Most probably, each one of us has shared in the universal experience of being shamed. “You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” was said to each of us at least once in our lifetime. For many, this comment was used against us, as children and maybe even as adults, over and over and over again. Shaming, tragically, is a very effective tool because it works. It works to keep us in our so-called place. It works to remind us, through another’s words and actions, who we are and what we did. It works to give someone else power over our destiny. It may become the inner voice that tells us we are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, or strong enough to be what we can and should become.
So, what is shame and why is it so lethal to our emotional make-up? Shame is the emotion of feeling judged, unworthy, and guilty of an incident, behavior, or lifestyle that one may have participated in willingly or not. Shame is the motherlode of guilt. In fact, the two are relational: guilt and shame. It is interesting that the term is not shame and guilt; but instead, guilt and shame. Why? Because shame is a more intense and destructive emotion. Guilt says: “I did something wrong.” Shame says: “I am the wrong that I did.” (Dr. Brene’ Brown from Super Soul Sunday)
Shaming (and shame) is directly linked to self-sabotaging behavior, low self-esteem, addiction, depression, and suicide. Shame literally humiliates until it replaces one’s God-given self identity with a false, caustic, acidic one. Little by little, shame will eat away at who you are. The antidote to shame is self-validation, self-compassion, healthy, non-judging relationships, and the personal refusal to carry the baggage of past mistakes and decisions. Ultimately, despite our decisions, behaviors and mistakes, we must affirm that we are not the wrong we may have committed, or even the wrong done to us. Scripture reminds us of this: ” Do not remember the former things of old. Behold, I am about do a NEW THING; now it springs forth. Do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19) Accepting this divine word of God, we must refuse to be victimized by shame and held hostage by the wounds of our past.
There are some stories in Scripture that become a part of our shared biblical experience, regardless of our church upbringing. One of these is the story of David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba, the temptress. Bathsheba, the adulteress. Bathsheba, the seductress. Bathsheba, the woman who enticed King David by deliberately bathing in the open; so much so, King David had no other choice than to hesitantly act upon his burning desire. Bathsheba, one of the “bad girls of the Bible,” who we point to and shake our heads. Oh, how we love to shame Bathsheba!
This is a classic example of shaming and also bringing a distorted lens to the text. A re-reading of the narrative outlines these often overlooked facts:
David remained in Jerusalem (when the other kings went to battle)
David saw a woman bathing on the roof.
David sent someone to inquire about the woman. (The messenger reports back her name and her marital status).
David sent messengers to get Bathsheba.
David lays with her.
David sends for her husband, Uriah.
David instructs Uriah to go and sleep with his wife, Bathsheba.
David gets Uriah drunk to deceive him into sleeping with his own wife.
David writes a letter to his commander Joab.
David instructs Joab to put Uriah in the frontline where the battle is the fiercest.
David sent for and brought Bathsheba back to his house to become his wife, after Uriah dies in battle, and David learns of her pregnancy.
The only time Bathsheba speaks in the text, she says this: “I am pregnant.” So, how does Bathsheba share in the blame and shame of this most sordid circumstance? It starts with the suggestion that Bathsheba deliberately bathed in front of King David, knowing that the beauty of her naked body would be irresistible to the king.
Besides the text never mentioning that Bathsheba was aware of King David’s voyeurism, perhaps she was on the roof bathing because this was the place of the water source. Naturally, water vessels were placed on roofs because there would be no need to carry the water to the roof to bathe. The text indicates that Bathsheba was “purifying herself after her period.” The idea that Bathsheba was tempting David is pure eisegesis.*
<em>(*In Greek – the bringing in, meaning to add one’s own viewpoint or opinion into the text).
To suggest that Bathsheba participated in the affair by bathing herself in front of David, is the first step of adding a shame construct to her story.
At this point in King David’s life, he is firmly established as king of Israel. David already had three wives (Michal, Abigail, and Ahinoam) and concubines, whose names are unmentioned. David was powerful and sovereign. Refusal to come to the king, when ordered, could have meant death for Bathsheba. While the text describes Bathsheba as beautiful, this observation of Bathsheba’s beauty is not an attribute in her life. “To modern readers, beauty is positive, but in the Hebrew Bible [beauty] is dangerous for women.” (Tammi J. Schneider – The Torah – A Women’s Commentary). In this situation, as in many cases of beautiful women in ancient times (Queen Vashti, Sarai, Tamar, Dinah, Queen Esther, & others), beauty worked against women.
Her husband was at war, and David deliberately excused himself from battle. The narrative tells us David inquired about Bathsheba, (finds out her name and status) and sends for her, without her knowledge or permission. We can only imagine what happened behind closed doors! Where is the shame of saving one’s own life?
David constructs lie after lie, and deceit after deceit. Bathsheba’s participation is never mentioned until we encounter her voice: “I am pregnant.” Her voice is passive and pathetic. She is a victim of circumstance. Bathsheba is a woman in a society without power. She has no voice, no choice, and no power. Even her body did not belong to her; it belonged to the king. Behind the closed doors of the palace, her body is taken without her consent, the acknowledgement of her husband, or consideration of her marriage.
In verse 26, we find an indication of Bathsheba’s love for her husband: “When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.”
David grows contrite after Nathan confronts him about his sin. Their baby dies and David mourns his son. But, who then mourns for Bathsheba? Who mourns for the loss of her life deconstructed because of lust and power? Who will tell her story and protect her reputation? Who will be her voice?
Perhaps we can. Perhaps, we can be the women who listen with compassion to her story. Perhaps, we can be the women who listen without judgment. Perhaps, we can be the women who “un-shame” Bathsheba. We can be the ones who preach, teach, and tell her story to the next generation. We can be the women who get Bathsheba’s story right! We can be these women!
QUESTIONS FOR OUR CONSIDERATION
Why does it matter to reframe the narrative of Bathsheba, and restore her reputation from those (preachers/teachers/writers) who would blemish her reputation and story?
Dr. Brene’ Brown says this: “You share with people who earned the right to hear your story.” In the context of “Shaming,” what does this thought mean to you?
What advice would you give to those who are living with burden of guilt and shame?
“So now, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And, because you belong to Him, the power of the life giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1&2
Faith is the currency by which we regain everything we lost.
“You can choose to change your story!” – Kristin Leigh
Our Sending Prayer (excerpted from Beyle Hurvits)
Near You, God, there is no night,
And candles are not needed beside You.
For You light up the whole world with Your light.
And the morning speaks of Your compassion
And the day speaks of Your truth.
And all creatures acknowledge Your wonder.
In You, oh Lord, there is no condemnation.
In You, oh Lord, our sin is forgiven.
We are freed from the guilt of our past.
We study our shame no more.
We are new creatures through our Christ, Jesus.
We claim the victory today and tomorrow.
“The enclosed materials are the property of Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters Bible Empowerment Series. They may be used by you with our permission, which may be revoked at any time. All copies of the materials must include the following notice: “This material is Copyright  Maxine E. Garrett and Tabitha’s Daughters, and is distributed with permission.”