Foster talks a lot about Biblical references in How to Read Literature like a Professor. Because The Scarlett Letter is set in Puritanical America, there are several Biblical references especially ones pertaining to Reverend Dimmsdale. One particular description parallels Dimmsdale’s situation. When describing Dimmsdale’s house, the narrorator pains a picture:
The walls were hung round with tapestry, said to be from the Gobelin looms, and, at all events, representing the Scriptural story of David and Bathsheba, and Nathan the Prophet, in colors still unfaded, but which made the fair woman of the scene almost as grimly picturesque as the woe-denouncing seer. (154)
The story of Daniel and Bathsheba is not the sort of story one typically hangs in one’s home. According to 1 Kings, King David (a beloved king said to be after God’s own heart) saw the married Bathsheba bathing on the roof and was overcome with lust for her. He sleeps with her and she gets pregnant so David sends her husband to the front line of a battle where he is killed. David marries Bathsheba and thinks he has gotten away with all of his sin, but Nathaniel the Prophet.
David could not keep his secret, and in the same way it is implied that Dimmsdale will not be able to keep his either. Roger Chillingworth seems to be painted as the “Nathan” who is determined, almost dangerously so, to finding out the young Dimmsdale’s secret. Dimmsdale is much loved, like David, and is very attached to keeping the community’s love. He says:
Or– can we not suppose it? – guilty as they may be, retaining, nevertheless, a zeal for God’s glory and man’s welfare, they shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no evil of the past be redeemed by better service. (161)
Chillingworth insists on the truth, however, and unlike the Biblical story, seems a lot less Prophetic and a lot more sinister. Perhaps this is one of the cases where an author is twisting a Biblical story to a slightly different end. Either way, Dimmsdale’s tapestries are not meaningless. Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the plot of the story of Daniel and Bathsheba to further his stories.