Did David Rape Bathsheba? And Why it Matters

Did David Rape Bathsheba? And Why it Matters By LARRY TAUNTON for The Stream

The progressive reinterpretation of one the Bible’s most infamous and powerful stories and how it is being leveraged for a godless end.

At least twice in recent days, “Bathsheba” has trended on Twitter.

Perhaps you’re thinking this is about a remake of the 1951 Hollywood blockbuster starring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward. Or maybe you’re thinking it’s the name of a new Nicki Minaj-like hip-hop artist.

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But it is, in fact, an on-again, off-again theological debate about the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba. Typically, debates of this type occur in seminaries while Twitter is a place for social media political blood sport. So, why then, has this ancient story of passion, failure, and restoration taken Twitter by storm?

The story about the story of David and Bathsheba is a very modern one of Me Too, so-called social justice, sexual politics and national politics, and power. And as those seeking earthly power within the church have always known, be it the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or the Spanish inquisitors of the Late Middle Ages, the key to obtaining it is bending the scriptural narrative to meet the political needs of the moment.

King David as Political Weapon

A straightforward reading of the story of David and Bathsheba will not lead you to the conclusion that this is an instance of rape. At least it hasn’t led two millennia of theologians there. Indeed, I spent a morning poring over no less than twenty pre-2000 Old Testament commentaries, many of them revered classics, and not one of themleveled the rape charge. (1) Among these there was some difference of opinion as to the degree of Bathsheba’s guilt — did she, for instance, bathe on the rooftop knowing the king could see her? — and there was much speculation as to her motives. But that she, along with David, was guilty of the sin of adultery, there was universal agreement. (2)

So, why the sudden reinterpretation of this well-known story? Have archaeologists uncovered a trove of Dead Sea Scrolls that overturn the historic reading of this passage?

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