Teaching Children the Difficult Truths of the Bible: David and Bathsheba

It’s a tendency in this generation to try to protect our children from the harsh light of reality; to try to “keep their innocence” for as long as possible. This is a natural instinct on the part of those of us entrusted with these vulnerable lives. But is keeping important information from our children really protecting them, or just setting them up for a hard fall in the future? If our children don’t understand that life is hard and that the people they count on are bound to act like humans and let them down sometimes, we are doing them a severe disservice. I don’t mean that we should focus on the negative all the time: this, too, would be deceptive, for people can be good and honorable and trustworthy. But people are also sinners and will act like sinners no matter how hard they try not to. There are parents and teachers who want so much for children to have perfect role models to emulate that they cover up the negative aspects of potential heroes’ lives or even deliberately prevaricate or lie outright in order to keep a reputation unstained. This is a serious breach of our children’s trust in us: it is, in fact, re-creating reality into what we want it to be. And how do we expect our children to live in this alternate universe we create for them? How will they respond when the curtain is pulled back and the truth is uncovered? No, we must strive to present the world as it really is, both the good and bad, the righteous and the wicked, as honestly as possible.

This is especially true when teaching children the Bible. God does not cover for His people. He does not skirt the truth or try to put a good face on sin. When His righteous ones sin, He just records it exactly as it happened. He did this for a reason: He wanted us to know that He knows we are but dust and that we are sinners by nature, but that He loves us and can use us in His marvelous plans anyway. He wants us to understand that it is He Who is perfect and Who accomplishes all that is good in this world, and that He is gracious in allowing us to be a part of it all.

One of the stories Sunday Schools tend to skip over is David and Bathsheba. David is such a big hero in the Bible, the “man after God’s own heart”; we want him to be a beacon of righteousness for our children to strive to emulate. Well, he is! He did a lot of things right. And one of the things he did right was fall on his face before God and beg forgiveness when he messed up. This lesson is as important for our kids to learn as the lessons of felling giants and sparing evil kings. Here’s one way to present the story of David and Bathsheba in a tasteful and uncontroversial way to very young children who may not have been taught about the birds and the bees as yet. I have presented it from the view-point of the prophet Nathan. I have found that children love role-play and pay closer attention to me if I pretend to be someone else!

My name is Nathan. I was a prophet of Yahweh in Israel while David was king. David was the greatest king Israel ever had. He defeated Israel’s enemies and united the nation as no one else has ever been able to. He was courageous in battle, fair in his judgements, and he loved and obeyed God faithfully all his life. Even when he messed up, he always turned back to God and asked forgiveness. God called David “a man after God’s own heart.”

But David was a human being and he made mistakes. We all sin, and David was no exception. One of the worst mistakes he ever made was to stay at home in his palace when he should have been out fighting against the Ammonites with his armies. He left his general, Joab, to lead the men, and he stayed home in comfort and safety. What do you think his men thought about that?

Back then, houses didn’t have air conditioners like you have now. The people built their houses with flat roofs and when it got too hot to stay indoors they would go up on their roofs to catch the cooling breezes. Often in the summers people would sleep on their roofs. One such hot night, David was on his roof trying to keep cool. He couldn’t sleep, so he paced back and forth. Perhaps he felt guilty for not being with his army! But then, looking down into the neighbor’s garden, he saw a beautiful woman taking a bath. David decided he was in love with this woman. Now, David already had several wives. Do you think he really needed another one? But David was now in a selfish mood. He asked the servants about the woman and they told him that she was named Bathsheba and she was the wife of one of David’s most faithful soldiers, Uriah the Hittite. Uriah was not an Israelite by birth, but he loved Israel’s God so much he had left his own people and joined with the people of God. Uriah was a good man and a good soldier.

After trying a few unsuccessful schemes, David decided that Uriah must die so that he, David, could have what he wanted. He sent a note in Uriah’s own hand to his general, Joab, telling Joab to put Uriah on the front lines of the army where the fighting was fiercest, and then pull everyone else back so that Uriah would be alone. What must Joab have thought of that? But he obeyed his king, and soon poor Uriah was dead. After Bathsheba had mourned for her husband the proper amount of time, David sent for her and married her.

David thought he’d gotten away with his sin, but God knows everything, doesn’t He? God sent me, His prophet, to tell David a little story. Here’s the story I told him:

There were once two men, one rich and one poor. The rich man had many sheep and lambs and all kinds of stuff, but the poor man owned only one little lamb whom he loved very much. One day a traveler came to visit the rich man and the rich man needed to feed his guest a special meal. But instead of taking one of his own many lambs to feed his guest, the rich man stole the poor man’s only little lamb and cooked it for his meal.

This story made David so angry! He understood about loving a lamb–he had once been a shepherd himself. He asked who this terrible, selfish, rich man was so that he could be punished. Then I said, “David, you are that man. God has blessed you in so many ways; He even gave you many wives, but you took Uriah’s only lamb, his wife Bathsheba, and you killed him to get her.”

“Nathan, I have sinned against Yahweh,” David said, horrified at the truth of what he had done. He fell on his face before God and asked for forgiveness, and God forgave him. After that, David tried even harder to be a good and Godly king, although the consequences of his sin followed him all the rest of his life. One of David’s strengths was knowing how to be sorry when he did wrong instead of trying to hide his sin from God.

Who is the true king of all the earth? Yes, God is the King who will never fail. He will never do anything wrong. He will never let us down. Unlike King David, God is the perfect King who always does the right thing. We can trust God to always take care of us.



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9 responses to “Teaching Children the Difficult Truths of the Bible: David and Bathsheba

  1. Good post. I agree that we do children a grave disservice when we white-wash stories from the Bible. I can identify with David much, much more when he’s a man who makes mistakes – and then repents. And the story of God and His people changes dramatically, too. He doesn’t just love those who get everything right and do mighty acts in His name – He loves people who mess up BIG. And forgives them. Without this side of the story we miss the depth of God’s grace.

    Also, the phrase “keeping their innocence” triggers a bit of a pet peeve for me. Yes, there are things I don’t neccsarily want my kids to have to process before they have the tools and maturity to do so. But the list is fairly short. 🙂 Our children’s knowledge of the world and how it works doesn’t really take their “innocence” – at least in the way I hear it used most often. The children are still innocent – they just aren’t quite as naive as before. Just because they don’t know about something doesn’t mean that issue won’t affect them.


  2. “Just because they don’t know about something doesn’t mean that issue won’t affect them.” Yes, yes, yes! I believe there’s some kind of “magical thinking” going on in the minds of some parents who think that ignorance equals protection. I’ve run into this on the subject of the demonic as well, as if keeping our kids ignorant of the presence of evil will somehow keep them safe from it. Then, when kids inevitably are confronted by the demonic, they have no idea what to do or what to think about it. Instead of processing the experience with knowledge, they either panic unduly, embrace it as “cool” or pretend it doesn’t exist.


  3. Valencia

    Thank you! I was just sitting here trying to figure out how to teach this to my class!!


  4. Anonymous

    We are teaching this story to the children as a part of the material that we create. This story is this weekend – I’m sending your blog post along to my leaders as a reference as they prepare. Thanks!


  5. Andrea

    Thank you for this – my husband and I used this yesterday in our class. I am fairly inexperienced in teaching – finishing up only 2nd year with 5th& 6th grade Sunday School. I did have a moment of panic when I opened up my teacher’s guide to find that this was the lesson for this week, and I tried to come up with a different story to get to the same theme of confessing sins (I just didn’t want to talk about adultery, sex, multiple wives with these kids because it would be uncomfortable for me!), but could not think of one that would fit the material the same way. So glad to have found your blog!


  6. Pingback: David and Bathsheba – Children's Church

  7. Thank you for this post! This is our next story in our curriculum. Our class has children in 1st through 5th grade. I did not want to present it because of all that goes with it (adultery, sex, etc), especially since the teacher will be a man. I kept going back to the idea of Veggie Tales and King George and his Rubber Ducky! I think this approach will work great. I can stop panicking now 🙂


  8. Anonymous

    I’m so glad I could help.


  9. Anonymous

    Thank you so much. THis is perfect for our class. I spent soem time trying very hard to figure out how to present this to them and your account strikes the right note.


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