Should Christians Argue Over Whether Or Not David Raped Bathsheba?

Most people know about King David’s sinful actions with Bathsheba, as well as his murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11:1-12:25). In the past few years, people from the #MeToo and #ChurchToo crowd on Twitter have been posting their belief that David didn’t merely commit adultery with Bathsheba. They contend that he used his position of power (as king of Israel) to force himself on her. This allegation resurfaced again recently fueling several heated discussions. Some conservatives countered that, by bathing in sight of David’s palace, Bathsheba intentionally seduced the king. People on both sides of the debate have been arguing passionately, largely from what Scripture doesn’t say.

Early last week, temptation got the better of me, and I threw myself into the melee. Of course, I received an attack on my education — or lack thereof — by someone who subsequently admitted to not accepting Christian scholarship on the matter. The idiocy of that attack only encouraged me to keep arguing. So I continued making my case, determined to prove that, as despicable as David’s actions were, he did not rape Bathsheba.

As I plotted strategies to further my case, however, a verse from 2 Timothy came to mind.

 But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels. ~~2 Timothy 2:23 (NASB95)

The arguments on Twitter, you see, depend on speculation rather than on actual Scripture. Although both sides made intelligent arguments based on what the Bible account seems to suggest, in the end all of us relied on our speculations instead of allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

The Complete WordStudy Dictionary offers the following definition for the Greek word translated “speculation.”

A word used by the Greeks to indicate philosophical inquiry. In the NT, it indicates an exchange of words rather than a true search. Such was the strife between the disciples of John and the Jews (Joh_3:25); debates and arguments (2Ti_2:23); general disputing (logomachía [G3055]; 1Ti_6:4 f.; Tit_3:9). An evil connotation is attributed to these, indicative of the lack of faith. Used in the legal sense as “inquiry” in Act_25:20.

If ever I saw an exchange of words rather than a true search, this debate would be it! One side clings to the narrative of rape so that they can rail against patriarchy, while the other side refuses to consider the possibility that David used his power to coerce Bathsheba into sex. And if we’re really honest, we have to acknowledge that Scripture doesn’t tell us anything about the nature of their liaison. The whole ruckus seems to be more about proving the other side wrong by clever arguments than about arriving at any sort of truth.

I lean toward the position that the act was consensual, but I reach my conclusion as much on the silence of Scripture as the other side does. In the end, I must admit that I wasn’t a fly on the palace wall, so I really can’t say whether the act was consensual or rape. Neither can anyone on the other side of the debate. Speculation on either side is nothing more than a distraction from the point that David repented of his sin (Psalm 51), and that David’s second son by Bathsheba was an ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:1-17; see verse 6).

Scripture in no way exonerates David’s behavior in this situation. Whether or not rape was involved in the adultery and murder, Scripture teaches that God extended mercy and forgiveness to him despite the vileness of his sin. Cluttering up the story with speculations that he raped this woman shifts the attention away from God and on to a senseless argument that only inflates the egos of the people debating the matter. As intellectually stimulating as some of the conjectures are, those conjectures should never eclipse the wonderful truth that God forgives even the worst of sinners.

Like every historical narration in the the Bible, 2 Samuel 11:1-12:25 highlights God’s grace and His sovereignty, even in the midst of human wretchedness. When we read these gruesome accounts, of course we ought to wince at the despicable things that even great men and women of God did, just as we ought to wince at the despicable things that we ourselves do. But even as we wince, we must marvel at God’s goodness in leading us to repentance and showering us with His forgiveness.

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ~~Titus 3:3-7 (NASB95)

The Lord showed kindness to David, and He graciously shows the same kindness to all of us who repent and place our trust in Jesus Christ. Speculations on details that Scripture doesn’t make clear obscures His kindness, actually drawing us away from worshiping Him. I don’t believe such speculation honors Him. Do you?

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