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Did King David Rape Bathsheba?

This week on the Straight Truth Podcast, Dr. Josh Philpot and Dr. Richard Caldwell will look at a relatively new interpretation of a familiar story to most of us. It is the story of King David and Bathsheba, found in the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel, chapter 11. Dr. Philpot shares that there seems to be confusion about what actually took place in this account between David and Bathsheba. Did David rape Bathsheba? Did David overpower her and forcibly defile her? Or was Bathsheba a willing participant? Was their interaction one of mutual consent in this act of adultery? Who is truly at fault? How can we know what really happened in this narrative? These questions and more will be discussed and answered as Dr. Philpot and Dr. Richard Caldwell converse and carefully consider this passage of Scripture.

A common error that often happens in Bible interpretation is eisegesis. This error consists of reading things into the text that aren’t actually there. The opposite of this is called exegesis. It is to read what is there and seek to explain it without adding to it. Dr. Caldwell says that we have to be very careful about this. We need to read the texts and let them say what they say. He believes what has happened in this case is that some are reading the Word of God through the eyes of our cultural moment. He is not saying there hasn’t been scholarly debate on some level for years and years. But he has never heard this take on it until recent times. He believes it has to do with what is going on in the culture with the me-too movement. There is a high sensitivity to the sexual abuse of women, and he believes it is what has led to this new interpretation of the text.

Dr. Caldwell shares that two chapters later, in 2 Samuel 13, we read of the rape of Tamar. There is specific language used that depicts her to have been forcibly violated/defiled. The language used for what occurs to Tamar is the same language used to describe what happens with Dinah in Genesis 34. It is also the same word language used in Deuteronomy 22, where we read about laws God put in place regarding rape. The word that speaks of violation is not used in 2 Samuel 11. Dr. Caldwell says that there is no indication that Bathsheba was raped. Would Bathsheba have felt some sort of pressure with David being the king? Most likely, yes, but the text does not say this. Does that mean that David did no wrong? Absolutely not. While the text does not provide minute details, it provides enough details for David to be condemned regardless. And as we read the rest of the story in 2 Samuel 13, we know that Nathan the prophet comes and confronts David. David is convicted of his sins. He is sorrowful over them and repents. God grants that forgiveness, David is told that he will not die, but still, there are consequences for what he has done. David is told that the sword shall never depart from his house. Dr. Caldwell reminds us that the aftermath of David's sin is horrific. He is careful to point out that sexual sin is a very unique sin in the way that it destroys people. We see some of this as David goes on to experience one heartbreak after another. There is no doubt that God severely dealt with David.

Dr. Philpot shares that clearly, the text's emphasis and the weight of the sin and consequences is not at all on Bathsheba; it’s all on David. It is his sin that is highlighted here. It is David's acts that have brought the sword upon his house and all the turmoil that happens later. Since this is the case, how should we think about Bathsheba? Are we missing anything that isn’t in the text but ought to be considered without committing eisegesis?

Dr. Caldwell says, yes, that is the emphasis of the text. David has a higher responsibility. He is in a higher place of authority. He is the king that has been anointed and appointed by God, and God deals with him. But, says Dr. Caldwell, there is no record of calling out or resistance on the part of Bathsheba as there is with Tamar. Again, this pertains to the laws given by God in Deuteronomy 22. So absent of rape, was there any guilt on the part of Bathsheba? Dr. Caldwell says yes, even though the text doesn’t emphasize it, there is. He doesn’t believe we can say Bathsheba was guiltless unless she resisted. The text provides no evidence that she resisted.

Dr. Philpot shares that we shouldn’t downplay David's forgiveness either. As soon as David understands that he ‘is that man’, we have David saying, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’. And really, the defining characteristic of David’s reign, which is pervasive through the rest of the narrative and afterwards, is that his heart always remained loyal to the Lord. We have Psalm 51 as a record of David’s poignant expression of repentance and heartfelt request for God's forgiveness regarding the incidents recorded in 2 Samuel 11. We clearly have someone who is sorrowful over what he has done.

Dr. Caldwell says David is amazing that way. Even when it comes to building the temple, and he isn’t permitted to do it, there is a humility there and a sweetness in David that remains for the rest of his life. Dr. Caldwell says this is the challenge for the moment: Do we really believe the gospel? Do we really believe that people who do horrific things can be forgiven? Are we willing to extend forgiveness where God has given forgiveness? We should echo everything that God says. What God says about these sins, we need to say. We need to agree with what God says about the horrific nature of them. What the Bible says about the guilt of these things and what they deserve, we say amen. But then, when the Bible tells us that forgiveness is REAL, we also need to say amen. When the Bible tells us about the transformation of people's lives, we believe that too. Remember the Apostle Paul says, “such were some of you.”

Cancel culture is a problem because it doesn’t believe in the power of the gospel. You can never be forgiven, and the stain will never be removed. That is not what we see on the pages of Scripture. We need to believe all of the Bible, not just the parts about the guilt of sin, but about the powerful forgiveness of sin and the powerful transformation of sinners. But for the grace of God, we all stand condemned.

About The Straight Truth Podcast

The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net

The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo.  The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.

The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.

The Straight Truth Podcast is the perfect podcast for those seeking to strengthen their faith, to be informed on how to broach difficult topics with a Christian point of view, to share their faith with unbelieving friends, to challenge the status quo of their own beliefs by viewing them under the lens of the Scriptures, to interpret current news events from a Biblical point of view, and more.

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Season 20 Credits

Produced by
Juan Carlos Claveria

Executive Producers
Joshua Philpot
David Anders

Hosted by
Joshua Philpot

Social Media Descriptions by
Michele Watson

Graphic Design
David Navejas

DP / EDITING / COLOR
JUAN CARLOS CLAVERIA

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE
FOUNDERS BAPTIST CHURCH
MEDIA TEAM VOLUNTEERS

Special Thanks to
El Centro Network

Music by
LynneMusic

Motion Graphics
Szymon Masiak

Set Decorator
Molly Atchison

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