Her name was Nitzevet. One Sunday in December the pastor of our church introduced us to a female character in the Bible I had never even given thought to… King David’s mother. Isn’t it unbelievable that those of us who grew up hearing all the stories about the sheep tending, harp playing, giant killing, nation leading David never thought to ask who his mother was? She is mentioned twice in the Bible but not by name. The Talmud gives us more information about her.
She was the daughter of a man named Adael and married Jesse a distinguished leader who served as the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Torah law court. Nitzevet had seven sons with Jesse but then he separated himself from her because of some rather paranoid religious concerns about his family lineage. Nitzevet missed her husband and one night arranged to secretly disguise herself and take the place of Jesse’s concubine so she could be intimate with him again. Nitzevet became pregnant and had a son David. Jesse thought David must be the son of another man because he didn’t realize he had slept with Nitzevet. Jesse didn’t disown David but because he believed his wife Nitzevet had committed adultery David grew up treated like a servant and outcast by his father and brothers until the time the prophet Samuel chose him to be Israel’s future king.
We are led to believe that David cared for his mother and that she was a spiritual person who served God from the two times David refers to her in the Bible. In 1 Samuel 22:3-4 he asks a Moabite king to provide his mother with protection and in one of his psalms he says… Turn to me and have mercy on me; show your strength in behalf of your servant; save me, because I serve you just as my mother did. Psalm 86:16
I wish we knew more about Nitzevet, but she suffers the fate of many women, who are given only a passing reference in books written primarily about men, and chosen for the Biblical canon by men. What we do know about Nitzevet makes us realize David grew up in a troubled family situation which may help to explain why the great king had such a disastrous family life himself.