I’m writing this letter across a couple millennia, I know. Maybe someday we’ll get to have this conversation on the other side. There’s so much we aren’t told about you. If it weren’t for your exquisite experience of trauma and grief, who knows if we would know anything.
But here we are, your life the landscape, the stage set for kings to play out their dramas. And when the kings are done, your story fades. In the current versions of scripture we have, you’re referred more to by the men in your life than your given name. This may be normal to you, to always be known as Uriah’s wife, not Bathsheba. Maybe your response to this would be, “and?” “so?” Nathan had to represent you in terms of livestock to get through to King David. I guess in your time, women weren’t that far off from being considered property. King David certainly had no scruples about seeing you as consumable.
Our current text says so little about you. It doesn’t follow you when a group of armed guards show up as you sit home alone, with royal summons. It doesn’t tell us if you wondered how he even knew who or where you were. It doesn’t say if King David divulged that he was watching you bathe, and if you felt violated, ashamed, or angry.
It doesn’t tell us if he pretended to be interested in who you were, or if he just took what he wanted and sent you home afterwards. Not thinking about why you might have been bathing. Not thinking about the potential consequences, political or spiritual. Definitely not thinking about you, just… not thinking.
We know you purified yourself again afterwards. Did you feel eyes on you even when they weren’t there? Were you simply following the rites and rituals of your faith, or did you scrub harder trying to wash away anything left of his touch, his force, his theft? Did you, as so many of my sisters have done, cry as you worked so hard to wash every memory of him away?
When did you know? When you were late? Did you feel new movement, or notice your clothes fitting tighter? How long was it before you decided David needed to know about the baby? Did you stay up at night wondering what this meant for your future, wondering how Uriah would react if he knew? You must have missed Uriah so terribly. What little we know shows sanctity, love, and devotion in your marriage. Uriah was so devoted to his King and his God, he must have been a devoted husband too. I wonder how long you had been married when he went off to war? Did you slip him a trinket to remember you by? Did you wake up every day and pray for his safety, the way many wives do today?
You must have felt so isolated and alone. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. A baby should bring joy, hope, and promise. It shouldn’t be a reminder of the night you’re working so hard to forget. Did you have nightmares? When did you know, that this would haunt you for the rest of your life? Was there ever confirmation that David received your message, or did you just get news of Uriah’s death? Did you know? Did your intuition tell you that this was no coincidence? You were even more alone, unprotected, and vulnerable. The scripture just tells us that David “gathered” you after Uriah was killed. It doesn’t tell us if it was a way to get what he really wanted after all, or if you had an option of going or not. It doesn’t tell us if you were relieved that you and your child would have some semblance of provision, or if you felt further entangled with an abuser you couldn’t shake.
Mourning your husband, you birth a baby who dies as a punishment to your abuser. But you carried that baby. You nourished that baby. Your head spinning from the shame and anguish of your rape, mourning your husband, you lose your child too. A son. You had a son. I can’t even imagine how you kept going. Did anything still tie you to David now? He provided a protection of sorts, but the kind abusers have been “providing” for millennia. You’re safe, as long as you stay. As long as you play by the rules, as long as you aren’t really yourself. You’re safe as long as you don’t try to be free. Maybe it wasn’t that way. Maybe he mended all his ways, and showed you every day that he was repentant. But I bet he was never like Uriah.
We have a blank of several decades after all this. We learn that you have more children with David. I hope they brought you solace. I hope they brought you joy. I know Solomon must have. He seemed to be the special one from the beginning. Did you have that knowing that he would be your last baby, as you cradled him and nursed him? He did some amazing work, and is well respected even now. I don’t know if that sort of thing even matters to you now, but it matters to moms I know here. I can’t imagine if any of them birthed a Solomon how that would go, we would never hear the end of him.
At the end of what we know about you, you and Nathan seem to have grown an understanding. I have a soft spot for the prophets too. They lived hard lives, always being reminded and having to remind others of the things that most people wanted to gloss over. As David is fading, Nathan worries about the fate of the nation. You see the opportunity for Solomon. I love this part of your story, because it probably tells us the most about who you really were, although still not much. It shows us that you advocated for your son. It shows us that you didn’t give up, after all that. You didn’t lose yourself in your trauma. You were a survivor, one of the first recorded.
And you were honored, publicly by Solomon when he was king. The first queen mother, and matriarch. You must have so many lessons for us today. How did you stay present as a mother, without losing yourself in grief? How did you keep relying on a God who allowed these things to happen to you? How did you live for so many years in the place your autonomy, marriage, and life were stolen from you?
I hope we get to have this talk on the other side. But I want you to know that I see you. Humankind hasn’t really changed that much. Power still corrupts, still tells people they have the right to take who and what they want. God still moves, often inexplicably. Women still persist. We survive, we learn to thrive again after the most horrific stories of trauma. We are, after all your daughters. Thank you for your example, thank you for not giving up on yourself, your God, or your people. Thank you for showing us what it means to be a survivor.
I hope we talk soon,