David - passionate poet and in love, lyrical singer, courageous in battle and completely G‑d-fearing, yet humble and willing to take responsibility and admit his mistakes. Whereas Saul lacked sufficient self-confidence to lead the nation appropriately, David was ever sure of himself [an important component of true trust in G‑d] yet knew to repent in an instant and keep his teshuvah alive, ever deepening it.1

Michal, King Saul’s daughter

The Torah placed limits on the number of wives the king could marry, so that he would stay focused on his responsibilities and not be distracted and corrupted by materialism and power. Although David married numerous women in the course of his lifetime, he never bypassed the limits imposed by the Torah. Indeed the Talmud deduces the exact number of wives permitted to a Jewish monarch as 18, from King David's own behavior as king.

Some of King David's are well known; others we know not at all. When Goliath threatened the Jews, King Saul promised his daughter in marriage to whoever would dare confront him and be able to defeat him. When David came to claim his prize, King Saul diverted him time and again until presenting him at long last with Michal. They married while David was essentially still a “lad”, a young and inexperienced shepherd boy brought into King Saul’s palace.

Michal was ever David’s loyal ally...

Along with her brother Jonathan, Michal was ever David’s loyal ally, defending him even from her father’s wrath. She is the only woman of whom the Scriptures write: “She loved a man”. [I Samuel 18:28] Later, King Saul reneged yet again, taking Michal away from David and married her off to Paltiel son of Layish [without David having divorced her]. When Abner pledged allegiance to David after King Saul’s death, part of David’s condition to the truce was Michal’s return to her rightful place beside him as his loving wife.

In later years, when David was king and brought the Holy Ark back to Jerusalem, he danced and sang before it, but his wife Michal - a born princess, prideful of her station in life - scorned him for this behavior, considering it inappropriate for his exalted position as king of Israel. David kept his priorities straight and chastised her strongly for putting his honor above G‑d’s. Aside from losing favor in her husband's eyes, she was further punished by having no children survive her – a final hammer blow to the decree that Saul’s progeny not succeed him.

Abigail, the prophetess

David fled from King Saul to the southern wilderness, becoming a leader to a roving group of bandits - his first loyal comrades in arms - who supported themselves with war spoils gained by defeating Israel's surrounding enemies. Abigail was married at the time to Nabal - a wealthy but cruel man & distant cousin of David's. She was considered by our sages to be among the 4 most beautiful women of all time, so much so that upon an inadvertent glance at her thigh, David was prepared to do away with her husband then and there so they could marry. But Abigail deterred him by saying that there’s no need; G‑d will slay him soon enough.

David and his forces had defended Nabal’s shepherds, among the other residents of the area, from the surrounding enemy nations, as his shepherds attested:

"And the [i.e. David‘s] men are very good to us; and we were not disgraced, nor was anything missing to us all the time we went with them, when we were in the field [for they protected us as well as the sheep].

They were a wall over us both night and day, all the time we were with them, pasturing the sheep." [I Samuel 25:15-16]

David asked Nabal to compensate them for their troubles, as suited a man of his means, but Nabal antagonized David openly, acting as if he didn’t know him at all, calling him a slave and refusing to pay him and his band anything at all.

"And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, "Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? Nowadays, there are many slaves, who break away, each one from his master.

Now, shall I take my bread and my water, and my meal which I have cooked for my shearers, and shall I give them to people of whom I know not whence they are?" [I Samuel 25:10-11]

David was rightfully angered by this coarse attitude and lack of gratitude and prepared to wage open warfare against Nabal, killing him without mercy. According to Radak (on 25:13), all of Israel at that point knew that David had been anointed by Samuel to become king after Saul’s death; indeed it seems even King Saul himself had come to that conclusion. Nonetheless, Nabal saw himself as a more fitting successor to King Saul, assuming since Samuel the prophet had died without declaring David as king that David had lost this right and honor.

Since most of his own tribe of Judah had already accepted him as their ruler – and indeed, he was already protecting them as such - David thought it his right and duty to dispose of Nabal as a rebel to his kingdom, “for [Nabal] cursed the kingdom of David” – but wrongfully so, as Abigail rebuked him:

She retorted, “And are you a king?” David said to her, “Did Samuel not anoint me as king?” She answered him, “[But] Saul’s reputation still exists [i.e. he’s still alive].” (Jerusalem Talmud 11b)

David was taken with Abigail’s beauty – now inwardly as well as her aforementioned outward beauty – and married her legitimately soon after Nabal‘s death by G‑d’s hand, as Abigail had hinted would come to be. David praised her highly for having rightly forestalled him from grave sin – both of murder as well as that of laying with a menstruous woman.2 Indeed, had Abigail not diverted David from his original plan, all the sacrifices in the world could not have atoned for his actions. [Midrash Tehilim 54]

Abigail is named in the Talmud as one of 7 prophetesses...

Abigail is named in the Talmud as one of 7 prophetesses, prophesying that David would later become king3, as well as foreseeing his future blunder concerning Bathsheba. She was later to become the mother of Kilav - one of only 4 in all of history who died completely without sin. The Torah prohibits a Jewish king from having “many wives”; the Rabbis limited the number of wives to eighteen, adding the proviso: “‘even though they be [as righteous as] Abigail” (Sanhedrin 2:4).

Bathsheba, Queen-mother-to-be

After King Saul fell in battle, eventually all of Israel crowned David as their king. David was victorious in war with many of their surrounding enemies – so much so that he apparently felt overly high and mighty from all his accomplishments – both materially and spiritually. In addition, he was promised by G‑d:

And your house and your kingdom shall be confirmed forever before you; your throne shall be established forever." [II Sam.7:16]

–so David deigned to ask G‑d further:

"Master of the Universe, why is it that my name is not used in concluding a blessing in the Silent Prayer in the same way as Abraham's, as we pray in the first blessing of the Silent Prayer: 'Shield of Abraham' [for David sincerely relied on G‑d as a shield similarly to Abraham]?

G‑d answered David:
"I have already tested Abraham [with the 10 trials] and refined him, and he stood complete [against his evil inclination] in every test. King David said that if this is the case then "Examine me [as well], G‑d, and test me; purify my kidneys and my heart". (Psalms 26:2)
G‑d answered: I will test you, and yet grant you a special privilege; for I did not inform them [of the nature of their trial beforehand], yet, I inform you that I will try you in a matter of adultery…. (Sanhedrin 107a)

David changed his daily habits, thinking this would eliminate the possibility of sin...

Having been thus forewarned, David changed his daily habits, thinking this would eliminate the possibility of sin:

And it came to pass in the evening that David arose from his bed...” [II Samuel 11:2]

Rabbi Yochanan said: He changed his night couch to a day couch [i.e. he cohabited by day instead of night, thinking that he would be free from desire by day] but he forgot the principle [that satisfying one’s passion only makes it grow stronger].” [ibid]

David’s failure was in small increments, step by step. His first miscalculation was sending messengers to console the newly crowned king of Ammon upon his father’s death - a heartfelt response to the kindness done to David years before in saving his one remaining family member from death.4 As well-intentioned as this was, it was a gesture that was ill-deserved5 for that “do-gooder” was the very same Nachash who had threatened the people of Yavesh-Gil'ad earlier:

"Then Nachash the Amonite came up and encamped against Yavesh-Gil'ad; and all the men of Yavesh said unto Nachash, “Make a covenant with us, and we will serve you.” And Nachash the Amonite said unto them, “On this condition will I make it with you – that all your right eyes be put out; and I will lay it for a reproach upon all Israel." (I Samuel 11:1-2)

Indeed this small act of David’s erupted into a lengthy war that cost many casualties on all sides until the final victory, over a year later. During this time, David also altered his routine of leading his troops out to battle6, opting to remain in his castle in Jerusalem instead.

David did not commit adultery in the literal sense7 for all soldiers gave their wives a writ of divorce before going off to battle. (Sanhedrin 107b.) Nonetheless, he certainly violated the spirit of the law and its moral fiber. Indeed Bathsheba was David’s true bashert, “predestined for David from the six days of Creation” but “he enjoyed her as an unripe fruit,” for he married her before the proper time, when the “fruit” was still unripe, neglecting to wait until after Uriah would die a [natural] death. (Sanhedrin 107a).

Others posit that David’s sin concerned Uriah – although he was indeed deserving of death, calling Yaob his master while standing before the king himself, David should have rightfully slain him then and there instead of sending him off to be slain by the swords of Ammon. [Zohar]

In any case, David had no regrets at all about this entire episode until Natan’s reproach fully a year later, after a child had already been born. Nathan the prophet offered him a parable, in essence allowing David to decree his own punishment, which he indeed did, saying:

"As the L-rd lives, the man who has done this is liable to death.”

And the ewe lamb he shall repay fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity." [II Sam. 12:5-6]

When Nathan declared: “You are that man!” David at once understood how dastardly his actions towards Uriah had been and immediately repented. In this merit, the death sentence itself was repealed. David continued to rule and his children inherited his kingdom, but tragically he did pay fourfold, as he himself had decreed. David’s life was one of agonizing family strife and rebellion from that day onwards.

The son from that fateful union with Bathsheba died; his daughter Tamar was raped by her brother Amnon, who himself was later killed by his brother Absalom in revenge. Eventually Absalom was killed following his attempted rebellion against his father’s kingdom.

Bathsheba, as well as David, remained targets of slander among the people. According to the Midrash, the Sages would interrupt their study and ask David: “What is the penalty for adultery?” to which he would reply: “The adulterer is punished by strangulation but has a portion in the World to Come; those who shame their fellow have no portion in the World to Come(Sanhedrin 107a). David thereby alluded that when they publicly embarrassed him and reminded him of his transgression, they committed a sin much graver than his.

Nonetheless, the fact was that it was her son Solomon, and no other, that G‑d chose to succeed David on the throne, serving as final proof that G‑d had forgiven him entirely. (Jerusalem Talmud Ta’anit 2:10, 65d).

Bathsheba retained her special standing even after David’s death.

Bathsheba retained her special standing even after David’s death. In the midrash, we find Bathsheba sitting to his left, and Ruth to his right (Sifrei Zuta on Numbers, 10:29). Bathsheba continued to educate her son Solomon even after he became king: “The words of Lemuel, king of Massa, with which his mother admonished him.” (Prov. 31:1–9) Even as queen and later queen mother she did not forget that she was subservient to God’s laws, and thus continued to educate her son, Solomon, the king.