The story of Batsheva appears in the second Book of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible. Her name is translated as meaning ‘Daughter of The Oath’.
Batsheva was the wife of Uriah the Hittite. In her time, the Israelites were engaged in war under the rule of King David. Batsheva’s husband was a promising soldier. Whilst at the battlefield, Uriah left his wife alone at home. One day, when she was bathing on her balcony, David noticed her from his palace rooftop. He was taken by her beauty, and summoned his servant to find out exactly who this young woman was.
When the servant returned with the news that she was married to Uriah, David insisted that he see Batsheva at once: “David sent messengers to fetch her. She came to him and he lay with her.” (Samuel 2:11:4) Without refusal or questioning on either side, the two committed a sin according to the laws of the Ten Commandments.
Thus Batsheva fell pregnant with King David’s child. She sent him word: “I am pregnant.” (Samuel 2:11:5) With this simple message, Batsheva defined her femininity and power and David lost control. Batsheva was seemingly unperturbed by the situation; meanwhile, David devised a plan to clean up his mess.
David ordered Uriah to come and meet with him. After wining and dining him, David sent him home. Uriah refused on the grounds of immorality, considering his fellow men at war, and spent the night outside with David’s guards until he could return to the front. David then proceeded to order his death: “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest, and then fall back, so he may be killed.” (Samuel 2:11:15)
David’s actions made God extremely angry. When Batsheva gave birth to a son it lived for only seven days in suffering. The baby’s life was taken for David’s wrong. David had let his sexual desire engulf him. In the process he broke three commandments, and so he was punished.
The figure of Batsheva is silent throughout the Biblical tale, with the exception of her message to David that she was pregnant. Questions have been raised about her marriage to Uriah and its stability, especially since she did not even flinch at David’s request to meet her. Although she did mourn her husband’s death, she soon married David. Batsheva is portrayed as submissive yet beautiful, her silence covering a mysterious personality.
Without a voice, or any further description than “she was very beautiful” (Samuel 2:11:2), Batsheva is a sex object, whom David seizes and claims with his seed. Given that the entire story ostensibly revolves around Batsheva, in particular her giving birth to her first and second sons, her silence is disturbing. Neither the death of her first-born nor her husband’s being killed leads her to question David.
Bathsheva’s second son with David was named Solomon, and he lived to become King of Israel. Her second chance at a son was perhaps God’s consolation for her difficult situation. Batsheva’s silence for most of the story could also be interpreted as her defense, possibly being her only means of displaying disapproval.
Batsheva, unlike her female predecessors in the Hebrew Bible, displayed her femininity through lack of speech. It is never made clear whether or not Batsheva was satisfied with David, or with her first husband. Her silence leads us to speculate on what really happened.