From 2 Samuel 8-12
David is described in many places as being the benchmark of Old Testament faith. He had a near perfect record. With one massive exception. Today we look at that exception. David is a great example of a believer who sins, yet repents and finds forgiveness from the LORD who is gracious.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
David has subdued the majority of his hostile neighbours. He establishes his kingdom setting up a government with a general, recorders, priests and secretary (2 Sam 8.15-18).
In memory of Jonathan his friend, David desires to show kindness to someone in his family. There is a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. He tells him of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. David gives ownership of all Saul owned to Mephibosheth and with an open invite to eat at his table. Mephibosheth is awed by David’s kindness (2 Sam 9.1-13).
The king of the Ammonites died. David tried to make peace with their new king. The new king does not trust him and he humiliates the servants David sends. The king realises that David does not like him much anymore so he rallies together several neighbourhood allies and their armies against David. When David finds out they go to war. David kicks their butt and they become his servants (2 Sam 10.1-19).
Our passage marks the point where David’s kingdom starts going downhill. Up till now the LORD has blessed him. He has become king over a united Judah and Israel. No one significant opposes him. His enemies have been subdued under him. The LORD has given him many wives, concubines and offspring. It starts to get worse.
11 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (2 Sam 11:1)
David remained in battle. He should have been out to battle with his men. This is an early sign of his lapse.
2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” (2 Sam 11:2-5)
I wonder if Bathsheba resisted King David. I don’t think she did. David made his interest in her public. David also knows who’s wife she is. The bible calls what David did adultery. Adultery does not necessarily involve sex. For example, in Israel’s later history when they abandon the LORD for other gods this is called adultery (e.g. Jer 3.1-9,20). They didn’t have sex with the LORD or these other gods, but the mere fact they broke their covenant bond with God is why their behaviour is described as adultery. A man commits adultery by taking from the married woman what her husband has claimed as his sole privilege. In this case David’s commits adultery by having sex with Bathsheba and breaking Uriah’s sole claim to her.
It gets worse – Bathsheba gets pregnant. Now David has a greater problem, he must cover up what he has done or be found out. Get ready for deception, manipulation and murder.
6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. (2 Sam 11:6-7)
Event – David sends for Uriah the Hittite. He asks him how the war is going. David’s Motive – David may be partially interested in the war. But his real motive is unspoken. If asked about it David could truthfully respond he sent for Uriah to find out about the war. Technically if asked and he responded this way he wouldn’t be lying. But in a sense the whole event is a crafted diversion away from the truth.
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. (2 Sam 11:8-9)
Event – David sends him home where pregnant Bathsheba is to spend the night. He also sends a present. It ‘followed’ him, so I suspect it is some sort of livestock animal. David’s Motive – David is hoping Uriah will have sex with Bathsheba. If he did, Uriah would assume Bathsheba was pregnant because of him. Lets assume Bathsheba keeps the secret to herself, but I wonder what would have happened if Uriah saw the child with David’s features. David has sent a present which is probably a livestock animal. He is buttering up Uriah making it appear he cares for him and is his friend. If asked about it David could say he is now giving Uriah a well deserved rest from battle. His gift would probably be perceived by others as being generous!
But David’s cunning plan failed. Uriah didn’t spend the night at home or have sex with Bathsheba his wife.
10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” (2 Sam 11.10-11)
Uriah is one of David’s mighty men (2 Sam 23.39). He is a loyal soldier and stands by his brothers in combat. He does not have sex with his wife because he wants to remain ritually clean. Nor does he sleep in his house, out of respect for his brothers who also sleep without shelter. To all intents and purposes he is a model Hebrew soldier.
12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. (2 Sam 11.12-13)
Event – David treats Uriah to a feast and gets Uriah drunk. Again Uriah could go home… David’s Motive – David has lowered Uriah’s resistance to going home and having sex with his wife. Perhaps the drink will make him forget or not care anymore. Uriah could blame it on the drink if he did. If asked about it David could reiterate he wants to treat his men well. They fight hard and risk their lives in battle and he wants to reward them.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 16 And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. 17 And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. (2 Sam 11.14-17)
I strongly suspect Uriah didn’t read the contents of the letter David asked him to deliver to Joab. I wonder what Joab thought when he read it. Did he look strangely at Uriah and question if he had read it somehow? Was it difficult for David to give Uriah the letter that would precipitate in his death? Did David even commit murder? The Ammonites kill him.
Event – Joab follows David’s instructions. We hear of no objections and Uriah, faithful to the end, dies in battle. If Joab was asked about it he could feign anger. He cares about his men and they die all the time.
18 Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. 19 And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, 20 then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’ ” (2 Sam 11.18-21)
If asked about the incident David could reiterate the basic events of his dealings with Uriah. He called him from battle to find out how the war was going. He wanted to give Uriah a well deserved rest so he sent him home. He wanted to be generous to him so he gave him a present, a feast and some drink. Unfortunately, when Uriah returned to battle he died bravely fighting Israel’s enemies as many others died as well.
Event – Joab sends a message about the battle which includes new of Uriah’s death. Motive – Joab, like David is skilled in deceit. The letter records true facts, but does not disclose his involvement in Uriah’s murder.
22 So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.” (2 Sam 11:22–25)
Event – David sends another message back to Joab reassuring him of the sad events of the battle. David’s Motive – David wants to comfort Joab. But he has not specified why exactly. Normally he might want to comfort him about the unfortunate death of his men. Here he is assuring him he will not divulge his involvement in Uriah’s death. They alone share the secret. The guts of their behaviour is this. If asked about it they can deny everything pointing away from the truth of what happened with true lies.
26 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. 27 And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD. (2 Sam 11:26–27)
She lamented over Uriah’s death. It seems she went through the normal motions of mourning for her husband. On looker’s would not suspect anything. Did she know what David had done? Did she go to be the wife of the one she knew killed her husband?
The thing that David had done displeased the LORD. Adultery, murder and deceit.
After this, the LORD sends Nathan to David to rebuke him. Nathan creates a story of a rich man who took the only ewe lamb from a poor man as an analogy to convict David of his sin. The story climaxes with Nathans statement, ‘You are the man!’ Through Nathan the LORD condemns David’s actions. Despite all the LORD had given him, he abused his position, committed adultery and murdered Uriah. Nathan predicts David’s punishment. His newly born child will die and one from his own house will betray him and have sex with his wives in public (2 Sam 12.1-15).
The LORD afflicts David’s son he had by Bathsheba. David understands the LORD is gracious and forgiving so he fasts and lays all night on the ground seeking the LORD. Despite David’s repentance, the child dies. Once David finds out, he washes, anoints himself, changes his clothes and goes into the house of the LORD and worships. His servants ask him why he did it. He explains the LORD is gracious and he might relent on his punishment (2 Sam 12.15b-23).
David comforted Bathsheba, they have sex again and she has another son. His name is Solomon and the LORD loved him. They tell Nathan and they give him another name Jedidiah, which means ‘beloved of the LORD’ (2 Sam 12.24-25).
Story of Israel
The future kings following David are generally compared with David. For example;
15 Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. 2 He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom.
3 And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father.
4 Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, 5 because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. (1 Ki 15:1–5)
As we see here David is described as having a near perfect record, with the exception of Uriah. David is a great example of a believer who sins, yet repents and finds forgiveness from the LORD who is gracious.
Story of Jesus
Sin in the life of the believer can be classified into two different parts of their life. Before and after they believe. In most cases forgiveness the apostles speak of concerns forgiveness of sins committed before coming to believe. For example after speaking of the death and resurrection of Jesus, proving him to be the promised Christ Paul says;
8 Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses. (Acts 13:38–39)
The forgiveness David spoke of is also mentioned in by Paul in Romans. Quoting from Psalm 32 Paul says;
6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered;
8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”
9 Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? For we say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. (Rom 4:6–9)
Those who are counted righteous by believing Jesus is the Christ apart from works such as offering sacrifices (Ps 51.16-17) receive forgiveness. Through Christ’s work on the cross.
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