12:1-4 The Lord sent Nathan to David to reveal his message to the king. Nathan had communicated to the king God’s incredible promise about David’s house (7:8-17). This time, the message would not be as pleasant. Nathan’s language emphasizes how the one small ewe lamb was more a member of the family than an asset comparable to the rich man’s abundant sheep and cattle. The rich man did the unthinkable in the name of hospitality.
12:5 David was infuriated, a fact that reveals he thought Nathan’s words presented a real occurrence in his kingdom. Deserves to die is literally “is a son of death.”
12:7 With his powerful words, You are the man, the prophet drove home the application of the parable. The parable laid a foundation for what was to come; the words this is what the Lord God of Israel says then introduced God’s indictment against the wayward king. The Lord then began to describe all he had done for David, beginning with giving him the kingship and rescuing him from Saul.
12:8 The phrase I would have given you even more demonstrated the Lord’s willingness to go even further with David’s blessing if the king had only asked.
12:9 David had not merely neglected the command of the Lord; he had despised it with his grievous actions. Technically, the Ammonite’s sword killed Uriah, but it was as if David had done it himself. And he had done this to cover his adultery with Uriah’s wife.
12:10-14 Nathan announced a threefold judgment on David: (1) David’s house would be continuously plagued by violence; (2) David’s wives would be taken from him and publicly violated; and (3) the child would die after birth. The third judgment was fulfilled in v. 18. The second was fulfilled by Absalom in 16:20-22. The first judgment was fulfilled in five parts: (1) between Amnon and Absalom (13:1-39); (2) between Absalom and David (15:1-18:33); (3) between Amasa and Joab (20:8-13); (4) between Adonijah and Solomon (1Kg 1:1-53; 2:13-25); and (5) between Joab and Solomon (1Kg 2:28-35). David did not get off lightly for his great sins!
12:11-12 David’s own family would be the instruments of God’s judgment. The words I will take your wives and give them to another were fulfilled by David’s son Absalom when Absalom tried to usurp the kingship (16:20-22).
12:13 David’s response—I have sinned—contrasts sharply with that of Saul when Samuel confronted him over his sin (1Sm 15:15,20-21). Saul gave excuse after excuse, but David’s heart (1Sm 13:14) would not let him do so. Nathan assured the king that his life would be spared. Psalm 51 commemorates this event and expresses David’s repentance. Psalm 32 expresses David’s joy in being forgiven.
12:14 The language of this verse is difficult and has been rendered different ways. The words you treated the Lord with . . . contempt emphasize David’s careless treatment of God’s commands (v. 9). Other manuscripts read, “You have caused the Lord’s enemies to blaspheme,” meaning the enemies of God treated him with disdain because they had seen the hypocrisy of his chosen leader. In either case, God’s leader had committed a very public sin, a fact that contributed to God’s verdict: the son born to you will die. God would not allow this child—a reminder of David’s adultery and murder—to live.
12:15-17 David pleaded and fasted, spending the night lying on the ground humbly before the Lord. He repented of his sin, but he would struggle with sin’s consequences.
12:18-20 David threw his whole being into his prayers for his son but accepted God’s negative reply in faith.
12:21 David’s behavior after his child died contradicted what his servants thought might happen. Fasting normally followed the death of a loved one, but David ate food.
12:23 The king’s words I’ll go to him, but he will never return to me may be understood as meaning David would one day join his infant child in heaven. Another possibility is that David was affirming that he would join him one day in death, but the child would never join him in this life again.
12:24 God’s grace began anew in the lives of David and his wife Bathsheba. Their next child was Solomon, who would become Israel’s next king. Another mark of God’s grace was that the Lord loved Solomon.
12:25 Jedidiah, another name for Solomon, means “Beloved of the Lord.”
12:28-29 Joab wanted David to lay siege to the city and finish the job he had all but accomplished. The distance from Jerusalem to Rabbah was about forty miles, but Joab was eager for the king to receive credit for the victory.
12:30 The placing of the former king’s crown . . . on David’s head symbolized the transfer of power from the Ammonite king to the king of Israel. David also dedicated the plunder to the Lord for the future temple’s construction (1Ch 29:2-5).
12:31 David enslaved the captive Ammonite citizens and put them to work with saws, iron picks, and iron axes, and to labor at brickmaking. All these tasks were heavy labor. They suggest that David was fortifying key cities and areas throughout his territory.