Recently, I’ve been thinking about David and Bathsheba. It’s a story that most people raised in churches know of, though how it is interpreted and taught varies. As I reread 2nd Samuel chapters 11 and 12, I remembered reading it as a girl. I was distraught by this story as a child for obvious reasons, but especially because of who else was being used to inflict God’s penalty. David’s other wives weren’t involved in this scenario as far as I know and giving them over to another man to punish David is yet another example of women during biblical times having no agency. This aspect of David and Bathsheba’s story is central to some of my questions about God and God’s goodness throughout my life. God suggests treating the other women in David’s life as the property they were at the time, using them as leverage to shame David by giving them to another to have and claim. I struggle deeply with this, even though God didn’t follow through with this punishment. This perspective arguably gives scriptural backing for women being traded and used, instead of women being individuals with wants, needs, and dignity. It hurts, and I understand why women would look at this story and say, “God doesn’t love me and God doesn’t love women.” I have had these feelings myself. I was taught as a child that the bible was God’s word, therefore it was true. When I happened on this story years ago in elementary school, what was I supposed to take from it, other than that I was expendable? Though I’d like to say that I have words to comfort a young girl if she were to come to me now, I can’t remove the truth of this story. Women were expendable during the time of David and Bathsheba, they continue to be expendable in many situations currently, and they will remain expendable in the future if more people don’t continue to do the hard work of uncovering the damage of gender inequality.
3 thoughts on “Did God Love David’s Wives?”
This story is just one of many in the Bible that, like you, made me question the goodness of God from my teens. I’ve since concluded that the Bible is most definitely deeply flawed, written by deeply flawed human men with agendas, be they heads of tribes, heads of state, prophets, priests, or men in other positions of power and inflence. If it was “inspired” by God, then it seems to reflect the views and desires of the men who wrote and re-wrote and re-interpreted it, more than anything else. The ways men (and some women) have used the Bible to justify their evil agendas in the last few hundred years is a more contemporary example of what I think some (or many) of the Bible’s writers and interpreters were doing as they set quill to parchment. Depicting God in whatever way best served their own purposes.
I now know many people who don’t have negative feelings towards the Bible like I sometimes do, because they were taught when they were young that it was appropriate and good to look at the Bible in the context of when it was written. I think I envy them a little.
Agreed. I’ve found it extremely difficult to undo the damage of absorbing half a century of teaching that the Bible is inerrant and that it can be fully understood by anyone who just reads it enough and prays for God’s insight. Had I been taught early on that it is a product of both the times and the cultures of its writers (which we can, at best, only speculate about, considering the limited historical data available), it would have saved me a world of confusion, rage, and grief.