Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What Happened Between Bas (Bat) Sheva And King David

While learning Tractate Kesubos (Ketuboth) 9a-b I came across an interesting insight into the Dovid Hamelech-Bas Sheva incident. I will not get into the technicalities of the Gemorah, but I will just focus on the ideas brought forward that are relevant to the story.

The Gemorah has two opinions as to why Dovid Hamelech was allowed to marry Bas Sheva after he had relations with her. This is a question because the Gemorah tells us that once a woman has relations with another man while she is married (aka she cheats on her husband) she can't go back and have relations with her husband or the man she cheated on her husband with. Therefore, the question is how could Dovid have married Bas Sheva after Uriah (Bas Sheva's husband) passed away?

The Gemorah gives two answers: 1) She was raped and this rule (That the wife can no longer have relations with her husband or the one she cheated on her husband with) only applies when both parties are willing conspirators and 2) Every warrior in Dovid's army divorced their wives before going to battle (This is in order to avoid a problem of agunah). Therefore, either Dovid was allowed to marry her because she was raped and thereby the rule of her being forbidden to the one that she cheated on her husband with does not apply (because both parties must be willing) or she was divorced and Dovid had relations with an unmarried woman.

Normally, most people only quote the second answer as the reason why Dovid was allowed to marry Bas Sheva. In fact, the way we rule is that the first instance, rape alone, would not cause her to be permitted (that was just a thought that ended up being ruled out). Therefore, what must have happened is that Uriah wrote a divorce document for Bas Sheva before the war and Dovid had relations with an unmarried woman.

The question we must now focus on is does the second answer of the Gemorah preclude the fact that Dovid forced Bas Sheva to have relations with him, or is it that Dovid did force her, like the first answer suggests, but it also had to be that she had a document of divorce since that is the only way they would have been able to get married later on?

Unfortunately, based on the pesukim, it seems like the latter possibility, that Dovid forced Bas Sheva, is the true understanding. Let us now look at the pesukim with commentary. It says in Samuel II 11:4:

ד וַיִּשְׁלַח דָּוִד מַלְאָכִים וַיִּקָּחֶהָ, וַתָּבוֹא אֵלָיו וַיִּשְׁכַּב עִמָּהּ, וְהִיא מִתְקַדֶּשֶׁת, מִטֻּמְאָתָהּ; וַתָּשָׁב, אֶל-בֵּיתָהּ.

4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness; and she returned unto her house.

The Daas Mikra on this pasuk tells us what happened, "וַיִּקָּחֶהָ - [This refers to] Dovid [taking her] against her will. This language is like the language of the Torah by Sara (Avraham's wife). In Breishis 20:2 it says:

ב וַיֹּאמֶר אַבְרָהָם אֶל-שָׂרָה אִשְׁתּוֹ, אֲחֹתִי הִוא; וַיִּשְׁלַח, אֲבִימֶלֶךְ מֶלֶךְ גְּרָר, וַיִּקַּח אֶת-שָׂרָה.

2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife: 'She is my sister.' And Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.

[So we see from this that וַיִּקַּח means to take against her will]."

It seems like, even according to the latter opinion in the Gemorah (That Bas Sheva was divorced and therefore not married), Dovid forced Bas Sheva (an unmarried woman) to have relations with him. Therefore, once Bas Sheva found out that Uriah had died and she mourned for seven days Dovid brought her into his house. This was Dovid following the Torah's command when a man forces an unmarried woman to have relations (Devarim 22:28-29):

כח כִּי-יִמְצָא אִישׁ, נַעֲרָ בְתוּלָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא-אֹרָשָׂה, וּתְפָשָׂהּ, וְשָׁכַב עִמָּהּ; וְנִמְצָאוּ.

28 If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, that is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found;

כט וְנָתַן הָאִישׁ הַשֹּׁכֵב עִמָּהּ, לַאֲבִי הַנַּעֲרָ--חֲמִשִּׁים כָּסֶף; וְלוֹ-תִהְיֶה לְאִשָּׁה, תַּחַת אֲשֶׁר עִנָּהּ--לֹא-יוּכַל שַׁלְּחָהּ, כָּל-יָמָיו.

29 then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife, because he hath humbled her; he may not put her away all his days.

(Although this pasuk refers to a virgin and Bas Sheva might not have been a virgin, the Torah Temima on Devarim 22:28 says that this only means the 50 shekalim are not given, but everything else applies. However, the Rosh on Kesubos Perek 3 Simin 8 says that even the 50 shekalim are required, but they are given to the woman that is not a virgin instead of her father. Irregardless, everyone holds that even by a non-virgin that is not married the man is required to marry her if she so chooses.)

However, the second time that Dovid brought Bas Sheva in to his house was not by force, it was her choice. As the end of the chapter (Shmuel II 11:27) tells us:

כז וַיַּעֲבֹר הָאֵבֶל, וַיִּשְׁלַח דָּוִד וַיַּאַסְפָהּ אֶל-בֵּיתוֹ וַתְּהִי-לוֹ לְאִשָּׁה, וַתֵּלֶד לוֹ, בֵּן; וַיֵּרַע הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר-עָשָׂה דָוִד, בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה.

27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and gathered her home to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

וַיַּאַסְפָהּ (gathered her) means, according to the Metzudas Dovid on this verse, that she came by her own will and was not forced by Dovid. That is why it uses the word gathered as opposed to took here.

(As a side point this teaches us something about the verse in Devarim that tells us if a girl, who is not married, is raped she marries her attacker. It does not mean she HAS to marry the one who forced himself upon her, but if she chooses to marry him then HE can never divorce her.)

So what are we supposed to take away from this story? It is not exactly a flattering story and it seems like it hurts people's faith in Judaism more than it encourages them. So what is the point of this story where a great man of Israel commits such a heinous crime?

I believe the lesson can be seen in the subsequent chapter (ibid 12) to the Bas Sheva Incident. There it says (ibid 12:9-13):

ט מַדּוּעַ בָּזִיתָ אֶת-דְּבַר יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת הָרַע בעינו (בְּעֵינַי), אֵת אוּרִיָּה הַחִתִּי הִכִּיתָ בַחֶרֶב, וְאֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ לָקַחְתָּ לְּךָ לְאִשָּׁה; וְאֹתוֹ הָרַגְתָּ, בְּחֶרֶב בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן.

9 Wherefore hast thou despised the word of the LORD, to do that which is evil in My sight? Uriah the Hittite thou hast smitten with the sword, and his wife thou hast taken to be thy wife, and him thou hast slain with the sword of the children of Ammon.

י וְעַתָּה, לֹא-תָסוּר חֶרֶב מִבֵּיתְךָ--עַד-עוֹלָם: עֵקֶב, כִּי בְזִתָנִי, וַתִּקַּח אֶת-אֵשֶׁת אוּרִיָּה הַחִתִּי, לִהְיוֹת לְךָ לְאִשָּׁה.

10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from thy house; because thou hast despised Me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

יא כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה, הִנְנִי מֵקִים עָלֶיךָ רָעָה מִבֵּיתֶךָ, וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶת-נָשֶׁיךָ לְעֵינֶיךָ, וְנָתַתִּי לְרֵעֶיךָ; וְשָׁכַב עִם-נָשֶׁיךָ, לְעֵינֵי הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ הַזֹּאת.

11 Thus saith the LORD: Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

יב כִּי אַתָּה, עָשִׂיתָ בַסָּתֶר; וַאֲנִי, אֶעֱשֶׂה אֶת-הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה, נֶגֶד כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל, וְנֶגֶד הַשָּׁמֶשׁ.

12 For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

יג וַיֹּאמֶר דָּוִד אֶל-נָתָן, חָטָאתִי לַיהוָה; {ס} וַיֹּאמֶר נָתָן אֶל-דָּוִד, גַּם-יְהוָה הֶעֱבִיר חַטָּאתְךָ--לֹא תָמוּת.

13 And David said unto Nathan: 'I have sinned against the LORD.' {S} And Nathan said unto David: 'The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

Dovid, after receiving such a harsh rebuke, immediately admits to the sin that he tried to cover up. No excuses, unlike Saul, only the simple truth. Dovid realized that G-D knows all, but he sinned because he was overcome by desire. However, unlike so many other kings, Dovid did not make excuses for his behavior or try and weasel his way out of the facts, rather he admitted his faults and took the punishment that he deserved. This punishment was also immediately reduced because of Dovid's attitude, obedience and subservience to G-D combined with truth and a will to do the right thing. In the end, Dovid did Teshuva (repentance) and that is all G-D asks.

This is the lesson that we can learn from the Dovid-Bas Sheva incident: Man sins, however, man's reaction to the sin matters much more and tells what type of person that man is. Does he have a good soul and admit his mistake and try to correct the wrong, or does he enhance the sin by denying his faults and go deeper down the rabbit hole? G-D only wants us to try our best, be honest and faithful. That is all we are capable of and that is all G-D expects from us.


Mike S. said...

If one adds the gemara in Sanhedrin that Batsheva was no more than 6 at the time, it is even more disturbing. Even considering that the gemara in question is trying to demonstrate that puberty came earlier in Biblical times, and that we are dealing with a society where death in childbirth meant that it was not uncommon for middle aged men to have teen aged brides, i found the gemara there very disturbing.

E-Man said...

The main problem I have with the understanding of that Aggadita Gemorah in Sanhedrin 69b is that there are several Gemorahs, like the one in keddushin 41a that specifically say a father can not marry off his daughter when she is a katana (child). If that is true then how was Bas Sheva married to Uriah? If you want to say that she was married by her father being over the issur then how was she divorced like it says in Kesubos 9b. There are just too many problems with understanding that she was 6 at the time.

E-Man said...

However, I would like to propose that since this idea is disproved in the Gemorah on 69b it is completely thrown out and the vague connections that are made are disregarded.