By Holly Strother-Waller
About three years ago, I started research on a paper that would shape how I view God and trauma. It drew me in.
Most of us know who King David was. He was perhaps the most famous king in scripture. Some of us are aware of Bathsheba and the relation between David and Bathsheba.
Her story is not an easy one. We must remember that God does not show up just to pick up our brokenness when the dust settles, God remains a constant through our trials.
In 2 Samuel, chapters 11 and 12, we see that Bathsheba experiences three traumas.
As her story begins, the writer is letting us know that David is not where he was supposed to be and therefore that something bad is going to follow
2 Samuel 11:2-4 (NRSV)
“It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So 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. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
Bathsheba is facing trauma. Bathsheba had no option but to go at the king’s request. The fact of her marriage is laid to the side and she is raped. And it’s heavy. This is hard for all of us. This impacts all of us. It makes our skin crawl.
Bathsheba, who is married, is carrying the child of the man who forced her into his bed. From what the text shows, she has no clue what is going to happen next, but we do. We can wonder and say that Bathsheba should have fought, said no, refused; but we come to know that “no” in this case means death.
David brings her husband home from the war to try to cover his act. But Uriah is so loyal to the king that he will not stop protecting him; he lies at the king’s gate instead of going home to Bathsheba. So, David makes the decision to have him killed. While it does not happen by David’s sword, it is nonetheless at his hand.
As we look back, we see that Bathsheba in just a matter of weeks has been raped, conceiving a child from that forced encounter. The same man has just had her husband killed and now she is to marry him.
This is trauma and it exists in the world around us. We must be careful not to say that this happened so God could use it. Instead, let’s understand that this happened because of David’s sinful nature.
However, God is a God who is greater than all our sins. God is a God that takes trauma, allowing for the redemption of David and the honoring of Bathsheba.
Some argue that Bathsheba was a willing participant in a lustful affair and that with her husband out of the way, she could finally be with David. Afterall, the punishment was that their child should die.
We, however, can tell that this was not the case, based on 2 Samuel 12:9-13, which has the prophet Nathan speaking to David:
“Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Bathsheba is referred to earlier in the chapter by Nathan as an ewe lamb, often as symbol of purity; and the fact that she was given a child in the first place was an indicator that God was with her. It is very clear here that David was being indicted. He was called out and he repented.
Unfortunately, his actions caused yet another trauma for Bathsheba as God promises David that his household would suffer because of his sinful choices. Bathsheba’s child would die as a part of the punishment brought on the kingdom of David. However, Nathan does not blame Bathsheba at any part of the narrative. God walks through her trauma with her.
While, things look pretty bad, the verses above are actually a sign of hope, a light flashing that shows us God was there. God knew what had happened. Nathan called David out and God would continue to vindicate Bathsheba as God’s prophet, Nathan, would remain a champion for her and her next son Solomon.
1 Kings 1:11-14
“Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah son of Haggith has become king and our lord David does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you advice, so that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne? Why then is Adonijah king?’ Then while you are still there speaking with the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”
God, through Nathan, helped Bathsheba make a bold move. She called the king out on a previous promise that Solomon would be king. Through this, God protectedthe lives of both Bathsheba and Solomon. God did not only validate Bathsheba’s status by giving her another son and making him king, God uplifted her as an individual.
As I was studying to teach a Wednesday night bible study with my youth, I saw God working in Bathsheba’s life like never before. I read in 1 Kings 2:19 that Bathsheba went to her son. At that point, something incredible struck me…
“So Bathsheba went to King Solomon, to speak to him on behalf of Adonijah. The king rose to meet her, and bowed down to her; then he sat on his throne, and had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat on his right” (1 Kings 2:19).
As I read it at least three times to the youth, I was incredulous! HE BOWED TO HER and he has a throne brought in for her.
I was struck by the fact that God had remained in her life up to this point, and she found herself, not a victim, but a queen mother. She had been not only vindicated, but honored.
That is God in action. I worship that same God!
That means in my trauma not after —
God sees me
That means in the midst of the messiness and unhappiness and pain—
God validates me
After the dust settles and scars have formed—
God is there in the wreckage and God is there in the restoration.
Don’t look for God’s entrance into Bathsheba’s story in 1 Kings, because God does not find her in the midst of her glory; God sees her in the midst of her storm, her trauma. We must remember that God is in the midst of our trauma and not just in the aftermath. May God restore, strengthen and establish you. May we have our eyes open to see and receive that.
Holly Strother-Waller is a third-year student at Gardner-Webb University School of Divinity and a CBF leadership scholar. She is currently working at Independence Hill Baptist Church as their youth minister and children’s ministry administrator.