Sure, it’s possible to cry “victim-blaming!” as a way of side-stepping issues of personal morality, but the concept/accusation contains an important truth about power that Christians as far back as Augustine, consoling nuns raped during the sack of Rome, invoked to keep the community’s focus on those who abuse their position.

Arcangela Tarabotti (1604–1652) was an Italian Catholic nun who sought to elevate the dignity and treatment of women, particularly those in religious vocations. Here, reacting to her contemporaries’ reading of 2 Sam 11 , she forcefully rejects the arguments of commentators who suggest that Bathsheba is responsible for David’s sin.

Do Not Blame the Victim!

Why on earth publish lying fictions just when you dedicate yourselves to assaulting the fortress of chastity as Cupid’s disciples? You preach a sheltered life for women, digging up evidence from the tale of Bathsheba: while bathing in an open place she made even King David lie—that holy prophet whose heart was in tune with God’s.

Ask yourselves, witless ones, who was the true cause of her fall, and then deny it if you can. It was nothing else but the king’s lust. Uriah’s wife was at home, minding her own affairs bathing—whether for enjoyment or necessity, it matters little—but David eyed her too. Her beauty inflamed him, and his eyes were the gateway to his heart; by various ruses he obtained the satisfaction his sensuality demanded.

What blame can one possibly attribute to that innocent woman, overwhelmed by the splendor of the king’s majesty? She is more worthy of pardon than the royal harp player: she allowed herself to be overcome by a force from on high, as it were; he succumbed to the pull of flesh doomed soon to rot and darts from two eyes that pierce only those wanting to be wounded.

1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, eds. Derek Cooper and Martin Lohrmann, Reformation Commentary on Scripture, OT Vol. V, pp. 193-194.

 

The RCS Historical Books Series

Week 1: With the Tumult of the World in Our Hearts (1 Sam 3:2-18)
Week 2: The Hypocrite’s Confession (2 Sam 12:13)
Week 3: Out of the Paw of the Lion (1 Sam 17:31-37)
Week 4: But David Still Loved Saul (2 Sam 1:11-16)
Week 5: Victim-Blaming is Bad Exegesis