Unbalanced Power

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Last summer, I read a refreshing sermon about King David.  Reverend Robert A. Arbogast at Olentangy CRC in Columbus, OH, preached this sermon in 2011. You can read all of Reverend Arbogast’s sermon here.

In it, Rev. Arbogast presents a different take on an all-too-familiar biblical narrative,

“Abuse is real. It happens. It happens more than we realize. It happens more than we dare acknowledge. It happens in our homes. It happens in our churches. It happens here…Yes…King David was a man after God’s own heart. But he was an abuser. That’s not how we usually think of David. That’s because we miss the point. That’s because we have been acculturated to miss the point, to not recognize abuse when we see it. Pick up a typical Bible, and the heading above II Samuel 11 says David’s Adultery with Bathsheba or something along those lines. Adultery? I don’t think so. David was a sexual predator and Bathsheba was his victim.”

What I appreciate about Reverend Arbogast’s sermon is that it reminds us that King David’s actions are what the Old Testament writers chose to focus on, not Bathsheba’s. II Samuel 11:1 reads, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.” King David should have been away, at war. Instead, King David sent out Joab. King David was the one out of position and thereby left himself open to temptation by watching Bathsheba bathe when her husband was not at home.

Yet, we always seem to say that David committed adultery with Bathsheba. However, I would say that what King David did was sexual assault. For one thing, David was a king and had power. Women were not considered to be much more than property, in those days. What was Bathsheba expected to do when King David sent for her? Refuse him? What might have happened to her, if she had? Yes, Bathsheba was married and they both knew that she was married, but how was Bathsheba expected to spurn the advances of the king? King David used his position and his power to obtain sex from a woman in his kingdom, someone whom he should have been protecting.

Seeking to change our thought process about people in positions of power having sex with congregants as an equal balance of culpability is what prompted this resource from The Hope of Survivors. 

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Participant

Thanks for sharing these thoughts, Robin. I really appreciate Pastor Arbogast's sermon. I have been researching for a Bible study that I am leading this summer on women in Scripture, and have been astounded by the number of commentators who depict many of the women in Scripture as seductresses. While there are some like that, most of the women in Scripture are not. I am grateful for other pastors who are faithful to the text in pointing that out. The gospel is good news for both men and women!

Participant

This is such a good point, Reverend Shannon!  Years ago, I was participating in a group presentation on the Gospel of Matthew and we were looking up artwork for our PowerPoint.  We wanted to highlight the four women referenced in the genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba.  As we were looking for artwork, one of the things that struck me was, like you said, all artistic renditions of Bathsheba depicted her as a seductress.  Rahab was the woman actually identified in Scripture as a prostitute and Tamar presented herself to Judah as a temple prostitute.  Yet, neither of them are drawn like that in paintings.  It is like Pastor Arbogast stated, that is how we have been "acculturated".  Thanks for sharing!

 

 

 

 

Community Builder

Safe Church Ministry has sermons posted on our website regarding the relationship between King David and Bathsheba that acknowledge the power differential involved. They can be found here, under Sermons (http://www.crcna.org/SafeChurch/resources-abuse-awareness/safe-church-mi...)

Participant

Thank you, Bonnie!