Judgement Versus Discernment: Reading the Bible Righteously

judging bathshebaIt is very rare that I ever hear a good word spoken about BathSheba, except by some Rabbis, who declare David and BathSheba’s association as the greatest love story in the Bible. That may be because King Solomon came from their union.

When pressed to answer what I think about her, the only response I have is, “I don’t know the lady. I have no idea what she was like, so I really don’t think it’s my place to judge her. She is someone’s wife and someone’s mother: so she was loved.” I honestly cannot say more than that. I try and relate to her as a fellow human, rather than a good or bad person.

David and BathSheba is the story of what happens when things get way out of hand… when you can no longer control the circumstances, then fall into shame and block out the need to repent. Both David and BathSheba could have lost their lives over their adultery. It’s a serious matter, but while I can learn a great deal from their mistakes, there is still no need for me to slide into any judgement of what they did. That’s only the Lord’s job. [See footnote about rape.]

There is a tendency to condemn and vilify those whose stories grace the pages of our Bibles. We have blurred the line between discerning a lesson and personal criticism, based on our own opinions. Jacob is another example of someone who is pulled to pieces. He is a controversial figure and we tend to remember the bad. We remember that Samson was strong… but weak when it came to women. Rahab is a heroine, despite that she was a prostitute, because she helped God’s chosen people. We look at small snapshots of long, complex lives, then we make a decision on whether that person was predominantly good or bad. As most of us fall prey to negativity biases, often the decision is damning.

Yet the Bible clearly labels Jacob and Samson as righteous and servants of the Lord. So why are we sticking the knife into their backs?

Another sobering question I was confronted by, when I was writing my Christian novels, was if I speak badly of these people or misrepresent them, when I get to heaven and actually meet them face to face, then what am I going to say? How am I going to feel when they stand there clean and forgiven, and I’ve previously assaulted them?

That issue made me think long and hard. If I behave in an insensitive and inhumane way towards BathSheba, what will I say to my beloved David when I see him, and hear how much he did love his wife; or that he wishes people had been willing to consider that perhaps the situation was much more complex and from this a brief account, we haven’t understood it?

What if I went up to him and said, “Absalom was such a rat! I don’t know how you put up with that kid, he must have driven you nuts!” Then I could be confronted with a father’s sadness over a lost son.

That would hurt. I never want to be in that situation.

img_1682Maybe we all need to reconsider the way we teach the Scriptures and talk about ‘dead’ people? As they are names on pages, we feel no connection to, or responsibility towards them. That is the exact same psychological phenomenon that drives bullying and trolls on the internet. We can’t see the faces of the real people, so what we do just doesn’t matter. Yet it does. The Bible says, don’t judge. It doesn’t make any distinction on whether or not that responsibility stops with someone’s death. Orthodox Jews call people who have died, “… of blessed memory.” The person, regardless of whether they are family or not, are treated with respect. That is excellent role modelling.

People who died in right relationship with the Lord are not with us, but it doesn’t mean they have been deleted from existence. It doesn’t mean we will never squirm when we realise how badly we treated them. It doesn’t mean the Lord won’t rebuke us for our unrighteousness, for wielding swords of justice which are only, rightfully His.

So I have striven to err on the side of mercy and fairness when studying and writing about David, and that is, at times, quite a challenge. I have no respect for Saul, Joab or Absalom, but I do not want to stand before the Lord and have to explain why I acted with such harshness when the Father has been so merciful and tender with me. So I try and state the facts about them without including my personal opinion, name calling, or other derogatory low blows.

I have found, that another benefit has sprung up from me being more aware of how I treat David and his family. Amending my attitude has led to a greater awareness of how I judge and speak about the people in my immediate, real life, vicinity. That involves my family, my problematic neighbours and the people I meet in every day life, some of who annoy me.

Learning not to judge is a life skill that is necessary. Scripture tells us directly not to do it. We know we should act with the fruit of the Spirit, we know the standards. Even if we see others pulling apart people, we must resist the impulse to do the same. Judging others in teaching been done through many generations, and it will take some serious work to change our habits. However, for the sake of our character, it’s worth doing.
a) Scriptures on Judging: Luke 6:37Matthew 7:2Hebrews 10:30
b) Did David Rape BathSheba?
No, he didn’t. Why? Well, the Bible calls rape, rape and that is not what we see here. It is more likely that as he was a king, she was flattered or awed by him and he may have offered her an incentive such as wealth, land, a promotion for her husband: anything that would enable him to fulfil his desire. Who wouldn’t want to be more popular with the King and attain a higher position in life? Many people would take an opportunity like that and she may have seen it as an honour. [Ref. 2 Samuel 11-12]

Why do I think that?
1. As I said above, the Bible calls rape, rape. It pulls no punches about where David went wrong, so why would it here?
2. When David and BathSheba’s first child dies, David is able to comfort her. There is no indication of a fractured relationship, such as the one he had with Michal. A raped woman would be traumatised. David and BathSheba went on to have four other sons together and she became Queen, which we know as the succession of all her sons is listed.
3. David is such an overtly honest person, he would have confessed it in the Psalms.
4. David was so guilt-ridden over what he had done, had he raped her, it is possible he would have arranged for her to live, well cared for and safe somewhere.
5. It did not appear to be within David’s nature to be so violent outside of war. One example is the number of times the head of his army, Joab, wanted to assassinate a direct threat to his life and kingship. Each time, David said no, even though his refusal flew in the face of common sense. Violence was not his first choice. He looked to the Lord for deliverance. [Ref. 2 Samuel 2 Samuel 15-18]


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The King David Project by Cate Russell-Cole is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License (CC BY-SA 4.0).
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Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.


King David’s Approach to Violence and What We Need to Learn from Him

The brochure and my pendant.

In my jewellery box is an Irish warrior’s shield pendant. Sometimes I wonder what King David would have to say about me owning one. Part of me feels a little foolish, in that I am not a warrior, so what am I doing with such a thing? I haven’t earned my stripes in battle, but have certainly overcome my share of obstacles… That must be acceptable, but my concern goes deeper than that.

What am I, as a Christian, doing valuing a symbol of violence? Unlike His great-grandfather, David, Jesus was a man of total peace. He never hit anyone, never killed anyone in Isra’el’s defence. He was like Solomon: a man of peace who built the new temple of God. As I live within the New Testament covenant of grace, I am duty bound to be a person of peace, turning the other cheek. The only sword I am supposed to hold is the sword of the Word of God. I agree, but images of swords and shields make me feel safe.

Today reinforced how much I am not alone in this. My husband and I went to the Queensland Museum’s “Medieval Power: Symbols and Splendour” exhibition, which held an intriguing collection of objects from the British Museum. The exhibit had pottery, religious objects, marvellous jewellery, seals, the most stunning drawings and scenes carved into ivory with the most exquisite craftsmanship… and there were knights. There were knights everywhere; they dominated.

Knights are romantic figures. Cosplayers want to be them, we play video games to become them and in Medieval times, Kings and noblemen who had never seen battle, had their portraits painted wearing a knight’s armour, just to prove how powerful and successful they were. Knights were rich men. One piece was a badge that would be attached to a horse’s bridle, and the explanation told us that a war horse cost four hundred times the salary of a common man: that is that man’s yearly salary. That’s an obscene amount of money, but regardless, people wanted to be a knight! We’re frequently drawn to the hero who vanquishes enemies and wins. Why? Because feeling powerful makes us all feel safe; it’s not just me who wants that shield.

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

Image by Saffron Blaze, Wikimedia Commons

The biggest take home message I got from the exhibition was our fascination with violence, which is startlingly as alive now, as it ever was. We no longer have to worry about our houses being raided, in the same way people were forced to in times past. We have police, locks, alarm systems and a sense of security undreamed of in that time; yet still we are drawn to violence. The games we play are Grand Theft Auto, World of Warcraft, Call of Duty Black Ops 3. We watch the Karate Kid movies, Mission Impossible, Navy Seals and many, many crime and punishment style television programs, with violent content. Mankind is drawn towards harming others in many ways.

Here in March 2016, we want world peace, but in November 2015, Activision, who makes Call of Duty, earned $1.04 billion in three months from game sales. For people who don’t want war, what is going on? The answer is simple: it’s sin in action. Our carnal nature takes us where we shouldn’t go and we fill our time with destructive entertainment.

You’d never expect to see Jesus playing these games, but what about David? Would he have played them, being the warrior he was? I don’t believe so.

I do have a basis for that belief. While his not going to war is criticised by theologians in regards to his sin with Bathsheba, when I studied David’s military habits, it was his custom to not run into every battle. [Ref: 2 Samuel 11:1] In this incident with the Ammonites, the head of the army, Joab, took command of the first part, then in verses 10:6,7 when the Ammonites called in more reinforcements, David left for battle with more of his men. David also stays back in Psalm 60 and in 2 Samuel 2:12-17.

Now we don’t know why he did that, but what is crystal clear is his choice not to be obsessed with pursuing violence and the fame that military victory can bring. My article, Yesterday’s Hero, talks about the persecution David underwent as King, when his early victories over Goliath and in Saul’s army were pretty much forgotten. This could have fuelled him to get into the action and concrete his image as an indispensable asset to the nation, but it didn’t. David fought for the safety of Isra’el and in line with the standards in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and that appears to be it. For whatever reason he chose to not become a career soldier-King, he still made that choice. This decision has been highlighted by Joab’s actions. If someone was a threat, Joab killed them without a hint of regret. Joab spent months on the battlefields killing men and his unrighteous love of the sword and strife was a thorn in David’s side. [Ref: 2 Samuel 3:1-30]

We know that David was a kind-hearted man, who looked to the Lord for protection and ruled with wisdom. “So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people.” 2 Samuel 8:15 His vision of the world was broader than any sword, it was based on spiritual principles and his love of God, and that made him a far greater success than any military prowess he had. “For David had done what was pleasing in the Lord’s sight and had obeyed the Lord’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.” 1 Kings 15:5 and “After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after My Own Heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ “ Acts 13:22

There’s the key: knowing God’s heart. That heart is One that protects when necessary, but doesn’t honour or need the adrenaline rush of violence to thrive. God’s heart is the One which chooses a change in character; it’s the One which heals and delivers and it’s the One David looked to for protection. Read Psalm 11; it starts: “I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!” Then goes on to say, “The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.” David knew where the boundaries were and he stopped before he reached them.

It’s no new revelation that we should reject the things of this world, and that includes any participation in violent entertainment in any form; but when you look at that same value from a successful warrior’s point of view, that message hits home so much harder. We need to copy David’s example and put our imaginary swords away.


– Yesterday’s Hero: Ancient Politics or, How to Keep a King Humble
– How to Kill Giants: Searching for the Deep Secrets Behind King David’s Success
– Good King or Nasty Sinner? How Negativity Bias Affects How We Interpret the Life of King David

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Please note that this does NOT apply to any of the images on this site except for the free Psalm images which are marked as free. Most photos are purchased stock photos. It is ILLEGAL for you to take and use them, whether for yourself, commercially or for a non-profit venture such as a church or Bible Study. If you have not bought these photos from the source, the stock photography company has every right to sue you.

The Anti-King: David and Humility

IMG_0066I first noticed how humble David’s attitude is when reading 2 Samuel 22, David’s song of praise. Repeatedly, God is attributed with victory, well over and above anything David claims for himself (of which I have found next to nothing). “The Lord is…” “He is…” He heard…” He opened…” “He shot…” “His lightning…”

David is almost an anti-king. His character is a complete contrast of that of any other monarch in history. He relies more on the Lord, than on his own power and influence; and the status and riches of the kingdom don’t sway him.

Psalm 52:5-8 regarding a great warrior Doeg the Edomite, who betrayed David to Saul.
“But God will strike you down once and for all.
He will pull you from your home
and uproot you from the land of the living. Interlude
The righteous will see it and be amazed.
They will laugh and say,
“Look what happens to mighty warriors
who do not trust in God.
They trust their wealth instead
and grow more and more bold in their wickedness.”
But I am like an olive tree, thriving in the house of God.
I will always trust in God’s unfailing love.”

Psalm 4:7 “You have given me greater joy than those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.”

This humility is part of the reason why in 2 Samuel 7:9b the Lord told David, “…I will make your name as famous as anyone who has ever lived on the earth!” It was a privilege that David could be trusted with.

Below are a handful of examples of David’s humility from the first twenty Psalms. They demonstrate three areas where humility plays a large role in his life.

1. David didn’t try and achieve the success of the kingdom himself.

– Psalm 3:8
“Victory comes from you, O LORD.
May you bless your people.”

– Psalm 4:6:
“Many people say, “Who will show us better times?”
Let your face smile on us, LORD.”

– Psalm 7:1
“I come to you for protection, O LORD my God.”

– Psalm 10:12
“Arise, O LORD!
Punish the wicked, O God!
Do not ignore the helpless!”

2. David always gave the glory to God for victories, despite his reputation in battle. [Refs 1 Samuel 18:6-7 and 2 Samuel 5:1-2]

– Psalm 9:1-3
“I will praise you, LORD, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvellous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
My enemies retreated;
they staggered and died when you appeared.”

– Psalm 16:5-8
“LORD, you alone are my inheritance, my cup of blessing.
You guard all that is mine.
The land you have given me is a pleasant land.
What a wonderful inheritance!”

– Psalm 18:1-3
“I love you, LORD;
you are my strength.
The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my saviour;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.”

– Psalm 18:43-45
“You gave me victory over my accusers.
You appointed me ruler over nations;
people I don’t even know now serve me.
As soon as they hear of me, they submit;
foreign nations cringe before me.
They all lose their courage
and come trembling from their strongholds.”

3. David’s humility is also seen in repeated requests to have God judge him, in order that he would stay on the right path. As he diligently sought God’s judgement and was very rarely judged, he was able to declare his righteousness before the Lord. He often states his position when grappling with his (and Israel’s) need for deliverance. (e.g. Psalm 41:12 “You have preserved my life because I am innocent; you have brought me into your presence forever.” See also Psalm 139.)

– Psalm 19:12-14
“How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.”

– Psalm 7:3-5
“O LORD my God, if I have done wrong
or am guilty of injustice,
if I have betrayed a friend
or plundered my enemy without cause,
then let my enemies capture me.
Let them trample me into the ground
and drag my honour in the dust.”

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