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Naming Rape Rightly

This week on the LectioCast I get on a hobby-horse or two.

Let’s start with one of the most important: If you are preaching on David and Bathsheba this week or ever, David did not commit adultery with Bathsheba.

David raped Bathsheba.

In a world in which we continue to struggle, for some reason, with the realities of men, especially, abusing their power for sexual ends, we have to start naming such abuses for what they are. This is critical for the church growing up into greater sexual responsibility.

David raped Bathsheba.

Ok. That’s intense.

There’s more going on this week too: Tripp and I suggest that the feeding of the 5,000 is actually about Jesus (shock!) and we get the lowdown on Anselm’s musings about the fool who says there is no God.

Check it out at LectioCast.com.


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13 thoughts on “Naming Rape Rightly

  1. Hey Daniel,
    It’s conceivable that I’m doing something wrong, but this week’s lectiocast does not seem to be uploaded and available. Perhaps, being at cluckicon, there is nothing you can do. Maybe I’ll go tweet at Tripp.

  2. I’ve seen it said that Bathsheba was trying to seduce David to become the king’s wife, that she had located herself in a place where she’d be seen by him. (And the application being “women dress modestly” or “don’t tempt men.”)
    Can you speak to that interpretation?

    1. I’d say that there are no indications in the text that Bathsheba was an active agent: David sends men to take her, David sends her away. Her first active role is in sending him the note about being pregnant.

      Generally, I would say that the seductress interpretation is part of the history of interpretation that tends to paint women in a worse light, especially when it comes to sex(uality). David is the hero, here he falls, clearly it must be… “The woman made me do it!” I think that patriarchy creates assumptions and biases in our reading that we are not aware of until pointed out, and that the seductress interpretation falls along that line.

      1. But if the seductress trope is in the text … a type … is it reasonable to whitewash it away? (Queen of Sheba, Jezebel, Salome … Ruth)

        Also, anyone who thinks David is a clean-cut square shooter hasn’t been reading. Why would he be that embarased by a pregnancy on the side? And if he were, why not be rid of Bathsheba, easily done, rather than go to all that trouble with Uriah, who was a valuable mighty man?

    2. If you go back to the text, you will see that Bathsheba was seen by David while doing her ritual post-menstruation cleansing, which typically took place in a roofless building used by all the women in the area. If David was watching Bathsheba as she ritually cleansed herself in a public women’s facility, it was no accident on David’s part, and no fault of Bathsheba’s, who had every expectation of privacy. David was standing on a balcony which had a view of the women’s cleansing bath! The king was a peeping Tom.

      1. Sexual misconduct, sure it is. Do you really want to call peeking into the women’s bath an act of rape? I think that trivializes the real violence that men wreak on women. Words should mean something.

  3. Nice ‘cast & thx … even those of us who aren’t preaching in church can appreciate a tour through this devotional calendar.

    … On the testimony, David’s conduct towards Uriah was a despicable abuse of authority, but I don’t know about Bathsheba’s rape, which would require a lack of consent. For one thing, it isn’t impossible but it isn’t usual for a woman to conceive immediately after menses, and evidently she had access for private conversation with David a couple of months later, which suggests an ongoing involvement. From which she profited enormously. I imagine generals’ wives as a class don’t lack offensive and defensive social skills.

    1. Hi Marshall…I know it’s been a week since your last comment (a lifetime on the internet) but I saw no one replied to you, and I wanted to address your points. I apologize that this is kind of long…
      First, consent. When 1 party is in a position of authority, consent is considered coerced (at best), especially when choices are bounded. David (commander of the army and a king with all power) had absolute authority over Bathsheba. It’s conceivable that she could have trusted him, but he did end up *killing* her husband and I’m sure she was aware of his power from the beginning . Ultimately, as his subject she had *no choice* to NOT obey him; she couldn’t say “no”, therefore, she could not *give* consent. On that basis alone, this encounter would be rape.
      Looking at the language used gives the same picture. It says David “took” her. Look up that word in Strong’s…it’s pretty aggressive.
      Conception – Seven days *after* menses ends (the time for the cleansing) is perk fertility time. If it was an ongoing affair the expectation is that the text would say so (especially considering all the other detail it covers), but in actuality it implies that pregnancy immediately followed that specific encounter.
      The “private conversation” you mention: the text says she “sent word” – that’s not an in-person conversation. (Notable, this is also the only time in which she has any agency.)
      You imply that Bathsheba either saw opportunity in, or even orchestrated, this whole event. However, she mourns the loss of her husband, after which she goes from being the apparently treasured only wife of an honorable and famous man to essentially entering a harem. Perhaps there were women who’d want that…but then that would make her either mostly or partially at fault for Uriah’s death, in addition to seduction and adultery. So why does God not address her supposed wrong-doing while he’s also taking David to task?
      The language of the whole text is pointing at David’s responsibility: “at the time when Kings go to war” is a dig at David; Bathsheba being referred to as “the wife of Uriah” and also a little ewe is calling out David’s “theft” of her; “David sent”, “David summoned”, etc., all these things show HIM as the actor and her as the acted-upon, as the victim. God’s word’s and punishment address David’s own actions as sin, and not just the killing of Uriah but the “taking of the poor man’s lamb” is his wrong. If God calls out his “theft” of her as sinful and greatly displeasing but doesn’t even address her in his rebuke…then who are we to lay blame at her feet? And if she is blameless, that means she did not commit adultery…which mean this was rape.
      If you view rape as a kicking, screaming, physically violent confrontation, then yes, it doesn’t fit this story. But in reality, this is a sexual encounter involving the coercion of a younger, weaker person (who has much to lose in resisting) by a very powerful person who is older than her and who orchestrates a cover up. This IS rape, even if the violence towards her is only implied or delayed. The text itself, Nathan in his story, and God himself all lay blame on David for taking Bathsheba as his own. In there society it was basically considered theft, but in our society- where women are not property- it meets the criteria for rape

      1. Hi and thanks for your reply. You may be right; I wasn’t there. Bathsheba’s team has laid out a theory, but I would like to hear more about why David felt obliged to conspire in the murder of Uriah: this is not how Bill Cosby (et recent all) dealt with victims. Subsequent events show that B. was potent in the maneuvering for succession. So on the specific charge of rape, as a juror I would have to say “not proved”. Sexual immorality boy howdy, but not every bad encounter is rape.

        David behaved as horribly as you like. God warned what the rights of kings are, including “they will take your daughters to be perfumers”, so it could be argued that David had the God-anointed right. David was originally a clean-cut kid, a young Abraham after God’s own heart, and the kingship ruined him. Melek was a disaster to Israel from the beginning, just as God said it would be. Which is why “Christ the King” doesn’t sound right to me, although I know what they mean.

        Thank you for correction about bathing, I need to fact-check myself. It’s a minor point anyway, “sent for” could mean a number of things, not necessarily “get me that one” as people seem to want to assume. But I do get ahead of myself sometimes. If you would rather continue offline (at whatever length), it’s mpzrd at the yahoo.

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