In recent years much historical sexual abuse of women has come to light. But why did they stay silent for so long?
Many didn’t feel safe sharing their experiences. They were afraid they would be blamed for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, for wearing inappropriate clothing, for flirting and generally encouraging sexual advances, despite being a minor.
Many have been disbelieved. Many blamed themselves and live with guilt and shame for allowing the abuse to happen as if they were powerful enough to stop it. Perpetrators deliberately pick victims where they have more power, whether it’s through their authority, status or pure body strength. The perception of women at different times in history has also played a part in keeping women silent.
Bathsheba isn’t often regarded as a victim of sexual abuse. Yet nowhere in the Bible is Bathsheba held responsible for adultery, only David is rebuked, and only David is sent a prophet.
When we consider Bathsheba as a sexual abuse survivor, we wonder how faith in a loving, powerful God can survive abuse.
Bathsheba summoned to the palace
When kings went off to war, David stayed home (2 Samuel 11:1). We aren’t told Bathsheba was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but we’re told that David was. He was supposed to be fighting a war, not lolling about at home.
Often Bathsheba is described as taking a bath, but strictly speaking, she was washing herself as part of the purification ritual following menstruating (2 Samuel 11:4). She was following the instructions God gave Moses. Artists like to portray Bathsheba flaunting naked in front of a window. Yet, she may have been simply washing with a basin of water. We’re told David had gone to bed. Perhaps Bathsheba deliberately waited until the time when most people would be sleeping or napping to ensure her privacy.
The account tells us David could see Bathsheba from the palace roof and therefore must have lived nearby—a neighbor. Only trusted, close associates of the king would live in such close proximity. Yet David doesn’t know who she is and sends someone to find out. “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (2 Samuel 11:3).
Some translations put the reply in the form of a question: “Isn’t this Bathsheba?”
David should have known who she was. The messenger’s reply mentions two men, Eliam and Uriah. They were both part of David’s thirty mighty men (2 Samuel 23:24-39). These men trusted him completely. Sadly, David betrays two of his most faithful supporters.
The historical evidence suggests David was at least 40 at the time of this incident with Bathsheba. Meanwhile, all the indications are that Bathsheba is quite young. She would have grown up in awe of David. Her father and grandfather would have related stories of their great victories, of David’s courage and his faith in God. He was God’s anointed king and the spiritual leader of his people.
In this culture, girls married soon after puberty. Bathsheba may have been only a teenager when she married Uriah and had since grown, unnoticed by David, into a beautiful woman. This would explain why David didn’t recognize her. Later in the barbed parable, Nathan tells David (2 Samuel 12:1-12), he uses the term “little ewe lamb” (NIV) to describe Bathsheba. “Little” and “lamb” indicate that Bathsheba wasn’t a mature adult.
Why would Bathsheba question David’s motives, when he unexpectedly summoned her to the palace? Perhaps she thought a messenger had come with news of the battle and her husband’s welfare. Once in the palace, how could she protest his advances? After all, he was the king. He abuses his position and power and initiates a sexual relationship with Bathsheba.
The Bible doesn’t hold Bathsheba responsible because she was placed in a position of powerlessness. In this relationship, David had all the power, all the authority, and all the control. Bathsheba was the victim. She has no choice but to comply.
Bathsheba’s new life
When Bathsheba tells David, she is pregnant, David acts to protect himself and has her husband killed. The cover-up helped David, the perpetrator, but added to Bathsheba’s grief. Bathsheba is thrown into a world of guilt and confusion. Who would believe the king could behave so badly? While she hopes that David will help her, rather than abandon her, she expresses no desire to be David’s wife and certainly, no desire to be Uriah’s widow.
David marries Bathsheba which gives her some dignity and he takes responsibility for her child. Bathsheba moves to a new life in the palace, where she is one of David’s many wives. This wasn’t a position she had sought after.
Ultimately David repents and his life continues as it was. However, Bathsheba’s life is forever changed but God doesn’t forget her. We read, “Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah” (Jedidiah means loved by the Lord) (2 Samuel 12:24-25).
God’s favor on Solomon extended to him becoming the next king (1 Chronicles 28:5-7) and Bathsheba is honored as the king’s mother. Bathsheba also becomes an ancestor of Jesus (Matthew 1:6).
Bathsheba’s life made a difference by showing us there’s hope for a new future beyond abuse. Bathsheba is included in God’s family and has a position of honour. God desires to shower all victims with grace and favor and include them in his family. He wants to give them beauty for ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
More articles about women in the Bible can be found here.