Bathsheba's #MeToo Moment

I'd like to examine WELS seminary professor John D Schuetze's "Bathsheba and the Nature of David's Sim" published in Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly, Vol 116, No. 4 (Fall 2019). This is a copyrighted work of five pages which of course I cannot reproduce in its entirety. 

Prof. Shuetze poses the question in his opening paragraph:

When people mention the account of David and Bathsheba, we usually hear them call it an "affair," a "one-night stand," or "adultery." David had an affair with Bathsheba. David had a one-night stand with Bathsheba. David committed adultery with Bathsheba. This is how most Bible commentators describe the events of 2 Samuel 11. But do these words capture what transpired that dark spring night in Jerusalem? The issue is that these ways of describing David's sin put at least some of the blame on Bathsheba."

Prof. Shuetze proceeds to consult a number of commentaries and study Bibles with quotes regarding Bathsheba's guilt or lack thereof. Most of the commentaries acknowledge some form of shared guilt. One of those sources is the classic Lutheran reference by Keil and Delitzsch:

There is no intimation whatever that David brought Bathsheba into his palace through craft of violence, but rather that she came at his request without any hesitation and offered no resistance to his desires. Consequently, Bathsheba is not to be regarded as free from blame. The very act of bathing in the uncovered court of a house in the heart of the city, into which it would be possible for anyone to look down from the roofs of their houses on higher ground, does not say much for her feminine modesty. 

Prof. Shuetze does not cite Kretzmann, but his view falls in line with the other commentators with a bit of moral instruction added to it:

The great sin of adultery she had committed without serious thought, but the act of purification she religiously observed, just as many people living in open transgressions of God’s holy Law believe they may salve their consciences by small acts of charity. 

After citing these commentators Prof. Schuetze goes to provide a narrative adding context and commentary. He then provides an analysis on pages 246 and 247 on which I'd like to focus.


Some argue that since she didn't cry out and try to repel the king's advances, she was partially at fault. First, this is an argument from silence. Second, we have a huge power differential between David, the mighty warrior and king of Israel, and one of his female subjects. David summoned her to his palace because he could. He took her to bed because he could. None of this would have been possible if he was not the ruler of Israel. If she did cry out, would her cries have been heard and heeded?

Crying out was the defense provided to a woman in Deuteronomy 22:23-24. Crying out would not be a useless endeavor as he states, as God would have heard her, and Nathan in relaying God’s justice could have declared her innocence. But Nathan is silent here, so we don’t know. If she cried out, it apparently isn’t important to the Spirits’ work.


Another helpful point to consider is how the prophet, Nathan, deals with the matter. In his story Bathsheba is represented, not with a seductive tigress, but with "one little ewe lamb." 

Using the ewe lamb in the parable does not establish Bathsheba’s innocence. The story is intended to pull at David’s heart-strings as he is a shepherd by trade. The ewe lamb is an accident of the account not the substance: the interaction of the rich and poor man, between David and Uriah the Hittite. Had David been a dairy farmer it might have been a milking cow. The ewe lamb does not imply innocence on Bathsheba’s part. Further confirmation might be found in 1 Kings 15:5 "David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite." not "in the matter of Bathsheba." 


The account places all the blame on David and none on Bathsheba. He sees her, he lusts after her, he inquires about her, he sends people to get her, he sleeps with her. When he is done, he sends her home - used and abused. Nine months later when Nathan confronts David with his sin, he lays the blame solely on David, not on David and Bathsheba.

Identifying David as the only one addressed does not imply sole guilt. This can be explained by the order of creation. The man is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. God addressed Adam, not Eve in the garden. Admonitions for child-raising are regularly addressed to the father (Pr 3:11-12, Pr 13:24, Is 38:19, Eph 6:4) not the mother who, arguably, may be more involved in their child’s rearing. Ultimately the man is responsible for his household. Bathsheba was punished along with David by the death of her son.

It is best not to describe David's relationship with Bathsheba as an affair, a one-night stand, or even adultery, as this gives the impression that Bathsheba was a willing partner in this sin. Could it be that she was a willing partner in the sin? Possibly. But nothing in the account supports that idea. It would be better to say that David "used" or "abused" or "assaulted" Bathsheba sexually, as this more accurately reflects what the Biblical account reveals.
A footnote to the word "Assaulted" refers to the United States Department of Justice's definition:
"The term 'sexual assault' means any nonconsensual sexual act ... including when the victim lacks the capacity to consent." This is a fitting description of David's crime.

Oof! We are now defining their sexual act in terms of a modern legal precedent by a secular state authority. We are imputing American "morality" on the monarchy of the Old Testament. Eisegesis indeed! Bathsheba did not lack the capability to consent - she was of sound mind as we hear in later accounts of 1 Kings 1-2 in ensuring Solomon inherits the throne and her intercession for Adonijah. 

My fear is that Dr. Schuetze is invoking the principles of Critical Theory. Why couldn't she consent? Was it because she was a foreign woman and he was king? Was it because of the intersectionality of race, gender and power? It is dangerous to incorporate critical theory into our understanding of theology. Critical Theory is explicitly anti-Christian. It is radically skeptic about objective knowledge and truth - a direct attack on the λόγος - and creates an intersectional framework based on the outward appearance, while the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)


Placing some of the blame on Bathsheba diminishes the severity of David's sin.

The argument that multiple parties to sin diminish the severity of sin is nonsensical to a Biblical understanding of sin. Furthermore, the Hebrew audience knew any relations between married individuals outside of marriage is punishable by death (Deut 22:22). There is no accounting for consent. This would lend credence to the argument that the absolute guilt of David and the innocence of Bathsheba is an unimportant detail in the story. My thesis remains that the innocence of Bathsheba is unimportant to the story, and it isn’t made clear, so we should remain silent on declaring her absolute innocence.

Prof. Schuetze is a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, a Pastor and a board-certified counselor who "[s]pecializes in grief, loss, and trauma counseling as well as marriage and family therapy." Part of me is concerned that his practice as a counselor is shading his interpretation of Scripture. A greater part is concerned if critical theory is being invoked in teaching our pastors at seminary!