David Raped Bathsheba: Why It’s Important that We Allow for This Interpretation

by | Oct 18, 2019 | Abuse, Uncategorized | 139 comments

Did David rape Bathsheba? A look at 2 Samuel 11 and rape.
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Rachael Denhollander said that David raped Bathsheba.

And then everything broke loose.

She said it two weeks ago at the Caring Well conference from the Southern Baptist Convention, talking about how to recognize sexual abuse. But after she said it, a pastor from Chicago tweeted this (and I replied):

Jacob, Rachael’s husband, called him out on this. He did an amazing job on Twitter last week defending Rachael and showing how a completely valid (and I think most faithful to the text) interpretation of Scripture is, indeed, that David raped. And many others jumped in, too, so it was quite a firestorm.

I’d like today to summarize those arguments about David raping Bathsheba, and then sum up why this debate matters.

So let’s go over some of the elements of the narrative in the David and Bathsheba story, found in 2 Samuel 11-12, that suggest the encounter was rape.

1. David was not where he was supposed to be.

The framing of this story, before anything else unfolds, was that David was not where he was supposed to be:

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 11:1

The story opens with David in the wrong.

2. Bathsheba was performing ritual bathing after her purification from menstruation.

In verse 4, the text says that “she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.” This tells us a few things: she wasn’t pregnant already; and she was a devout follower of the law. The story opens with David in the wrong–and Bathsheba being a faithful believer.

Also, many have said that she should not have been bathing there; that she was deliberately enticing David. However, many scholars argue that bathing in one’s courtyard was normal. It would have been private–except from the palace. David’s palace was on a hilltop, where he could overlook the city. She was going about her normal business, in her own home. He was snooping.

3. He sent for her and “took” her

David sent messengers for her. And you can’t say no to a king!

People on Facebook were saying that because she didn’t cry out, it wasn’t rape, and because it wasn’t violent it wasn’t rape. They were pointing to Deuteronomy 22, where the rape codes say that if you’re raped in a city, you have to cry out to charge someone with rape, whereas if you’re raped in the country, you don’t. Since Bathsheba was in a city, then to believe this was rape, she would have had to cry out.

However, the point of that Old Testament passage is a simple one, that Scott Coley deals with wonderfully in this twitter thread (click on the little blue bird to see the whole thread):

The Bible says you cry out when it will get you help; but you aren’t required to call out when there is no one who can rescue you (hence the distinction in the law between the way that rapes will be handled depending on the circumstances of the rape). In this case, no one could rescue Bathsheba. She is in the palace with all of the king’s servants. She has no choice.

And to say that rape has to be violent to count as rape? Please stop that. Please. Rape can even happen in marriage.

4. After everything, Bathsheba went back to her home, and she wailed and mourned for Uriah.

Bathsheba immediately returned to her own home; she did not stay in the palace. And after Uriah was killed, she mourned for him (verse 26), and the verb there denotes excessive wailing. Her allegiance was always with Uriah.

5. Bathsheba was compared to an innocent lamb.

When the prophet Nathan confronts David about what he did, he compares Bathsheba to a little ewe lamb (2 Samuel 12:3). In that allegory, David took the ewe lamb; it did not go to him willingly or wander off with him. In Jewish custom, a ewe lamb represents innocence.

6. Her male relatives, who were loyal men of God, turned against David during the civil war. 

[UPDATE]: This point wasn’t in my post originally, but a reader sent it to me, and I’m adding it after the fact because it’s so interesting. 

Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam who was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite (2 Samuel 11:3 and 2 Samuel 23:4). Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather, was painted as a man of God: “In those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God” (2 Samuel 16:23). Yet Ahithophel turned against David when his son Absalom rebelled. Why would someone with so much wisdom and insight turn against God’s anointed king? Perhaps it’s because Ahithophel was outraged at the way David had treated Bathsheba. Would he have been so outraged if he thought what David and Bathsheba did was consensual?

I can list a number of other suggestions from the text that it was rape, but I don’t want this to get too lengthy or too scholarly when others have done it better. If you want more information, I highly recommend this article:

Did King David Rape Bathsheba? from Richard M. Davidson.

Why Does Interpreting the David and Bathsheba Story as Rape Matter?

Many people were eager to say to me on Twitter something to the effect of, “We know David was a sinner; we know that he repented and he was restored. That’s what really matters. Why be so divisive?”

I’d like to answer that, because that’s really the point of this post. So here, then, are two reasons why our interpretation of this story matters.

If we can’t recognize power-rape here, we’re unlikely to see it when it’s right in front of us.

When people don’t recognize that a person in power coercing someone into sex, while that person has no way to say no, is rape, then what will those people think when a 16-year-old girl says that her youth pastor sexually assaulted her, but the youth pastor says it was consensual?

Understanding the power dynamics involved in sexual assault are really important, because it’s playing out right in front of us, right now. When we don’t understand how men in power can use that power to compel women to have sex (rape), then we won’t see it when it happens in our churches and communities as well. That’s why Rachael Denhollander is so passionate about this, and I support her in that.

We need to stop saying things like “the youth pastor had an affair with a student” or “the teacher slept with her student” or “the football coach had sex with the players.” We need to stop saying, “the pastor resigned because of an inappropriate relationship.”

It’s not an “inappropriate relationship”, it’s not “having sex”, it’s not “having an affair”, it’s not “sleeping with” when there is power involved.

When someone cannot say no, then they also cannot say yes. That means consent is not possible. That means it is rape. And in many/most jurisdictions in North America today, a pastor cannot have consensual sexual relations with a parishioner (just like a counselor or doctor can’t).

If we can’t see the David situation as rape, though, there’s no way we’ll ever recognize rape from a pastor or someone else in authority or power.

2. When we think rape has to be done by violent force, we won’t recognize rape.

Finally, I’m having a really hard time understanding why so many SBC pastors especially are unwilling to recognize that this was rape.

As one of my twitter friends said to me this weekend,

I’m most concerned that the real issue at play here is that many men relate to using “nonviolent force” to coerce sex. If David’s a rapist, rapists aren’t scary men in dark alleys. They’re in the mirror and small group and hanging out with us at the family barbeque.

 
@oberiahaines

I find it odd that pastors easily call David a murderer, but aren’t comfortable calling him a rapist. Could she have a point–that if David is a rapist, then rape isn’t just something violent done in dark alleys?

Do we HAVE to agree that David raped Bathsheba?

No, I don’t think so. But we must at least allow that it is an extremely like possibility, and a completely valid interpretation. We also have to agree that the text places all of the blame on David and that Bathsheba is portrayed as an innocent lamb.

I understand that many will look at this story and come to a different interpretation. However, to believe that Bathsheba WASN’T raped, you must believe that she was willing, and that she deliberately enticed David. Since the narrator goes out of his way to point out that Bathsheba was bathing for a religious purpose, and since the narrator said that David was on the roof while noting that he shouldn’t have been there, I personally find that interpretation much more difficult to believe than that he summoned Bathsheba and she was unwilling.

I know the Bible names certain other episodes rape–Dinah and Tamar come to mind. Why, then, if this were rape, does the Bible not define it as such?

The Bible only explicitly names things as rape when violence was involved. That does not mean, however, that other types of power-rape are not present in Scripture; they’re actually quite prevalent, even if not explicitly named. It was simply culture in that time that powerful men had the right to women’s bodies. The idea of “consent” as necessary for sexual activity just wasn’t accepted then.

For instance, the Bible does not talk about Hagar as a rape victim, but I believe she was. She had no choice when Sarah handed her to Abraham, and she was treated very badly.

And you know what? God saw and took care of her. And she was given the honour of being the first person recorded to give God a name–El Roi, “The God who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13).

God does see sexual assault victims. He does care. And even if culture at the time didn’t call something wrong, or our culture now doesn’t call something wrong, God still saw then–and He still sees today.

Sexual assault is deeply traumatic and deeply evil.

Saying that David sexually assaulted Bathsheba does not change how we see David; we know that he was a terrible sinner, but that he repented and he was restored. But we also see in the Bible that God took the sexual assault seriously. There were consequences for David. And God does not condone the sexual violence that appears in the Bible. Rather, I think it’s there to show us that He does indeed notice it. It is not just backdrop to Him; it is an essential part of the story which He one day wants to fully redeem.

So let me end this post as I ended the one on Facebook:

 

Bathsheba was never labeled in sin in the Bible.

All of this has blown up recently on Twitter because last week, at the Southern Baptist Convention Caring Well conference, Rachael Denhollander said that David raped. And then a whole bunch of pastors started calling her out on Twitter, saying that THIS was why abuse survivors shouldn’t be allowed to comment on the Bible. They’re too emotional and too biased, and they make up strange interpretations.

May I suggest that these pastors are themselves biased? The idea that David is a rapist is not a new one. It is not something Rachael made up. The fact that they had never heard this interpretation says more about them than it does about her.

And so, to sexual assault survivors, I say this: You have much to teach. Please speak up. And know that many of us DO see the sexual violence that is portrayed (but NEVER condoned) in the Bible. God held David accountable. God sees what was done to you, too. And He cares.

Sheila

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What were you taught about David and Bathsheba? What do you think today? Let’s talk in the comments!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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139 Comments

  1. Nicole

    I always have assumed Bathsheba had no choice and was unwilling. I’m not sure how else to see that she is never called out for sin in the Bible. She was not willing and isn’t that by definition rape?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I believe so, yes. But as a teen, I was taught that Bathsheba enticed David. And that is what many SBC pastors were saying on Twitter last week.

      Reply
      • Joanna Sawatsky

        Definitely what I was taught, too. Yikes.

        Reply
      • Jeanne

        I preached on this recently. I pointed out all of the same things about each of them and how impossible it would have been to say no. I said it was sexual misconduct at best and rape at worst. Not a single person in the congregation pushed back on staying it that way.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s wonderful! I’m glad the congregation saw the truth.

          Reply
        • Debra

          I was never taught that Bathsheba enticed David.. It’s clear that she came there because she was brought by David, the king, command. There’s all kinds of evil in the Bible and all kinds of consequence and forgiveness and reconciliation . This is just one.

          Reply
    • Anonymous

      I believe many men are uncomfortable with the idea of a non-violent sexual encounter as rape because they themselves might have committed such a transgression and justified it to themselves. Subordinate who dresses provocatively? Drunk girl at a party? Bought her a nice dinner? She had an easy reputation? Been dating for awhile and she just wasn’t into it but you got her there? I do believe there are a lot of men who don’t believe they’re rapists and a lot of women who would disagree.

      I will add (to my disservice since “victims” can’t be relied upon to interpret power dynamics), my own rapist does not see himself as the rapist he is. Because it “wasn’t violent.” I was told I’d never have children, so, who gets to decide if a rape was violent?

      Reply
      • Esther

        That is so heart wrenching. My heart goes out to you. But just like Sheila said God sees!

        Reply
    • Diana Winkler

      I say the same thing about Queen Esther aka Hadasha. She was taken from her home, to be put into the King’s harem. She won a beauty contest and so the King married her. To me it doesn’t come across as a love story. She didn’t have any choice in the matter. She had to ask permission to speak to the King or approach him. Doesn’t sound like love to me. God did use Esther to save her people, but the path she was was forced to take was not a pleasant one.
      Hagar was certainly raped. She had no choice. Even afterwards she was kicked out.
      Tamar was raped by her brother. He had a sinful lust problem. She trusted him and came after he summonded her to care for his “sickness”. She was out of the protection of the guards. She resisted and begged him not to. He threw her out later.
      Same with Bathsheba. David got called out by the prophet that he had sinned and killed Uriah to cover it up. Bathsheba had no choice.
      I get tired of these preachers trying to call it something else.

      Reply
      • Kat

        Speaking of Esther, I had a Bible teacher once explain how Esther was a story of God using sinful individuals to keep his promise to his people. Esther was considered sinful because she won a sex contest…I don’t think he understood the dynamics of being forcefully taken to the king’s harem

        Reply
    • Jon

      Are we saying that the God of Justice would not call sin, sin because it would stir up too many negative emotions? And this being the same God that cut off Saul from his kingship for disobedience even though it would cause Saul to hunt David for years after.
      David was in the wrong, true, but to say Bathsheba didn’t cry out because of the consequences would show a lack of her trust in God to deliver her. If she was to be blameless in this situation she would have had to do what was right in eyes of God regardless the consequences. (See the 80 priests that opposed King Uzziah. Also see Daniel and the Lions den and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego)

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Jon, this is a very dangerous line of thinking. This is like saying that if a rape victim didn’t fight back, it wasn’t rape–even if fighting back would have gotten her killed. Are you saying that a woman should choose death over rape?

        Reply
        • RS

          Why can’t we have a conversation without labelling someone’s ideas “dangerous”? Placing that label silences the person, but is the goal to silence opposing views?

          Reply
          • Rebecca Lindenbach

            Some ideas simply ARE dangerous–and the idea that a women should be chastised because she didn’t cry out during a rape in order to save her life is quite dangerous. Sexual abuse victims already are so often shamed or their stories are disregarded for a myriad of reasons–this kind of thinking leads to that further victimization, which is why it’s dangerous. Just like the idea that parents should be able to beat their children is dangerous–it can lead to real-world implications that victimize and oppress.

          • RS

            I’m not sure why I can’t reply to your comment, Rebecca. So I will comment on my own comment.

            This concept that an idea is as dangerous as an act is a problem that we need to consider carefully. Having the idea that it is okay to beat a child and discussing that idea is not the same thing as beating a child – we should be able to discuss it and explain the reasons why it’s wrong instead of shutting down the discussion. When you shut down the discussion, you lose the opportunity to speak truth into a situation, and potentially influence someone to act differently.

  2. Elizabeth

    Thanks for tackling a hard but needed topic, Sheila. I don’t know if we can post video clips (forgive me if not) but this 38 minute talk summarized it well for me the story of David and Bathsheba. A former missionary describes the women in a village she served in Africa and their take on Bathsheba. Fascinating.
    King culture leads to abuse. When we give leaders too much blind power and no accountability, it sets them up for failure and sets them up for abuse.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0pTyrZU8H38

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that does sound fascinating! I’ll watch later. Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  3. Lois

    “God does see sexual assault victims. He does care. And even if culture at the time didn’t call something wrong, or our culture now doesn’t call something wrong, God still saw then–and He still sees today.”

    Tbank you. I really needed to hear that this morning. I’ve always loved His name of El Roi

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Isn’t that beautiful–that Hagar got to name God, and she was the first one to do it? I think that’s lovely, and God put that in Scripture for a reason.

      Reply
      • Active Mom

        Thank you for this Sheila. It’s important. I can remember sitting in church as a child and then as I got older and listening to pastor preach on different stories. They would always slant things to justify the sexual sin. God needed the men to have multiple wives so they could fill the earth. Abraham was the victim because once again just like Eve, Sarah forced him to sin and have an affair. David and Bathsheba, it provides proof women use sexual enticement and acts to get men to do their bidding. The woman at the well, Jesus only talked to her not the man she was sleeping with because Hers was the greater sin.
        It was ridiculous. I also never attended a church that was a part of the SBC. This was in much more “progressive” Assemblies of God churches.
        I don’t know if I can stress enough Women are leaving the faith or at least churches over these types of teachings. I know several. I never wanted to hear “man bashing” from the pulpit on these stories but it would go a long way to acknowledging the sin that is right in black and white. In all honesty it makes the stories even more beautiful sometimes. I am able to see and respect a strength in some women that would otherwise be minor characters and I am also able to have some understanding for the men. Sexual sin seems to be the strongest grip Satan can get on our lives then and now.
        Maybe I am more cynical than I used to be, but when I hear stories like the one you referenced out of the SBC or a pastor again ignoring sexual sin in the Bible I automatically assume it’s because he is most likely because of his own blind spots aka blatant sexual sin. It causes me to pray for his wife. One of the reasons we chose our last church and spent more than a decade there is it was always pointed out. Sin was never ignored or justified.

        Reply
        • Maria

          “Multiple wives so they could fill the earth.” As if monogamous couples don’t have children.

          Reply
      • Tina

        So man says

        You’ve been sexually assaulted (by man) therefore you don’t get to speak about God.

        And God says

        I see you dear woman. And You can name me.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          🙂

          Reply
    • Kali

      Thanks for this article Sheila. I’ve always been taught that Bathsheba was being provocative.

      I’ve also never heard a man tackle the collection and rape of concubines. I think men will have a hard time understanding these stories from the perspective of women.

      But I would pretty much say I’ve never heard a male preacher even attempt to dig into these passages, like they might other passages.

      Karen Soole in the UK has taught wonderfully/heartwrenchingly on a few desperately tragic stories of female abuse in the Bible. Difficult but important stuff to grapple with.

      Satan is the father of secrets. We must learn how to be more open so that sin cannot take root.

      Reply
  4. Angela

    Well written. Thank you for tackling this tough topic with such grace and insight.

    Reply
  5. Phil

    Sheila – thank you for taking this on. I find it quite interesting that Pastors believe sex abuse survivors shouldn’t comment on the bible. WHAT? A healthy recovering/recovered survivor has the best insight to offer. I will say healthy is needed. Stifling them doesn’t help anyone except help protect the church. That always seems to be the issue. Let’s protect the church instead of speak the truth. It is just like Old Testament Priests protecting the Law and the cycle is just repeating itself in a different way. Your phone call from the prayer list I believe is related to this topic. Let it be known I said a prayer for you that God will allow you to do your work. We actually discussed this topic in my church in the past year and rape did come up. That is why I love my Pastor. My Brother calls him politically incorrect. That is exactly what we need. Someone who speaks the truth. Thanks Sheila – Hope all have a great weekend.

    Reply
  6. Melissa W

    I have believed this interpretation for a long time. I don’t remember ever being taught that Bathsheba enticed David but I don’t remember being taught it was rape either. The reality is that I don’t give a lot of weight to anything I was “taught”. I have always researched and done the digging deep on my own and came to my own conclusions on so many of these “heated” gender topics. One thing that baffles me about people who can’t see the power dynamic at play is the fact that the passage clearly shows that the power dynamic was at play. After David rapes Bathsheba and finds out she is pregnant he calls for her husband and after meeting with him tells him to go home to his wife before going back to battle. Uriah refuses to do this and it cost him his life at David’s order. The fact that that order was carried out without question and that Uriah was murdered for not obeying an order from the king shows pretty clearly that Bathsheba had no choice in going to the palace or fulfilling the king’s sexual wishes or she too could have lost her life. Abuse of power by David is the entire point of this passage. Yes, he raped and he murdered and those were sin but his idolatry at this point in his life that led to these sins was power.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely. And we need to be careful about power. That’s why I’m uncomfortable with the evangelical church putting so much stock in power structures in church.

      Reply
      • Melissa W

        Exactly. I would highly recommend Timothy Keller’s book “Counterfeit Gods”. Behind every act of sin is the sin of idolatry, something we are “worshiping” or making more important than God. I’d also recommend his book “Prodigal God” which dives deep into the story typically called the prodigal son but is actually about two lost sons. What we are seeing in so many churches today is a combination of idolatry, specifically power idolatry coupled with an older brother attitude. It’s a very scary combination, however, I think the blatant displays of these things are bringing about a cleansing in the church because God loves even older brothers and wants them to come home.

        Reply
  7. Topaz

    The author of the article you linked to is a friend of my father’s! I guess that helps explain why only recently did I learn that not everyone believed Bathsheba was raped. Clearly the family I grew up in and the sort of people they associated with absolutely did believe she was. I was very surprised when recently I started learning that not all Christians believe that . . . and, even worse, that some put blame on Bathsheba for what happened!

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, isn’t that cool? I thought that was an EXCELLENT article. I hope others click through!

      Reply
  8. Lea

    There is never any hint in the bible that bathsheba did a thing wrong.

    Any interpretation that names this sex consensual would be bathsheba doing something wrong.

    These men should wonder why, in the face of the text, they so desperately want to blame bathsheba for her ‘part’ when the bible does not. They are the ones out of line.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I totally agree.

      Reply
  9. Chris

    Sheila, I have said it before, I will say it again: You are so Catholic and you just don’t know it yet. 😆. We were taught by a nun in my fifth grade Catechism class that David raped Bathsheba. No punch pulled. Called it for how it was. The take home lessons from that class:1. The power of repentance. 2. Always be where you are supposed to be.3. That in the context of being off at war, its far better to be killing men than raping women.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love #3! Great insights. I wish our pastors had taught that! 🙂

      Reply
    • Anon Girl

      While I am not a fan of Catholicism personally Chris, I do send out major kudos to the nun who had the guts to call a spade a spade and teach that David raped Bathsheba. I was taught growing up that David “had an affair” with Bathsheba and that Bathsheba was partly at fault for bathing where David could see her, etc., etc. Now that I’m (much) older, lol, I think I see things a lot more clearly. I mean, Bathsheba was given a command from a king in Old Testament days. Think about it. How much power did ANY citizen have to defy a royal command from a king in those days, much less a WOMAN? Had Bathsheba tried to defy David, he could have easily had her killed (much as he had her poor husband killed!) Anyway, to Chris and everybody who sees this, I wish you a great day. 🙂

      expreacherman.com

      Reply
  10. Nathan

    Like Melissa above, I was never taught either way. No pastor ever told me that Bathsheba enticed David, nor that David raped her.

    It was rape, though. Rapists are more than strangers in the shadows violently forcing themselves on women. Using a position of power to get sex from somebody is definitely rape, even if they don’t scream for help during and after.

    > > d wonder why, in the face of the text, they so desperately want to
    > > blame Bathsheba for her ‘part’ when the bible does not.

    This is likely tied to the old idea of women as the eternal temptress and men as the eternal victim of their wicked wiles. We have a long way to go in order to fully rid ourselves of that.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We certainly do have a long way to go, Nathan. Thanks for always being so gracious and standing up for truth in the comments.

      Reply
      • Nathan

        If only I was that noble on other chat boards. 🙂

        But then again, each board has it’s own character. Here, I focus on the love of God, Jesus and family, and how we should all be good to each other

        Reply
  11. mywifeishot

    I hadn’t seen it like this before and after reading the arguments I agree. I still have concerns about this. I May be wrong in thinking like this but I don’t think this is the best story to use to help rape victims. Yes the Bible can be used in many ways but the problem I see is the signal the story sends. Yes David got some consequences but he never stopped being a king. He never stopped being a person of power and that’s where the problems can rise. I think it’s great that we start talking about what rape is in the church and the power thing is important but why use this story. God forgives David and Batsheba has to marry him. What kind of signal does that send? How many haven’t used or are using this to keep quiet about a pastor raping someone or justifying that a person that raped someone continued in power? This is like letting this mindset have more acceptance. I mean God can forgive rape , He can even if it sounds awful but we shouldn’t accept leaders like that but God still let David be King. I fear that by using this story to defend rape victims we also let people defend Pastora that rape people. Again I agree that this needs to be talked about I just don’t know if this Story has to be included in that. As you see a lot of people have different views even rape victims don’t agree with this as your Facebook post showed. That’s my fear with pushing this interpretation so much

    Reply
    • Lea

      “I fear that by using this story to defend rape victims we also let people defend Pastora that rape people. ”

      People in churches are already using David to excuse every thing they ever do wrong.

      And people raping and still maintaining their position? That’s real life. We have a story later where David does nothing when his daughter is raped. We shouldn’t shy away from how awful this stuff is.

      Reply
    • Elsie

      I understand your concern – one thing that it important in interpreting scripture is to distinguish between the descriptive and proscriptive. Sometimes the Bible is describing what happened and other times the Bible is instructing us to follow certain instructions. The story of David and Bathsheba is descriptive- we read about what happened and can learn from it but it doesn’t mean we should follow it as an example. So even though David wasn’t removed from power in this instance, that’s not a justification to allow abusers to remain in power in churches today. I would argue that saying this text allows abuse is a misinterpretation of this passage

      Reply
  12. Nathan

    > > God can forgive rape , He can even if it sounds awful but we
    > > shouldn’t accept leaders like that but God still let David be King.

    In that case, there were other things going on where God needed David to continue being king. Of course, forgiveness doesn’t mean lack of consequences.

    Reply
    • mywifeishot

      But that isn’t a valid point. We can’t use that as an excuse. “He has to continue be a pastor because we don’t have anyone else”. That doesn’t work

      Reply
      • PS

        “We can’t use that as an excuse. “He has to continue be a pastor because we don’t have anyone else”. ”

        I agree. But in David’s case, God had spoken directly to have him anointed as king. I don’t know of any pastors who got their position because God sent a prophet to their home to annoint them to be a pastor!

        Reply
      • Nathan

        True enough. Perhaps we can use it as an example of rape and also teach people that sometimes (unfortunately) people can escape consequences of doing bad things. This shouldn’t have to be, but it does happen in an imperfect world.

        Reply
        • Manwithoutamap

          I am curious how you come to the conclusion that he escaped the consequences of his actions. No, he did not face legal consequences, largely because there were none that were applicable to a King. There were other consequences that he knew were directly attributed to his action by the Prophet Nathan. His first child by Bathsheba would die. His own son would try to take the throne from him. His family was forever splintered after that.

          What’s more, David didn’t have to go the rest of his life wondering if his misfortune was the result of his sins. It was spelled out by the Prophet.

          No, David did not escape the consequences of his actions. I dare say that none of us would want to go thru what David ultimately endured.

          I hope you have never suffered a grevious loss. I would especially hope that you would not be left with the knowledge that you were responsible on some level, no matter how minor.

          Reply
        • Noel Lokaychuk

          David was not a spiritual leader. He was not, for example, the high priest. (Or the high priest’s sons. AKA Eli.) That makes a difference.

          Reply
          • mywifeishot

            I don’t think so to be honest. David still had a spiritual responsibility. As the king. He was there because God had put him there. The anointing with oil was a symbol of he Holy Spirit. A King Gad a spiritual responsibility. And that still doesn’t make anything better. It’s like saying that someone with a minor responsibility in church would still have the right to continue even if they raped someone.

  13. nylse

    I wasn’t taught that Bathsheba enticed David. Though the word rape was never used, it was always implied if not clearly stated that David was in the wrong in that he misused his power. Misuse and abuse of power can lead to a number of things – including rape.

    We all need to let go of our biases and see the truth of God’s word and be willing to be convicted and changed by it.

    Reply
  14. Heidi

    Here’s the problem I see, Rachel Denhollander’s comment “It’s important we get that right.” implies there is only one way to read this narrative. Despite the fact that insisting there has to be rape here reads in between the lines.

    I was raised in a pretty strict fundamental Baptist circle. I have sat thru many sermons where pastors tried to preach an Old Testament narrative into a current topic. That is how some pastors “know” women shouldn’t wear pants, and how the story of Aaron and the golden calf “proves” dancing is always sensual.

    I think we need to be more dedicated to making sure that we are dogmatic where scripture is clear, and not demanding that every one see the implied meaning or application exactly the way we do in order for us to be able to say ”they got it right.”

    Reply
    • Phil

      Hi Heidi – I appreciate your comment because I was never taught it was rape either. Even more recently when my Pastor preached on it it was just a suggestion not a strict interpretation. The bottom line is that David was wrong and he sinned. It doesn’t matter what you call it. Bethesda obeyed and her husband was honorable. David was the sinner and he paid within his family – even his own daughter was raped by his own son. The topic here for me though is that sexual abuse victims should remain quiet because they interpret wrong. I wouldn’t say it is wrong to say Bethsesda was raped. It is read between the lines. But it is a power play and these Pastors who want sexual abuse victims to remain quiet – that is wrong. They are using the same power play to protect the church or what they believe is biblical. My contemporary bible says David had an affair with Bethesda. One could believe that it was consensual because she was taken by his power because he was a King and wanted her….but that doesn’t quite add up when you read the full story. It’s totally biblical to believe Bethesda was raped and her husband was murdered over it.

      Reply
      • Heidi

        Oh Yes! The very idea that someone tried to cite her personal experience with rape as a reason she should not be allowed to weigh in here is inexcusable.

        Also I see how it could fit in the story that Bathsheba was raped. It has been an interesting idea to hash over with my friends. I’m not against that interpretation. I don’t think we should beat people over the head until they agree that it must be that way though. I personally see how choosing David and Bathsheba as the battlefield for listening to and standing with victims could actually hurt the credibility of the argument. I honestly don’t want that to happen.

        Reply
  15. J. Parker

    It’s entirely possible that David raped Bathsheba. However, it’s entirely possible that he didn’t. Let’s be fair in saying that some percentage of women would be pleased or at least willing if the most powerful man in the kingdom beckoned them to the bedroom. Her ritual bathing is not proof that all of her ethics were in order; no more than the rituals the Pharisees followed indicated pure hearts.

    As Christians, we should absolutely advocate for sexual assault, abuse, or harassment victims. What David did was 100% wrong, and God called him on it. But I’m concerned as well about painting someone as a rapist who may not have been. I’m inclined the believe charges, but it does matter what the truth is.

    This one is a question that I don’t believe will be answered on this side of Heaven with as much certainly as the statement “David raped Bathsheba.” I’m willing to wait on this one and find plenty of ammunition against rape in other places in the Bible.

    Reply
    • Lea

      ” Let’s be fair in saying that some percentage of women would be pleased or at least willing if the most powerful man in the kingdom beckoned them to the bedroom”

      I wish men would stop saying this. It says so much.

      The bible never blames bathsheba. Don’t read blame into it.

      Reply
      • Chris

        Lea, J. Parker is a woman.

        Reply
        • Lea

          That is terribly sad.

          But I have heard it from men way too often, along with the eroneous idea that bathsheba was attempting to seduce david. It’s ‘she probably wanted it’ gross.

          Reply
      • J. Parker

        I agree that it’s sickening when a man forces himself on a woman and excuses it by saying, “She actually wanted it”!

        But that’s not what I’m saying here. Indeed, I never said Bathsheba seduced David (nor do I believe that). And yes, it could have been rape. However, we actually don’t have Bathsheba’s side in the story, and if I was the investigator, I’d want to hear her take before accusing this man of outright rape.

        Reply
    • unmowngrass

      Thank you J, this is a very balanced perspective!

      Reply
    • Pamela

      Agreed. Thank you for saying this so well!

      Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      J–Here’s what I would say. The text gives absolutely NO insinuation that Bathsheba was willing, but plenty of data points to say that she was not.

      1. She was “taken”, she didnt’ come willingly;
      2. As soon as it was over, she returned to her home (showing her allegiance was with Uriah);
      3. When Uriah died, she mourned loudly, showing again that her allegiance had still been with him;
      4. In Nathan’s story, she was described as an innocent ewe, to which no blame could be assigned.
      5. Plus, she belonged to a very religious family and practiced herself, and showed herself to be a virtuous woman.

      To believe that she was willing is reading into the text far more than to believe that she was coerced. Where, in the story, is there any evidence that she was willing?

      The idea that women are just crazy to sleep with the king or to sleep with a very powerful man is a very common story in popular culture, but it’s also very demeaning to women. And we know that Bathsheba was a virtuous woman. I would not be so blown away by someone’s celebrity that I would be overcome and sleep with him willingly if I loved my husband. Some might, but I can’t imagine it. And if I were–then I think the story would have been written differently.

      No, we can’t know for sure. But I think that arguing that she may have been willing is far harder to do, given the text that is there, than arguing that she was coerced.

      Reply
      • Chris

        “The idea that women are just crazy to sleep with the king or to sleep with a very powerful man is a very common story in popular culture, but it’s also very demeaning to women.”
        Hold on a sec their Sheila. I actually agree with that, but in your podcast the other day you and Rebecca talked about how suits are sexy. That was in response to a man who said women find suits sexy not because of what they reveal but because of what they represent: wealth, power, status, influence etc. Some women find those things extremely attractive and “sexy” as you and Rebecca did. Extrapolating from that it does stand to reason that a percentage of the female population would desire to act on that sexyness attraction. Or in otherwords, what J. Parker said. For the record, I agree with you! He raped her. Just playing devils advocate, though I realize the devil has enough of those.

        Reply
      • J. Parker

        Sheila, your interpretation is a reasonable one, but it’s not the only one. And since I don’t know for certain — the indicators you named are not conclusive to me — I cannot personally say that David was a rapist and Bathsheba was coerced.

        Of course Bathsheba was pressured, but as someone whose promiscuous premarital past includes situations where I was pressured but absolutely consented (the guy would not have forced me, and yes, I ultimately wanted to), I believe pressure and rape — while both bad — are not the same.

        Your title says it’s “Important that We Allow for This Interpretation” that David raped Bathsheba, and your blog graphic says we should be “leaving room” for this interpretation. But when I have a different interpretation, you say I’m wrong and demeaning to women. But I’m not demeaning women by saying that the specifics of a situation matter; rather, I’m honoring both men and women in saying the truth itself matters. And if I’ve been entirely wrong on this one, God will let me know.

        In the meantime, I will continue doing what I’ve long done — speak out against marital rape, sexual harassment, and sexual coercion of any kind. I’m thankful for all the ways you’ve done the same.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Thanks, J. I do appreciate your advocacy. I’m sorry if I was too strident yesterday–I’m really distracted because Rebecca is 9 days overdue, but that’s no excuse.

          Reply
          • Blessed Wife

            How is Rebecca now? The baby wait can be nerve-racking! But, usually, they just get here when they feel like it and everything is fine! She has a big cheering squad out here in cyberspace, and I’m sure there are lots of prayers going up for all of you!🙏🙏🤗

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            We’re still waiting!

        • Pamela Compton

          This is a lovely response, J. I admire both you and SWG so much, and I find your dialogue here refreshing. You are a model of how to disagree graciously. And I know you’re both on the same side!

          Reply
        • R. B.

          I know I’m late to the discussion but a few comments made a lot of sense.
          One talked about descriptive and prescriptive aspects to the Bible. The focus is completely on David and his sin. He commits several greivious sins in the span of several days. He is charged, tried and sentenced by God via Nathan. Though he acknowledges it, he still must suffer the consequences. We may think he deserved more immediate severe consequences but thats not our call. The story should not guide how we deal with sexual sin or sexual assault within the church now. Its should be a cautionary tale that greed, lust and pride can corrupt even “a man after God’s own heart” that he’d take what he had no right to and kill to keep cover his tracks. Paul explains the purpose of the historical records of people like David when he says: “Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall. ” 1 Corinthians 10:11-12.

          Reply
      • Tu

        Well put. There are however some Women who try to get power for themselves by sleeping their way to the top. They of course aren’t forcing themselves on the men who choose to sleep with them.
        Bathsheba’s story isn’t one of a sister trying to get power for herself by sleeping with the King. David probably had his sights on her for awhile for all we know, but there’s nothing that says she knew him as anything other than then the King.
        We all know of a predatory female who uses her sex to get her way, but that’s different. All females aren’t predatory, but they do exist. Just because you behave honorably doesn’t mean everyone does the same.
        Ask any woman who’s had her marriage broken into by the selfish female who sets her sights on what another woman has. Yes, the man plays a equally responsible role, but in the waters there be sharks!
        I for one don’t need to force the Scriptures to prove my point. Someone here explains this so well. The Bible truly is descriptive in some places and instructive in others. How anyone could think it’s right to call another person’s partner to you to have sex regardless of whether you’re in leadership or not? It’s adulteryto say the very least committed against their mate and yours.
        When the King gave a command, you obey or die. How can Bathsheba be responsible? She didn’t want to die, so she obeyed! I can only imagine the pain she was experiencing! She is forced to have sex against her will, gets pregnant, and her husband gets murdered by the same man….
        Those of you who blame her are really sick or blind. Don’t twist this. If you are using your authority to control others even if it’s not sexual, then you’re wrong. Stop with the excuses. Stop calling yourself a man of God while forcing your body or intentions on a woman who’s also made in His Image. You’re wrong today, tomorrow, and you’re going to be wrong straight into eternity.

        Reply
    • Heidi

      “ I’m willing to wait on this one and find plenty of ammunition against rape in other places in the Bible”

      Exactly! Let’s make every effort to hold people in positions of power accountable for their actions. But, let’s do it from a clearly defensible Biblical context.

      Reply
    • Natalie

      This is how I was taught this story too (and at my Baptist school too no less): David was 100% in the wrong and used his power wrongly. Bathsheba may or may not have wanted to have sex with him, but that’s beside the point. David was a man after God’s own heart, and even he committed heinous crimes in his life (like killing the husband to cover up the sins you committed with his wife). Yet God’s love and forgiveness are infinite if we only repent. That was the moral I got from the David and Bathsheba story… more on God’s grace and forgiveness and less on the wrongness of rape or sexual coercion.

      Reply
  16. Maria

    Thank you for writing this post, Shiela.

    Consent is a big deal in sexual matters because sex is a big deal. It can completely alter a person’s life. Anyone who performs a sexual act on another person has to be 100% certain that A) the other person is capable of consent at this time and B) is consenting.

    Please note the wording. Perform a sexual act, not have sex with. Someone can perform a sex act on another person with or without consent.

    And if a person is not willing to be 100% certain, they are willing to risk committing rape. That sort of attitude is “Maybe she/he wants it, maybe she/he doesn’t. Oh, well, I’ll just go for it and hope it’ll be ok”

    Reply
  17. Runswithdogs

    I always saw it as straight up rape. given the story line and the power differential it could be described as “power rape” but the effect is the same.

    1 Sam 8:10-18 Gods warning of how the “King” the people were calling for would abuse their power., so even before they had a king. God was telling them it was a bad idea… (you ken the saying, power corrupts, absolute power-corrupts absolutely) and he dident say “except for David”

    Yes, God does call David a “man after his own heart” but interestingly enough. He never says it after David becomes king…

    David was at home when he should have been at war. He was already not where he should have been (and theres nothing to suggest the Bathsheba would have actually known that anyways. ) strike 1

    Then he goes skulking along the wall of his castle which over looked the town and spotted Bathsheba. Instead of averting his eyes and leaving her to her bath in private like a honourable man would have done, he oggles her for a while (strike 2) and then calls the help to find out who she is. (Strike 3)

    On finding out that she is Married, and on top of that, the wife of one of his closest companions, a man he had fought closely beside…. he doesn’t stop there (strike 4)

    But sends his guards to bring her to him (strike 5)

    And when she is brought to him, one will assume to his private bedchamber, he has sex with her (Rape! And strike 6)

    At this point he has had at least 6 chances to fix his trajectory.

    Then when he realises there are consequences (she notifies him shes pregnant) he tries to cover it up, and when that doesn’t work, he commits murder to hid his actions (strike 7-8- and so forth)

    She was bathing in a ceremonial Bath.
    These weren’t just tubs you could cart around and put wherever you wanted. They were set up for the ritual bathing required and may possibly have been in a designated women’s “communal” type area but certainly even if she had a private area at her home, it would have been appropriately situated. Most likely sunk into the ground. (Probably not on the rooftop although even that would have been considered private as it would have been hidden from pretty much any one except peeping tom kings snooping around where they shouldn’t be.) and she may not even have been neked.
    She was however, exactly where she was supposed to be, doing exactly what she was supposed to be doing, and when she was supposed to be doing it.

    In that culture, women were basically property.
    And certainly in no position to tell the kings men “no” when they showed up at the door to take her to David.
    Even less in a position to tell the King. “NO”
    And when you can’t safely say no…. Consent is non-existent

    2 Sam 12-
    Nathan refers to Bathsheba as an Innocent lamb.
    It is 100% impossible to be both Innocent and complicit at the same time. If she had attempted to seduce him, she wouldn’t have been innocent, yet Nathan clearly says she is. So anyone claiming Bathsheba was “asking for it” is also claiming the bible lies.

    & this is why the next guy that tries to tell me Bathsheba was all up in that, is going to get a good swift kick.

    Reply
    • Maria

      Nicely summarized.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      I’m really glad you brought up the point about David being called “a man after God’s own heart”, and the timing of that. That is the single phrase most associated with David, and I think it’s the reason some people want to see David and Bathsheba as a mutual-fault situation. The reasoning goes like this:

      God (omniscient, knowing all the future and past) called David “a man after My Own heart”. Would God really say this of a rapist?

      Well, he said it of a man who would become a murderer. So yeah, I believe so. I think the key is that when he was called out, David’s repented. He truly grieved over his sin, and he tried to make it up to God and to Bathsheba.

      On a different facet of the topic, how many movies are based on what somebody saw through someone else’s window from a parallel or elevated position? The Bible only says where David was. We can’t know exactly where in her home Bathsheba was, but we can be pretty sure it was in a private, rather than a public, location. Commentators that claim she was naked on the roof dangling eye bait for the king simply do not have a leg in the text or common sense to stand on!

      Reply
  18. Amy

    We (the church) have done a horrible job in addressing sexual consent. I think of the purity movement has skewed our thinking about sex while completely dismissing the reality that non-consensual sex can and does occur inside and outside marriage.

    In addition, the church is so naive when it comes to predators. It’s within the realm of possibility to consider David a sexual predator. But, it’s too scary for many to face the reality that predators can and do exist within our communities and especially in our churches. It’s “easier” for them to put on blinders and deny the possibility of predators. If we face the reality that David might be a sexual predator we might have to consider the reality that someone in our circle might be a sexual predator too.

    Reply
  19. Arwen

    I think you already know my viewpoint on this, Sheila. I don’t believe she was raped nor do i believe she was a “seductress.” I read a really good in depth article by a Christian scholar on Hebrew who presented a well thought out argument that using modern interpretation of rape will result in practically every women in the Bible as being raped. He goes on to show that in Hebrew the argument for rape can’t be defended in this case. I think you and others will enjoy it: https://www.dennyburk.com/adultery-or-rape-what-happened-between-david-and-bathsheba/

    Reply
  20. Jane Eyre

    Thank you for talking about this. You don’t need to hold a gun to someone’s head in order for something to be coercive: you just need to let them know that saying “no” comes with heavy consequences.

    I think it’s easy to focus on what the victim could have done “better,” rather than on how the perpetrator *should* have been acting. “Ooohh, maybe Bathsheba could have found an indoor tub” or “Bathsheba could have defied the king” puts the focus on her.

    Why not ask what David could have done differently? Why not ask the real kicker of a question: how do normal, honourable men act in this situation? If your husband or brother saw a woman bathing to purify herself, would he have guards summon her and have sex with her, or would he turn away and go on with his life?

    In modern day problems, do honourable men interview women in hotel bedrooms? Do they blackball women who don’t agree to have sex with them? Do good men with money and influence actually spend their time finding 20-something women in their employ for dating and sex?

    Whatever minor thing the woman could maybe possible do differently, it is *nothing* compared to how differently the men would have behaved, from the start, if they were actually normal, decent men.

    Reply
    • Natalie

      Yes! That is basically the jist of what I was taught too concerning this biblical story. And if you think about it, this message solves the problem altogether, since it “teaches men not to rape” by being honourable, godly men who rise above and don’t give in to their every basic sinful desire.

      Reply
  21. Erin

    Without the power to say no, your “yes” means nothing.

    Reply
  22. Chris Taylor

    I have always believed that David engaged in sexual coercion at best, which amounts to sex without full consent–rape–to me. Even if Bathsheba had been honored by the attention, David was the king and I doubt that the option of “no” was really there for her.

    However, I think this sentence in the post goes too far: “However, to believe that Bathsheba WASN’T raped, you must believe that she was willing, and that she deliberately enticed David.”

    Someone who doesn’t believe Bathsheba was raped might believe that she was willing–and that is a far cry from deliberate enticement on her part. I’m sure you have received emails that are similar to what I’ve received from husbands, saying that while their wives are willing to have sex, what they really want is their enthusiasm. I would say that most of us are able to describe a difference between willingness and deliberate enticement, just as we are able to describe a difference between willingness and “no.”

    What you are saying is that unless someone believes that David raped Bathsheba, they are victim-blaming. While clearly some people do believe that she was to blame, I can see reasonable people coming to the conclusion that Bathsheba did not deliberately entice David but was willing to go along with what he wanted. It is possible to believe that she did have a genuine choice, and that her consent is willing.

    As I said, I have always believed that David raped Bathsheba–but I can also understand why someone might have a different view without also saying that Bathsheba seduced David.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris–I would just say this. To believe that Bathsheba was willing is to read things into the text. There is NOTHING in the text that suggests that she wanted this; there is much to suggest in the text to suggest that she did not.

      As I said to J, there are these points:

      1. She was “taken”, she didnt’ come willingly;
      2. As soon as it was over, she returned to her home (showing her allegiance was with Uriah);
      3. When Uriah died, she mourned loudly, showing again that her allegiance had still been with him;
      4. In Nathan’s story, she was described as an innocent ewe, to which no blame could be assigned.
      5. Plus, she belonged to a very religious family and practiced herself, and showed herself to be a virtuous woman.

      In the narrative, there is nothing to suggest that she was willing.

      To say that some women are groupies, and so we have to consider that she may have wanted to have sex with a king when he summoned her with soldiers–well, that sounds very much like justifying abuse. Seriously, put this in modern context. A pastor calls a megachurch parishioner into his office and rapes her. This parishioner was a righteous person. Now, would you assume that she was willing? I don’t think you would, because I know you, and because in modern context we realize that this is wrong. But why should we treat Bathsheba as less-than because she lived back in biblical times? I just think that’s impugning her honour when nothing in the text suggests that she did anything wrong.

      Why are we so eager to believe that she may have wanted to sleep with the king? Do we see that this is the exact same argument that people use to normalize abuse? I do think this matters. I think many of us grew up believing that this was a case of “adultery”, and so we don’t realize how damaging tat interpretation actually is. So I’d just ask that you read the story with new eyes. Take a look at the article that I linked to in this post, which is a scholarly look at Hebrew narrative and what the narrative form and the Hebrew tell us about Bathsheba. It could be that you’ll see things you haven’t seen before.

      Reply
      • Chris Taylor

        As I said, I have the same view of what happened as you do. I have always seen this as an example of what the author of that article calls “power rape” (although I don’t personally like the term). I did reread the story before posting a comment, and I read the article that you linked. Although I think his interpretation is likely, too much was framed as probable or tentative, based on common sense or application of what we can learn from current social mores in the local area. While I think he is probably right, I think that is adding to the text.

        So I can understand why someone might see a possibility that Bathsheba was willing. That doesn’t mean that they are eager to believe that, just that they think it is one possibility.

        Oh, how I wish to hear Bathsheba tell this story. I’m pretty sure I know what story she would tell, and it isn’t the one that so many have been taught.

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I look forward to hearing her side one day, too! I’d love to sit down with Hagar as well. And with Leah. Leah always seemed to me such a tragic figure, and I’d love to know what she thought of the whole Jacob/Rachel situation.

          Reply
          • J. Parker

            Meanwhile, I’ll beeline to Tamar and just give her a big hug.

          • Chris Taylor

            Leah is one I really want to wrap my arms around. I’m always so sad for her.

  23. unmowngrass

    I wrote a long post that got eaten for being too long and it was deleted when I went back to try to shorten it. Let me attempt to summarise:

    1) language lets us down here. We need separate terms for three separate categories, not two. Enthusiastic consent, sex by coercion, “forcible” rape.

    2) “Biased choices”. Example: women shaving their legs. No-one holds them down and attacks with the electric razor, they still pick it up themselves. But it is very much the norm to shave; there are zero cultural examples of beautiful women who do not do it; not doing it requires a deliberate decision and diversion of energy from other pursuits, and also facing the ridicule/disgust of peers/suitors.

    3) “Freezing”, in the fight, flight, freeze, response, is (almost?) exclusive to women. It has good evolutionary purpose, but makes her more likely to follow orders from an authority figure without questioning. Which makes Bathsheba’s “decision” to go with the guards an extremely biased “choice”, especially when the direct threat to her life is added.

    4) If Queen Vashti were in Bathsheba’s shoes, I think she would have fought. I think we can all think of examples of people doing that.

    5) It is possible that God reprimanded Bathsheba quietly. We don’t know. We can take an educated guess. We do know that David overstepping his boundaries like that made God VERY ANGRY. So regardless of what we call it, the main lesson is that we should not do that.

    6) The secondary lesson is that when we are the victims of coersion, there is so, so much grace!

    Reply
  24. CS from NY

    I’ve tried to avoid commenting, but I just have to jump in on this. I hope I don’t offend. I just have a hard time believing David wasnt ultimately at fault, even if it WAS consensual, which it probably wasn’t. And if she did consent, it was probably because her husband had been gone so long and had abandoned her needs. (Is there even an example in the Bible of a woman being guilty of sexual sin when there wasnt really a man behind it? I’m not saying its impossible, I just find it hard to believe.) Not trying to man-bash, I just don’t see many examples, in the Bible or in life, of a woman sexually sinning without being coerced, forced, or driven to it. Sexually toxic masculinity it rampant in humanity. If the same exists on the female side, I don’t see it, but maybe, as a man, I’m just blind to it. So, no, I don’t see any way Bathsheba could bear any blame for this at all.

    Reply
    • ManWithoutAMap

      You seriously find it difficult to believe that women sin sexually, on their own, with no coercion from a man?

      Since you are looking for examples, I’m pretty sure I can find at least a couple, unless you wish to argue with the gospel and claim that it was the man that was called out for their sin.

      The Woman at the Well is the easiest one to point out. Jesus called what she was doing sin, so I really don’t have reason to question it. I guess if you want to add what is not in the scripture, you could make the argument that it was all her past husbands faults.

      Then you have Sarah pimping out her servant to Abraham. Nothing to see here, I suppose.

      Then you have the Adulteress who was going to be stoned, but Jesus intervened. It didn’t say that Jesus forgave a poor innocent woman who had been taken advantage of. It says he forgave an adulteress.

      Rahab was a prostitute who found God.

      Then there was the woman who anointed Jesus feet with perfume and her tears. Scripture clearly calls her out as a sinner, tho it didn’t say specifically what her sins were. One could argue that it was likely she was a prostitute, but I will admit it could have been other sins. What is clear is that her sins were public knowledge and she was shunned.

      Delilah sold out Samson for money, using is attraction to her as a tool.

      Here is a news flash. Every woman in the bible was a sinner, and there is no shortage of those who’s sins revolved around sex.

      Reply
      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        What, in the story, insinuates that Bathsheba is a groupie?

        Seriously, what you’re saying is that if you hear a story about a man in power having sex with a woman, you’re going to assume that she’s a groupie? Why? THIS is why abuse flourishes–because we believe that women are all groupies.

        I totally believe that Sarah pimped out Abraham. I said that in my post. I totally believe that the Samaritan woman had lived in sin; that Rahab was a prostitute; that the woman with the perfume was a sinner.

        You know why I believe those things? Because the Bible says them.

        But the Bible says NOTHING about Bathsheba sinning; in fact, it says quite the opposite. It compares her to an innocent lamb. How would you feel if God called you an innocent lamb, and all kinds of people said, “Well, she was likely just a groupie who wanted to have sex with a king”? I know Bathsheba is dead, but seriously, this is really impinging on her honour.

        Reply
        • Blessed Wife

          I missed the “groupie” comment. Was it deleted?

          It looked like you were responding to ManWithoutaMap, but I didn’t see anything about Bathsheba in his post at all. What did I miss?

          Reply
        • Lea

          “What, in the story, insinuates that Bathsheba is a groupie?”

          NOTHING. Sheesh I hate this interpretation and talk about reading into the text.

          It’s not like we see David taking bathsheba out on dates, singing to her, trying to convince her to give him a chance….He doesn’t seduce her, he takes her. We know what that is.

          Reply
      • CS from NY

        I never said women don’t sin. Scripture makes it clear everyone does, and you pointed out some examples. All I’m saying is that it seems to me that when it comes to sexual sin or sin in a relationship there’s almost always the silence or aggression or power or failing of a man behind it. I’ve been looking at this over the last few months, and it appears to me there are plenty of examples all over the news, in recent posts, and, it seems to me, in Scripture as well, since men were most often in control and in charge due to the times. Again, I’m not asserting this as fact, and I may be mistaken. It just appears this way to me based on what I’ve seen.

        Of course women sin, but, possibly just because of the different ways men and women are wired, it appears to me that when it comes to sex and relationships, the burden of responsibility most often falls on the man. (I see this in my own marriage; God has defined the husband as the spiritual head of the relationship, so when there’s a problem, that’s on me, as the head, not my wife.)

        Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      <>

      Potiphar’s wife. While her husband was off at work, she tried to coerce sex from the hired help, then had the innocent man (Joseph) thrown in jail when he refused. What man should we blame for that? A man should be able to go to work at a demanding job without worrying about his wife betraying him.

      Lot’s daughters got him passed out drunk and had sex with him in order to get pregnant.

      Tamar the daughter-in-law of Judah disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law, again to get pregnant. Now, we can argue that he failed to deal honestly with her first by withholding his youngest son from marrying her, but can we really argue that her raping him by deception was his fault?

      Herodias. Berenice. You get the idea.

      And Uriah didn’t “abandon” his wife’s needs. He was a soldier. He went to war. Again, her feeling lonely could never justify betrayal of her absent husband, if that in fact had been what she did.

      I’m not saying Bathsheba was willing, because in her specific case I don’t think she was.

      But to follow your apparent point, it appears that you are generally inclined to blame men for women’s sin in this area. I know far more good men betrayed by bad wives than I actually know women betrayed by their men. Logically I suspect it’s somewhere pretty near equal. Let’s not go so far as to blame either sex for the bad behavior of the other. Women are not being treated as equals if we undermine or deny women’s independent moral agency.

      To that point, Sheila, it shocks me that anyone can believe a woman cannot consent to sexual relations with a pastor. I’ve lived my whole life in churches that belonged to the SBC. Never seen a church where a pastor enjoyed that degree of authority over adult women. (Youth or children I could believe, but haven’t seen in my own church, thankfully.) To be sure, a pastor who has sex with parishioners should be fired, defrocked, and publicly exposed. No doubt about that. But because he’s a hypocrite, not necessarily because he’s a “rapist”, if a grown woman decided to sleep with him.

      Reply
      • CS from NY

        You said: “But to follow your apparent point, it appears that you are generally inclined to blame men for women’s sin in this area. I know far more good men betrayed by bad wives than I actually know women betrayed by their men.”

        I appreciate your reply. Maybe I am more inclined to blame men; I kind of bristled at your phrase “bad wives,” as it just seems like something that, as a man, I’m not supposed to say, think, or accept anyone else saying. (I was always taught that in relationships, when there’s sexual sin, it’s because the guy pushed the girl into something she didn’t want. This was the topic of almost EVERY youth/college group “Guys Only weekend” church message I ever heard. As long as we can keep ourselves under control, things will be pure.)

        It just seems backwards to me that a woman would want to spoil her marriage by betraying her husband without him having done something to cause it. I see this in my own marriage; not that I’ve been unfaithful to my wife, or she to me, but I think I’ve been the cause of any of the relational problems we’ve had in our 20 years. Men just don’t do relationships as well as women do. I hate it, but it seems that’s the way it is. That’s one of the main reasons I’ve been trying to keep up with Sheila’s blog. I think there’s wisdom here for me if I can just read enough and learn enough to understand what I’m missing. Again, thanks for the reply.

        Reply
        • Blessed Wife

          You sound like a good man with good intentions, and I don’t want to be ugly or quarrelsome. However, if people taught you that no woman would ever “spoil her marriage by betraying her husband without him doing something to cause it”, I absolutely want to tell you that you were taught wrong! I can think of six women who did exactly that, just in my own family. My husband is an attorney, and we see copious quantities of them there as well. Some people just really are that stupid, selfish and plain evil, and that includes women as well as men. Saying that if a woman cheats on, assaults, denies sex from, lies to or abandons her husband that he must have done something to cause or deserve it looks very much to me like the “it wasn’t really rape because she was drunk and immodest” defense. Women can be predators too. I hope you never run into one, but trust me when I tell you they are out there, and some of them are seriously bad! This is a hot button for me because I have been close to several male victims of female betrayal and abuse, so I apologize if it sounds like I’m going off on you! I really do appreciate your giving women in general the benefit of the doubt! Just know not all of us are innocent victims who only go into sin if we are led or pushed there. Some stumble, some walk in, and some take careful aim and a running start before jumping in with both feet. Be blessed, and it’s very good to know that so many men believe in taking a hard look at their own behavior before deciding women are to blame for everything!

          Reply
        • Natalie

          CS from NY:
          I think the root of what you were taught in youth group & mens-only Christian groups and getaways probably stemmed from the idea that the man is the head of the household/spiritual leader of his family, & that he is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church (Eph 5:22-24, 1 Cor 11:3). And yes, Christ took our sin when He died on the cross; He shouldered our blame and our punishment. But those verses aren’t saying that husbands are their wives’ “christs”… far from it! Since men and women are both fallen beings, we both sin. We both must repent before God. Women are not more saintly or pure than men simply because they’re women. Men and women both have sexual drives and desires, even if those drives and desires look different sometimes. Whether man or woman, one’s own choices and actions are on them, and they must reap the consequences for their own actions. Personal responsibility is a big part of the Bible. It and maturity are key components to a healthy, loving marriage as well as a healthy, growing relationship with the Lord.

          Reply
  25. Mandy

    Sheila, thank you thank you thank you! I feel like you have opened my eyes to something I should have seen before. Before this, what I had heard about Bathsheba was an entirely demeaning description. She was bathing on a roof to get the King’s attention, and she got what she was out to get. That’s all I heard. I didn’t know where David was or what had happened before she was taken to David. I didn’t know she was committed to anyone else, or that she was bathing for cleanliness rather than to entice the King. I hadn’t read the scripture myself; it was hearsay. If I had, I am %100 sure I would have felt differently about the situation.
    This is such an important topic to talk about. In the past, I’ve felt guilty about being resentful towards people in the Bible when I’ve come across certain things like what you are speaking on. I remember a particular part in Genisis when a girl was raped, and her brothers went to avenge justice for her, but her father ended up marrying her off to the man that had assaulted her. I wept because I felt so bad for the girl, and we never knew what happened to her afterwards. I was in a youth group, we were studying Abram and Sarai, and since Sarai couldn’t have any children, she offered her maid to him, and she had his son. It didn’t feel entirely alright to me. It felt like Hagar didn’t have much a choice in the matter because back then, being a maid for somebody was your whole wellbeing. And then, only a few weeks ago, I heard on the news that babysitter and her boyfriend had been arrested for assault of two young girls she was babysitting. The girl would let the boyfriend inside the house and assault the girls. When I tried to talk about it with someone close to me, the first thing out of their mouth was, ”And yet they are still forgivable in God’s eyes.”
    Things like that have make me wrestle with my opinion of God, the Bible, and how I see the world. But then I realize the stories about the people in the Bible are about flawed human beings who do/or experience terrible things. Humans are dumb, and just because its mentioned in the Bible doesn’t mean God automatically justifies their wrongdoings. That’s where free will and sin come into play. I believe God is there for us when we are hurt. God is there for us when we are in pain, and he supports us, but as the Bible says, we aren’t supposed to hurt others.
    I wish more God-fearing people held a broader belief about sexual assault, consent, power dynamics, and how hierarchy can affect things. Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I am one of few in the whole Christianity spectrum that views the #Metoo movement and discussion about sexual assault differently. A lot of things I tend to see/ and hear with more conservative things view the issues as Liberal, feminist nonsense and instantly trash or disregard it.
    Anyway, thank you for posting this!

    Reply
  26. Rob

    Sheila, the mistake Jayson York made was to conclude that a rape victim came to her conclusion on an interpretation of scripture based on her past experiences. He did not have enough evidence to support this opinion. If you had simply pointed this out you would have been correct.

    Unfortunately by taking it further and labeling David as a rapist and Bathsheba as a victim you have made exactly the same mistake as what Jayson made. There is hopelessly inadequate evidence to come to these conclusions.

    Even taking all the points you listed to support you opinion and every word of this portion of scripture there is hopelessly insufficient evidence to arrive at the conclusions that David was a rapist and Bathsheba a victim. It is possible that this is the correct interpretation but this incident happened thousands of years ago in a different culture with different laws to what we have today. Neither David, Bathsheba nor any of the other witnesses are here today to be questioned or cross examined. So we simply do not know to what extend Bathsheba willingly or unwillingly participated and to what extent David exercised or did not exercise the power he clearly had.

    It is absolutely clear from scripture that God was highly angry with what David did and that he was severely punished accordingly. There is not much to indicate how much God held Bathsheba accountable.

    Scripture does not label David a rapist and it is a futile and counterproductive exercise for us now as Christians to try to attach modern labels without even nearly sufficient evidence to do so.

    God gave to us as much of the story as He intended for us to learn and avoid the same mistakes as what David made but please let us not be tempted to start labeling and drawing authoritive conclusions where there is insufficient evidence.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You said, “There is not much evidence to indicate how much God held Bathsheba accountable.”

      Well, God compared her to an innocent lamb. And God did not punish her. So I don’t think you can find any evidence that he held her accountable at all, and certainly at least some evidence that he considered her blameless.

      Reply
      • Ru

        Probably the only thing we can say about this story is that it shows how corrupted David had become. Bottom line the focus is on DAVID’S behavior not Bathesheba’s. We aren’t told what he said to Bathsheba when she was brought to him. He could have threatened her or Uriah’s life, threatned to demote her husband, or any other form of threat. In other words it was a form of extortion. Using the concept of “sexual extortion” might help frame conversations to explain why ANY type of manipulation physical or emotional to get sex is absolutely wrong.

        Reply
  27. Rob

    The analogy of the lamb was what the prophet used to confront David about his sin: saying David had many lambs (many women and everything else he wanted) but Uriah had only one lamb and David stole the one lamb he had. The analogy was not used to portray Bathsheba’s innocence. We cannot stretch this analogy to imply Bathsheba’s innocence.

    The greatest punishment to David was losing the child born to them. The same child was born to Bathsheba so does this mean she was also punished for her sin by losing the child? Maybe. But I don’t believe we should stretch
    that to be regarded as definite evidence against her and say it proves her complicity either. There is simply not enough evidence available either way.

    To prove rape and complicity we would need to get dozens of facts which we do not have, on a step by step account of everything that happened.

    I feel I need to add Sheila that you are doing a wonderful job with your posts and material and I find it amazing that you right so often. I probably agree with about 95% of your opinions which I have read until now.

    But I really do not agree with you arriving at a verdict that David was a rapist and Bathsheba was a victim. Scripture tells us that in this incident David was a thief, an adulterer and a murderer and clearly sinned greatly. But it is really dangerous territory to start making other assertions with such a lack of evidence.

    Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      So…he peeped in her windows, found out who she was and that her husband was not around to protect her, sent armed men to her house to fetch her and bring her back to him, “took” her, and then sent her home. There was no earthly appeal higher than him for her, no one she could expect to help her. Everyone within shouting distance was on his side and would have either ignored her cries for help or come to his assistance rather than hers.

      How is this anything other than peeping, kidnapping, and rape (which was ultimately followed up with a murder)??

      Overall, the Old Testament is pretty blasé about rape. Lot offered his virgin daughters to appease the lust of the men of Sodom. The Bible treats this as a mere sidenote to the story.

      The same thing was done in a separate instance, where a concubine was sent out in lieu of her master. The men of Benjamin raped the poor girl literally to death. She died on the doorstones of the house, because her master and his host were too sorry to even let her back inside after the wolf pack was done with her. The Bible says they “knew” and “abused” her, not that they “forced” or “raped” her. And there isn’t a word of condemnation for the man who threw her out there to save his own behind. In fact, at the outset of the story the Bible calls her a whore because she fled from him and returned to HER FATHER’S house, after her father sold her to this man. Not to a lover, or with a lover, but because a scared girl ran away from a master who clearly considered her expendable and ran home to her father, who events showed loved her and was reluctant to part with her. I’d say events showed she was wise to do so, and it’s a pity she ever went back!

      Not even bringing up the trading and pimping of daughters and female servants in less violent circumstances.

      All that to say, the Bible speaks casually of this because this was simply how things were done at the time. Because women did not have the presumption of sexual autonomy that we enjoy in Western society today, the word rape is not generally used in the Bible for the awful things that happened to them. It was just de rigeur.

      Not for one second do I believe these customs or the casual way they’re told reflect God’s heart toward women! But they do reflect the mindset of the men who recorded these stories, including Bathsheba’s. So when we look at Bathsheba’s story in context, I don’t see the Bible not directly calling David a rapist to be any kind of proof that he wasn’t one. Instead, we have to look at the facts included. It doesn’t say she liked him, found him charming, or was won over my his wealth and power. It says he took her. And would have washed his hands of her afterward, if he could have passed the baby off on her husband, or braved the consequences of her warrior mate ever finding him out. Rather like Amnon treated Tamar, actually.

      Reply
  28. Karen

    Whew! Lots of strong opinions. I have heard people I respect greatly say that although David pressured her it wasn’t rape because later David comforted Bathsheba. Could she have been comforted by her rapist?

    Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      At the time that he comforted her, they had been living as husband and wife for some time. Several months, perhaps longer. The Bible doesn’t say how long the child had lived when he was stricken, but we could be looking at as much as a year or more from the rape. She had had time to bond with the baby, and perhaps with David too; we don’t know.

      You also have to consider her position: besides the grief of having just lost her son, she might have worried that David would abandon her. Again, we can’t know, but I have to imagine there was a lot of misery on her mind at the moment. Kind words, love and reassurance would have been welcome, I think. Especially from the man on whom her entire future now depended.

      What we do know is that David was deeply repentant for his sin, and that he grieved deeply for the child, fasting and beseeching God for a week to spare the baby’s life. It sounds to me as if he were very attached to his son with Bathsheba, and possibly to her as well. We know he went first to God, then ate for the first time in a week, then went to her to comfort her for the loss of their child. I think this shows that he cared for her and her feelings, and that in his renewed commitment to God he was now doing his best to do right by her. I think that would have been a great comfort to her just then, even if the rape was everything I believe it was and this is the first time she had seen him since, which I rather doubt was the case.

      Reply
    • Ashley

      This is honestly the only thing that makes me pause a little.

      Reply
  29. Mercy

    Thank you Sheila for the hard work you do.

    I do agree with much of what has been said and it breaks my heart to see the many effects of man’s fallen nature and sin.

    Power play and ‘power rape’ are definitely real and disturbing to put it mildly.

    For what I’m about to say, I hope it reflects my heart and comes out right. I am in no way supporting rape or being condescending to victims of power rape. I know firsthand the pains and turmoil associated with it. I just want anyone who truly believes in God, and in His ability to work all things out for good, to not feel like they have no choice in the case of power rape. Joseph in the Bible is a clear example of an attempted power rape. He refused, and though he lost a lot in the process, God was working it out for good. When there is an option between loosing it all or giving in, we can choose to trust God even if its the road less traveled.

    Generally however, we must continue to fight this menace with all we’ve got and so I appreciate you Sheila.

    Reply
    • MK

      Maybe this story IS a great lesson for the church concerning sexual misconduct of leaders. God warned Israel against having a king because of the inherent abuses that would follow. His heart was for his people to follow Him. But the people demanded a king and sure enough God was right. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, committed the atrocities God warned of. Are we patterning are churches more like the Old Testament kingdoms rather than a New Covenant church where there is no mediator besides Jesus.
      Often times people flock around a strong dominant male leader. Maybe the lesson is if we set up pastors to be “kings” you are going to have this type of behavior. We need to structure our churches differently, not giving power to one or a few. As believers we need to choose a church that isn’t organized like this. It is not good for the leaders or the for the people.

      Reply
  30. Praying4Better Days

    History hyper-sexualized Bathsheba…to save David’s image.

    Rape is wrong.

    Rape is always wrong…no matter how you change the characters or situation.

    Rape is…never justifiable.

    Bathsheba & every woman in the world should be able to walk through Bethlehem, New York, Jerusalem, Ohio etc naked without being raped.

    I believe it all boils down to how people perceive rape.

    Also history likes to protect the image & legacies of self-entitled men.

    Society will teach lil’ boys into manhood that they should get sex when they want it. If the girl doesn’t do her duty…just blame her & society will back you up by attacking her instead.
    Society will also train up innocent girls to believe that they are just asking for it.

    Ever notice how guys don’t walk into their locker rooms bragging the truth…”Hey I raped some chick because she wouldn’t have sex with me” Or notice how some guys will yell…”yeah she asked for it”

    If Bathseba had run away kicking & screaming bloody murder that she was being raped, there’s still many people who would deny it because they don’t see rape as…wrong. Self-entitled men who ONLY see women as sexual property…won’t see rape as wrong. They won’t even consider it rape…because they believe that sex should be given to them. This set of people will blame Bathsheba & lie & say that she enticed a grown man who’s physically stronger…into raping her.

    They will not hold David accountable…because it would ruin his heroic legacy to be called a rapist.

    Why is a man’s legacy…more important than the woman or girl he’s raped?

    How does anybody with a soul or morals blame victims for being raped?

    I’ll never understand how grown men who always brag about being twice the size of women…but blame an innocent woman or girl for what grown men choose to do.

    Reply
  31. Mila

    If that’s the case then it makes me absolutely sick to my stomach that God can forgive a rapist

    Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      God forgives those who REPENT, whatever their sin is. Repentance is SO, SO key here! A person who truly repents, who sees their sin as God sees it, is broken and humbled by it, confesses, asks for forgiveness and never goes near it again…yes, He forgives those.

      People who commit rape (or whatever else), never see or admit the wrong they’ve done, don’t care whom they hurt and carry on doing it? Those people reject God’s advance of grace, and He does not force it on them because He respects our choices. So those people will burn for eternity.

      It is also SO important to remember that God is ALWAYS standing by the victims of rape and assault! ALWAYS loves and treasures them, sees them, takes all their hurts to His heart. He is faithful and just, and always nigh to those of a broken heart! I hope you find that peace and comfort in Him!

      Reply
    • Sasha

      I may not be a rapist, but I thank God that all of MY sins and YOUR sins are forgivable. That’s the kind of God He is. We may not be happy with David or any rapist’s sins but we all have access to forgiveness and none of us have a right to judge. ONLY through Jesus are we righteous!

      Reply
  32. Nathan

    God can and will forgive ANYTHING. That doesn’t mean that He approves of it, nor does it mean that the person should suffer no earthly consequences for his actions.

    This simply means that God will not hold you accountable for this in Heaven. But as others have said, this doesn’t happen automatically. You must TRULY repent of your sin.

    Reply
  33. Rovisc

    Dear Sheila,
    Many thanks for your blog, is very useful.
    I’m a man and a reader of your blog. I don’t comment because I live in a country where the vast majority are Catholic. From the age of 18 my parents gave me the freedom to go to church or not, and I became (not a lost sheep, but) a single, observant person.
    I was surprised by some comments made by men about this story of King David and Bathsheba.
    I remember discussing this story a few times, from a young age until recently.
    The last time was with a friend of mine who has Jewish family, but is not following his original congregation. We agree that the moral of this story is relatively simple. And so it is.
    If you do wrong attitudes or malevolent actions, the innocent people around you will pay for your horrible actions, then it can be your wife, your lover or your children.
    It is the innocent people who will pay for the evil that the powerful do.
    For us this is real today. For us this is not a story of rape and power.
    This is a story about the injustice of the world, that is, that people who are just and innocent will pay and suffer horribly for the wrong and evil actions of the people who rule.

    Reply
  34. Anon

    Wow, Sheila so many valid points. I never thought of it as rape but I knew it was a definite power play. Much like the time when my boss summoned me to deliver something to his house. I knew he was married so I thought it would be OK cause his wife and kids would be there. WRONG. His family was out of town and the rest is history. It wasn’t violent, but I didn’t know how to say ‘no’ as a naïve 25+ year old woman. To this day, I’ve pretty much kept that a secret.

    Reply
  35. Sasha

    In addition to your points, I’d like to add that unless she knew the king personally or knew someone in the palace, she probably ASSUMED the king was out to war, just like Uriah. It’s unlikely that she was trying to entice him.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Great point!

      Reply
    • Bonnie

      This is such an interesting discussion! The biblical narrative is centered David’s actions and consequences, so I’m not sure I was ever asked to think about Bathsheba’s role. I think I just figured she didn’t have the option to say no or that culturally she was limited in her ability to protest, so she went along merely because she wasn’t socially raised to have a voice. Very interesting to read this now through the modern lens and call it rape as opposed to adultery.

      Reply
  36. Jeff

    Did David rape Bathsheba – possibly, possibly not. Did David sin – 100% yes. However just because he sinned doesn’t make it rape. Bathsheba was bathing after her purification – more than likely she could not have gotten pregnant that night, so they probably had sex more than once. He may have wined her and dined her for a few days? Also David inquired about who she was, and called him to her. Not usually equated with rape. What if Bathsheba was a high drive woman? Uriah had been gone for quite a while to battle and she might have been feeling a little or a lot of need. Did she entice David? No, but she may NOT have rejected him either. It doesn’t say. What if she was ready to move on from Uriah anyway? Did she mourn for him? Yes, but that is all it says – she mourned for him. Did she go on to marry David? Yes. Forced? Who knows. She did bare him another son – Solomon, Davids favorite. Would Solomon have been the favorite from a woman who didn’t want to be with the king? In the days of polygamy how did one wife become the favorite? By putting out and having children. I really think we should not cry rape with out ALL the facts. The Bible says we should rightly divide the word. Not everything is written. I think we must be careful to not add what is NOT there.

    Reply
    • Joanna Sawatsky

      I totally agree that there are multiple readings of the David and Bathsheba story – I read a number of really wonderful scholars on the issue and I was surprised at the diversity of views. I do just want to take a bit of issue with the idea about Bathsheba getting pregnant. The way purity bathing laws worked, a woman was unclean for 7 days after she finished her period, which would have her at about day 12 – which is to say, a highly fertile period for most women. So it is highly likely that she could have conceived during the encounter described in the text.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      If we must be careful not to add what is not there, why are you saying multiple encounters, wined and dined her, high-drive wife, ready to “move on” from her husband, etc., etc., that IS NOT AT ALL what the text describes? It says he watched her, inquired about her, sent for her, took her, and she went home, not that she came, ate, drank, played, stayed, and played some more. So who, exactly, is reading more into the text? (May I say, as a VERY high-drive wife, that no absence or even neglect of my husband’s would make me willing to have sex with some other man instead; much less a stranger who watched me bathe through a window!)

      Also, we live now in an era where promiscuity rather than purity is the prevailing cultural norm. Bathsheba lived in one where promiscuity carried the death penalty. Even if David made sure no one stoned her, he couldn’t do anything about the opprobrium of her neighbors and ruined reputation, except exactly what he did; make her his wife and move her into a protected position where she and her child could be cared for. With her husband dead, it’s not like she had anywhere else to go!

      Also, the wives David had taken as a young man were aging, many probably beyond bearing children, and many of the adult sons he had were, to say the least, disappointing. In his youth, David had shown a distinct preference for beautiful and VIRTUOUS women, making Bathsheba just his type, plus younger and more fertile than his other wives. So I think it’s quite logical on several fronts that she may have become his favorite, and her son became his heir, and possible that one may also have happened without the other.

      Reply
  37. Jeff

    Just another quick comment – I believe God LOVES WOMEN and cares for their well being just as much as he does men (maybe more-you can have multiple orgasms!). I just personally do not think he would have left David in power if it had been rape. I believe God would have removed him from power similar to the way he removed Saul. Saul never did anything that was as evil as rape. Was it still wrong – yes 100%. And I do NOT believe any of it was Bathsheba’s fault.

    Reply
    • Sam

      Jeff wrote:

      “I just personally do not think he would have left David in power if it had been rape.”

      Okay, let’s see—do you dispute the idea that David murdered Uriah too?

      Now, which is generally considered a more serious crime—rape or murder?

      ‘Nuff said. 😉

      Reply
  38. Kimberly

    Interesting timing. About three weeks ago, my pastor spoke about David and Bathsheba. He used relatively “neutral” language to describe their situation. After the first service, I asked him why he so reluctant to call it what it was – rape. He said that he didn’t tend to think about as rape. We talked about how important it was for people in power – like pastors – to clearly denounce abuse of power for sexual purposes. He corrected himself in the second service and called it rape. Hopefully, we are just a bit further ahead here on the left coast of Canada.

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I love that so much! Both that you spoke up, and that he listened–and was humble.

      Reply
  39. Rick O'Shay

    And “Christian” women wonder why MGTOW is starting to affect Christian men as well.

    I can’t try wooing ANY attractive Christian girl without her and her folks jumping to the conclusion that I seek merely to use her, when I am actually seeking a wife for myself.

    I have 99% given up.

    Reply
    • Joanna Sawatsky

      Women respond differently to flirting based on who it is. Loner kid in middle school? Not so nice. Good friend in college who I knew I wouldn’t work well with? More sad than anything, but still flattering. Guys who I respected and looked up to? That was great. You have to be the kind of man who a woman is going to want to be with. That’s on you. Women want to be wanted, but you have to be worthy of that. Perhaps, instead of trying to go out and find the perfect girl right now, you could take some time to work on yourself. We’re all works in progress, but I’d take a lesson from the responses you’re getting from women and figure out what you need to work on. Blaming other people is easy, doing the work to become the person God has called you to be is hard. But it’s always worth it.

      Reply
    • Joanna Sawatsky

      When I was a kid, I was nice to the loner kids and would end up with love notes, every time. I hated it and it felt creepy. Some of that was because I was 11, but some of it was because I wasn’t interested in the loner kid. A friend in college asked me out, and I really respected him, but I could tell we were NOT a good match so, even though it was sad, I turned him down. But when a guy who I really respected and who I could tell was a good fit for me was interested… it was an amazing feeling!

      Here’s my point: you want to be the kind of guy who a woman is going to be happy to get attention from. Flirting skills aren’t enough, you have to be worthy. Frankly, if your experience is that no one is ever interested in your advances, I’d consider whether it isn’t the women who are flawed and horrible or if, in fact, you have some maturing to do. When I taught students, my feeling was that if one student was confused by a question and the rest of them got it, then it was the student’s issue. If they were all confused, it was mine.

      It’s a lot easier to blame other people than to work on ourselves to be the people God made us to be, but that’s our calling in Christ.

      Reply
    • Blessed Wife

      Two things suggest themselves to me:

      The first is, could you be in a “purity culture” type of Christian community, where anything the girl’s father didn’t set up is suspect? If so, you might find Christian women who were much more welcoming of healthy manly interest in a different Christian community.

      Second, could there be something in the way you’re “wooing” women that comes off primarily in a sexual way? Are you courting them intellectually and spiritually, as well as physically? If so, and you’re still getting portrayed as a user, then see point one. If not, try taking a page of Sheila’s advice, and focus on getting to know women as people, cultivating relationships based on shared principles, ideas, and interests, instead of on the basis of female/male.

      Also, be patient. It is the experience of many, perhaps most women that most men ARE just trying to get a piece. It is your behavior, rather than your words, that will convince them otherwise. Good luck!

      Reply
  40. Christina

    I have heard it taught that she bathed on the roof with possible intention to entice David, but I a few years ago I read the story again, on my own, and it seemed obvious that she was coerced, just like Esther. We don’t talk about that rape either, but wasn’t it too?

    Reply
    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, yes, Esther was a case of sex trafficking. She was taken into a harem (had no choice) and then she had to have a sexual audition (spend a night with the king) before she was chosen. There was no consent there at all, either. What bothers me about the Esther story as well is how people talk about Esther as being the submissive wife and Vashti as the rebellious wife. Vashti was right to refuse to the king! And we shouldn’t be drawing marriage lessons from the story of Ahaseurus and Esther. A harem owner is not a husband. He is a harem owner, and that’s it.

      Reply
      • Lois Eagles

        How have I never realized this?! I don’t think I’ve ever heard this story without blame being placed on HER!!

        I threw my Francine Rivers book about Bathseba into the garbage tonight…..

        Reply
        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Did she write one about Bathsheba? I think I missed that one!

          Reply
  41. Grant M

    Thank you for this perspective. I have never agreed with those who blame Bathsheba, but I have also not really explored her side of things before. Whenever I remarked on this in the past, it was only in reference to David’s sin as an adulterer, deceiver, murderer.
    Was Bathsheba unwilling? The Bible is silent on it. But this is something very important to consider. How did she feel when she found out that David ordered the death of her husband? When her first baby died? And I have always taken it for granted that David really did promise his favorite wife that her son would be king. But the Bible also doesn’t indicate that, either, does it? A lot to reconsider here. Also, I hope it’s ok, I shared a link to this on Facebook.

    Reply
  42. Sam

    Good discussion. Here’s something to think about—isn’t it obvious that anyone who’d commit murder would also rape? I mean, does it *really* take a genius to see that? 😉

    Of course, not all murderers are rapists. But as the article mentions, it’s indeed strange that many pastors who have no problem calling David a murderer are so timid about calling him a rapist. Then again, maybe it’s not so surprising. As the Tweet in the article pointed out:

    “If David’s a rapist, [then] rapists aren’t [just] scary men in dark alleys. They’re [also] in the mirror and small group and hanging out with us at the family barbeque.”

    So, this definition probably hits a little too close to home for many of these pastors. Maybe some of them come close to meeting the definition themselves—or at least know someone who does.

    Reply
      • Sam

        Thanks, Sheila. 🙂

        Reply

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