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Did David Rape Bathsheba?

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  • Did David Rape Bathsheba?

    There's been some recent discussion about this online. To be honest, it hadn't occurred to me until I saw some people asserting that yes, David clearly committed rape. Thoughts on this?

    The "power differential" idea is worth noting, since, David being king, obviously Bathsheba could very well have been put in a difficult spot by his summoning her. Still, it also seems obvious that David was not a rapist when considered in the context of the Mosaic law, and that the argument he committed rape seems pretty anachronistic.

    But I think the biggest problem with the idea is what Scripture describes his true crime to be--both given what Nathan said and David's confession in Psalm 51, which focus on his blood-guiltiness in murdering Uriah.
    I DENOUNCE DONALD J. TRUMP AND ALL HIS IMMORAL ACTS.

  • #2
    It is anachronistic to speak of power differentials.

    The Lord told the people that having a king would mean that the people's king would take away their daughters. This was sort of an exception clause to the recommendation to have one wife.

    Nathan's confrontation of David doesn't show any indications of sin against Bathsheba. I think we would have to favor the idea she was enticed by the David's summons. She was a willing participant.

    David and Bathsheba would be guilty of adultery. However, David's adultery paled by contrast to his promotion of the death of Uriah.

    If Uriah were to have lived, it seems that Bathsheba would have been willing to say that she had relations with her husband. She would be on track for covering up the fact that David was the father -- otherwise, David wouldn't have been pushing for Uriah to go to his house while back in town.
    Last edited by mikewhitney; 10-22-2019, 01:17 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by mikewhitney View Post
      It is anachronistic to speak of power differentials.
      Why? If anything, power differentials were greater in the ANE.
      The Lord told the people that having a king would mean that the people's king would take away their daughters. This was sort of an exception clause to the recommendation to have one wife.
      No, it wasn't. One of the Deuteronomic injunctions to kings was to not multiply wives for themselves.
      Nathan's confrontation of David doesn't show any indications of sin against Bathsheba. I think we would have to favor the idea she was enticed by the David's summons.
      I'd say that deliberately bathing where the king could see her was the first sin committed in the whole affair, making the claim of rape faintly ludicrous.
      David and Bathsheba would be guilty of adultery. However, David's adultery paled by contrast to promotion of the death of Uriah.
      I don't know that adultery would be considered insignificant next to murder.
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      • #4
        I think this claim is right down there with David and Jonathan being homosexuals.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
          I think this claim is right down there with David and Jonathan being homosexuals.
          I think it has at least some merit to it (i.e., not overtly ridiculous), as opposed to what you mention. But ultimately I don't find it convincing. It's too speculative.
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          • #6
            (sorry. I had edited a few things into my first post0

            My point about power differentials is that we don't have indications in scripture that anyone was talking about 'power differentials' in an employer-employee situation nor with respect to kings. Nor does Bathsheba appear to be compelled to go ... but rather seemed more enticed.

            The Deut 17:17 verse mainly expresses a cause and effect -- wisdom more than regulation. In 2Sam 12, Nathan speaks of the Lord giving David his master's wives ... but then saying he would have added more things (vs 8) (wives? if wanted?)
            Last edited by mikewhitney; 10-22-2019, 01:51 PM.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
              I think this claim is right down there with David and Jonathan being homosexuals.
              I don't think it's even close to being on the same level in that I would not question the orthodoxy of someone like John Piper who holds the rape view but I would with the other.
              Last edited by KingsGambit; 10-22-2019, 02:12 PM.
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              • #8
                Yes, I tend to view it as rape, mainly because of the power differential.

                The reason she was bathing on the roof is entirely a matter of speculation. Actually, AFAICT, even the *fact* that she was bathing on the roof, while almost universally accepted, is speculative in that it is not specified in Scripture. *David* was on the roof. How sure are we that his location did not give him a great view of Bathsheba's window?
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                • #9
                  Originally posted by NorrinRadd View Post
                  Yes, I tend to view it as rape, mainly because of the power differential.

                  The reason she was bathing on the roof is entirely a matter of speculation. Actually, AFAICT, even the *fact* that she was bathing on the roof, while almost universally accepted, is speculative in that it is not specified in Scripture. *David* was on the roof. How sure are we that his location did not give him a great view of Bathsheba's window?
                  Actually it does state David's location, and that he was on the roof of "the king's house". So regardless of whether it was the actual palace, or something like a separate house he likely had a really good view of the surrounding area.

                  2 Samuel 11:2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.

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                  • #10
                    I haven't reviewed material by people who thought this was rape. But, this is what I would observe about the situation. Sorry for being a little repetitious with point 1.

                    Point 1: The coverup
                    1. David found out Bathsheba was pregnant
                    2. David called Uriah from the battle so Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba
                    3. Bathsheba would have to agree to the deception that Uriah was the father.
                    4. David had to count on Bathsheba holding to this deception instead of telling Uriah that David and she had relations.

                    Point 2: Nathan's charges
                    1. In 2Sam 12, Nathan brings up the issue of the murder of Uriah and of taking Bathsheba as a wife
                    2. There is no charge of rape and no indication here that Bathsheba wasn't cooperative

                    Point 3:
                    David didn't have a history of such behavior -- based on what I recall.

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                    • #11
                      Except that the lamb and poor man were the victims in the story, which implies that Bathsheba didn't really have a choice. Not a violent rape, but not entirely consensual either.

                      http://honorshame.com/did-bathsheba-seduce-david/

                      Did Bathsheba purposefully seek to seduce David when bathing? Some books say Bathsheba “intended” to be seen by the king, presumably to seduce David and get closer to the seat of power. But I think this is misreading Scripture. The Bible portrays Bathsheba as an honorable woman of respectable character.

                      Here are three things about Bathsheba we can be fairly certain about in light of the honor-shame cultural dynamics. These are not facts, but reasonable deductions from the social context.


                      Bathsheba was socially prominent. Bathsheba gets introduced as “the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Sam 11:3). Both her father and her husband were on David’s Top 30 list of elite warriors (2 Sam 23), thus would have enjoyed renown and honor. Bathsheba herself would have inherited such prominence via birth and then marriage. She came from a distinguished family, and been expected to carry herself accordingly. Bathsheba would have most likely acted to retain her family’s social prominence.
                      Bathsheba was Torah observant. Bathsheba was not bathing to seduce David, but to observe OT purity regulations. Let’s reason backwards: Bathsheba got pregnant, so that means she was ovulating at the time. Ovulation happens 1 week after menstruation stops. Therefore, Bathsheba was bathing one week after her bleeding, precisely when Jewish law required ritual bathing for a woman’s bleeding (Lev 15:18-30). The story even says, “Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.” (2 Sam 11:4, ESV). That detail describes the purposes of Bathsheba’s cleansing (and alerts astute readers to an impeding problem, as the time of ritual bathing is when babies are made!) Bathsheba’s bath was likely the ritual bathing of a Torah observant lady, and not a Hollywood-style seduction scene. The text does not say she was bathing naked; she may well have been clothed and washing with a bowl.
                      Bathsheba was a teenager. Considering she was old enough to be married yet still without children, Bathsheba was likely 16-19 years old in the story. In collectivistic cultures prizing children, that phase of “married-without-kids” usually lasts no more than 12 months. Nathan’s reference to her as a “little ewe lamb” (2 Sam 12:3) collaborates this deduction.

                      Not being told otherwise, the reader could reasonably assume a Torah-observant teenager from a prominent family would behave as socially expected—with modesty and humility, with a healthy sense of shame. Bathsheba would have hardly been pursuing David. Rather, as a young female she would have been unsure how to resist the King. The significant power distance between David and Bathsheba likely limited her ability to refuse the superior.

                      Considering the social realities in 1 Samuel 11 it is most plausible she was not seeking an extramarital relationship with David. While the text is admittedly silent in that chapter, the next chapter is rather clear on this matter. When Nathan confronts David, there is zero mention of Bathsheba’s fault. All fingers point squarely at David–“the thing David did displeased the Lord” (2 Sam 11:27).

                      Then the strongest case for her upright character is the rest of the story–the latter biblical testimony where she is repeatedly portrayed as an honorable person.
                      Restoring Bathsheba’s Honor

                      By the end of this story in 2 Sam 11, Bathsheba has endured 3 significant loses within one year; she lost her body, her husband, and her firstborn son. Those are significant for any person, but especially for a young lady in a collectivistic context. She would have been devastated by the grief, as well as the shame of the circumstances. Nevertheless, God sovereignly redeems her.

                      After this incident with David and Bathsheba, the book of 2 Samuel narrates David’s demise and recounts Bathsheba’s steady exaltation. Many years later as David is dying, Bathsheba acts nobly (at the request of Nathan) to ensure Solomon inherits the throne, as was promised (1 Kings 2:10-12).

                      Then in a later incident, her royal son Solomon “had a throne brought for the king’s mother, and she sat down at his right hand” (1 Kings 2:19). Bathsheba is in a position of power and honor. From a young girl with nothing, she has become the Queen Mother sitting on a throne at the right hand the king, her son.

                      Israel thrives under the leadership of Solomon, who wrote three wisdom books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Songs) that shed further light on Bathsheba. Songs mentions his mother fondly: that she crowned him with a wedding crown (Song 3:11), and that she used to teach him (Song 8:2). In Proverbs, Solomon respected the teaching of his mother (Prov. 1:8-9; 6:20; cf. Prov. 31:1ff). The terms mother is used 15 times in Proverbs with the sense that mothers deserve respect and should be spared the dishonor and grief caused by foolish children. While proverbs are general statements, Solomon personally had his own mother in mind when making those positive comments. And while Solomon’s wisdom was clearly supernatural, such wisdom would have been acquired through family, such as his mother Bathsheba. And when combined with a reference in Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1:6), the Bible portrays Bathsheba as a respectable and honorable woman in these variety of ways.
                      The Point

                      The prominence and honor of Bathsheba in the rest of the Bible is the clearest indication Bathsheba did not sin against God by pursuing David. This aligns with a prominent literary-theological motif in 1-2 Samuel—“Those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt” (1 Sam 2:30). Because she honored God, God honors her (unlike David whose status spirals down after this incident because he despised God).
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                      • #12
                        Except that the lamb and poor man were the victims in the story, which implies that Bathsheba didn't really have a choice. Not a violent rape, but not entirely consensual either.

                        http://honorshame.com/did-bathsheba-seduce-david/
                        ...
                        I like a lot of what you quoted here.

                        It doesn't seem likely that Bathsheba was bathing to be seen by David. We don't have clear evidence to suggest that .

                        There are some points that may not be so strong though.

                        First, Uriah shouldn't be in battle if had recently been married (Deu 24:5). They probably had not succeeded in having a child due to other reasons.

                        Another issue relates to the attempt to understand much about Bathsheba from the story of the ewe lamb. This parable wasn't focused on showing the innocence of Bathsheba but rather was about leading David to repentance and restoration. The emphasis overall was David's relationship with God while showing the effects that sin can have, despite such forgiveness.

                        For the reasons found in an earlier post, Bathsheba seemed to be willing to cover up the affair. She too was disciplined in this death of her son.

                        She may have lived decently apart from this affair but she wasn't a passive victim either.

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                        • #13
                          Well, the whole focus is on David. It doesn't say "the thing David and Bathsheba had done displeased the Lord".
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                          • #14
                            I wanted to note that I'm trying to help the conversation with my ideas. The discussion is mostly interesting for the sake of curiosity. I'm not seeking to show Bathsheba in negative light. But, I don't think David was guilty of rape.

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                            • #15
                              Well, he was certainly guilty of at least coercion. No one claims he threatened her with death or something like that. Not as horrible as Ammon treated Tamer. Maybe this is why David never disciplined Ammon for his rape of his half sister?
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