Saving Bathsheba

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Domestic violence seems to be on the news every day, each case getting more shocking and more brazen. But finally there’s some good news. New South Wales police are trialling a new Domestic Violence Evidence in Chief (DVEC) system, which records testimonies of alleged assault victims as soon as police arrive and is admissible evidence in court. The challenge in the past has been that victims don’t show up to court, have to spend time reliving the trauma by submitting written statements and sometimes change their stories. Authorities hope to protect the victim, see justice is done and make sure it doesn’t keep happening or even escalate. The rest of the world is watching to see if DVEC will help.

Our voice must be strident. We must make sure it cannot and does not happen any longer in our churches.

Traditionally the Church has been silent or turned a blind eye to what happens at home. True, ADRA and women’s ministries have, in recent years, led initiatives like EndItNow and supported external activities like White Ribbon Day (November 25). But are we leading the charge or jumping on the bandwagon?

The Bible doesn’t shy away from condemning violence against women; neither should our Church. Atheists criticise that the God of the Bible seems to condone or endorse violence against women and children, but if we read these stories carefully it is always the human element that fails, not God. These stories give us a blueprint of how to deal with violence against women—this applies to any kind of violence, including sexual, physical, mental and spiritual and emotional manipulation. 

Let’s look at a specific biblical case study: when David raped Bathsheba. 

There have been some arguments over the years about Bathsheba’s willingness. The English translation is vague but the original language makes it very clear that she is the victim. According to Adventist scholar Richard Davidson, Bathsheba was a victim of “power rape” and he claims Ellen White backs him up. “Ellen White, standing over against the prevailing trend of mostly male interpretations of the Bathsheba-David narrative in her generation, unequivocally points the finger of guilt solely at David, and not Bathsheba, as the one who committed great injustice and sinned against Bathsheba just as surely as he did against Uriah.”1

When Nathan confronts David with the parable of his sin, it was the little lamb that was innocent and suffered. That was the sin God and the prophet was most concerned about.

Before David’s great sin we see him storming cities, fighting in the Spirit, decisive, bold and proud. After, we see him indecisive, weakened, permissive and his spiritual power is diminished. He chooses to repent and finds forgiveness but still lives with the consequences of his sin, including “calamity from your own household”. 

Look at the consequences. This is the turning point in the greatest Israelite king’s reign. After it, David is betrayed, his sons attempt to kill him (and each other), one rapes his half-sister and David’s kingdom is eventually split. 

David repents. He is not put to death but he still suffers the consequences. He loses the baby conceived by the illicit tryst but God forgives him. God deals out grace and mercy and yet none of the consequences are withheld. 

When you are living with sin, a burden of guilt, you are spiritually weakened, even handicapped. Someone who is engaging in domestic violence, whether it is physical, mental, spiritual, sexual or verbal, is sinning against the Lord and their victims. 

As the police develop new ways to record and report domestic violence, they report a change in the perpetrators as they see what they have done from another angle. 

The Church also must lead the fight throughout the South Pacific region to stamp out family violence. 

Our voice must be strident. We must make sure it cannot and does not happen any longer in our churches. We must protect and care for domestic violence’s victims and seek to discipline its perpetrators. Discipline has become a dirty word in the Church. But no man should hold office who abuses his family in any way, and the Church must be interested and involved in teaching a better way. But our discipline should be filled with grace and the understanding that repentance and rehabilitation is possible and that if David fell so low, the man who was after God’s own heart, then we are all one step away from serious sin. 

The biblical record is clear. We have a mandate to protect the victims, see justice is done and make sure it doesn’t keep happening.

1. Davidson, R (2006). “Did King David Rape Bathsheba? A case study in narrative theology.” Journal of Adventist Theological Society (pp81-95), 17/2, Autumn.


Jarrod Stackelroth is associate editor of Adventist Record.