(2Sa 11:1-2 ESV) 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 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.
The point has often been made that the author of 2 Samuel plainly thinks David should have been with his army. And it is indeed contrary to David’s previous history that he failed to join his army at this time. Perhaps David had grown tired of war. Certainly it becomes clear that he’d become arrogant.
We skipped a few chapters, which largely tell of David’s military victories, leading to an expanded Israel and increasingly secure borders, leading to prosperity. Maybe he figured it was time to enjoy the fruit of his labors.
(2Sa 11:3 ESV) 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?”
The author makes clear that David knew her to be a married woman. But it’s worse than that —
(2Sa 23:24-1 ESV) 24 Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem, 25 Shammah of Harod, Elika of Harod, 26 Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa, 27 Abiezer of Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite, 28 Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai of Netophah, 29 Heleb the son of Baanah of Netophah, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin, 30 Benaiah of Pirathon, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash, 31 Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth of Bahurim, 32 Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan, 33 Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite, 34 Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai of Maacah, Eliam the son of Ahithophel of Gilo, 35 Hezro of Carmel, Paarai the Arbite, 36 Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite, 37 Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah, 38 Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite, 39 Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all.
Near the end of 2 Samuel, the author lists David’s 30 “mighty men” — the core of the men who fought with him in the wilderness against Saul and who stood with him to the end of his kingship, even when Adonijah, his son, rebelled against him. And last on the list is Uriah the Hittite! David didn’t just commit adultery, he violated the wife of one of the most loyal of his men.
(2Sa 11:4 ESV) 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.
Bathsheba was not bathing in the modern sense. She was cleansing herself from some ceremonial impurity. Interesting that she was scrupulous about keeping the Law but didn’t refuse to commit adultery with the king.
(2Sa 11:5-9 ESV) 5 And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.” 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. 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.
When Bathsheba became pregnant, David sought to conceal the sin by having Uriah brought home, thinking he’d surely sleep with his wife. But Uriah refused.
(2Sa 11:10-11 ESV) 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.”
Uriah was a man of honor and would not enjoy the pleasures of peacetime while the army was at war. (Recall how David declared that his men had abstained from sex when they went to eat the show bread. Evidently the Israelite army refused all sexual congress while at war — even with their wives — perhaps because any sexual emission would lead to ceremonial uncleanness.)
(2Sa 11:12-13 ESV) 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.
And so David got him drunk, hoping his time from his wife and the wine would lower his inhibitions, but David’s plan failed.
(2Sa 11:14-17 ESV) 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.
David therefore had Uriah assigned to the most dangerous fighting.
(2Sa 11:18-21 ESV) 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.'”
David contrived a false scenario where he’d object to Joab leading the men so close to the city wall, reminding the messenger of an earlier event where a soldier was killed by a woman throwing a millstone on him from a wall.
(2Sa 11:22-25 ESV) 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 trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”
And so the scene played out. Indeed, Joab’s intentionally careless tactics evidently led to other deaths.
(2Sa 11:26-27 ESV) 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.
No kidding! David’s sin was well hidden from the people, but not from God.
(2Sa 12:1-4 ESV) And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds, 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
This is one of great scenes in all of scripture — the Lord’s prophet approaching the king in his throne room and telling a parable.
(2Sa 12:5-6 ESV) 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, 6 and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Nathan’s use of a parable allows him to demonstrate to the king his own unjustness and the penalty he deserves.
(2Sa 12:7-12 ESV) 7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. 8 And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'”
Imagine the courage it took for Nathan to speak these words in a public setting, condemning the king of Israel who’d just committed murder to cover up his crime. Surely Nathan would pay with his life!
(2Sa 12:13-14 ESV) 13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”
God did not kill David, but he would ultimately take four sons from David and shame him before all Israel. God’s forgiveness did not mean God wouldn’t discipline David. There would most certainly be consequences.
(2Sa 12:16-18 ESV) 16 David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them. 18 On the seventh day the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spoke to him, and he did not listen to us. How then can we say to him the child is dead? He may do himself some harm.”
David did his mourning before the child died. But after the child’s death —
(2Sa 12:19-20 ESV) 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David understood that the child was dead. And David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” They said, “He is dead.” 20 Then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. He then went to his own house. And when he asked, they set food before him, and he ate.
Once the baby had died, David actually went and worshiped God! Rather than mourn, he worshiped! It’s an amazing reaction.
(2Sa 12:21-23 ESV) 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
David may well be referring to the after-life or resurrection.
(2Sa 12:24-25 ESV) 24 Then David comforted his wife, Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her, and she bore a son, and he called his name Solomon. And the LORD loved him 25 and sent a message by Nathan the prophet. So he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.
Jedidiah means “beloved of Yahweh.” Now, many would argue that a marriage made in sin must be ended for the marriage to be pleasing to God. A sinful marriage can only be cured by restitution — giving back what’s not properly yours. And David’s marriage to Bathsheba was certainly borne in sin! And yet God accepts the marriage as legitimate and even designates their second son as David’s successor to the throne and an ancestor to Jesus.
That’s right. Bathsheba is an ancestor of Jesus, and God’s forgiveness of David was so complete that his marriage to Bathsheba was legitimated — without restitution.