David and Bathsheba
“I agree: David and Bathsheeba should have their own thread; there is so much to learn there!”
2 Samuel 11 (NIV)
2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing.
3 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.”
4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”
On a scale from “blameless victim of the powerful lecherous King” to “exhibitionist who tempted and took down the ‘man after God’s own heart’“, where do y’all put Bathsheba?
Do you think she suspected or knew David’s role in her husband’s death?
@arhunt Thank you for finding and posting that link. If anyone hasn’t read that, I encourage it. It’s well researched. I haven’t actually read Gregoire’s post on this because I’m not a huge fan of blogs that aren’t written by qualified pastors. However, I would suspect the linked article is better versed on the topic.
The researcher looks at this topic from an educated ancient Hebrew perspective, and still uses the R word that makes us all uncomfortable. I think it is our modern perspective that causes us to believe that rape doesn’t apply in this case.
So many of us, myself included, have been taught since childhood that Bathsheba was a temptress. It’s hard to think about another side to this story after years of thinking she invited it. I get that, believe me, because I struggled with it when I was forced to think differently .
I came to a different understanding of this about 6 years ago, well before #churchtoo or #metoo. I was actually teaching a Sunday School class on the topic, and I did say that Bathsheba was at fault. A 6th grade boy challenged me by asking, “Was Bathsheba only doing what all women did in her time and place?” His point was that if she was only following the customs of her time, then how did that make her a temptress? Shouldn’t David have known better than to look? I was so impressed by that boy’s insight that I had to delve deeper. And my research reshaped my thinking.
I understand the concern that we are applying modern principles to this situation and then falsely accusing David of modern notions of rape. But we must then also be concerned with acquitting him based on our modern notions that a woman who bathes outside is being immodest. What Bathsheba was doing was within the customs of her time, as ARhunt’s article discusses. She was obeying Torah law in bathing when she did, and David had no business either being in Jerusalem or looking down in someone’s bathing area.
However, and I think this may be where the Bathsheba-as-Temptress assumption begins, Torah law (and modern sensibilities) would have found her complicit. The act took place in the city, and there is no mention of Bathsheba crying out. The lack of the woman’s scream was enough for Torah law to acquit an accused rapist.
Trigger warning on the next 3 paragraphs.
Please try to open your mind and read this next part without judgment. Because I thought as many people do about fighting back until it happened to me. Being a victim is nothing like you’d think it would be. And I didn’t even know most victims react this way until I read the book Missoula, by Jon Krakauer, well before the #metoo movement. I thought it was just me.
Though many of us define rape as the guy who attacks a woman and causes her to scream and fight back, *very* few rapes actually occur that way. It is usually a situation in which the woman has some acquaintance with the man, and either can’t realistically escape, or faces extreme embarrassment if she does cry for help. It is easier in many cases to completely disassociate oneself from what is happening, close your eyes, and just let the guy finish. Because the 5-10 minutes of the act itself is easier to deal with than the thought of having to go through the agony, the embarrassment, and the temptress accusations that will surely come if you go public. That will remain with you forever.
So that’s what I did. I closed my eyes and thought about how much I loved the man who would never rape me, the man who is now my husband. I didn’t even try to call for help. It was seriously better to put up and shut up than it was to face that humiliation. It was the last conscious decision I made before I mentally shut down. It was over a decade before I could even admit to myself what had happened. I will never go public with it. And that’s a very common story.
Even after that, by the way, I still blamed Bathsheba.
To paraphrase the movie “The Preacher’s Wife”, women ain’t changed since Eve. I absolutely believe that Bathsheba went to David because he was the king, and he summoned her. How does a young woman refuse that summons? The linked article talks about the Hebrew verb that was used, and it doesn’t seem like she could have refused that particular verb. It was a demand to appear, not a request to hang out.
Once in his palace, she was then trapped. She could either have sex with him, or she could risk accusing the king of the realm of attempted rape with zero witnesses to testify in her favor. Given even modern reactions to rape accusations, she was best served by shutting up.
And remember, she didn’t stay in the palace with him, the one man who could protect her (by having Uriah killed, ahem) if she had willingly committed adultery. She went home to her husband’s house. And the Biblical narrator never used an accusing word against her, only David. This from a Holy Book that doesn’t hesitate to call anyone out for sin, male or female.
There is just more evidence that she was innocent than not, in the research I’ve done. And if she’s innocent, then the word rape is appropriate. But it’s also worth noting that David was forgiven. He suffered earthly consequences, but he was forgiven. And again, David and Bathsheba were in Christ’s lineage. I do not use the word rape lightly, but I also do not use it with hatred. It was a sin. No more, no less.
A few years ago on a trip to Israel, I stood on the re-constructed patio/balcony of David’s palace in the City of David just outside the City of Jerusalem’s southern wall and a few steps across an avenue from Jerusalem’s Dung Gate (Eye of the Needle). The City of David sits in the Palestinian Arab community of Silwan.
The view from David’s patio/balcony is stunning. Well over 200 feet down a steep hill sits the Kidron Valley that winds north eastward around the outside wall of Jerusalem. To the left and upward is the wall of Jerusalem and to the right is a hillside running upward to the Mount of Olives. On that hillside are ancient graves dating back to the reign of David; King Hezekiah’s monolith tomb remains a significant present day memorial site. It is believed that David composed the 23rd Psalm as he strolled along the small river running through the pastoral Kidron Valley. The Psalm describes David’s peace as he considers God’s care, protection, and provision against the backdrop of the walls of Jerusalem and the hillside of death.
As I stood where David once stood over 3,000 years ago, the awesome beauty of the valley, river, and hillside was easy to visualize. Then my gaze fell on the landscape of houses built on the hillside and across the Kidron Valley. It struck me how I could look down upon rooftop after rooftop. David had a birds-eye view of any activity on those rooftops. David probably spent idle time, perhaps day after day, hoping to get a glimpse of a bathing beauty. David should have been on the battlefield, instead he was feasting on the tantalizing visual of Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop. As I stood where David once stood I realized that I could have easily fallen to the lust of my heart.
David bears the responsibility for his horrible sin of taking another man’s wife, impregnating her, and then conspiring to cover it up by murdering her husband. Nathan confronted David, not Bathsheba. As king, David could command and control. He used his power and expectation of loyalty from his court of advisors and servants to do whatever he wanted and asked. What he did to Bathsheba and Uriah was unconscionable. Call it what you may, it was born of the sin of not doing what he should have been doing (commanding his army), allowing the lust of his eye to tempt him (stay off the balcony, King David!!), and then he used his power to take from the powerless – Bathsheba and Uriah.
I am 100% on the rape side of this. This situation came up during the Twitter discussions of pastoral sexual abuse in the early days of the #churchtoo movement. I’ve been a part of that movement to varying degrees over the time it’s been out. I believe the discussions on this topic within that context are why Gregoire wrote about it.
David was the king who controlled Bathsheba’s husband. The power imbalance there is so great that Bathsheba was put in a very difficult situation. There is no real way she could have given consent because of that power imbalance.
This is why there are laws against doctors having relationships with patients, and (in some states) pastors having relationships with parishioners. Any consent given will always be subject to some degree to that power imbalance and therefore cannot be freely given.
Even if she was attracted to him, which is speculation at best, it was unfair of him to make the request. Because what could she have said, other than yes?
And yet, Christ comes from that line. Romans 8:28 in action.
I would say David raped Bathsheba based on the modern definition of rape, which acknowledges that someone may not be able to freely say no if the other person is in an authoritative position.
This paper summarizes the points nicely: http://archive.atsjats.org/06Davidson-Bathsheba06-2.pdf
It helps shed light on the fact that she wasn’t out for all to see her naked. She was most likely in the courtyard of her home, where the only way for someone to see her would have been the palace (and the king wasn’t supposed to be there anyway!).
This article was also written in 2006, well before the “me too” movement, so I doubt the author is writing due to the political climate around sexual assault.
The problem I have with the argument that a person can not give consent if they can not refuse, is that it simply is not true. Just because someone might have tha ability to coerce you does not mean that it wasn’t something you wanted in the first place.
When you get to “power rape” especially in dome of the examples that have been in the media what occured was something that used to be referred to as sleeping your way to the top.
I absolutely believe that it the case of David and Bathsheba, that she may literally have been given no choice to decline, but that doesn’t mean that she didn’t have the choice to say yes. Given what is spelled out in the Bible, I think it is inconclusive at best. I also think it is a distraction to what is spelled out clearly. Everyone can make up their own mind, but nobody should be so sure of their position that they allow it to cause a rift.
Putting together a few thoughts from what I’ve been taught and what I’ve read recently, including
Gregoire, Davidsonn (link from both TLHV article and another poster), Jordan (https://theopolisinstitute.com/bathsheba-the-real-story/), and Clarke (https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-11.html)
1) Narrator of 2 Samuel points out David as the one mostly or entirely in the wrong. From where he was (not leading his armies) to his actions with Bathsheba, Uriah, and Joab, to the end of chapter 11, “But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”, to Nathan calling out David but not Bathsheba.
Narrator pointing out that Bathsheba is keeping the law with ceremonial bathing may be a contrast, showing who is righteous and who is not.
2) Being the granddaughter of David’s advisor, and the daughter of one of David’s great warriors (and husband of another), Bathsheba would have been more acquainted with David than the average resident of Jerusalem. She would’ve known of his exploits and also of his anger – see the Nabal incident in 1 Samuel 25.
This can be read either as additional coercion – she thinking she dare not deny the King anything, not even her body; or read as additional persuasion – she thinking he’s all that and a cake of raisins, willingly accepting his advances.
3) Hebrew has a word for forcible rape – it’s not used in this case.
4) Definitely an age difference in this scenario. Jordan makes a case that David is about 50 and Bathsheba about 21. (Yuck) 🤢
Rape, as in, she was fighting him, resisting him, scratching him while he forced himself on her? No.
Rape, as in, the king says he wants to have sex with you, and you don’t say “no” to the king at the peril of your own life, and she allowed him to have sex with her? Yes.
I still consider it rape, because I don’t think she wanted it but she feared the wrath of the king if she said no.
I think she knew David wanted her husband out of the way.
You may call it rape if you want but someone who permits herself to be seen and called to the king’s palace without her husband in a society that would never permit either action is inviting trouble. We should not interpret this in light our feminist world’s view of the Bible. Maybe the question should be, “who’s lust began first?” I would say it was a dead heat.
Oooh yeah, I was hoping this would be elaborated on, as that was the pair that immediately popped into my head on Duchess’ (spectacular) thread. You ask “Other thoughts?”, so mine is: was David’s sleeping with Bathsheba a form of power rape? Sheila Wray Gregoire certainly thinks it’s a possibility:
I’m still putting the possibility through the paces in my mind, but curious what people think there.
This is the second time I’ve seen “rape” be used VERY liberally on this site. RAPE?? really? I’m sorry, was it wrong. Yes of course. Was it rape? 100% rape?? we have ZERO idea of the dialogue between David and Bathsheba. We have zero idea that once she got there he didn’t have a change of heart and she come on to him. We have zero idea that she was “scared for her life if she didn’t sleep with him”. There is literally nothing that I have ever read that says, she wasn’t complicit, willing or even eager. That doesn’t make it right but come on. I’m not saying its impossible to think that the power structure didn’t play a part or even that it was a power play and she didn’t consent. But to act like we know what happened in the palace and the dialogue and each of their hearts is a far leap to me. I just can’t. This literally may be the end of my time on this site.