This story is not uplifting. David, King David, an ancestor of Jesus, has sexual intercourse with a woman against her will. He sees her, he takes her, and he sends her away. Although sometimes told as a story of adultery, it is more likely rape. Bathsheba has no right and no ability to say no to David’s advances. He is her husband’s boss and her king. What are modern Christians to do with this?
First, believe Bathsheba. Don’t downplay David’s actions, don’t excuse him, don’t make arguments about the time period, and don’t suggest it’s a lesson for her to learn.
Second, accept that this is horrible. Don’t jump to the end and try to find hope that Bathsheba later becomes the mother of a king. Sit with the discomfort that rape and other forms of violence do to an individual. Love survivors of violence by spending time sitting in the atrocity of it.
Third, keep the focus on Bathsheba. Pay attention to the feelings she must have had. Honor her by respecting the ways she responds to these tragedies. This account has nothing of her feelings, her frustrations, her despair, her resistance, her self-care. Yet we as readers can put them into the story. Understand Bathsheba as a real person.
This story fits in the world that we know today. Spend some time praying for yourself and for others. Pray for survivors of rape and other traumas. Believe them (believe yourself). Accept it as tragedy, and listen for the reality.
Trust that God knows all of Bathsheba’s story, and ours. God was with her when the violence happened. God is angry, and God sits with her in mourning. God cares for Bathsheba, and for all of us, when humans cannot do the right thing. When hard things happen, God is there.
Holy Spirit, we need you here with us as we contemplate the violence humans create in this world. Hold us; heal us; help us. Amen.
The Bible is filled with the stories of imperfect people. David is a classic case. In Second Samuel he uses his power to have sex with another man's wife, tries to cover it up, and then plots the murder of her husband. How can this be the same man who penned this week’s psalm, which decries the foolishness of people who act in a godless way? Like us, David was a fallen person who needed God’s extravagant mercy. In Ephesians we read of this same extravagance given through Christ, whose power can do what we cannot—namely redeem all of us who are also foolish and fallen. The Gospel author demonstrates the power of Jesus through what he describes as “signs,” which Jesus performed not primarily to amaze the onlookers but rather to point them to his identity as the Son of God.
Read 2 Samuel 11:1-15. Where in today’s world do you see the selfishness of powerful people bringing tragedy for people with less power?
Read Psalm 14. Do you number yourself among the wise who “seek after God”? Why or why not?
Read Ephesians 3:14-21. How does “being rooted and grounded in love” manifest itself in your life?
Read John 6:1-21. Where do you see yourself in this story?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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