David and Batsheva


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Of Murder, Adultery and Kingship

Shemuel II 11 recounts the story of David's sin with Batsheva without any attempt to obscure the king's objectionable behavior.  According to a simple reading of the verses, David commits adultery with Batsheva and then has her husband, Uriah, killed in battle so as to marry her and cover up the sin.  Given such heinous crimes, how is it that David did not lose his kingship?  Moreover, why did he merit dynastic rule through Shelomo specifically, a son born to Batsheva?  Finally, why was David even allowed to stay married to Batsheva?  Is not the woman with whom one commits adultery prohibited to the adulterer, and are not any children born of the union considered illegitimate?

Natan's Parable

Chapter 12 is devoted to Natan's chastisement of David. He tells a parable of a rich man who, wishing to spare his own sheep, steals a lamb from a poor man to prepare it for a guest. Though it is easy to match the characters in the analogy with David, Batsheva and Uriah, not all of the events fit perfectly.  For example, is the lamb (= Batsheva), rather than the poor man (=Uriah) who is killed.  In addition, no where is there an equivalent to the act of committing adultery.  Are these variations significant or are they natural changes for the purpose of the analogy?  Regardless, why does Natan choose to rebuke David in this indirect way rather than straightforwardly accusing him of his crimes?

"כל האומר דוד חטא אינו אלא טועה"

R. Yonatan in Bavli ShabbatShabbat 56a-56bAbout Bavli Shabbat declares David's innocence in the famous statement:  "כל האומר דוד חטא אינו אלא טועה" (All who say that David sinned must be mistaken).  He absolves David of guilt regarding both the murder of Uriah and adultery with Batsheva.  Can his statement be reconciled with the simple sense of the verses?  Is it motivated simply by a desire to exonerate David, or are there any textual reasons to take such a position?  Finally, if David was in fact innocent, then why don't the verses reflect this?
In the Approaches section, we will explore various understandings of the extent of David's sin and the textual supports for each position.