David and Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 11–12

Read the Passage: 2 Samuel 11-12

David’s Sin (11:1–5)

Given that David was “a man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22), and considering his rise to power and victorious reign narrated in 2 Samuel 1–10, it may have been tempting for his contemporaries to wonder if he was the promised Messiah. However, in the last half of this book, it is clear that while David was a picture of Christ, he was a only man. Indeed, in these chapters we’ll see David’s great transgressions, his family troubles that were precipitated by his sin of polygamy, as well as two separate political rebellions against his reign. Such narratives in this book are a helpful reminder to us that we ought never to value the gospel messenger above the gospel message. Along these lines, Paul preached to the crowds at Antioch, saying, “For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption” (Acts 13:36).

2 Samuel 10 details David’s battles with the Ammonites and the Syrians. In 2 Sam. 10:14 we learned that David defeated the Ammonites, with the remainder of the enemy army retreating to the Ammonite capital of Rabbah. The Israelite army then returned to Jerusalem, as it was likely late fall, thus making warfare difficult. While in the spring we might expect to see David leading the army against Rabbah, which was about 45 east of Jerusalem, 2 Sam. 11:1 informs us that David sent Joab to besiege Rabbah, but the king stayed home. The ensuing verses record that while in Jerusalem David saw Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing. He then committed adultery with her, by which she became pregnant. The details in this passage highlight that not only was David guilty the sin of adultery, but also he was unwise in not protecting himself from the opportunity to sin (cf. 1 Thess. 5:22).

Uriah’s Death (11:6–27)

2 Sam. 11:6–13 records David’s attempt to cover up his sin, by calling Uriah home from battle and tempting him to lay with his wife, Bathsheba. In this passage we see that Uriah was more righteous than David, for despite being in Jerusalem, being given a gift of food from David, and being intoxicated, Uriah refused to visit his wife on two consecutive evenings. When questioned by David, Uriah stated that he would not return home since the army was at war. Note, too, that sexual intercourse would have made Uriah unclean (cf. Lev. 15:18). We may also observe that Bathsheba’s father Eliam was one of David’s mighty men (cf. 2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34), and she was a granddaughter of Ahithophel, one of David’s chief counselors. Ahithophel who would later betray David—perhaps out of revenge—and commit suicide (cf. 2 Sam. 15:12; 16:15; 17:23; 23:34). Sin always has many unintended consequences.

Having failed to cover-up his sin by enticing Uriah to lay with Bathsheba, David carried his sin further by designing the death of Uriah in battle. David even had Uriah unknowingly carry his own death warrant to Joab, who must have known the reason behind David’s requested military blunder. As David intended, Uriah was killed in battle during the siege of Rabbah. Furthermore, we should note that the foolish military tactic ordered by David led to the death of more that just Uriah, as it is recorded that “some of the people of the servants of David fell” (2 Sam. 11:17, 24). Joab then sent word to David that Uriah had died. Hypocritically, David directed words of comforted and encouragement to Joab. Note that while David may have thought he was not guilty of murder, God would confront him, saying, “You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword” (2 Sam. 12:9).

God’s Judgment (12:1–15)

2 Sam. 12:1–15 records Nathan’s confrontation of David for his sins, as well as David’s repentance. Note that additional details of David’s repentance are given in Pss. 32 and 51, both of which were written by David after these events. In 2 Sam. 12:1–4 Nathan confronted David via a parable about a poor man’s lamb that was stolen and killed by a rich man. While the penalty for such a crime was restitution (cf. Ex. 22:1), in 2 Sam. 12:6 David declared that the man should die. This is appropriate since the parable was a picture of David’s sins, and the penalty for adultery and murder was death (cf. Lev. 20:10; 24:17). 2 Sam. 12:7–13 reports God’s confrontation of David, as well as his repentance. In His grace, God forgave David the penalty of his sins; however, God declared that Bathsheba’s son would die. Note the difference between the penalty for sins and the consequences of sins.

Application Questions:

  1. If David was “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam. 13:14; Ps. 89:20; Acts 13:22), how could he commit the sins of adultery and murder?
  2. Have you ever been guilty of disproportionately valuing God’s messenger above his message, and then been shocked by the fall of one of God’s servants?
  3. Are there things you can do in your life to keep yourself from being tempted in certain areas and/or to avoid the appearance of evil?
  4. How many people did David’s sin effect? Have you ever been effected by the sin of another? What do you think Bathsheba felt as David murdered her husband?
  5. Since the Hebrew civil law specified that David deserved to be killed, does God’s sparing of David’s life make Him unjust?

Published by

David W. Jones

David W. Jones is a professor and author working in the field of Christian Ethics. You can following him on Twitter @ethicist.