An Overview (19 May 2016, 11 Iyar, 5776)
Excerpt from David and Bat Sheva by Yair Davidiy
The following account is based on the Hebrew text in the light of linguistic niceties, Oral Traditions, and numerous related studies.
The findings are NOT absolutely certain. Neither do we make such claims. They are however in our opinion quite probable and taken together point in a certain direction that does have something to it.
Whether you agree or not the studies in question are worthwhile since they open up to us the possibilities hidden behind the Hebrew Bible text.
Here are some of the conclusions we reached along with a few additional considerations.
David had a premonition that he was liable to make a mistake in sexual matters.
Contrary to his usual practice of only having sex at night he called several of his concubines and had sex with them.
He hoped thus to be satiated and so less susceptible to temptation. On this occasion it had just the opposite effect (Talmud, Sanhedrin 107;a).
After that he went to sleep awaking just before evening (2-Samuel 11:2). It was the practice in the household of the King (as well as among other circles) to maintain a regime of strict ritual purity (1-Samuel 20: 26). Even before he became king David and his followers kept this code (1-Samuel 21:5). Purification involved (after sex) immersion in a ritual pool of water called a mikvah. This was NOT the Law but it was a known practice. There were mikvaoth on the roof of the palace. The roof was an enclosed space rather like an elevated courtyard. David (like another monarch, Nebuchadnessar, Daniel 4:29 ) was in the habit of strolling around the roof and enjoying the relative privacy it imparted. He came across a young girl who was also using one of the mikvaoth on the roof (2-Samuel 11:2, 4). He himself may have felt the need to do the same and that was how they ran into each other. The female he encountered may have been only 7 years old (Talmud Sanhedrin 69b). She was purifying herself after having just finished her first menstruation cycle upon reaching puberty.
In those days females would reach puberty at the age of 7 or 8 and bear children at about that age (Talmud Sanhedrin 69b). Even today this sometimes occurs though the Sages say it is usually very dangerous to bear children before the age of 12 and a half (Talmud Sanhedrin 69b). The tradition handed down by Moses declares a girl to be an adult at 12 and at 13 for a boy. These ages correspond approximately to when puberty should commence under normal circumstances. Today puberty usually begins earlier whereas in the past there were times and locations where it was much later. These ages of 12 and 13 still mark the time when a person is held responsible for their deeds. Nevertheless males only went to war between the ages of 20 and 60 and only those ages were included in census results.
Anyway due to the unusual circumstances of the era in the time of David it was quite frequent for girls to give birth at a very early age.
Even only a few hundred years ago there were areas in the Middle East and Asia where this phenomenon still existed.
It appears the girls would reach puberty at about 7 or 8 and then appear like one of our precocious 13 years olds. After that however they would not grow any further E1. They (especially the females) were small in stature and in build. Most of the females from the ages of 7 through to 60 ALL may have looked like our 13 precocious year olds. Bat Sheva was no different. Physically she was no different from all other available women. Psychologically as far as the male was concerned there may not have been that much difference, unlike today.
[We must be aware of judging situations from the past according to preset social mores. Usually in our time a normal man is not interested in very young girls.
There are several reasons:
There is a moral problem since the girls are not mature enough.
Socially and legally it is forbidden or at least frowned upon.
Physically the young girls are more fragile and less physically developed than older women. The difference is felt.
If these considerations did not apply but rather worked in the opposite direction than the situation would be different.
We must be aware of judging people in past ages by our own standards.
The situation was different in Biblical Times. People were different and they adapted accordingly.]
The father and husband of Bat Sheva were loosely attached to the household of King David. She therefore had access to the roof. Bat Sheva was using one of the mikvaoth on the roof of the palace since it her first such immersion and she sought privacy and usually nobody else would have been there. David did not know who the girl was by name though he may (or may not) have seen her before. He sent and inquired and she was brought to him. They had intercourse and she became pregnant (2-Samuel 11:4).
The parents of Bat Sheva had given birth to her while they themselves were still minors. This made her technically an orphan. Her husband Uriah the Hittite may not have been an Israelite, or he may (of his own choice) have had some kind of intermediate status, or he may have been a full-fledged Hebrew and received his title "the Hittite" for some other reason. These are all options that are looked into. At all events he was not married to Bat Sheva in the full legal sense. There are several different scenarios explaining why the marriage (if there ever really was one) was not legally binding at the time that David took Bat Sheva.
We have chosen the possibility that appears the most likely to us but the other circumstances are also considered.
Uriah had not consummated the union with Bat Sheva (Zohar, Hakdoma). According to the preposition that Bath Sheva was legally an orphan (Weiss p. 245 quotes from a Midrash based on Biblical Chronology), she was his wife only on a conditional basis. Upon reaching puberty she had the right to annul the union (Talmud Yebamot 96;a). This would have made her connection with David a permitted one retroactively. It needed Bat Sheva to refuse entry to Uriah before witnesses. David called Uriah back from the field and told him to go to his house having witnesses on hand in the guise of a consignment of food that was sent after him (2-Samuel 11:8). Uriah however decided not to return home. He also spoke with great insolence, disrespect, and implied denigration to David (2-Samuel 11:11). In effect he flagrantly disobeyed an order from the monarch and spoke as if his commander Joab had pre-eminence over the king (2-Samuel 11:11). Uriah the Hittite was also known as Ahimelech the Hittite who is mentioned as a companion in arms of Abishai brother of Joab (1-Samuel 26:6). Uriah and David had a past history between them. Uriah was in the camp of Joab and Abishai the two sons of Zeriah the sister of David. They did not want to replace David as monarch but rather thought he should be brought under control and made to conduct business with a more firm hand and regal manner. [Scripture indicates that on several occasion they may to a degree have been in the right from an objective point of view.] The two sides were in opposition but both needed the other. David could not do much against the brothers but he could trim their wings by getting rid of Uriah their foremost supporter and a leading military commander (2-Samuel 8:39). Uriah had a record of being a "loose cannon" and acting with irresponsible impulsiveness on the battlefield. He may well have been a danger to others. David should have laid formal charges against him and had everything out in the open. This however may have resulted in a confrontation with Joab and company, something both sides wished to avoid. It was therefore decided to let the impulsiveness of Uriah takes its own course and lead to his death. David sent a message to put Uriah in a dangerous situation and have the soldiers with him pull back and leave him to fight alone (2-Samuel 11:14).
David gave certain instructions. The aim of the instructions came to pass as David had intended. The initial impression is that David was punished as if his instructions had been fulfilled as he intended them. We therefore naturally tend automatically to assume that such was the case. The problem is that it was not so. Uriah was killed more as a result of his own natural impetuosity than anything else. Joab placed Uriah along with numerous others in the front near the walls of the enemy city. This was in preparation to carry out the instructions of David. The intentions of Joab concerning Uriah became known. This caused a general demoralization. Joab himself had let his guard slip. The Ammonite enemy sensed the weakness and came out to attack much earlier than expected (2-Samuel 11:17). They were driven back into the gate (2-Samuel 11:17, 24). The Israelites came surging after them into the gateway enclosure hoping to take the city and perhaps finish the war. Unfortunately they had placed themselves in a trap. Ammonite archers from the surrounding walls above killed a great many of them. Uriah was among the slain along with numerous others (2-Samuel 11:24). David then officially took Bat Sheva to wife. A son was born. Details of the matter were made public by Joab. The whole affair caused great consternation in the army and amongst the Israelites in general. It was a scandal and resulted in a desecration of the name of God since David was also a religious leader.
Nathan the Prophet came to David bearing a message from the Almighty. David was condemned for acting as he did, for taking a woman considered the wife of another in the way that he did. He was also reproved for causing the death of Uriah and others at the hands of the pagan Ammonites. This action had resulted in the idols of Ammon receiving a sanctification in the eyes of their followers.
David was severely punished as is related in detail in the Second Book of Samuel (2-Samuel 12:12-25).
Nevertheless David admitted his sin, expressed contrition and was forgiven.
David begat through Bat Sheva another son named Solomon also known as Yedidyah. David was destined through Solomon to be the forefather of the Messiah.
Towards the end of the reign of David another son, Adoniyah, with the help of Joab attempted to seize the succession and have himself enthroned while David yet lived (1-Kings 1:5,7).
Nathan the Prophet and Bath-Sheba together induced David to publicly declare Solomon as king and thus pre-empt Adoniyah. This was done. Solomon spared Adoniyah on condition of good behavior (1-Kings 1:52).
David was stricken with the effects of old age although chronologically he was only about 70. A young maiden of great beauty named Abishag had been appointed to take care of him. The Bible emphasizes that David did not have intercourse with her. (1- Kings 1:3-4).
Before he died David blessed Solomon who continued the succession.
Adoniyah, the brother of Solomon, who had tried to take the throne before him decided he wanted to marry Abishag.
He asked Bat Sheva the mother of Solomon to intercede on his behalf and persuade Solomon to give permission.
Bat Sheva agreed.
There is a parallel between what was the situation of Bat Sheva with David and that of Adoniyah with Abishag.
Just as Bat Sheva was considered the wife of Uriah but physically such was not the case so Abishag was attached to David but no physical union took place.
Therefore, according to Bat Sheva, there should be no impediment to Adoniyah marrying her.
Solomon however did not see it that way.
Solomon saw that Abishag had been dedicated to the monarch and therefore according to Law only another monarch could take her.
Adoniyah also knew this and his proposal of marriage was a surreptitious attempt to revive his claim to the throne.
Solomon therefore had Adoniyah executed (1-Kings 2:24). He also (following the death-bed instructions of David, 1-Kings 2:5) had Joab put to death (1-Kings 2:34).
A while afterwards Solomon himself married Abishag (Song of Songs 6:9, 8:9).
Solomon later wrote the Song of Songs. This is a metaphorical account of the relationship between God and the People of Israel.
It is based on a real-life description of the love that existed between Solomon and Abishag. Solomon at the time he became king was only 12 years old. Children were precocious in that time.
See the book, "David and Bat Sheva."
E1 Changes in Height Over History
In the Bronze Age and later men were often taller and more robust than they are today. Skeletons of the Early Canaanites often show a tall people.
Amos (KJV) 2:
9 Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath.
Nevertheless there were times when people were smaller.
The Israelites may also have been much shorter than they are today for much of their history.
Causes for low height are often attributed to nutrition but sociological factors as well as the practice of giving birth at an early age may also have been causes.
Rational explanations often concentrate on the effects concerning individuals but group influence is also important.
It is as if a subconscious consensus among the group decides that for the time being certain changes will take place and so they are.
At all events much had been written on the subject and most authorities seem to concentrate on nutrition as a cause for change in height.
See the extracts below:
The Height Gap. Why Europeans are getting taller and taller-and Americans aren't.
By Burkhard Bilger
# If you were to stretch a string from the head of the earliest soldier in that row to the head of the most recent recruit, you might expect it to trace an ascending line. Humans are an ever-improving species, the old evolution charts tell us; each generation is smarter, sleeker, and taller than the last. Yet in Northern Europe over the past twelve hundred years human stature has followed a U-shaped curve: from a high around 800 A.D., to a low sometime in the seventeenth century, and back up again. Charlemagne was well over six feet; the soldiers who stormed the Bastille a millennium later averaged five feet and weighed a hundred pounds. "They didn't look like Errol Flynn and Alan Hale," the economist Robert Fogel told me. "They looked like thirteen-year-old girls."
# A decade and a half later, after civil war had erupted and up to a million Guatemalans had fled to the United States, Bogin took another series of measurements. This time, his subjects were Mayan refugees, between six and twelve years old, in Florida and Los Angeles. "Lo and behold, they were much taller than the Maya in Guatemala," Bogin says. By 2000, the American Maya were four inches taller than Guatemalan Maya of the same age, and about as tall as Guatemalan Ladinos. "As far as I know, it's the biggest increase of its kind ever measured," Bogin says. "It shows that they weren't genetically small. They weren't pygmies. They were suffering."