David and Bathsheba

Some people say Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 was a promiscuous woman seducing David, and she trapped him in adultery. Upon further examination, it seems clear to me that he assaulted her. David was the king and so Bathsheba really didn’t have much choice but to submit to him, and she probably couldn’t refuse his advances because he could kill her. He did kill her husband to cover the affair, so we know he is capable of this, therefore, in reality, he is the only one guilty here.

The prophet Nathan didn’t call her out when he called out David which suggests that God didn’t see her as the perpetrator. In 2 Sam 12:1-12, Nathan gives an analogy of a rich man stealing a poor man’s lamb, Bathsheba is the lamb (representing innocence). She could have refused and died a martyr, but that would not have prevented her rape. As a rape victim, she is innocent according to Deuteronomy 22:26. 2 Samuel chapter 11 starts out saying that David didn’t go to war with his men as he normally would. So even the author seems to suggest that if David went to war with his men like he normally would, then he never would have been in the situation. Besides, David had seven wives and 10 concubines, so he had legal alternatives and no excuses.

She shouldn’t be exclusively looked at like some kind of harlot like some preachers make her out to be. They say it’s because she was bathing on the roof and trying to get David’s attention. Has anyone really dived into the reason for her bathing on the roof? There is a clue in 2 Samuel 11:4, it says she just finished her menstruation period. It is likely, that David didn’t sleep with her while she was menstruating since that would have been considered unclean (Lev 18:19), which means her period was over before David called her. According to ritual purity rules in the Torah, sexual intercourse, menstruation, and seminal emission all make a person ritually impure until the evening (in the case of semen and sex) or until the end of the menstruation period, and they must take baths when the time frame ends (Lev ch. 15). That seems like why she was bathing when David was spying on her. It makes no sense for the author to tell us that she had just finished her menstruation for any other reason. What relevance does that have to the whole situation of her and David in an affair? One could argue that it says this to indicate why she got pregnant, but common sense says obviously she was ovulating if she got pregnant afterward, so it’s unnecessary to tell the reader what is inferred. Plus in Gen 4:1, when Adam impregnated Eve (the first pregnancy) it doesn’t tell us anything about menstruation, so the bible assumes you know how sex works and doesn’t need to explain these things. The most logical explanation for why we’re told about her ritual purity status is that it was the reason for her bathing.

Some question why Bathsheba was bathing on the roof specifically, assuming it was some nefarious plot to get the King’s attention. First of all, there was no indoor plumbing back then, so they didn’t take baths in their houses. The water needs to come from somewhere and women would have to go to a well or stream/river and carry heavy water jugs home to bathe. Secondly, people took purity baths in either a natural spring (a mikveh) or with stored water. For anyone declared ritually impure, anything they touch is unclean, meaning those things are forbidden from going near or in the Tabernacle/Temple. If a person with bodily discharge touches another person then that other person is unclean until the evening and has to take a bath. This even applies to a husband who makes contact with his wife’s blood, he stays unclean for seven days and takes a bath just like her. When a married couple has sex they both are unclean until evening and must take a bath. There were also special rules for unhealthy bodily discharges and skin diseases that result in purification through bathing as well as sacrifices for sin. All the rules for these things can be found in Leviticus chapters 13-15.

This means that it would be risky for her to go out in public to collect water (unless she lived in the countryside), because anyone she bumps into in a crowded city, would be made unclean. The hemorrhaging woman in Matthew 9:19-22, Mark 5:24-34, and Luke 8:43-48 had to be careful about what she was doing, just being in a crowd could get her in trouble. Touching any other Rabbi would have gotten her into trouble because that Rabbi would be unclean, but Rabbi Jesus was the Messiah and could touch lepers (Matt 8:1-4) and any other kind of unclean person (like the bleeding woman in Mark 5:20-21) and heal them. Taking a bath in the house would come with a risk of splashing unclean water upon the objects in the house, and if any of them were sacred offerings for the Tabernacle, that would be a problem. Houses back then didn’t have separate “bathrooms” with a tub and toilets, the people bathed and defecated outside the camp/city, in the wilderness. So for a woman living in the city, who doesn’t have access to a spring or stream, the easiest way to follow the law without risking anyone in the community or anything inside the house becoming unclean, is to take a bath on the roof. On the roof, she can collect rainwater and store it directly or stash it thereafter purchasing it from someone who gets it from a well or spring.

The roofs back then in that culture were flat, and could have been designed with a makeshift pool or bathtub to hold water, or a wash basin could have been placed on the roof. For water storage, people used jugs like the stone jugs at the wedding of Cana in John 2:6, which were for ritual washing. This is the most rational reason for her bathing on the rooftop. Lastly, no one at ground level can see anyone’s rooftop. The King lives in the palace, which is on a hilltop, so David would have the best view of her and every other woman (and man) bathing on their rooftop for ritual purity. This doesn’t mean that everyone did it this way, there could have been various setups for ritual bathing, but this was the setup for Bathsheba which is why she was doing it on her roof. David was looking out at his city and would have potentially seen whole families washing, sisters, mothers and daughters, married couples who had just had sex, etc. Then he saw one woman by herself, which attracted him, and he still wanted her even after he found out she was married. Shame on him.

Some will still argue she still had planned to entice David, and my question then is how does she know that the king didn’t go with his men? How would she have known he would see her, call her, and want to sleep with her, even after finding out she was married? This requires a lot of assumptions about her ability to predict the future. It would have taken a ridiculous amount of planning to have set David up in that particular way since most of it was based on circumstances out of her control. My point is that it’s a big leap to call her a harlot and blame her for the whole thing when David is the one who initiated contact, even after he found out she was married. After David had sex with her, he even tried to get her husband to sleep with her to cover up her pregnancy, then has her husband killed (via abandonment on the battlefield) when he refuses. She was dragged into the situation by the king, and there is no indication she asked for this. According to the prophet Nathan’s parable of the innocent lamb in 2 Sam 12:1-12, David was the wicked rich man who stole a poor man’s lamb. David lamented and didn’t eat for days and ultimately God spared him and the child died instead. Nathan prophesies that David’s family would have strife and conflict and David’s own women would be taken by another man. The most direct fulfillment of this is when David’s son Absalom attempted a coup (2 Samuel 15), after his sister Tamar was raped by David’s firstborn Amnon, and David did nothing. Absalom slept with David’s concubines after chasing him out of the city. There was no mention of a particular punishment for Bathsheba, remember she was the innocent lamb in the parable. She was collateral damage in David’s sin. The prophet of God called her innocent, yet she was involved in an extramarital affair, doesn’t this contradict the bible? Well no, remember a wife that is raped is innocent (Deuteronomy 22:26).

For those who ask “why she didn’t say no and resist if she is so innocent”, we must remember that men in positions of power have consistently throughout history abused that power to take advantage of women. Whenever a woman says she is raped, our society has a track record of questioning her story and taking his word over hers, because of the higher social status of the man. Most women are not raped by strangers in an alleyway, it is usually people who know them, have access to them, or have authority over them. These men are usually in relationships with these women such as employers, teachers, religious leaders, directors, producers, coaches, athletic doctors, etc. Men in those positions have a higher probability of taking advantage of women and girls and scaring them into being silent. In Deuteronomy 22:23-27, the bible talks about how to handle a wife who is raped. She is innocent because she didn’t consent. If she is raped in the city she is supposed to cry out because if there are neighbors around to hear, they will rescue her. This metric is used to determine if she was raped or lied to cover up being caught in adultery. If she is actively engaging in adultery then she is not going to cry out for help in the city, since she doesn’t want to get caught and be put to death. However, if she is raped in the country then the bible says to believe her because there are no witnesses to confirm she cried out. Every other moral law with the death penalty in the bible requires two or three witnesses, to execute someone (including getting caught in adultery), but this is the one exception that I know of where the man can be put to death on the testimony of one witness, his rape victim.

In the case of David’s palace, one could argue that it is technically in the city so she should have cried out, however, this is not in her house, nor is it surrounded by neighbors. This event takes place in the palace and the only people that could save her were David’s servants, who were in on it since they brought her to him. There is no point in asking people for help when they know what is about to happen and are on the side of the man in charge. So this situation has to be treated like a countryside rape because the public could not hear her cry out (nor could they save her if they did) since she was in the palace which is closed off from the public. The rule about the women crying out can’t apply in a place where the public can’t intervene, that is why this fits the countryside framework. We must follow, the principles behind the words of the Bible guided by God’s wisdom when the law doesn’t lay out a matching situation. Therefore because these are unique circumstances, it is clear that God through the prophet Nathan would not judge her guilty in this way, because according to Torah’s principles, she is innocent. David was the King, so who was going to believe her anyway? Put yourself in her position, it’s hard to report him to the authorities if he, as King, is the highest human authority (under the prophets). If she reports him she could lose her life and we know David is capable of ending hers because he killed her husband to cover up her pregnancy.

Lastly, men were prohibited from engaging in military service and other external obligations for a whole year when newly married (Deut 24:5). This was likely done to ensure that a man had a chance to make a baby, before potentially dying in war. David likely suspected that since Uriah was at war, his wife must have been barren since he had been with her at least a year already and she had no children. With this knowledge, he could have thought he could easily get away with it since she couldn’t be impregnated. However, his schemes backfired. Why would “righteous King David” do such a thing? Maybe he wrestled with his sinful thoughts about having sex with her, but sexual thoughts flooded his mind and overwhelmed him. If that was the case he could then say, “I can’t help it”, and did it anyway, just like any one of us. He could have stopped when he found out she was married but he reasoned to himself that it was worth the risk because she might be barren. He made a choice to commit adultery and it cost him a child and one of his best men.

It’s possible Uriah was sterile, and that is why he and Bathsheba didn’t have a kid, and they were never going to have one. Makes you wonder if it is possible Bathsheba could have ended up being David’s wife anyway if Uriah died in battle naturally. What if God’s plan was that Bathsheba and David would make Solomon and the way it happened in the bible was not the only path to get the same outcome? An alternative scenario is that there was no adultery, and Uriah died in battle, possibly saving David’s life, David in turn took care of Uriah’s widow. David’s first wife Abigail was a widow, so it wouldn’t be the first time he married a widow out of pity. Then Solomon could be conceived, without any need for a baby to be born in adultery and dying. However, David chose adultery by following his flesh and not fixing his heart on God’s word. Another possibility is that they got divorced and David decide to take Bathsheba for himself.