Tony E Dillon Hansen
25 July 2021
A reflection based upon 2 Samuel 11:1-15 • Psalm 14 • Ephesians 3:16-17 • John 6:1*21
A couple weeks ago, I mentioned the great delicate balance that must come with bringing God into the center of government (e.g. politics) – to be wary of letting religious power go to one’s head to abuse political power. We know today how some will manipulate power by saying things like its God's will. This week’s lesson reminds us how power can corrupt great minds and do some serious damage to people. Good thing about our scripture is that it is willing to reveal how damaging the dark side of humanity can be and force us to learn from them to hopefully prevent them in the future.
I grew up reading this and hearing about this story in a very traditional way that pits Bathsheba as an object between two men. There is a traditional way to look at this text from a perspective of adultery where both Bathsheba and David are married, but that implies some agency on the part of Bathsheba.
When we studied this text in seminary along with midrash from Dr. Wilda Gafney who reviewed the perspective of Bathsheba in depth, we almost universally agreed this looks more like manipulation of power and violence against Bathsheba. In fact, in light of recent conversations surrounding the MeToo movement, this feels very much like a MeToo moment in the Hebrew scripture because it reads so similar to cases that arise today.
Bible does not ignore Timely Parallels
Should we ignore these uglier stories for the good ones? Well if we did we live in a fantasyland where everything is rosy and Disney-sized parades, that might be nice for a while. Personally, I cannot ignore these ugly truths, the church should not ignore them, and neither should we as a society. Unfortunately, This story and the many like it are part of humanity.
Let them serve as lessons for all of us, and are among the reasons why the Bible is such a rich collection of stories. The Bible is not just a feel good book for us, but a hard look at all aspects of humanity and our relationship to God. The Bible challenges us to be more than who we are and challenges us to be the best our humanity can be. Thus, there should be no real surprise that the Bible does not pull punches. Yes, the Bible calls out serious infractions because clearly this is characterized as terrible.
No matter how despicable or painful this is to consider, this is a story in humanity that we need to address. Even though we read how David was blessed to bring God into the center of the people. I wonder if he became forgetful of what that power means. David allows power to cloud his brain into thinking he can do whatever to whomever he wants and commits serious wrongs. Incidentally, he gives us evidence there is no such thing as a victimless sin or crime. We know this happens today, and thanks in part to the #MeToo movement, there is serious dialog about this.
Curiously the story starts with noting David is not where he is supposed to be (aka fighting with his armies). Some might suggest that “she came to him” (as it is written) but was that really voluntary? Consent you ask? I submit to you that she did not have the option. She does not really have the option to deny the request. David is king, this king wants what he sees, thinks he can have whatever and whomever he wants, and the king just sent people to get her. Why she doesn’t make a scene on the way out forcing to dragged out? Gafney suggests this is her holding pride and dignity. David holds all the power and already has 6 wives. Bathsheba is in no place to deny the king.
David uses power to get her, she cannot deny him and then later to murder her husband, Uriah with his troops.
This is destructive to not just her life but literally to those around her.
We see parallels to behavior in some high-profile people today that manipulate power for personal benefit, regardless of whom they hurt and many without a shred of remorse
I have seen the horror this can do and the emptiness it causes upon a person.
If this has happened to you, know that it is not your fault. You are not alone. Know that God is with you.
The destruction and soul-shaking cannot be understated. There is a wonton disregard and yes often no shame in this conduct. They often recharacterize the conduct as “she deserved or wanted it.”
Quite frankly this is an example of “locker room” banter that diminishes people to mere property, disposable objects and slaves of desire. (Note that this “locker room banter” does not fare well in the presence of women because we are more than objects and women know this.)
How many people would say that we are just property? No one.
That disregard for humanity might explain why David finds it easy to cast out the husband Uriah to misery and certain death. All one can do is pray the experience gets over soon.
No matter how much we try, survivors cannot simply numb our senses of the pain, drown out the terrors because it just doesn’t go away. We cannot just pretend all is well when everything inside feels hollow and void. There is immeasurable guilt and shame that we attach to ourselves in these. The questions of why me and how did I let this happen? As survivors, this will be carried for the rest of life, even as the Davids-of-the-world continue on with their lives.
Still God is willing to forgive and does and calls us to help that effort.
How to Live with the Damage
There is damage in these bits and we help those that have been damaged like this by walking wth them and hearing their stories.
Further, we must empower people, especially young women, to speak up and speak out. To prevent things like this from occurring, we must be willing to teach that is ok to say no and for all people to accommodate that “no.”
I cannot answer the questions with anything that might resolve the personal pain underneath. I can do my best to walk with people and be mindful of my own failings and my words. We all can.
I can, however, through Bathsheba’s experience here, demonstrate how one was able to move beyond the pain.
For my own, cats and a dog help.
Even more so, our lesson has an example when we continue to read about Bathsheba.
Does Bathsheba let this define her? We don’t know much about her reaction or words said. Yet, Neither she, nor I, nor anyone of us can change the past. We can only live in today. No, we cannot undo the painful deeds. We can learn to live, and we can remind people of their responsibility to others around us and our society.
Yes, this is a part of my experience and many more. We can question many things of why, and the answer is not always what we want.
We may find comfort in knowing we are not alone, and that there is someone with big shoulders and hugging arms for us where we can be safe, without manipulation and without judging.
We are reminded through this story to teach our children and community the good way: the God way — rather than the impulsive, destructive disregard for people , especially from those in power. People are more than objects or property, and we all have personal dignity.
The epistles of St John remind us that we are all God’s children — as valuable human beings with worth and love. Let that sink in. Let that be you. Let that help us heal and fill our hearts. Let us go forth and teach that worth and that lesson.
With what we know from history, with what Jesus teaches, and with this story, we are called to listen even when the message is difficult. We cannot and should not accept being slaves to anyone.
We are all God’s children: broken, sinful and hurt. We have worth, and God will forgive those willing to make amends. The lesson from this story is that we deserve life that values us as worthy.
If anything should speak to us in this lesson is the consequence of living as property. We do not want to go back to being just property or slaves. Our story will be heard if you speak it, our lesson will be learned if you teach it, and our community will be stronge when we live together as equals.
From Ephesians, I pray that God may strengthen our inner beings with power through the Spirit and that Christ may dwell in all our hearts, especially those afflicted by such damage. Find your roots grounded in love.
Remember that God is with you and that you are worthy of God!
Thanks Be to God