on February 28, 2011
One thing I love about Jill Eileen Smith's novels about the wives of David is how the characters who were real human beings come alive. "Bathsheba" is no exception. In this novel, my heart aches, not only for Bathsheba, but for David who has gotten himself into a mess (as we often do) and can't bring himself to do the only thing that will fix it (confess before God & face the consequences). It shows David at his worst but also at his best when he humbly confesses his sin with great remorse and goes about working to restore his relationship with God. In this novel, Bathsheba also deals with her part in this. Both are restored and forgiven.
I love the research in this novel. While Smith does bring conjecture into the story, she doesn't defiate from the true Biblical facts that we do know or the historical culture. I disagree with her assumption that Bathsheba had a choice in the affair. The way I see the story, Bathsheba was a victim of David's abuse of power. But the story that Smith weaves could be the way it happened, and it does show that David's guilt both as an abuser of his position and a murderer was greater than Bathsheba's. I guess we won't know who's right until we get to Heaven.
One scene, where Nathan confronts David, is so emotional and piognant, I read it a number of times. I could feel what David must have felt. It was that real. I also have imagined the scene many times when reading the scripture, and Smith's version seemed very similar to mine. It's the way I could imagine it happening. Another emotional scene that also touched me was when David heard that Absolom had killed all of his sons. Again Smith brought me into David's emotions. Overall I loved this novel and highly recommend it.
on June 22, 2012
Bathsheba's seduction has been written throughout the ages in many different ways, from outright violent rape to a temptress bent on trapping the saintly king. Smith takes an innocent approach, giving both of her characters plenty of excuses--loneliness, grief, boredom, the need for a friend. Yet, if David was so in need of a friend, why couldn't he revisit his love with Michal, whom Smith has redeemed into an angelic being, foster mother of Abigail's daughter? Smith's Michal is a calm, pleasant and cooperative woman who bears no resentment toward David's other wives. She would have been the perfect friend and companion for the aged king. Unfortunately, David's lustful eyes fell on the bathing nude and the rest is history.
The book starts out innocently enough with Bathsheba a teenybopper and her friend Chava giddy with excitement at being invited to dine with the handsome king. While Chava provided all the hysterics, Bathsheba admired David from a distance. Soon enough, she is married to Uriah, the loyal warrior. She grows restless with her husband's frequent absence and wonders if she'd ever have a normal family, including children. When she meets the old king wandering on his wall, they flirt and talk about music, their common interest. Talk is soon not enough, and on a hot, restless night, the king wanders out on his wall and decides to take the next step. Oh... he's a smooth devil, that one, he strums her heart with his fingers, singing her life with his words, killing her softly... Not until it's too late does Bathsheba realize the snare... "You have reason to resent your king." as he traces a line up her arm, "I'm sorry to cause you such pain and loneliness." and turns her face to kiss her. "Will you stay and accept my love as a token of my apology?" ... dropping her robe and caressing her silkily. Very subtle and very smooth.
Bathsheba tells the story of David's later years through the eyes of a young wife--one who was outcast and befriended only by Michal. It is a sad story, as she never really had the normal family she would have wanted. Yet she made the best of it by ensuring her son Solomon was elevated to the throne. Perhaps David's biggest failing after the way he treated his wife, Michal, was his lack of training for his sons. Absalom's rebellion is depicted with its tragic result, and Solomon continues the downward spiral toward outright idol worship in his latter years.
Smith has done a fairly good job of taking this sordid chapter of David's life and smoothing it out into a December-May romance.
on March 14, 2011
Although I wasn't particularly "wowed" by the previous two books in this trilogy, I was looking forward to this one, interested to see what Jill Eileen Smith would do with the story of Bathsheba, the most notorious of David's wives. While the overall quality of the writing of Bathsheba is on par with the prior two books, it has neither the strong ending of Michal nor the sympathetic and engaging heroine of Abigail; as a result, I found the book to be lackluster and the weakest installment in the trilogy.
Unlike Michal and Abigail, scripture gives no indication of Bathsheba's personality or character: not even the barest hint. We are told she was beautiful, and that is it. For an author this leaves the door wide open to endless possibilities; however, it also presents a challenge for the author to flesh out Bathsheba in a way that is credible and that today's readers can connect with.
I was disappointed in the way that Smith interpreted Bathsheba, and, in fact, I had difficulty figuring out just where Bathsheba was coming from most of the time. In the first part of the book, when she is married to Uriah, the plot consists mainly of Uriah preparing to go to battle (while King David stayed home), Bathsheba coping with the disappointment and loneliness, then Uriah returning home and being reunited with his wife. This scenario was repeated several times and I couldn't see the necessity of the repetition; surely one such scenario could have adequately conveyed the challenges that Bathsheba dealt with as an Old Testament "military wife?" During this first part I couldn't, as I mentioned above, ever really figure out where Bathsheba stood. She wavered between loving (or perhaps just lusting?) her husband, and seeming to be bored/unhappy with him. At the same time she had an on-and-off, eyes-meeting-across-a-crowded-room attraction to King David. It wasn't so much her emotional wavering that bothered me -- after all, that is often how life is and we don't always stand on solid emotional footing. But somehow it just never came into clear, conclusive focus. Rather than a woman struggling with warring attractions and feelings, Bathsheba's conflicting feelings felt immature and girlish, like that of a discontented and bored young wife unworthy of her honest, hardworking, heroic husband -- not something to endear her to readers (or this reader, anyway). And in fact, the protracted attraction between David and Bathsheba, beginning years before their actual act of adultery, which I suspect was intended to build up the "romance" between them, in fact actually weakened the story overall. It cheapened the characters of David and Bathsheba and made their attraction feel overworked.
Once the adultery had been committed, and Bathsheba found herself in the dire predicament of being pregnant by the king while her husband was off at war, I still couldn't connect with her. Any sympathy I might have felt was essentially killed by her displaced anger at the king, her placing of the blame entirely on him. She conveniently forgot that she was a willing participant (David never forced her) who had been driven by her own lust.
Although Smith did a slightly better job with David this time -- at least he didn't come across as a cad like in Abigail -- still he wasn't all that interesting. Uriah was the only character who elicited my sympathy -- not surprising, since he was the innocent party, far more honorable than either David or Bathsheba.
The last part of the book, after Bathsheba was established as David's wife, was slow and drawn out, and frankly didn't add anything to the story. The book would have been better ended at the birth of Solomon.
But my biggest disappointment with this book was that the author chose to depict the story of David and Bathsheba as a romance between two starry-eyed lovers. There is one thing the story of David and Bathsheba is not, and that is a romance. It is a story of lust, betrayal, adultery and murder. And perhaps even rape -- although authors all seem to interpret the David/Bathsheba story in much the same way, with a strong mutual attraction between the two, there is absolutely nothing in the Biblical account to hint at Bathsheba's feelings about the matter, and in fact I believe it is sugar-coating what really happened. Yes, theirs is also a story of repentance, restoration and the incredible grace and mercy of God, which is why I believe it is included in the Bible. And perhaps David and Bathsheba did come to truly love each other, we don't really know. But if they did, it was a hard-won love bought at a terrible price. Smith did include all the relevant aspects of the story as recorded in scripture, but somehow her version just comes across as too dreamy, too much of a soft-focus romance lacking any strong feeling or emotional turmoil. For me, it turned the story of David and Bathsheba into a disappointing soap opera.
I have decided to pull my other book about Bathsheba -- Unspoken by Francine Rivers -- off the shelf and give it a re-read. It's been 10 years since I read it, and it will be interesting to see how her interpretation of the story compares to this one.
For the concluding volume in The Wives of King David trilogy, author Jill Eileen Smith breathes life into the story of David's most infamous wife, Bathsheba - a woman who came into his life through adultery, who in spite of her scandal-ridden past would come to have the honor of being named in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Like the previous two wives Smith brought to life (Michal and Abigail), Bathsheba's past is again strikingly different from theirs, and her life intersects with a David who is the established, beloved - and prideful? - King of Israel. The Bible gives perhaps even less insight into Bathsheba's character and personality than it does Michal and Abigail, leaving Smith a veritable blank canvas with which to recreate the events leading up to, and the consequences of, one of history's most famous affairs. Using the Biblical text as her framework, Smith weaves an engrossing tale of the events and struggles that would lead David, a man after God's own heart, mighty and favored beyond imagination, to claim another man's wife as his own. And she brings to colorful life Bathsheba, the woman whose beauty would threaten the security of a kingdom, and who's one night of forbidden passion with a king would bring about devastating repercussions, redeemable only by the grace of a merciful God.
For the first third of this novel, Smith introduces readers to Bathsheba's life prior to her fateful night with David. A daughter of privilege, born into a family with close ties to David's royal house, she was given in marriage to Uriah, a Hittite who adopted the faith of Israel and gained honor and position as one of the Thirty, David's select group of warriors. At times I really struggled to connect with Bathsheba and Uriah - she never seemed satisfied, always questioning and doubting her husband's love since wars kept him away from her months at a time, while he was so pragmatic and dedicated to the letter of the law that he had no sympathy for or inkling of how to handle Bathsheba's emotional volatility. However Uriah, perhaps one of the most tragically wronged individuals in the Bible, is fully realized as an honorable, loyal innocent caught up in events not of his own making or desire. Though it is never specified in the Bible that Bathsheba and David met prior to the night he sent for her in 2 Samuel 11, Smith conjectures - reasonably, I think - that due to Bathsheba's family heritage and her husband's position in David's royal guard, that it's possible they met earlier. Such a meeting plants the seeds of curiosity and desire in each of them, sparks that flame into a full-blown obsession when David witnesses Bathsheba's ritual purification bath from the palace rooftop. Smith does a superb job of creating emotional tension between David and Bathsheba, and the fallout from their passion and attempts to hide their sin is positively wrenching to witness.
One of the aspects I've really appreciated about this trilogy is Smith's ability to bring to life David's most famous wives, and make them living and breathing, relatable, fallible humans. The scripture seems to imply that Bathsheba was a willing partner in adultery by the omission of any words to the contrary - and while Smith's retelling doesn't shy away from Bathsheba's possible complicity, she also explores her fall with a perspective I'd not imagined before. The social and cultural structure that Bathsheba operated within - that made her wholly subject to the dictates of the men in her life - make it easier to understand how her society would have conditioned her to obey men, whether father, husband, or king, without question. The consequences of David's callous selfishness in claiming Bathsheba when he had no right is heartbreaking to watch unfold. David and Bathsheba's shared guilt provides Smith with the springboard for crafting a powerful illustration of God's redemptive grace in the face of unfathomable sorrow. Bathsheba is a story of second chances, and God's ability to bring beauty from the ashes of seemingly irredeemable mistakes, when a broken soul seeks and accepts forgiveness.
on September 8, 2011
Again, the author has spun another riveting tale, adding biblical passages, bringing the most important book to mind; The Holy Bible. After reading Bathsheba's account with David, I came to like her and all she had to endure. Understanding why she might have adored King David, what he saw in her, all the hardships they endured, and how difficult it must have been to be one of many wives, one who was never accepted.
This was an amazing read and a lot of the accounts are actual accounts from the Bible--1st and 2nd Samuel. What a great way to get one curious enough to pick up the Bible and read some amazing accounts. Loved this one!
on November 30, 2015
This was my favorite book in the series. For the first time I felt that David showed dimension in his character. He has grown restless and complacent in his reign, he falls into sin, he feels guilt, he's penitent, he's forgiven and he's humbled. I appreciated this portrayal of Bathsheba and it has me looking at this story completely different in the Bible. It really is a redemption story for both of them.
My favorite line in the book comes from Bathsheba, "They shared something his other wives did not-a common failure, a common grace, and a humility born of sins forgiven." In the other two stories I felt disconnected with David's relationship with his wives. With Michal and Abigail, I felt like the relationships were just physical. In this story, I actually believed that he loved Bathsheba because of their shared sin and forgiveness. I also believed his praise and thankfulness to God was more genuine and moving in this book than the others.
I liked how this book showed all the consequences of their sin, going into Absalom's rebellion and all the way to the last year of David's life. Most importantly, THIS BOOK HAS GOT ME READING THE REAL BOOK. I have been studying the life of David in the Bible for a few months now, because I didn't understand why he was considered a man after God's own heart. Now I do get it. David was not a perfect man, but he was quick to accept correction, quick to repent and he understood the fullness of the Lord's forgiveness. This is something we can be encouraged by and admire. Being a person after God's own heart is achievable for all of us.
on October 14, 2014
This book is deserving of a 5 Star rating because it took me back in time. Bathsheba is a person come alive on the pages of this book. There is no doubt that Bathsheba loved the Lord. When a man such as David has multiple wives we can see the added burden to communicate with each wife. How does mere man govern his kingdom and then juggle multiple wives?
In this novel, we find that even King David is a sinner. He saw another man's wife and wanted her for just one night. Then the plot thickens and King David tried for the big cover up. That did not work well for him so he went for murder of her husband. Even King David was not able to hide their sin. Many people just do not think that their sins will come to light.
This third novel continues to show us the true heart of King David. He wanted to love God and lead God's people in the ways of righteous living. It is my opinion that this third novel has a true ring to how life was lived in biblical times. Last, but not least, I had a difficult time putting this book down.
I am looking forward to reading more books by this author, and I am looking forward to recommending Jill Eileen Smith to family and friends.
Review by J Matthews
October 14, 2014
on January 6, 2015
I have read several books by author Jill Eileen Smith. Her Historical Biblical fiction is awesome. What I like about her books is that the Biblical and Historical facts match what the scriptures say. I am so looking forward to reading more books by this author.
At first I was a little upset with how the author was portraying Bathsheba. I always wanted to put the blame totally on King David. After all, she had to do what the King wanted didn't she? Well, perhaps not. I realize this is a fiction read and the story perhaps might have been a little or a lot off but why couldn't it have happened this way? It sure made for a good read!
For an unbeliever reading this book I would hope the person would be so curious about the life of King David and all his wives that they might just pick up a Bible and read what the scriptures say. Just maybe, this would give them a thirst to want to know more about God and His word.
I highly recommend this book. I was certainly engrossed in it!
on November 13, 2014
We Fall Down, but we get up! This is a beautiful story about redemption. I loved this version of the story. I have heard this story told many times, where Bathsheba a beautiful seductress entices David to commit adultery. However, the author of this story goes beyond that superficial version, and presents a story of Bathsheba, a woman whose husband Uriah is away from home fighting wars, and David who is grieving for his wife Abigail. They turn to each other for comfort, and end up committing adultery. Then she gets pregnant, and King David tries to hide their sin, by killing Uriah. He thinks he got away with it, but God knows, and confronts him. This book show us how sin separates us from God. Many times people commit sin, it separates them from God, and they just give up and walk away from their relationship with our heavenly father. David and Bathsheba fell, but they confessed and made it right, and God blessed them with a good marriage and many children. Bathsheba was NOT a woman of ill repute. She was a woman of virtue and God lifted her up and placed her in the royal line of David when she gave birth to Solomon. I loved this book and greatly appreciate how this important woman of the bible was presented. Highly recommended.
on September 12, 2015
I loved this book. You see the biblical story from Bathsheba's perspective, which is that she, according to the author, was not a temptress. The review question asks, "is there sexual content?" I put no, but you definitely feel the attraction between David and Bathsheba. The sex is imagined, and that's what makes good written material, an idea lost in our sex-saturated society. Sex scenes are best when they are imagined by the author's skillful writing, not "spelled out".