The Most Dangerous Place for a Woman in the Bible is Near a Man of God

It occurs to me that I may have figured out why Christians are so quick to defend sexual predators…

 

King David was walking on the roof of his palace when he saw a woman bathing. Scholars believe she was performing ceremonial cleansing from her monthly period prescribed by law. David saw her, desired her, sent for her, raped her and murdered her husband. Yes, Nathan the prophet scolded David and David repented, but as punishment the child that she bore died. She wound up mourning the death of her husband and child while chained in marriage to her rapist and murderer of her husband.

Also think of the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham was ready to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God when an angel was sent to stop him. Now think of the story of Jephthah in the book of Judges, chapter 11. He offered his daughter as a sacrifice to God and no angel was sent to stop him. The daughter was given two months to mourn her fate before she was killed in sacrifice. There was plenty of time for someone to speak up. Further, Abraham believed he had been told by God to do what he was doing. Jephthah had no word from the Lord like that. Why was an angel sent to rescue Isaac, but not Jephthah’s daughter?

Lot was ready to throw his two daughters out of the house into a crowd of people who were threatening mass assault. The people of Sodom wanted to gang-rape the visitors to Sodom that Lot was hosting, and he evidently thought it would be morally acceptable to offer his daughters for this purpose instead. What a guy.

I also had some musings about the story of Esther in this article, but after some feedback I’ve removed it. It was mostly conjecture, and that drew a strong reaction.  That’s fair.

Why do I bring any of this up? Well, I think it’s important to have certain contexts in mind when we read passages from scripture. It significantly changes the flavor of these stories when we read about atrocities like this and grasp, I mean really GRASP that “biblical heroes” did these things. Furthermore, with the exception of David, I see no censure from the authors of these stories, no moral outage. That means we as readers and serious students of the word should be outraged. We should be just as disgusted by these men’s treatment of women as we are proud of their wonderful contributions to God’s kingdom. It should be noted when we teach moral life lessons from the Bible that these men did terrible things. Otherwise we wind up conditioned to excuse “Men of God” when they commit serious sexual crimes.  When a Pastor or other Christian Leader mistreats women (or assaults them), our trained response will be to cover it up – just like we do with Bible stories.

Search scripture yourself with this in mind. Find out of your biblical hero is a monster. It may change your perspective on some things. I think it’s time to crack open these stories and get uncomfortable about them. It may just be the thing that allows you to address your Christian Leaders’ sexual sins frankly, at least in your mind.

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3 thoughts on “The Most Dangerous Place for a Woman in the Bible is Near a Man of God

  1. I struggled with a lot of those stories for years and especially with the ones in Judges that are so heinous. I read a book (Reading Women of the Bible) by an author who isn’t a believer (a Jewish Assyriologst and scholar) that really helped me see the purpose of putting all those stories in.

    According to her, the point of the book of Judges is to show that Israel was in need of a king. When “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” because there was no leadership, the entire nation suffered – most significantly the marginalized, in this case the women and children in a patriarchal society. Judges begins with a child being sold as a bride (bad), puts the story of Japhthah’s daughter in the middle (worse), and ends with the horror story of the torture and murder of one woman followed by the murder of hundreds of women (can’t really get any more awful) in order to contrast these stories with the change that a king brings. Reading Judges makes one long for a someone to come in and make right what is so obviously wrong and getting worse.

    Next in the chronology is the book of 1 Samuel which tells the story of Israel’s first king, Saul. Did you know that every major detail in these stories of women and girls has a mirror image in Saul’s life? The king’s story is the inversion of the stories in Judges.

    For example

    1) As Japhthah made a stupid vow that required him to sacrifice his daughter, Saul did the same with his son, but refused to carry out the vow.

    2) Just as the concubine was dismembered and pieces of her were sent to the 12 tribes to call Israel into unity against wickedness, Saul dismembered an ox and sent the 12 pieces out with an identical message.

    3) Jabesh – Gilead was the city of Benjamin that did not respond to the concubine’s husband’s message and was thus pillaged. Jabesh – Gilead was the city that Saul rescued after gathering the tribes with the ox message.

    4) Saul was a Benjaminite, the tribe from which the rapists originated.

    5) Saul was from Gibeah and established his court there. This was the place where the concubine was raped.

    6) Saul was crowned at Mispah which was the city where the concubine’s husband called the 12 tribes to rally.

    7) In the concubine story, 600 men hid at the Rock of Rimmon which mirrors Saul’s battle against the Philistines that began with 600 Israelite soldiers camped out under a rimmon (pomegranate) tree.

    Judges ends with the reminder that without a king, everyone did was right in their own eyes, and the results were catastrophic as the most vulnerable in society became disposable property. The context of these stories is fascinating, but as I reflected on this new point of view I realized that nothing has changed. Without a King, everyone still does what is right in their own eyes, and our world becomes this bloody, hateful mess that it is. The ones that suffer the most are still the vulnerable. I can’t help but think that perhaps we are in the New Testament version of Judges. We need our King to rule and reign in our lives, or we will remain in a hopeless spiral down that continues to treat women and children, the poor, the marginalized, and the minorities as expendable to the appetites of selfishness.

    Of the concubine’s story, Frymer-Kensky writes, “Saul’s campaign comes out very well in comparison to this story, and it is the most likely that the story is subtly hinting what might have happened here had Saul been king.” I wonder what might happen here if Christ actually reigned in our lives with the authority that he is supposed to have – if we stopped doing what was right in our own eyes, but considered what He says is right. I wonder what it would mean for the broken ones that Jesus says are the closest to his heart. I wonder what it would mean for me. I wonder what it would mean for you. What would it mean if we stopped calling Jesus “king” with our mouths and started living like it was actually true?

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  2. It really bothers me that modern Christians label Bathsheba as a temptress/seductress/person committing the wrong when it was actually she who was the victim. I didn’t realize this until RHE had retweeted something on Twitter than I later read. It totally changed my perspective. A few months later, I was at a women’s bible study and we talked about David and Bathsheba and she wasn’t discussed in light of a victim. People excuse the horrible things “men of God” did, simply because they were “men of God.” Horrifying.
    Sorry for the super late comment! Ha!

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  3. I know you didn’t mention her here, but I’ve also always had a soft spot for Michal, king David’s wife. She went against her own family and risked herself to save his life (helping him escape Saul), and he doesn’t bother contacting her afterward (thought he talks to her brother ok). He goes off and marries other women, while her dad sells her off to another man (at least one who seems to love her this time). Then David comes back and takes her away from him, too. They have an argument, and either God punishes her with childlessness or David just never sleeps with her again. And yet most churches make her out to be the terrible person in this story.

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