Queen consort of Israel
Bathsheba holding King David's letter [ja] by Willem Drost, 1654, Louvre Museum
SpouseUriah the Hittite
HouseHouse of David

Bathsheba (/bæθˈʃbə/ or /ˈbæθʃɪbə/; Hebrew: בַּת־שֶׁבַע, Baṯ-šeḇaʿ, Bat-Sheva or Batsheva, "daughter of Sheba" or "daughter of the oath")[1] was the wife of Uriah the Hittite and later of David, according to the Hebrew Bible. She was the mother of Solomon, who succeeded David as king, making her the Gebirah (queen mother). She is best known for the Biblical narrative in which she was summoned by King David, who had seen her bathing and lusted after her.[2]

Biblical narrative

Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (2 Samuel 11:3, Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5).[3] An Eliam is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:34 as the son of Ahithophel, who is described as the Gilohite. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah the Hittite.

David's initial interactions with Bathsheba are described in 2 Samuel 11. While walking on the roof of his palace, David sees a beautiful woman bathing. He inquires about her, discovering her identity as the wife of Uriah. Still desiring her, David later has sex with Bathsheba, impregnating her.[4][5][6] (David E. Garland and Diana R. Garland regard David's actions as an example of rape in the Hebrew Bible.[7])

While the army was on campaign, David summoned Uriah in the hope that Uriah would have sex with Bathsheba, and in turn be convinced that the child she would eventually bear belonged to him. However, Uriah was unwilling to disregard rules applying to warriors on campaign,[8] preferring to remain with the palace troops rather than sleep in his own bed.

David and Bathsheba depicted in an anonymous 17th-century painting

After repeated efforts to convince Uriah to sleep with his wife failed, David gave an order to his general Joab that Uriah should be placed on the front lines in battle, where he would be in much greater danger. Additionally, David had Uriah himself carry this message back to the army. Uriah was ultimately killed during the siege of Rabbah, and Bathsheba mourned him. Then, David made her his wife, taking her into his house where she gave birth to his child.

David's actions displeased God, who sent the prophet Nathan to reprove the king. In relating a parable describing a rich man who took away the lamb of his poor neighbor, he incited the king's righteous anger, and Nathan then analogized the case directly to David's actions regarding Bathsheba. Nathan declared that God would punish the house of David for Uriah's murder and the taking of his wife. In turn, he would let someone close to David seize all David's wives, and having him lie with them in broad daylight for everyone to see. David at once confessed his sins, expressing sincere repentance. Shortly after Bathsheba's first child by David was born, God struck it with a severe illness. David pleaded with God to spare his child, fasting and spending the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground, but after seven days the child died. David accepted this as his punishment, and then went to the house of God to worship him.

Jean-Léon Gérôme's depiction of Bathsheba bathing watched by David.

David and Bathsheba would later have another son, Solomon. In David's old age, Bathsheba secured Solomon's succession to the throne instead of David's older surviving sons by other wives, based on promises David made to her. Nathan's prophecy came to pass years later when another of David's sons, the much-loved Absalom, led an insurrection that plunged the kingdom into civil war. To manifest his claim as the new king, Absalom had sex in public with ten of his father's concubines (2 Samuel 16), considered to be a direct, tenfold divine retribution for David's taking of another man's woman in secret.


Relationship to Ahithophel

William Blake's painting Bathsheba at the Bath, Tate Britain[9]

Several scholars see Bathsheba as the granddaughter of Ahithophel,[10] as do passages in the Talmud.[11] The argument is that she is called the daughter of Eliam in 2 Sam. 11:3, and 2 Sam 23:34 mentions an Eliam, the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, one of David's "thirty". The assumption is then that these two Eliams are the same person.

However, in 1 Chronicles the names are very different: Bathsheba is called Bathshua the daughter of Ammiel in 1 Chronicles 3:5. And in the list of David's thirty in 1 Chronicles 11:36 we have Ahijah the Pelonite. Some have also questioned whether Ahithophel would have been old enough to have a granddaughter.[12]

In rabbinic literature

Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor. The Aggadah states that Ahithophel was misled by his knowledge of astrology into believing himself destined to become king of Israel. He therefore induced Absalom to commit an unpardonable crime (2 Sam. 16:21), which sooner or later would have brought with it, according to Jewish law, the penalty of death; the motive for this advice being to remove Absalom, and thus to make a way for himself to the throne. His astrological information had been, however, misunderstood by him; for in reality it only predicted that his granddaughter, Bathsheba, the daughter of his son Eliam, would become queen.[13]

Bath-sheba, the granddaughter of Ahithophel, David's famous counselor, was only eight years and eight months of age when her son Solomon was born, while some maintain that she was not older than six (Sanh. 69b).[14]

The influence of the evil tempter of humanity brought about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba. The Midrash portrays the influence of Satan bringing about the sinful relation of David and Bathsheba as follows: Bath-sheba was making her bathing on the roof of her house behind a screen of wickerwork, when Satan came in the disguise of a bird; David, shooting at it, struck the screen, splitting it; thus Bathsheba was revealed in her beauty to David (ib. 107a). Bath-sheba was providentially destined from the Creation to become in due time the legitimate wife of David; but this relation was immaturely precipitated, and thus he became Bath-sheba's partner in sin (ib.).[15]

Bath-sheba is praised for her share in the successful effort to secure the succession to Solomon. Thus the verse in Eccl. iv. 9, "Two are better than one," is applied to David and Bath-sheba; while "the threefold cord" which shall not be quickly broken (ib. verse 12) is applied to the activity of Nathan the prophet, who joined in the effort (Eccl. R. iv. 9).[14]


In Matthew 1:6, "the wife of Uriah" is mentioned as one of the ancestors of Jesus.

In medieval typology, Bathsheba is recognized as the antetype foreshadowing the role of Ecclesia, the church personified, as David was the antetype for Jesus.[16] As a queen and mother, she was also associated with the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven. Bathsheba's son, King Solomon, rises to greet her, bows down in veneration, and furnishes her a seat at his right hand. This demonstrates her exalted status and share in the royal kingdom.[17] Bathsheba acts as intercessor for her subjects, delivering their petitions to the King: "Pray ask King Solomon—he will not refuse you—to give me Abishag the Shunammite as my wife".[18][19][20][21][22][23]

Bathsheba at Her Bath by Rembrandt

Bathsheba (Barsabeh, Bathsabeh) is venerated in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as a saint. Her feast day is 27 November (01 Tahsas).[24]


In Islam, David is considered to be a prophet, and some Islamic tradition views the Bible story as incompatible with the principle of infallibility (Ismah) of the prophets. A hadith quoted in Tafsir al-Kabir and Majma' al-Bayan expresses that Ali ibn Abi Talib said: "Whoever says that David, has married Uriah's wife as the legends are narrate, I will punish him twice: one for qazf (falsely accusing someone of adultery) and the other for desecrating the prophethood (defamation of prophet David)".[25]

Another hadith narrated from Shia scholars states that Ali Al-Ridha, during the discussions with the scholars of other religions about prophets' infallibility, asked one of them, "What do you say about David?" he said "David was praying, when a beautiful bird appeared in front of him, and David left his prayer and went after the bird. While David was walking on the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba having a bath... so David placed her husband in the front lines of the battlefield, in order to get killed, so that he could marry Bathsheba." Ali Al-Ridha got upset and said: "Inna Lillahi wa inna ilaihi raji'un, you assign sluggishness in prayer to the prophet of God, and then accuse him of unchastity, and then charge him with the murder of an innocent man!" He asked "so what is the story of Uriah?" and Ali Al-Ridha said "At that time, women whose husbands passed away or got killed in the war would never get married again (and this was the source of many evils). David was the first person to break this tradition. So after Uriah was incidentally killed in the war, David married his wife, but people could hardly accept this anomalous marriage (and subsequently legends were made about this marriage.)[26]

Critical commentary

Bathsheba with David's messenger, as the king watches from his roof, 1562 Jan Massys

Bathsheba's name appears in 1 Chronicles 3:5 spelled "Bath-shua", the form becomes merely a variant reading of "Bath-sheba". The passages in which Bath-sheba is mentioned are 2 Samuel 11:2–12:24, and 1 Kings 1:2—both of which are parts of the oldest stratum of the books of Samuel and Kings, part of that court history of David, written by someone who stood very near the events and who did not idealize David. The material contained in it is of higher historical value than that in the later strata of these books. Budde later connected it with the Jahwist document of the Hexateuch.[27]

The only interpolations that concern the story of Bathsheba are some verses in the early part of the twelfth chapter, that heighten the moral tone of Nathan's rebuke of David. According to Karl Budde the interpolated portion is 12: 7, 8, and 10–12; according to Friedrich Schwally and H. P. Smith, the whole of 12: 1–15a is an interpolation, and 12:. 15b should be joined directly to 11: 27. This does not directly affect the narrative concerning Bathsheba herself. 1 Chronicles omits all reference to the way in which Bathsheba became David's wife, and gives only the names of her children in 1 Chronicles 3:5—Shimea, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon.[27]

The father of Bathsheba was Eliam ("Ammiel" in 1 Chronicles 3:5). As this was also the name of a son of Ahithophel, one of David's heroes (2 Samuel 23:34), perhaps Bathsheba was a granddaughter of Ahithophel and that the latter's desertion of David at the time of Absalom's rebellion was in revenge for David's conduct toward Bathsheba.[28]

Kenneth E. Bailey interprets the passage from a different perspective: he says that David's Jerusalem was tightly packed and Bathsheba's house may have been as close as twenty feet away from David's rooftop; people in ancient times were exceptionally modest about their bodies, so he suggests that Bathsheba displayed herself deliberately, so that instead of being an innocent victim, it was actually she who seduced David in order to rid herself of Uriah, and move in with King David.[29]

David summoned Bathsheba for sex.[30][31][32] Lawrence O. Richards states that the biblical text supports the innocence of Bathsheba, that David took the initiative to find out her identity and summon her, and that she was alone at the time and had no way to refuse the requests of a King.[30] David J. Zucker writes that "[s]he is a victim of 'power rape'".[32] Andrew J. Schmutzer stated that "David's 'taking' Bathsheba makes him responsible for her coming to him."[33] Antony F. Campbell states "The 'violation of Bathsheba' may be the least unsatisfactory terminology, especially given the ambivalence of the text's storytelling."[4] According to Michael D. Coogan, the faulting of David is made clear in the text from the very beginning: "It was springtime, the time when kings go forth to war... but David remained in Jerusalem" (2 Samuel 11:1); if David had been away at war, the incident would not have taken place.[34]

The Bathsheba incident leads to a shift in the book's perspective; afterwards David "is largely at the mercy of events rather than directing them".[35] He is no longer able to control his family, and ends up being overthrown by Absalom. And in 2 Samuel 13 the story of David's son Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar, told so soon after the incident of Bathsheba, seems to draw a parallel between the sexual misconduct of father and son.[36]

Cultural references

Art – Bathsheba in her bath

Painting by Artemisia Gentileschi
(more in Commons).

Along with Eve, Bathsheba was almost the only female whose nude depiction could easily and regularly be justified in Christian art, and she is therefore an important figure in the development of the nude in medieval art. Though sometimes shown clothed at other points in her story, the most common depiction, in both medieval and later art, was Bathsheba at her Bath, the formal name for the subject in art showing Bathsheba bathing, watched by King David. This could be shown with various degrees of nudity, depending on the pose and the placing of clothes or towels. One of the most common placements in the 15th century, perhaps surprisingly, was in miniatures illustrating a book of hours, a personal prayer book, that overtook the psalter as the most popular devotional book for laypeople. This was especially the case in France.[37]

In art the subject is one of the most commonly shown in the Power of Women topos. As an opportunity to feature a large female nude as the focus of a history painting, the subject was popular from the Renaissance onwards. Sometimes Bathsheba's maids or the "messengers" sent by David are shown, and often a distant David watching from his roof. The messengers are sometimes confused with David himself, but most artists follow the Bible in keeping David at a distance in this episode.

Paintings with articles include:



Bathsheba has been portrayed by:


See also



  1. ^ "Bathsheba definition and meaning". Collins Dictionary. n.d. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  2. ^ "Bathsheba biblical figure". Britannica. 8 August 2023.
  3. ^ J. D. Douglas, Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Zondervan Academic, USA, 2011, p. 172
  4. ^ a b Antony F. Campbell (2005). 2 Samuel. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 104–. ISBN 978-0-8028-2813-2.
  5. ^ Sara M. Koenig (2011). Isn't This Bathsheba?: A Study in Characterization. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 69–. ISBN 978-1-60899-427-4.
  6. ^ Antony F. Campbell (2004). Joshua to Chronicles: An Introduction. Westminster John Knox Press. pp. 161–. ISBN 978-0-664-25751-4.
  7. ^ Garland, David E.; Garland, Diana R. "Bathsheba's Story: Surviving Abuse and Loss" (PDF). Baylor University. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  8. ^ William Robertson Smith (1889). Lectures on the Religion of the Semites: First Series. The Fundamental Institutions. A. and C. Black. p. 465.
  9. ^ Morris Eaves; Robert N. Essick; Joseph Viscomi (eds.). "Bathsheba at the Bath, object 1 (Butlin 390) "Bathsheba at the Bath"". William Blake Archive. Retrieved December 26, 2013.
  10. ^ Sara M. Koenig (8 November 2011). Isn't This Bathsheba?: A Study in Characterization. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-1-60899-427-4.
  11. ^ Ronald L. Eisenberg (14 September 2012). Essential Figures in the Bible. Jason Aronson. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-7657-0940-0.
  12. ^ "Ahithophel in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2017-08-27.
  13. ^ Sanhedrin 101b, Yalkut Shimoni Samuel § 150).
  14. ^ a b Bathsheba Jewish EncyclopediaPublic Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ Sanhedrin 107a
  16. ^ Kren 2005, p. 49.
  17. ^ 1 Kings 2:19–20
  18. ^ 1 Kings 2:17
  19. ^ "Is Mary's Queenship Biblical?".
  20. ^ "Is There a Queen in the Kingdom of Heaven? Pt. II".
  21. ^ Kirwin, George F. The Nature of the Queenship of Mary, 1973.
  22. ^ Rossier, Francois. L'intercession entre les hommes dans la bible hebraique by Francois Rossier, 1997.
  23. ^ Sri 2005, pp. 49–53.
  24. ^ Grébaut, Sylvain (1927). Patrologia orientalis (in Geez). Robarts - University of Toronto. Paris: Paris Firmin-Didot. p. 556.
  25. ^ "عن سعيد بن المسيب أن علي بن أبي طالب كرم اللّه تعالى وجهه قال: «من حدثكم بحديث داود على ما يرويه القصّاص جلدته مائة و ستين(جلّدته مائة جلدة مضاعفا) و هو حد الفرية على الأنبياء»" (Tafsir al-Kabir, al-Razi, vol. 26, p. 379; Ruh al-Ma'ani, vol. 12, p. 178; Tafsir al-Muraghi, vol. 23, p. 111.)
    "روي عن أمير المؤمنين (ع) أنه قال لا أوتى برجل يزعم أن داود تزوج امرأة أوريا إلا جلدته حدين حدا للنبوة و حدا للإسلام" (Tafsir Majma' al-Bayan, vol 8, p 736.) "لأنّ المزاعم المذكورة تتّهم من جهة إنسانا مؤمنا بارتكاب عمل محرّم، و من جهة اخرى تنتهك حرمة مقام النبوّة، و من هنا حكم الإمام بجلد من يفتري عليه عليه السّلام مرّتين (كلّ مرّة 80 سوطا)"(Tafsir Nemooneh, vol 19, p 257.)
  26. ^ Tafsir Nemooneh, vol. 19, p. 257; Oyoun Akhbar Al-Ridha, vol. 1, p. 154; Amali Saduq, p. 91.
  27. ^ a b Morris Jastrow, Jr., Morris et al. "Bath-sheba", Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  28. ^ Steven L. McKenzie (27 April 2000). King David: A Biography. Oxford University Press. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-19-535101-9.
  29. ^ Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. pp. 40-41.
  30. ^ a b Lawrence O. Richards (2002). Bible Reader's Companion. David C Cook. pp. 210–. ISBN 978-0-7814-3879-7.
  31. ^ Carlos Wilton (June 2004). Lectionary Preaching Workbook: For All Users of the Revised Common, the Roman Catholic, and the Episcopal Lectionaries. Series VIII. CSS Publishing. pp. 189–. ISBN 978-0-7880-2371-2.
  32. ^ a b David J. Zucker (10 December 2013). The Bible's Prophets: An Introduction for Christians and Jews. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 51–. ISBN 978-1-63087-102-4.
  33. ^ Andrew J. Schmutzer (1 October 2011). The Long Journey Home: Understanding and Ministering to the Sexually Abused. Wipf and Stock Publishers. pp. 146–. ISBN 978-1-60899-395-6.
  34. ^ Coogan 2009, p. 210.
  35. ^ Coogan 2009, p. 208.
  36. ^ Coogan 2009, p. 2120.
  37. ^ Kren 2005, pp. 43–49.
  38. ^ Brooks, Geraldine (2015). The Secret Chord. NewYork: Viking. ISBN 9780670025770.
  39. ^ "And David Wept". 14 April 1971 – via
  40. ^ Burnette-Bletsch, Rhonda (12 September 2016). The Bible in Motion: A Handbook of the Bible and Its Reception in Film. Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. ISBN 9781614513261. Retrieved 2 September 2018 – via Google Books.
  41. ^ "The Fourth, The Fifth, The Minor Fall". BBC. 1 November 2008.
  42. ^ "2 Samuel 11 - NIV Bible - In the spring, at the time when kings go off to..." Bible Study Tools.
  43. ^ "Song lyrics for Dead at". Archived from the original on 2015-09-24. Retrieved 2015-08-28.



  • Kristin De Troyer, "Looking at Bathsheba with Text-Critical Eyes," in Nóra Dávid, Armin Lange, Kristin De Troyer and Shani Tzoref (eds), The Hebrew Bible in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls (Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011) (Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments, 239), 84–94.