It’s All Her Fault….

Last week a pastor friend of mine tweeted a photo displaying a painting he had done of Bathsheba. It set something off in my heart so I posted a thought or two about Bathsheba’s plight and since thousands of you read it and some posted back with questions and comments, I thought I’d share my thought a little more carefully/deeply with you.

I’ve been a Christian for over 4 decades. That means that I’ve heard plenty of sermons about David’s “adultery” with Bathsheba. I’ve listened to pastors do everything from blame Bathsheba for David’s fall to insinuating that, at the very least, she was somehow complicit with him.

I completely disagree.

I disagree first of all because I’ve read the Bible a lot and if there’s one thing I know it’s that the Bible’s writers (ultimately the Holy Spirit) aren’t queazy at all about uncovering sin. Hence, if Bathsheba had been culpable at all, we would have heard about it. But we haven’t.

What we do hear is that David decided to grab a little “me” time and one afternoon, after he got up from napping, he went up on his roof to check out the doings in his kingdom. It was from there that he saw Bathsheba bathing herself. BTW, she wasn’t on a roof. He was. She was probably in a private courtyard. The Bible clearly states that she was being godly, “She had been purifying herself from her uncleanness” (2 Sam 11:4). She was performing what the Lord required of her after having her period.

So, David said to his servants, “Oh, I like the looks of that…get me one.” So his servants went to her house and “took” her. That Hebrew word means, “to get, lay hold of, seize, snatch, take away, acquire, or buy.” What the Bible doesn’t  say is that she cunningly arranged a peep show so she could entrap the king, kill off her husband, and set herself up in cushiness for life. If that had been the case, the Bible would have said that. But it doesn’t. Don’t misunderstand,

When the king’s servants come to take you, you go or you die.

The next time we hear about her, she’s telling David she’s pregnant. The Bible doesn’t tell us her state of mind but it tells us David’s: He’s going to scheme and eventually murder to cover up his sin. When the prophet Nathan confronts him, he doesn’t say, “Well, you know if Bathsheba hadn’t been porning it up, I know you wouldn’t have sinned. Your sin is understandable.” Instead he said, “You are the man!”(2 Sam 12:7)  It was David’s sin. Not Bathsheba’s.

At the death of her righteous husband (notice both of them were more righteous than David), she lamented and grieved for him (2 Sam 11:26). Later, she grieved for her dead firstborn son. David brought nothing but death and grief into the house of a righteous woman.

Afterward, David married her and she bore him other children. Again, we don’t know how much say she had in that, but one thing we do know, is that as a disgraced woman in the ancient near east, she really didn’t have much of a choice.

Finally, we get one more glimpse into her relationship with David. When it was time for him to name his successor, Bathsheba reminded him about a promise he had made to her that her son, Solomon, would be king (1 Ki 1:13). We don’t have any record of him making this promise but he honored her request. My guess (and it’s only a guess) is that at some point he tried to make amends for ruining her life by promising her that her son would be king. And she held him to it.

Here’s my concern: that we not assume that women are to blame for the lust and sin in men’s hearts. Rules about how women dress (see my post about modesty) are of absolutely “no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Col 2:23).

Case in point? The Burka.

If covering ourselves from head to toe stopped men from lusting, then Iraq wouldn’t be the leading consumer of pornography in the world.  But it is.

Okay, now to my point: It’s time that we stop blaming women for the sin that men commit. It’s also time that we stop blaming men for the sin women commit.

It’s time that we all owned our own sin and that’s not a terrible thing to do

because, if we’re in Christ that sin is forgiven and we’re completely righteous. Of course there are precipitating factors, but ultimately rules about outward behavior never transformed anyone’s heart. Only the gospel does that. David’s sin is forgiven. And Bathsheba is listed in the genealogy of Jesus as the wife of Uriah–and she, his little ewe lamb, is in paradise rejoicing with him now.

 

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67 Replies to “It’s All Her Fault….”

  1. >>>”What the Bible doesn’t say is that she cunningly arranged a peep show so she could entrap the king, kill off her husband, and set herself up in cushiness for life.”

    In fact, they make a great point of saying David was NOT where he should have been. She didn’t know he was there.

    I feel like ‘does the pastor blame bathsheba’ is sort of misogyny litmus test. It is not in the text.

  2. I’ve heard so much of this my whole life. Although I don’t recall being explicitly told that my dress/behavior would cause lust, it was communicated in many many implicit ways. It is a shame that many of us women who have been in the church our entire lives still find ourselves having to make a case against it. The harm that has been done.

    1. I think what I’ve heard is the insinuation that it was her fault…I’m right with you. Thanks for posting.

  3. David is clearly the principal one at fault. But I would argue Bathsheba is also morally complicit in failure to obey God’s law as found in Deuteronomy 22. The woman being taken advantage of was not obligated to cry out against rape in the country, but in the city, she was.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Josiah. You’re assuming that if she would have cried out someone would have been there to rescue her. Do you think that anyone in his right mind would have dared to enter the king’s bedchamber? The law about crying out makes the assumption that there is someone to help. Sadly this passage has been used to blame victims of sexual abuse in the home–the number of women I know who tried to cry out (to mother or another family member) and who were ignored or punished for doing so is far too high. Peace

    2. God’s law is the standard, not other people’s obedience to it. She was required to obey it, regardless of the potential consequences. If nobody helped her, that was on them, not her.
      Nathan dared to confront the king, because that’s what righteous men do. Uriah dared to disobey the king, because in his case, disobedience was righteousness. Uriah died for his obedience, and that’s why I named my son after him. Doing the right thing costs, often. Doesn’t change what the right thing is.

  4. I will try (but fail) to be brief. 🙂

    You started well in trying to make the point that Bathsheba is not to blame for David’s sinful choices. If she was, Nathan would have been sent to her and not to David. But from there, some serious flaws are exposed in your efforts to paint Bathsheba as sinless and also in suggesting that the affect of a woman’s attire on a man should not influence her decisions.

    The reason that Bathsheba’s sins are not listed out is that the story isn’t about her. This understanding is critical in all Biblical interpretation. The story is about David. You are correct that the Holy Spirit has no issues pointing out sin, but that doesn’t mean that we’ll have a catalog of the sins of everyone who shows up in the story. For example, what about the men who took her to David? They knew that this wasn’t a righteous thing. Why don’t we hear the Spirit condemning them? It’s because this story isn’t about them either.

    But even in the story, we have a few hints that Bathsheba should have acted differently. 1) She was washing herself in a place that was in view of other people. The rooftops were part of the common living spaces in the homes of those days, so she would have to know that other people would be up there sometimes. And wherever she was (rooftop, courtyard, through a window), if they could see her, she could see them. In this case, there was enough room that a man could stand there and point her out to some of his men. Really? She didn’t take that into consideration before starting to wash? And add to that the fact that she was close enough that David could tell that she was beautiful and that the other men could recognize her. All this adds up to a really, really poor decision on her part. Was the sin and the decision still David’s? Of course. But did she have an affect on focusing his lusts? Of course. Notice that he didn’t have an affair with any of the other women that he surely could have seen from his rooftop. It was only the one who wasn’t clothed who led to his sinful decision. 2) She submitted to going with the men and to having sex with David. You can say that she didn’t have any power, but how much power did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have? Fear is no excuse for sin. We also know that David did not have to rape her. If he had, Nathan would have pointed it out. After all, the Spirit isn’t queasy about pointing out sins, and this story is about David. It would have been remiss of the Spirit to not charge David with rape. 3) She hid what had happened from her husband. She didn’t tell him about it when he came home, and she sent to David and not her husband when she learned that she was pregnant. These are not the acts of the righteous woman. 4) The exact nature and timing of the purification aren’t spelled out with great specificity, but no matter what, Jesus was quite clear with the Pharisees that outward obedience to the Law reveal nothing about the inward man. In other words, this tells us nothing about the state of her heart. Please understand that none of this excuses David! You were quite correct in refuting that error.

    Your citing of Colossians 2:23 similarly misses the point of the passage. The conclusion at the end of the chapter is that outward rules of men do not make us holy. Instead, Paul is urging us to live a holy life in Christ. The chapter has nothing to do with our affect on other believers. The only way that it could apply to your topic is to say that we should watch how we dress because we could start to lust after ourselves. That doesn’t make any sense. To see what the Spirit thinks about our attitude toward fellow believers and the effect that our decisions make on them, we should turn to I Corinthians 8. That is precisely what the passage is addressing. In verse 9, Paul tells us to not let our decisions create a stumblingblock for other believers. In verse 13, Paul says that he will give up eating meat for the rest of his life if it would help a brother not to sin. In fact, he even uses a strong word that means to “make” or “cause” his brother to sin. The brother’s sin is still his own and cannot be excused, but we must ignore the clear teaching of Scripture if we are to pretend that we bear no responsibility to act in a way that will help that brother not to sin. Would you sit in front of your brother who is a recovering alcoholic and drink a beer? No loving believer could.

    You state quite correctly in your conclusion that “outward behavior never transformed a person’s heart.” Unfortunately, you failed to mention the biblical principle that a transformed heart does change outward behavior.

    I apologize for the blunt nature of my comments. I was going for concise. If there is offense in my comments that is my own and not the offense of the Bible, I hope that you will forgive my fleshly heart and my limited writing skills.

    1. Sorry…meant to say that you should check my blog about modesty. That might help. In any case, peace.

    2. Derek, are you saying that since Bathsheba didn’t tell Uriah what happened with David, that means she wasn’t raped? That means she wasn’t righteous? Trust me, take it from a woman who was sexually assaulted, please, do not lay that burden on a victim. Unless you have been abused, you will never understand the complexity that comes with not crying out for help. Please, don’t ever tell a victim that what they went through wasn’t abuse because they didn’t cry out.

    3. Thank you for responding, Karin. I don’t think that most guys understand the shame and confusion that accompanies sexual abuse…whatever form it takes.

  5. Many skimpily dressed women are not going through purification or cleansing – they are intentionally flaunting. That’s the difference to keep in mind on these matters. Thoughts?

    Love the painting though 🙂

    1. I agree. I think it’s unkind for women to dress provocatively. Did you read my post on modesty? But…neither do I think that dressing modestly will stop men from lusting. Iraq had the highest rate of pornography consumption and the women there certainly dress modestly. I suspect we probably agree far more than we disagree. Thanks for posting.

    2. Hi Elyse,

      Thank you for your response. Yes, I did read your post about modesty. What drew my attention to respond to this post was that you cited Scripture, but your expositions weren’t accurate. That needed to be responded to. For example, the Colossians reference led you to the burka illustration. Yes, it’s true that those women are modestly dressed and that that doesn’t eradicate the lust of the flesh within those unsaved men. But when they want to fulfill those lusts, I’m pretty sure that they don’t watch pornography involving women in burkas. They turn to something that will excite their flesh much more.

      Your modesty post didn’t reference Scripture directly. Perhaps that was because you were writing for a business and they preferred not to have that. As such, there weren’t any problems involving misunderstandings of specific passages. You stated what modesty was and was not, but it largely seemed to be from your own opinions.

      But as you directed me to that post, here are my thoughts.
      I thought that you mostly stressed that modesty was much more than the way a person dresses, but you stressed that so much as to make someone think that the way a person dresses is unimportant. To be clear, modesty does play itself out in the way someone dresses, right? And a component of those decisions about how to dress involves evaluating the effect that it will have on others, right?
      I thought your mentioning Jesus being naked on the cross was curious. It was to His shame that He was naked. Shouldn’t we draw from that the lesson that those who don’t wear enough clothing should similarly be ashamed?
      Your understanding about what it means to rest in Jesus’ righteousness is concerning. The point of resting in His righteousness should be that we should feel confident that His righteousness is sufficient to cover our sin and redeem us to His Father. The application we should be taking from that is not that we don’t have to worry about the sinful or unloving choices we make. This is taking the position that what we do doesn’t matter because Jesus is going to pay the bill. Paul decisively rejects this thought in Romans 6:1, 2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
      I was wrong. You did directly quote the Bible. You mentioned Luke 12:23 where Jesus says that “the body is more than raiment.” The point that He’s making in the passage is to rely on Him for our necessities as that frees us to have our hearts focused on eternity. He’s not talking about covering enough skin but about whether or not we will have any clothing at all.

      So yes, I did read your post about modesty, but I’m not sure how it relates to the way that you’re using the Bible in this post. Am I missing the connection?

    3. Did I say that we “don’t have to worry about the sinful or unloving choices we make”? I certainly don’t mean that. It’s interesting to me that every time one talks about the power of the gospel to sustain and free us, Romans 6:1 gets quoted. That’s actually comforting to me.

      I appreciate your desire to be engaged with these posts. And, yes, I admit that I write from my own opinions. This is, after all, my blog and it would be meaningless to try to write someone else’s opinion.

      I’ll also admit that I don’t have the bandwidth to carry on (or read) long conversations over the internet. So, I’ll just say thanks for your opinion (that is, after all, what you’re offering) and check out. Peace.

    4. Hi Karin,

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve been a victim of sexual abuse. I do not intend to minimize that. You are correct in assuming that I’ve never been a victim of sexual abuse.

      There is a Worldly belief that says, “unless you’ve walked in my shoes, you can’t express an opinion.” While my opinion about how hard it must be to cry out or tell others what has happened isn’t worth much, I can definitely tell you that the woman should cry out and should tell others. I can do this because that is God’s opinion. We can rest assured that God is one Person Who does understand the shame and confusion that accompanies all kinds of abuse. “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities;” Hebrews 4:15. The God Who does understand gave us Deuteronomy 22 which describes a situation in which a woman has sex with a man. If she does not cry out, she is considered complicit in the act and is to bear the judgement with the man.

      So no, I don’t know how hard it is. I don’t know what that feels like. But I do know what God expects from a woman in that situation. Once again, I am sorry for the pain that you’ve suffered, but I cannot err from the Scriptures because I haven’t experienced it myself.

  6. Thank you for this, Elyse! I struggle with the church’s narrative of rape stories like Bathsheba, Hagar, and Dinah, and I think you are spot on here. I still struggle with the biblical account here too though, that Bathsheba also has to suffer the loss of the child as a result of David’s sin. Had she not suffered enough that she had to bear the consequences of his punishment too? I am thankful the story includes that Bathsheba was comforted by David’s touch when she conceived Solomon, so perhaps there was some affection that developed eventually in their shared grief. Nevertheless, I love that God chose HER to bear the line of Jesus Christ, not any of David’s bajillion other wives. God does not forget or abandon His daughters.

  7. I have never heard a pastor of a church I attended say she was at fault, also none of our Women’s Bible Study leaders teach that

    This was so interesting and helpful and definitely we have to try and learn as much as we can about the scripture we study and read…I have been in Women’s Bible Studies where we did the S.O.A.P. Method and that really gets you into knowing the scriptures, it was hard for me but so helpful hearing it discussed in our groups.

    Thank for this .

    1. Thanks for posting, Arlene. Nothing better than reading the Bible for what it says, rather than for what we think it says.

  8. We can also take a hint as to God’s meaning in this story from Nathan’s analogy. Nathan compares David’s crime to a greedy, thoughtless man taking another good, poor man’s sheep. The analogy expresses innocence on all but David.

  9. I think this article is very deceiving, i dont blame bethsheba (coz the story is about david’s sin) i dont see in scripture where david raped her, and this is what alot of people are taking fron this article if scripture doesn’t say it we cant add to it or presume more than it says

  10. Thank you for posting this – absolutely correct. And another thing: the Bible says this happened at the time of year when the kings went out to war. David was a warrior king, like most in the ANE at the time. Why wasn’t he with his army? I can’t help but feel he was already derelict in being at home in the palace, taking an evening nap, *before he even saw* Bathsheba. Not his best moment. We know he repented, of course, and even after this God described him as a man after His own heart, showing His mercy and grace.

  11. I agree with the overall thrust of your article, but I’m wondering why the word adultery is in quotation marks. There’s no doubt that David’s sexual assault of Bathsheba was an act of adultery. So why the quotation marks?

    1. Thanks for your question. I guess that I always feel like when it’s described as “adultery” it sounds like they were having an affair which they weren’t. Yes, it was technically adultery but it wasn’t a romance. Thanks again!

  12. your insight is a breath of fresh air. I had not heard a bad report of Bathsheba from the pulpit but have not agreed more than once to what I believe are misrepresentations of women or wives in the church. Keep sharing!

  13. I’m so thankful for this. I run a non-profit that helps single mothers who have escaped abusive relationships and have been rejected by their friends, their churches and their families. SO MANY of them have been blamed for the abuse they suffered . . . blamed for the fact that their husband looked a porn (they simply weren’t enough) and blamed for not being able to hold their marriage together. We try to help them see that they are still, indeed, part of the Church, if they know Jesus and that God does NOT reject them. I am posting this on our Facebook page for our constituents. You just would not believe how many women have suffered this type of blame . . . their faith is handing by a thread. Thank you and God bless you!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Megan, and for the work you’re doing for single moms. Bless you!

  14. I agree that David is certainly responsible, and Bethsheba is not responsible for his lust. However, I’m not so sure Bathsheba is completely off the hook. My argument would be to question the assumption that the risk of death negates her options. And I’m not sure I can agree with that. Should she not have rejected David, honoring her own husband, even if it meant her death? To me the answer is yes on that. Why fear what David can do to you, and why not remind him of who he serves rather than sleep with him agreeably? God is greater than David. Nathan risks the same when he bothers to confront David on the matter.

    If there’s concurrence to go through with it, then they’re both responsible, regardless of who has what power. And the reality is that they can both be forgiven regardless of who did what, where.

    1. Thanks, Thorn. I see your point but disagree. I would no more blame Bathsheba for submitting to David then I would blame a victim for being raped. Sure, Nathan was able to stand up to David and risk his life, but you have to remember that in the ANE women had almost no rights, couldn’t testify against anyone, and were at the mercy of men (particularly the king). We’re, none of us, as brave as we might hope to be…I do take comfort in the fact that everyone who relies on the righteousness of Christ is forgiven and completely justified. Peace.

    2. Rape or death? So… it’s partially her fault because she chose to allow the king to rape her instead of kill her? 🤦🏼‍♀️

    3. We also need to remember that Bathsheba didn’t know why she was being summoned to the King. Her husband being high in the military, it was not uncommon for bad news to come through the kings court. As well, if you were summoned in the night to the palace, by a man regarded as a Godly king, your first thought would not be “he’s gonna rape me” –
      David didn’t have that reputation. So many details to consider. But at the end of the day, the simplicity of the scripture where Nathan called ONLY David out, and not Bathsheba, is enough for me.

  15. Yea, verily. Shout it from David’s rooftop. Please use your influence to spread this message. Pastors need to hear this. Family Life just featured a couple, Chris and Cindy Beale, whose pastor and church family handled Chris’ infidelity beautifully. Made me cry. More importantly , it brought sweet restoration to their marriage. Thanks, Elyse 👍

  16. Thank you for “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey used to say. Mid-East culture (including the burka) is poorly understood in the US. Women’s rights , let alone wishes, have little bearing on men’s actions. Uriah was a most honorable convert to the Lord God of the Jews, and his dedication to serving prevented him from going AWOL even at the king’s suggestion. I’ve always wondered if he suspitioned the trap. David is to be credited with putting her in his harem rather than having her stoned, but there, too, she lived honorably. So honorably that she was respected when she reminded David of his promise made is his stressed and sinful status. God honored her in being Queen Mother to the wisest man on earth, yet in God’s record she is “wife of Uriah” and carried that respect.

  17. Amen, Elyse! This is the first time I’ve read something in Bathsheba’ defense. It reminds me of how important it is to read the Word carefully and not assume that what “we’ve always been told” through sermons and/or culture is necessarily the correct interpretation. Bless you for your God-given insights!

  18. Thank you Elyse for posting this. I’ve taught this the same way for years but I’ve heard Bathsheba blamed plenty by others. Hopefully we are coming to a change in that we finally each take our own responsibility before God. I know I have enough of my own sin much less being responsible for someone else’s.

  19. Thank you so much for this, Elyse. It’s time blaming & shaming women ceases. It is unfortunately a mysogenistic culture we face even in the church. Presently I’m walking with 10 women who are coming out of abusive marriages. All are in the church & 6 of the men were officers in their church. Tragic.

    1. You’re welcome, Candy. I’m believing with you that things are changing. At least I hope so.

  20. THANK YOU!!!!! Oh my word, how I’ve never been able to get onboard with some of the teaching I’ve heard about Bathsheba somehow being willing or wanting, or sinful in someway that caused her to be an accomplice in David’s sin. He was the KING, you didn’t just say no, and if you did, well, he was the KING!!! I can’t tell you the times I’ve wept in my office counselling women who have been horribly sinned against by their husbands and the church has completely and utterly failed them by suggesting they had a hand in this (and yes, I get it, she’s a sinner too…you know what I mean). Elyse, God has been using you to rock my world for the last decade or so, and I’m so infinitely thankful to Him for you. Giving Him the glory for all, and giving you a shout out from Canada for being willing to be used by Him!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I, too, have heard the story way too many times. I’m grateful for the Lord’s enabling me to speak about these things and I’m glad that He’s using me in your life. Soli Deo Gloria!

  21. Part of the reason Bathsheba may not have resisted the king David’s summons is that she would likely have known him since her childhood. Bathsheba’s grandfather, Ahithophel, was one of David’s chief counselors and her father was Eliam, one of David’s mighty men. It is conceivable that Bathsheba may have known the king since she was a little girl. If so, then what makes this sin even more egregious than abuse of power is that he took advantage of the daughter and granddaughter of men who served under him.

    1. Great point, Doug! I knew about the Ahithophel connection, but never really thought about it in this way. Thanks for posting!

  22. I am reading through the Bible and for some reason, this time around, the people and stories are more and more real to me. This post reinforces the reality that Bathsheba was real and experienced much sorrow because of someone else’s sin. If she can live a godly life, despite her horrid circumstances, than no one is too far from the grace, wisdom, and strength of our LORD. And one day we get to meet her!

    1. I’m glad you’re reading through Michele. That’s great and it’s the only way to really understand the Lord and the deeply flawed people He loves. And, yes! What a great thought! One day we will get to meet her and she’ll be beautiful and gracious!

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