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The Dubious Origin of Solomon

David Mourns the Loss of His Love Child.

David Mourns the Loss of His Love Child.
Charming Bible Stories.
Henry Davenport Northrop.
J.H. Moore Company, 1893.

Was Solomon a Bastard?

If one delves into the fine details of Solomon's origin very carefully, it is notable that the narrative refers to Bathsheba as Uriah’s wife in 2 Samuel 12:15. Was Solomon a bastard?

2 Samuel 12:15 And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bore unto David, and it was very sick. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

If Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife in the narrative of 2 Samuel 12:15, then she could not be David’s wife; she was his partner in adultery. It is important to consider that David fasted and afflicted himself pleading with God for the child’s life for the entire seven days that it took for the first child to die. David did not marry Bathsheba before he went to comfort her – before Solomon was conceived. This is certain because there is a detailed account of his activities between the time that he quit fasting and weeping up until the moment he in went to comfort her.

2 Samuel 12:20 Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel; and he came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped; then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat. (JPS)

One would think that a wedding would have been included in this narrative of 2 Samuel 12:20 if one occurred. If the passage notes that he ate, washed and changed his clothing, it is inconceivable that a listing of the mundane events of that day would have omitted a wedding. David’s subsequent activities involve his comforting Bathsheba, and at some point, they got so comfortable that Solomon was conceived.

2 Samuel 12:24 And David comforted Bath-sheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and called his name Solomon. And the Lord loved him; 25 and He sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet, and he called his name Jedidiah, for the Lord's sake. (JPS)

2 Samuel 12:24 refers to Bathsheba as David’s wife yet 2 Samuel 12:15 refers to her as Uriah’s wife. This is a bit confusing, but David did eventually marry her. The most obvious explanation is that in God's opinion they had become one flesh. It is possible that by the time Solomon was actually born they had married, but other scripture infers that this was not the case and that Solomon's time of arrival was blurred. According to the narrative in 2 Samuel, it seems clear that Bathsheba was officially married to Uriah at the time that Solomon was conceived. This infers that Solomon was a bastard and the actual product of adultery.

In today's world it seems that there is some question as to whether or not someone conceived out of wedlock would be a bastard if the parents married before the child was born. This confusion also exists in Jewish law, both civil and religious, and this aspect is complicated considerably by several other rabbinical considerations. In deference to these factors coupled with the fact that these events are not overtly clear, it is far more profitable to concentrate on the definition of the word bastard that appears in Deuteronomy 23 because this whole issue depends upon that principle.

Deuteronomy 23:3 A bastard shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord; even to the tenth generation shall none of his enter into the assembly of the Lord. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

According to the Rabbis, the Hebrew word that appears in Deuteronomy 23:3 is not exactly equitable to the English word bastard. In fact, it is representative of a different idea. The Hebrew thought and word that appears in Deuteronomy 23 is the word mamzer and this term indicates something far worse than simply being illegitimate. The word mamzer means someone begotten of a forbidden marriage or by those who cannot marry under law. The New International Version (NIV) does correctly render the phrase “those born of a forbidden marriage” rather than bastard. Forbidden marriages included the list of nations that the Israelites were forbidden to intermingle with as well as incest and adultery. This is a very serious matter in Jewish law and the rabbis take the phrase "even to the tenth generation" to literally mean forever. The union of David and Bathsheba was certainly a forbidden marriage; and therefore, Solomon was clearly a mamzer.

Prohibited Degrees
One who is suspected of having committed adultery with another man's wife is not permitted to marry her after she has been divorced or after she has become a widow (Sotah 25a; Yeb. 24b)
(Jewish Encyclopedia; Marriage Laws by Solomon Schechter and Julius H. Greenstone)

David and Bathsheba were not suspects at having committed adultery; it was an established fact.

2 Samuel 11:2 And it came to pass at eventide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house; and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3 And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said: `Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' 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. 5 And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said: `I am with child.' (JPS)

It is relevant to note that the mamzer situation can only exist in Jews. A gentile cannot be classed as a mamzer or bastard in consideration of Deuteronomy 23 regardless of the conditions of his or her inception.

There is a verse in Matthew that simply states that David begot Solomon by Uriah’s wife. Some translators have attempted to clarify or clean up the passage a bit by adding words that are not actually in the original manuscripts. Many translations make note of this by separating the added remarks in brackets or italics. If one ignores the translator’s inclusions then the verse clearly says that David begot Solomon by Uriah’s wife. Therefore, this clearly states that he was illegitimate. There are a number of translations that cite the actual text without adding to it and some of those are quoted here.

Matthew 1:6 And Jesse begat David the King. And David the King begat Solomon of her that was the wife of Uriah. (GNV) (1599 Geneva Bible) (Emphasis added)
Matthew 1:6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, (ESV) English Standard Version (Emphasis added)
Matthew 1:6 Jesse the father of King David. David and Uriah’s wife Bathsheba were the father and mother of Solomon. (GW) GOD’S WORD Translation (Emphasis added)
Matthew 1:6 and Jesse was the father of David the king. David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah. (MOUNCE) Mounce Reverse-Interlinear New Testament (Emphasis added)
Matthew 1:6 and Jesse the father of King David. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, (NRSV) New Revised Standard Version (Emphasis added)
Matthew 1:6 Jesse begat David the king. David the king begat Solomon, of her that was Urias's wife. (WYC) Wycliffe Bible (Emphasis added)
Proverbs 30:5 Every word of God is tried; He is a shield unto them that take refuge in Him. 6 Add thou not unto His words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

Back in 2 Samuel 11, there is another mention of David marrying Bathsheba and this confuses the exact course of these events. That information is included as an element of other fine points of these exploits, but it is not necessarily sequentially or chronologically related to the continuation of the main narrative in chapter 12. In chapter 11, the information given says that David and Bathsheba were married after the period of mourning for Uriah. While mourning periods are not necessarily very long in contemporary society, in other times and cultures widows remained in mourning for months or years.

2 Samuel 11:26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. 27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and took 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. (JPS) (Emphasis added)

It appears that Bathsheba projected the appearance of mourning for some time. It is possible that one particular manifestation of these events, to wit: Solomon, may have materialized inexplicably soon for prudent appearances. Since this appears to be the case, it seems highly likely that the exact time of his arrival might have been blurred a bit in order to keep up appearances. It is also relevant to note that the narrative mentions that after the period of mourning, Bathsheba bore David a son, but it does not say which son. Nevertheless, one should notice that according to the ordinance one was not ordinarily permitted to go in unto the captive woman before the battle and victory occurred.

Isaiah 66:7 Before she travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered of a man-child. 8 Who hath heard such a thing? Who hath seen such things? Is a land born in one day? Is a nation brought forth at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children. 9 Shall I bring to the birth, and not cause to bring forth? saith the Lord; shall I that cause to bring forth shut the womb? saith thy God. (JPS)

The reason that this theory can be put forth is because of all of the other characteristics of Solomon for which there is ample support. When all of the facts are considered together, it is certain that this must be the case because in Deuteronomy 17 we see the characteristics of the man we are studying. It is with confidence that we can conclude that since the Lord knows the beginning from the end, this passage is in reference to specific events regarding a specific person. Since most of the characteristics mentioned in this passage are those of Solomon - and all of the other characteristics can be proven beyond any doubt - it is safe to conclude that some of the less clear aspects of this king are also direct attributes of Solomon.

Deuteronomy 17:14 When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein; and shalt say: 'I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me'; 15 thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother. 16 Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the Lord hath said unto you: 'Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.' 17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (JPS)

Since Solomon was conceived in such a way that David and Bathsheba should have been cut off from their people, it should be apparent that Solomon could not have been an Israelite. If one is cut off from among a people, they are no longer part of that people. Therefore, Solomon was a foreigner. Furthermore, while it is certain that he was conceived out of wedlock, it is also highly probable that he was born out of wedlock and that David and Bathsheba attempted to cover up this fact by keeping his birth a secret and announcing his birth at a later time. Perhaps he was a thirty-pound (14-kg) baby or something to that effect.

It is not really possible to determine with absolute certainty what the dates of Solomon's kingdom were despite the fact that there seems to be a reliable set of dates for the reign of King David. The Bible contends that he was 52 when he died, but historical records maintain an age of 53. This could well be a clear indication of the exact theory presented here.