2 Samuel 11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army.
Spring was the time for war because the weather was agreeable, and fields provided food for armies on the march. David had led battles in the past, but now that he was established, others could do the work. So David remained at home, a king at his leisure.
2 Samuel 11:2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.
David’s palace had a flat roof porch, and may have been the tallest building in Jerusalem. This gave him a view of the region, as well as other people’s homes. From there he saw a woman bathing, and noticed that she was beautiful. David should have looked away, but chose to prolong his gaze. Then he sent for the woman, and she became pregnant. Her name was Bathsheba, and she was married to Uriah.
This was quite a problem since David was a spiritual leader, and the law of God said, You shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Even worse, If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). David and Bathsheba were both in serious trouble.
It would have been better if David had looked away. He was a good man who loved the Lord, and served him with all his heart. But goodness is no guarantee against weakness, and David had a moment of weakness. Now he would try to conceal what he had done.
2 Samuel 11:6 David sent this word to Joab: Send me Uriah the Hittite.
David’s plan was so simple, it could hardly fail. He called Bathsheba’s husband home from battle to give an account of the war. Having been away for a while, he would surely want to sleep with his wife. When he learned that she was pregnant, he would assume the child was his.
But Uriah was a man of such character, that as long as his fellow soldiers were sleeping in a field, he refused the comfort of his own bed. So he slept at the entrance of David’s palace, along with the other servants.
Then David got Uriah drunk, hoping to weaken his resolve. But this also failed. David was growing desperate, so he sent Uriah back to battle with a letter to his commander. Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die (2 Samuel 11:15).
It is hard to imagine what David was thinking when he penned those terrible words. He truly believed in God’s law, including You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13). But desperate people do desperate things, and David was truly desperate. So he set in motion his plan to kill an innocent man.
This is why Jesus taught us to pray, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (Matthew 6:13). Under the right circumstances there is nothing of which we are not capable, including adultery and murder. Those who do such things are not always worse than others, but are truly ensnared by the devil. Their conduct should be condemned, of course, but under similar circumstances we could do similar things.
2 Samuel 11:26-27 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son.
As the most powerful man in the nation, David was able to avoid execution for himself and Bathsheba. Perhaps he married her quickly so the child would seem to come from their marriage. Or perhaps he hoped to appear noble by marrying the pregnant widow of a worthy soldier.
Nevertheless, the trauma of David’s sin hardened his heart so much that he was not relating to God. Instead of confessing and repenting, David appears to have rationalized his sin as the privilege of kings. He already had numerous wives—why not one more? But the thing David had done displeased the Lord (1 Samuel 11:27b).
2 Samuel 12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David.
God gave the prophet the unhappy task of rebuking the king. It is not clear how Nathan knew of David’s sin, but he may have learned it directly from God. So Nathan went to David with a parable of two men: one rich, the other poor. The rich man had numerous sheep; the poor man had only one sheep, which he loved with all his heart. One day the rich man had visitors, but instead of killing one of his own sheep for dinner, he took the poor man’s sheep.
As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! (2 Samuel 12:5), said David. You are the man! (2 Samuel 12:7), said Nathan. Then he told David about the terrible consequences that would follow his sin, including the death of their child.
2 Samuel 12:13 Then David said to Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.
God pardoned David’s sin, but did not remove the consequences. The child died, and David endured hardship. The man God used to build his kingdom let many people down, including himself.
God’s people need a righteous king to lead us into righteousness. Jesus lived a perfect life, and took away our sins, when he died on the cross for us (1 John 3:5). We all stumble in many ways (James 3:2), wrote James. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him (1 John 3:2), wrote John. Then we’ll live in righteousness, never to sin again.
Reflection and Review
Was David basically good or bad?
What can we learn from Uriah?
How could David have avoided this failure?