Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11)
Bathsheba lay frozen in the bed. She clutched the expensive sheet tightly and stared at the ceiling, hands shaking. Eventually, she mustered enough courage to turn and look beside her. David, King of Israel, lay snoring at her side. Bathsheba’s breath came in jagged gasps which she desperately tried to silence. After a few moments, she began to inch her way out of the bed. The snoring figure of the king didn’t budge as she slid her way out of the bed and walked quietly across the room to where her clothes lay draped over a carved wooden chair.
She dressed quickly, attempting to smooth the wrinkles from her clothes. Covering her mussed hair with her veil, she slid quietly from the room. As she closed the door behind her, she turned and found herself face to face with one of the king’s guards. He had been part of the contingent who escorted her to the palace last night. He looked down at her for a moment, then returned his gaze to the hallway he was guarding.
Bathsheba bowed slightly, willing herself not to cry. She turned and made her way hastily down the hallway and out into the palace courtyard. Her eyes took a moment to adjust to the bright sunlight as she searched for the gate they had brought her through last night. Finding it, she made her way quickly across the already bustling courtyard. No one seemed to notice her as she exited the gates and turned toward home.
Shaking, she walked the few short blocks to her house, which overlooked the palace complex. The gates were closed and the doors shut. No one was waiting for her.
Bathsheba walked to a side door the servants usually entered through and knocked. After a few moments the door opened and Bathsheba pushed her way quickly inside. One of the kitchen servants, she had forgotten his name, stood staring at her as she leaned against the wall.
“Close the door,” she said, her breath coming in gasps.
The servant, only a boy, hastily shut the door before turning to her and bowing deeply. “My lady,” he said, “we did not know when to expect you.”
“Have hot water brought up to my room immediately,” she said, “and find Chari, tell her to come help me.” Bathsheba straightened; drawing her shawl in more tightly, she forced herself to walk confidently to her room.
As she crossed the threshold and closed the door behind her, she collapsed to the floor, shaking. After a few moments, she sat up and began pulling her clothes off her body. Throwing them into a pile in the corner, she grabbed a blanket off her bed, wrapped herself in it, and sunk down into a corner far away from the windows that looked out over the palace grounds.
Chari entered the room and first noticed the pile of expensive clothing discarded on the floor. Turning, she caught sight of her mistress sitting on the floor wrapped in a blanket. Her knees were pulled up to her chest with her forehead resting on them, her hair had fallen down and was draped around her like a veil.
“My lady,” Chari said gently, reaching down to pick up the fine linen shawl that lay crumpled on the floor.
“No.” Bathsheba said, “leave it. No, wait, burn it. Take all of those things and burn them. Now.”
“But my lady,” Chari responded, “these are such lovely clothes. And you look so beautiful in the red shawl, wasn’t it a gift from master Uriah?”
At the mention of her husband’s name, Bathsheba began to weep. Curling into a ball she sobbed, “Please, please just burn them.”
Chari had never seen Bathsheba so distraught. She grabbed the pile of clothes, including the red shawl, and flung them out the door, commanding a nearby maid to take them and burn them.
Closing the door, she rushed over to where Bathsheba lay, sobbing on the floor. Kneeling down, she drew Bathsheba into her arms and held her while she cried, gently smoothing her mussed hair.
Eventually, Bathsheba’s sobs slowed. She lifted her head and looked into Chari’s eyes for a moment before dropping her head in shame.
“My lady, my dear Bathsheba, what has happened?” Chari asked, her voice full of compassion for the woman who was like a daughter to her.
“I…I don’t know” Bathsheba said, her entire body shaking in Chari’s embrace. “I…I didn’t mean to do it. I…I didn’t want to. But, I didn’t know what to say, he’s the King. What was I supposed to say? He told me I was beautiful. He told me it was OK. He told me…” her voice trailed off as she began to weep again. “It’s my fault,” she sobbed, “It’s all my fault. I’ve betrayed Uriah, I’ve made a fool of myself. I should have run away, I should have told him no. Oh, Chari, what have I done?”
Chari pulled the sobbing woman closer. She held her tightly as she realized what had taken place last night after the King’s Guards came to take Bathsheba to the palace.
“My lady,” Chari said, her voice full of compassion, “you did nothing wrong. You have nothing to be ashamed of. You are a good woman, a faithful woman, and you have nothing to be ashamed of. The shame is his,” she ended, her voice like steel.
“But…” Bathsheba whispered, “but surely there is something I could have done.”
“No. This is not your fault. You have done nothing wrong. You were assaulted by a man who could have killed you if you refused. You carry none of the guilt, none of the blame. This evil was done to you and may God judge David for what he has done.”
Bathsheba let out a ragged sigh and rested her head on Chari’s breast. Since her own mother’s death, Chari was the closest thing she had to a mother. “May God judge him for what he has done,” she whispered.
A knock on the door stirred both women. Sitting up, Bathsheba bid them enter. Two of the kitchen servants entered carrying several jugs of steaming hot water. They walked toward the basin that, only yesterday, Bathsheba had used to ritually cleanse herself after her monthly period.
“Leave the water,” Chari said, “I’ll see to our mistress.”
Standing, she walked to the window that faced the palace grounds. Disgusted, she spat toward the palace, “Rapist,” she muttered. “May God punish you for what you have done.” Grabbing the basin, she dragged it as far away from the windows as she could. “Come, my lady, I’ll make you a nice, warm bath.”
Questions to ponder
What was your favorite part of the story?
Where did you see God in the story?
What is God inviting you to try on today in light of the story?
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