Bethany House, September 1, 2015.
Bathsheba is the second in a series called “Dangerous Beauty” in which author Angela Hunt explores the stories of infamous women from the bible and offers us an alternative way to look at them. Hunt published Esther, the first in the series, in 2014, and I would definitely consider reading it after finishing this one. The novels stand alone, but I think they would enhance each other in a powerful way, as a collection of strong women often misjudged by the male gaze of the bible.
Right from the first page, there is a sense of strong characterization – these figures from the bible are written as real people with strengths and weaknesses, and they interact in believable ways. A young Bathsheba sees King David for the first time, as a genuine and fun-loving leader showing off for his people. She has no idea that the king who is worshipped by her community will trigger a deadly curse that will affect her fate for generations to come.
Hunt takes her historical facts from the bible, keeping the basic plot accurate to the traditional story of Bathsheba and David. She also uses well-researched details that are authentic to the time period – I felt like I could really picture the setting as well as small details such as food and clothing. However, in Hunt’s afterword, she writes that the bible only supplies the “big picture,” and so she has filled it in with details and emotions that perhaps have a modern twist to them. Regardless, it makes for a much more interesting story than reading straight from the bible.
The point of view alternates between Bathsheba and Nathan, a prophet who speaks the word of God to King David. In this way, Bathsheba’s story unfolds from her perspective as well as from the voice of a man who knows a little more of that “big picture” that is unfolding for Bathsheba. She is historically judged as an adulteress for seducing King David, resulting in a pregnancy and her own addition to his harem. However, Hunt shows us that there is another side to the story – Bathsheba really had no choice in the matter, she merely followed cultural conventions of the time. While King David is often considered to be a perfect disciple of God, he was still human. As Bathsheba comes to realize, he is a man “prone to sin when not focused on pleasing Adonai.” (Loc. 1731) He loves God but takes joy in human pleasures, too.
Before his death, David tells Bathsheba, “I loved you most because you forgave the most.” (Loc. 4125) That is a completely inappropriate sentiment for mortal relationships, but I think it says more about his love for God in that he could always find forgiveness there for his choices. His story is one of desire and its consequences – desire for a woman, but also that woman’s desire for power. Hunt takes these characters from the realm of allegory and turns them into real humans with flaws. I am not a Christian, but I do think there is a lot of literary value in the stories of the bible – there must be, for them to have survived for so long and to encompass so many human experiences. I really enjoy retellings of bible stories, and this was definitely a good one.
I received this book for free from Bethany House and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.