III. David’s Sin and Its Consequences (2 Samuel 11:1–14:33)


III. David’s Sin and Its Consequences (11:1–14:33)

11:1 In the ancient world, kings had control over the records of their reigns, so they could suppress their failures. But, this is not the case with the biblical records of kings. These chapters are hereby inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They serve as a warning to us (see 1 Cor 10:6, 11), reminding us that none of us is above sin. Even a man after God’s own heart like David (see 1 Sam 13:14) can fail to guard his own heart and rebel against God’s will. These chapters also help us understand the consequences of the king’s sins. David, his family, and his kingdom would suffer much grief and rebellion as a result of his failure to fight off temptation.

The problem began in the spring when kings march out to war. Instead of joining his men in battle, David sent Joab and his army out while he remained in Jerusalem—for unnamed reasons. The author is making it clear from the first verse of the chapter that David should have been elsewhere fulfilling his responsibilities. It’s often when we’re not doing what we ought to be doing that temptation chooses to pounce.

11:2 David was on the roof of the palace one night when he saw a woman bathing—a very beautiful woman. David was at the height of his reign. He had been walking with God in victory as Israel’s anointed king for twenty years. He was Israel’s poet and singer who wrote many psalms. But, on that evening, this married man was captivated in all the wrong ways by someone else’s wife. This was not an immoral man; this was not a man who wanted to fall. This was a man who put himself in a vulnerable position and let down his guard. The results would be costly.

11:3-4 It didn’t take long for David to find out that the woman was Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hethite, one of David’s valued and loyal soldiers (1 Chr 11:26, 41). But, by now, nothing mattered to David except fulfilling his lust, so he sent messengers to get her, and when she came to him, he slept with her (11:4). Ultimately, we don’t know how Bathsheba felt about this. But, we are given no reason to think that she was trying to seduce David. He stayed behind while his troops were fighting battles. He strolled on his rooftop when he should have been sleeping. He had another man’s wife brought to him. David was the king, and his every order was to be obeyed. Bathsheba was a defenseless woman. The blame lies squarely on David.

11:5-8 David may have thought that his one-night-stand could be quickly forgotten. If so, he was wrong. Not long after, David received unexpected news from Bathsheba. Her message said, I am pregnant (11:5). The king had made the mistake of his life. But, instead of seeking to stop the damage by repentance, he made it infinitely worse by scheming. David brought Uriah back home from the battlefield and encouraged him to go home for a few days and enjoy time with his wife. David assumed that Uriah would take advantage of the opportunity to sleep with her, assume the coming baby was his own, and David would be off the hook (11:6-8).

11:9-13 No matter how hard David tried—even getting Uriah drunk—he couldn’t get the faithful soldier to sleep with his wife. Uriah was too honorable to do that. He knew his fellow troops were away from their own wives, fighting the nation’s battles (11:13). The contrast between David’s underhanded plotting and Uriah’s open integrity could not be greater.

11:14-15 David was so desperate to bury his sin that he decided to bury Uriah. This is what sin will do to you, if you refuse to confess it and deal with it. When Uriah didn’t do what David wanted, David went from being crafty to being cruel. He sent Uriah back to the battlefront where Israel’s soldiers were besieging the Ammoniate capital of Rabbah. Unknowingly, the soldier carried his own death notice with him.

11:16-21 The man after God’s own heart grew increasingly cold-hearted. Joab obeyed the king’s orders recorded in verse 15, though there is no indication that he knew the reason for the poor man’s sentence. As a result, Uriah died (11:16-17). Because Joab knew that David would want to know about it right away, he sent a messenger with news of the battle (11:18), cautioning him that the king might get mad at such suicidal military strategy (11:18-21). If that were to happen, Joab told the messenger to say, Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also (11:21). In other words, he was reminding him that the battle tactics had been employed to accomplish the king’s desire.

11:22-25 The messenger delivered his news word for word, and David was satisfied (11:22-24). He was so hardened by his sin that he essentially sent this response to Joab: “Don’t let Uriah’s death bother you. You win some; you lose some. Everyone has to die sometime” (11:25). In other words, this godly man had become unrecognizable.

A person who is in moral sin may feel bad about it at first. But, if that sin is not dealt with, eventually the sinner’s heart grows calloused. The conviction he should feel over his sin doesn’t get through. He becomes spiritually numb, and sins begin to multiply.

11:26-27 Bathsheba mourned for her husband Uriah (11:26). Then, she became David’s wife (11:27).

David, meanwhile, had stained his legacy with adultery and added murder to it. As far as David was concerned, the cover-up was complete following the marriage. Uriah was out of the way. The child would appear legitimate. The matter could be put to rest.

But, David had forgotten about his omniscient and omnipresent God, the one about whom David himself would write, “You understand my thoughts . . . Where can I flee from your presence? . . . Even the darkness is not dark to you” (Ps 139:2, 7, 12). David had acted in secret. But, nothing is hidden from the God who sees and knows all: The Lord considered what David had done to be evil (11:27).

12:1-4 The Lord sent Nathan the prophet to confront David (12:1). But, instead of simply laying out David’s sin and calling for a confession, Nathan let David hang himself. He told a story of injustice. A rich man had taken advantage of a poor man, callously depriving him of his precious ewe lamb. Though the rich man had flocks beyond measure, he slaughtered the poor man’s lamb and fed it to his guest (12:1-4).

12:5-6 The crime was so obvious and cruel that David jumped to the defense of the injured party. He was infuriated and said, As the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Because he has done this thing and shown no pity, he must pay four lambs for that lamb. Sadly, though, David had no idea that the tale was a parable of his own actions. The rich man represented David, the poor man represented Uriah, and the ewe lamb represented Bathsheba. David’s sin had blinded him. In condemning the rich man, he condemned himself.

12:7-12 Nathan’s reply was quick: You are the man (12:7). The prophet then recounted how God had blessed David and how David had sinned against God. The Lord had given David everything, including all that had been Saul’s, which included Saul’s wives (12:8), who would become servants of the king and his kingdom because there is no indication that David married them. David had repaid the Lord with wickedness (12:7-9). Then, Nathan pronounced God’s judgment: the sword will never leave your house (12:10). From that day forward, David’s family would be plagued by rape, murder, and rebellion. Part of David’s humiliation would include having his wives taken from him and given to another—we’ll later learn it was his own son Absalom—who would sleep with them in broad daylight (12:11; see 16:22).

12:13-18 David’s eyes were finally opened. He responded as a man of God: I have sinned against the Lord. According to the law of Moses, David deserved to die for adultery and murder. Yet, God graciously forgave him and spared his life (12:13). Nevertheless, there would still be serious consequences, beginning with the death of Bathsheba’s baby (12:14). The child became deathly ill (12:15).

Despite God’s pronouncement through Nathan, David pleaded with God for the boy, fasting, praying, and hoping that God might change his mind (12:16). The members of his household saw David in such agony of soul that when the baby died, David’s servants were afraid to tell him because they were afraid he might do something desperate (12:18).

12:19-23 David could tell by his servants’ whispering that the infant had passed away (12:19). Realizing that God’s will had been done, he gave up his fast and resumed his life (12:20). His servants were surprised at this sudden change in the king, but he replied that there was no longer any hope that the baby would come back to him because death was final (12:21-23).

12:24-25 Knowing that Bathsheba was also mourning their son, David comforted her, and she gave birth to Solomon, whose name sounds like the Hebrew word for “peace” (12:24). But, the Lord named him Jedidiah, which means “Beloved of the Lord.” This was a gracious sign that God had not removed his love from David (12:25).

12:26-31 Joab urged David to come to Rabbah and finish the battle—lest Joab win the fight and gain the honor instead of the king (12:26-28). David assembled all the troops and finished off Rabbah, even taking the crown off the king’s head (12:29-30). He put the people to forced labor, as he did to all the Ammonite cities, then returned to Jerusalem (12:31).

13:1-5 The Lord had forgiven David’s grievous sins of adultery and murder (12:13), but he had also told David that there would be disastrous related consequences for his family (12:10). In the following chapters, those consequences unfold. David’s multiple wives had given him sons and daughters who were half-brothers and half-sisters. Polygamy was about to come back to haunt David.

David’s son Amnon became infatuated with his half-sister Tamar, the full sister of Absalom (13:1). Amnon’s shrewd cousin Jonadab offered to help him with his “problem” (13:3). Jonadab suggested a deceitful plan that would enable him to be alone with Tamar. Even worse, he would use David, who was clueless about his intentions, to help him (13:5).

13:6-14 The trap was set. Poor, unsuspecting Tamar was sent by royal request to her “sick” half-brother’s bedroom (13:6-7). Once they were alone, she prepared to feed him (13:9-10). But, he grabbed her and made his intensions clear (13:11). Tamar struggled and pleaded with him not to disgrace her by committing such an outrage (13:12). To commit this act would bring humiliation on Tamar and cause Amnon to be regarded as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. She even suggested that he ask the king to give her to him as a wife instead (13:13). But Amnon couldn’t be persuaded; he was dead set on his sin. He refused to listen to her, and because he was stronger than she was, he disgraced her by raping her (13:14). Like his father David before him (11:2-4), Amnon was blinded by lust and couldn’t see the inevitable consequences of such actions.

13:15-18 True to his low character, Amnon hated Tamar with such intensity that the hatred he hated her with was greater than the love he had loved her with (13:15) after he had violated her. Clearly, his “love” was nothing more than self-centered lust. This is confirmed by his response to her afterward. Tamar pleaded with him not to send her away. Because he had robbed her of her virginity by violating her, he ought to marry her. Otherwise, she would likely have no other prospects for marriage. To cast her out would be much worse than the great wrong he’d already done (13:16). But, Amnon simply threw her out (13:17-18). Rather than setting things right, Amnon compounded his sin, just as his father had done.

13:19-22 Tamar went away in distress and mourning (13:19). Seeing her grief, Absalom quieted her and told her to keep the incident to herself (13:20). But, David heard of it and was furious (13:21). Amazingly, though, the king did nothing to punish Amnon. The reader might wonder at this point if David’s moral resolve had been weakened by the knowledge of his own past sexual sin. Regardless, his failure to act was itself an act that spoke volumes. Absalom, on the other hand, would act. He hated Amnon for disgracing his sister (13:22). So, he patiently bided his time, looking for a chance at revenge.

13:23-27 Two years passed, but Absalom had not forgotten. He held a festival in connection with the sheep-shearing, a common practice in those days, and invited David and all the king’s sons (13:23-24). When David declined, Absalom insisted that the king send all of his sons, including Amnon, his firstborn (13:25-26).

13:28-36 During the feast, Absalom’s young men followed their master’s orders and killed Amnon, while the rest of the king’s sons got up, and each fled on his mule (13:28-29). Before they arrived home, a false report came to David that all of his sons had been killed, but that was quickly proven false (13:30-33). David was reunited with his remaining sons, and they all wept very bitterly (13:35-36).

13:37-39 Absalom fled to the home of his maternal grandfather, King Talmai of Geshur (see 3:3), where he stayed for three years (13:37-38). King David longed to go to Absalom, for David had finished grieving over Amnon’s death (13:39). Thus, the stage was set for Absalom’s return to Jerusalem. Unfortunately, the consequences of David’s sins were only beginning. Things would become worse.

14:1-7 The story of Absalom’s return to Jerusalem from his self-imposed exile has as many plot twists as a Hollywood film. David wanted Absalom back, but he couldn’t just send for him and pretend everything was fine or the people might think the king didn’t take Absalom’s crime of murder seriously.

Joab, David’s army commander, came up with a reunion plan and persuaded a wise woman from Tekoa, located about ten miles south of Jerusalem, to carry it out (14:1-3). She pretended to be a widow who had two sons, one having killed the other (14:4-6). She claimed that the whole clan wanted to put the guilty brother to death for the life of the brother he murdered. But, if this happened, her husband’s name would die out (14:7).

14:8-11 David promised to issue a command on the woman’s behalf to prevent this from happening (14:8). But she pressed on, telling David that she would not hold him or his throne responsible if he failed to stop the revenge killing of her son (14:9). David was patient with her, saying that anyone who did anything would have to answer to him (14:10). But, even that wasn’t good enough. We don’t know if David saw where this was going, but he agreed to the woman’s request to swear by the Lord to protect her son and prevent the shedding of his blood. David vowed, As the Lord lives . . . not a hair of your son will fall to the ground (14:11).

14:12-14 With this solemn vow in hand, the woman pulled a Nathan on David, saying in her own way, “You are the man” (see 12:1-7). In speaking as he did about this matter, she said, David had pronounced his own guilt (14:13). David knew she was right; he was willing to grant clemency to some unnamed murderer while not granting it to his own son.

14:15-24 The woman then tried to make it sound like her real concern was her own case and not David and Absalom (14:15-17). But, David was now wise to her; he figured out that Joab was behind it all (14:19-20). Even here, however, David did not get angry at Joab’s scheming, realizing that he had the king’s interests at heart. David gave Joab permission to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem (14:21). Yet, David wasn’t ready for a full reconciliation. His son could come back under one condition: He may return to his house, but he may not see [David’s] face (14:24). Such a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation was bound to fail.

14:25-26 The author wastes no time building a portfolio on Absalom: No man in all Israel was as handsome and highly praised as [he] (14:25). His physical attributes and personality would become important in helping explain how Absalom would be able to easily grab the throne and raise such a large following against his father. Absalom could capture and hold a crowd by his good looks and charm. Unfortunately, he would begin to believe his own press releases and get a big ego. The text says, He did not have a single [physical] flaw (14:25). But, he did develop one fatal character flaw: pride.

14:27-33 After two years of not seeing the king, Absalom began to chafe (14:28). He tried to get Joab to intercede with David for him, but Joab was unwilling (14:29). So, like a sulky child, he had Joab’s barley field set on fire to get his attention (14:30). Finally, Joab interceded for Absalom and went to the king. So David summoned Absalom, who came to the king and paid homage with his face to the ground before him. Then the king kissed Absalom (14:33). Unfortunately, this reunion would prove to be too little too late.