Formations 12.18.2022: The Blame Game

Matthew 1:6; 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 14-17, 26-27

David used Bathsheba for his own gain, and Scripture doesn’t mince words about this. Most of the action verbs in 2 Samuel 11:1-4 are attributed to David: “David rose,” “sent,” and “lay.” These actions resulted in his noticing the beautiful woman in her moment of privacy, using his powerful position to bring her to him, and having sex with her that made her pregnant.

Then, in verses 14-17, we read other verbs that indicate David’s wrong actions: “David said” many things intended to cover his sin. Then “David invited [Bathsheba’s husband Uriah] to eat and drink,” “made him drunk” in hopes that he would sleep with his own wife, and then, when Uriah remained honorable to his soldiers, “David assigned Uriah” to the front lines where Uriah was later killed. In our final reading from 2 Samuel today, verses 26-27, we learn that “David sent” and “brought” the widowed woman to him to be his wife and the mother of his child.

Maybe, like me, you have heard a few sermons or interpretations over the years that blamed Bathsheba for David’s “fall.” She should have bathed in a more private space. She was probably being seductive. She could have resisted David’s advances. But I have learned other things over the years that sit truer with me—especially from my perspective as a woman. Modern interpretations (and even the King James Version!) say that David was on the roof, not Bathsheba, and he saw her in a private moment and desired her for himself. She could not have intended seduction since she likely assumed she was not seen. As for resisting David’s advances, he was the king of Israel, and she was his subject in a time when women had little power. Still today, even in the most advanced countries, people use sex to exert their control and power over others.

The headings for 2 Samuel 11 in the NRSV (Updated Edition) certainly place the blame where it is due: “David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba,” “David Has Uriah Killed,” and, as the heading for the section beginning with verse 27, “Nathan Condemns David.” The truth of Scripture is that God had a verdict for David’s behavior: “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

It is refreshing to read Nathan’s parable about the lamb (2 Sam 12), see David recognize his own sin, and realize that he does indeed suffer for his wrongdoings. But his story, like Bathsheba’s, is also a story of redemption. Both of them ended up in the genealogy of Jesus Christ (Matt 1:1, 6), ancestors of the One who came to redeem the world.


• Have you ever heard an interpretation of this story that put more blame on Bathsheba? If so, what did you think of it?
• How do the action verbs attributed to David put the blame squarely on his shoulders?
• Why does it matter whose fault something is?
• What can we do when others use us for their own gain? What redemption is available to us?
• Why do you think both David and Bathsheba are honored in Jesus’s genealogy?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, her husband John, and the family’s two dachshund mix pups, Luke and Leia. She likes supporting community theater productions and is often found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who. And she writes middle grade and young adult fiction for the pure joy of it.


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