Did David Rape Bathsheba?

“If I were asked this question, and I have been asked this question in the past, I would respond with a very qualified, ‘I’m not sure.’” - John Ellis


[Bert Perry]

Rajesh, the argument that Nathan’s story includes a metaphor for rape does not depend on whether the host actually eats the lamb. It depends on whether the host kills, butchers, and cooks the lamb, which the host certainly did. The brutality of killing and butchering parallels the brutality of rape.

And for the record, I’m pretty sure that the reason the host is not recorded as having eaten is because….it simply didn’t need to be said. Of course you would eat with your guests, and if you didn’t, they might wonder if they were being poisoned. To this day, Middle Eastern hospitality is built around communal dishes from which all are free to partake.

If the manner in which the host treated the lamb matters and is supposed to correspond to the reality of what happened and shows that David raped Bathsheba, who did David share Bathsheba with when he raped her (as you claim he did)? Saying that the one detail corresponds to the reality of what happened but the other does not would be a selective handling of the data.
A consistent handling of the parable must account for what the parable says. Who does the traveler in the parable for whom the rich man prepared the lamb represent in what actually happened with David and Bathsheba?

The various commentaries are all helpful and instructive. None suggests David’s view of Bathsheba was after dark. Apparently the Hebrew does not require that at all. None require that we consider Bathsheba complicit in enticing David, but neither can that be ruled out entirely. We simply don’t know. It’s clear that presuppositions tend to color the way the Biblical evidence is viewed. None require us to construe David’s actions as rape, though presuppositions lead some to read that into the account. Nathan’s parable lends no objective support to the rape allegation. Only strong presumption finds such support in the parable.

In short, much less is said than some believe. The episode is sufficiently sinful without exaggerating the extent of David’s guilt. As Mike Harding helpfully wrote earlier, we are best served when we teach what the Bible clearly states, and leave additional speculations alone.

G. N. Barkman

[G. N. Barkman]

Add one more commentary to the list. Eugene Merrill wrote in Bible Knowledge Commentary: “David arose, went to a rooftop of the palace, and from there happened to observe Bathsheba, wife of his neighbor Uriah. She was bathing out in the open. One may not fault David for perhaps seeking the cooler breezes of the late afternoon, but Bathsheba, knowing the proximity of her courtyard to the palace, probably harbored ulterior designs toward the king. Yet David’s submission to her charms is inexcusable, for the deliberate steps he followed to bring her to the palace required more than enough time for him to resist the initial, impulsive temptation (cf. James 1:14-15).”

“Having discovered her identity, he sent for her at once and and, assured of her ritual purity (cf. Lev. 12:2-5: 15:19-28), had intercourse with her. The bathing itself may have been for the purpose of ritual purification and would therefore not only advertise Bathsheba’s charms but would serve as a notice to the king that she was available to him.” (comments on II Samuel 11:2-5)

What, another Old Testament Hebrew scholar making dumb mistakes! (or not)

“Dumb mistakes” would be a polite way of putting it. He even does your analysis one better (worse) by assuming, per the book of Elmer Gantry, I suppose, that the possibility of a mikveh actually rendered people more susceptible to these sins instead of acting as an indication that they were less likely to commit them. Merrill is apparently of the view that in choosing someone with whom to commit a capital sin, it’s very important to find someone who is ritually clean, even though the very sin committed—and the very act David would have done often in his harem—made a person ceremonially unclean. It’s a very strange bit of analysis, to put it nicely. One would suppose, to draw an analogy, that baptisms are a great place to pick up girls, instead of a place where you will find people trying to commit themselves to Christ.

Otherwise, what he’s doing is the same thing you are; assuming that because David saw her bathing, and that because the word “force” is not used, that she was trying to entice him. He then proceeds to simply ignore the many Biblical hints that, no, Bathsheba was not a willing participant. It is to argue, really, that unless something controversial is stated in as many words—David’s soldiers cast Bathsheba into the chamber and closed the door, upon which David forcibly removed her clothes and threatened to kill her unless she let him have sex with her, or some such thing—we won’t believe that she was actually raped.

And that’s a dangerous position. Fundamentalists don’t shy away, in general, from taking a look at the subtext of a story “when we like the way this is going.” When we do it in this kind of case, we first of all miss what Scripture is telling us, and we second of all train ourselves to miss the cries of the wounded. Like Bathsheba, there are a lot of women out there who have been violated and did not see an acceptable way of proceeding. If we train ourselves to miss the signs that Bathsheba was a victim and not a willing participant, that’s going to leave a mark in our churches.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert, you are an interesting and intelligent man. However, you have a preconceived narrative, and no amount of evidence must be allowed to call your speculations into question. You insist that your understanding of the passage is superior to a host of Biblical scholars who know the Scriptures and the Hebrew language better than yourself. You are caustic and disdainful toward those who question your opinions.

You clearly have gifts which can be used to advance the cause of Christ. I would appeal to you to develope a more becoming humility which will make your efforts more fruitful.

G. N. Barkman

So I wondered what the esteemed Bible teacher and MeToo supporter Beth Moore would say about this. Happened to have a copy of her book, A Heart Like His, on my kindle. Here are the relevant excerpts to help us conclusively resolve this issue:

You probably know the story that follows. One night David couldn’t sleep. He went for a walk on the roof of the palace. From there he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He sent a messenger to find out about her. The messenger told him two facts, either of which should have stopped him cold. He said her name was Bathsheba the wife of Uriah the Hittite, one of David’s soldiers. David disregarded common decency. He sent for her. They committed adultery. She went home. Time passed. She realized that she was pregnant.

Few things frighten me more than this testimony of David’s life. We too could be persons of character and integrity, and, without apparent warning, destroy our ministries and ourselves through the choice to gratify our sudden lusts. Like David, a few short verses could record the story of our downfall.

As you consider this story, don’t be drawn into their sin by romantic—and false—notions. We cannot afford to justify their behavior through sympathy. In our culture we justify immoral behavior with the excuse that two people were “in love.”Even if two people are emotionally entangled, don’t call self-gratification and breaking promises to God and others love. David and Bathsheba didn’t even have that flimsy excuse. They were not in love. They simply chose to act in a dishonorable and destructive way. We could speculate that he was intoxicated by her beauty mixed with an opportunity to display his power. She may have been enamored with his wealth and prestige.

About Nathan’s confrontation she says,

God wanted David to recognize that he deserved to die. Bathsheba also deserved death, according to Hebrew law.

And of the eventual birth of Solomon she writes,

Out of grace God removed the curse on the sinful union of David and Bathsheba. Their union had been wrong. Their motive was wrong.

Come to think of it, I wonder if Beth will offer a correction on this book, too.

[T Howard]
Bert Perry wrote:

Rajesh, the argument that Nathan’s story includes a metaphor for rape does not depend on whether the host actually eats the lamb. It depends on whether the host kills, butchers, and cooks the lamb, which the host certainly did. The brutality of killing and butchering parallels the brutality of rape.

However, the parable doesn’t provide the graphic detail you insist it does. The ESV translates the verse, “but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” The Hebrew word translated “prepare” does not convey “the brutality of killing and butchering.” There is a Hebrew word that could have been used that means “to butcher” or “to slaughter,” but that word isn’t used here.

Tom, it’s a metaphor that Nathan is most likely using because if he addresses David’s sin straight up, he knows David will fight him and ultimately “win” (at least on earth if not before God) because he’s the judge of Israel. You don’t spell everything out in a metaphor any more than you spell everything out in a poem.

Besides, if you “prepare a lamb” for your guest, is there any doubt in your mind that you have had it killed, butchered, and cooked? The brutality there is implicit. Honestly, there are times on this forum when I suspect that if something isn’t SPELLED OUT IN BIG BOLD LETTERS WITH ALL CAPS, that most people are not going to get the point. There is a point where we need to start to learn to read between the lines here and figure out the subtext. It’s a valid literary technique that any serious critic of any text uses.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

[Bert Perry] Tom, it’s a metaphor that Nathan is most likely using because if he addresses David’s sin straight up, he knows David will fight him and ultimately “win” (at least on earth if not before God) because he’s the judge of Israel. You don’t spell everything out in a metaphor any more than you spell everything out in a poem.

Bert, I’ve read this thread with some fascination. You’ve been trying to argue that the Bible portrays David’s rape of Bathsheba with great certainty. However, the passage never describes this encounter as rape (even though the very next chapter, Scripture does describe Amnon raping Tamar). You’ve insisted that Nathan’s parable has a 1:1 correspondence to the actual events that took place, including the brutality and violence suffered by Bathsheba. Yet, the parable is significantly different than reality, and the vocabulary used in the parable doesn’t communicate brutality and violence at all. Now, you insist that we must read between the lines to really understand what God is trying to communicate to us about David and Bathsheba.

Bert, please stop. Even Beth Moore disagrees with you. :)

Guys, please stop just citing commentaries and start addressing the evidence for yourself. Does the Scripture say it was evening, or does it not? Does this word have a consistent usage meaning “after sundown”, or does it not? Was David rising from his bed (waking from sleep or a nap at an unpredictable time), or was he not? Does it tell us that David sent multiple men to fetch Bathsheba, or does it not? Does it tell us she was “cleansed of her impurity” (and thus performing a religious obligation), or does it not? Does it tell us that Ahitophel tried to get David killed, or does it not? Does the Scripture say Bathsheba mourned Uriah, or does it not?

If those commentaries don’t address these questions, guess what? It means that the editors allowed 2-3 paragraphs per passage, and the writer couldn’t dig in that deeply, whether he would get it right or wrong. Commentaries also tend to preserve the “standard corporate line”. So what you’ve noted is precisely zero surprise to anyone who understands the genre.

What you want is something more like this; a scholarly length appraisal. Notice his techniques if making inferences from the text.

Regarding “oh you need to give it up because the commentaries disagree”; that’s precisely what they told Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and others whose work has benefited us all. Learn to think these things through for yourself. Really, if your criterion for decision making is (a) is it completely obvious from a skimming of the text or (b) is it stated in my favorite commentaries, you’ve got to question your commitment to the First Fundamental and Sola Scriptura. In practice, you’ve got Sola Commentaria, really, just like the old Magisterium. Say hi to Tetzel for me!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

So now you believe you are the only one who studies Scripture and thinks for himself. But, those who did exactly that, and arrived at a different understanding were derided in various ways. So, some started consulting commentaries to see if our independent study was off base. And guess what? We found nearly all the commentaries agreed with us. So now, not only are SI commentators wrong if they disagrees with you, but a plethora of Hebrew scholars as well. You continue to insist that you alone have the proper understanding. You are convinced of this, but apparently not so many others. Your efforts would be more useful if mixed with a modicum of humility. (Hint: Strong’s Concordance definitions are hardly the full and final authority for the range of meanings of a Hebrew word.)

G. N. Barkman

[Bert Perry]

Guys, please stop just citing commentaries and start addressing the evidence for yourself.

I did. Your arguments have no merit. Good night.

What I’m saying, GN, is that when you discard Biblical arguments on the basis of commentaries, as you did, that you are in effect taking an appeal to authority/appeal to popularity argument in lieu of looking at the direct textual evidence for yourself.

Now, one more invitation, with links, to look at how the words “evening” and “uncleanness” are used in their original contexts, courtesy of Biblehub. It does Strong’s one better by linking directly to the Hebrew words. Feel free to look them up in Brown-Driver-Briggs, Moody, or whatever Hebrew lexicon you like, and you will see the same thing. I have.

First, let’s see how 6153 is used. Every last use is “evening”, “twilight”, or “night”. Now do the same with the word for “uncleanness”, Strong’s 2932. Notice that the usage of the word is always for ceremonial uncleanness or sin, not the filth of the body. There is, moreover, no room for metaphorical or poetic language here; it is straight narrative in this text. In other words, textually speaking, there is absolutely no doubt that Bathsheba was in the mikveh when it was getting dark.

Why do the commentaries miss this? The nice way of saying it is that they have a blind spot and only 3 paragraphs. They don’t have the initiative or column-inches to dig deeper. The more cynical way of saying it is that they are well aware of these realities, but decide to downplay that because you cannot sustain the standard explanation if you admit it was dark and she was performing a religious rite.

I started this discussion with the nicer explanation. I’m not so sure anymore.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Keil and Delitzsch:

The information brought to him, that the beautiful woman was married, was not enough to stifle the sensual desires which arose in David’s soul. “When lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin” (Jas. 1:15). David sent for the woman, and lay with her. In the expression “he took her, and she came to him,” there is no intimation whatever that David brought Bathsheba into his palace through craft or violence, but rather that she came at his request without any hesitation, and offered no resistance to his desires. Consequently Bathsheba is not to be regarded as free from blame. The very act of bathing in the uncovered court of a house in the heart of the city, into which it was possible for any one to look down from the roofs of the houses on higher ground, does not say much for her feminine modesty, even if it was not done with an ulterior purpose, as some commentators suppose.

Nevertheless in any case the greatest guilt rests upon David, that he, a man upon whom the Lord had bestowed such grace, did not resist the temptation to the lust of the flesh, but sent to fetch the woman. “When she had sanctified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.” Defilement from sexual intercourse rendered unclean till the evening (Lev. 15:18). Bathsheba thought it her duty to observe this statute most scrupulously, though she did not shrink from committing the sin of adultery.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

Henry, that randy old Puritan non-conformist, no doubt wrote with an aim to preserve the patriarchy:

He saw a woman washing herself, probably from some ceremonial pollution, according to the law. The sin came in at the eye, as Eve’s did. Perhaps he sought to see her, at least he did not practise according to his own prayer, Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity, and his son’s caution in a like case, Look not thou on the wine When it is red. Either he had not, like Job, made a covenant with his eyes, or, at this time, he had forgotten it.

2. The steps of the sin. When he saw her, lust immediately conceived, and, (1.) He enquired who she was (v. 3), perhaps intending only, if she were unmarried, to take her to wife, as he had taken several; but, if she were a wife, having no design upon her. (2.) The corrupt desire growing more violent, though he was told she was a wife, and whose wife she was, yet he sent messengers for her, and then, it may be, intended only to please himself with her company and conversation. But, (3.) When she came he lay with her, she too easily consenting, because he was a great man, and famed for his goodness, too.

Surely (thinks she) that can be no sin which such a man as David is the mover of. See how the way of sin is down-hill; when men begin to do evil they cannot soon stop themselves. The beginning of lust, as of strife, is like the letting forth of water; it is therefore wisdom to leave it off before it be meddled with. The foolish fly fires her wings, and fools away her life at last, by playing about the candle.

3. The aggravations of the sin. (1.) He was now in years, fifty at least, some think more, when those lusts which are more properly youthful, one would think, should not have been violent in him, (2.) He had many wives and concubines of his own; this is insisted on, ch. 12:8. (3.) Uriah, whom he wronged, was one of his own worthies, a person of honour and virtue, one that was now abroad in his service, hazarding his life in the high places of the field for the honour and safety of him and his kingdom, where he himself should have been. (4.) Bath-sheba, whom he debauched, was a lady of good reputation, and, till she was drawn by him and his influence into this wickedness, had no doubt preserved her purity. Little did she think that ever she could have done so bad a thing as to forsake the guide of her youth, and forget the covenant of her God; nor perhaps could any one in the world but David have prevailed against her. The adulterer not only wrongs and ruins his own soul, but, as much as he can, another’s soul too.

(5.) David was a king, whom God had entrusted with the sword of justice and the execution of the law upon other criminals, particularly upon adulterers, who were, by the law, to be put to death; for him therefore to be guilty of those crimes himself was to make himself a pattern, when he should have been a terror, to evil doers. With what face could he rebuke or punish that in others which he was conscious to himself of being guilty of? See Rom. 2:22. Much more might be said to aggravate the sin; and I can think but of one excuse for it, which is that it was done but once; it was far from being his practice; it was by the surprise of a temptation that he was drawn into it. He was not one of those of whom the prophet complains that they were as fed horses, neighing every one after his neighbour’s wife (Jer. 5:8); but this once God left him to himself, as he did Hezekiah, that he might know what was in his heart, 2 Chr. 32:31. Had he been told of it before, he would have said, as Hazael, What! is thy servant a dog? But by this instance we are taught what need we have to pray every day, Father, in heaven, lead us not into temptation, and to watch, that we enter not into it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

John Gill, that Calvinist hater of the #metoo movement, explained that David saw the woman, “Some time in the afternoon, when the sun began to decline; not in the dusk of the evening, for then the object he saw could not have been seen so distinctly by him:”

Gill continued:

Verse 4

And David sent messengers,…. To invite her to his palace:

and took her; not by force, but through persuasion:

and she came in unto him; into the apartment where he was:

and he lay with her; she consenting to it, being prevailed upon, and drawn into it through the greatness and goodness of the man, which might make the sin appear the lesser to her. This is recorded to show what the best of men are, when left to themselves; how strong and prevalent corrupt nature is in regenerate persons, when grace is not in exercise; what need the saints stand in of fresh supplies of grace, to keep them from falling; what caution is necessary to everyone that stands, lest he fall; and that it becomes us to abstain from all appearance of sin, and whatever leads unto it, and to watch and pray that we enter not into temptation; and such a record as this is an argument for the integrity of the Scriptures, that they conceal not the faults of the greatest favourites mentioned in them, as well as it serves to prevent despair in truly penitent backsliders:

for she was purified from her uncleanness; this clause is added in a parenthesis, partly to show the reason of her washing herself, which was not for health and pleasure, and to cool herself in a hot day, but to purify herself from her menstruous pollution, according to the law in Leviticus 15:19; the term of her separation being expired; and partly to give a reason why she the more easily consented, and he was the more eager to enjoy her; and in this he sinned, not that he did not lie with an unclean person; but, then, as some observe, he did that which was much worse, he committed adultery; also this may be added to observe, that she was the more apt for conception, as Ben Gersom notes, and to account for the quickness of it, with which the philosopher agrees:

and she returned unto her house; whether that evening, or next morning, or how long she stayed, is not said.

Verse 5

And the woman conceived,.… Whereby the sin would be discovered, and shame, and disgrace, or worse,would follow upon it:

and sent and told David, and said, I am with child; this message she sent to David, that he might think of some ways and means to prevent the scandal that would fall both upon him and her, and the danger she was exposed unto; fearing the outcries of the people against her, in acting so unfaithful a part to her husband, so brave a man, who was now fighting for his king and country; and the rage and jealousy of her husband when he should come to the knowledge of it, and the death which by the law she was guilty of, even to be stoned with stones, see John 8:5.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.

John, that arch cad, wrote:

Verse 2

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.

Arose from off his bed — Where he had lain, and slept for some time. And the bed of sloth often proves the bed of lust.

Washing herself — In a bath, which was in her garden. Probably from some ceremonial pollution.

Verse 3

And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

He inquired — Instead of suppressing that desire which the sight of his eyes had kindled, he seeks rather to feed it; and first enquires who she was; that if she were unmarried, he might make her either his wife or his concubine.

Verse 4

And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.

Took her — From her own house into his palace, not by force, but by persuasion.

Lay with her — See how all the way to sin is down hill! When men begin, they cannot soon stop themselves.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and works in State government.