Parsha Halacha – Parshat Chayei Sara

Batsheva, the Queen Mother

Background and Lessons

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The Haftorah for the Torah portion of Chayei Sarah discusses the end of King David’s life and the drama surrounding the succession to his throne. [1] It resembles this parsha which discusses Avraham’s old age and passing away as well as the marriage of his heir and successor Yitzchok.

This article will discuss the life, personality, and lessons we can learn from Batsheva, one of the wives of King David and mother of his successor-to-be, King Solomon.

In the Haftorah, she, together with Natan HaNavi (Nathan, the prophet) inform King David that his second oldest living son Adoniyahu,[2] was coronating himself as the next king contrary to the prophecies of Nathan and the wishes that his father had previously expressed. Though he was already old and lying in bed, David strengthened himself and took decisive action, by arranging immediately for the coronation of his son Solomon as the true future king of the Jewish people.

Family History

Here is some of the family background of Batsheva who was one of the eight wives[3]of King David, in addition to his 10 concubines:[4]

Father and Grandfather

When King David first saw Batsheva and inquired about her, he was told that she was Batsheva, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite. According to the sages of the Talmud,[5] this is the same Eliam who was one of David’s warriors and the son of Achitofel,[6] who was one of King David’s original advisors but later participated in Avshalom’s rebellion against King David. Since Achitofel committed suicide at the age of 33, seven years after the birth of Solomon, the Talmud derives that each of these three generations (Achitofel, Eliam, and Batsheva) became parents at a very young age.

It is noteworthy that in the Book of Chronicles,[7] Batsheva’s name is spelled Batshua and her father’s name is given as Amiel. Rabbi David Kimchi,[8] known more familiarly as the Radak, explains that Batshua is a variation of Batsheva and that since Amiel/ עמיאל has the same letters as Eliam/ אֱלִיעָ֔ם, it is simply a different spelling of the same name.

Achitofel’s Error

Batsheva’s grandfather Achitofel was a brilliant person[9] and one of King David’s advisors. Why did he decide to join the rebellion of Avshalom against King David? According to our sages,[10] he did this because he saw a vision which led him to believe that he was going to become the king. He therefore assisted Avshalom in his rebellion, planning to then wrest the throne from him. In fact, however, the meaning of the vision was that he would have descendants who would be kings, i.e., King Solomon, his great-grandson through Batsheva.

(Avshalom committed suicide when Avshalom didn’t follow his advice in terms of how to battle King David. Realizing that Avshalom would lose the rebellion, he committed suicide rather than be killed by King David.[11])

First Husband

Batsheva’s first husband was Uriah, the Hittite. Some say he was an actual Hittite who converted to Judaism while others say that he was a born Jew who originally lived among the Hittites.[12]

Destined for David

The Talmud says[13] that King David was destined to marry Batsheva since the Six Days of Creation but that King David sinned and took her before it was the right time (while she was considered the wife of Uriyah, see below).

Meaning of Batsheva

It has been suggested[14] that the name Batsheva alludes to the fact that Batsheva was seven years old at the time she married King David. (“Bat sheva” means “a woman of seven.”) In addition, Batsheva alludes to the seven Divine attributes and especially to the attribute of Binah (understanding).[15]

How to Write the Name

When writing the name Batsheva in Hebrew (for halachic purposes), it should be written as one word.[16]

Contrasting Chinuch Styles

The Talmud says[17] that Batsheva would beat her son Solomon when she needed to discipline him. She would say, “If you misbehave, they will attribute it to me since everyone knows that your father is righteous.” According to the Midrash,[18] King Solomon overslept on the morning of the dedication of the Beit HaMikdash as he had spent the previous night celebrating his wedding to the daughter of Pharaoh. While everyone else was afraid to wake him, Batsheva barged into his room, hit him with her shoe, and berated him for his behavior (see below).

Conversely, it seems that King David took a much more hands-off approach when educating his children. As the verse says regarding his son Adoniyah, “His father had never scolded him, [saying]: ‘Why did you do that?’”[19]

The disparate results of these differing approaches were striking. While Solomon became the wisest man that ever lived as well as the next king, Adoniyah ended up being killed for rebelling.[20]

Not at Fault

The story of how King David took Batsheva while she appeared to be married to Uriah is documented in II Samuel chapter 11 and is discussed at length in the Talmud[21] and commentaries.[22] Despite the Talmud’s assertion that King David did not commit adultery with Batsheva, he is still considered to have sinned for which he was severely rebuked by the prophet.[23] In addition, he was punished in that the rest of his life was marred by interfamilial fighting which nearly killed him and brought him much anguish.[24]

The above discussion all centers around the actions of King David. Batsheva, however, is not considered to have sinned as she was powerless to resist the king’s overtures and is thus considered to have been taken against her will.[25] In addition, as a minor (see above), she was unable to give full consent to any relationship.

Vowed to Bring Sacrifices

The Midrash says[26] that when the prophet Nathan predicted that the next king of the Jewish people would be named Solomon, all of King David’s wives made vows to bring sacrifices to G-d if they would merit to be the mother of this Solomon. Batsheva also did this. When King Solomon overslept on the day of the dedication of the Beit HaMikdash (see above), she castigated him saying, “I have been waiting all these years to fulfill my vow and bring these sacrifices (since you did indeed become king), and now that I have brought them to the new Beit HaMikdash, you are asleep!”


Before bearing Solomon, Batsheva gave birth to a baby who died seven days after he was born.[27] After Solomon, she bore another three sons; Shimah, Shovav, and Nathan.[28]

Queen Mother

The Midrash says[29] that King Solomon had a throne on his right side where his mother Batsheva would sit.

Eishet Chayil

Some say[30] that King Solomon wrote Eishet Chayil (which is recited on Friday nights and is in the 32nd chapter of Proverbs, authored by King Solomon) as a memorial for his mother, Batsheva who embodied the qualities spoken about in that song.

May we merit to have righteous children and educate them properly!

[1] I Kings 1:5-31

[2] See II Samuel 3:3-4 that Kilav was older than Adoniyahu. Kilav was a complete Tzadik and would never go against his father’s wishes (see Shabbat 55b).

[3] The other seven wives of King David were Michal, the daughter of Shaul (she is also called Eglah), Achino’am Hayizre’eilit (mother of Amnon), Avigayil (formerly the wife on Naval HaKermilit), Chagit (mother of Adoniyahu), Ma’ach,a daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (mother of Avshalom and Tamar), Avital, and Ritzpah bat Aya (formerly the concubine of King Saul, see Jerusalem Talmud Yevamot 2:5).

[4] See II Kings 20:3

[5] Sanhedrin 69b

[6] II Samuel 23:24

[7] I Chronicles 3:5

[8] Metzudat Tziyon

[9] It is noteworthy that Solomon, the wisest of all men (see I Kings 5:11), was the great-grandchild of the man whose advice was considered to be as good as coming from G-d Himself (see II Samuel 16:23).

[10] Yalkut Shimoni, Shmuel 151 says that he knew this through astrology. According to Sanhedrin 101b, he saw leprosy on his genitals. He understood this to mean that just as a leper must be separated from the community, he too will be the king who is separated from his subjects or that just as a leper is free from societal norms, he will be a king who is free from the normal rules of society (Maharal in Chidushei Agadot).

See the Yalkut Biurim in the Metivta Shas that there are several ways, suggested by the commentaries, as to how Achitofel planned to become the king instead of Avshalom.

[11] See II Samuel 17:23

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