Most Christians are familiar with the Old Testament story about David, King of Israel, and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. 2 Samuel 11:1-5 says:
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. 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. 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? 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. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
David decided one evening to take a rooftop stroll. As he surveyed the city of Jerusalem, he noticed a beautiful woman taking a bath. Horniness aroused, David sent messengers to Bathsheba’s home, and had her brought to him so he could have sex with her.
David’s dalliance with Bathsheba was not a one-time thing. David’s lust for Bethsheba was such that he was willing to do anything — including murder — to “have” her. David knew Bathsheba was married, and that the punishment for adultery was death, so he cooked up a plan to kill her husband, and thereby hide his crime.
David tried several times to get Uriah to go into Bathsheba and have sex with her, hoping to cover up the fact that she was pregnant with his child. Uriah, a dutiful soldier, twice refused offers to go home. David, now worried that his adulterous act with Bathsheba would become known, treacherously decided to have Uriah murdered.
And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
With Uriah out of the way, David — a man the Bible calls, “a man after God’s own heart” — was free to “take” Bathsheba for his own. 2 Samuel 11:26,27 says:
And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
Either David planned to concoct a story, saying that Uriah had sex with Bathsheba before he left for the battlefield, and she became pregnant, or the time frame is short enough that David could marry Bathsheba and claim that she got pregnant soon after their marriage. Either way, David’s subterfuge was such that he faced no consequences for his adulterous behavior.
Over the past several weeks, the Evangelical world has been afire over the claim that what David did was rape, not adultery. Some Evangelicals trotted out the tired argument that I heard countless times as a youth: that Bathsheba was to blame; that she was bathing in a place where she could be seen by David; and that David can’t be blamed for sexually desiring a beautiful naked woman. I can imagine Lori Alexander saying these very words. Regardless, wasn’t David’s behavior with Bathsheba adultery? Didn’t David arrange things in such a way that Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, would be killed (murdered), and then didn’t he take Bathsheba to be his wife? How is it that David is exonerated of all these things? Does David’s stiff prick wipe out his culpability? Is the woman always to blame?
Other Evangelicals have argued that the law of God makes clear that David having sex with Bathsheba was NOT rape.
If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel. If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’s wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.
The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God is clear:
- If David and Bathsheba committed adultery, then both of them should have been stoned to death.
- If David raped Bathsheba and she cried out, then only David should be executed.
- If David raped Bathsheba and she didn’t cry out, both of them should have been stoned to death
Wanting to protect King David’s name, some Evangelicals argue that his sex with Bathsheba couldn’t be rape because the Bible doesn’t say she cried out. No crying out, no rape. And what about the adultery, then? Doesn’t the Law of God demand David be executed, along with Bathsheba? *Crickets*
Evangelicals are fond of demanding everyone follow the Law of God; yet when it comes to one of their idols, David, obeying the Law is optional. I have no doubt that it was widely known what David had done with Bathsheba and to Uriah, yet it was an innocent baby that was punished for his “sin.” More on this later.
In 2 Samuel 12, the Lord sent the prophet Nathan to David to tell him a story:
And the Lord sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die. And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
This story should settle for Evangelicals the rape or adultery question. The rich man in the story took the poor man’s ewe lamb by force. The poor man would never have willingly given the ewe to the rich man. The poor man treated the ewe as if it was one of his children. Is this not exactly what David did with Bathsheba? Bathsheba would never have willingly had sex with David. Uriah would never say to the King, “sure, take my wife, and fuck her.” It is clear, at least to me, that David raped Bathsheba, and in an attempt to cover up his crime, had her husband murdered. The fact the Bathsheba became David’s wife changes nothing. Bathsheba knew that if it became publicly known that she was pregnant with the child of a man not her husband, she would be executed. Both David and Bathsheba knew that by getting married they were burying David’s criminal behavior.
Evangelicals love to paint their God as just, holy, and righteous. Many of them, at least privately, believe LGBTQ people should be arrested and executed. The same goes for abortion doctors who perform abortions. Some Evangelicals go so far as to say that women who “murder their babies” should be executed too. While these positions seem extreme to rational, thoughtful people, when one’s brain is chained to the Bible, reason goes out the window. Yet, when asked why David and Bathsheba were not stoned to death for their crimes, Evangelicals suddenly start stammering and come up with all sorts of patently unbiblical justifications (i.e. Jesus’ lineage is through David: He [Jesus] shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David. Luke 1:32 No David, No Jesus).
Some Evangelicals argue that God “did” punish David and Bathsheba. After Nathan told David the ewe story, he said:
Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. (2 Samuel 12:7-12)
I find it interesting that Nathan doesn’t mention David’s rape of Bathsheba. Instead, he focused on David’s murder of her husband. I thought sin was sin in the eyes of God. Regardless, David confessed his sin, and the Lord forgave him. Nathan said, “The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” The law of God demanded David’s death, but God gave him a pass. Is it any wonder, then, that predatory Evangelical preachers, when caught with their flies open, think they can escape punishment for their crimes by saying, “my bad, Jesus.”
The summer before I left for college, a local preacher stopped by to talk to the father of a friend of mine. I was in the driveway working on a car. I knew that the preacher had left his wife and was carrying on with someone from his church. I point-blank asked him to explain his adulterous behavior. With nary a thought, he replied, “David had his Bathsheba, and I’m going to have mine!” I have never forgotten what this preacher said. His words perfectly explain how many Evangelicals view personal “sin.” Hey, no one is perfect. Look at what David did, yet he was still called a “man after God’s own heart.” Look at all the Psalms David wrote. Yes, he raped a woman and killed her husband, but look at all the good things he did for God.
David did suffer a bit for his crimes. Nathan told David that when Bathsheba gave birth to her baby, God planned to kill the child.
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick. David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth. And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died.
Think about this story for a moment. David deserved to be executed for his crimes, and perhaps Bathsheba did too. But God, in his infinite wisdom, decided to kill an innocent baby instead. What an awesome God, right? I suspect some Evangelicals will try to put a gospel spin on this story. I know I did back in my preaching days. The innocent baby paid the ultimate price for the sins of David and Bathsheba. What a beautiful picture of what Jesus, the perfect lamb of God, did for us by dying on the cross for our sins. Woo Hoo! Ain’t God wonderful? No, he’s not.
The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.
The Good Book is clear; God will not punish children for the sins of their fathers. Each of us bears personal accountability for our actions. (I am aware that Exodus 20:5 contradicts Ezekiel 18:20. Dammit, I have a point to make! I’ll deal with Exodus 20 some other day.) Why did God give David a pass on his crimes?
From start to finish, the Biblical account of David and Bathsheba is one fucked up story. That many Evangelicals refuse to see David as a predator and rapist is troubling; especially those who argue that it wasn’t rape because Bathsheba didn’t scream or that she was a temptation that David couldn’t pass on. In times such as this, we are reminded that Evangelicals are a long way away from coming to terms with their warped, perverse views on women and human sexuality. As long as David is viewed as a hero, there’s no hope of progress; no hope of Evangelicals developing a sexual ethic that reflects twenty-first century thinking.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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