2 Samuel 11-12


I highly recommend reading Psalm 51 to get David’s repentance following this episode.

This is one of those familiar stories that you may want to read slowly and carefully.  David was a man after God’s own heart, but he got complacent and slipped badly.  He eventually repented and was forgiven, but the consequences were severe and lasted for generations.

It is easy to pick on David here, but what lesssons does this hold for us?

2 Samuel 11-12 (NIV)

David and Bathsheba

11     In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

For starters, David stayed home for some reason.  Being idle is a risk for us.  We don’t need to be frenetically busy, but too much idle time can bring about more temptations.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

Notice how the man tried to stop David from sinning by pointing out that this was someone else’s wife.  Do you have people in your life that will try to prevent you from doing something wrong (not necessarily adultery)?  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t.  I have to ask myself if I am willing to listen when people do bring up concerns.

What was Bathsheba’s role in this?  She was certainly in an awkward position to say no to the king, but she could have prevented the whole thing as well.

David thought he could cover it up, but she got pregnant.  Despite advances in birth control, countless people get pregnant anyway.  Abstinence is the way, people!  God designed sex for one man / one woman marriages.  If you go outside that, bad things happen.  Always.

6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

10 When David was told, “Uriah did not go home,” he asked him, “Haven’t you just come from a distance? Why didn’t you go home?”

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

David tried to trick Uriah into sleeping with Bathsheba, but Uriah had more character at the time than David.  Too bad David didn’t get convicted at that point and cut his losses.  Instead, he decides to have Uriah killed. 

Did David really think his plan would work?  They didn’t have 4-D ultrasounds then, but they had probably figured out how long it takes for a baby to be born after conception.  Imagine how many people were already whispering about their liaison.  Sometimes when we get caught in sin we lose perspective and think all sorts of untrue things.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle. 19 He instructed the messenger: “When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, 20 the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelech son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Also, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’”

22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance to the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”

25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”

David was a cold-blooded adulterer and killer.  Yet, amazingly, God forgave him – just like he will forgive us of our countless sins when we repent and believe in Jesus.

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

Nathan Rebukes David

12     The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

“You are the man!” is a powerful verse.  David worried more about this lamb than the man he had murdered.  Many times I find myself worrying more about insignificant injustices than the truly important things in life.

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and went into his house and spent the nights lying on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, we spoke to David but he would not listen to us. How can we tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”

19 David noticed that his servants were whispering among themselves and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

21 His servants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

While not a crystal-clear teaching, verse 23 is often used to support the position that children who die young do go to Heaven.  My wife and I went through five miscarriages, so I’m fairly sure I’ll meet all of those children in Heaven one day.

24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.

26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”

29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 He took the crown from the head of their king—its weight was a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones—and it was placed on David’s head. He took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. He did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then David and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.


4 Responses

  1. […] after he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband killed.  The prophet Nathan rebuked him (see 2 Samuel 12) and he […]

  2. Can I talk with you about this story of David and Bathsheba? I have a few questions still lingering in my mind.
    Why wasn’t David put to death for his crimes? According to the Old Testament, murder and adultery were both capital crimes. Anninas and Safira were put to death for lying, (Book of Acts). Something just doesn’t line up.

    Please contact me. Maybe you would allow me to call you?


  3. Hi Yisroel,

    That is a good question! I’m not sure why not, but here are a couple possibilities:

    12:7-14. Nathan’s reply to all this was a bombshell: You are the man! The Lord, he said, had given David everything, but he had taken, as it were, the pet lamb of a poor neighbor (v. 9). David now would suffer the sword as had Uriah and David’s wives would be taken from him as Bathsheba had been stolen from the Hittite. This was fulfilled by Absalom (David’s own son!) when he lay with David’s concubines (16:22). But David’s shame would be even greater because, in contrast with David’s sin in secret, all these things would happen in the glare of the public eye, in broad daylight.
    One may wonder, perhaps, why David was not punished with death as he had so sternly advocated for the guilty man. Adultery and murder both were sufficient cause for the execution of even a king (Ex. 21:12; Lev. 20:10). The answer surely lies in the genuine and contrite repentance which David expressed, not only in the presence of Nathan but more fully in Psalm 51. David’s sin was heinous, but the grace of God was more than sufficient to forgive and restore him, as Nathan could testify. And yet, though David could be restored to fellowship with his God, the impact of his sin remained and would continue to work its sorrow in the nation as well as in the king’s life.

    Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-c1985). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (1:468). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

    Also see http://www.tektonics.org/tsr/tsr9521.html

    Hope that helps!

  4. […] with David’s concubines in the sight of everyone it fulfilled Nathan’s prediction from chapter 12.  It was also one of those stories they didn’t teach you in Sunday School growing up. The […]

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