David or Bathsheba? Who’s to Blame? Part 2

David and BathshebaOn my blog two weeks ago, I asked, “Who is to blame for the David/Bathsheba adulterous affair?”  The results are rather conclusive after 90 responses (feel free to continue to vote here, I’m still hoping to get over 100).

David: 68.9% (62 votes)
Both: 26.7% (24 votes)
Other: 3.3% (3 votes, no one commented on the blog, I got one email response: “Adam/Eve”)
Bathsheba: 1.1% (1 vote)

I’d call that a landslide.

I voted for David.  I tell people, “My parents named me after the most famous adulterer/murder in history.”

We do need to say the text is a bit ambiguous since we don’t know what Bathsheba was thinking. But to assume they were equal partners doesn’t take seriously the power differential.  Robert Gordon of Cambridge (my DPhil oral examiner) says that she is “presumably unaware of the royal voyeur” (p. 253 of his commentary). David Firth says we shouldn’t assume she was naked, it could have been a sponge bath, “Bathsheba is entirely passive, and attempts to make her an equal partner or even temptress…miss the point” (p. 417 of his commentary). There is little textual evidence to suggest that she was to blame at all.

Is it possible that we feel more comfortable blaming women in stories like this?  In the incident of the rape of Tamar (2 Sam. 13), she was completely innocent and Amnon was totally to blame.  For the sexual encounter between Tamar and Judah (Gen. 38), Judah blamed Tamar publicly, despite the fact that he was more guilty.  To his credit Judah later admitted his guilt.

To his credit, David later acknowledged his guilt (2 Sam. 12:13; Psalm 51).  Instead of blaming, perhaps confessing is a better path to take.

I will be including the results of this poll in my next book.

Thanks for voting.

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3 comments

  1. The authors of “Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes” split the blame. They say that in an honor and shame culture, things done outside are designed to be seen. Therefore, Bathsheba was trying to be seen. Then there is a whole honor/shame thing with David and Uriah but I won’t go into that.

  2. Hi, Ben, Thanks for the comment.

    Maybe, but I’m not convinced. Even if she were doing it outside to be seen (which I don’t buy, and neither do Gordon and Firth), that doesn’t mean the blame should be split. Did she really have an option to say “No, thank you.” when David sent a group of “messengers” who were probably men, and most likely soldiers “requesting her presence.” David took all the initiative. People need to take baths, and there’s no clear evidence that what she was doing was weird. David should have been at war, and he shouldn’t have been watching. I blame David.

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