In Defense of Bathsheba
by Patrick Hurd

Not Guilty! Not Guilty!

The September/October 1996 issue of Patriarch published an article, “The Sin of Bathsheba,” (GO THERE) (author’s name withheld and, thus, henceforth referred to as “Anony”) the theme of which is the prevailing immodesty of today’s American women to the great harm of many men. The thrust of the article was an indictment against Bathsheba (henceforth referred to as “Bath”) who was the alleged root cause of David, King of Israel, committing adultery and murder (“the greater sin”) by her negligence of nakedness on the rooftop (“the lesser sin”) of her home during the daylight hours and in full view of the palace porch. In short, the indictment is, “As Eve in the garden caused Adam to eat, so Bath in the bath spread dirt to David.” Accordingly, “the lesser sins” of modern immodest women causes “the greater sin” by men and, thus, the ladies are culpable for the greater sin.

Anony certainly did an excellent job of candidly describing certain fashions that are intentionally and unnecessarily provocative. There is a great need within the Church for many husbands and wives to receive honest, blunt, and explicit instruction about clothes, skin, motives, lust, etc.... However, there is a right way to bring corrective instruction to the body of Christ and there is a wrong way. The right way leads to redemption, righteousness, and freedom; the wrong way leads to guilt, hypocrisy, and bondage.

I am in no way questioning the sincerity or integrity of Anony, his motives, or the severity of the subject matter. My purpose is to propose a better way to bring God’s word to bear on this very difficult, emotional, and important issue that plagues today’s Church and our society. To do so, though, I must ask you to bear with me as we take a closer look at the method Anony has utilized to attack this issue. Then, perhaps, we can advance a better alternative.

The Indictment - Bathsheba’s Nudity

Though I can agree with Anony in most of his practical observations concerning the reactions of men toward the modern fashions of women, the differences of lust in men and women, and the blatant naivete of most women and too many men, I cannot agree with the initial premise that Bath committed sin, the conclusion that, therefore, she was guilty of more sin, or the solution he advocates which stem from his initial premise.

The question before us is whether or not Bath (and, thus, ignorantly immodest women) was (are) culpable for David’s sin (and, thus, the thoughts and actions of lustful men). Anony holds that, even though Bath committed a sin in ignorance, she contributed to all that befell David and his household. If that is true for Bath, then it must be true for the ignorantly immodest women of today.

The Defense

Before one goes very far with this, it is necessary to agree on a definition of “sin.” A modern dictionary suggests that sin is an act of breaking a religious or moral law. Of course, one must decide whose standard of religious or moral law is applicable. As a Christian, I would suggest that God’s moral law, as expressed in the 66 works compiled together and known as “The Holy Bible,” is a good standard to agree on. Accordingly, the Westminster Confession of Faith, circa 1646, defines sin as, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.” (See 1 John 3:4)

Having established God’s word as the basis and standard of law and justice, someone tell me where in God’s word does He decree nudity to be a violation of His law. Now bear with me on this - I’m not just nit-picking. If we are going to use God’s word to bear down on the issues of our day, we had better be using God’s word and not someone else’s dressed up like God’s.

Anony is correct to point out that God clothed Adam and Eve with coats and is correct to conclude that, by so doing, God demonstrated His desire for man to be clothed. However, to go the next step and say that, by God so doing, one has sinned by being publicly nude is to do as Eve did in the garden when responding to the serpent, “... God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die’” (Genesis 3:3) and thereby put words into the mouth of God.

Before you streak to any conclusions, I am in no way advocating public nudity. I agree that people are to be covered when in public. I concede that for people to be publicly nude is iniquity. However, there is a difference between iniquity (ethical lawlessness) and sin (judicial violations of God’s law). Again, the question before us is whether or not Bath (and ignorantly immodest women) was (are) culpable for David’s sin (the thoughts and actions of lustful men).

To this question of culpability, the bible offers some interesting examples. Remember what happened after Noah fell asleep naked and awoke to the knowledge that Ham had witnessed his nakedness? Who received the curse for this breach of modesty? Naked Noah? Nope. Ham, his son, the one who did the looking.

“How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself today in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!”, said Michael, David’s wife, after David had danced in the street with nothing on but a linen ephod. (2 Samuel 6:20) And who received the curse for this action of immodesty? Well, it was not David.

Space does not allow us to draw on non-naked examples in the bible that support the biblical position of exclusive culpability. Once again, the question before us is whether or not Bath (and ignorantly immodest women) was (are) culpable for David’s sin (the thoughts and actions of lustful men). Based on the evidence of God’s word, the verdict must be: Not guilty. The defense rests.

Assumptive Conclusions

So far our discussion has centered on the culpability of ignorantly immodest women. Even Anony is willing to allow for some leniency based on ignorance. There is no question regarding the woman who actively and intentionally behaves in a way designed to seduce men into lustful thoughts and/or actions. Yet, it is at this very point of transition from ignorance to knowledge that Anony’s argument leads his readers into an unsolvable dilemma.

Anony advises his readers that, now that they have been so informed of the modesty issue and its effect on their weaker brothers, the ladies are no longer ignorantly immodest. Ignorant no longer; culpable forevermore. What is the godly woman to do now? Anony has offered some suggestions to that question: “If you would be safe, your dresses should cover you well below the knee in all postures.” Don’t be mistaken, this is wise and prudent counsel for godly ladies. Unfortunately, the wisdom of this counsel is stripped from it because Anony’s counsel is based on an improper motive, i.e., dress so as not to sin by causing another to sin by your dress.

Based on that motive, the godly woman must ask, “How well below the knee is well enough? How long should the sleeves be to be long enough? How high is the neckline to be to be high enough? Who is going to decide? Reasonable and rational man?"

Anony is asking the ladies to have a constant presence of mind about them that can anticipate every man’s reaction to their slightest show of skin or figure to avoid sharing in the lustful sin of that man. You may complain that I’m going much further than Anony took the argument, but that is exactly what he did to Bath and what he imputes to his readers. How was Bath to anticipate that David would step out on the porch while she was bathing? To suggest such omniscience on the part of women aloud is absurd. We must realize that man will always take such thinking to its (il)logical conclusion. One need only look at the Muslim nations to see what adjusting to the common lowest denominator can do to ladies’ fashions.

Affirmative Action

God’s judgement against sin is always redemptive in purpose. His purpose is to turn the heart of sinners back to Him. His Church should have the same purpose when exercising its duty of judicial church discipline. To do so the Church must first correctly assign guilt to the guilty party. An innocent man cannot be redeemed back into fellowship when falsely pronounced guilty.

The editor of Patriarch, in his preface to the article, started down the right path of assigning responsibility when he wrote, “... we Christian husbands and fathers have a big job to do in correcting the dress of our women.” Unfortunately, the article disrobed us from this line of thinking from the start.

As the spiritual head and ruler of their household, husbands are responsible before God to educate themselves and their family (wife, daughters, AND sons) with respect to modest dress and behavior. If he fails to fulfill his God ordained responsibility, he has sinned and is culpable for his own sin of negligence. If he is faithful to his responsibility, but his wife, daughter, and/or son refuse to submit to his authority, the wife, daughter, and/or son have sinned and are culpable for the sin of rebellion. It is important to note that, by this application, each is responsible for his or her own action or lack of action and not for the actions of others. No one can rightly say, as Adam tried to, “She made me eat.”

Where is the faithful husband to look for adequate instruction in modesty? The Church. Accordingly, each pastor is responsible before God to educate the husbands of the church in biblical modesty. If he fails to fulfill his God ordained responsibility, he has sinned, and is culpable for his own sin of negligence. If he is faithful to his responsibility but the husband refuses to respond to the instruction and train his family accordingly the husband has sinned and is culpable for the sin of rebellion. Again, by this application, each is responsible for his own duty and not for the lack of action by others.

Conclusion

For the Church to offer solutions to the issues of society and be taken seriously, we must carefully formulate the solution in accordance with God's character of justice and righteousness. God's word is a sufficient guide to that purpose. Anony and Patriarch displayed discernment and courage in addressing the issue (even if the author wished to remain a anonymous). But it is obvious that there are good and profitable ways of bringing God's word to bear on issues and, thus, there are not so good ways also. The Church in America has been so long out of the arena of public debate that there is a deficiency of practice that must be overcome. Let us begin to correct our deficiency. Let us, therefore, strive for true righteousness with justice as we shed the light of God's word on our lost and dying society.

Have some thoughts of your own about this issue?  Give us your FEEDBACK.

Fortifying
The
Family

Back

Patrick L. Hurd
Weatherford, Texas
PHurdWford@AOL.com

EST. 01/01/01