A scene from Bathsheba

beautiful  woman in traditional indian costumeAs you may know, I’m working on the second book of the DANGEROUS BEAUTY series (for me, they will always be the “Bible Babes,”) and sometimes you just crave a little feedback as you’re working.  🙂   This is rough–only draft 2 of at least five–but I thought you might like to take a peek.

 

I’m writing each of these books from two character viewpoints:  the title character, of course, and someone else who could be present at key scenes.  For Bathsheba’s story, I chose Nathan the prophet, who is probably best known for the story he tells in the scene below.  (Ignore the capital WASs.  Part of my process.)

 

 

 

Chapter

 

Nathan

 

 

Over the course of several months, I watched the unfolding of many events. I stood outside Uriah’s house and heard the ulalations of mourning for the Hittite warrior—his wife, his wife’s nurse, his sister-in-law, his wife’s grandfather, and his neighbors mourned mightily for the murdered soldier. I did not know how Bathsheba grieved for her husband—did she mourn him out of true sorrow, or did out of some shared guilt?—but her eyes remained red and swollen throughout the period of mourning.
At the end of that week, I watched as David’s emissaries came to the house to escort Uriah’s wife to the palace. Hidden in a sheltered alcove, I saw her embrace the older woman and her young sister before surrendering to the guards and walking up the hill to her new home. Within hours, the word spread: David the King had taken Bathsheba, widow of Uriah the Hittite, to be his wife. Some people said he married her to honor Uriah’s sacrifice and provide for the warrior’s widow. Others said he married her in order to honor his counselor Ahithophel, the woman’s grandfather. Widows subsisted on charity unless they had sons or brothers to support them, and Bathsheba had neither. But as one of the king’s wives, neither she nor the two women she left behind would have to worry about being fed, clothed, and sheltered. David, the people assured themselves, WAS a most generous king.
Months later, two days after the birth of Bathsheba’s child, Adonai woke me with a command: the time for confrontation had come.
I dressed in a clean tunic, picked up my staff, and climbed the hill to the palace. On many occasions I had made the journey with no greater intention than observing daily events within the king’s court, but this time Adonai had given me a message and a mission. This time I would speak Ha Shem’s words, and the result would depend upon the receptivity of David’s heart.
I found the king’s throne room filled with the usual mix of travelers, dignitaries, supplicants, and counselors. A festive air permeated the gathering, for the king WAS accepting gifts and congratulations on the birth of his newborn son. I shouldered my way through the center of the assembly, then stopped before the king and brought my staff down, hard, upon the stone floor. David looked up from the parchment he’d been reading, and his eyes widened when he recognized me. “Prophet?” His gaze flicked at me, then he smiled at young Absalom, who sat on a cushion at his feet. “Have you come to congratulate us on the most recent son born to the house of David?”
I brought my staff down again. In the past, David had sent messengers to fetch Bathsheba, to recall Uriah, to escort his new wife to the palace. Now God had sent a messenger to David, and I would not be taken lightly. “Adonai has sent me with a message for you.”
Confusion flitted in the king’s dark eyes. He set his parchment aside, gripped an armrest of his throne, and nodded. “I am listening.”
I gripped my staff more tightly. “In a certain city there were two men, one rich, the other poor.”
At this innocuous beginning, as I spoke of ordinary men in ordinary circumstances, David relaxed his grip and slouched into a more comfortable position. He crossed one leg over the other and watched me, his eyes alight with speculation. As king, he WAS obligated to settle disputes and administer justice, so he probably thought I had disrupted the festivities in order to present a case for judgment.
“ The rich man had vast flocks and herds,” I continued, sensing the invisible circle had appeared around me, the holy space no man would dare crowd. “But the poor man had nothing, except for one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and reared. It had grown up with him and his children; it ate from his plate, drank from his cup, lay in his lap—it WAS like a daughter to him.”
“I had a lamb like that once,” the king interrupted, looking at his son Amnon, who leaned against the back of his father’s chair. “When I kept the lambs for my father, one became quite attached to me.”
I gave the king a reproachful look. If he had only taken Bathsheba into his harem, my story would have ended with the rich man placing the ewe lamb in his own flock. But David had done far more, and Adonai WAS about to reveal his sin to the world.
I drew a breath and continued with my story: “One day a traveler visited the rich man, and instead of choosing an animal from his own flock to prepare for his visitor, he stole the poor man’s lamb, then slaughtered and boiled it for the guest who had come to visit.”
Gripping my staff, I waited for the story to take hold. A lamb WAS only a lamb, but the context of the tale should prick David’s repressed conscience . . .
I did not have to wait long. Almost immediately our shepherd king’s face flushed with fury. David sat upright and uncrossed his legs. “As Adonai lives, doomed is the man who has done this! And because he had no pity, he shall pay the poor man four times as much as he stole.”
Every eye in the throne room swiveled toward me. The onlookers probably expected me to bow and thank the king for his righteous judgment, but I had not entered the king’s chamber for a judgment of other men.
My gaze locked on David’s. “You are the man.”
Adonai’s words filled the hush, and every man present, even the king’s young sons, remained motionless as my voice reverberated in the room. “Here is what Adonai, the God of Israel says,” I continued, not taking my eyes from David’s. “I anointed you king over Israel. I rescued you from the power of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives to embrace. I have given you the house of Israel and the house of Judah. And if that had been too little, I would have added to you a lot more.”
David stared, his face like a death mask.
“So why,” I continued, “have you shown such contempt for the word of Adonai and done what he sees as evil? You murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife as your own wife; you put him to death with the sword of the people of Amon. Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house—because you have shown contempt for Adonai and taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own wife. Here is what Adonai says: ‘I will generate evil against you out of your own household. I will take your wives before your very eyes and give them to your neighbor; he will go to bed with your wives, and everyone will know about it. For you did this secretly, but I will do this before all Israel in broad daylight.’”
Someone behind me gasped as the guard nearest David raised his spear. All the king had to do WAS nod in my direction, and I would be murdered as surely as Uriah had been.
I waited, a chill in the pit of my stomach, until David lifted his hand and glanced at the guard, wordlessly commanding him to lower his weapon. Then, amid a silence that WAS the holding of a hundred breaths, David closed his eyes and shuddered. “I have sinned . . . . against Adonai.”
The hush in the room deepened as the king’s words echoed over the assembled court. I could almost hear the snap of breaking hearts and the crack of shattering illusions.
David had committed his sin in private, but within hours all Jerusalem would know of it. From this moment on, the king who had been much-loved and much-celebrated would be viewed differently. With this murderous act, David had proven himself to be like any other man—and worse than many. But with his confession, he had demonstrated that he remained a man who loved and revered his God.
I drew a deep breath and softened my voice. “Adonai also has taken away your sin, so you will not die. However, because by this act you have so greatly blasphemed the Lord, the child born to you . . . must perish.”
I bowed my head as the awareness of God’s heavy judgment descended upon the crowd. I felt it, too, but in a different regard: David deserved judgment in his sin, but Bathsheba, the ewe lamb, had not transgressed against her husband or Adonai.
Yet she, too, would suffer.
My throat ached with regret as I turned in a circle of stunned silence and left the palace.

***************

So?  What do you think?

 

Angie

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  1. July 24, 2014 # Posted by SuZan

    Good voice for Nathan. Hope you are doing well. You’re obviously working well. I do like your title: Bible Babes, but I can see it might not sell well under that title.

  2. July 25, 2014 # Posted by Linda McNeill

    AWESOME!!! I want to keep reading!!!!

  3. July 25, 2014 # Posted by Deb Haggerty

    Love that segment, Angie! I usually don’t read this kind of story, but now you have me hooked and I want to read the rest. Will be excited to get the finished work!

  4. July 25, 2014 # Posted by Margaret Welwood

    Powerful! But how sure are we that Bathsheba did not sin? I don’t believe the Biblical account indicates that David forced her. Does she bear no responsibility at all for her adultery?

    • July 27, 2014 # Posted by Angie

      I’ve heard this response before, and I’m always baffled by it–why are we so quick to blame the victim? I see it in our modern court system all the time.

      Bathsheba’s seduction by David: One night when Uriah was away campaigning with the army, David saw Bathsheba bathing in her courtyard, and he was aroused. He sent servants to get her, had sex with her, and sent her home. But Bathsheba became pregnant. So David recalled Uriah, expecting him to sleep with his wife so the infant could be passed off as premature. But Uriah, feeling duty bound to share his army companions’ hardships, would not go home. Panicking, David sent instructions to his commanding general to expose Uriah to danger. The general did, and Uriah was killed. When David learned of his death, he sent for Bathsheba and married her.
      Many commentators on this critical incident have cast Bathsheba as a seductress, and blamed her for David’s sin. But the biblical text describes her differently.
      Bathsheba’s innocence. Several details in the biblical account that tell how David saw and took Bathsheba make it clear that Bathsheba was an innocent victim.
      • “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Sam. 11:1). David should have been leading his troops, but instead he stayed in Jerusalem.
      • “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed” (v. 2). Bathsheba was bathing at night, when she might have expected others were sleeping.
      • “And from the roof he saw a woman bathing” (v. 2). Bathsheba was bathing in the courtyard of her own house, where she could expect privacy.
      • “He saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold” (v. 2). David could have turned away and respected Bathsheba’s privacy. But he reacted in a different way indeed!
      • “So David sent and inquired about the woman” (v. 3). David took the initiative to find out about the woman he had seen. What David learned was that her name was Bathsheba, and she was married to Uriah the Hitite.
      • “Then David sent messengers, and took her” (v. 4). Bathsheba was a woman alone, with her husband away at war. David was the king. When David’s men came to fetch her, she was unable to refuse.
      • “She came to him, and he lay with her” (v. 4). Again David is cast as the actor, Bathsheba as the one acted upon. In saying “he lay with her” the inspired author makes it clear that the initiative came from David. What took place was in essence rape.
      The text of Scripture makes it clear that we must view Bathsheba as a victim of David’s lust, not the seductress which she is sometimes portrayed to be. The Scripture’s portrait is clearly more in keeping with the reality of the power of ancient kings and the relative powerlessness of women of the royal court.

      From: Sue Poorman Richards and Larry Richards, Every Woman in the Bible, 128-31 (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers, 1999).

  5. July 27, 2014 # Posted by Jennifer

    Loved the chapter and I signed up to hear Passing Stranger on Amazon.
    I do believe David was 90% responsible for this but I also think that because David
    loved God so much, that it is reasonable to suppose that if she had screamed or resisted he would have let her go. Also according to Old Testament laws she would have been guilty:

    Deuteronomy 22:23-27King James Version (KJV)
    23 If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her;
    24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
    25 But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die.
    26 But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbour, and slayeth him, even so is this matter:
    27 For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her.

    Thanks for the great books Angela.

  6. July 28, 2014 # Posted by Marty G

    First of all, love the sneak peak. YES – I want to keep reading!
    To throw out some thoughts and possible additional ideas (especially in terms of feedback to comments), context, culture, and geography are so important to understand in a story like this one. If you have stood in the dig where David’s palace has been found and looked down into the valley, it’s a great clue into what he might have been doing that fateful night.
    Without understand historical background, we are apt to interpret with eyes from today and draw the wrong conclusions. As much as we would like to imagine that she could have just punched in the numbers for 911 on her cell phone, that just wasn’t the case. Did the servants know what David was going to do; what he was doing; what he did? Did Bathsheba shout out but was ignored? Did she resist? Did she tell Uriah? Was she happy or sad to subsequently marry David and have another child with him? I’d like to know but…
    The Bible is not David’s story (or Bathsheba’s or Uriah’s). It is God’s story. We may want to know each and every detail, but we don’t. What we do see is God’s hatred of sin AND the marvelous depths of His grace.
    Can’t wait to read MORE!

    • July 28, 2014 # Posted by Angie

      Well said, Marty. 🙂 In studying the time and era, I have come to believe that Bathsheba could not have screamed or called for help–David was the king and held absolute power. Samuel warned them that if they had a king, they would lose all kinds of rights, and he would take their sons and daughters . . .

      Furthermore, Nathan told the story of the man and his ewe lamb to allegorize David’s sin, and the ewe lamb was completely innocent. But I find it VERY interesting that David was not physically punished for the rape or adultery, but for MURDER! David referred to the biblical law that said a thief had to repay his victim fourfold. And in this situation, David’s life was spared, but he lost FOUR sons as the result of his part in Uriah’s death. Fascinating, tragic stuff.

      I think that once you read Bathsheba’s story, the context will become much clearer. It certainly has to me . . . .

      Thanks for a great discussion, everyone!

  7. July 28, 2014 # Posted by Angie

    One more point before I leave this discussion. I mentioned this thread to my husband, and he said, “But she was taking a bath in her back yard.”

    Well. Look at this explanation of baptism by the early Jews of Jesus’ day:

    The historical precedent among the Jews WAS evidently immersion in a mikvah (i.e.,[1] a tank for ritual baths).93[2]

    Do you see where I’m going? The big tank that held water was called a mikvah. (We’d call it a water trough). And a woman had to bathe in a mikvah–a tank big enough for her to be thoroughly covered by water, no sponge baths–at the conclusion of her menstrual cycle. There was no indoor plumbing in the time of David and Bathsheba. So the mikvah the women used would also have watered any sheep or goats the family kept in the home’s enclosed courtyard. Even in a city environment, most homes had a courtyard of some kind, and women often kept goats for the milk and cheese.

    So of COURSE she was taking a bath in her courtyard! Where else was she supposed to take it? But most of the courtyards had walls, of course, or hedges, so the occupants of the courtyard could only be seen if the peeping David was elevated above the house.

    Signing off now,

    angie

  8. October 24, 2014 # Posted by R. Perkins

    Love it! The bible holds the truth of events that happened. Like our lives we do so much day-to-day that we can’t tell it all in one setting……excerpts. This is what I believe the bible shows us…excerpts… The events of the day that altered or pushed another event to happen in its time….the making/fall/disgrace/love/hurt/pain/decisions/repentance/humility/comfort/pride of a King. Ultimately, the story of David tells of lies, murder, lust and deceit…. and the affect/effect it will have on your life… we seem to think that the decision we make is “my” decision… but what about the people involved, voluntarily and/or involuntarily… will they not suffer?

    Look at all the pain caused in this one excerpt. WOW!
    At the time it felt and seemed like the right and only decision for David…

    Thank God for his mercy and grace on us today… Thank you God.

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