David is a king.

Uriah is fighting for him.

As a King David has right to send any of his soldiers to any missions. Presumably that includes suicidal mission.

It is possible that Batsheba is not even technically Uriah's wife. I've heard about something called retroactive divorce.

Let's presume that Batsheba is not technically Uriah's wife at that time. Is what David do technically a sin?

This is discussed here: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/4587/to-what-extent-is-psalm-514-poetic-exaggeration

First, remember that David was king, and as king he answered to no one but G-d. He could have ordered Uriah killed on whatever pretext and then taken Bat-Sheva. He had that authority. Instead, what he did was rely on the fact that Jewish soldiers going into battle are required to give their wives conditional retroactive divorce papers which in effect say: "I divorce you effective today if I do not return from war by next month." Babyl. Talmud, Shab. 56a. As king, David could order any of his soldiers on a suicide mission without apology. And because of the retroactive divorce given to Bat-Sheva, David technically did not commit adultery with her as she was divorced. But, as Nathan pointed out, whether or not he was legally permitted to do all that he did, G-d had warned him to be better than that. Accordingly, he owed no apology to anyone (and could not apologize to the deceased Uriah) but G-d.

Now what about if Batsheba is indeed Uriah's wife? Why God demand such a light punishment against Dave? Shouldn't they both be stoned to death?

We probably have issue whether the sex is consensual or rape. Torah seems to punish married rape victim even if the sex is not consensual if the rape happens in town and the woman doesn't scream (reference needed). So Batsheba should be stoned too.

Some think David didn't commit any sin at all http://torahideals.com/essays-and-imaginings/david-and-bathsheba/

When Uriah was called before David, he made reference to his general as “my master, Joab” (2 Samuel 11:11). Although this form of address would have been proper in the presence of his commanding officer, referring to anyone other than the king as master in the presence of the king himself constituted an act of rebellion punishable by death.7 Uriah also disobeyed David’s order to return home to his wife.8 On two separate counts, therefore, Uriah placed himself in the category of mored b’malchus, a rebel against the king. As such, Uriah forfeited his life immediately since the extralegal powers of the monarch include the authority to invoke the death penalty upon rebels without the due process of law.9

We got two possibilities:

  1. Either David, as king, commit a crime/sin and didn't get punished for it.
  2. Or a jewish king (like pretty much any king at that time) can pretty much grab anyone's wife without even breaking the law.

Neither is good for the peasant. In any case, which one is right?

  • The Talmud says that David did not sin. The king is permitted to have anybody killed that he wishes, and the retroactive divorce document did go into effect. Nevertheless, what David did was not within the spirit of the law, and therefore he was punished as we see in 2 Shmuel
    – Daniel
    Jun 12, 2014 at 8:25
  • 2
    Your ending gives two choices and ignores the third which is stated in the quotes given in the question. King David took advantage of the letter of the law and was punished for it (the child died). Since they "technically" did not commit adultery, he was allowed to marry Uriah's widow. Even if they had, they would not have been stoned because there were no witnesses who could testify. However, Shlomo would not have been able to become king. The case does not show that he can grab any wife. Jun 12, 2014 at 9:44
  • The third possibility is the second one I think.
    – user4951
    Jun 12, 2014 at 10:18
  • Where do you get that a king is allowed to kill anyone he wishes? Jun 12, 2014 at 11:23
  • related judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/13594/…
    – rosends
    Jun 12, 2014 at 11:40

2 Answers 2


I think all commentaries agree that dovid did not actually technically commit the sin of adultery. As to why this is, either Uriah was actually divorced or conditionally divorced (which took effect retroactiy when he didn't come back). Uriah was mored bamolchus (either because he called yoav a "master" in front of dovid or because he didn't listen to dovid to go home) and so dovid had the right to have him killed. At the time that dovid and batsheva had relations Uriah was technically divorced. The question is SHOULD he have done what he did. Just for his being mored bamolchus he wouldn't have had Uriah killed it's only because he wanted his wife. While they were technically divorced, everyone understood that they weren't getting divorced because they wanted to seperated but as to not cause agunos. So when dovid and batsheva had relations was when Uriah was still alive and so dovid was in a ethical sense stealing his wife. Or according to the understanding that it was a retroactive divorce then batsheva was at that point in time still married to Uriah as only once Uriah was kille was it "revealed" that they had been divorced however long ago. So while dovid didn't technically sin according to the letter of the law he did commit some ethical crime.

  • So that's how one avoid sinning. Bang someone else's wife? Just kill the husband and keep it legal. I see why some jews are good lawyers.
    – user4951
    Jun 20, 2016 at 2:56
  • @jim Thio Let's seperated court punishable crime vs sin. Dovid most definetly committed a sin, hence why he was punished and rebuked. If your question is did he do an act then the human courts can punish based upon the law, then no. There also is a discussion that dovid knew he was to have a child from her and that it ha to be in a unusual way for moshiach to come from him, but that concept is way beyond me.
    – mroll
    Jun 20, 2016 at 3:14

The issue that is being ignored by supposing that David did not commit the sins of adultery and murder is three-fold. First Nathan the Prophet telling David he had done wrong, the death of the baby for punishment and the fact of judgement by the sword against David’s Kingdom. 2 Samuel 12 It would seem that David was forgiven 2 Samuel 12:13

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