The Shocking Truth About Bathsheba’s Marriage to David in the Bible

𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐜𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐓𝐫𝐮𝐭𝐡 𝐀𝐛𝐨𝐮𝐭 𝐁𝐚𝐭𝐡𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐛𝐚’𝐬 𝐌𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐃𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐝 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐢𝐛𝐥𝐞

Mohamad Mostafa Nassar


بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْم

“The Woman Was Very Beautiful”: The Shocking Truth About Bathsheba’s Marriage to David in the Bible

“From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’”

– 1 Samuel 11:2-3

In a previous article, I demonstrated that the Bible generally allowed marriage and sex at the onset of puberty (with the exception of Numbers 31:18 which seemingly allowed sex even before puberty).[1] In this follow-up article, I will present powerful evidence that will silence the rabid Christians who criticize Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha, insha’Allah.

As far as I am aware, this evidence has not been discussed before in Muslim-Christian debates, so it is completely new (though it is not a new “discovery”). The evidence in question comes from the infamous marriage of David and Bathsheba.

How old was Bathsheba?

Part of the reason for some Christians’ denial of “child marriage” in the Bible is that the Bible does not mention any specific age at which marriage could occur. In fact, the ages of women are not mentioned except in a few places (e.g., the age of Sarah when she gave birth to Isaac).

Most, though not all, of the evidence for the age of marriage, comes from outside the Bible (i.e., from outside “scripture”), which some Christians ignore because it is not “inspired”.[2] 

Thus, Christians will reject the estimation of Abishag and Mary’s ages (approximately 12 years) because the Bible does not specifically state it and because the estimate comes from Jewish commentaries or historical evidence or even the early church fathers and not from the Biblical text.[3]

            But what if we can use the Bible to reliably estimate the age of another famous female character in the Bible: Bathsheba? It should be noted that the Bible does not state “Bathsheba was _ years old”. However, we can still estimate her age using the Biblical chronology. We will use two main sources for this: 2 Samuel and Psalm 55 (though other books will also be used). Before we begin, let us see what the Jewish scholars said about Bathsheba’s age when she gave birth to Solomon (don’t worry, this is not the main evidence). The Babylonian Talmud states that (emphasis ours):

“…Bathsheba gave birth to Solomon when she was six, because a woman is stronger and can conceive at an earlier age. Know that this is true that women conceive at an earlier age, as Bathsheba had already given birth to a child from David before giving birth to Solomon…”[4]

But how did the rabbis come to this conclusion if the Bible does not directly provide such information? Ironically, the evidence comes from the life of her grandfather Ahithophel, who happened to be David’s counselor (2 Samuel 15:12) and was involved in Absalom’s conspiracy to overthrow David (this is a very important issue that we will consider later). 2 Samuel 11:3 states that Bathsheba was the “daughter of Eliam”.

Eliam, in turn, was the “son of Ahitophel the Gilonite” (2 Samuel 23:34).[5] Thus, Ahitophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather. This is confirmed by most dictionaries, including Smith’s Bible Dictionary,[6] the American Tract Society Bible Dictionary,[7] Fausett’s Bible Dictionary,[8] the Holman Bible Dictionary,[9] Hastings’ Bible Dictionary,[10] the Morrish Bible Dictionary,[11] the People’s Dictionary of the Bible,[12] and the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.[13] 

Most commentaries also share this view, including Barnes’ Notes on the Bible,[14] Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible,[15] the Expository Notes by Dr. Thomas Constable,[16] E.W. Bullinger’s Companion Bible Notes,[17] Gary H. Everett’s Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures,[18] George Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary,[19] the Jamiesson-Fausset-Brown Commentary,[20] 

John Trapp’s Complete Commentary,[21] Ironside’s Notes on Selected Books,[22] L.M. Grant’s Commentary on the Bible,[23] Alexander McLaren’s Expositions of Holy Scripture,[24] R.A Torrey’s Treasury of Scripture Knowledge,[25] The Biblical Illustrator,[26] and The Pulpit Commentary.[27]

            When he realized that Absalom had not taken his advice on how to fight David, Ahithophel knew that the conspiracy against the king would fail. Thus, he went back to his home and hanged himself (2 Samuel 17:23). Interestingly, the “inspired” text states that Ahithophel’s advice to Absalom was “good” but that Absalom instead chose to follow the bad advice of Hushai the Arkite (2 Samuel 17:14), who was in fact a double-agent sent by David. The reason for this was:

“[f]or the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom.”

So, here is a summary of Ahithophel and his role during David’s reign:

  1. He was the grandfather of Bathsheba.
  2. He was David’s counselor.
  3. He betrayed David by joining Absalom’s revolt.
  4. He hanged himself after realizing that the revolt would fail.

If Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, then determining his approximate age would allow us to estimate Bathsheba’s age as well. This is where Psalm 55 comes in. Psalm 55 is a prayer of David asking God to save him from his enemies. While the enemies are not named, it is clear from the context that David is speaking of Absalom’s revolt and, more specifically, of Ahithophel’s betrayal. However, Absalom is not named nor is he even hinted at. Rather, David laments being betrayed by:

“…a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I enjoyed sweet fellowship…”[28]

This cannot refer to Absalom. Rather, Ahithophel must be the “close friend”, since he was David’s counselor. This was also the conclusion of Jewish and Christian commentators. Barnes’ Notes on the Bible states that:

“[a]ll the expressions used in this verse would probably be applicable to Ahithophel, and to the intimacy between him and David.”[29]

This was also the conclusion of the classical Jewish sources, such as the Targums and the Talmud, as explained in Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible:

“But it was thou,…. The Targum is, “but thou Ahithophel”; of whom the words are literally to be understood, and so they are in the Talmud (u); and mystically and typically of Judas…”[30]

Other commentaries, such as those of Matthew Poole,[31] John Phillips,[32] C. H. Spurgeon,[33] Chuck Smith,[34] E.W. Bullinger,[35] Thomas Cooke,[36] the Benson Commentary,[37] Clarke’s Commentary,[38] John Trapp,[39] the Pulpit Commentary,[40] Hawker’s Poor Man’s Commentary,[41] the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary,[42] Keil and Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary,[43] the Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures,[44] the MacArthur Bible Commentary,[45] 

Wesley’s Explanatory Notes,[46] and Whedon’s Commentary on the Bible,[47] also identify Ahithophel as the subject of the psalm. Dr. J. Vernon McGee, in a commentary he gave on Thru the Bible Radio, also identified the betrayal by Ahithophel as the subject of the psalm,[48] and so does Easton’s Bible Dictionary (among many others).[49]

            Among the Jewish commentaries besides the Talmud and the Targums, Rashi also identified Ahithophel as the subject of the psalm,[50] and this was also the view of the Pirkei Avot.[51]

             Since this is now firmly established, we may ask what relevance it has in determining Bathsheba’s age at the time of her marriage to David. The answer comes from Psalm 55:23 (emphasis ours):

“But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.”

This verse is crucial. As shown, David was declaring that those who had betrayed him and were trying to kill him “will not live out half their days”. There is virtual consensus among the commentators that the meaning of this phrase is that David’s betrayers would not live half as long as people normally lived at the time. So says the Benson Commentary (emphasis ours):

Not half so long as men ordinarily live, and as they, by the course of nature, might have lived, and as they themselves expected to live, but shall be cut off by God’s just judgment, by an untimely and violent death.”[52]

So does Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (emphasis ours):

“The meaning is, that they do not live half as long as they might do, and would do, if they were “not” bloody and deceitful.”[53]

The Pulpit Commentary adds (emphasis ours):

“Of course, the statement is not intended for a universal law, and indeed was probably pointed especially at the “bloody and deceitful men” of whom the psalmist had been speaking. The suicide of Ahithophel, and the slaughter of Absalom with so many of his followers, furnished a striking commentary on the statement.

In addition, Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible explains, based on the Talmudic interpretation, that (emphasis ours):

“…bloody and deceitful men…do not come up to the half of the ordinary term of man’s life, which is threescore years and ten.[54]

Trapp’s commentary adds (emphasis ours):

“Heb. shall not half their days; that is, shall be soon cut off, die in the flower of their age, come to an untimely end… […] Absalom and Ahithophel came to tragic and unhappy ends; so did all the primitive persecutors, those cruel crafties.”[55]

Other commentators also explain the verse this way. These include Adam Clarke,[56] Matthew Henry,[57] Joseph Caryl,[58] Henry Hammond,[59] and Griffith Williams.[60] Wesley’s Explanatory Notes also suggests this interpretation but is rather vague.[61]

Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that Ahithophel must have died at a relatively young age. Indeed, the account in 2 Samuel 15–17 shows a man who was quite active, thereby suggesting that he was not an old man. Absalom summoned Ahithophel to come to Hebron from his hometown of Giloh (hence, Ahithophel was known as the “Gilohite”).[62] Later, Ahithophel was with Absalom in Jerusalem.

[63] Finally, he returned to Giloh and hanged himself after Absalom failed to take his advice.[64] Traveling from Giloh to Hebron, then from Hebron to Jerusalem, and then from Jerusalem to Giloh does not sound like the itinerary of an elderly man. Indeed, this is highly unlikely given that Barzillai the Gileadite, who was 80 years old at the time of the revolt and was a supporter of David, was not willing to cross the Jordan river with David to go to Jerusalem from Mahanaim after Absalom’s defeat and death because he was too old.[65]

giloh hebron jerusalem

Figure 1: Map showing how far Ahithophel would have traveled in the short-lived coup attempt by Absalom. This illustrates that Ahithophel was probably a young man (Source:

            This brings us to the most crucial point of our academic journey of determining Ahithophel’s age. We can see from the example of Barzillai that people could have lived into their 80s at that time, but this seems to have been the upper limit. According to Psalm 90:10:

“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures;”

Though this is said to be “a prayer of Moses”, who probably lived some 250 years before the reign of David, it still finds corroboration in the time of David, since Barzillai was 80 years old at the time of Absalom’s revolt, and David himself lived for 70 years.[66] Saul also lived into his seventies.[67] Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the average lifespan at the time was around 70–80 years (note that this is a very generous assumption).

But, let us be even more generous and round it up to 80. If this was the “normal” lifespan at the time, and “the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days”, then we can reasonably estimate Ahithophel’s age to less than 40 years. Note that this estimate is higher than the age assigned to Ahithophel by the Jewish sages.

The Talmud states that Ahithophel’s age at the time of his death was a mere 33 years (since the sages considered 70 years to be the average lifespan).[68] Similarly, Smith’s Bible Dictionary states that he was approximately 32 years old and died around 1023 BCE (emphasis ours):

“…a native of Giloh, was a privy councillor of David, whose wisdom was highly esteemed, though his name had an exactly opposite signification. (2 Samuel 16:23) (B.C. 1055-1023.) He was the grandfather of Bathsheba.[69]

So, if Ahithophel was less than 40 years of age at the time of his death (let us conservatively assume he was 39 years old), and he was Bathsheba’s grandfather, then how old could Bathsheba have been around this time?

We can reasonably assume that she could not be older than 20. In turn, to determine her age at the time of Solomon’s (David and Bathsheba’s second son) birth, we need to first determine Solomon’s age at the time of Ahithophel’s death.

According to the chronology of 2 Samuel 13–15, two years had passed since Amnon had raped his half-sister Tamar (Absalom’s sister),[70] when after killing Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshur, where he lived for 3 years.[71] After returning to Jerusalem, Absalom lived there for another 2 years.[72] Sometime after, probably 4 years (2 Samuel 15:7) after reconciling with his father David, Absalom began his rebellion.

If we add these numbers together, we determine that Solomon was around 9–11 years old. The Talmud seems to have underestimated his age at 7 years old.[73] The reason for this is that it used the incorrect Hebrew text for 2 Samuel 15:7 (“at the end of forty years”), but the correct reading should be “at the end of 4 years”, as explained by Barnes:

“[a]n obvious clerical error, though a very ancient one for four years, which may date from Absalom’s return from Geshur, or from his reconciliation with David, or from the commencement of the criminal schemes…”

Thus, the Talmud sages did not left out the 4 years that went by between Absalom and David’s reconciliation and the beginning of Absalom’s revolt. If we assume that the “four years” refers to the time “from the commencement of the criminal schemes” (per Barnes), that means that Solomon was no older than 9 years (2+3+2+2=9).

Note that this is the most conservative estimate. He could have been as old as 11 years if we assume that the “four years” in 2 Samuel 15:7 refers to the time from Absalom’s return from Geshur (2+3+2+4=11). Thus, Solomon was 9–11 years old at the time of his great-grandfather’s death.

Since Bathsheba could not have been older than 20 at the time (since Ahithophel was 39 years old and Eliam was probably in his late 20s), which means that at the time of Solomon’s birth, she was between 9–11 years old, with 11 being the conservative estimate based on the conservative estimate for Solomon’s age (9 years). If Solomon was 11 years old at the time of Ahithophel’s death (the non-conservative estimate), then Bathsheba would have been around 9 years old at the time of Solomon’s birth.

To make matters worse, we need to allow at least 18 months (two pregnancies) between David’s first encounter with Bathsheba and Solomon’s birth (2 Samuel 11), which means that Bathsheba was around 7–9 years old at the time. Note that the Bible describes Bathsheba at this time as “very beautiful” (2 Samuel 11:2) and David was overcome with feelings of lust for her! It also means that she had married Uriah the Hittite at even earlier age.

 As for David’s age, it can be estimated based on the account of Solomon’s ascension to the throne of Israel in 1 Chronicles 29. In verse 1, David, who was nearing death, described Solomon as “young and inexperienced”:

“Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young [na’ar] and inexperienced [rak].”

According to Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon, the Hebrew word “na’ar” can refer to a newborn child or a young man as old as twenty:[74]

Gesenius Na'ar

As for “rak”, it is usually translated as “tender” or “weak”, and is generally used for “little children”:[75]

Gesenius Rak

Based on this seemingly contradictory information, let us follow the conservative route, as always, and assume that Solomon was around 20 years old at the time of his ascension. Since David died when he was 70 years old, it means that he was 50 years old when Bathsheba (9–11 years old) gave birth to SolomonThus, it also means that he was between 44–48 years old when he first encountered Bathsheba, who was 7–9 years old.

            The table below shows a summary of this information and calculations of the ages of David, Ahithophel, Solomon, and Bathsheba, based on the chronology of 2 Samuel 11–17.

Table 1: Age comparisons between David, Ahithophel, Solomon, and Bathsheba at different times.

EventDavid’s AgeAhithophel’s AgeSolomon’s AgeBathsheba’s Age
David’s death70 years oldN/A~20 years old20 + 9 = 29 years oldOR20 + 11 = 31 years old
Ahithophel’s death59–61 years old70 – 9 = 61 years oldOR70 – 11 = 59 years old39 years old9–11 years old~20 years old
Solomon’s birth48–52 years old61 – 9 = 52 years oldOR61 – 11 – 50 years oldOR59 – 9 = 50 years oldOR59 – 11 = 48 years old28–30 years old39 − 9 = 30 years oldOR39 − 11 = 28 years oldN/A9–11 years old20 − 9 = 11 years oldOR20 − 11 = 9 years old 
David’s marriage to Bathsheba46–50 years old52 – 2 – 50 years oldOR50 – 2 = 48 years old48 – 2 = 46 years old26–28 years old30 − 2 = 28 years oldOR28 – 2 = 26 years oldN/A7–9 years old11 − 2 = 9 years oldOR9 – 2 = 7 years old
David’s first encounter with Bathsheba44–48 years old50 – 2 = 48 years oldOR48 – 2 = 46 years oldOR46 – 2 = 44 years old26–28 years old30 − 2 = 28 years oldOR28 − 2= 26 years oldN/A7–9 years old11 − 2 = 9 years oldOR9 − 2 = 7 years old

Answering Possible Christian Objections

 I do not suffer from any misguided hope that all Christians will accept the facts presented in this article. There is no doubt that, initially, many will go into denial-overdrive. They will vociferously deny that Bathsheba was around 7 years old (or perhaps as old as 9) when she first encountered David and they will deny that she was the granddaughter of Ahithophel. Others may come to accept the evidence presented but will still attempt to downplay it. In this section, I will try to pre-empt some possible Christian objections.

  1. “Your argument is based on a selective interpretation of Psalm 55.”

The estimation of Bathsheba’s age is indeed based primarily on the interpretation of Psalm 55, and especially verse 23 (see objection #2 below). But as demonstrated above, all the major commentators, both Jewish and Christian, agreed that the subject of the psalm was David’s anguish for Ahithophel’s betrayal.

Only a minority of scholarly sources questioned this attribution, but the reasons they provided were weak (see note #49). The fact is that the context fits well with Absalom’s revolt and especially with Ahithophel’s betrayal of David.

One competing interpretation may be that the subject of the psalm was Saul’s murderous overtures towards David. However, this does not fit well due to the contradiction between Saul’s age at the time of his death and David’s prophecy in Psalm 55:23. As stated above, Saul was in his 70s when he died. He lived well past “half [the] days” of the normal lifespan.    

  1. “You are taking Psalm 55:23 too literally!”

This tends to be the go-to argument for problematic verses. Yet, as with the attribution of the psalm to Ahithophel, the interpretation of verse 23 was largely unified among the commentators. Even if the psalm itself did not refer to Ahithophel, the verse could still be applied to him, as he was a “bloody and deceitful” man (from David’s perspective) whose life was violently cut short. There is no reason to interpret the verse allegorically. Was it not “inspired”?

Was David not praying to God for this to happen? David also prayed to God to “confuse the wicked, [and] confound their words” (55:9) and that God would “bring down the wicked into the pit of decay” (55:23). Are these prayers also meant to be interpreted allegorically?

Christians should try to be consistent. In the case of Ahithophel, not only was his wise council rejected by Absalom (55:9), he also committed met a violent and untimely death by suicide (55:23).

  1. “Maybe people could live even longer than 80 years of age at the time of David! What if someone was 90 years old at the time?”

Yes, this is certainly possible, but where is the evidence from the Bible? Based on the example of Barzillai, 80 years seems to have been the upper limit of life in David’s time. Furthermore, as stated, David himself was 70 years old at the time of his death.

Thus, while some people (a very small minority) may have lived into their 90s (though no proof exists from the Bible), this would not have been the “normal” extent of life at the time. The oldest man in the Bible, after the patriarchs, was Jehoiada, who supposedly died at the age of 130 (2 Chronicles 24:15). However, this was clearly not the norm (even if true).

As the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Commentary, Jehoiada’s life was “protracted to unusual longevity”.[76] Moreover, he did not live in the time of David but more than 100 years after him.

Even if we grant a new upper limit, 90 years, that does not improve the situation for embarrassed Christian apologists. Using Psalm 55:23, it would mean that Ahithophel could not have gone past the age of 45 years (note again that this is the conservative estimate). Thus, Bathsheba could have been around 12-14 years old at the time of the birth of Solomon, which means that she was around 10-12 years old at the time David first encountered her.

  1. “Even if David slept with a 7-year old, that does not mean that God approved of it!”

Actually, God had no problem with it. If we read 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan the prophet came to David, he provided the parable of the rich man and the poor man as a way to trap David into confessing his sin. Once David took the bait, Nathan pronounced God’s judgment:

“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel… Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’”[77]

Notice that the “sin” was in killing Uriah the Hittite and taking his wife! God did not say that Uriah had sinned by marrying a 7-year old (in fact, he is always depicted as a loyal and unsuspecting victim of David’s treachery) OR that David’s sin was in having sexual intercourse with her because of her age. David was sinful because he had taken another man’s wife, not that he had slept with a 7-year old. This is confirmed by 1 Kings 15:5, which states (emphasis ours):

“…David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.”

Furthermore, God approved of David remaining married to Bathsheba, which resulted in the birth of Solomon, whom God “loved”.[78] Finally, in Acts 13:22, God is quoted as “testifying” about David as “a man after my own heart”. If David was a sinner who had slept with a 7-year old, how could God describe him as “a man after my own heart”?

It should also be borne in mind that David was a prophet, as stated in Acts 2:30:

“But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne.”

It should also be pointed out that there is no indication that Bathsheba’s marriage to either Uriah or David was seen as abnormal or immoral.

  1. “You are committing a tu quoque fallacy!”

No, this is not a tu quoque fallacy, which is defined as:

“…an informal fallacy that intends to discredit the opponent’s argument by asserting the opponent’s failure to act consistently in accordance with its conclusion(s).”[79]

Thus, when Christians say that Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) marriage to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) was “immoral”, and if Muslims were to respond by saying “well, the Biblical figures married young girls too, so they are also immoral”, that would be a tu quoque fallacy. However, that is not what I am claiming.

Rather, my argument is that there was nothing Biblically “wrong” or “immoral” about Muhammad’s marriage to Aisha and that it was common practice in virtually all cultures for people to marry young (usually by the onset of puberty). People were ready to take on the responsibilities of marriage and family by the time they reached puberty. This is not a matter of controversy. The world was vastly different back then.

However, I will add that seven years is noticeably young, even by the standards of the time. While puberty could occur at such an early age, it is unlikely. Therefore, Christians now have the problem of having to find excuses to justify David’s sexual intercourse with Bathsheba and Yahweh’s approval of it. This is not the Muslims’ problem because we do not believe in the Bible as a reliable source of information.

If the historical David (peace be upon him) had indeed married Bathsheba at such a young age (without committing adultery), the marriage would not have been consummated until she was physically mature, which would have been at the onset of puberty.

  1. “Perhaps ‘Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite’ is different from Eliam, the father of Bathsheba.”

Some Bible dictionaries mention both Eliams without any additional information.[80] Some others do question the identification of Bathsheba’s father with “Eliam the son of Ahithophel” but do not provide concrete evidence. For example, Willis Beecher states under the entry “Ahithophel” in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (emphasis ours):

It is not strange that men have inferred that the son of Ahithophel was the father of Bathsheba. But the inference is really not a probable one. The record does not make the impression that Ahithophel was an older man than David. 

The recorded events of David’s life after his misconduct with Bathsheba cannot have occupied less than about twenty years; that is, he cannot have been at the time older than about fifty years. That Ahithophel had then a married grand-daughter is less probable than that there were in Israel two Eliams.”[81]

Yet, this objection is based on some flawed premises: why is it assumed that Ahithophel needed to be “older” than David? Why is it assumed that a 30–40 years old Ahithophel could not have a granddaughter? An older king could certainly have a younger counselor, and since early marriages were very common, it is not surprising for a 30–40-year-old man to have grandchildren.

Regardless, most sources reasonably identify the two Eliams as the same person, including Nave’s Topical Bible,[82] Easton’s Bible Dictionary,[83] the American Tract Society Bible Dictionary,[84] Fausset’s Bible Dictionary,[85] the Holman Bible Dictionary,[86] Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible,[87] and the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature.[88] 

Many commentators also say this, including Barnes,[89] Trapp,[90] George Haydock,[91] Bullinger,[92] and the Jamiesson-Fausset-Brown Commentary.[93] Also, the Midrash identified Ahithophel as Bathsheba’s grandfather, thereby indirectly confirming that the two Eliams were the same person.[94]

There is simply no reason to make assume otherwise, other than to avoid the embarrassment of finding out Bathsheba’s true age. The name “Eliam” is only mentioned twice in the entire Bible, and both instances occur in 2 Samuel. 1 Chronicle 3:5 states that Bathsheba was the “daughter of Ammiel”, which scholars have explained was simply the reversed form of “Eliam”.

Why would the author of 2 Samuel have mentioned “Eliam” in passing on two different occasions and yet have meant them to be two different people and not clarify it, especially since Bathsheba was the daughter of one Eliam, whereas another Eliam was part of David’s elite military unit? 

The adultery scandal and the subsequent revolt by Absalom and Ahithophel would have required a clarification, but only if the author meant to refer to different people.

The bottom line is that there is no evidence to support the claim that there were two Eliams. The plain reading of the text makes it unlikely. The reality is that they were the most likely the same person. 

  1. “But 1 Chronicles 11:36 gives the alternate name for ‘Eliam, the son of Ahithophel’ as ‘Ahijah the Pelonite’, so he cannot be the same person as the father of Bathsheba!”

First, the account in Chronicles omits the sordid stories of David and Bathsheba and Absalom’s revolt, and only mentions some characters in passing, so we do not have much information about Bathsheba, Eliam, or Ahithophel.

Second, the Chronicler seemed to indicate that Ahithophel was still alive when David was old and nearing death! In fact, Ahithophel is mentioned along with Hushai the Arkite in 1 Chronicles 27:33:

“Ahithophel was the king’s counselor. Hushai the Arkite was the king’s confidant. Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada son of Benaiah and by Abiathar.”

This directly contradicts the account in 2 Samuel 17. The reader should recall that Hushai the Arkite was the double-agent in 2 Samuel 17 who persuaded Absalom to ignore Ahithophel’s advice on how to fight David. How could they both be alive in 1 Chronicles 27 when Ahithophel supposedly committed suicide in 2 Samuel 17? There is an obvious contradiction. The only solution would be to assume that Ahithophel was mentioned in passing and was actually dead (the Chronicler states that Ahithophel was “succeeded” by Jehoiada).

Third, if “Ahijah” is an alternate name for “Eliam”, it still does not refute the claim that Eliam was the son of Ahithophel and the father of Bathsheba, simply because the Chronicler does not provide any additional information. Moreover, according to the Fausset Dictionary, “Ahijah the Pelonite” was “probably a corruption of text”.[95] 

Holman’s Bible Dictionary argues that the Chronicler may have confused the title of Helez “the Paltite” (2 Samuel 23:26) and that “Ahijah the Pelonite” was a “textual corruption”.[96] On the other hand, Hastings’ Bible Dictionary blames a “scribal error” for the difference and claims that the original reading in 1 Chronicles 11:36 was “Gilonite” (thus, it was Ahijah the “Gilonite”).[97] Finally, the Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature provides perhaps the best explanation (emphasis ours):

“‘Ahijah the Pelonite’ appears in 2 Samuel 23:34 as “Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite,” of which the former is a corruption; ‘Ahijah’ forming the first part of ‘Ahithophel,’ annd [sic] ‘Pelonite’ and ‘Gilonite’ differing only by פ  and ג…”[98]

So, either way, it seems that the name in 1 Chronicles 11:36 was a textual corruption, and thus, unreliable. Hence, this appeal fails to prove that the two Eliams in 2 Samuel were different people.

  1. “But David was not a role model for all times! You Muslims believe Muhammad is a role model for all times!”

Yes, we do believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a role-model for all times. This does not mean that Muslims should marry their 9-year old children in modern times, because as stated above (see objection #5), people we would consider “children” in our times were not necessarily considered as such in ancient times.

Rather, by the onset of puberty, they were adults and were treated as such. Thus, it was not “child marriage” at the time since maturity tended to occur much earlier than it does now. So, we should follow Muhammad’s example and only allow marriage at an age that is appropriate for the time. This would be based on physical and social maturity.

In my view, we should leave it to the experts (e.g., physicians and psychologists) to determine what is an appropriate “age” for “maturity”, if there is one. There is disagreement among the experts as to what age that should be.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Epstein has made the controversial suggestion that “young people”, regardless of “how young”, should be allowed to make decisions about marriage and sex provided that they “demonstrate that he or she knows about the risks of sex…is physically and emotionally mature, and so on…”[99] 

He also suggests that they should have to pass “one or more appropriate competency tests”.[100] Perhaps most controversial is his refusal to assign a particular age to serve as a “cutoff”. He states that:

“…an arbitrary age cutoff necessarily allows incompetent people to gain rights and privileges they probably shouldn’t have.”[101]

He also gives 3 main reasons why it is not recommended to set a certain “cutoff for basic rights”, these being:

  1. “Uniqueness of individuals”
  2. “Uniqueness of abilities”
  3. “Arbitrariness”
  4. “Protected by competence”.[102]

This is more or less how medieval Islamic scholars dealt with the issue. As Jonathan Brown explains:

“…the medieval ulama considered the point at which a girl was fit for intercourse to be too varied to be firmly legislated for. It was most appropriate for the bride, groom and bride’s guardian to determine the appropriate age for intercourse.

The norm that the ulama did come to consensus on was only a general guideline: they prohibited sexual intercourse for girls ‘not able to undergo it,’ on the basis that otherwise sex could be physically harmful. […] This was also based on the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha. The couple had concluded the marriage contract when Aisha was only six but had waited to consummate the marriage until she reached physical maturity.”[103]

This view was based on the Quran, which states regarding the orphans who have not reached the “marriageable age” (emphasis ours):

“And do not give the weak-minded your property, which Allah has made a means of sustenance for you, but provide for them with it and clothe them and speak to them words of appropriate kindness. And test the orphans [in their abilities] until they reach marriageable age. Then if you perceive in them sound judgement, release their property to them.”[104]

In his commentary, Ibn Kathir stated that the age of marriage coincides with the “age of puberty”.[105] This agrees with Biblical standards as well.


            This article has offered a novel contribution to the seemingly unending and unnecessary debate between Muslims and Christians on the appropriate age of marriage and the baseless criticisms of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) for his marriage to Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her).

We have already seen evidence in a previous article that the marriage was Biblically valid. In this article, we have now seen blockbuster evidence of a beloved Biblical figure (~50-year old David) lusting after and marrying a young girl (~7-year old Bathsheba). 

Not only was this marriage permitted, it resulted in the birth of yet another beloved figure, Solomon. Moreover, Bathsheba was previously married to Uriah the Hittite, which means she could have been as young as 6 (or 8) when she married him.

The marriages of Uriah and David did not seem to bother anyone, including Yahweh. Ironically, from an Islamic point of view, marriage at such a young age is prohibited (unless Bathsheba had somehow entered puberty as such an early age and was both socially and physically mature, which is unlikely).

Thus, while marriage at the onset of puberty was not unusual, the Bible indicates that both marriage and sexual intercourse were sometimes permitted at very young ages (though this does not appear to be the norm). And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best!


[2] Of course, in the previous article, I showed evidence from within the Bible.

[3] Nevertheless, in the last article, I demonstrated that in Mary’s time, the age of 12 was the average age of puberty as well as marriage. Moreover, I showed that when Jesus was a 12-year old boy, his parents took him to the Passover festival, as the law required for boys his age. Thus, they were following the Jewish customs of the time, which included marriage at around 12 years of age for girls.

[4] Sanhedrin 69b,

[5] According to 2 Samuel 23, Eliam was among the “Thirty” elite warriors under David’s command. This elite group also included Uriah the Hittite (v. 39).



“Ahithophel seems to have been the grandfather of Bathsheba.”


“Ahithophel was the mainspring of the rebellion. Absalom calculated on his adhesion from the first (2 Samuel 15:12); the history does not directly say why, but incidentally it comes out: he was father of Eliam (or by transposition Ammiel, 1 Chronicles 3:5), the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 23:34; 2 Samuel 23:39).”


“He may have been the grandfather of Bathsheba, David’s partner in sin and wife…”


“Being Bathsheba’s grandfather, he had been alienated by David’s criminal conduct…”


“A Gilonite, grandfather of Bathsheba, and a very wise counsellor of David…”


“Some have endeavored to account for Ahithophel’s treason by the supposition that, as it seems likely he was Bath-sheba’s grandfather, he wished to revenge on David the evil done to her. But this is not reasonable. The success of Absalom would probably have been fatal to Bath-sheba; it would certainly have barred Solomon, Ahithophel’s great-grandson, from the throne. Perhaps there may be a reference in Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-14, to Ahithophel…”

Note that the dictionary does not deny that Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s granddaughter or that he was the subject of Psalm 55. It only criticizes the explanation of Ahithophel’s possible motive for helping Absalom (i.e., revenge for David’s sinful act with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah the Hittite).


“He probably hoped to wield a greater sway under the vain prince than he had done under David, against whom it is also possible that he entertained a secret malice on account of his granddaughter Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, comp. with 2 Samuel 23:34).”


“Bath-sheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel 2 Samuel 23:34.”


“He had no pity for the beautiful young Bathsheba whom he ordered to his bed. He had no pity for Bathsheba’s grandfather Ahithophel, David’s trusted friend and adviser…”


“Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:12) was probably Bathsheba”s grandfather (2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 23:34).”


“Eliam. Called “Ammiel”, 1 Chronicles 3:5. The son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34).

Uriah. One of David”s faithful soldiers (2 Samuel 23:39. Married the daughter of Eliam (2 Samuel 11:3), who was the son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34). This relationship probably led to Ahithophel”s disloyalty (2 Samuel 15:12).”


“Ahithophel was very likely the grandfather of Bathsheba…”


“The grandfather of Bethsabee is supposed to have revolted against David, to revenge the wrong done to her.”


“Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite , [ ‘Eliy`aam (Hebrew #463)] – omitted in the parallel list of 1 Chronicles 11:1-47; traditionally believed to be the same as the person mentioned, 2 Samuel 11:23 (Jerome, ‘Quaest. Hebraicae,’ in loco), the father of Bath-sheba. [The Septuagint calls him “Eliab”.]”


“Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam?] Or Ammiel, [1 Chronicles 3:5] who was the son of Ahithophel, [2 Samuel 23:34] who might, for the dishonour done by David to his niece Bathsheba, be the readier to conspire against him, and to take part with Absalom.”


“Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba.”


“The reason for this strong enmity was likely that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba…”


“He was Bathsheba’s grandfather; and we are not going wrong, I think, in tracing his passionate hatred, and the peculiar form of insult which he counselled Absalom to adopt, to the sense of foul wrong which had been done to his house by David’s crime.”


“Eliam: 11:3; 15:31; 17:23; 1 Chronicles 27:33,34…”


“What swept Ahithophel into the ranks of that great conspiracy? The reason is given in the genealogical tables, which show that he was the grandfather of Bathsheba, and that his son Eliam was the comrade and friend of Uriah.”


“Ahithophel, the grandfather of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel:3)…”

[28] Psalm 55:13-14.




“…that person who was the chief contriver and promoter of this rebellion under Absalom, even to Ahithophel, of whom he spoke [in] Psalm 55:13; and though he doth not excuse the rest, as we have seen, yet he lays the chief blame upon him, and here he adds new aggravations of his treason.”

[32] John Phillips, The John Phillips Commentary Series: Exploring Psalms: An Expository Commentary, Vol. I (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1988), p. 439.

“He [David] now remembers that, at the heart of Absalom’s rebellion, giving it direction and force, indeed making it possible, is Ahithophel.”


“It would be idle to fix a time, and find an occasion for this Psalm with any dogmatism. It reads like a song of the time of Absalom and Ahithophel. […] Altogether it seems to us to relate to that mournful era when the King was betrayed by his trusted counsellor.”


“Now David evidently wrote this psalm when he was fleeing from Absalom. For David’s close counselor and friend, Ahithophel, actually revolted against David when Absalom did. He went with Absalom. And Ahithophel began to counsel Absalom on how to destroy David. This is the thing that really hurt David, is that Absalom had turned against him.”


“as mine equal: i.e. esteemed by David as such; refers to Ahithophel.”


“We may observe here, that this description answers perfectly well to Achitophel, whom David had used as his counsellor and friend, and to whom he had committed his most important secrets…”


“The Chaldee paraphrase names Ahithophel as the person here meant, and certainly the description agrees perfectly well to him, whom David had used as his counsellor and friend, and to whom he had committed his most important secrets; and certainly nothing in the plot of the rebels seems to have discouraged David so much as to hear that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom.”


“It is likely that in all these three verses Ahithophel is meant, who, it appears, had been at the bottom of the conspiracy from the beginning; and probably was the first mover of the vain mind of Absalom to do what he did.”


He identified Ahithophel in the commentary on verse 12:

“Ahithophel’s perfidy and villany troubled David more than all the rest.”


“…the general sentiment of commentators has always been that Ahithophel is intended. And, if we allow the psalm to be David’s, we can scarcely give any other explanation. Ahithophel was known as ‘David’s counsellor’…”


The commentary on verses 9-11 states:

“And the prayer here used is followed with another in the history, to turn the counsel of Ahitophel, an enemy of his, but held in great reputation, into foolishness.”


“My guide – my counselor; as Ahithophel was to David (1 Samuel 15:12; 1 Samuel 16:23).”


“This Old Testament Judas is none other than Ahithphel, the right hand of Absalom.”


“In retaining this reference to David, however, we are not to think of Doeg, Ps. 52, or the Ziphites, Ps. 54, or of David’s being shut up in Keilah in the time of Saul (1 Sam. 23), but of Ahithophel’s unfaithfulness and the rebellion of Absalom (Chald., the Rabbins, and most interpreters), and indeed not after the outbreak of the rebellion, but shortly before it.”

[45] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2005), p. 636.

“There is a strong possibility that this psalm was occasioned by the betrayal of Absalom and/or Ahithophel…”


Guide — Whose counsel I highly prized, and constantly followed. All which agrees to Achitophel.”


See the commentary on verse 12:

“From this rapid survey of the general calamity, David turns to the chief supporter of the rebellion, his former chief counsellor, Ahithophel…

[48] (mark 1:45).

“…word was brought to him [David] that Ahithophel had gone over to the side of Absalom…”


“…brother of insipidity or impiety, a man greatly renowned for his sagacity among the Jews. At the time of Absalom’s revolt he deserted David (Psalms 41:9 ; 55:12-14)…”

A minority of scholars questioned the application of the psalm to Ahithophel. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers not only questions this interpretation but also the traditional assumption of Davidic authorship:

“Its date and authorship must be left in the region of mere conjecture. The traditional ascription to David cannot on any ground be maintained. That Ahitophel is the subject of Psalm 55:12-14; Psalm 55:20-21, is contrary to all we know of the history of the rebellion of Absalom…” (

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges concurs:

“Much of the Psalm is sufficiently appropriate to David’s circumstances to account for its having been regarded as an expression of his feelings at that bitter crisis: but a closer examination makes it difficult, if not impossible, to suppose that it was actually written by him.

There is no hint that the writer is a king whose authority is threatened by a formidable insurrection. Would David have called Ahithophel ‘a man mine equal’…” (

Both commentaries base their views on the supposition that the psalmist was still in Jerusalem at the time, whereas David found out about the Ahithophel’s involvement only after he had fled Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:31). However, this does not appear to be a reasonable assumption. According to 2 Samuel 15:30, David was on the Mount of Olives when he found out about Ahithophel.

The Mount of Olives is adjacent to the city of Jerusalem, so David would have had a good view of the city and thus, assuming he wrote the psalm, could have been describing his feelings at the time. Furthermore, according to 2 Samuel 15:31, upon finding out about Ahithophel, David prayed to God to:

“…turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”

This fits quite well with Psalm 55:9, which states:

“Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words, for I see violence and strife in the city.”


[51] Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6,

“…for so we find with David, king of Israel, who learned from Ahitophel no more than two things, yet called him his master, his guide and his beloved friend, as it is said, “But it was you, a man mine equal, my guide and my beloved friend” (Psalms 55:14).”






“So we find, if there be an appointed time to man upon earth, beyond which he cannot pass; yet he may so live as to provoke the justice of God to cut him off before he arrives at that period; yea, before he has reached half way to that limit. According to the decree of God, he might have lived the other half; but he has not done it.”


“They are bloody and deceitful men (that is, the worst of men) and therefore shall not live out half their days, not half so long as men ordinarily live, and as they might have lived in a course of nature, and as they themselves expected to live. They shall live as long as the Lord of life, the righteous Judge, has appointed, with whom the number of our months is; but he has determined to cut them off by an untimely death in the midst of their days.”


“A wicked man never lives out half his days; for either he is cut off before he hath lived half the course of nature, or he is cut off before he hath lived a quarter of the course of his desires; either he lives not half so long as he would; and therefore let him die when he will, his death is full of terror, trouble, and confusion, because he dies out of season. He never kept time or season with God, and surely God will not keep or regard his time or season.”

[59] Ibid.

“In the Jewish account threescore years was the age of a man, and death at any time before that was looked upon as untimely…”

[60] Ibid.

“The more sins we do commit, the more we hasten our own death; because as the wise man saith, “The fear of the Lord prolongeth days, but the years of the wicked shall be shortened” (Pro 10:27); and the prophet David saith, “Bloody and deceitful men shall not live out half their days;” for sin is an epitomiser or shortener of everything: it consumes our wealth, it confines our liberty, it impeaches our health, and it abbreviates our life, and brings us speedily unto our grave.”


“But shall be cut off by an untimely and violent death.”

[62] 2 Samuel 15:12.

[63] 2 Samuel 16:15.

[64] 2 Samuel 17:23.

[65] 2 Samuel 19:34-35.

[66] 2 Samuel 5:4.

“David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years.”

[67] 2 Samuel 13:1.

“Saul was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned over Israel forty-two years.”

[68] Sanhedrin 69b


[70] 2 Samuel 13:23.

[71] 2 Samuel 13:38.

[72] 2 Samuel 14:28.

[73] Sanhedrin 69b




[77] 2 Samuel 12:9-10.

[78] 2 Samuel 12:24-25.


[80] For example, see the Morrish Bible Dictionary





“Ahithophel seems to have been the grandfather of Bathsheba.”

[85] Under “Ahithophel”:

“Ahithophel was the mainspring of the rebellion. Absalom calculated on his adhesion from the first (2 Samuel 15:12); the history does not directly say why, but incidentally it comes out: he was father of Eliam (or by transposition Ammiel, 1 Chronicles 3:5), the father of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 23:34; 2 Samuel 23:39).”

“Uriah the Hittite and Eliam, being both of the king’s guard (consisting of 37 officers), were intimate, and Uriah married the daughter of his brother officer” (

Under “Eliam”:

“Son of Ahithophrl and father of Bathsheba…” (


“[Ahithophel] may have been the grandfather of Bathsheba, David’s partner in sin and wife…”


“1. Father of Bathsheba, whose first husband was a Hittite, 1 Samuel 11:3 (= 1 Chronicles 3:5 , where Eliam is called Ammiel ). 2. Son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, and one of David’s heroes ( 2 Samuel 23:34 ). It is not impossible that this Eliam is the same as the preceding.”


“’The same name Eliam also occurs as that of a Gilonite, the son of Ahithophel, and one of David’s “thirty” warriors (2 Samuel 23:34). It is omitted in the list of 1 Chronicles 11:1-47, but is now probably discernible as “AHIJAH the Pelonite” (1 Chronicles 11:36) (see Kennicott, Dissertation, p. 207). The ancient Jewish tradition preserved by Jerome (Qu. Hebr. on 2 Samuel 11:3, and 1 Chronicles 3:5) is that the two Eliams are the same person. An argument has been founded on this to account for the hostility of Ahithophel to king David…”


“Eliam – Or Ammiel, 1 Chronicles 3:5, the component words being placed in an inverse order. Bath-sheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel 2 Samuel 23:34.”


“Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam?] Or Ammiel, [1 Chronicles 3:5] who was the son of Ahithophel, [2 Samuel 23:34] who might, for the dishonour done by David to his niece Bathsheba, be the readier to conspire against him, and to take part with Absalom.”


“By a transposition of letters, he is called Ammiel, in 1 Paralipomenon iii. 5. Both words signify “my people is God’s.” This son of Achitophel (chap. xxiii. 34,) was one of David’s valiant men…”


“Eliam. Called “Ammiel”, 1 Chronicles 3:5. The son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34).”


“Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam — or Ammiel (1 Chronicles 3:5), one of David‘s worthies (2 Samuel 23:34), and son of Ahithophel.”


“According to the Midrash, Ahithophel was Batsheba’s grandfather.”





[99] Epstein, op. cit. p. 327.

[100] Ibid., p. 325.

[101] Ibid., p. 337.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Brown, op. cit., p. 143.

[104] Suran An-Nisa, 4:5-6.