But the sword that devours now hangs over David's own house. "The thing that David had done displeased the Lord," and both he and Bathsheba will pay the price. Soon thereafter, the prophet Nathan tells the king a parable: There are two men in a city, one rich and one poor. The rich man has many flocks of sheep, but the poor man has only one ewe lamb, a lamb he raised with his own children and fed from his own table. A traveler comes to the rich man one day, and rather than kill one of his own flock to feed the guest, the rich man takes the poor man's lamb. Thinking the story is true, David tells Nathan, "As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this deserveth to die."
Nathan replies, "Thou art the man." Delivering the message of God, Nathan recounts David's sins and curses him, saying, "The sword shall never depart from thy house." The shamed king bows his head: "I have sinned against the Lord." But David's admission of error comes too late. Nathan tells him, "The child also that is born unto thee shall surely die."
Although God singles out David as the sinner, Bathsheba also suffers a cruel punishment. Soon after the birth of their son, the child falls ill; on the seventh day, the child dies-innocent blood spilt in payment for sinful parents. It now seems likely that Bathsheba will withdraw into David's harem, a shamed wife, never to be heard from again. But the connection between David and Bathsheba proves to be more than transitory, and instead it seems that the tragedy draws them closer. Miraculously, God grants David a temporary reprieve. Bathsheba gives birth to a healthy son, the future King Solomon.
Most of David's previous marriages were arranged for political alliances. But David is drawn to Bathsheba by a powerful sexual attraction. Popular culture chooses to view their relationship as a classic romance—lust turned to love. In his novel God Knows, Joseph Heller envisions Bathsheba as the love of David's life, as does the 1951 Gregory Peck movie, David and Bathsheba.
But some biblical scholars caution against reading too much romance into the lines of the text. "There are a lot of times when you're told that people love David," Fewell says, referring in part to David's first wife, Michal, and King Saul's son Jonathan. "The word love is never used in the story of David and Bathsheba."