There are two genealogies given in the gospels. The familiar Christmas story, read in Christian schools, in churches, by firelight in countless homes each year...this appears in the gospel of Luke. Scholars believe that the genealogy it contains is that of Mary, while Matthew's traces the lineage of Joseph.
Why does it matter? The Messiah's birth was foretold in the Old Testament. Micah 5:2 says “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” Scholars (again) connect this prophecy to Jesus.
Luke tells us that there was a census. Joseph had already decided not to divorce Mary after an angel told him not to (smart man) and had to go to his family's home of Bethlehem, under Roman law. Mary's lineage was also from the house of David the king, but women weren't regarded as all that important at the time. The head of the household was what mattered, and so Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem where, the story goes, the time came for her to give birth to a very special baby, conceived of the Holy Spirit.
For the prophecy to be fulfilled, Mary had to be betrothed to a man of the house of David, even though his bloodline wasn't, technically, the highest priority. Mary is venerated, even worshipped by some, and by all accounts a remarkable young woman...but she also couldn't be betrothed to just anyone. Had to be form the house of David, so that he'd have to take her to Bethlehem. Well, you get the idea.
Matthew's lineage, written to Jewish readers, includes -- amazingly --- four women, and not the ones you might expect. No mention of Eve, the mother of us all, or Sarah, the mother of the Jewish race. No Rebekah, the mother of Jacob, whose twelve sons became the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Matthew included the names of Tamar, a Jewish daughter-in-law who posed as a prostitute to get pregnant by her father-in-law; Rahab, an ACTUAL prostitute who saved Jewish spies in Jericho; Ruth, whose "Whither thou goest" speech is often quoted at weddings but was spoken to the mother of her dead husband; and then...there's Bathsheba, who isn't even named.
She gets credited as the "wife of Uriah." Whaaaat?
The story is not a sweet one. In a nutshell, King David sent the army out but stayed behind, saw Bathsheba bathing on the rooftop, sent for her and got her pregnant, invited her husband (and one of his esteemed Mighty Men) Uriah home for R&R to cover his actions. Uriah wouldn't sleep with his wife while his men were embattled, so David sent him back to war with instructions to place good ole Uriah on the front lines, hoping for his imminent death. Uriah did indeed die; David married Bathsheba, the baby died and David repented. David and Bathsheba lived, if not happily ever after, long enough to have Solomon, who became king, was regarded as the wisest man on earth at the time, and who built the Temple.
That's a lot of history, but at the very least it shows that the Bible is not dull. Why bring this up now? Because when Bathsheba's story is mentioned, it is always (in my experience) slanted. David, hero of the Goliath incident, writer of Psalms, husband of many...he is shown to be the lustful, powerful man who wrongly sends Uriah to his death to cover his adultery. That's fair.
Bathsheba doesn't get a lot of mention at all, other than as sort of a victim of circumstances. Uriah is praised as a man of honor.
That's not the way I see it.
Uriah was one of David's Mighty Men. Respected by his soldiers. Respected by his king (up to a point). But, really? He refused to sleep with his wife because his men were in the field? What did that communicate to his wife, and was it a pattern she had been living with for years?
No wonder she went to the palace when David called her.
I'm not saying she was justified, or that David wasn't wrong. I'm just pointing out that back when Joshua was preparing the Israelites for war, God told him to send home anyone who'd just been married, so he could enjoy his wife. A man is supposed to be intimate with his wife. A wife is supposed to be intimate with her husband. If one of them refuses, no one should be surprised when things take a different direction.
Uriah would have been better off to have slept with his wife and returned to battle happier and more refreshed. Would he have died anyway? No doubt -- otherwise, Solomon wouldn't have been born. Had David not called for Bathsheba after the rooftop bathing...had he not gotten her pregnant...had nothing wrong transpired...I'll go out on a limb and say I think Uriah would have still died in battle, David would have still married Bathsheba, and they would have still had Solomon. Without all the condemnation and conviction and grief.
Maybe Bathsheba had had all the neglect she could handle. Maybe she heard that David was in the habit of strolling on his rooftop at a certain hour. Maybe she planned the whole thing. Maybe she hoped that something would jolt her brave, strong husband out of his self-imposed, single-minded focus on Duty and remind him of his responsibility to her. We don't know.
But I like the fact that Bathsheba, even if she isn't called by her own name, gets a little press in the gospel of Matthew. She was a black mark on the beloved King David's reputation, but she didn't put it there all by herself. David was a participant. And so was Uriah.
|Fort Pierce artist |
beautiful "This I Do For You."