“It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, ‘This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.’ So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house. The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, ‘I am pregnant.'” – 2 Samuel 11:2-5
This time, I read her story and I celebrate her courage.
I don’t know about you, but in the story I learned about Bathsheba, I got the distinct impression she was a willing participant – if not an active seductress – in this act of adultery with David. But there is nothing in the text to indicate this.
So, from the text itself, what do we know? Because of her participation in the ritual bath proscribed by the holy texts, we know that Bathsheba was devout. We know that David sent messengers, plural, to “get” her, making it clear that at least two men were required to compel her to go to him. We know that when she found she was pregnant with David’s child, she spoke up and made him face the consequences of his actions.
See, the story I learned about this Bathsheba – and now that I think about it, pretty much all Bathshebas – is that she should have dressed more modestly, she should have fought back harder, she should have stayed silent once the damage was already done. I learned it all wrong.
So I read her story again, and I celebrate her courage, and the courage of all Bathshebas. In her name, let us declare that our bodies are holy no matter how they are clothed, let us teach our children what consent really is, and let us refuse to stay silent.
Holy One, Give me the courage of Bathsheba. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.