If you’re inclined to buy into the legend
You’ll think Bathsheba was an iron age Monroe,
Arousing desire in any man who looked,
Winning the susceptible king at ‘Hello.’
Rembrandt’s depiction is closer to the truth;
His Bathsheba is a bulky Dutch frau,
An exhibitionist, later a lobbyist
Influencing the royal succession somehow.
Me, well I’m Michal, King David’s first wife;
It seems that you and I have met before.
You don’t recall? But you know Bathsheba,
More prominent in biblical, artistic lore.
You heard that she got her kit off on the roof.
Not that it matters, but she was indoors,
David was on the roof, so he had sight
Of activities on the lower floors.
That same night, he sent out messengers
And had her brought directly to his rooms
The King’s wishes must be gratified,
And indeed they were, at least, so one assumes.
In no time at all, Bathsheba was pregnant,
An inconvenient postscript to desire
As her husband would know it wasn’t his,
So David had to fix things with Uriah.
He sent loyal Uriah to the fray
Without backup, thus the soldier lost his life,
Unselfishly removing the impediment
To King David’s liaison with his wife.
Well don’t look at me! Yes, I’d married him,
But was never privileged to have David’s ear.
He tended to prefer Maacah or Abigail,
But had a different favourite every year.
He disliked me for being fastidious
But more than that, because he did my father harm;
My father, as you know, was Saul the king,
Who rightly eyed David’s ambitions with alarm.
You were asking about Bathsheba and me –
You’d be surprised to know how rarely we spoke;
She never came to the Royal Wives’ Book Club;
Her taste for Mills and Boone struck me as a joke.
As time went by, I noticed she was clever.
With Nathan on her side, she pushed the claim
Of her son Solomon, who had older brothers,
Half-brothers. Displacing them was her aim.
Perhaps you want to know if I suffered,
On account of the women who usurped my place,
Pleasing the king with a gentle phrase or look
Or with a smiling and attractive face.
Well, by the time I was past childbearing,
I didn’t care whom David took to bed,
Who bore him sons or daughters, knew his secrets
Or who, like me, wore a queen’s crown on her head.
This is what I minded: at first he loved me
But a few years later, he hated me;
He broke up that brief second marriage of mine
Yet, in his heart, never reinstated me;
He was by nature stubbornly unforgiving
But at the same time, wouldn’t do without me;
He wronged several members of my family.
He showed no curiosity about me.
The thing is, I pitied him and pity stokes love.
Of all the women, the one I most resented
Was Abishag, sent to comfort the old, cold king,
And I felt, at the time, strangely tormented.
That teenager, who cared nothing for him –
Whose idea was it that she should keep him warm?
I seem to perceive Joab all over it,
As a manipulator, he had great form,
He set up the same girl with Adonijah
One of David’s sons, encouraging the fling
As he thought Adonijah was heir presumptive,
Not realizing that Solomon would be king.
That brings me back to Solomon’s mother,
Bathsheba, now pulling strings with the best,
So her son and hopeless grandson reigned
The latter stirring up such a hornet’s nest,
The kingdom was divided, Israel in the North
And in the South, Judah, the Davidic throne;
A few generations later, came the exile
And after that, we’re in the messianic zone.
Bathsheba gets a mention in Matthew’s gospel,
Not a namecheck, Matthew just says ‘her;’
David fathered a son by ‘her of Uriah,’
Which is the version I personally prefer.