Focal Passage: 2 Sam. 12:15b-25
Bathsheba plays a secondary role throughout this passage.
She is Uriah’s stolen wife (Regina M. Schwartz affirms that “the king’s adultery is a violation of a property right”; Cf. Adultery in the House of David, Women in the Hebrew Bible, 1999, 344), the dying child’s mother, and David’s mourning
wife (v. 16, 24).
The lingering grief over her husband’s death is now intensified with the death of her unnamed child. It would outlast that of David who comes to comfort her.
Joy Osgood tries to repair the situation by affirming that “the death of the child was a severe mercy … a token of the divine compassion for Bathsheba in the longer term. … It removed the possibility of any future gossip occasioned by an innocent query to the child’s identity” (1 & 2 Samuel, The IVP Women’s Bible Commentary, 2002, 177).
Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters by drowning when the ship Ville du Havre collided with another ship in 1873 understands Bathsheba’s despair. Grieving, he wrote: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea
billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.” Grief overwhelms Bathsheba.
Center stage is King David who fasts during the seven-day illness. Learning of the child’s death, he immediately bathes and eats. The servants view the king’s behavior as bizarre. David’s fasting was a plea for God to spare the child’s life (v. 22).
The theological secret unknown to the servants is that the child’s death is atonement for David’s sin (there is a vicarious nature about it; Cf. P. Kyle McCarter, Jr. II Samuel: A New Translation with Introduction, Notes and Commentary, 1984, 301).
Nathan’s words in 2 Sam. 12:1-14 confirm that David’s misbehavior could be used by Israel’s enemies to blaspheme God. As Jesus challenged his disciples to be light in the world (Mat. 5:14-16), so Israel was to be special among the
nations (2 Sam. 7).
With prophetic words, David is told that future blessings have evaporated and that the remainder of his rein will be filled with violence (this begins immediately with the incestuous rape of Tamar, the premeditated murder of Amnon the rapist, and the unavoidable rebellion of Absalom the avenger — three of David’s children).
Bathsheba is finally the subject/actor when “she (gives) birth to a son” (v. 24). Nevertheless, the naming of the child is left to others. Beyond doubt, Nathan’s words assure Bathsheba of this child’s survival.
Had not God “struck” the first one? Thankfully, God loves this child. No doubt, the joy of a new baby is mixed with the feelings of loss and unanswered questions.