A-Z: Famous stories from the Bible: David and Bathsheba


It was spring – the time when, traditionally, the kings marched out to wage their wars. But this year, David stayed in Jerusalem and sent out his army under the command of Joab instead.

One night, unable to sleep, David was walking on the palace roof when Bathsheba bathinghe saw a woman bathing. He thought she was beautiful and found out she was Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers, Uriah, who was away with the army. He sent for her and they went to bed together. Soon, Bathsheba told David that she was pregnant. So he thought of a way to cover up what he had done. He sent for Uriah to return to Jerusalem, under the pretext of asking him how the battle was going. When they had talked, he told Uriah to go home – hoping that he would sleep with his wife.

But Uriah stayed at the palace, sleeping with the King’s other servants. ‘Why didn’t you go home last night?’ David asked him in the morning. ‘After all, you’ve been away from home for ages.’

‘The Ark of the Covenant, my master Joab and all of your other soldiers are sleeping rough and in danger. How could I go home and enjoy myself?’ Uriah told him. So David asked him to stay longer and that night made sure he was drunk. But Uriah still did not visit his wife.

So David had to change his tactics. He sent a message to Joab back with Uriah, asking the commander to make sure Uriah was in the thick of the battle, on the frontline. ‘Then, tell the other soldiers to withdraw and leave him exposed,’ he wrote. Joab carried out these orders – and Uriah was killed.

David now felt safe. He and Bathsheba were married. But God knew what he had done and he was angry with him. He sent his prophet, Nathan, who told a parable that showed David how wrong he had been. David understood how he had displeased God. In one of his prayers, he asked God to forgive him: ‘Have mercy on me, God in your great love … Wash away the wrong I have done and make me clean once more … I know what I have done … I have sinned against you … You desire truth in the heart of a person.’

The story illustrates:

  • The belief that God is omniscient
  • That God’s people must act with integrity at all times
  • That God see and judges sin, but also forgives those who are sorry for their wrongdoing.

Related Topics

Big Ideas: Temptation; Sin; Parables; Penitence, repentance, penance

Bible References

2 Samuel 11:1-17, 2 Samuel 11:26-27, 2 Samuel 12:1-13, Psalms 51:1-17
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