David and Bathshe­ba: Through Nathan’s Eyes

Joel Cohen
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

In recent years, the Midrashic nov­el has become a new addi­tion to the genre of the lit­er­a­ture by select­ing bib­li­cal char­ac­ters that have com­pelling parts in the sto­ry, but lit­tle text to explain their full part in the bib­li­cal dra­ma. Most of these sto­ries are about women in the bible, but Joel Cohen has cho­sen a male char­ac­ter, the prophet Nathan. 

Nathan, who was prophet to King David, has but a scant thir­teen vers­es in 2 Samuel, Chap­ter 12, in which he con­fronts David and his great sin, the com­plic­i­ty in the death of Uri­ah and his adul­tery with Bathshe­ba. Nathan, who anoint­ed David, feels duty bound to admon­ish the great King of Israel and pro­claim judg­ment upon David for his trans­gres­sion. David offers lit­tle resis­tance to his court prophet and repents for what he has done, but not with­out the pun­ish­ment of Nathan’s prophe­cy. What must Nathan have thought before this dra­mat­ic scene and what of his rela­tion­ship with the King afterwards?

Joel Cohen has devel­oped an intrigu­ing inner dia­logue in Midrashic tra­di­tion to fill in the gaps for Nathan’s sto­ry inter­twined with David’s sto­ry. He has also added Jew­ish leg­ends, Tal­mud, and bib­li­cal text as side com­men­taries. These addi­tion­al read­ings lend col­or, tex­ture, and mean­ing to the great sto­ry of King David and his right­eous prophet Nathan.

Bar­bara Andrews holds a Mas­ters in Jew­ish Stud­ies from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go, has been an adult Jew­ish edu­ca­tion instruc­tor, and works in the cor­po­rate world as a pro­fes­sion­al adult educator.

Discussion Questions