2 Samuel 12



Nathan Rebukes David (12:1–31)

1–4 The LORD sent Nathan. Prophets like Nathan (2 Samuel 7:2) were messengers of God, sent to speak God’s word both to individuals and to nations. Here God took the initiative in communicating His word of rebuke to David. And God’s word in this case took the form of a parable about a rich man (David) who wrongfully took a ewe lamb (Bathsheba) that belonged to a poor man (Uriah). Nathan told the parable in such a way that David thought the prophet was describing an actual incident.

5–6 David burned with anger against the rich man. “As surely as the LORD lives,” said David, using a common oath formula to indicate he was about to make a very “sure” statement, “the man who did this deserves to die” (verse 5). Without knowing it, David had condemned himself.

Then David added that the rich man should repay the poor man four times over, in accordance with the LAW of Moses (Exodus 22:1). David expressed great pity for the poor man in Nathan’s parable, in contrast to the lack of pity he had shown to the “poor man” Uriah. One can almost imagine what David’s next words might have been: “Who is the man who did this evil thing?”

7–10 Nathan said to David: “You are the man” (verse 7). Then, speaking through Nathan, the Lord reminded David of the mercy He had shown to him, the blessings He had bestowed upon him.51 How, then, could David despise God’s word by doing such evil? (verse 9). To despise God’s word was to disobey His word; it was the same as despising God Himself (verse 10). “You struck down Uriah,” God said; since David had ordered Uriah’s death, he bore the responsibility for it. Because David had used the sword of the Ammonites to kill Uriah, God told David that the sword” would never depart from his house. And indeed, three of David’s sons later died violent deaths: Amnon (2 Samuel 13:2829), Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14–15), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25).

11–12 The Lord then went on to describe the various punishments that would fall on David himself. The Lord would bring calamity on David from out of his own household. This prediction was later fulfilled when David’s son Absalom tried to seize David’s throne, forcing David to flee (see 2 Samuel 15:1–16). Absalom—the one who was close to David (verse 11)—even lay with his father’s concubines in broad daylight on the roof of David’s palace! (see 2 Samuel 16:20–22).

13–14 Then David confessed that he had sinned against the LORD. Allsinis against the Lord”; Saul’s failure to acknowledge this may be one reason his confession was not accepted as genuine (see 1 Samuel 15:24).

Nathan then told David that the Lord had taken away his sin (verse 13)—that is, the Lord, in His grace, had forgiven David, and released him from the death penalty that he deserved (Leviticus 20:10; 24:17). However, a secondary consequence of David’s sin would remain: David wouldn’t die, but his newborn son would (verse 14).

15–21 The Lord struck the child, who had just been born, and he became ill (verse 15). David pleaded with God to spare the child, but to no avail. While the child lived, David fasted as if he were in mourning (verse 16). But when he found out the child was dead, David stopped fasting. In his servants’ minds, he was doing the opposite of what was expected: mourning was supposed to take place after one died, not before!

22–23 David explained to his servants that he had fasted not in order to mourn but in order to persuade God to reverse His decision. When the child died, there was no further need to fast. Instead of the child returning to him, David would one day be going to the child—to the grave, the place of the dead52 (Genesis 37:35).

There is a message of comfort here to those Christian parents who have lost a child: they will meet their child again. Their child has gone on ahead to the place that Jesus has prepared (John 14:2).

24–25 David and Bathsheba then had another child, whom they named Solomon. “Solomon” would become the child’s throne name. But meanwhile, God directed them to name the child Jedidiah, which means “loved by the Lord.” The reason for naming him this, of course, was that the LORD loved him (verse 25). By this statement the writer is signaling to the reader that Jedidiah (Solomon) had been chosen by God to be Israel’s next king. Through Solomon, God would fulfill His promise to David: “I will raise up your offspring to succeed you” (2 Samuel 7:12).

26–28 In these verses, the writer returns to Israel’s war against the Ammonites (2 Samuel 11:1); it was during this war that David’s affair with Bathsheba occurred. Now we are told about the successful conclusion of the war.

Joab had crippled the Ammonites’ main city, Rabbah, by taking control of its water supply (verse 27). Joab then invited David to personally lead his troops in the final capture of the city. A victorious commander was customarily given the honor of renaming a conquered city, and Joab wanted that honor to go to his uncle David (verse 28).

29–31 David accepted, and led in the attack on Rabbah. David took the crown of the Ammonite king as plunder; it weighed a talent of gold (thirty-four kilograms), so it must have been worn only for brief ceremonies! Then, according to ancient custom, David brought the surviving Ammonites back to Israel where they were forced to serve as laborers (verse 31).

For the modern reader there is an important note of encouragement in these final verses. In spite of David’s very great sins, God was still willing to use him—to use him in battle, to use him to set a godly example for his nation, and to use him to write many of the Psalms through which untold millions have been blessed. All Christians fall into sin from time to time; some fall into great sins, like David’s. But that doesn’t mean that God has no further use for them. Only let them confess their sin and turn from it, and God will welcome them back into His service. Once a sin is confessed and truly repented of, that sin is erased from God’s memory (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12). And if it is erased from God’s memory, it certainly can be erased from ours!