Roberta Kells Dorr. David and Bathsheba. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2013, 1990. See here to buy the book.
The story of David and Bathsheba is in the biblical book of II
Samuel. King David of Israel sees a beautiful woman bathing from his
roof. He learns that she is Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
David sleeps with Bathsheba, and she becomes pregnant. David tries to
make it look like her baby is Uriah’s, so David tells Uriah to go home
and sleep with Bathsheba. Instead, Uriah stays at his post. David then
sent a letter to his military leader, Joab, instructing Joab to have
the Israelite soldiers abandon Uriah in the heat of battle. Uriah is
killed by the Ammonites, and David takes Bathsheba as his wife. The
prophet Nathan rebukes David for this and informs him of God’s coming
punishment. Ahithophel, David’s wise adviser and possibly Bathsheba’s
grandfather (cp. II Samuel 11:3 and 23:34), leaves David and joins
David’s son Absalom when Absalom attempts to take over the throne.
Roberta Kells Dorr’s David and Bathsheba goes from the time
that David ascended the throne of Judah after the death of King Saul, to
the aftermath of Absalom’s rebellion. There were many things that I
liked about this book, but I would like to highlight three details in
the book that particularly interested me.
First of all, there is Uriah the Hittite. Why does a Hittite have in
his name the name of the God of Israel (“Jah”)? Dorr attempts to
account for that. In Dorr’s story, Uriah was originally Uri, a Hittite
who helped David take Jerusalem from the Jebusites. After Uri does
this, Ahithophel gives Uri his granddaughter Bathsheba in marriage. To
marry Bathsheba, Uri needs to convert to the worship of the God of
Israel, so he changes his name from “Uri” to “Uriah” to honor the
Second, Uriah in Dorr’s story knew that David slept with Bathsheba,
and that was why Uriah refused to leave his post. Uriah was upset with
David and did not want to participate in David’s cover-up. This stood
out to me because Meir Sternberg, in The Poetics of Biblical Narrative, entertains the idea that Uriah was aware of David’s adultery with Bathsheba.
Third, Dorr explores the possibility that God intended David to be
with Bathsheba all along. Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba.
When II Samuel 7 is read alongside I Chronicles 22, the story that
emerges is that God foretold before David even met Bathsheba that
Solomon would be David’s successor on the throne and would build the
Temple. Moreover, Dorr interprets II Samuel 12:8 to mean that God would
have given Bathsheba to David in marriage, had David wanted her. Dorr
does not explain how this would have happened. In her story, Uriah was
frustrated with Bathsheba because she was not bearing him a son, and he
sent his previous wives away for the same reason. Perhaps the
conclusion we are supposed to draw is that Uriah would have divorced
Bathsheba, then David could have married her. Instead of relying on God
to work things out, however, David sinned.
Dorr’s explores interesting possibilities. She also seeks to explain
details in the biblical story: Why did David conduct a census? What is
the sound over the trees that was significant in the battle in II
Samuel 5? Dorr’s characterization is also intriguing. Ahithophel’s
stance towards religion, Bathsheba’s devout religious practice, and the
positives and negatives in Uriah’s character come to mind. Dorr also
portrayed the negative effects of David’s sin with Bathsheba: David
indeed gave God’s enemies an occasion to blaspheme (II Samuel 12:14),
and David felt God’s absence after his sin (Psalm 51).
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.