Metaphors in the Torah: Bathsheba and the Lamb


Illustration: David Punishing the Ammonites
By Gustave Dor'e


About thirty years ago, Shimon Peres once said something to the effect that not everything King David did was good. This kicked off a feeding frenzy amongst the rabbis who started to explain that soldiers during David’s time all got divorces before going to war, so that if they were killed and their bodies were not recovered then their wives could remarry. Thus, they argued, what King David did was not adultery.

While that may be all well and good, there were two problems: a) Uriah the Hittite was not Jewish, so no one knows whether or not he divorced his wife. b) If what David did was okay, then why did Nathan the prophet come and reprimand him and why did God allow the child of David and Bathsheba to die?

Regardless, for this article I would like to discuss the story of Nathan and try to make some sense as to how it relates to the actions of David and Bathsheba.

In short: Nathan says there was a rich man with many flocks of sheep and then there was a poor man who had a small lamb which he fed and took care of like a daughter. One day, a traveler comes to visit the rich man and, instead of selecting one of his own sheep, he takes the little lamb of the poor man to feed his guest (For the full story go to: 2nd Samuel 12)

In the story of David and Bathsheba, Uriah the Hittite goes off to war to fight for King David. While he is gone, David sees his wife Bathsheba bathing on the roof of a nearby building. He invites her to the palace, sleeps with her and then sends her back home. Later she tells him she is pregnant and David tries to convince Uriah the Hittite to have sex with his wife so that he will think the child is his. Uriah, feels he cannot have sex while his friends are in battle and so David sends him back to the fighting with secret instructions that Uriah is to be eliminated somehow. After Uriah dies in battle, David brings Bathsheba into his household as a wife.

Our question then has to be: What does feeding a lamb to one’s guest have to do with committing adultery?

The first thing we should consider is that the name Uriah means: “God’s light” and Abraham bought the burial place for Sarah from another Hittite named “Zohar” whose name means: “light”. Hence we can conclude that the Hittites were a spiritual people with some understanding of God’s ways.

In addition to this, the name: “Bathsheba” means either “daughter of the seven” or “daughter of the vow”. In the Torah, a daughter is usually associated with priests, so Joseph marries Osnath the daughter of an Egyptian priest and Moses marries Zipporah the daughter of Jethro the Midianite priest. Also, in ancient Hebrew the word for daughter had something to do with a wine container.

My conclusion is that Bathsheba was a spiritual medium and in ancient times sex was associated with temple prostitutes. We also mentioned in other articles that the Old Testament spoke about: “whoring after other gods”.

Another very important thing to consider is that Bathsheba was washing herself on the roof of a building and she was naked. In the story of King Saul, the people see him naked and ask: “Has Saul become a prophet?”. Hence, we can conclude that Bathsheba was washing away her Hittite beliefs and as a result achieved a higher level of understanding as a prophetess and spiritual medium. In this new role she came to the attention of King David who asked her to provide him with messages or revelations. Thus, in other articles, we noted the connection between the word of God, first born sons and fruits of the field in the Holy Day of “Shavout”.

Another connection is sheep and the word of God. Israelites are always associated with sheep and the Children of Israel are the custodians of God’s word (This same concept is found in the New Testament where Jesus is described as: “The word of God” and “the lamb of God”).

Also, we have discussed extensively in other articles that meat is a metaphor for preaching or sermons.

Thus, the story of the rich man taking the poor man’s lamb is about a well educated religious scholar taking the religious ideas of another, less advanced, people and preaching them to his own people.

Hence, what we can conclude is that Bathsheba represents some type of spiritual medium of prophetess for the Hittites. David heard her speak or someone told him of her abilities and he brought her into his service. When the Hittites lost this woman, their own religious ceremonies and beliefs suffered and “the death of Uriah the Hittite” represents: "the loss of God’s light" in the daily lives of those people.

Thus David, whose name means:  "God’s beloved", is a “rich” man who has access to many sources of God’s word including: priests, rabbis, prophets, the Torah and his own personal revelations which manifested themselves as the psalms. Accordingly, God tells David there was no need for him to seduce away the prophetess of the “spiritually poorer” Hittites (Again, the Hittites were a religious people who worshiped and honored God, but they did not possess the religious resources of the Israelites, so, relatively speaking, they are described as: “poor”.

The story ends with David and Bathsheba’s baby dying, which I interpret to mean that David had consulted with Bathsheba about some subject and God refused to provide them with the answer, because of their adulterous behavior and treachery (i.e. the baby represents some new idea or new revelation)