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Unspoken: Bathsheba (The Lineage of Grace Series #4) Hardcover – August 1, 2001
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In award-winning writer Francine Rivers's five-book Lineage of Grace series about women in the family tree of Jesus Christ, perhaps the most compelling installment is Unspoken, the love story of David and Bathsheba. This Old Testament saga of adultery, power, and battles fought both on the field of combat and in the human heart touches on the cost of poor choices, the need for forgiveness, and finding ultimate fulfillment--themes that are relevant today. Rivers writes poignantly of how Bathsheba falls in love with David as a little girl, and of her bitterness when she comes of age and is given in marriage to Uriah, one of David's mighty warriors. Love cannot be commanded, however, and it's not long before the sexual tension between David and Bathsheba reaches its logical conclusion, with disastrous results. Rivers adeptly brings the biblical account to life, portraying the difficult struggles of good people, the corrupting influence of power, and God's love for those who make mistakes--even big mistakes. --Cindy Crosby
G.D.W. © AudioFile Portland, Maine
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Since then, however, I have done a lot of research and study of Bathsheba and David’s story and have discovered that Bathsheba was not a young woman who made “big mistakes” and because of that received/needed “unlimited grace” from God, as Ms. Rivers suggests in “Unspoken”. Instead, I’ve found that Bathsheba was an innocent victim of sexual abuse and received healing that comes only with unlimited compassion and love from God. The deeper I dug into my research, clearly discovering her innocence, the more disappointed I was remembering “Unspoken” ’s account of the story.
My low rating is based on the accuracy of the Word, which is the most important part of writing anything centering on God, whether fiction or non-fiction. I would even venture to say that writing an historical-fiction piece based on the Bible is a very noble, but very dangerous thing because one is tinkering with the holy Word – God Himself- when an author inserts things that we just don’t know – i.e. how a person felt (character development) and why they reacted a certain way (motive), or a person’s childhood (backstory) and their thoughts while in it - all of which are done in “Unspoken”- if the Bible doesn’t state it. An author is taking artistic license, but some readers may believe those are facts if they do not know the full truth of a story.
Because so many churches (and Christians for that matter) deny, cover up, or dismiss sexual abuse and spiritual abuse, I feel that Bathsheba’s story – the real one - is of significance and relevance today and needs to be corrected from the errors like those in “Unspoken”. I hope the points below spark interest for people to hear the Holy Spirit’s Truth about Bathsheba’s story and makes a difference in the Body of Christ:
1. We don’t know Bathsheba’s birth year nor are we given her age at any time in her life. “Unspoken” assumes Bathsheba was old enough to speak to David and form a connection while in Hebron, thus establishing an emotional relationship in her childhood. There is absolutely no evidence that Bathsheba was at a certain age or knew or had any contact with David at the time he was running from Saul, as Ms. Rivers suggests. She may have been born at the end of David’s reign in Hebron or she may have even been born while he reigned in Jerusalem. The first mention of her name in the bible is when David first sees her and is addressed as “the wife of” Uriah.
2. Ms. Rivers sets up the backstory of Bathsheba’s supposed longing for David here in Bathsheba’s childhood, but there is no evidence for it. With this as her foundation, she builds emotions that climax into giving in to a sexual desire later (“Bathsheba had loved him for years” p.48, “old feelings had risen up and swept over her again”, p. 49 and “all the years she had dreamed and hoped” p. 52), thus mutually consenting to adultery. This is not fair to Bathsheba, nor is it true, according to the bible.
3. From the evidence in the bible, Bathsheba was most likely very young, perhaps a pre-teen or teenager when David sinned against her. Virgin girls were considered eligible for marriage once they started their period. Evidence from scripture alludes to her youth as well – “..but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb…it was like a daughter to him.” 2 Samuel 12:3. The word “little” would suggest small and/or young. A sheep farmer would confirm this as well since “sheep” are over one year of age that usually have produced offspring whereas “lambs” are less than one year of age that typically have not produced offspring. As “daughter” she would be quite younger than her “father”, her husband.
4. There is no evidence that either Uriah or she strayed, were unhappy, or promiscuous. In fact on all accounts they probably were very devout Jews (commentaries agree that Uriah most likely converted to Judaism) who loved God and obeyed His Commandments, and thus had a loving committed relationship. Bathsheba’s grandfather, Ahithophel, was King David’s counselor who was respected for his closeness to God, 2 Samuel 16:23.
5. “Unspoken” leaves the reader with an unsubstantiated story that Bathsheba was consumed with anger, hurt, resentment, shame, and other emotions stirring from her marriage that are not evidenced from the bible. Who is to say she didn’t long more for Uriah with every passing day he was gone?
6. Bathsheba did not initiate nor have any eye-contact with David.
In fact, we know from the bible that she never knew David was watching her. She would have assumed he was on the battle field, supervising her husband’s military mission, just as the narrator tells us, 2 Samuel 11:1, 6. Unfortunately I have read commentaries that say she was bathing on her roof, thus promiscuously tantalizing David with her nakedness. The bible doesn’t say any of that. Most likely, as archaeologists have discovered, and Ms. Rivers states, she bathed in an enclosed courtyard where rainwater would collect from the roof and be stored in a vessel. Because of Uriah’s position of authority, perhaps his house was in close proximity to the palace, thus giving David the ability to see inside her courtyard from the vantage point of the rooftop. However, modesty was extremely important to women of that culture/time, considering the “Law of Jealousy” of a husband, Numbers 5:11-31.
7. “Unspoken” creates internal dialogue in Bathsheba not based on any facts in the bible. She is painted as tempting David in the “harsh afternoon sun” to make him jealous. The bible says “one evening” David arose from his bed, signifying dusk or darkness. This jealously written in the book turns to vengeance aimed at David not selecting her as his bride before Uriah did and the feelings she had at her wedding. How do we know what Bathsheba was feeling at her wedding? Was David even there? Who is to say that Bathsheba wasn’t madly in love with Uriah?
8. David lusted voyeuristically at her. This is what stalkers and men with perversion in their hearts do.
9. Uriah was one of David’s closest men. David becomes quite brazen to risk the betrayal of one of his closest confidants and protectors, 1 Chronicles 11:41, not to mention one of his advisor’s granddaughter. The strength and domination of lust infiltrates him.
10. David begins to use his authority to manipulate and control. See #11.
11. Bathsheba did not initiate physical contact – she was busy doing wifely duties in her home when the guards unexpectedly knocked on her door, commanded her by king’s order to come with them, and took her away to the king’s palace, 2 Samuel 11:4. Imagine the shock and anxiety in her heart of complete surprise, not the shame from previous enticement that “she had only herself to blame for this situation”, as “Unspoken” suggests. pp. 48-50.
12. David isolated Bathsheba. Isolation is a tactic of abusers. She was not only out of the safety of her dwelling, away from any support system, but thrust into his intimidating turf – the splendor and power of his palace.
13. Bathsheba was under command by the king to be there – she had no choice. Pp. 51 bothers me. “Did I have a choice?” [to come to David’s palace] “You did choose.” [replies David]. This is the power of position of an abuser. Ms. Rivers rightly has David having Bathsheba second guessing her ability to leave. Instead of thoughts about how to escape from being seduced by the most powerful man in the land, Ms. Rivers relies on the foundation of a fantasy of an affair “what if…” in Bathsheba’s head to lure her to stay. I think this is where the danger lies for people who don’t understand abuse, sexual or otherwise – the grooming, the luring, the entrapment, the isolation, the gas lighting and twisting of truth, blaming the victim, etc.
14. Bathsheba was taught not only to submit to his male authority but also his lordship.
Again, David had the upper hand. David’s accusation to cause ambivalence in Bathsheba would actually have destabilized her instinct to flee a dangerous situation: part of her would have felt trapped and thus perhaps engaged her reflexes to escape, while her abuser convinced her other half to ignore her instincts and blame herself for still standing in his bedchamber. Another response to abuse is “freezing”, either from the ambivalence or having no hope of escape, which is a possibility in Bathsheba’s case due to her subordinate position in total isolation with no one to help her escape. Pg. 53’s ambivalence is evidence of the above– “She knew she should do something to stop him…like Abigail and make him aware of the sin he was about to commit…as her body caught fire…and didn’t say a word”. It’s troubling in the context of David taking advantage of her. It is common to blame the victim for her assault because she did not stop the egregious act done to her; likewise victims sometimes blame themselves and feel the guilt of the offense done to them if they biologically respond during an attack and believe that, since they had a reaction (because the purpose of sexual arousal was designed by God to be in a healthy, loving relationship within marriage but the body/physiology (as opposed to the soul and spirit) simply cannot distinguish the two) they are somehow responsible for the violation.
15. Bathsheba performed a purification ritual bath for assault not her period. “Unspoken” tells us that the bathing scene, starting on p. 42, was when Bathsheba was cleansing from her period, while she was watched by David, and before she was summoned to the palace. In Ms. Rivers’ defense, some bibles and commentaries do say this is what happened. Other commentators and bible translations say that she performed a cleansing ritual bath, after they had intercourse, and this, I believe, is the correct interpretation because the placement of this sentence doesn’t make sense otherwise. Bathsheba spontaneously performed the ritual of cleansing, 2 Samuel 11:4, then went home. The modern translation of the Jewish word “unclean” is erroneously translated because there is no English word for it. It means more of a longing to be close to God. This would make sense after how Bathsheba must have felt after the violation of her soul and body. Interestingly, modern women are using the same cleansing ritual of the mikvah to come closer to God after being sexually violated or after other life-altering seasons in their lives.
16. The absence in scripture of David cleansing is a clue that David has no contrition for his sin and thus no need to purify his body or his heart.
17. Nathan gains knowledge of the attack. The bible doesn’t tell us how he found out, but we do know without a doubt that Nathan was irate at what David had done to her.
18. Bathsheba has no part in the conspiracy to manipulate Uriah to go home in the middle of war to sleep with her or plot to kill him (as I’ve read some claim she did) 2 Samuel 11:14-15. She loved Uriah and is deeply moved: “she mourned for him”. 2 Samuel 11:26
19. David sends for Bathsheba to be taken as his wife. The verbs in the sentence speak for David’s insensitivity and power. She was not personally escorted by him but paraded to the castle as a spectacle. Nor was she asked by King David if she would marry him. Women in Bathsheba’s time didn’t have a say in who they married, especially if it was the King. Out of guilt, David must have wanted to satisfy in his own way and interpretation of the laws in Deuteronomy 22:23-28. Deuteronomy 22:22 serves as a reminder of his impervious position.
20. Nathan bravely advocated for the abused victim and confronted King David, even at the risk of death himself. The punctuated indignation in his voice when he tells King David the robber is him is remarkable – and to a King no less, “…’You are the man!’” 2 Samuel 12:7.
21. The innocent little ewe lamb in Nathan’s story we are told is not only stolen, but literally killed - the Hebrew word “way-ya-‘ă-śe-hā” means prepared; dressed as for cooking. What evidence to convict David of a rape! He slit her voice, slaughtered her soul and sexually devoured her. She was figuratively murdered by her perpetrator, David.
22. God adds that David’s sin was done in secret, a favorite place for abuse and sin, 2 Samuel 12:12. Part of the consequence for David’s violation of Bathsheba will unfortunately be the same violation of David’s concubines in broad daylight - by David’s own son, Absalom.
23. During Bathsheba’s pregnancy, David is afflicted with physical pain as a result of the guilt in his soul of knowing what he did was wrong and deeply grieved the Lord, 2 Samuel 11:27, Psalm 38.
24. After Nathan’s confrontation David confesses and has a contrite heart, Psalm 51. It is here in the later Psalm that we can see how truly sorry he is for what he did.
25. Although Bathsheba suffers with the death of her son, it is David’s actions that warranted it. Nathan informs him of the Lord’s due justice for David’s sin.
26. God never condemns Bathsheba for any sin. He says expressly that He has taken away David’s sin. God doesn’t have to take away Bathsheba’s sin, because she didn’t have any to be taken away. 2 Samuel 12:13b. Perhaps this is because David’s sin is parallel to Deuteronomy 22:25-27, “and though the betrothed girl screamed, there was no one to rescue her”.
27. As parents of their lost child, they come together as more innocence is taken. David now has a healed soul; his unencumbered spirit can connect with hers in their time of grief. He slowly earns her trust in what is a horrible situation all around; perhaps this is when she forgives him and they become one flesh; 2 Samuel 12:24.
28. God comforts Bathsheba even more, naming her second son Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord”.
Given that “Unspoken” is based on some facts but then unfolds into fantasy that creates the stage for adultery instead of sexual abuse and assault, a lot of the questions in the back of book are irrelevant to this review, so there is no need to explain why I would disagree with them.
We all have the right to write a creative historical-fiction story. I was disappointed that “Unspoken” didn’t incorporate more “historical fact” than “fiction”. Because the author decided to paint Bathsheba as a willing participant in adultery instead of seeing the reality of David's manipulation and sexual abuse of her l cannot recommend this book.
In the fourth installment in the A Lineage of Grace series, Unspoken, tells the heartwrenching story of Bathsheba and David, which you can read in the Bible in 2nd Samuel 11.
The story really begins much earlier with Saul. Saul was anointed by Samuel to be King of the Israelites, but over the course of time Saul started to turn away from God, making Samuel anoint David to be the next King of the Israelites. David became Saul’s harpist and armor-bearer, and during this time Saul became very fond of David. Throughout time, David was revered by the people for his bravery in battle and soon Saul became jealous, driving him to plot David’s death. In fear of his life, David ran into the wilderness to hide from Saul, waiting to become the next King of the Israelites.
Within his army, David had many men counsel him like military advisers; two of these particular men were Eliam and Ahithophel, these were Bathsheba's father and grandfather. These strategist meetings are where Bathsheba and David's paths cross.
When Bathsheba was just a girl she had fallen in love with David, although he was much older and ignorant of her feelings. He had many wives, one of which was Saul's own daughter, to create alliances. As Bathsheba grew older she had hopes that she would be able to marry David, but her parents didn't agree. Her father arranged for her to marry, Uriah, the Hittite, who was in David's army of "30 mighty men". David attended Uriah and Bathsheba's wedding, where for the first time, he saw Bathsheba as a beautiful woman.
Saul was eventually defeated and David became King of the Israelites, they no longer roamed the wilderness, but moved to the city with David. While David's army was at battle, David remained in the palace, where he accidentally saw Bathsheba bathing on her terrace. David was not deterred, he wanted her, even though her husband, his friend Uriah, was fighting a battle for David. Sin and passion gave way to loyalty. The aftermath of their terrible decision is played out in the book. David devised unspeakable things to save both he and Bathsheba's reputations and lives. God punished both of them for their sinful acts, but once they repented and changed the way they lived, God blessed them.
I'm going to be frank, this was a tough review to write. Adultery is rampant in our culture, but after reading the book and the Bible scripture a couple times I realized the story isn't about adultery, it's about forgiveness. Even though we sin, big or small, God always forgives us if we ask for it.
At the end of each, A Lineage of Grace, novella review, I will provide a genealogy of Jesus' line from these women. I found the lineage very interesting. If you want to be surprised or don't want to see any clues, don't read the bottom lineage, because it does reveal some vital points to the story.
**** 4 stars
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Gilt & Buckram...the framework that holds adventure.
The Genealogy of Jesus the Christ
Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (mother, Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.
Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
Salmon was the father of Boaz (his mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (his mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (his mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).