Monday, February 06, 2006

Logic, modesty, and sin

Some time ago, an anonymously authored article titled "The Sin of Bathseba" was creating quite a stir. The article began with this premise:
We hear a great deal about the sin of David, but seldom does anyone mention the sin of Bath-sheba. And it is true enough that David’s sin was very great, and Bath-sheba's very small. David’s sin was deliberate and presumptuous, Bath-sheba's only a sin of ignorance. David committed deliberate adultery and murder; Bath-sheba only carelessly and undesignedly exposed herself before David’s eyes. We have no doubt that David’s sin was great, and Bath-sheba's small.
First of all, it is important to note that the Bible does not condemn Bathsheba for doing what was a common practice in that day. There is no hint that she had any knowledge that she was exposing herself to David when she bathed during the night. What the Bible does tell us is that David had not gone with his men off to battle, but had remained at home. Then one evening he got out of bed, walked around on the roof of a palace, and saw a woman bathing --- so he sent someone to find out about her and then sent messengers to get her.

Recently I was rereading the account in 2 Samuel 11 after having heard a sermon on this text. Something struck me that I had never quite noticed before.

If anonymous authors can write about the "sin of Bathsheba", shifting at least some of the blame from David to her, why cannot I speculate about the "sin of Uriah"? What sin of Uriah? you may well ask. Was he not the innocent husband who was basically set up in battle so as to be killed? What could he have possibly done to contribute in any way to the sin of David?

What do we know about Uriah? We know that he was a soldier. We also know he disobeyed his king's command to spend time with Bathsheba, his wife. Instead, he chose to spend time with his master's servants. On the surface, he sounds like a man of integrity who could not bring himself to spend time with his wife when his fellow soldiers were camped in open fields. However, I could not help but wonder about his love for Bathsheba when David's best efforts fail in getting this man to go visit his own wife. If Bathsheba was exposing herself to men by bathing where she shouldn't be, isn't it possible that it was because she was married to a man who cared so little for her that he was unwilling to visit her while in town? Perhaps this was not the first time when Uriah "withheld due benevolence" from his wife.

I will freely admit that I have never heard a sermon or read any commentary that espoused the "sin of Uriah" theory. However, if we are going to start using bizarre logic to turn the David and Bathsheba story into an indictment of immodest women, why can't we use similar logic to turn it into an indictment of men who ignore their wives?

1 comment:

  1. According to the biblical account, Bathsheba was not a seductress but a rape victim. She was summoned to the King's house and it would have been difficult to refuse. In modern terms, this would at least be considered sexual harassment. In the case of a king who had hte power of life and death at his whim, I think rape is a better term for it.

    Read Nathan's rebuke of King David and note what symbol he chooses for Bathsheba in his parable. He depicts Bathsheba as a little lamb that was slaughtered out of greed. The parable also tells us something about Uriah, for Nathan says this lamb was such a pet it ate from the table. In other words, Uriah loved his wife and treated her as more of an equal than expected in that day. In Nathan's parable, the neighbor slaughters the lamb not because the lamb in any way entices him, but out of sheer greed. He had whole flocks of lambs (many wives) but he specifically wanted the one that belonged to someone else.

    The depiction of Bathsheba as a seductress (intentional or otherwise) in "The Sin of Bathsheba" is a typical case of blame-the-victim. It should be filed alongside Dear Abby's 1970's advice that girls who are molested are probably too perky and putting themselves in that position, and therefore should be shuttled off to live with some aunt.