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Q: #599. Did Bathsheba commit adultery, or was she raped by David?

     A: Recently, as part of a post on social media, I mentioned that “Bathsheba was an adulteress.” I received pushback from a lady who said, “I beg to differ… Bathsheba was not an adulteress. There is not one scripture condemning her for laying with King David.” I had my reply to her all ready to go, but suddenly I felt conviction that I should study this more before replying.

     Let me begin by saying that this subject, found in (2 Sam Ch. 11 & 12), is “sensitive.” As you notice from the title for this study, I really only see two sides here: either David raped Bathsheba, and therefore she did not commit adultery, OR, Bathsheba was a willing participant in having sex with David, and therefore she did commit adultery. She was either “forced” to have sex, or she was not.

     I have rarely been one to take “neutral” ground regarding any topic in the Bible. One way, or the other, I ALWAYS want to know what the answer is. At the very least, I will take one side or the other, based upon the best evidence available. However, after about a week of studying this, and going back and forth between each view 4 (or more) times (and driving my wife crazy while explaining why I changed my mind), I can honestly say, “I cannot pick a side!” SO, I am going to present the evidence for each viewpoint, and let YOU decide.

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     I want to begin by stating that “historically,” it has been said by nearly every Bible scholar that Bathsheba “was” an adulteress. The pushback to this view has been fairly recent, and that is pretty much “always” a “red flag” for me. (Much of this pushback has been by women, and tied to the “#MeToo” movement going on today.) However, just because something has “historically” been said to be true doesn’t always mean it is right! And, by now, if you know me, you know that I have no problems bucking the “historic” view of something. So, let’s look at what the Bible says!

     The lady on social media was correct in that there is not one Scripture that condemns Bathsheba for her part in having sex with David. God “clearly” holds David responsible for what happened with Bathsheba. “However,” does that mean that Bathsheba was “not guilty” of committing adultery? At the very least, there is “evidence” that she did commit adultery. This “evidence,” based upon Scripture, will be addressed in the form of questions regarding her behavior. We will begin with this.

***Note: From my studying, the “evidence” against Bathsheba is all in 2 Samuel Ch. 11, and the “evidence” against David is in 2 Sam Ch. 12 (and beyond).

     Let’s begin with (2 Sam 11:2-5).

(2 Sam 11:2-5)(NKJV) “Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king’s house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. (3) So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (4) Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. (5) And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, “I am with child.””

(#1.) – The first Scripture in (2 Sam 11:2) is basically viewed 2 ways, depending on one’s viewpoint: (A): Bathsheba “knew” she was (or could be) seen by the king, and was enticing him. (B): Bathsheba had no idea the king was watching her, and would have thought he was asleep, seeing that she was “bathing in the evening.” (***Note: Most scholars believe this was “late afternoon” [see: ESV], rather than “evening” as we think of it. This was a time when many would take a nap “in the heat of afternoon” [see: 2 Sam 4:5], similar to what we might call a “siesta” today. [How could David have seen her if it was totally dark?] )

     Whether Bathsheba knew David was watching or not, she did know she “could” be seen from above, and it was unwise that she did not take precautions to prevent this. (Moral: Don’t sunbathe, or swim naked in a fenced in backyard if you have a neighbor with a 2 story house. [I would urge you not to do this at all!] ) Taking the point of view here that Bathsheba committed adultery, we are taking viewpoint (A) here.

***Note: Some believe that Bathsheba didn’t literally “bathe” (as in “immersing” herself in water) here. However, the Hebrew word used for “bathing” here (“rachats“) is generally associated with “immersing,” i.e.: “immersing” ones feet in water to clean them (Gen 18:4)(Gen 24:32)(Ex 30:18-21) (or in blood: Ps 58:10), or “immersing” animal organs in water to clean them before sacrifice (Ex 29:17)(Lev 1:9,13)(Lev 8:21). As we learn in verse 4, Bathsheba was “bathing” to “cleanse herself from her impurity,” meaning she had just finished her “period.” God ordained this cleansing in (Lev Ch. 15). We might look at these Old Testament “cleansing baths” as a picture of “baptism by immersion” today.

(#2.) – The second Scripture in (2 Sam 11:4) is that Bathsheba “willingly” went with the “messengers” that David sent to her (not even asking about why David wanted to see her). And, after being brought to David, she did not “fight” against him having sex with her. In an Old Testament Scripture (Deut 22:23-27), God said that if a woman was placed in a situation where she was about to be raped, or was being raped, she was to “cry out” (or scream). This would prove that she was being forced to have sex, and she wanted it to stop. We have no indication that Bathsheba ever did this. (But, if she did, would anyone have stopped David?)

***Note: Regarding the words in this verse that David’s messengers “took her” (Bathsheba), some say that the Hebrew word for “took” (“laqach“) here means “took by force.” This is “one” of the meanings for “laqach,” however, laqach is also translated over 20 other different ways in the Old Testament, with most meaning NOT by force (i.e. the “took” her here could mean that the messengers simply told Bathsheba that David wanted to see her, she said “ok,” and they “took her” to him).

(#3.) – The third Scripture in (2 Sam 11:5) begs the question, why did Bathsheba send word to David that “I am with child?” Is this something that a rape victim normally says to a man who raped her? This “seems” to be more of a concern that Bathsheba has: “Now everyone will know what we did.” (Keeping in mind that the punishment for adultery was being stoned to death: Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22).

***Note: Related to this, it is worth noting what the Jewish historian Josephus says in his writing (Antiquities Of The Jews: Book 7, Ch. 7. 1) about what happened after David and Bathsheba laid together: “Hereupon she conceived with child; and sent to the King, that he should contrive some way for concealing her sin. (For according to the laws of their fathers she, who had been guilty of adultery, ought to be put to death.) So the King sent for Joab’s armour-bearer, from the siege; who was the woman’s husband; and his name was Uriah.”

(#4.) – In (1 Sam 11:6-13), after Bathsheba tells David that she is pregnant, David summons Bathsheba’s husband Uriah to leave the war that he is fighting (for David!), and report to him. His plan is to get Uriah drunk, and then have him sleep with Bathsheba, so it would be thought that her pregnancy was by Uriah, and not by him (Uriah refuses to do so.). Question: If David had “raped” Bathsheba, why would he want to send her husband Uriah to her? Wouldn’t David be afraid that Bathsheba would tell Uriah that she had been raped by him at the first chance she got?

(#5.) – In (2 Sam 11:14-22), since David cannot convince Uriah to sleep with his wife to cover up their adultery, he returns him to the war with a note to give to his commander. The note tells the commander to place Uriah “in the forefront of the hottest battle and retreat from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” This occurs, and Uriah is killed. Afterwards, news of Uriah’s death is sent to David, and Bathsheba. Bathsheba “mourned” for her husband, and “when her mourning was over,” she married David, and gave birth to a son.” Questions: Did Bathsheba “willingly” marry her rapist? If she didn’t, did she learn to love her rapist, or was she miserable for her whole marriage? Did she ever find out that David had murdered her husband?

***Note: Some who believe that David “raped” Bathsheba use the fact that she “mourned” for her husband as proof that she “loved” her husband, and didn’t commit adultery. I don’t agree, as committing adultery does not “usually” mean that the adulterer no longer has any feelings of love for the one they are (or were) married to, or that they would “rejoice” if the one they were married to was suddenly killed. (Guilt would likely factor in too.)

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     OK! Now, let’s turn our focus to evidence for David “raping” Bathsheba. Let me begin this by stating that I have “always” (for as long as I can remember) believed that David and Bathsheba is a story of “adultery.” “Honestly,” it had “never” even occurred to me that there was a possibility of David “raping” Bathsheba. Could a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14)(Acts 13:22) do this? Could a man who “the Lord was with” (1 Sam 18:14) do this? Could a “hero of the faith” (Heb 11:32) do this? Of course, I have known that David murdered Uriah, and that is bad enough, but adding “rape” to David’s sins makes him just that much more evil. (I think to most of us, rape “seems” much worse than “adultery,” even though God ordered the “death penalty” for both sins: adultery – Lev 20:10, Deut 22:22, rape – Deut 22:25.) BUT, did David actually do this?? Here we go.

     First, let’s go back to (2 Sam 11:1).

(2 Sam 11:1)(NKJV) “It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” 

(#1.) – David’s first mistake was “remaining at Jerusalem,” when he should have been leading his forces to battle (as other kings did: i.e. 1 Kin 20:1,26, 1 Kin 22:29-40, 2 Chr 35:20-24). This led him to “complacency,” and is a lesson for us all that: “Complacency usually leads to sin.” (Later, in 2 Sam 12:26-31 and 2 Sam 21:15-22, we see David rectifying his mistake by returning lead his forces to battle.)

     Next, let’s jump to (2 Sam Ch. 12).

     The last verse in Chapter 11 ends by saying, “But this thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Chapter 12 begins with the Lord sending Nathan the prophet to confront David about his sin. He does so through a parable. All of (2 Sam 12:1-15) is important to this discussion, but for the sake of space, I am not going to post “all” of the verses here. You may wish to read these before going forward (if you are reading this on the site, you can hover over, and click on the hyperlink to read them). 

     In short, Nathan compares David to a “rich man” who had “many flocks of sheep” (wives), but yet he took from a “poor man” (Uriah) his only beloved “ewe lamb” (wife). David responds by saying that “the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb.” Nathan tells David, “You are the man!” After being confronted by Nathan with details of his sin, David responds, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

(#2.) – (2 Sam 12:11-12) are KEY verses in our study. As Nathan is describing to David the consequences of his sin, he says in these verses: (NKJV) “Thus says the Lord: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. (12) For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.'”

     What is Nathan saying here? What is it that David did “secretly,” that his “neighbor” will do “before all Israel, before the sun” (publicly)? 

     After this confrontation by Nathan, David’s son Absalom attempts to take David’s throne. David flees Jerusalem, “with all his household after him” to avoid being murdered by Absalom. However, he “left ten women, concubines, to keep the house” (2 Sam 15:16). (2 Sam 16:15) “Meanwhile Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him.” Absalom asked Ahithophel what he should to strengthen his right to David throne. Following is Ahithophel’s reply:

(2 Sam 16:21-22)(NKJV) “And Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house; and all Israel will hear that you are abhorred by your father. Then the hands of all who are with you will be strong.” (22) So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel.”

     Do you see it?? Absalom “rapes” David’s concubines “in the sight of all Israel, before the sun.” Tying this to (2 Sam 12:12), doesn’t it seem clear that what David did “secretly” (“rape” Bathsheba) happened to him when his son Absalom (“adversity against you from your own house”) “raped” David’s concubines “in the sight of all Israel, before the sun?”

(#3.) – In addition, there is one more thing in (2 Sam 16:21) that many people fail to pay attention to: Ahithophel. Check out these verses!

(2 Sam 15:15,31) “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city… (31) And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

(2 Sam 23:34) “Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maachathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite”

(2 Sam 11:3) “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?”

     Do you see what we get when we put these 4 verses together? Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam, and Eliam was the son of Ahithophel (“David’s counsellor”). In other words, Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather!

     Why did Ahithophel defect to Absalom, and turn from being “David’s counselor?” Could it be that he was upset over what David had done to his granddaughter? In addition, could this be why he urged Absalom to “rape” David’s concubines; as payback to David for “raping” his granddaughter?

(#4.) – Prior to these verses with Absalom, we also have verses in (2 Sam Ch. 13) that should not be ignored. In these verses, we see David’s son Ammon lusting over his half-sister Tamar (Absalom’s sister). After a period of time, Ammon arranged circumstances so that he could be alone with Tamar, and he “raped” her (2 Sam 13:12-14). Two things to consider regarding this: (A) Did Ammon know what his father David had done to Bathsheba when he “lusted” after her, so he repeated David’s sin? (B) Why didn’t David confront his son Ammon for this sin against Tamar? Could it be that it would have been hypocritical for him to do so?

***Note: It is worth noting that unlike Bathsheba, Tamar is shown to “cry out” as Ammon comes against her (2 Sam 13:12-14).

     So there you have it. I don’t think anyone would disagree that this was a case of David abusing his God-appointed position of power to get what he wanted from Bathsheba. I believe this is why God ultimately held David responsible for this sin, rather than Bathsheba. However, was what happened between David and Bathsheba consensual sex, or was it rape? I have listed the best evidence I could find for both views. I will let you decide.

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