BATH-SHEBA


BATH-SHEBA (Heb. בַּת־שֶׁבַע, in I Chron. 3:5 בַּת־שׁוּעַ), wife of *David and mother of *Solomon. Bath-Sheba was originally the wife of *Uriah the Hittite, one of David's warriors. During the war against Rabbath-Ammon (II Sam. 11), David saw Bath-Sheba and ordered her brought to his palace. When David knew that she was pregnant by him, he attempted to return Uriah to his house (see II Sam. 11:6–13). Failing to do so, he sought and found a pretext to have Uriah killed in battle (11:14–27); he then married Bath-Sheba. The prophet *Nathan rebuked David for this act (12:1–12), but subsequently took Bath-Sheba's side and supported the enthronement of her son Solomon (I Kings 1:8ff.). She later agreed to present to Solomon *Adonijah's request for David's concubine *Abishag. In addition to Solomon, Bath-Sheba gave birth to at least three other sons, Shimea, Shobab, and Nathan (I Chron. 3:5). It seems that her first son, who died soon after his birth because of the sin of his father, is included in this list (II Sam. 12:13ff.).

According to II Samuel 11:3, Bath-Sheba was the daughter of Eliam, and according to I Chronicles 3:5, she was the daughter of Ammiel, who the rabbis of the Talmud (Sanh. 69b) identify with Eliam son of *Ahithophel the Gilonite (II Sam. 23:34); hence the opinion of early commentators (Kimḥi and Levi b. Gershom) and several recent scholars that the opposition of Ahithophel to David during the revolt of Absalom stemmed from his wish to avenge Uriah's death. Others believe that these opinions are unacceptable, because, if indeed Eliam was the son of the famous Ahithophel, the Bible would not have failed to mention the fact. It is also difficult to believe that Ahithophel, if he was the grandfather of Bath-Sheba, would have taken part in such an action which would undoubtedly have endangered the position of his granddaughter and her son in the royal court. On the other hand, there is reason to suppose that Bath-Sheba was of a family that existed in Jerusalem before its conquest by David.

[Yehoshua M. Grintz]

In the Aggadah

If she was Ahithophel's granddaughter, the prophecies which he believed foretold his own royal destiny, in fact applied to her (Sanh. 101b). Bath-Sheba was predestined for David; his sin was that he took her before the appointed time (Sanh. 107a). She was not guilty of adultery since it was the custom that soldiers going to war gave their wives bills of divorce which were to become valid should they fail to return and Uriah did fall in battle (Ket. 9b). She was a prophet in that she foresaw that her son would be the wisest of men. She is numbered among the 22 women of valor (Mid. Hag. to Gen. 23:1).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Bright, Hist, 181, 188n., 189, 230; de Vaux, Anc Isr, index; M.Z. Segal, Sifrei Shemu'el (19642), 299, 326–7; S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1960), 198–207, 230–1; Noth, Personennamen, 146–7. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1947), 94–95, 103–4; 6 (1946), 256–7, 264–5.


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.