David and Bathsheba reimagined.

A couple of years ago, I was asked to give a talk on the story of David and Bathsheba at a Scripture Union weekend for teenagers.

I’d heard people talk on this story many times. But does the story of a king’s fall into adultery resonate with teenagers. I decided to reinterpret the story. My entire talk would simply be the story, re-imagined. David and Bathsheba as two sixth year pupils. It went down really well. You could hear the silence in the room. Afterwards the group broke into discussion groups and many of the leaders afterwards came up to me and said how much the story had affected the young people and how it provoked such great discussion.

I don’t say these things to big myself up but simply to show that the story worked for these young people. Which is why I’ve decided to finally write down a simple draft of the story for others to use if they see fit. It’s just the bare bones of the story. feel free to add to, remove bits from it. do whatever works best for your group. It’s simply the blueprint. I have changed certain situations but I feel that these are still true to the original narrative.

I love stories. And I think one of the greatest things we can do for the biblical stories is to refresh them and to orally tell them in ways that resonate. I believe that this is one way to tell the story. Later this year, I’m going on a couple of storytelling workshops and I hope to begin translating some more of the biblical stories into good oral stories that reflect the culture of the young people I work with.

Let me know your thoughts on the story.

The Story of David and Beth

Let me introduce you to a guy called David. He’s a sixth year at the local secondary school. House Captain, prefect, good at sports, maths, english. You get the idea. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t boast about anything of it. He’s a good guy to know.

David’s two best mates are James and Beth. David and James have been friends since they started school. they’re inseparable. Beth started hanging out with them at secondary school when James started dating her in 2nd year.

When James was seven, his parents split up and so every second week, he goes to visit his dad down in Portsmouth. One Friday lunchtime, after James has already left to go see his dad, Beth and David sit round the back of the school lying out on the grass. It’s another heatwave. It’s been like this the last few days. Too hot to anything. So they just sit on the grass, talking.

David looks round at Beth. The sun makes the skin on her legs glow. She glances round at him and he looks away. David’s always fancied Beth. He’s been out with a few girls but none of them ever hold up the vision he has of her. The truth is he’d ask her out in a second if she wasn’t going out with his best mate. If only he’s met her before James started-

“you okay?” beth asks. his thoughts are broken by her question.
“yeah I’m fine.” david replies.
“what you going to do tonight?” she enquires.
“was thinking about going out for a few.”
“yourself?”
“depends whose out. why, you wanna come?”
“I shouldn’t. James said he’d phone later.”
“Oh gone. just for a couple.”

She should have said no. That would have been the end of it. But she didn’t. They agreed to meet at 7.30 at the bar in the centre of town. They sit and have a couple of drinks together. But that soon turns in a few and before they know it, they find themselves stumbling out of a club just after 2am.

They’re giggling and laughing. Beth falls back and lands up against a wall. She feels David’s breath on her neck. She’s too drunk to think any better. They have sex there against the wall, in the side street. Afterwards, they stumble home, ashamed of what they’ve done.

It’s weeks later. David and Beth have tried to act like nothing’s happened but things aren’t the same. there’s an awkwardness around them. A sense of guilt. David betrayed his best friend.

David’s in his room on facebook one night when Beth messages him. She says they need to talk. can she come around. What could it be? has james found out? He panics.

Later, there is a knock at the door. David goes down to answer it and Beth is standing there.

“Come on in”, David says. They go up to his room. He shuts the door.
“So?”
“I don’t know how to say this David. I’m pregnant.”
“How do you know? Is it James’?”
“No.”

Time stops.

“It’s mine? How can it be mine?” How can you be sure?”
“You’re the only one I’ve had sex with”.
“And you’re sure?”
“I took three tests.”

David panics. What’s he to do? His life will be ruined. He’ll lose his best mate. The teachers will be disgusted with him. he’ll lose the respect of everyone at the school.

“You need to get rid of it.”
“No, I’m not going to kill my baby”.
“Well I need time to think.”

Beth leaves. David thinks about it for hours. What is he going to do? Then he has an idea. An idea that will clear them both. If Beth tells everyone that james raped her when they were both drunk, they’re saved. Beth won’t be known as a slut and David’s reputation will be saved.

David goes round to see Beth and tells her the plan. She is appalled by it and refuses to go along with it. But David persists. What will her parents think? What will the school think? This is a way for both of them to be free from it. And James will get out in a couple of years. It won’t be so bad. So she finally agrees. there’s no other way.

The next night, when Beth’s parents are out, she invites James round and they both get horribly drunk. James passes out. He wakes up to screaming. Beth is on the floor, her shirt torn. He can’t quite make out what she’s saying at first. Rape. Is she saying rape? He doesn’t remember anything. He wouldn’t have done that would he?

The case goes to court. James pleads guilty. he doesn’t remember what happened but Beth is so sure. He can’t believe he would do a thing like that but Beth wouldn’t lie about it. James gets three years.

Beth has her baby and goes to college whilst her mum looks after her little girl. David goes to Cambridge, far away from everything that happened. Some nights he cannot sleep. the guilt bears down on him so hard sometimes that he cannot breathe. But he still has his reputation. It was worth it wasn’t it?

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4 responses

  1. I really like this! Great job.

    It’s actually pretty punchy and outlines the treachery of the original story very well. I’d love to hear any more modern retellings you come with, and I might use this at some point too.

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    1. Thanks for the comments mr jolly. appreciate it.

      at our YF after the summer, we are doing modern retellings of four of jesus parables. haven’t written them yet but i’ll get them up when i’m done. hoping to spend some time doing some other stories as well.

      thanks again

  2. Very good, well contextualised.

    In the original, David goes on to marry Beth, but you split them up. Any reason? I wonder whether that’s David trying to do the right thing, or a continuation of his offence?

    Sparrasmith

    1. Thanks for the question Sparrasmith.

      i was trying to find a way of bringing in a consequence to david’s actions. in the original story he does marry bathsheba but loses the child. i didn’t want to go down that route so, for me, the best way to illustrate the consequence of his actions was for him to lose the friendships. i think for young people, especially the ones i work with, losing a friendship resonates more with them than the loss of a child.

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