A New Way of Seeing David’s Sin with Bathsheba

This week, instead of answering a question, I want to share with you something I wrote for another blog addressing David's sin with Bathsheba. If you find this informative, please share it with your church leaders.

It was a regular Sunday morning, my husband and I attended worship at our home church. Our senior pastor was on vacation so an associate pastor was preaching. His text was Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance after Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah.

My pastor began describing the background of what led up to Nathan’s confrontation. He shared the familiar story about David’s adultery with Bathsheba and how after Bathsheba became pregnant, David covered up their affair by having her husband, Uriah, put in the front lines of battle so he would be killed. Immediately I felt anxious and I was distracted throughout the rest of the sermon. Although my pastor’s emphasis was on God’s great mercy and forgiveness not David’s sin, I could not focus.

I have learned to pay attention to those internal moments as Holy Spirit led. This was not the first time I felt troubled after a pastor or speaker labeled David’s sin as adultery and his relationship with Bathsheba as an affair. I even cringe when the paragraph headings of my Bible describe David’s behavior in that way.

David’s relationship with Bathsheba was not mutual or consensual. It was not an affair. It is better described as David’s lustful craving coupled with an abuse of his power. David took Bathsheba to his bed because he could, he was the king. In the same way he misused his military authority when he later ordered Bathsheba’s husband to the front lines of battle in order to cover up his first sin (For the story read 2 Samuel 11 and 12).

When God’s prophet, Nathan, confronted David, Nathan told him a story describing a rich and powerful man who selfishly used his might to take something from another person who was helpless to stop him. David didn’t recognize himself in Nathan’s story but became outraged at such injustice. When Nathan said, “You are that man,” David saw himself and his heart broke.

After the sermon was over I told my husband I needed to talk with our pastor. I whispered a quick prayer, approached him and asked if he had a minute. Graciously he responded positively.

I said, “I know your sermon wasn’t focused on David and Bathsheba but do you think Bathsheba had a real choice?”

Surprise engulfed his entire face. He humbly said, “I never thought of it that way.” I went on to explain my concerns and how Nathan named David’s sin as an abuse of power, not of sexual misbehavior. Bathsheba is never mentioned because she was a victim, not a willing participant.

I went home hoping that the next time he preached about David’s sin with Bathsheba he would describe it as Nathan did, but the good news is that wasn’t the end of the story.

The next day I received a phone call from another one of my pastors wanting to discuss a marital altercation from the previous evening that he thought was abusive. He described what happened and then added, “Pastor shared with me what you told him yesterday about David’s abuse of power and I’m wondering if this incident isn’t similar?”

My jaw dropped and my heart rejoiced. Instead of seeing this couple’s problem as sinful anger or marital conflict, he recognized the deeper heart issues. Her husband felt entitled to his wife’s compliance and when she didn’t give him what he wanted, he used his physical power to block her right to choose. Her husband misused his authority as her husband to get his own way and he believed he had every right to do so.

I share my story in this blog because one of my passions as a Christian leader, counselor, author, and speaker is to educate other Christians about the misuse and abuse of power, especially in a family. Jesus warned his disciples against using their legitimate power or authority inappropriately.

He said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:41-46).

Biblical headship never entitles one to misuse that authority simply to get his own way, whether it is in a church, a company, community, or in a family. At the heart of most domestic abuse is the sinful use of power to gain control over another individual. The weapons used are physical strength, outbursts of anger and verbal threats, emotional battering and intimidation, economic control, sexual pressure or domination, and/or spiritual one-upmanship. One person in the relationship seeks to control the other by using anger, money, and the scriptures.

Sadly, I have seen many hurting individuals and families devastated by inadequate counsel in these situations simply because his or her pastor or counselor did not perceive the imbalance of power and control in the relationship. Instead of putting an axe to the root problem, he or she focused on anger management, conflict resolution, improved communication, or headship/ submission issues.

Jesus cautions those of us who do have positions of authority – parents, husbands, pastors, elders, counselors, teachers, and other leaders not to misuse those God-ordained positions for self-centered purposes. These roles are given to us by God to humbly serve those individuals or groups that have been entrusted to our care, not to have our ego’s stroked or to get our own way.

If my seminary trained pastor had never thought about David’s sin as an abuse of power, perhaps there other Christian leaders, pastors and counselors who don’t understand this problem very well either. I’m begging you to spread the word in the spheres of influence you have so that this problem is not only identified, but addressed Biblically.


  1. Anonymous on August 9, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    Thank you for sharing this and I will share it with others!

  2. Anonymous on August 9, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    David's sin began before he saw Bathsheba. He should have been out with his army but he chose to stay home. That is often the way sin develops. It is not just a sudden bad choice but a series of steps that lead to the sin.

  3. Anonymous on August 10, 2010 at 10:54 am

    Leslie, I greatly appreciate your insight on this passage. What do you make of the way Bathsheba came to David's notice?
    I note that the text does not say where she was bathing, only that David was able to see from the vantage point of the palace roof.

  4. Inge Allen on August 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Leslie, thank you for sharing your insight and for having the courage to share your heart with our pastor.
    The good news is, that however despicable David's actions were, he repented, he was forgiven – that's a great comfort to me. And, through his line came our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ!

  5. Inge Allen on August 10, 2010 at 11:41 pm

    Leslie, thank you for sharing your insight and for having the courage to share your heart with our pastor.
    The good news is, that however despicable David's actions were, he repented, he was forgiven – that's a great comfort to me. And, through his line came our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ!

  6. Anonymous on August 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I think some people are missing the point…

    Yes, David wasn't where he was supposed to be which led to his sin with Bathsheba.

    2 Samuel 11:4 – So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (ESV)

    It sounds like Bathsheba had little choice in the matter. When the king sends court messengers requesting your attendance, you go. Consider the context of the day, the king rules and subjects obey or pay the consequences.

    Plus, has anyone considered Bathsheba's suffering? She was sexually violated, became pregnant, her husband was murdered by the king, and her child died. I'm suprised how quickly people read into the text that Bathsheba was a willing participant and some how culpable. The text does not support this.

    What we know is that Nathan exposed David's sin, not Bathsheba's part in the matter. This was clearly an abuse of David's power and position.

    And yes, we should not forget that David repents, God forgives, and removes David's guilt. That's the hope we all have. But we can't forget the victims that are trying live in the wake of our sinfulness.

  7. Leslie Vernick on August 11, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Thank you for your comments and support. I agree, Bathsheba was a victim of sexual abuse and recently I read in the geneology of Christ where Matthew wrote, "David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah). Matthew 1:6. I think that is God's way of continuing to identify Bathsheba as a victim, not a mutual partner in David's sin.

  8. Anonymous on August 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    My first (only) experience so far in sharing this was: “But why was Bathsheba bathing “for” King David. What were her motives?” It’s like the comments, “She wants to be beaten or she wouldn’t stay with him.”

  9. Anonymous on August 16, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    I think this topic is incredibly important and horribly misunderstood. Leslie, please consider writing a book on this topic.

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