Questions From Readers
● Second Samuel 11:4, 5 says: “David sent messengers that he might take [Bath-sheba]. So she came in to him and he lay down with her, while she was sanctifying herself from her uncleanness. . . . And the woman became pregnant.” Does this “uncleanness” refer to menstruation and, if so, how could Bath-sheba become pregnant at that time?—U.S.A.
The Bible does not say just what the uncleanness was from which Bath-sheba sanctified herself. It could have been associated with her monthly period or with a running discharge or with something else that brought about ceremonial uncleanness. Some translators even render this passage in such a way as to suggest that she sanctified herself from the uncleanness resulting from her intercourse with David. The German translation by Leander van Ess reads: “And she came to him, and he slept with her. And she sanctified herself from her uncleanness, and returned to her house.” According to this rendering, Bath-sheba carried out the law of Leviticus 15:18: “As for a woman with whom a man may lie down with an emission of semen, they must bathe in water and be unclean until the evening.”
Nevertheless, in the event that the sanctifying from uncleanness was linked with Bathsheba’s menstrual cycle, she could still have become pregnant. According to Leviticus 15:19, 29, a menstruating woman was unclean for seven days (counting from the start of her menstrual flow) and was to sanctify herself on the eighth day. Whether a woman could become pregnant on the eighth day would depend upon her cycle, which is not of the same length in all women. If Bath-sheba had a cycle of anywhere from twenty-one to twenty-six days in length, she could have become pregnant on the eighth day of her cycle. In the case of a twenty-one-day cycle, for example, pregnancy can result from intercourse had on the third day (counting from the start of the menstrual flow) until the tenth day.
● During the second world war, in some concentration camps in Germany where only women were imprisoned, there were cases where a dedicated sister performed a baptism. Thus, one sister relates that after she came to a knowledge of the truth in a concentration camp and dedicated herself to Jehovah she was then baptized by a sister. Would this baptism be valid?—Germany.
An examination of the Bible shows no evidence of women doing baptizing. But it does record examples of dedicated men baptizing others. (Matt. 3:13-17; John 4:2; Acts 8:38) We are not authorized by God’s Word to declare that a baptism performed by a sister is acceptable; therefore, in the case mentioned, the sister should be baptized by a dedicated brother in accord with the requirements of the Bible.
However, this does not mean that the dedication made by the sister in the concentration camp was not a valid one. The very fact that she is still serving Jehovah years after her release from the camp shows that she understood what she was doing and had truly made a dedication. Hence, the date of her dedication can be recorded by her as originally.
If a person learns the truth when in a prison or any place where there are no dedicated males present or available to perform a baptism and the person wishes to make a dedication to Jehovah, what can be done? Romans 10:10 says: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” A believing woman can go to Jehovah in prayer and make a dedication. She can then make public declaration of her faith and can go on record before dedicated sisters who may be present that she has ‘exercised faith in her heart’ and that she is awaiting the first opportunity to be baptized by a brother. Jehovah looks upon the heart (Prov. 17:3; 21:2), and surely the heart condition of such a woman would lead to salvation. In the case of Cornelius and his household, there was evidently heavenly recognition of the heart condition, for holy spirit fell upon them before baptism. Six circumcised brothers from Joppa had accompanied Peter on that occasion and could raise no objection when Peter commanded these first Gentile believers who had received holy spirit to be baptized.—Acts 10:44-48.
Similarly, a man may learn the truth and make a valid dedication when imprisoned, and even though there are dedicated brothers present, yet he is prevented from being baptized because the necessary body of water is not available. (John 3:23; Acts 8:36) He too can follow the procedure outlined above.
So there is a way open for both men and women who do not have access to baptism, either because circumstances do not allow for it or because a dedicated male is not present. But by making a valid dedication and going on record publicly before any other dedicated ones present he or she is now recognized as dedicated. But it does not appear Scripturally proper for a sister to try to perform a baptism.
In connection with baptism, it may also be noted that a baptism may be performed by a dedicated male even though no other human witnesses are present. There are Scriptural precedents in the cases of Jesus and of the Ethiopian eunuch to show this. And since prayer is properly offered prior to the immersion, there are always heavenly witnesses.
It should always be kept in mind that of highest importance is the carrying out of one’s dedication after it has been made.