Bathsheba - people in her story

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Bible text for this story

Bathsheba, by Jan Steen, detail

Bible study activities

Red rose, wild


Bathsheba's story

People in this story

Detail from the painting 'The Queen of Sheba visits King Solomon'

King Solomon's Palace

Face of a wealthy aristocrat, from the Fayum coffin portraits

Solomon: 
wise? foolish?

Reconstruction of an ancient house with rooftop space for work and leisure

Bathing on the roof?

Ancient Jewelry

Golden wreath

David, flawed hero


 


 


 

 

 

People in the Story

Bathsheba, granddaughter of the King's counselor, daughter of a high ranking soldier, wife of another high-ranking soldier; beautiful, intelligent, very much a political animal. Good at manipulating people to do what she wants.

John William Godward, DrusillaWorth noting about Bathsheba:

  • she is born into a high ranking family: her grandfather is a trusted counselor of the leader/petty king of Jerusalem before is is conquered by David, and he is clever enough to be accepted by David, the new ruler, as his own counselor

  • she marries a high-ranking military officer at a young age - no doubt an arranged marriage

  • she has no children by her husband Uriah - why? because they have been only married for a brief time? or because he is away fighting much of the time?

  • she is beautiful 

  • she seems to have been politically astute, as her grandfather was

  • she takes the chance when it presents itself of raising her social position

  • she is shrewd enough to be able to put her son on the throne when David dies, even though he is a younger son and not expected to rule


David, a powerful, charismatic king. Politically clever, but often governed by his emotions, especially when it comes to family matters. Unscrupulous when it comes to women. An erratic parent, favoring one child over the others.

Michelangelo's 'David', detail of headWorth noting about David:

  • he is the most complex character in the Bible, a pragmatist (read how he reacts to the death of his child in 2 Samuel 12:15-23) and yet able to charm people into loving him

  • for much of his reign he is fighting to maintain  his hold on power, but at the time of his seduction of Bathsheba, he is secure enough in his position as king to be able to stay at home in Jerusalem while his army is fighting

  • confident to the point of stupidity: he must have known that seducing Bathsheba would lead to great trouble, yet he follows his impulse to have her

  • pitiable in his old age, when he has become impotent and is manipulated by his clever wife


Uriah, Head of a Warrior, da Vinci noble but hapless husband of Bathsheba, who certainly knows about her infidelity with David but is powerless to do anything about it. 

Betrayed by his king David, murdered on the battlefield so that David can marry Bathsheba.

Worth noting about Uriah:

  • he is probably aware of Bathsheba's infidelity from the start; it would have been common knowledge among the soldiers at the palace - Bathsheba had to pass through the guarded gateway to reach David's quarters

  • even drunk, he will not take part in David's plan to cover up the reason for Bathsheba's pregnancy; is he honorable, or stupid?


One of the Fayum coffin portraitsSolomon, son of Bathsheba and David. One of many sons, but eventually after a number of convenient deaths of older brothers, he becomes heir to the throne. 

Worth noting about Solomon:

  • noted in later ages for his wisdom (or is that simply shrewdness?), he shows this by allowing Bathsheba to orchestrate the murder of his older brother Adonijah (the story is at  1 Kings 2:13-25).

  • he will later prove to be a brilliant administrator and ruler, but the reader must keep in mind that Solomon's story is based on records written by his own court officials, who naturally presented Solomon in the best possible light.


Adonijah, popular son of David, expected to be king after David,  but out-maneuvered by the political party led by Bathsheba and Nathan, and executed by Solomon.


Nathan, probably a native of Jerusalem and kept on as astute adviser by David after he makes Jerusalem his capital. 

Nathan held a special position described nowadays as 'prophet', where he was able to advise the king in a frank manner that was not permitted to other courtiers and advisers.


Lucrezia Panciatichi, BronzinoAbishag, an exceptionally beautiful young woman whose naked body, it was hoped, would arouse David from impotence.

In ancient times a king's sexual impotence was seen as a portent of danger for the whole kingdom, possibly even as a sign of future famine in the land.

 

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