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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:42 am 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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So here's the thing.

Last night at our Growth Group (kind of like Sunday School; it's just a small group that gets together to study the Bible and fellowship), I kind of got into it with our pastor. Putting aside the fact that I feel like he tends to get aggressive with me from time to time (another discussion and could be in my head), let me tell you all what happened. And I sort of just began piecing some of this together while out on my hike today.

We were studying David and Bathsheba. If you don't know the story, you can check out 2 Samuel 11. Basically, King David should have been off at war with his men. Instead, he was being lazy or restless or whatever and stayed home. Therefore, he sees Bathsheba taking a bath, sends for her, sleeps with her, gets her pregnant, and then begins trying to cover it up. First, he tries to get Uriah, her husband, to sleep with her. He sends for Uriah to come home, but Uriah won't sleep with his wife (or even in his house) out of sympathy with the other men he's just left in battle. So David orders Uriah's commander to put him in the front line and then abandon him. Uriah is killed. David marries Bathsheba, thinks he gets away with the whole deal, but then Nathan comes and fronts him out. David repents, God forgives him, but the baby dies, etc.

So here's where the conflict came in. We were discussing the effects that David's actions had on several people. One of them was Bathsheba. One person immediately said that she was an adulteress. Okay, that ruffled me up, right there. I am not so sure about that. Could she be? Yes. She could have willingly consented to having sex with David. Maybe she realized, "Hey, he's the most powerful person in the land; he's rich. He's cute. Uriah is gone, and I'm lonely. Besides, Uriah may never come home, or he may come home in pieces. I'm going for it!"

But I had a very strong reaction to her immediately being labeled an adulteress. David is the KING. You do NOT refuse the king! If you refuse the king, then you die. So (and this is what I figured out today on my hike), to me, this is rape. It's not any different, even if David didn't hold a sword to her throat and forcibly rape her. The choice was the same: Have sex with me or die.

I realize that I'm making assumptions, too, but I think because the Bible never labels Bathsheba as an adulteress or a sinner but, instead, speaks again and again of David's sin, it would be wise for us to at least be more speculative about it, if not to just remain silent on it altogether.

In fact, in verse 27 it says, "But the thing David had done displeased the LORD" (emphasis mine). David. It's mentioned that way several times, and, though I haven't done an exhaustive search, I don't see anywhere that it names Bathsheba as culpable.

So am I off base? What do you guys think? I'm not sure I'll bring this up again in the group, but I might because I know that everyone felt the tension. The pastor was adamant about her being guilty of sin here, and I felt that we couldn't make that determination. However, I didn't have this pieced together in my mind precisely on why it might not have been sin on her part.

But, if you guys think I'm way off, then I'll definitely let it go. Likely, I'll let it go anyway, but you never know.

Thoughts?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:51 am 
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Lali, I'm totally with you on this.

This story is about David's sin and David's weaknesses. And his misuse of power. He saw Bathsheba, sent for her and of COURSE she had to do what he asked. Whether or not she happened to think he was hot (and David is one of the characters in the Bible who is actually physically described as...well...damn good looking!) is besides the point. He was the King, you do what the King says. And she did. She did not have the choice of saying "No" as far as I'm concerned.

And then suffered for it, as her child died.

David is one of my favorite Biblical characters, because he is so flawed and so human.

But it sure is convenient to label Bathsheba as an "adulteress."

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:27 am 
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I have mixed feelings about this. WAS David the kind of king who would "force" a woman? I'm not so sure. However, she might have believed she couldn't refuse the king. Maybe she was ambitious.

But for sure it's not "fair" to label Bathsheba automatically - we don't know what her motives were, or if she was raped, or if she just gave in because she thought she had to.

Stuart Cloete wrote a book about the Boer War called "Rags of Glory". In there, an evil man aims to have a certain woman and as he is a general in the war, he puts her husband "in the forefront of the battle", just as David did. And, this woman was an amibitious slut who thought she could outsmart the general. But she didn't.

Maybe that was Bathsheba, too?

I like to give the woman a break, though.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:47 am 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Thank you both for your thoughts.

I do agree that we don't know what her motives were. Maybe they were mixed. Maybe they were adulterous only. Maybe they were completely innocent in that she was forced (or felt forced) into complying.

But, like you, I think I'll give her a break and let God decide all of that. In any case, he only singles out David. I think that's significant.

I do also like David. We get to read his journal, so to speak, and he resonates with many of us. He's real, but he tried to love God. He screwed up, and he repented and went back to trying to follow God as much as possible.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 3:15 am 
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Lalaith wrote:
Thank you both for your thoughts.

I do agree that we don't know what her motives were. Maybe they were mixed. Maybe they were adulterous only. Maybe they were completely innocent in that she was forced (or felt forced) into complying.

But, like you, I think I'll give her a break and let God decide all of that. In any case, he only singles out David. I think that's significant.

I do also like David. We get to read his journal, so to speak, and he resonates with many of us. He's real, but he tried to love God. He screwed up, and he repented and went back to trying to follow God as much as possible.


I agree. It sounds as if there is a lesson taught out of convenience rather than what the scripture says.

All she did was obey her lord. When her husband was dead, she was free to marry, especially given the circumstances. God desires mercy not strict adherence to rules and regulations (as demonstrated in the tale of Mary and Joseph, which poses a similar problem).


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:12 am 
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At least one commenter wondered why she was bathing on the roof in the first place.

But it is true that she is never condemned in the text. Thway she is described does suggest that she has not had any choice in the matter, not just from her perspective but from the text's.

Actually, Lali, would you permit me a little hijack on the subject of Biblical women? Tamar, specifically. Our Rabbi was teaching on that portion, and he pointed out something I completely missed. Since this thread attracted posters who know their Scripture, I thought I'd ask if it was just me.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 4:24 am 
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Rembrandt's portrait of Bathsheba at her Bath, as she receives the king's message/summons, really illustrates (badumching) the moment and her role. The look on her face tells you all the streams of thought running through her head at once: fear, sadness, desire, and guilt. Yeah, it's all there, look closer. :D

Did she have a choice? Not really. Does not having a choice absolve you if you don't mind doing it anyway? Different question.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:01 am 
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I remember reading this story because of the way my parents flipped when I asked them about it (I still don't get what the fuss was about; I was 14 or so at the time and the OT really didn't offer much in terms of sex and violence that could top the Greco-Roman mythology I'd been feasting on since grade school). I don't recall anything in the text that suggested Bathsheba bore any blame. Looking at it again as an adult, I still don't see it. Clearly, everyone involved in the story recognized that, in the case of such an extreme power differential, consent is simply not possible. If their society was structured in such a way that the blame could just be dumped on Bathsheba, David wouldn't have felt compelled to try and cover his behind by first summoning Uriah home in the hopes he'd do his wife and the timing of the pregnancy would be explicable and then by getting the guy killed so he could marry her.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 6:09 am 
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I concur with your analysis, Lali.

I also remember reading once (but I can't remember where or how reliable the source is) that in Biblical times adultery was primarily considered a property crime and thus more serious for the man, who was taking his neighbor's property by bedding his wife. It was more a matter of property rights than sexual purity.

I'm not sure that's correct, but it's interesting.

At any rate, she surely felt she could not refuse without endangering not only herself but her husband.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 12:44 pm 
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Frelga, what was your thought regarding Tamar?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 1:25 pm 
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I'd like to hear about Tamar, too. Horrid story, really. Her half-brother was such a miserable SOB, wasn't he? There's a famous painting called "The Rape of Tamar" - I don't remember who painted it.

The women in the Old Testament used what little power they had. In most cases, this was not much. I am reminded of Rachel, sitting on the household gods she had stolen from Lamar and telling Lamar that she couldn't rise to greet him because she had her period, knowing that no man would question her. That was the power she had, and she used it.

I'd love a study of the women of the Old Testament, because I find their stories so compelling.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:04 pm 
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Me too, and I know I get a little protective of them, as well. Their stories are few and far between. I got a teensy bit annoyed a few weeks ago during a sermon by our associate pastor over the way the judges were listed on a slide. He had one listed as: Barak/Deborah. Barak wasn't the judge! Deborah was, and Barak didn't even want to do what Deborah told him to do. So I'm not sure why he included Barak anyway, let alone listed Barak first. :rage: I'm sure it was no big deal to most people, but it bothered me because I felt that it diminished the uniqueness of Deborah.

I do appreciate everyone's thoughts, and I may very well bring this subject up again in group or, at least, do a post on it in our FB group page.

Frelga, that'd be fine to discuss Tamar or any other woman of the Bible.

ax asks, "Does not having a choice absolve you if you don't mind doing it anyway? Different question."

And that's a tough one, I think. Hmmm, I'll have to ponder that one.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:13 pm 
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Lalaith wrote:
Ax asks, "Does not having a choice absolve you if you don't mind doing it anyway? Different question."

And that's a tough one, I think. Hmmm, I'll have to ponder that one.


It depends on whether the faith to which one cleaves considers one's thoughts in and of themselves sinful and worthy of punishment.

Personally, I don't think so. Only if one acts upon them of one's own volition. But that's my opinion.

Lali, totally with you on Devorah!

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:35 pm 
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Lalique,'thanks for the generous permission to use your thread. Also, rape of Tamar? Could it be some other story you have in mind.

A recap. Tamar was married to the oldest son of Judah, son of Jacob. Because her husband died childless, it was her duty to produce an heir for him through his oldest brother or another close male relative. That brother was Onan, who famously reneged on his duties and died also without giving Tamar an heir.

The next brother being underage, Judah sent Tamar back to her father's house to wait. Apparently, he was not keen on marrying yet another son to Tamar, because even after that brother was old enough, she was still waiting.

Whar I want to ask is how you remember what happened next. Tamar learns that Judah, her father in law, is walking into town. What does she do?

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:44 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Should I answer without looking at my Bible first? :D

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:46 pm 
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Yes, please. :)

Wiki is no help, I noticed.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 2:50 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Okay, I won't look.

Ummm, as I recall, Tamar dresses herself as a prostitute and places herself along Judah's path. He has sex with her and gives her his staff (or ring? something that was specifically marked as belonging to him) as collateral until he can send payment to her. She becomes pregnant and then sends the staff/ring to Judah to prove that the baby is his, and she was the "prostitute" he slept with.

<is nervous that I've remembered it wrongly!>

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:13 pm 
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If it helps, that's how I remembered it too. So it's not just me. Good. :)

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:36 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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All right, quit being mysterious! :rage:

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:49 pm 
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I was just hoping someone else might stop by. :blackeye:

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