Baker Publishing Group| March 1, 2011| Trade Paperback| ISBN # 978-0-8007-3322-3
Bathsheba is a woman who longs for love. With her devout husband away fighting the King's wars for many months at a time, discontent and loneliness dog her steps--and make it frighteningly easy to succumb to King David's charm and attention. Though she immediately regrets her involvement with the powerful King, the pieces are set in motion that will destroy everything she holds dear. Can she find forgiveness at the feet of the Almighty? Or has her sin separated her from God--and David--forever? With a historian's sharp eye for detail and a novelist's creative spirit, Jill Eileen Smith brings to life the passionate and emotional story of David's most famous--and infamous--wife. Smith uses her gentle hand to draw out the humanity in her characters, allowing readers to see themselves in the three-dimensional lives and minds of people who are often viewed in starkly moralistic terms. You will never read the story of David and Bathsheba in the same way again.
Jerusalem, 994 BC
Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah have been married for three years are trying to have a baby. They only had two more days together before, Uriah left again for many months. On the third night he would sleep in another room, refusing any intimate touch in preparation for war. This was something about him Bathsheba just couldn’t understand. The days spent marching to the place of battle should give him plenty of time to become pure in thought. Why did he have to start before he even left her side?
Bathsheba couldn’t sleep anymore so she went to the cooking room. Her servant, Tirzah heard her and came to join her. She knew Bathsheba was upset so she poured her a glass of wine. Tirzah knew Bathsheba well as she had looked after her since she was a child and said to her: “I think it’s time for you to be honest.” Bathsheba replied: “Honest? You think I would lie to you about something?” Tirzah answered: “I think you would like to yourself and to your husband. Me, you would avoid…I think you are lonely, perhaps even angry.” Bathsheba tells her if she is lonely it’s only because Uriah is gone more than he is home, she doesn’t have a child to take his place, and that she doesn’t sleep well when he is away. She goes on to say that her life and her marriage aren’t worth anything if she can’t give Uriah an heir to carry on the Hittite line and she fears he may take another wife if she doesn’t conceive soon.
Uriah was an extremely religious man who obeyed the laws, enjoyed the reading of the law, and the reminder of all that God required of a man. He wondered if his sins were keeping God from granting his wife a child? Was he paying for them in the loss of his first wife and now the barrenness of his second wife. Or, was Bathsheba’s barrenness her own fault? The thought bothered him whenever the call to war drew near and her emotions grew frayed.
A pounding suddenly came at the door of their home. It was three of King David’s messengers come to request Uriah’s presence at the Palace immediately for King David’s favourite wife, Abigail, had just died giving birth to their third child together. King David has named her “Abigail” after her mother. Bathsheba went along too to pay her respects to the King. He buried her in the tomb that was waiting someday for his body instead of the tomb meant for all the other wives.
Due to the death and his grief over his beloved wife, Abigail, King David had decided not to go with his men this time to lead them in the war and instead stayed behind in the Palace waiting for daily updates from his army. One afternoon he went up to the roof of the Palace to be alone with his thoughts and look over the city. The next roof over from the Palace was that of Bathsheba and Uriah’s. Bathsheba was also up on her roof at the same time and King David saw how very beautiful she was. He asked her name and who the lucky man was that was married to such a beauty. Bathsheba relayed her condolences to the King over his loss of Abigail. Of course, it didn’t escape her how extremely handsome the King was.
King David was walking in aimless circles along the perimeter of his palace, stopping every few minutes at the parapet to gaze out over the City of Jerusalem. He hadn’t been to his roof in three months to avoid his desire to look in the direction of the woman (Bathsheba) he’d met the day his men left for war. For him to speak with her again would not bode well, or be proper, if others heard of it. He thought about asking one of his other wives to take a walk in the courtyard with him as a woman can be a great distraction from grief and war, as he’d briefly noticed the day he met his neighbor’s wife. But the respite had been short-lived. Abigail’s death had left a deep hole in his heart, and no other woman would ever be able to take her place. He questioned himself as to why God had taken the one woman who understood him, with whom he could discuss his concerns and share his burdens – the one woman who had stolen his heart.
Hushai the Archite went to speak with King David about his overwhelming grief over losing Abigail. He told the King he should find another wife who had as much faith in God as the King himself did. Hushai reminded David that he had kept all his promises to Abigail but she was gone now and he no longer needed to keep the promise of not taking any more wives. The King finally relented and told Hushai: “Bring me your choices.”
Bathsheba was preparing for the new moon feast later that evening and had sent invitations to family members and all had agreed to join her. Yearning for her family tugged at her to help fight the loneliness she felt with Uriah’s absence. But if she was honest with herself, it was a glimpse of the King she longed for the most. Her pulse quickened at the thought, bringing with it a troubling sense of guilt. Loneliness was the only explanation for the way her mind kept playing their conversation of months before. And if Uriah had never gone to war she wouldn’t have been on the roof that day and never have spoken one single word to the King. But every day her gaze traveled to the spot where she’d stood and was a testament to the fact that she missed her husband. She wondered if the war would ever end?
Tirzah was just finishing up painting Bathsheba’s hands and feet with henna when there was a loud knock at the door. Tirzah answered and quickly returned to Bathsheba’s bedchamber and told her: “Mistress, you must dress quickly in your best robes and come at once. Messengers have come from the King. Your presence at the palace is requested immediately.” Bathsheba gripped the edge of her bed, her breath growing still. “The King is asking for me? What could he possibly want?” Then it dawned on Bathsheba that perhaps there was some bad news about her husband, Uriah. A sick feeling and a shudder rushed through her body.
What did King David want with Bathsheba? I will say that when I read the rest of the story, my heart bled for Bathsheba. In my opinion, she didn’t deserve all what happened to her. I totally fell in love with this story and the book is so well written you’d think you were reading scripture from the Bible. Some scenes, of course, weren’t explained fully or the book would have been never ending.
BATHSHEBA concludes the series “The Wives of King David”. Jill Eileen Smith is one Christian author I will continue to read in the future.
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Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group".