Yes, David raped Bathsheba (Part 1)


Is there any evidence that David raped Bathsheba? Let’s look a bit closer. This is the first part of a conversation about rape in the Bible. Nate and Tim discuss the role of rape stories in the Hebrew Bible, the issue of power, reading in context, and more. #churchtoo #metoo #metoomovement


Nate: Alright, welcome to Almost Heretical. This week we are going to tackle a couple questions we got on one topic, and the topic is rape. And so if you ever want to send your question in, you have something that maybe got triggered by one of the shows we did or just something that you were thinking, you can do that at And then there’s a way to actually submit an audio question at the bottom of the page. That’s the best way to get your question on the show, because we love hearing your voice. Alright, Tim, what are these questions that we got?

Tim: Yeah, well, actually before we play them, just a heads up: this episode isn’t going to be intentionally provocative or risque or whatever, but obviously it’s the topic of rape, which is a horrific topic to even have to address. And we’re going to address sort of biblical studies, the Bible, on rape, not social psychology. But all that to say, if you’re someone who listens to this show with kids, which I don’t know if anybody out there does that, this probably isn’t a good one to listen to. And if you personally have any trauma related to rape, you probably haven’t started listening to this episode. If so, like I say, we’re not going to be intentionally, what’s the word?… just stirring the pot. We’re not going to whatever, but we’re going to talk about rape for a good hour here. So just know that going in, and don’t listen if you need to not listen. Okay, so here’s the first question we got. And specifically, this episode’s going to be on rape in the Old Testament, or the Hebrew Bible as we typically call it. Here’s the first question:

Hi Nate and Tim, this is Julie from Grapevine. I’ve been listening for a couple of months. I started at the beginning, and noticed that when you talk about the nephilim and King David, you talk about them as raping the women in their stories. This makes sense in the context that you tell the stories, but when I read the Bible in the translations I’ve always had around me, I don’t necessarily see it as rape. So my question is, are you assuming rape because of the power structures of the society, or is there textual stuff going on that I don’t see that really clearly points to rape? It may not really matter, because clearly both stories are bad, but everytime I hear you talking about it I wonder. Thanks!

Nate: Thanks, Julie. Thanks for the question. I think that’s a great question. I kind of have the same one. How do you, I know… I’m going to point the finger at Tim, because Tim’s the one that always said that. And I’m going to ask you, Tim, how did you know that? How do you see that that’s rape there, because it doesn’t always say that, does it? 

Tim: Yeah, actually, what we’re going to explore is that there is rape happening all over the scriptures. There are a lot of narratives about rape and then a lot of references to acts of rape and sexual violence in the prophetic literature, yet there actually is no technical word for rape in the Hebrew Bible. And that has to do with a few reasons, but one is that our concept of rape is essentially based on modern concepts of the equality of all human beings, especially women, and the natural inherent rights to agency over one’s own body that as we’re going to get into in a little bit just didn’t exist amongst the audience and in the minds of at least many of the authors writing texts that we have in our Bibles. What we’re going to see is rape is happening, a lot of activities that we would call rape very clearly are happening in the stories of the Bible, and there is some grammatical language that we’ll point out that actually is clueing in and is trying to tell the readers this is a violent sexual act. This isn’t a mutually enjoyed consensual act. But even saying, “consensual” — consent is a modern concept based on a belief that a woman has a right to her own body as well as a man, but specifically that women and children have rights to their own bodies, slaves have rights to their own body. That’s a belief that we have, so if anybody breaks somebody’s right to agency over their own body we call that rape. But that belief and those rights didn’t exist at the time, so that is why there is no technical word for rape. So actually we’re going to talk about a couple articles and then part of the reason I wanted to do a whole episode on this is we’re going to see, this is going to take us down a deeper rabbit hole that’s going to force us to ask some questions about what to do with the Bible and ethics and how we change and how we adapt and the role of modern science and viewpoints and all that. So, here we go.

Nate: I like that. I like that road. [laughs] Let’s do it.

Tim: It’s a pretty common road for us. So the two stories that Julie was mentioning, she mentioned the nephilim and she mentioned David. So pretty sure that’s when we’ve talked about Genesis 6 and the weird story of the sons of God coming down and having sex with the daughters of men; and the famous or infamous David and Bathsheba story.

Nate: Oh, I’m really interested to get to that one. Really interested to get to that. But okay, with the nephilim, are you just assuming that because one are like spiritual, powerful beings and the other are not, that that has to be some form of rape?

Tim: Yeah, so we’re going to see there are three things. We’re not going to give equal time here. One is just reading the story in context, and this has been a pet project of mine, something I’ve been taking notes on for a couple years now. And have shared some of that on the podcast, but the whole theme of power and the abuse of power that runs through the Hebrew Bible, these two rape stories… Or let’s just call them these two stories: the Genesis 6 thing, weird thing happening, and the David and Bathsheba story. Those are two of many stories of sexual violence happening in the Hebrew Bible that most of them are part of… they’re vignettes, scenes of a bigger story going on about the abuse of power. And so one thing is basically just reading in context and seeing what is the overall point that these stories are trying to get across and how does this story relate to another story? We’ll see some design patterns, kind of how those are playing, to use Tim Mackie’s language. Two is simply getting into the weeds of the grammar, and we’ll do a little bit of that here. 

But then three, and I think maybe we’ll just talk a little bit about this here up front and then kind of move on to some of the biblical scholarship stuff, but it is, Julie, like you said, just the power dynamic at play. And again, this is something I’ve reflected a lot on in the past few years. I was slow, personally, on the uptake to come to terms with the role of power in life and society. And so one thing that I think the last few years has made most of us who have been paying attention aware of — with the #MeToo movement, the #ChurchToo movement, and all of these stories of political celebrities and Hollywood celebrities, typically powerful men sexually assaulting women that were in some sort of subordinate position to them — is that power dynamics essentially create a whole world of issues when it comes to sexual relationships, such that consent, the idea of consent, basically becomes so muddy. When someone has a tremendous amount of power over another person…

Nate: It’s not really consent then.

Tim: It’s impossible to know.

Nate: Yeah, it’s impossible.

Tim: If you are the king of Israel, if you are King David, it is impossible to know whether you actually have a person’s consent. If you are a famous celebrity actor or the president of a basketball organization, all these different stories that have come out. The power dynamic is so great that people under you feel so scared to say no.

Nate: Well, and they might even have conflicting thoughts, feelings about the whole thing, because there’s other things involved. You know what I’m saying? It might be hard for them to even know. So I think there’s so much more going on there. You’re right, muddy is a great word.

Tim: Totally. So when I was doing some of the study, I was just thinking. I actually can kind of vaguely remember a time years back where I remember knowing or hearing somewhere that it’s never okay, it’s basically never okay to have a sexual relationship with an employee or a boss, basically as an HR policy, you know? But I don’t think I ever understood that until the last few years. And now I’m realizing, oh, I totally get the rationale, it makes perfect sense. And the fact that I didn’t get it just shows what kind of position of privilege and power I’ve always been able to live my life from. But the whole reason is to basically say consent, the idea of asking for consent and receiving an affirmative “yes” doesn’t apply when the relationship is in a strong hierarchy where there’s a big power gap.

Nate: This reminds me of a totally different topic to an extent, in my case. But just some of the leadership that I was a part of back in the church, I just remember when questions, when the lead guy would ask a question like, “This is right, right? We all feel like this, right?” The amount of difficulty to have a dissenting voice in that position, this is not sexual at all, but just with any topic. “Should we do it this way? Should we do it that way?” It is very, very, difficult. That’s in the church world, but in anything, I mean, I’ve seen with the CEO of a company, it’s very difficult to have a dissenting voice and to make that stand. And some people like you, Tim, they’re more able to. Their disposition is such that that’s an easier stand to make, or it’s easier to voice their opinion or when they think something is wrong or off, but for other people like me, that’s a much harder stand and step to make. So when there’s that power differential just in general, I think it’s really hard to be a dissenting voice.

Tim: Totally. So this episode isn’t going to be on the rampant abuse and coverup of abuse in churches, not just evangelical church, but the church throughout much of history. It’s not the topic here, but let’s just stop and point out: the reason that sexual abuse is so rampant amongst pastors, typically men who are either youth pastors or pastors of adults who have positions of not just institutional power but spiritual, religious authority. It shouldn’t be surprising to us that a tremendous amount of those people use that power to prey upon people and then can try to get away with it because it’s easy to silence those who like you say, have so much to lose, if you stand up and dissent. That’s not what we’re talking about, but we get into all that simply to say many, many people have taken that lens on life, which I think is just a reasonable and true lens of thinking about some of the basic along consent and rape, and then they read the story and they go, okay, David is the king of Israel, and Bathsheba is potentially, we’ll get into this, potentially an unnamed woman, and potentially even an immigrant, an outsider, a Canaanite. And you just look at those facts, or even if Bathsheba was some bigshot in Israel—

Nate: I have a question. How have you heard Bathsheba, her character just be kind of—this is a little bit of a leading question, but have you heard her character be drug through the mud whenever this topic is preached on? Have you heard that? Are you familiar with that?

Tim: So yes. I’m familiar with it, we’re going to touch on it in a little bit. I’ve never personally been in a church when somebody’s preached that.

Nate: I think it’s subtle. It’s subtle. Even just saying she was on the roof, as if that was so scandalous for that time or something like that. It’s like, probably everyone was bathing on the roof. Why would you have a bath inside your house, you know? We just assume western, twenty-first century technology, and that she is some outlier that’s trying to flaunt her body and attract people. You know what I’m saying?

Tim: Well. I think how people read, without any Hebrew grammar, without any strong literary knowledge of some of the more intimate details of what’s happening in the Old Testament, if you just read the story at face value, how people interpret the story to me reveals a lot of about how we think about women, how we think about the power in society. Basically how we think about patriarchy. So what you’re saying is often subtle, Nate, I think is often subtle; I’ve heard many stories of it being far less than subtle. But one of the articles we’re going to reference pulled up this quote from Martin Luther, and oh boy, I had no idea about this one. But Luther actually blamed Bathsheba.

Nate: Of course.

Tim: For causing David to stumble “over a couple of pigtails,” and then called Bathsheba a “domestic enemy, the house devil with her beautiful face and her smooth tongue.”

Nate: Wow.

Tim: So here we have, 500 years ago, and I’m sure people have said the same thing in churches all over just this year, a man supposedly in the name of Christ blaming a woman for what we’ll come to see is very clearly her own rape. Like how many times do we have to see that again and again and again before…

Nate: Well when I grew up it was the purity culture and the modesty culture and telling women that they have to dress a certain way, otherwise they’re asking for it. This was in youth groups, that type of culture. And Christian schools monitoring skirt length and all this type of stuff. It’s that same type of thing that if you do xyz, men aren’t strong enough—it’s the Mike Pence rule! Men aren’t strong enough to control themselves and so we have to put these rules around women and their bodies and their dress and their conduct and all this so that men… because I mean, come on, it’s ridiculous. That’s crazy that here’s the hero of the Reformation and the hero of still Reformed doctrine and Calvinism today on record. That’s pretty crazy stuff right there.

Tim: Right. Okay, so there’s so much more we could say. I mean, what was the tweet a week ago, two weeks ago, from a Catholic priest whining and complaining like he was the victim because another Catholic priest “had” to go up and ask a woman to cover her shoulders because she was going to cause all the priests to sin. It’s just like, this whole world of blaming, especially in the church, of men blaming women for their own evil, blaming victims of sexual violence and sexual harassment. It’s crazy. So in one sense, there’s a sense in which the David and Bathsheba story is kind of litmus test, I think, for us today. But Julie’s question is totally fair. Is the text explicitly stating this is rape, or are we just applying our modern understanding of power dynamics and saying, “you know what, if he was the king and she was some poor peasant girl, did she even have a choice? Could this have possibly been consensual?” That’s a legitimate question so we’ll get into it, and some of the stuff we’ll see is interesting. 

And I’ll just point that part of which I’ve been on a schtick of pointing out the theme of power in the Hebrew Bible is I think a lot of people think that’s a modern obsession, that’s basically twenty-first scholarship getting in the liberals’ heads and now we just think about power all the time. I actually think the writers of the Hebrew Bible thought a lot more about power dynamics than we do. That doesn’t mean I agree with the way they construed everything, but I actually do think they were thinking about the topic of power even more than we are today. So they would not have been blind to the power dynamic in this story. It’s not just us noticing that today because we think about power a lot. Actually I’ll point out some clues to see that like I said, this story of David and Bathsheba is there to show that David was abusing his power as the king. So let’s get into some of the weeds. Some of it’ll be interesting, some of it’ll be less interesting, and then we’ll get into another follow up question on rape.

Nate: Tim, you’re not supposed to tease the next section by saying, “This might not be interesting.” Come on, man!

Tim: Okay, I won’t do that.

Nate: This is going to be riveting!

Tim: It will be riveting.

Okay, so there are two articles I’m going to reference. I don’t know if either of them are available for free publicly, but you can try to find them or you can always, if you really want to read them, pay into…

Nate: [sing-song voice] Nerd web!

Tim: [laughs] …the nerd web, nice. So the first one, and it actually came out first and is referenced in the second article, is by a woman named Sandie Gravett, and it is titled Reading “Rape” in the Hebrew Bible: A Consideration of Language. And the second article is kind of building off of Gravett’s main point, is by another woman named Jennifer Andruska, and it is titled Rape in the Syntax of 2 Samuel 11:4. So 2 Samuel 11:4 — 2 Samuel 11 is where we find the story of David and Bathsheba, and 11:4 is specifically the sentence that speaks of David seeing Bathsheba, sending someone to take her. So actually, Nate, why don’t we read —

Nate: Play it? You want me to play the song? You want me to get my guitar?

Tim: The song? What song?

Nate: Hold on. [playing guitar]

Tim: [laughing]

Nate: [sings second verse and chorus of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah] Should I keep going? No.

Tim: Wow.

Nate: That song, Tim.

Tim: Alright. I don’t even know how to respond to that. So should say, before we jump back into the David and Bathsheba, because we’re going to leave Genesis 6 behind. Which you’re probably happy to hear, because you think I always like to get into the weird.

Nate: Are we gonna talk about the divine beings again, Tim?

Tim: The weird divine being stuff? No, we’re not —

Nate: I’m just going to play the guitar if you’re going to do that.

Tim: [laughs] but because that was part of your question, Julie, where I mentioned that I think the Genesis 6 thing is rape as well, is for two of those three reasons. So one is that the story, I believe all of Genesis 3-11 is different chapters of a story that’s talking about the abuse of power. That’s setting up the problem is human beings were given the power to rule on earth and then there’s this war for power that happens. So I think part of the story is it’s this divine power grab from the divine realm to the human realm. So just in the context, I think it makes sense that it’s rape. And then secondarily, the same argument we just said: if there’s a tremendous power dynamic, could consent even be possible? And you can just apply the same lens to divine beings, gods essentially, having sex with women. It’s the same thing, and obviously it’s weird territory, but could a woman even say no to a god that was interested? You know, it’s kind of the same.

Nate: Not if it was the god’s will.

Tim: [laughs] I can’t even. Anyway, that’s enough with Genesis 6, we’re done there. Let’s get to poor Bathsheba. By the way, small vignette: we were excited to get chickens for the first time and we got five chicks this spring. We’re only allowed to have four here in Bend, and so we got five hoping they would all survive but knowing something could always happen. And my wife named one of the five, and she named it Bathsheba. And Bathsheba died week one.

Nate: [laughs] I shouldn’t be laughing.

Tim: Right. It shouldn’t be funny. But I just think that name has been cursed for the longest time, so Lord be with all of the Bathshebas out there. 

Nate: Wow. That was a downer!

Tim: We really haven’t even gotten off the ground here yet, Nate. Okay, this is not going to be a pick-me-up, but let’s read the first few verses of 2 Samuel 11.

Nate: I guess that’s me. Bible Gateway… 2 Samuel 11!

1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing.

I feel like we need a [strums guitar].

The woman was very beautiful, and David sent someone

This is dangerous now, I got my guitar, so!

David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanliness.) Then she went back home. The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

Tim: That’s cool. We can cut it there. Do you remember though, sort of the follow up next part of the story?

Nate: Doesn’t he… he gets her husband killed, puts him on the front lines or something, gets him killed, then he has her marry him, something like that? 

Tim: Yeah. Couple other things. So we’ll just look at some of the clues here. So one of the things that happens, you’re right, so the next part of the story is then David tries to cover up his act, which I’m going to call a sexual assault, but I haven’t proved that yet. But he’s going to cover up his act by trying, first what he’s going to do is try to get Uriah to immediately come home and sleep with his wife so there’s no way of knowing that it wasn’t Bathsheba’s husband. Right?

Nate: Right.

Tim: And interestingly, Uriah refuses because he doesn’t want to experience a kind of privilege (going home to be with his family) that the other soldiers in the army don’t get to have. So here’s just one piece where we’re just going to read the story in context. Why does that little bit get in there and why do we need to know that this event happened in the spring when kings usually go out to battle, but David decided to stay home in Jerusalem?

Nate: It makes David look more like a loser, and it makes this other guy look more like a legit guy because he wanted to do the right thing and David was doing the wrong thing.

Tim: Right. And specifically, it’s not just broad loser/good guy. It’s that David is abusing his power and privilege. He’s the king, but instead of going out and being on the front lines to lead the people out, he’s staying at home in the palace taking advantage of people. 

Nate: And the other guy has a chance to get out of it and use this power from the king to go not be on the front lines, and he doesn’t take it.

Tim: Exactly. To be a man of integrity. So it’s pairing Uriah and David as antitheses. This happens all over the place, and the whole point is what is David going to do with his power he just got? He was a little man, he was a little guy, just a little shepherd boy. But now he has all this power; what is he doing with it? This is the beginning of the author of the book of Samuel telling us he’s going to do what everybody else has done: they’re going to get power and then abuse it. The story with Bathsheba is the climax of that point. Second little bit of reading in context. If you remember, if you listened to the episode where we had Tim Mackie on the show, he talked about looking for design patterns and ways that stories and bits of the literature and pieces of the Bible are intentionally stitched to others. So what you just read Nate, was that the NIV?

Nate: Yeah.

Tim: So this is just something you would never see if you didn’t, if you weren’t looking for this, you didn’t have some tools, you didn’t have some scholarly help. But in the Hebrew, what it basically says is that David saw Bathsheba, she was good. Literally tov, the word for good. Basically good in appearance. So most translations say she was very beautiful in appearance. It says that David saw her and that she was good in appearance, and so David sent a messenger. But then the subject of the next line is back to David, “and took her”. And so think about that. David saw that something was good and took it. Does that remind you of any story in the Bible?

Nate: Yes.

Tim: Care to share?

Nate: Oh, do you want me to tell you? It reminds me of Genesis 3 with Adam and Eve and a fruit.

Tim: Exactly. So the wording in Genesis 3 is Eve saw that the tree was good and she took the fruit. Saw, good, took. So intentionally, this language is being used to depict this act as a kind of wrongful use of one’s privilege or power. He had the possibility to do something that he should not be doing. We don’t need to take it too literally. It’s not like, what’s the relationship between apples and whatever. It’s more like this is a paradigmatic way of saying David was doing something wrong. So then those are two ways of just reading this in context, of reading the literature. But then a couple points that these two articles will point out. One is, and some of this will probably ring familiar with you Nate, there are several ways of saying in Hebrew, several ways of talking about two people having sex or having a sexual relationship, that are essentially consensual. Again, I think consent is more our concept than theirs, but it implies that the two parties are sort of in this together. So one is the phrase “to lie with.”

Nate: I was just going to ask about that one.

Tim: Yeah, so actually, the follow up in the story. David covers up his abuse by having Uriah killed and then gets rebuked by Nathan. Nathan is voicing the rebuke of God in the language of this text, he gets rebuked for it. We’re going to get into that in a second because I think it’s important and telling. What happens is that the child that was to be born from David and Bathsheba dies. David takes, this is the language, takes Bathsheba as his wife, and then they have another child. This child becomes Solomon, obviously an important character. So the implication is there’s this first event where David sees a stranger and goes and takes her. We’re talking about power dynamic: if you can go take a person, that’s a very strong power differential between you two. If you can send people to go take her for you, it probably means you have even more power. So first he goes and takes her. But then after Bathsheba becomes a widow with no role in society, she becomes one of David’s many wives and then years later they have another child.

Nate: Wait, wait. I thought that the Bible said one man and one woman marriages? I’m just kidding.

Tim: [laughs] Uh, if we don’t circle back to that in fifteen minutes, remind me. Because we will. No seriously, we will.

Nate: [laughs] Okay. 

Tim: So then it says a chapter later: David comforted his wife Bathsheba and went into her and lay with her. And that’s another way of saying essentially this is a kind of consensual sex. “To lie with” or “to go into.” It’s basically, Hebrew is a language that compared to English has very few words, so you make words that mean other things have particular meanings in particular contexts. So “to lie with,” “to go into,” and then the third one you probably remember is “to know.” Right, so this is the example of Adam and Eve knew one another in Genesis 4:1, or Adam knew Eve. So you have some grammar that essentially looks like the way it’s being used in all the stories throughout the Bible is some sort of consensual sexual relationship. And then you have this language that’s here, the Hebrew word is laqach, you don’t need to know it, but it’s “to take” or “to seize”. And then that’s combined with this phrase “lay with.” So it’s sort of a way of saying to lie with someone is to have sex with them. But to take someone and lie with them is sort of a way of saying this is a kind of violent, nonconsensual, one person is doing something to someone else. And this is one of the arguments that Gravett and Andruska and other scholars have made convincingly. Go read the articles if you can, they pull a bunch of sources together. And then there’s this other phrase that we’ll see in some later texts, anah, which basically means to humiliate or violate or make miserable. Almost to make someone ill. It’s sort of this broad word that can be used in a lot of ways, but when it’s applied in a sexual scene, it seems that throughout the Old Testament literature, it’s implying there’s this nonconsensual thing. So essentially these scholars have gone through and they’ve looked at, one way they’ve phrased it is there is typical grammatical phrases being used in atypical ways in order to intentionally signal that this is nonconsensual, that this is an act of sexual violence. This wasn’t just David having an affair, right?

Nate: Right. 

Tim: You talked about the subtle ways Bathsheba is blamed for this, is this is an affair and that the sin was an affair.

Nate: Yeah, it was interesting because I’ve started to think that’s what was going on here, and there’s been a lot of people talking about this, I’ve seen a lot of stuff on twitter about rethinking Bathsheba, essentially. So it’s interesting to get into some of the scholarship on this. 

Tim: Yeah, totally. We’ll just have time here to cover a couple more points. One of my favorites when I dug down and studied this, I’ll just give the high level overview. One of the projects, Nate you know, I’ve been working on is — well, two projects, one is theology of power, two is expanding the role of the Joseph story throughout the Hebrew scriptures and the way that plays into the sort of messianic hope. So one of the parts of that idea, the role of the Joseph story, is that Joseph and Judah are sort of being juxtaposed with one another. So like I said, there’s rape all over the Old Testament and in the next episode we’re going to get into how to think about those, and specifically there are multiple scenes where rape or sexual violence is happening, where there are two that are being paired next to each other and you’re supposed to read them both in tandem. And there’s actually, can you think, in the end of Genesis, I just mentioned Joseph, can you think of a rape story? 

Nate: Oh, is that Potiphar’s wife? 

Tim: Yeah, so there’s that kind of strange story that seems like it’s coming out of left field. Joseph gets out of prison.

Nate: I thought that was just supposed to tell us to run away.

Tim: [laughs] Exactly, right? We won’t even get into all the weird ways that people have spiritualized or moralized that story. But that’s the story people know, and then even many scholars for many, many years have had no idea what to do with the chapter immediately preceding that, which is the strange, sort of out of left field story of Judah raping, or not really raping potentially, but having sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar when Tamar dressed up like a prostitute. You remember that? 

Nate: Yeah, kinda.

Tim: Amnon spilled his seed, then there’s that whole…

Nate: Oh, yes.

Tim: You get decades of youth group pastors telling kids not to masturbate because of the spilling that seed text. So in Genesis what you have is Judah is the one that was chosen to rule and given the green light to have power, and then you have this little brother Joseph who actually ends up proving he’s the one worthy of that power. So what happens in that story, we won’t get into all the details, is Tamar proves Judah to be hypocritical and abusing of his privilege, he wasn’t taking care of his daughter-in-law, by essentially enacting this ruse and gets Judah to admit that he was being this hypocritical fool. The very next chapter, essentially with this scene of sexual violence where Judah is the assaulter, then you have in the next chapter a scene where Joseph is the victim of a sexual assault. And it’s pairing those two things. So one of the things that passed me by for years is there’s a good chance Bathsheba is not actually a name. What this is is a way of connecting this story with David with that same story with Judah back in Genesis.

Nate: This feels like at the end of some movie where one little thing changes. It’s like The Usual Suspects. You see that one thing and then it starts all unraveling and the whole movie is completely different than you thought it was. That’s what that felt like.

Tim: That’s perfect, because honestly you’re going to have to go back and reread these stories and then hopefully, that’s what you’re supposed to do, right, once you get to the end?

Nate: Have you seen The Usual Suspects?

Tim: Yeah, what’s the great line that everybody in church world used to apply? The devil’s greatest trick was convincing you he didn’t exist?

Nate: Convincing he didn’t exist. Yeah.

Tim: Keyser Söze?

Nate: Keyser Söze. 

Tim: So what are you going to do when you finish watching and you find out about Keyser Söze? You want to go back and watch it all over again, right?

Nate: Oh, yeah.

Tim: Because now you have the key, and so you can watch it understanding it. So that’s actually part of why — this is a side note, that’s part of why I love studying the Bible, because I get that experience over and over again. There’s so much we don’t know, and then when you learn something new, you get to go back and see how it’s working.

[The Usual Suspects audio clip of Keyser Söze speaking] “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

Tim: Okay, so let me just recap this. I hope we can see the connections in this flyby. Okay so Judah back in Genesis. Judah was chosen to rule amongst his brothers, and Judah marries a Canaanite bath Shua. so we don’t even know whether Bathshua is the name or bath Shua is just a way of saying, “We don’t know this woman’s name; she was the daughter of Shua.” And they had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. The first son Er marries Tamar, but God killed Er, so it was the next son’s responsibility to marry his brother’s wife and produce offspring for him. But Onan spilled his seed like we just referenced, so God killed him too. So that’s why Judah refuses to give Tamar to the third son. He basically self-protecting, so he’s refusing to take care of his daughter-in-law, Tamar. So then Tamar enacts this desperate plan, gets Judah to reveal himself as being this hypocritical jerk, and then the kids born from this, from that fake prostitution sting thing, this crazy drama, become the heirs of the famous line of Judah. You know, the whole Jesus from the line of Judah. All that. So the whole point is that the chosen ruler is abusing his power and is unfit to rule; all the while little Joseph, next chapter over in Egypt, is proving worthy to rule the entire world. So this is this contrast going on. So the point of the whole David, Bathsheba, and Uriah scene is to suggest that David is more like Judah than Joseph. If you’re reading the whole Old Testament story, that’s the point. It’s supposed to remind you of this Judah scene, and here’s how. Not just by the scenes kind of having some similar events. King David is sitting on Judah’s throne, literally, taking a woman named Bathshua. So I’d actually never noticed this, but 1 Chronicles 3:5. Most likely this is because the bet and the vav, in Hebrew those are two letters, kind of the b and the v, almost sound identical. And so Bathshua and Bathsheba basically just could have been replacements of phonetic complements.

Nate: So it could have actually intended to be the same.

Tim: It’s just the same name! So in 1 Chronicles 3:5, it says David had a wife named Bathshua. So literally it’s just filling in the same exact name. We haven’t noticed that oftentimes because we’re not making the connections and because it’s spelled differently in our English transliteration. And by the way, just a note for reading the Bible, anytime you see the same name used twice, for instance like Tamar or Bathshua/Bathsheba, there is a connection. They aren’t just randomly using names twice in the Bible. So if you remember, I pointed out when we started that story that Uriah was a Hittite, and Hittites were Canaanites, that was one of the people groups that lived in Canaan. So the original Bathshua that Judah was married to was an outsider, a Canaanite, named Bathshua. It’s likely that the wife of this other Canaanite Uriah was also a Canaanite. So it’s a way of making another connection to say, “Hey, here’s another king marrying an outside immigrant woman with the same name, ‘daughter of Shua,’ doing basically the exact same thing, which is a perversion of his power and privilege to take advantage of another woman and then to try to cover it up.” So it’s not just rape or sexual assault or mistreatment of women or blatant misogyny. It’s then also the use of one’s power to cover up that thing and then the person who was doing the cover up gets exposed. Judah got exposed by Tamar and David ends up getting exposed by Nathan.

Nate: Ah, yeah.

Tim: So again this kind of goes two directions. Seeing the connections here shows that understanding this larger story of showing how people when they gain power misuse it, and rape is one of the key ways that they do that, sexual violence against powerless women is one of the symptoms of their abuse of power. That makes us see that this story is rape. It also goes the other direction and says that rape or the sexual violence towards women is one of the key things that reveals that someone is abusing their power. So actually, these stories, and there are many more of them that we could touch on, these stories are meant to indicate to us specifically the whole point is that it’s rape. And so one other piece of the scholarship that I didn’t see until I read these two articles, is that there’s this really fascinating history through the scribal history translation of the Hebrew Bible into different languages. Like, long before our English translations in the first several centuries of translation. And basically all of the translations go out of their way to emphasize that David was doing something to Bathsheba that was nonconsensual. Some of them even remove the line that has Bathsheba coming back to David when he sends someone to go grab her and it says she comes to David? They remove that line as if saying, “She didn’t take a single willing step in this thing.” And one of the targums even adds a line to say that David took her by force. So in the translation history literally of people who have translated these texts, including the rabbis in the Talmud and the Mishnah, and this is one of the points I loved in Sandie Gravett’s scholarship, she goes into the tendency of all of the scribes always was to whitewash over especially someone like King David, would have been to whitewash over this guy’s sins and to make him look better than he was. And because of the misogyny baked into these cultures, one of the easiest things you could have done would have been to essentially write in and blame the woman and divvy up the blame, but none of the scribes or rabbis throughout history have done that. So even in the translation history, which is something again we won’t see unless you get into some of the deeper scholarship and contextual history, people have gone out of their way to emphasize that this was a nonconsensual act. Essentially this was rape.

Nate: Right. That’s interesting. So basically you’re saying in that culture, you’d have to go out of your way to say it wasn’t that, and they’ve done that. Yeah, that’s a really good argument. Okay, Tim, give me your best — because we’ve decided. We decided a few minutes ago that this needs to be a two part thing because we’re already over the limit, so we’re going to have a second part. So Tim, people are listening right now. How are you going to convince them to listen to part two.

Tim: Okay, actually…

Nate: Oh! Also you have thirty seconds.

Tim: Well, I’m going to save my thirty seconds by making you do this, Nate. It’s going to take more than thirty seconds. I want you to read, this is the last point, I want you to read the scene in the chapter when Nathan confronts David. This is going to close out our conversation here and tease sort of where we’re going.

Nate: “Nathan rebukes David.” Okay, so how much do I read?

Tim: Uh… read this until you feel like puking.

Nate: [makes retching sound] I’m just kidding. 

2 Samuel 12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 

Nate: If you’re getting VeggieTales in your head right now, just stop!

2 “The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.

Nate: So God gave all the women to… ? Okay, anyways.

9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household

Nate: Okay, stop.

Tim: No, hold on. That’s the last line I need you to read. Just power through it real quick.

Nate: Okay, okay. Where was I?

Tim: Verse 11.

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” 

Tim: This is my tease, Nate. Just stop and think about this for a second. I take no joy in doing this, seriously. Think about the analogy. So David went, took advantage of Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover it up? And what is the analogy that is supposedly coming, indirectly at least, from God? It’s comparing David to a rich man with lots of animals, sheep. And that is the analogy to him having lots of his own wives that God has already given him. And what he did is wrong not because he raped a woman, but because he stole a poor man’s sheep/wife, who only had one wife.

Nate: Basically just like taking property from a poor person.

Tim: This is what is described as his sin. The thing he did, because he had no compassion, not for Bathsheba. For Uriah, because Uriah’s a man. So the whole premise is based on a conception that Bathsheba was Uriah’s property whose emotions don’t even matter for us to know in the story, whose well-being isn’t even mentioned in this story, who’s never even essentially allowed to have a line or to be the subject of a sentence. The point is in the story that David was rich because God had given him tons of wives. We’ll actually give a count of how many next week. And he did something wrong to Uriah, because he took Uriah’s wife. And if that weren’t bad enough, the consequence, says God according to 2 Samuel? The consequence is that God will get back at David by having one of David’s friends sleep with David’s wives in public in front of everybody.

Nate: Geez.

Tim: So if a story based on the kind of misogyny that treats women as absolute property and the rights over women’s bodies to be absolutely given to men, and that this whole thing is just a matter of men fighting over their rights to rule particular women. If that weren’t bad enough, supposedly the divine sanction, the consequence, is the public rape of other women in order to get back at David. That is the kind of stuff that we’re going to come back and talk about next week.

Nate: That’s… that’s really messed up. Alright, I have a lot of questions about that. I don’t even know what they are yet, but it just feels so wrong. 

Tim: Yeah. Sit on them. So this week, basically I was making the point, this story’s about rape. I think the Genesis 6 story is also about rape. I think there are actually a dozen or more stories overtly about rape. What we’re going to get into next week is what do we do with these texts? There’s another great listener question: what is the Bible doing here? What are we seeing if we look closely? Should we look closely? And if we see what we think we’re seeing, then how do we respond to this stuff?

Nate: Alright, come back next time. Thanks for being with us. We have a whole second podcast we’d love you to listen to and be a part of a patron community that’s growing, and you can join that all at You can email us or find out more about the show and why we’re even doing this at We’ll see you next time.

Tim: Peace, y’all.

[The Usual Suspects audio clip of Keyser Söze] “And like that… he’s gone.”

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