The Bible Says What? ‘King David was a rapist’

The Bible Says What? ‘King David was a rapist’

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein reflects on a controversial subject in the Torah

There are many examples of misogyny in the Bible, thanks largely to the patriarchy that dominated ancient society.

Chapters in the Book of 2 Samuel involve women as playthings and rape victims of King David’s household.

This is most infamous with Bathsheba. As a peeping tom, David first spies her bathing, lusts after her, rapes a married woman and then arranges for her husband’s death.

The language for the sexual encounter between David and Bathsheba does not use the words associated with what we call the ‘rape of Dinah’, or more clearly that of Tamar, in the Torah. And it’s true they later marry, and have children, including Solomon.

But it is clear to me David takes advantage of his position of power with Bathsheba and her husband.

He is ruthless in his pursuit of lust, and that is why I cannot imagine any situation other than rape.

In the biblical story, there is a divine punishment of David – but the abuse of women continues.

They are publically violated, as David’s son Absalom engages in an open-air orgy with David’s concubines on the roof from which he originally spied on Bathsheba.

Today, some perpetrators of sexual harassment assault are vilified and retribution is sought against them. Yet others, such as Roman Polanski, seem untouchable; shielded by a culture that venerates their artistic presence, refusing to challenge them.

This Shabbat, Jewish Women’s Aid asks us to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Recent events show just how relevant this is.

If only our biblical tradition had ended misogyny, harassment and rape when it had the opportunity to do so. Sadly, it was not the ethic of the time. Contemporary Judaism now has no excuse not to do so.

Aaron Goldstein is senior rabbi at Northwood and Pinner Liberal Synagogue

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