from the Creation to become in due time the legitimate wife of David; but this relation was prematurely precipitated by David's impetuous act.


In the Gospel of Matthew 1:6 she is indirectly mentioned as an ancestor of Jesus.

In Qur'an and Islamic tradition

The only passage in the Qur'an connected to the story of Bathsheba is sura xxxviii. 20-25:

"And has the story of the antagonists come to you; when they climbed the wall of the upper chamber, when they came in to David? And when he feared them, they said, 'Fear not; we are two antagonists, one of us hath wronged the other, so judge justly between us. . . . This my brother had ninety-nine ewes and I had one. Then he said, "Give me control of her," and he overcame me in his plea.' David said, 'Verily he hath wronged thee by asking for thy ewe as an addition to his ewes, and verily most partners act injuriously the one to the other, except those who believe and work righteous works; and such are few.' And David supposed that we had tried him; so he sought pardon of his Lord and fell, worshiping, and repented. And we forgave him that fault, and he hath near approach unto us and beauty of ultimate abode."
File:Rembrandt Bathsheba in het bad, 1654..jpg

Bathsheba at Her Bath by Rembrandt, 1654.

From this passage one can judge only some similarities of Nathan's parable. The Muslim world has shown an indisposition, to a certain extent, to go further, and especially to ascribe sin to David.

Baidawi would seem to favor that view, but other commentators reject it. Baidawi (in loc.) remarks that this passage signifies only that David desired something which belonged to another, and that God rebuked him by this parable.

At the very most, Baidawi continues, he may have asked in marriage a woman who had been asked in marriage by another, or he may have desired that another should abandon his wife to him, a circumstance which was customary at that time.

The Biblical story of Uriah is then regarded as a slander, filled with unnecessary violence and immorality, not the sort of thing that would happen to a man who is close to God.

According to some sources of Islamic tradition, David marries Bathsheba after the death of Uriah, and she becomes the mother of Solomon. To Muslims, the legendary Bathsheba herself is a not a very known figure, being generally called simply the wife of Uriah. See Al-Tha'labi, "ḳiṣaṣ-anbiyya," pp. 243 et seq., ed. Cairo, 1298; and Ibn al-Athir, i. 95 et seq., ed. Cairo, 1301.

Critical view

Bathsheba receiving David's letter. Willem Drost

Her name, which perhaps means "daughter of the oath", is in I Chronicles 3:5 spelled "Bath-shua", the form becomes merely a variant reading of "Bath-sheba". The passages in which Bath-sheba is mentioned are II Samuel 11:2-12:24, and I Kings 1, 2.—both of which are parts of the oldest stratum of the books of Samuel and Kings. It is part of that court history of David, written by someone who stood very near the events and who did not idealize David. The material contained in it is of higher historical value than that in the later strata of these books. Budde would connect it with the J document of the Hexateuch.

The only interpolations in it which concern the story of Bathsheba are some verses in the early part of the twelfth chapter, that heighten the moral tone of Nathan's rebuke of David; according to Karl Budde ("S. B. O. T."), the interpolated portion is xii. 7, 8, and 10-12; according to Friedrich Schwally (Stade's "Zeitschrift," xii. 154 et seq.) and H. P. Smith ("Samuel," in "International Critical Commentary"), the whole of xii. 1-15a is an interpolation, and xii. 15b should be joined directly to xi. 27. This does not directly affect the narrative concerning Bathsheba herself. Chronicles, which draws a veil over David's faults, omits all reference to the way in which Bathsheba became David's wife, and gives only the names of her children: Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.

The father of Bathsheba was Eliam (spelled "Ammiel" in I Chronicles 3:5). As this was also the name of a son of Ahithophel, one of David's heroes (II Samuel 23:34), it has been conjectured that Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahithophel and that the latter's desertion of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion was in revenge for David's conduct toward Bathsheba.

See also

  • Bathsheba at Her Bath
  • The Adventure of the Crooked Man - A Sherlock Holmes story which uses the David / Bathsheba story as its main structure.


  1. Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me, An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel, p.217, Canon Press (2003)
  2. Robertson Smith, "Religion of the Semites," pp. 455, 488.

External links

ar:بثشبع ca:Betsabé cs:Batšeba eo:Batseba fa:بتسابه ko:밧세바 id:Batsyeba ka:ბერსაბე hu:Betsabé (keresztnév) ja:バト・シェバ no:Batseba pt:Bate-Seba ru:Вирсавия sk:Betsabe fi:Batseba sv:Batseba yi:בת שבע zh:拔示巴