April 8 Reading: II Samuel 11-12 Commentary
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.” (II Sam. 11:1)
“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?'” (II Sam. 12:7-8)
Things couldn’t have been any better for David. God had brought him peace from his enemies. The kingdom of Israel was rich and powerful in the region. David had stayed close to the Lord and fulfilled all the land inheritance promises God gave to Abraham.
Furthermore, the prophet Nathan had told David that God was establishing his kingdom forever. The kingdom would never be torn away from David’s family. What could possibly go wrong?
In several words – laziness and temptation. Instead of being with his armies like any king should be, David stayed at the palace. Because of that, he found himself at the wrong place, which led to a wrong decision, which fueled a scandalous deception and cover up. One would never have thought a man so closely tied to the Lord would choose this path.
The consequences for David’s actions in II Sam. 11 are devastating. In the end though, God forgave him. And he still used David to bless others, including a book of the Bible composed of psalms written by David.
However, David’s personal life was filled with family turmoil and tragedy for the rest of his life. It shows us that one misstep can impact the course of your life forever.
But it also shows us that one misstep (or a life of missteps) is not the end. There can be forgiveness and restoration from ANY circumstance. If God can restore and renew David after his egregious sins, God can do the same for anyone.
II Samuel 11 – David and Bathsheba
The key verse for the whole two chapter narrative about David’s sin is found in II Sam. 11:1:
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”
David was not where he was supposed to be. He should have been leading his army into battle. We do not know why he did not go. However, if he’d been in his proper place, none of these events would have happened.
Instead, one night, he found himself wandering around the roof of his house. From there, he spotted a beautiful (married) woman (Bathsheba) bathing at her house (v. 2). Rarely does the Bible describe a person’s physical appearance. So she must have been very attractive for the text to make note of it.
David inquires about her, only to find out that she is the wife of one his soldiers, Uriah the Hittite (v. 3). This fact does not dissuade David. He sends for her, she comes to him and they sleep together.
The Result of Infidelity
It’s hard to know Bathsheba’s role in the whole event. Did she have a choice to come to him? Did she even know what David wanted with her? Would she have been in trouble by denying the king’s invitation? Did she see him watching her and wanted the same thing he did?
Ultimately, David is the one to stand accused before the Lord. David was clearly the aggressor. He used his power as king to get what he wanted.
What he wasn’t thinking through though, was that Bathsheba became pregnant from their night together (v. 5). That wouldn’t have been a problem except that Uriah was at the battlefield with Joab. So when Bathsheba’s pregnancy became known, people would realized it wasn’t Uriah’s child.
David Entices Uriah
When David found out Bathsheba was pregnant, he tried several ways to cover up his sin. His first idea was to bring Uriah home from the battlefield, under the pretense of finding out how the battle was going (vv. 6-7). Once Uriah gave his report, David offered him the chance to go down to his house and visit his wife (v. 8).
Uriah refused to do so, instead choosing to sleep at the door of the king’s house with the other servants (v. 9). When asked about this Uriah answered this way:
“The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (v. 11).
Undeterred, David tried again. This time, he invited Uriah to dinner and got him drunk. Surely, with Uriah’s judgment impaired he would go and sleep with his wife. But again, Uriah stayed that night with David’s servants (vv. 12-13).
A Death Sentence for Uriah
Ultimately, David concluded the only way forward was to remove Uriah from the equation altogether. The next day, he sent Uriah back to Joab with a note (most likely sealed) that read:
“Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die” (v. 14).
Joab followed the king’s orders, although not exactly as David instructed. Joab did put Uriah in an area where he knew there were valiant men fighting (vv. 16-17). But it appears that instead of having men withdraw from Uriah’s position in battle, Joab placed a bunch of soldiers in a situation near the city walls where many of them would die. This is made clear when Joab anticipates David’s reaction to his battle strategy (v. 19-21).
In the end, David’s plan worked. Uriah died in battle (v. 17). David is not upset when the messenger tells him about the battle and that Uriah is dead (v. 25).
And when Bathsheba had mourned the loss of her husband, she went to live with David. And 8 months or so later, a son was born to them.
“But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.” (v. 27)
II Samuel 12 – Nathan Confronts David
Sometime, probably almost immediately after David and Bathsheba’s son was born, Nathan the prophet showed up to speak with David. He told David this fascinating tale:
“There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him.
And a traveler came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” (vv. 2-4).
David was irate at the deeds of the rich man. He exclaimed, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity” (vv. 5-6).
To that declaration, Nathan responded with all the courage he could muster:
“You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight?'” (vv. 7-9).
David broke the 6th (murder), 7th (adultery) and 10th (covet) commandments (see Ex. 20:1-17). He had been done in secret and with premeditation. Now, God would bring these consequences into his life, which Nathan outlined:
1. The sword (conflict) would never depart from David’s house (v. 10)(fulfilled in II Sam. 13:11-14).
2. Adversity would come from his own family (v. 11)(fulfilled in Absalom’s opposition – II Sam. 15).
3. His wives would be given to others, with public knowledge of what was going on (v. 11-12)(fulfilled in II Sam. 16:22).
To his credit, David did not make excuses. When confronted, he immediately repented of his sin. Because of that, Nathan said David would not die. But the child born to David and Bathsheba would die. That was because David had “…given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (v. 14)
David’s Son Dies
When David learned of his child’s fate, he pleaded with the Lord. God struck the child with an illness and David fasted and lay all night on the ground in prayer to God. People tried to comfort him with food but David would not eat (vv. 15-16).
After seven days the child died. David had been inconsolable while the child was alive. They feared what he might due now that the child was dead.
When David saw them whispering he asked if the child was dead. When they said “Yes”, David “arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate” (v. 20).
His servants thought this was odd behavior. They assumed David would be more distraught now that the child was dead. Instead, he was showing normal behavior.
David’s reasoning was this:
“While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (vv. 22-23).
In time, David comforted Bathsheba. She bore him another son they named Solomon (v. 24), meaning “beloved of the Lord.” It was a symbol of God’s forgiveness in the lives of David and Bathsheba.
A Final Note: One of David’s most famous psalms, Psalm 51, centers on this incident and God’s forgiveness in his life.
Questions to Consider:
Why do you think temptation comes our way at high points of our life – when everything seems to be going well? What do you need to get right and confess to others and before the Lord?
One misstep can alter the course of your life. That is why we must heed the words from I Peter 5:8 – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
David’s sin with Bathsheba is one of the most devastating narratives in the entire Bible. Life was never the same for David after that. His sin had great consequences. Yet David was still forgiven (see Psalm 51). Do you think you have committed an unforgivable sin? If so, you are believing a lie. Jesus’ blood covers all.
What other points would you want to know about in our II Samuel 11-12 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.