Did King David Rape Bathsheba?
Much has been said about this historical biblical event over the years. David’s adultery involving Bathsheba (2 Sam 11-12) has often been interpreted as implicating Bathsheba as a co-conspirator or at least as partly to blame. Scholars of various stripes lean toward acquitting David of any charges. For example:
- Randall Bailey suggested that Bathsheba is “a willing and equal partner to the events that transpire”.
- H. W. Hertzberg suggested “feminine flirtation”.
- Lillian Klein said “Bathsheba’s complicity in the sexual adventure.”
- Cheryl A. Kirk- Duggan, “the text seems to imply that Bathsheba asked to be ‘sent for’ and ‘taken.’”
- The commentary of Keil and Delitzsch:
“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 and 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 anyone 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”.
What do you think? Do you find the samples above as an accurate portrayal, as it happened, or a creative way of reading into the text for some type of social justification of David's behavior? Do these interpretations represent the intent of the narrator? How can one decide?
In short, was there a crime, by today's standard, or sexual activity between two consenting adults in ancient times? What says ye? CM
- Randall C. Bailey, David in Love and War: The Pursuit of Power in 2 Samuel 10– 12 (Sheffield: JSOT, 1990), 86.
- H. W. Hertzberg, I and II Samuel: A Commentary, OTL (London: SCM, 1964), 309.
- Lillian R. Klein, From Deborah to Esther: Sexual Politics in the Hebrew Bible (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 56.
- “Bathsheba Revealed,” in Samuel and Kings: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, ed. Athalya Brenner, Feminist Companion to the Bible 2/7 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic P, 2000), 47–64.
- Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, “Slingshots, Ships, and Personal Psychosis: Murder, Sexual Intrigue, and Power in the Lives of David and Othello,” in Pregnant Passion: Gender, Sex, and Violence in the Bible, Semeia Studies 44 (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 59.
- C. F. Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Biblical Commentary on the Books of Samuel, trans. James Martin, 1872 [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950], 383).