David: A rapist after God’s own heart?

Check out the article I wrote for Christianity Today online that came out yesterday (Oct 22, 2015):

David Was a Rapist, Abraham Was a Sex Trafficker: What We Miss When We Downgrade Old Testament Abuse Stories to Sexual Peccadillos.”  It wasn’t my idea to use “peccadillos.”  I had to look up what the word meant when my editor suggested it.

The article is based on themes I discuss in Prostitutes and Polygamists: A Look at Love, Old Testament Style.

Here are my blogs where I took about what happened between David and Bathsheba:

David and Bathsheba: Who’s to blame? (Part 1)

David and Bathsheba: Who’s to blame (Part 2)

What do you think? Was David a rapist after God’s own heart?  


  1. Read the article on Christianity Today. Here’s my response:

    “Bathsheba couldn’t say no. She didn’t even have a choice.” This is a wrong statement. Everyone has a choice when faced with doing good or evil. If power disparity takes away all responsibility from subjects of kings and emperors, then I guess Jesus’s admonition to stand firm in the face of earthly rulers doesn’t really matter. The fact that David was a king does not automatically make it non-consensual. Of course, there are often severe consequences when facing a king, but that doesn’t mean there’s no choice. After all, Daniel resisted Dairus’s edict, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego resisted Nebuchadnezzar, and Vashti resisted Esther’s future husband. Not to mention that Israel was not like other nations, and David was not like other kings. If she had stubbornly refused, and appealed to David’s love for God, he might have stopped. At least II Samuel would’ve noted it if she refused, just as it noted Tamar’s refusal and the subsequent rape of her by her brother, Amnon. And Nathan’s rebuke of David makes no mention of rape. If rape was involved, why would that not have been explicitly brought up? Certainly we should not be about blaming Bathsheba. But neither should we call her sleeping with David rape unless there is clear evidence that she said no, and was then forced. That doesn’t necessarily mean there weren’t any mixed feelings or seduction involved. But those things do not constitute rape.

    1. Johnemi, I agree that Bathsheba could have said no, but look what happened to Uriah who in the same story essentially said “No” twice to David’s request to sleep with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:9-13). David had him killed. David had no problem killing people who said no to him (see Joab’s story). Daniel, and his three friends who said “no” to rulers all should have been killed, but for God’s miraculous intervention. While 2 Samuel 11 leaves open the option, I don’t think she really had an option, which is what 2 Sam. 12 makes very clear.

  2. David, thank you for your perspective on the realities of humanity in Scripture. The Bible is chalk-full of evidence of our fallen condition, on through even our “brightest” examples of the faithful and faith-filled (i.e. David and Abraham). I think at the deepest level, it is a beautiful picture of God’s faithfulness (Psalm 36:5, Romans 3:3, Hebrews 10:23), despite our sinful nature.

    The only thing I believe may be a stretched interpretation is your view on the potential sexual nature of Pharaoh’s involvement with Sarai. You mention that “the language that Pharaoh “took her” suggests sexual engagement.”

    Gen. 12:15 indeed uses the word “taken” but I think it is prudent to refer to the original Hebrew, “Laqach”, in order to glean proper context, which is: “to fetch, to seize, to snatch, to take away” etc. That word is immediately followed up with the word, “Bayith” – “Home”. I do not believe there is any room to assume anything sexual by that language.

    I concede that the logic of the situation suggests Pharaoh may have ‘taken’ Sarai, sexually. But the Scriptures are unclear in this regard. Furthermore, when Abraham used the same trickery in Genesis 20, it is understand that Abimelech did not actually ‘touch her’ (v.6). A case could be made that she was preserved during her encounter with Pharaoh, though it is not clear.

    Ultimately, despite the details, it is evident that Abraham sinned against his wife, the leaders he fooled and God. In that, I fully agree with your opinion that these men were sinners and that is a point that should not be glazed over. “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins” (Ecc 7:20). Only Jesus: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).

    1. Thanks, Matt. I agree the text is ambiguous about what exactly took place. While I certainly hope Pharaoh and Sarai were not intimate, G. Wenham makes a good argument in his commentary on Gen. 1-15 that they probably were (p. 289). I go into a little more depth on his in my book (Prostitutes and Polygamists). Wenham makes two points. First, the language of “was taken” often suggests sex. Second, since plagues came upon Pharaoh it had to be something serious, like sex. I would argue that that fact that it’s clear in Gen. 20 that there was no sex suggests that sex did occur in Gen. 12. Wenham is not definitive, and neither am I, but as you point out, what he did was cowardly, and he knew that someone might try to take her as his wife.

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