From 2 Samuel 11:4 (NKJV),

Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house.

This verse seems to say that because Bathsheba was cleansed from her impurity, that's why David slept with her? I don't understand that logic? Can anyone explain it better?

What does it mean by "cleansed from impurity"? Does that mean David didn't do anything wrong by sleeping with her? Was God mad at David for killing Uriah and not for sleeping with Bathsheba?

  • King David was obviously "straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel" here. – Constantthin Jul 21 '19 at 3:49
  • @Constantine. Very apt comment. Thanks. – Saro Fedele May 1 at 17:41

This is about ritual purity, not moral purity.

According to Leviticus 15:19-30, a woman is unclean during her monthly period, until 7 days have passed. It may be as simple as she had been on her period, but the time had passed so that David would not be unclean if he had relations with her.

Leviticus 15:1924,28-30 NIV

19 “‘When a woman has her regular flow of blood, the impurity of her monthly period will last seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean till evening.

20 “‘Anything she lies on during her period will be unclean, and anything she sits on will be unclean. 21 Anyone who touches her bed will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 22 Anyone who touches anything she sits on will be unclean; they must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening. 23 Whether it is the bed or anything she was sitting on, when anyone touches it, they will be unclean till evening.

24 “‘If a man has sexual relations with her and her monthly flow touches him, he will be unclean for seven days; any bed he lies on will be unclean.

28 “‘When she is cleansed from her discharge, she must count off seven days, and after that she will be ceremonially clean. 29 On the eighth day she must take two doves or two young pigeons and bring them to the priest at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 30 The priest is to sacrifice one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering. In this way he will make atonement for her before the Lord for the uncleanness of her discharge.

There may even be some implied irony here, if indeed he was avoiding ceremonial impurity in order to commit adultery.

It may also be implied that David avoided this so it would not curtail ongoing relations with his wives and concubines, since any other bed he was in would be unclean for seven days. This is my own speculation, of course.

It also makes clear that Bathsheba is not already pregnant, as a woman does not have her period when she is pregnant. Therefore, she is pregnant by David, not her husband, Uriah.

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    It might also have been included to make it clear that she got pregnant by David, not by her husband. – bob Jun 11 '19 at 19:54
  • Thanks @bob, good point. – DonJewett Jun 13 '19 at 17:18

For the phrase in question, the Hebrew text states וְהִיא מִתְקַדֶּשֶׁת מִטֻּמְאָתָהּ (vehiy mitkaddeshet mitumʿatah). To note, the Hebrew text lacks the conjunction כִּי (ki); therefore, translating this Hebrew phrase into English with an initial “for” is untenable. Since there is no “for,” the author is not providing the reason that David laid with her. Indeed, there’s no reason to suppose that וְ is anything but a disjunctive vav following a series of consecutive vavs: וַיִּשְׁלַח..וַיִּקָּחֶהָ...וַתָּבֹוא...וַיִּשְׁכַּב.

As a disjunctive vav, it separates the final clause (or actions) from those preceding. It could be read as follows:

Now, after she purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

“Now” translating the disjunctive vav in וְהִיא serves to interrupt the action in this clause from the preceding actions.1

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“After she purified herself” is a translation of the participle מִתְקַדֶּשֶׁת as temporal.

According to the Torah,2 sexual intercourse defiles one physically until sunset. The text presents an irony. Bathsheba is scrupulous to purify herself physically after sexual intercourse, but she defiles herself spiritually by committing the grievous sin of adultery.


1 On the disjunctive vav, see Walker-Jones, p. 163–164.
2 Lev. 15:18


Walker-Jones, Arthur. Hebrew for Biblical Interpretation. Ed. McKenzie, Steven L. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003.

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    I'm not sure about translating this "then she purified herself." Normally if this were a sequence of events, it would have three of the same forms of the verbs וַיִּשְׁכַּב ... ותתקדש ... וַתָּשׇׁב. The participle מִתְקַדֶּשֶׁת seems to interrupt the sequence as if to say she was becoming pure while (rather than after) he lay with her. Genesis 18:1 is syntactically similar – b a Jun 11 '19 at 20:26
  • @ba I'd rather understand the participle as temporal and translate it as such: "Now (disjunctive vav), after she purified herself, then she returned to her house." It seems you're hanging onto this notion that David's intercourse with Bathsheba somehow purified her. Or, am I misinterpreting you? Bathsheba purified herself. This is the simple understanding of binyan Hitpa'el, as you know. "She was becoming pure" --- I'm afraid I can't make sense of that. – Der Übermensch Jun 12 '19 at 22:45
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    What I meant wasn't that David's intercourse purified her. My understanding was that since she had already washed herself, she had to wait until evening to become pure again (if the case was impurity from intercourse as in your answer), so she was in the middle of the process of becoming pure – b a Jun 13 '19 at 8:35
  • @ba—Thank you for clarifying your understanding of the verse. – Der Übermensch Jun 13 '19 at 17:26

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