Bathsheba – conversations the morning after David’s summons to the palace

“You are not eating,” my husband said. “You are upset?”

“Yes, but let’s not speak of it right now. I don’t want to spoil your appetite.” We sat at our table, the evening meal in front of us. I had not yet placed anything on my plate while he had devoured the bread and pigeon I’d prepared for him. I tore off more bread and handed it to him. “Eat, please.”

“I have eaten sufficiently. Tell me.” He laid the bread on his plate. “Please.”

“You know Bathsheba, married to Uriah?”

“She is one of your customers, isn’t she?”

“I’ve repaired clothing and linens for her.” My small seamstress business kept me occupied a few hours each day. “She’s rather pretty, you know.”

“The only pretty woman I know is you,” he said.

“Hmm.” I let my husband’s comment go. “Something happened with her.”

“Something bad?”

“I fear so. I’m not sure. Maybe?”

“Now I am feeling upset,” he said. “I like Uriah, and his wife has always greeted us kindly when we’ve passed in the street. Tell me what happened.”

“As I said, she is an attractive woman and whether you admit noticing or not, someone else has.”

“I hope someone hasn’t been bothering her. Uriah is off to war fighting with the king’s forces.”

My plate sat empty and clean in front of me; I felt dirty with what I was about to say. “It is King David himself.”

He used the last morsel of bread to wipe his plate and tossed it into his mouth. Swallowing quickly he asked, “What is King David himself?”

“He’s the one who finds Bathsheba attractive.”

My husband pushed his chair back from the table and moved it around to sit beside me. “Start from the beginning. I’m not following you at all.”

“I went to her house yesterday morning to return a garment I’d repaired for her, a robe of Uriah’s that she wanted to surprise him with when he returns from war. She told me she had more but they weren’t at hand. She was on her way to bathe, so she asked me to return later in the day.”

“Bathing was so important she couldn’t wait and give you the garments while you were already there?”

“It was her ritual bath. You know for cleaning from her monthly …”

“I know, I know,” he interrupted me. “No need to be explicit.”

“And you don’t need to be so squeamish.”

“Don’t change the subject.” He mustered a cough and cleared his throat; I love his ways, especially when he attempts to cover these embarrassments. “You were telling me about Bathsheba’s day.”

“Yes. I returned in the late afternoon. She had not returned, so I went to the baths to see if she was still there. Sarah, the keeper of the bath, told me she’d been summoned to the palace.”

“Summoned? By whom?”

“Sarah overheard the palace messengers say it was King David’s command.”

“Does she even know the king?”

“I think not. Uriah has served him for years on the battlefield, but Bathsheba has never mentioned being invited to the palace before.”

“So she was summoned to the king. That must be a great honor. Perhaps the king wanted to talk of Uriah. After all, he is on the rolls of the King David’s mighty men.”

“She was summoned yesterday,” I said. “And I don’t think the king spoke of Uriah. Bathsheba did not return until today.”

“Today? She was in the palace overnight?”

“I went to her home early this morning to collect the mending and saw her walking down the street that leads to the palace. She was alone.”

“What did she say?”

“Nothing. She had her shawl pulled tightly down over her head and didn’t see me until she almost collided with me at her threshold.”

“Did she tell you why the king summoned her?”

“I didn’t ask. She was shaking, and I think not from the morning chill. I took her inside her house and prepared some food and heated some water to mix with a small goblet of wine to steady her. She drank some, but ate nothing.” I looked up from staring at my hands twisting on my lap. “She remained silent almost the whole time I was with her.”

“So she gave no indication of what kept her at the palace all night?”

“Oh, my husband. Sometimes you are still as naïve as that boy I married two and a half decades ago.”

“I am?”

“Think of it. Bathsheba is beautiful, the king knows her husband is away, and he summons her to his palace for the night. What do you think he had in mind?”

“That can’t be. Uriah is one of the king’s men! There must be another reason than what you imply.”

“I hope so, but I fear the worst based on the one thing Bathsheba said to me.”

“What?” He took my hands from my lap, holding them to stop me wringing them raw.

“As she walked to the palace with the king’s messengers yesterday, she couldn’t imagine what she had done to merit an invitation to meet with King David. She told me she thought, like you, that it must be about Uriah.”

“But it wasn’t?”

Bathsheba at Bath, Paolo Veronese (ca. 1575)

“One of the messengers, a youngster, blurted out that the king had been on the palace roof and saw her bathing as he looked down into the bath yard across the way from the ledge upon which he stood.”

“No!”

“She said the older man cuffed him and told him to speak only when carrying out orders.”

“Why did she not return home?” he asked.

“Honestly, you men don’t know what we deal with.”

“We don’t?”

“She’s a woman. He’s a man, and the king, and he sent his men to bring her to him. She had no choice in the matter. She did as she was told—as she was commanded—rather than suffer the consequences.” She trembled. “I think whatever happened, Bathsheba was not a willing participant.”

“You think there would be consequences?”

“If not for her, then for Uriah. He is the king’s to command.” I stood to take his plate to the wash basin. “I fear the king’s commands now when it comes to Uriah.”

“But our king is known to be just,” my husband said.

“Our king is also known to desire women for his palace, for his bed. I just hope Bathsheba is not his latest desire.”

“If only the king had gone with his army.” He stood, clenched fists held down at his side. “Why did he stay while the army—while Uriah!—went to fight his wars for him?”

I stood close to him and took his hands in mine, pulling his fingers out of the fists he’d made and laid them in my hands. “There are more questions than answers, my love.”

“But we must do something. Uriah and Bathsheba are our neighbors.”

“Yes, we must. Let us pray God’s protection on Bathsheba and for someone to intervene and show the king his error before it’s too late.”

“Good idea,” he said. “And I know just who I will pray for God to guide to the king.”

“You do?”

“Nathan, the prophet. I will pray that God will stir his heart and give him the words he needs to confront the king.”

***

[This dialog is merely an imagined event. See 2 Samuel 11:1-12:31 for the full story of what actually happened.]

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5 Responses to Bathsheba – conversations the morning after David’s summons to the palace

  1. This is excellent thinking and excellent writing. Thank you!

  2. Jeannie Prinsen says:

    This is powerful, Tim. I like how you’ve imagined it. Nathan’s not part of your story except at the end, but I often wonder how he felt as he headed out to confront David. Did he deliberately choose a story format for his confrontation because he knew it would appeal to David’s sense of indignation? Or was he a little nervous, taking a soft-pedal approach to gauge David’s mood? Whatever he was feeling, when the moment came to take a strong stand, he didn’t flinch.

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