The latest volume in our Routledge Focus Series is out! It joins a string of carefully focused examinations of how rape culture and religion intersect. The focus of this volume by Rabbi Dr. Barbara Thiede is on the characters of the David story in the Hebrew Bible’s Books of Samuel. More volumes will follow later in the year. If you would like to propose a volume, please read more about our series here, and contact Johanna (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Tell us about yourself. How does your book relate to your work as a whole and how did this book come about?
I am a professor of Judaic Studies at UNC Charlotte in North Carolina (USA) and an ordained rabbi. My work studies the male alliances, friendships, and networks that undergird biblical hegemonic masculinity. My first book, Male Friendship, Homosociality, and Women in the Hebrew Bible: Malignant Fraternities, explores how male relationships are engendered by the sexual use and abuse of women’s bodies.
Rape Culture in the House of David: A Company of Men focuses specifically on the many men — from kings, princes, and courtiers, to generals, counsellors, and servants — who are complicit in the taking and raping of women in the Books of Samuel. I also examine male-on-male sexualized violence in biblical rape culture.
My next book, Yhwh’s Emotional and Sexual Life in the Books of Samuel: How the Deity Acts the Man, will be published with Bloomsbury Press. In that work, I directly address a topic that I began exploring in my previous books: the Israelite deity’s emotionally fraught and sexually charged relationships with his chosen men.
What are the key arguments of your book?
I argue that the Books of Samuel present the reader with a powerful depiction of an ancient rape culture, in which the best king proves his right to the throne through powerful and exhibitionist displays of sexual violence. I contend that rapists in the Hebrew Bible do not act alone; they are enabled and supported by a company of men.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
I hope readers will feel empowered to call out these texts for the rape culture they depict. If they can do so with the Bible, they will be better able to identify any and all depictions or enactments of dominant, exploitative masculinity in our own time. It is equally important to me that readers become conscious of the ways in which biblical literature has legitimized toxic forms of masculinity.
Please give us a quotation that captures something significant about your book and will make readers want to read the rest.
“[M]en of the texts, who aspire to honor their rulers, must emulate, support, collude, and enable them. The taking and raping of female characters and the intentional sexual humiliation of male ones do not constitute merely a backdrop to political events. Such deeds are political. They constitute the core of the narratives… Rapists are supported by a company of men, even an army of them.”
Update (15 November 2022) – for a review, see: https://www.tikkun.org/rape-culture-in-the-house-of-david-book-review/