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Did David rape Bathsheba?

David and Bathsheba is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. Even those who don't know much about scripture may be familiar with the account of King David lusting after a married woman, Bathsheba, sleeping with her, and then having her husband killed to cover up the sin (2 Samuel 11). There is no mention of David courting Bathsheba, getting to know her, or falling in love. So was this one-night stand a rape?

Any time we read a factual event in the Bible, we must always read it in light of its original context. We run into error when we superimpose 21st-century western standards over ancient Middle Eastern culture. In that day, it may have been unthinkable for a person to ignore or disobey a king's summons. But it may also be true that Bathsheba went willingly, considering it an honor to be desired by the king. She would certainly have been aware of David's popularity and may have even been among the young women singing his praises when he returned from battle: "Saul has struck down his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (1 Samuel 18:7). So while it is true that Bathsheba may have felt she had no choice but to obey the king's summons (2 Samuel 11:4), there is no indication that a rape occurred.

We can compare this account with the events that happened a couple of chapters later when David's son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). The Bible is explicit in describing this act as rape (2 Samuel 13:14), but it did not describe David's adulterous relationship with Bathsheba as rape. Since the Bible so clearly identified Amnon's act as rape, we know it acknowledges nonconsensual sex as rape. David's adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband were grievous sins, and God punished him greatly for it (2 Samuel 11:1—12:25). However, since the Bible in no way implies that David and Bathsheba's affair was nonconsensual, we can conclude that it was not rape.

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