Bathsheba: Adulteress or Rape Victim?

The best that Israel had to offer failed in a huge way, with effects rippling throughout generations. Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. But Jesus.

Taylor N. B. Walding

With the recent #metoo movement in mind, I thought now would be a good time to address sexual assault from a biblical perspective.

2 Samuel 11:1-12:23 describes the series of events that lead to King David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

Most people don’t think of Bathsheba when they think of sexual assault in the Bible, and that is likely because she is often painted in a negative light as some kind of temptress. There is nothing in Scripture to support that view, but somehow it’s been adapted over time.

The topic came up one summer* in our adult Sunday School class. While the majority of the people in the room were speaking solely of David’s responsibility before God in the matter and the consequences he faced, one man addressed Bathsheba’s role, citing the age-old phrase, “It takes two to tango.”

I cringed. Thankfully my father passionately interjected and explained the problem with that statement.

Bathsheba was not an adulteress. That assertion might surprise you, but consider the following:

We don’t understand the gravity of a king as a ruler.

The fundamental flaw in our inability to understand this concept begins with the reality that we don’t have this kind of ruler in the Western world today. 

During this time in history, kings had absolute, supreme rule. If they ordered something, it was to be done. No questions asked.

The closest thing we have to a king is a dictator. The problem is dictators always carry a negative connotation, whereas kings did not. 

Biblical kings under God had immense potential to be good… but they also had an immense capacity for evil, as we see here in David’s sin with Bathsheba.

In 2 Samuel 11:4a where it says, “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her,” the phrase “and took her” can be translated several ways, including “to take, get, fetch, lay hold of, seize, acquire, marry, take a wife, snatch, or take away.”

So when David sent messengers to take Bathsheba, saying no wasn’t an option for her. There was no consent, only obedience. 

The Bible doesn’t explicitly say whether Bathsheba wanted to be in this situation or not, but I don’t think it matters. What does matter is that when God addresses the situation through the prophet Nathan, it is David who is responsible. On top of that, nowhere in the biblical text does it call her an adulteress, temptress, immoral woman, or anything of the sort. There is absolutely nothing in the biblical text to suggest she lured him into the situation, even though that insinuation has often been made.

The Bible is very clear that David is the one at fault in 2 Samuel 12. He is the one to blame, and he is the one called to repent.

Bathsheba, after the suffering she endured at the hands of David, then mourned the death of her husband Uriah and her child that died as a result of this tragic situation.

However, this story gives hope for victims of sexual assault.

Bathsheba doesn’t go down in history as a helpless woman who lived a life of sorrow and shame. 

She gave birth to Solomon, who grew up and became the wisest man in all of human history, penning much of Proverbs.

At the start of the book of Matthew, Bathsheba is listed as Uriah’s wife in the lineage of Jesus Christ, an honor given to a handful of notoriously broken women in the Bible. Note that she is listed as Uriah’s wife, not David’s.

The article linked above states the reality that Bathsheba suffered sexual abuse and the murder of her husband at the hands of Israel’s greatest king.

The best that Israel had to offer failed hugely, with effects rippling throughout generations. 

Men will always fail. Even the best, most godly men, with the best reputation. 

But Jesus.

David faced real, tangible consequences for his sin. But by the grace of God, he was forgiven, and in his repentance wrote one of the most moving, heart-wrenching Psalms

Bathsheba faced real, tangible sorrow. She was sinned against greatly. But by the grace of God, she was not forgotten. God remembered her.

Christ is our ultimate Redeemer. He redeems even the most broken people, with the worst pasts, and the most pain. 

Glory be to God for his infinite grace and mercy, his nearness to the brokenhearted, and his willingness to redeem ashes to beauty.

*This article was originally published on November 12, 2017, on my former blog. A few changes were made.

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