Laurel Justice explores the multilayered history of Bathsheba through the stunning, physically multi-layered creation of her work in response to 1 Kings 1:28-40.
1 Kings 1:28–40
Solomon Made King
28 Then king David answered and said, Call me Bath–she´ba. And she came into the king's presence, and stood before the king. 29 And the king sware, and said, As the Lord liveth, that hath redeemed my soul out of all distress, 30 even as I sware unto thee by the Lord God of Israel, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne in my stead; even so will I certainly do this day. 31 Then Bath–she´ba bowed with her face to the earth, and did reverence to the king, and said, Let my lord king David live for ever.
32 And king David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benai´ah the son of Jehoi´ada. And they came before the king. 33 The king also said unto them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride upon mine own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: 34 and let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow ye with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon. 35 Then ye shall come up after him, that he may come and sit upon my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah. 36 And Benai´ah the son of Jehoi´ada answered the king, and said, Amen: the Lord God of my lord the king say so too. 37 As the Lord hath been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David.
38 So Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benai´ah the son of Jehoi´ada, and the Cher´ethites, and the Pel´ethites, went down, and caused Solomon to ride upon king David's mule, and brought him to Gihon. 39 And Zadok the priest took a horn of oil out of the tabernacle, and anointed Solomon. And they blew the trumpet; and all the people said, God save king Solomon. 40 And all the people came up after him, and the people piped with pipes, and rejoiced with great joy, so that the earth rent with the sound of them.
When I began engaging with the text, I was struck by the strangeness of it all: Bathsheba is visiting her husband, the dying King David, while a naked Shunnammite virgin is warming him in bed, and Nathan is outside eavesdropping so he can confirm David’s intentions for the heir.
What significance did Bathsheba have, that she, of all of David’s countless wives, be the one summoned to his death bed (but not the one to keep him warm)? That her son, over all sons, had favor to be named king? And what uncommon wisdom might she have possessed to navigate all of the variables that made up her marriage to David?
As soon as David confirms that their son, Solomon will be the heir (not Adonijah, who was trying to assume the throne), Bathsheba bowed her face to the ground, proclaiming “long live my lord King David”. The rest of the passage is about how David wants Nathan to handle the change over.
I started my piece with a bathing Bathsheba for an under-painting, for that is where it all began between these two. I imagined her as a person of great strength, character and courage, and the kind of person who could raise the “wisest man who ever lived”. She strikes me as quite pivotal to this moment in history, being included in the genealogy of Jesus, and being a sort of midwife of the temple of Jerusalem that was to come. As I layered pastel paint over the figure, I contemplated the origin of a courtyard bath, adultery, the arc of her losses (Uriah, at least one son, etc.), her significance to David, her remarkable mothering of Solomon, and all that followed in history because of her. I represented her figure somewhat architecturally, and my subsequent marks are meant to hint at her liminal place in history.
Laurel Seibels Justice lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where she works from her historic loft studio as a psychotherapist, artist and art consultant. She recently served two terms as a Public Art Commissioner for the Pikes Peak Region and juries everything from latte art competitions and poetry slams, to large scale public sculptures and outdoor arts festivals. She has consulted on various digital art experiences (apps and blogs) for companies based in New York and London. Laurel also writes an occasional arts and culture feature for the local newspaper.
As a visual artist, Laurel works in soft pastels, creating abstract and landscape paintings primarily inspired by the Lowcountry of SC, Colorado and New Mexico. Her commissions hail from coast to coast in the US, and her work has been exhibited widely in Colorado Springs. People describe her work as energetic, whimsical, mysterious, topographical and inspiring.
A graduate of Agnes Scott College with a BA in Art, she went on to earn an MA in Counseling from Webster University in Myrtle Beach, SC. She is passionate about helping clients restore wholeness around whatever it is they feel they are meant to be in the world. Not surprisingly, many of those clients happen to be artists, writers, musicians, playwrights, dancers, etc. She designs workshops and retreats that support the personal and professional growth of creative people.
She is married to Steve and has 4 children.