2 Samuel 20
There’s an interesting contrast between the women whose stories are included in this chapter, and it relates to us today. First, there are the ten concubines whom Absalom raped in an attempt to legitimize and solidify his hold on the throne. When David returns, he essentially places them under a sort of “house arrest.” They are taken care of, but are not free, and he no longer has any relationship with them. There are historical, cultural explanations for why Absalom publicly violated them and why David then condemned them to live out their lives as if they were widows, but the bottom line is that they were victims. First of David and his sin in violating the covenant of marriage, which then set them up to be abused by Absalom, and then they were victimized again when David imprisoned them.
In light of current events, it’s difficult not to compare these survivors to the women who have come forward to tell their own stories of abuse over the past year. From the board room to the casting couch to the sports medicine exam room, women have shown a spotlight on the assaults they’ve suffered for decades.
These 21st century women also have something in common with the wise woman of Abel Beth Maakah. Instead of allowing themselves to continue to be silenced, they call out to the people and offer up the head of one man. Perhaps the slaughter of one man will bring peace.
Just as Sheba was not alone in his sin of rebellion, the individual men being offered up today are representatives of a far more widespread infection. Our culture has celebrated women as sex objects for nearly a century; our entertainment industry is built largely on this foundation. But suddenly we are drawing back a thinly-veiled curtain and recognizing the result of a constant diet of sexualization and objectification is the historic and ongoing victimization of women.
Just as Sheba represented a culture of rebellion against God and His anointed King, the men who are being fired, charged, and vilified for abuses dating back decades are the visible symptom of a more widespread disease. Punishing them will allow us to claim a moral victory, to pat ourselves on the back and believe we’ve made a difference. We’ve made the world a safer place for women, we think, by locking up these perpetrators. But pointing to individual culprits fails to recognize our own participation in a culture that devalues women and fails to stab at the heart of victimization and abuse.
Tossing the head of Sheba over the wall only delayed the battle that was coming, a battle between Northern Israel and Judah, but at its heart, a battle between submission to God and rebellion against God. Bringing justice to the various men who are finally paying the price for their behavior today will not resolve the larger issue, the society-wide issue. Only repentance, turning from sin and submitting to a holy God, to His standards and His Word, will bring healing.