Like Jephthah and his daughter, here is another incident in the Bible which causes skeptics and unbelievers to sneer at and to speak against God. It’s one of the things which make unbelievers say that the Bible is pornographic. I doubt, however, that you’ll find the Bible for sale on “adult” websites. It shows the consequences of actions like David’s, not only in this life, but in eternity.
In our post on Jephthah, we said that God doesn’t sugarcoat life. He doesn’t hide the defects of His people. David is a classic example of this. Though “a man after God’s own heart,” his own heart, in common with the rest of us, was “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” Jeremiah 17:9. And he wasn’t a very good father, 1 Kings 1:6. Maybe he was too busy being “king.” It’s easy to do that, to get so wrapped up in the trivial things that we forget the important things.Perhaps we can learn some things from this sordid affair, recorded in 2 Samuel 11, 12.
David’s Conduct, 2 Samuel 11.
1. David wasn’t where he was supposed to be.
2 Samuel 11:1 says that it was the spring of the year, when kings go out to battle…. Joab and the army was in Ammon, besieging the city of Rabbah. David, however, remained behind in Jerusalem. We don’t know why, so there’s no reason to go there. He certainly wasn’t supposed to be there.
2. He looked where he wasn’t supposed to look.
V. 2 says it was evening and David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of his house. Perhaps he had gone to bed and couldn’t sleep. Perhaps it was later in the evening. So he got up and went outside to what was probably a deck or porch on the house, to take advantage of the cooler evening air. We’re not to imagine that he was scrambling around on the roof itself. From that vantage point, as he was walking back and forth, he could see the surrounding neighborhood. To his surprise, there was a woman, bathing after the end of her cycle, v. 4. Apparently, he didn’t just look away.
There have been those who blame Bathsheba for all this. They say she deliberately put herself where David could see her. I think that unlikely. It was evening, so people would be asleep, or at least inside. She would have more privacy for this very personal action. We admit, this is all conjecture because the Bible doesn’t give us any detail. (If this were pornography, “detail” would be the main thing.) The point is, David saw her, and wanted her.
3. He did what he wasn’t supposed to do.
V. 4 says that David sent messengers, …and she came to him…. Giving her the benefit of the doubt, we believe she came in innocence, not knowing what David had in mind. It’s unlikely the messengers knew or said anything about it. Beyond that, we really can’t say. She came to him. Why or what she was thinking really doesn’t matter as far as Scripture is concerned. Scripture is concerned with the result of this one evening. A result which is with us even this very day, as I write or you read.
She became pregnant.
Having satisfied his desire, David probably thought that was it. She returned to her house, v. 4. He sent her home. After all, she wasn’t married to him. It was just a one night affair.
I have no desire to turn this into some Hollywood production, some “Fifty Shades of David,” glorifying and exploiting the vile things humans can do. From here on in, things get really ugly, as if they weren’t already, though in the end, there is a surprising “twist.” Hollywood has no monopoly on “I didn’t see that coming!”
Trying to cover his sin, David sent for Uriah, her husband, on the pretext of finding out how the battle he was absent from was going. Really, he hoped Uriah would go home to his wife, so that he would be assumed to be the father of the child his wife was carrying, vs, 4-13.
When that didn’t work, he set Uriah up so that he would be killed in the battle, vs. 14-25.
With the husband gone, there was still the problem of the child. After the requisite time for Bathsheba mourning her husband, David brought her back to his house and married her, vs. 26, 27. She bore the son.
But…. In his instructions to Joab about Uriah, it was obvious that David wanted Uriah dead, v.15. After the thing was done, and messengers had relayed the news to David, he told them to tell Joab, “Do not let this thing displease you [be evil in your sight]….” But….
David was trying to cover up and hide what he had done, but he forgot there was Another who was watching what went on: But the thing that David had done displeased [was evil in the eyes of] the LORD, v. 27. There are no “cover ups” where God is concerned.
Nathan’s Confrontation, 2 Samuel 12.
David no doubt thought that he had “gotten away with it.” After all, it was just a little fling. Folks forget that it was a “little” thing that got our first parents thrown out of Paradise, and plunged the whole race into the mess it’s in.
God sent His faithful prophet, Nathan, to David with a story about a rich man who disdained to take from his own riches to prepare for a traveling visitor. Rather than do that, he took the one “treasure” belonging to a poor neighbor. This poor man had a lamb, which was very much the family pet, and the rich man took that to take care of his guest. A lot of people, I suppose, could identify with the poor man and the animal “family member.” Strange how attached we can get to a dog or cat or horse….
Anyway, David was understandably upset at the injustice of all this and decreed that the man, worthy of death, should restore the lamb fourfold to his injured neighbor.
Just in passing, OT justice knows nothing of a “debt to society.” It talks, as here, of a criminal’s debt to his victim.
David likely was completely unprepared for what Nathan said next:
“YOU ARE THE MAN!”
That was one time when “you the man” wasn’t something David wanted to hear.
Telling all that God had done for David and, if that wasn’t enough, He would do even more, Nathan accused David of despising all that and stealing the one treasure of a poor man for his own pleasure.
David found out that he hadn’t gotten away with it, after all. Though he wouldn’t die, he would still suffer the consequences of his sins. Unbelievers look down on David, and on God, for that matter, because God forgave these horrific acts simply out of His grace. There was no sacrifice which could be given to atone for adultery or murder, the things of which David was guilty. Yet God “put away” David’s sin. What folks often tend to overlook, though, is the fact that God didn’t “put away” the consequences of that sin.
In writing of Israel’s experience with God, Psalm 99:8 puts it like this: You were to them God-Who-Forgives, though You took vengeance on their deeds.
In other words, God may forgive the adultery which breaks up a marriage without restoring the marriage. He may forgive the drunkenness which caused an accident without restoring the limb that was lost because of it,. There are consequences to every action, good or bad. Sometimes they are significant, as in David’s case. In his case, there were several more or less immediate consequences to what he did. Perhaps some of them weren’t directly related to what he did, but God had taken His blessing off the family. They suffered because of what David did.
1. The baby conceived in this union would die, 2 Samuel 12:14.
You might ask, “Why should the baby suffer for what the parents did?” A lot of children suffer for the sins of their parents: a drunken father or dissolute mother. That’s actually nothing new. There are consequences, and it isn’t always a guilty party who suffers. In this case, Nathan gives us the answer: it was because what David did gave “great occasion [opportunity] for the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme.” If the child were alive, then his very presence would be a continual reminder of David’s sin, and a continual reproach because of it. The boy was taken away from all that.
2. The sword would never depart from David’s house, 2 Samuel 2:10.
Two of David’s sons were literally killed. Amnon was killed by one of his brothers for the rape of that brother’s sister, Tamar. Tamar was another innocent victim, and, as far as the record tells us, never received justice. As we said, David wasn’t a very good father.
Though we’re told nothing further about her, it’s entirely possible that she was prevented from marrying because her virginity had been stolen from her. She had been disgraced. It’s nothing today, but, back then, a girl’s virtue was her most precious possession. It’s a shame that today’s society in general places no value on it at all, valuing promiscuity rather than purity.
When Amnon was killed, David though all the royal sons had been murdered, 2 Samuel 13:30-33. The fact that only Amnon was dead was probably little comfort. The other son who was killed was Absalom, who decided that he would stage a coup and take over the throne, 2 Samuel 15-18. When he was killed, David was almost overcome with grief.
Though we don’t know, one of the contributing factors to Absalom’s rebellion might have been David’s refusal to punish Amnon for his sin against Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Another contributing factor might have been David’s treatment of Absalom after he killed his brother, 2 Samuel 13:37 through ch. 14. Absalom had fled the country and lived abroad for three years. Though Absalom was finally able to return, thanks to the efforts of his good friend, Joab, the commander of Israel’s army, he was forbidden to see the king. Joab again intervened, but it seems the reunion wasn’t very cordial.
According to 2 Samuel 14:32, Absalom thought he had done nothing wrong in dealing with Amnon. After all, he had acted when his father hadn’t. He had avenged his sister. He was angry that David hadn’t treated him better.
3. There would be adversity in the family, 2 Samuel 12:11, 12.
Though there was a lot of trouble in the family, these verses refer specifically to Absalom’s almost successful attempt to overthrow his father. The whole story is found in 2 Samuel 15-18. The specific detail of vs. 11, 12 is found in Absalom’s actions in 2 Samuel 16:20-22.
Here is what I meant by “the twist” at the end of the story. From this woman, illicitly taken and then married after the murder of her husband, Solomon was born, who became heir to the throne. We’re not told why. Cf. Joseph’s experiences and his explanation of them in Genesis 50:20.
Some might look sideways at this, thinking, “That’s not very fair!”
It’s a conceit of believers and unbelievers alike that God can do and must do only those things which we approve – and only in ways we approve. But He does what He wants, and He asks neither our opinion nor our approval.
I’d never really thought about it before, but perhaps this, too, is part of the “judgment” on David’s family. None of his other 18 sons were privileged to sit on the throne. Only a few of them have anything told about them, but if they’re any example of the rest, none of them were fit to rule.
Though, as we said, God doesn’t sugarcoat or ignore the failings and sins of His people, but then, neither does He dwell on them. In 1 Chronicles 20:1, a parallel account, although there is a reference to David’s staying behind in Jerusalem, there is no mention of what he did there.
When God forgives, He also “forgets,” not that it’s wiped from His memory, or ours, for that matter, but that He no longer holds it against us. Indeed, He treats us as if we’d never sinned, but had always obeyed. This is the glory of justification, that He declares righteous in His sight those who are anything but righteous.
Is that “fair”?
Not at all.
If we got what was “fair,” we’d all be in hell.
David would be.
But because of God’s love toward us and His immeasurable grace, He gives us what could never be ours otherwise.
How could He do that?
Because He gave to Christ what could never have been His otherwise – our sins.
Tomorrow is Easter. I really hadn’t planned it this way, but that’s how it’s worked out. Easter isn’t about bunnies and clothes and Easter egg hunts for the little ones. Nor, as some insist, is it a celebration of paganism, though that may or may not be where some current practices come from. It’s about the resurrection of the One who came to take away our sins, so that they would no longer be held against us.