“She came to him” -on Bathsheba and reading motives into actions

It seems that the argument for Bathsheba being complicit in sin with David rather than a victim of his sin against her comes down to one phrase.  In 2 Samuel 11:4, we are told of Bathsheba that “she came to him.”  This must indicate consent.

There is a major problem with that argument. The problem is that we know from general common sense that it doesn’t work and that legally it would not stand up in court either. In effect, it is the equivalent of suggesting that a woman was “asking for it”.  You know the kind of thing. 

“She shouldn’t have been in that place at that time.”

“Did you see what she was wearing?”

“She let him buy her a drink”

“She had gone on a date with him”

“She went back to his place for coffee.”

Now in each of those cases, you may or may not conclude that the person has acted wisely. However, at no point do their actions imply consent at no point do their actions justify or excuse the rapist’s attack. At no point are they “asking for it.”

We should be very wary of reading motive into actions.  Back in the 1980s you would hear stories of taxi drivers taking IRA bombers to their destination. Did that make them wilfully complicit?  What if a gun was being pointed at their head? Or to return to the terrible subject of sexual violence, over the past few years we’ve read horrendous cases of grooming and trafficking including the horrendous child exploitation cases in places like Rochdale and Telford.  In each and every one of those cases, you will be able to find and isolate an occasion where the victim went to their attacker. They got in the car, they went to the house, they went to the bedroom. However, in each case, the evidence shows that this was not an indication of consent, victims had been groomed, manipulated, bullied, drugged, threatened, coerced. 

Incidentally, one person on twitter attempted to distinguish coercion from rape.

Which given that the word “coercion” means

the practice of persuading someone to do something by using force or threats.”

And rape is about forcing someone to engage in sexual intercourse against their will where force can include psychological as well as physical pressure, is clearly linguistically, legally and morally incorrect.

So, just to read the line “she came to him” on its own doesn’t give us permission to read consent into Bathsheba’s actions. However, we have a little bit more to go on.  The words “she came to him” occur at the end of a string of statements.

  • David sent messengers
  • He took her
  • And she came to him.

The focus is very clearly on what David does and there is then a final response from her in a situation where one may legitimately ask “what other options did she have?”

To take that one line describing her action in response to what he was doing to her out of context would not stand up legally and is poor exegesis.

%d bloggers like this: