This poem draws on the story of David and Bathsheba, which is detailed in 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12. A commentary on the poem, what inspired me to write it, and what I’m trying to say with it, is available here.
You who discern right from wrong,
You who weigh the conduct of others,
You who interpret and write the law,
You who sit,
You who rule,
Listen – I’m talking to you.
You look forward to the end of days,
To when the ancient seat is filled,
To when judge meets Judge,
Confluence of minds,
Confirmation of merit,
You believe you will stand tall.
What about that secret time when
You chose to silence her cries,
You chose to violate her body,
What if someone accuses you?
You’re confident your case is strong
That your word will prevail against hers,
You have defences to deflect her
But why assume your accuser is she?
A man stands before the judgement throne
Unassailable, unstoppable, unimpeachable,
A lying, violent, adulterous favourite,
Anointed of Judah,
Appointed for life,
Judge, your accuser is a man like you.
Who can covet or bear false testimony,
Who can transgress upon another’s body,
Who can murder an innocent life,
Who can hide from
The One Who Sees?
Answer: no one, not even he.
You know how he tried to hide his secret
How he plied her husband to lie with her.
You know the husband refused, even with wine,
To take her
To take pleasure,
Because the husband was not like you.
The man legitimised his secret act,
Killing the husband and marrying the wife.
But his son brought public shame upon him,
Violence never left
The days of his reign,
And the baby she bore him perished.
Did he say he deserved to keep his life?
That his greatness was too great to be lost?
Or that justice would die with him?
Did he deny it
Or try to excuse it?
Did he blame her for being too beautiful?
If he was silent before God’s messenger,
How will you speak before God’s throne?
Did you think my crime was small,
Or that the woman was complicit,
When the Lord showed me mercy
Sparing my crown
Not taking my life?
Or did you think his forbearance excused me?
Did you think our crimes were different
Because your friend was laughing with you,
Or because you knew she had no husband?
No, our privilege
Was the same;
Pride cannot speak of deservedness.
I know what it’s like to be called out,
To feel your seat slip away from beneath
And your confidence crumble within.
But it is not suffering
It is our making
And I know better than to claim otherwise.
Generations called God unjust because of me
Many slander him because of men like you.
My story should have been a warning
That you might see,
That you might do better.
Why then, why did you not heed it?
You must not misunderstand me.
Don’t think I wouldn’t share with you
The measure of grace that was shown me.
It was not mine to give,
Less still, mine to withhold,
For the Lord, I know, loves mercy.
But he will not call just
That which is unjust,
He will not call upright
The man who loves wrong,
He will not pardon
The one who persists
In saying there is nothing to pardon.
Job decried the sins of his youth,
And my transgressions are always before me,
Yet you claim blamelessness in all things,
Calling on your merit
To candidate for your seat.
Where is your contrition and humility?
Your swore you would never do such a thing,
That you would remember if you had.
But the Lord, the Lord remembers!
The woman you harmed
As surely as the blood I spilled remembers.
I asked the Lord to let me live,
That I might proclaim his righteousness,
And teach transgressors to leave their ways.
But you did not inquire
If you should accept the seat
Offered from the hand of a man like us.
You desired power more than the truth.
You desired your own comfort,
More than that of many others.
You asked the Lord
To silence your accuser
And quell the shouts of women like her.
Know that the Lord has heard you;
At the end of days,
The woman you harmed will not be laboured
To still the tremor in her voice
Or maintain her composure to speak.
You will stand before the great assembly,
I, transgressor, will call you to account,
And you will be silent,
Even before me.
9th October 2018