I missed writing this past Sunday - we are now in the third week of Advent. Last Sunday the Joy candle was lit.
This week, I am going to write about Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. She is the third of 4 women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus: Rahab the prostitute was the first, Ruth the Moabite was second, and now we are at Bathsheba, who is only referred to as, "the wife of Uriah" in the first chapter of Matthew.
Bathsheba's story begins in 2 Samuel 11, but we have to go back a little further to get to know David.
David's story begins in 1 Samuel 16. Saul was the king of Israel but had displeased God, so God sent Samuel to anoint a new king. Samuel was sent to the home of Jesse, who had many sons. Samuel thought that each in turn would make a great king, but God kept saying, "Not this one." Finally, Samuel asked Jesse if there were any more sons and Jesse admitted to one more - the youngest, who was out tending the sheep. This was David, God's chosen king. David had all kinds of adventures with Saul, who you can imagine was none too happy with David usurping his throne, but you'll have to read that for yourselves. My story is about Bathsheba.
Bathsheba was a beautiful young woman who was married to Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was serving in King David's army. One morning as David was relaxing on the balcony of his palace, he spotted Bathsheba bathing. He asked who she was, and then in 2 Samuel 11:2-4, David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. Of course, Bathsheba became pregnant, and now David had a big problem, because Uriah was off fighting against the Ammonites. Uriah was brought home, but because Uriah was such a devout servant, he kept finding devout reasons why he should stay with David. He never did go home to see Bathsheba. David's plan B was to have Uriah killed at the front, which he did. Bathsheba lamented for Uriah, and once her time of mourning was done David brought her to the palace and married her.
God was not pleased with David's "infidelity" with Bathsheba, and Bathsheba's child died at just a few days old. This was the great blot on David's record and his relationship with God.
David consoled Bathsheba by lying with her, and she conceived again. This time her son was Solomon, and it was up to Bathsheba to see that Solomon inherited David's throne when he died.
Let's talk about this "infidelity." Once I was old enough to know about infidelity, I always believed that Bathsheba was a willing participant. Now that I am more jaded and cynical - read mature and informed - I realize that Bathsheba had NO CHOICE in this infidelity. When the king summons a young woman, I don't think "Absolutely NOT" is one of her options. David took advantage of his position and his power and coerced her, then had her husband murdered to cover up what he had done. I don't imagine Bathsheba was particularly happy to find herself married to the king, who had raped her and had her husband killed, except that she did have some security that way - for her and her child. Then at seven days old, the child died.
Why did Matthew think it was important to include "the wife of Uriah" in the genealogy of Jesus? Why wasn't her name used?
I understand why it was important to link Jesus to David - David had been the most effective king of Israel, so linking Jesus to David indicates that Jesus was a "king." The prophet Nathan told David that the Lord said, 12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me. When he commits iniquity, I will punish him with a rod such as mortals use, with blows inflicted by human beings. 15 But I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.” 17 In accordance with all these words and with all this vision, Nathan spoke to David. (2 Samuel 7:12-17). Isaiah writes,
A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse,
and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
2 The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
3 His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-3)
This passage is read by Christians as a promise that the Messiah would come directly from Jesse, who was David's father. It is clear that early Christians, who were Jews, needed to prove that Jesus was the Messiah by tying him directly to David.
But why the wife of Uriah? I think the fact that Bathsheba was unnamed is because of the great shame that David brought on her and himself. Bathsheba became "she who must not be named."
Why Bathsheba? David had other wives.
I think Matthew selected the women he did for specific reasons. I think Matthew chose Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba because they were marginalized, in the cases of Rahab and Ruth, and victimized, in the case of Bathsheba. I think Matthew's genealogy selects these women to make a statement about who Jesus was as a man - and this was important enough to Matthew to put this in the very first chapter and the very first verses, before he ever records Jesus words and actions. Remember that the Jewish people were not just Jews by religion, but also by culture. After the Exodus from Egypt, Moses assigned everyone into 12 tribes, led by the descendants of the brothers of Joseph. It was important to Jews that they knew from whom they descended. Early Jewish readers of the Gospel of Matthew would have read the "begats" with interest and an understanding that we today don't have. In fact, how many of us just skip over that part?
So here is what I think about the inclusion of these women. Their presence in the begats tells us that women are important - but that message has been lost over time. Their stories tell us that Jesus was, in his words, the Son of Man. Jesus lived in a patriarchy, and so did Matthew. Women were considered vessels to carry a man's seed, but clearly Jesus recognized that women were much more than just urns with skin on. I can develop a relationship with a man who values me for who I am, not just what I can do for him.
As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but even the Son of God comes from regular people who had messy lives with unhappy chapters, and who sinned. The fact that Jesus is descended from human people - and women who were important enough to be named - tells me that Jesus knows what it is to be human and forgives and ministers to even me. And if Jesus speaks to me, he can speak to you, too.
Jesus hung out with tax collectors and others who were shunned by society, just as prostitutes and sex workers are shunned today. Those who are convicted of crimes are shut away in a place where we don't have to think about them. Except that people are making money from their incarceration, which should never happen. Jesus sees them in their suffering and in their true humanity. If Rahab were alive today, she would be criminalized for the way she makes her living, condemned as a traitor, and shut away. Jesus, however, knows and loves her.
At the time that Jesus was crucified, the Jews were under the boot of Rome, and were treated as aliens in their own land. Ruth was an alien. We are still struggling with how to care for the immigrant, and we have forgotten that most of us (in the US anyway) are descended from aliens and immigrants. The effects of colonization are global and while colonization is, on paper anyway, not a thing anymore, people are still suffering.
Bathsheba tells us that even powerful women can be victimized - and Jesus binds up the wounds of victims and loves them for who they are, not what they did or had done to them. Bathsheba also reminds us not to judge others, for their stories may not be what they appear. God knows what happened to Bathsheba. David was punished for it (so was Bathsheba, in the death of her baby), but God did not forsake either of them. David didn't blame God for what happened. David and Bathsheba show us a way to repent of our sins and remain in relationship with God/Jesus. Bathsheba's son, Solomon, assumed the throne when David died. It was Solomon who built the temple in Jerusalem. Solomon was wise. Solomon was the last king to rule of a united Israel. Solomon was faithful to God.
Each of these mothers of Jesus - and all the others who remain unnamed - are important to who Jesus was and what He means to us today. As we approach Christmas, please remember each of them, and what their contribution to the man Jesus was means to us today.
Image. Paolo_Veronese_001.jpg (1576×1510) (wp.com). Accessed Dec 17, 2022.
Jews for Jesus. "The Messiah Would Be a Descendant of David." Jews for Jesus. Jan 1, 2018. The Messiah Would Be a Descendant of David - Jews for Jesus. Accessed Dec 16, 2022.
Real Christianity. "Jesus is a Direct Descendant of King David. Real Christianity. Nov 11, 2019. Jesus is a direct descendant of King David - Real Christianity. Accessed Dec. 16, 2022