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While I agree that there is value reading the story on its own terms (i.e. as men at the time understood the situation), and much can be learnt from that reading, there is also value in reading the story through our own eyes, as well.  This is not the same as “trying to make the text serve some modern agenda”, (though to be clear, when the agenda is addressing the frequency that women worldwide are coerced into sex, I have no problem with that), it is asking the question, “What does this story have to say to society today”? 

Personally, just as you struggle to find anything in the text that supports the view that David raped Bathsheba, I struggle to find anything in the text that supports the view that he obtained consent, or that she came willingly through her own choice.  In contrast, I think that given the power dynamics, it seems to be almost impossible to imagine that her permission was asked in any way that included the option of saying no without negative consequences.

It isn’t about what is “morally unacceptable”, it’s about understanding — and taking responsibility — for the consequences of your interpretation.  I believe the interpretations we choose and the stories we tell today about those stories are powerful.  Blaming Bathsheba in this story continues a precedent of choosing, in the face of sexual moral failure, to blame the party with less power, and to prioritise and vindicate the story of those with more.  The consequence, whether or not you choose it, is the continuation of women being told to cover up but men never being told to avert their eyes, something prevalent in church culture especially, and yes, of men getting away with sexual abuse of women, for which the women are blamed.

At the end of the day, no-one knows “what actually happened”, but at least allowing the interpretation that David raped Bathsheba to stand as an equal possibility provides space for the possibility of another dimension to this story: one which did not make it into the text explicitly, but which testifies to the experiences of countless women worldwide throughout history, in which coercive sex (i.e. rape) has always been wrong, even if it was not labelled as such by men at the time. 

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