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Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously
by Cate Russell-Cole
11/08/2015 / Christian Living
I have never heard a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba's association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.
When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, "I don't know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don't think it's my place to judge her. She is someone's wife and someone's mother: so she was loved." I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.
David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand... when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It's a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That's only the Lord's job.
There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong... but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God's chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.
Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?
Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I've previously assaulted them?
That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven't understood it?
What if I went up to him and said, "Absalom was such a rat! I don't know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!" Then I could be confronted with a father's sadness over a lost son.
That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.
Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about 'dead' people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can't see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn't matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don't judge. It doesn't make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone's death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, "... of blessed memory." The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.
People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn't mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn't mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn't mean the Lord won't rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.
So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.
I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.
Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it's worth doing.
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:2, Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn't. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn't want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]
Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba's first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David's nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]
For more information on King David, please have a meander through the King David Project Facebook page, our web site and our blog, "Masada Rain." The blog houses many useful resources on studying, David plus bits and pieces of information which don't neatly fit into article form. Please ignore dates and use the search feature to find what you want. The web site has resources on David's family tree, life and the Psalms. All content is creative commons and non-profit. Sharing of the project's work would be deeply appreciated.
Masada Rain Blog: https://masadarain.wordpress.com
The project web site: http://cateartios.wix.com/kingdavidproject
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/fromdespairtodeliverance
This article by Cate Russell-Cole is under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Written in Australian English.
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