[tw for rape, w/in the context of a historical account, and rape culture, in glossing over it]
This is one of those post ideas I’ve mulled over a long time, sat on and ignored for months, and eventually came back to.
I’d like to say there was something I was a little uneasy about with this story since learning of it, but it didn’t really hit me, the odd discrepancy, and what’s never addressed about it, until I was sitting in the youth group room of an unfamiliar church — it was my junior year of college, I think, and there wasn’t any church in that town I was attending regularly — and I picked up some annotated Bible to browse through while I waited for others to arrive for the meeting. I ended up reading a little commentary box about the story of Bathsheba and King David, and…
Do you know this story? It’s one Christians only ever talk about like it’s a story of adultery. Adultery, that was David’s big mistake. That, and murder, of course. Those are the named sins of the story.
I read this little commentary box waiting for it to address the rest. I don’t think it was the first time I’d noticed, but some things about the story stood out to me this time. David had watched her bathing, which would have been creepy enough unto itself. He was a King, and he had her brought to her chambers.
Does it say, anywhere, whether he gave Bathsheba a choice? Realistically, could she have ever really have had one?
I was waiting for the commentary box to specify whether Bathsheba was at fault for “committing adultery,” too — that is, whether she chose this. Whether or not, given the circumstances, she had any real opportunity to say no. Whether this was something she willed, too — or not, and the implications therein. But the focus was all on David. She was just talked about as this… incidental accessory. I couldn’t recall anyone ever questioning whether this “adultery” was consensual or not.
And even when I later thought about bringing this subject up on my own blog, I hesitated.
That’s King David I’d be talking about.
Beloved patriarch. Icon of lineage. Poster boy of devotion.
And sure, everyone knows he made a lot of mistakes, but to imply he was a rapist?
I fretted over what people would think and held myself at arm’s length and asked Don’t you think that’s going a little too far?
No. I don’t. But I worried.
Because it’s David.
And it wasn’t until recently this month, at the age of 22, that I finally saw someone acknowledge this for the first time by calling her “Bathsheba, who was taken advantage of by the king.” And I felt, then, that maybe I wasn’t as irrational as I thought. I felt relief. And something else, more confused and bitter than that.
I was raised in the Church. I deliberately immersed myself in Christian messages about and Biblical analyses of sexuality growing up. Why did it take me this long to hear this?