David & Bathsheba: It Was Adultery, Not Rape

Rachael Denhollander, the first woman to accuse U.S. Olympic doctor Larry Nassar of sexual assault, has set off a heated discussion on social media. In response to a post by Matt Smethurst of Christian website The Gospel Coalition that delineated the sins of men of God in the Bible, Denhollander posted, “David raped. It’s important we get that right.”

I have a lot of compassion for victims of sexual assault. It’s a crime that should never be taken lightly and if the sexual assault is to the point of rape, I’m a firm believer that it’s an offense equal to murder and is worthy of the death penalty, just as God prescribes in Deuteronomy 22:25-26. Nevertheless, being a victim of sexual assault does not give someone as Denhollander the right to thrust one’s eisegesis of personal, private interpretations onto accounts in the Bible. Every unsavory, immoral sexual encounter in the Bible is not subject to projections or impositions based on one’s personal experiences. The context of the scripture with the Holy Spirit’s wisdom should lead us to what the content actually says and means.

In the case of David and Bathsheba, the context reveals that both David and Bathsheba were willing, consensual participants in their adultery. We know it was adultery and not rape, as Denhollander falsely claims, because of two key phrases in 2 Samuel 11 that lays out the encounter. 2 Samuel 11:4 says, “And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.” The predominant use of the words take, took, taken in most of the first half of the Old Testament, when directed at or involving a person, has to do with someone who willingly accepts some offer or action (Genesis 2:15, 21; 4:19; Exodus 17:5; 18:2; Deuteronomy 24:1; Judges 6:27, etc.).

In addition to the phrase “took her” in 2 Samuel 11:4, there is the phrase “she came in” to verify the fact that Bathsheba was a willing participant, not a victim of rape. The phrase “came in” is a term used to denote a willful action by the person making that move of their own volition (see Genesis 6:4; 19:5; Exodus 10:3; Judges 18:17; 1 Samuel 4:14, etc.). Just two chapters later in 2 Samuel 13, we see what rape looks like in the Bible when Tamar pleads with her half brother not to “force” himself on her and physically resists him, to no avail. Essentially, Denhollander and those who feel they should open up such an unfounded discussion on David and Bathsheba are simply attempting to sow division for the sake of personal attention and to raise doubts about God and the Bible when none of it is really necessary or valid. They are Biblically ignorant.

Source: Adelle M. Banks, Emily McFarlan Miller, Speaking of abuse: Baptist news service, Bible scholars grapple with language, Religion News Service, October 10, 2019.

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