So David sent and inquired about the woman, and he was told, "This is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite."
Thomas Goodwin points out in his great treatise on the "Aggravation of Sin,." it was the "matter of Uriah," even more than the matter of Bathsheba, that awakened the anger of the Lord against David. That is to say, it was David's sin of deliberation and determination, rather than his sin of sudden and intoxicating passion. It was both matters; it was both sins; but it cannot be overlooked that it was after a twelvemonth of self-deceit, internal hypocrisy, and self-forgiving silence on David's part that Nathan was sent to David in such Divine indignation. How a man like David could have lived all that time soaked to the eyes in adultery and murder and not go mad is simply inconceivable: That is to say, it would be inconceivable if we had not ourselves out of which to parallel and illustrate David, and make David both possible and natural to us.
2 Samuel 11:1-5. - (THE KING'S PALACE.)1 Chronicles 20:1).
1. He was about fifty years of age; had been reigning in Jerusalem upwards of twelve years; dwelt in a stately palace on Mount Zion; and possessed numerous sons and daughters, a splendid court and a powerful army. He had been "preserved whithersoever he went," subdued his enemies, and returned in triumph. His natural gifts and fervent piety (Psalm 24:4; Psalm 101:7) were even more extraordinary than his material prosperity; and he now stood on the pinnacle of human greatness and glory.
2. "We might well wish, in our human fashion, that, as he stood at this elevation, he had closed a life hitherto (as far as was possible before Christianity) almost entirely spotless, and bequeathed to posterity a wholly unclouded memory, and the purest type of true royalty. But the ascent of the dizzy height is always attended by the possibility of a slip and then of a headlong fall" (Ewald).
3. "Rising from the couch where he had indulged in his noonday siesta to an undue length, David forthwith ascended to the roof of his house. So ambition commonly follows excess; nor do they whom the contagion of luxury once corrupts readily seek after moderate and lowly ways. But that ascent of David, alas! was a prelude to his deplorable downfall. For he ascended only that he might fall, beholding thence, as from a watchtower, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, and immediately becoming passionately enamoured of her" (J. Doughty, 'Analecta Sacra:' 1658).
4. It was the turning point of his career, which was henceforth marked by a long series of calamities. And "it is sad to think that the cup of life, alter being filled for him by God and made pure and sweet by previous suffering and self-restraint, should have been recklessly poisoned by his own hand" (Binney).
"His steps were turn'd into deceitful ways:
I. AT A SEASON OF SLOTHFUL RELAXATION. In the spring of the year, "when kings go forth to war," instead of going forth with his army to complete the subjugation of Ammon, "David sent Joab," etc., and abode in Jerusalem. Formerly, when "the Lord had given him rest" (2 Samuel 7:1), he spent his leisure in a worthy manner, and displayed an ardent and even excessive zeal; but now, in choosing rest for himself, he showed a lack of zeal, and his unhappy choice was followed by disastrous consequences. "His actual fall into sin seems to have begun by the abdication of his functions as captain of Israel" (Maclaren); which was itself the effect of "previous relaxation of the girded loins and negligence of the untrimmed lamp." Inactivity (voluntarily chosen, without adequate reason, and regardless of opportunities of useful service) is commonly:
1. Induced by a course of successful enterprise, and the attainment of great prosperity. If adversity has slain its thousands, prosperity has slain its tens of thousands. "When his pillow was the rock and his curtain the cave; when his sword, under Providence, procured him his daily bread from the foes of his country, and the means of existence formed the object and pursuit of life, - he was pious and immovable; he must have been active or he must have resigned his life. But now the case was widely different. He had not only all the necessaries, but all the luxuries which the most refined voluptuousness could devise, attending in rich profusion around him. He had certainly the duty of his charge to impress its importance on his mind; but then he had the opportunity of neglecting it, and even David, it appears, was not proof against the solicitations of this opportunity" (Thompson, 'Davidica').
2. Indicative of a state of spiritual declension.
(1) Of a gradual decay of faith and neglect of watchfulness and prayer, and so leaving his hold of God;
(2) of a defective sense of responsibility to God;
(3) of pride and security, "mortal's chief enemy," so that the self-denying labours and hardships of the battlefield seemed no longer necessary; and
(4) of undue love of ease and sensuous pleasure, fostered in David's case by polygamy. "The sense of delicacy and chastity, which has such a purifying and preserving influence on the life, could not flourish side by side with the polygamy in which he permitted himself" (W.M. Taylor). The majestic forest tree falling suddenly beneath the blast excites our surprise; but, on examination, it will be found to have been undergoing at heart a gradual process of decay, which at length brought the giant to the ground.
3. Conducive to the indulgence of sinful propensities; exposing to the peril of falling into "the snare of the devil." Want of proper occupation tends to develop the hidden evil of the heart. "Standing waters gather filth" (Matthew Henry). "Idle hours bring forth idle thoughts, and idle thoughts are nothing but dry kindling wood that waits only for a spark to be suddenly ablaze" (Disselhoff). "The industrious man hath no leisure to sin; the idle hath no leisure or power to avoid sin" (Hall). David "may have been quite unconscious of bad habits of mind; but they must have been there growing in secret. The tyrannous self-will, which is too often developed by long successes and command; the unscrupulous craft, which is too often developed by long adversity and the necessity of sustaining one's self in a difficult position; - these must have been there. But even they could not have led David to do the deed he did had there not been in him likewise that fearful moral weakness which comes from long indulgence of the passions - a weakness which is reckless of conscience, of public opinion, and of danger either to earthly welfare or everlasting salvation" (C. Kingsley). "This single act can only be regarded as the expression of his whole disposition of mind" (Hengstenberg).
II. UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF STRONG TEMPTATION; or the desire of self-gratification. For "each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust [desire], and enticed," etc. (James 1:13-15). "Lust is egoistic desire under the incitement of impulse. But the action is not yet performed; it still lies with the man to combat the lust, or by the free choice of his will to yield himself to it" (Martensen, 'Christian Ethics'). It:
1. Arises in most cases from impressions made upon the senses by external objects. "And it came to pass in an eventide," etc. (ver. 2). The eye is the most common inlet of temptation. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food," etc. (Genesis 3:6). Achan first saw, then coveted and took (Joshua 7:21). "David at this time had forgotten the prayer, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.' We see, therefore, how dangerous a thing it is to suffer the eyes to wander. Job made a covenant with his eyes" (Wilier). "They who abuse the eye deserve to have the inward eye darkened" (Gregory).
2. Derives its force from various circumstances; such as
(1) the unexpected, sudden, and deceitful manner of its occurrence;
(2) the power and opportunity of its gratification;
(3) the temperament, predisposition, and besetting sins of its subject;
(4) the entertainment of it in the fancy, which forms false images of good, and invests them with a perilous fascination; and
(5) the delay of endeavour to overcome it, wherein there always lies peculiar and most imminent danger (Genesis 39:9).
3. Becomes by such means an absorbing passion (Matthew 6:28, 29); blinding the mental vision, perverting the moral judgment, and influencing (though not absolutely compelling) the choice of the personal will, by which sin comes into actual existence. "There is a black spot, though it be no bigger than a bean's eye, in every soul, which, if once set a-working, will overcloud the whole man in darkness, and something very like madness, and will hurry him into the night of destruction" (Arabic saying). To escape this fatal issue there is need, not merely of resolute resistance and fervent prayer, but also of instant flight. "The temptation of the flesh is overcome and impure passion mortified by flight, and not by fighting face to face. He then who flies fastest and furthest is most sure of victory. Once more I say to thee, Fly! for thou art as stubble. Therefore fly, fly, if indeed thou wouldest not be overtaken, led captive, and slain!" (Scupoli).
III. AGAINST THE RESTRAINTS OF RECOGNIZED OBLIGATION. "And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba," etc.? (ver. 3). Whilst he knew not who she was, there might be at least some excuse (considering the position of an Oriental monarch, and the common practices of the age) for his passion (2 Samuel 3:1-5); but now that he was informed that she was "the wife of Uriah," the claims of a higher law than his own inclination must have risen up distinctly before him; and he had to choose between renouncing his evil desire or breaking through the numerous restraints placed in his path. These restraints are:
1. Set up by the express commandments of the Divine Law, which says, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife;" "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" "Thou shalt not steal" (2 Samuel 12:4-6).
2. Strengthened by the special responsibilities of peculiar position and relationship; such as David held, as King of Israel, under Jehovah, with respect to his subjects, and more particularly his faithful servant Uriah.
3. Enforced by the terrible consequences threatened against transgressors (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 28:15). It is nevertheless possible to burst through all such restraints. And in the exercise of his freedom and the abuse of his power, David set them at nought, and "despised the commandment of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:9). "When lust has conceived, every restraint generally increases its vehemence, the thoughts of future consequences and the consideration of the presence, purity, and justice of God are excluded; his Law and authority are disregarded; faith and fear and love are out of exercise; and the enhanced imagination of the satisfaction to be found in indulgence possesses and engrosses the soul" (Scott).
IV. WITH THE PERSISTENCY OF WILFUL PRESUMPTION. "And David sent messengers, and took her," etc. (vers. 4, 5). Regarding himself as a special favourite of Heaven, he perhaps imagined (as others have done) that he might leave the ways of lowly obedience and self-denial, and go whithersoever he pleased, and yet be preserved from harm (Deuteronomy 29:19; Psalm 19:13; Matthew 4:6); and under this delusion he persisted in his purpose, and fell from his moral elevation into the depths of sin and to the verge of destruction. "How are the mighty fallen!" By such persistency:
1. The sinful purpose of the heart is confirmed and completed in outward action.
2. The guilt incurred is aggravated.
3. The natural consequences of sin become more serious and extensive; and, in some respects, they cannot possibly be averted (ch. 12:11-14).
1. No man, however holy, is exempt from the liability of falling into sin. "Be not highminded, but fear;" "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc. "If such a strong and tall cedar as David fall, how ought weaker Christians to fear and to pray that God would deliver them from temptation!" (Guild).
2. Material prosperity and outward show are frequently associated with moral failure and secret iniquity. Whilst the conquest of Rabbah went forward, David became the victim of his own unfaithfulness.
3. The fall of men into sin is to be attributed to themselves - their voluntary choice of evil; and not to their circumstances, or constitution, or the withholding from them of the help of God. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God," etc.
4. It is of unspeakable importance to maintain the exercise of the spiritual life in full vigour, and to watch against the first approach of evil. "The narrow way has precipices on both sides; let us walk it awake and watchful, for we are not more exact than David, who by a moment's neglect was precipitated into the very gulf of sin" (Chrysostom).
5. By the record of the sins of good men (1 Samuel 21:2), the truth and worth of the Word of God are plainly shown. "If such a story does not give one a view of the unfathomable depths of sin and of its power, he will never learn what sin is" (Schmid).
6. In the whole course of history One alone has appeared "without sin;" he was tempted and overcame, and he is the Succourer of them that are tempted. - D.
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
1. The first, and by no means the least important of these, is the proof which hence arises that none of us can lay claim to any constraining grace, which, in despite of ourselves, shall compel us to holiness and to salvation. That David enjoyed the grace of God in a very especial degree, is what no Christian can deny: and few, it is to be expected, Will suppose themselves to be more highly favoured than he was in this particular. Yet here we have a melancholy, but still a most positive and salutary proof that no portion of the grace of God, however considerable, will protect man from the most fearful enormities, unless he will employ it when given him. Our faith is not to be confidence that we shall be saved, but confidence that, if we obey. God to the best of our power, we shall be saved: and our hope must be that we may render that obedience which may be accepted through Christ; while our lives must be such as are worthy of such an hope; we must prove that we have this hope in us, by purifying ourselves, even as He is pure.
2. The next consideration which forces itself on our attention is the difference of David's circumstances at the time of his fall from those in which he is placed, when he had the best of all testimonies, that "the Lord was with him." We now see that, however prosperity and leisure are in themselves desirable, they have dangers, which to resist, requires all the strength which God has put at our disposal. David was not a novice to their blandishments. For ten years he had been in undisputed possession of the splendour and luxuries of the kingdom of all Israel. All this period had been as remarkable as the darkest days of his adversity for the most religious fulfilment of the two great comprehensive duties, the love of God and the love of his neighbour. Offensive, therefore, as the thought may be to him who feels himself secure in his own righteousness, or who imagines himself to be so firmly in the hand of the Lord that nothing can pluck him thence, it is, nevertheless, the inevitable conclusion from the melancholy truth now under consideration that no man, whatever his real holiness, or whatever his opinion concerning the decision of his future fate, is secure from the stains of even the most deadly sins. David, it appears, had hitherto been as holy in prosperity as in distress; and, it might be supposed, was now so intimate with grandeur and power as to have nothing to fear from their influence, especially when it. is considered that it was by habitual religion that he had supported himself inviolate amidst the trials of persecution and the temptations of luxury. But at. this crisis there was one remarkable circumstance. He had already done all that was required of him in active life, and there Seemed nothing now remaining but to turn his thoughts towards the interests and good government of his kingdom. When his pillow was the rock and his curtain the cave; when his sword, under Providence, procured him his daily bread from the foes of his country, and the means of existence formed the object and pursuit of life — he was pious and immovable; he must have been active, or he must have resigned his life. But now the case was widely different; he had not only all the necessities, but all the luxuries which the most refined voluptuousness could devise, attending in profusion round him: he had certainly the duty of his charge, to impress its importance on his mind; but then he had the opportunity of neglecting it; and even David, it appears, was not proof against the solicitations of this opportunity! To all of us is this example fraught with materials for the most serious personal application. The flesh itself works along with us so long as we toil for its support; but when we have once accomplished this it ungratefully turns upon us and endeavours to enslave us to its dominion. Where the necessities of life do not compel him to labour there is great danger, even to the confirmed Christian, lest the value of time and the necessity of improving it, should not be always present to his mind; while the temptations arising from the very nature of his situation are such as at all times require the very closest and most diligent circumspection. And when the unguarded moment and the temptation coincide, as they are wont to do, the example before us is a terrible demonstration of the ruin which must follow. The crime of Bathsheba cannot be long concealed: the punishment was death; either, therefore, Bathsheba must be sacrificed to the law, or her husband removed in time to allow her to become the wife of David before suspicion could arise. David no longer hesitates: the fatal order is deliberately sealed, and put into the hands of the generous, unsuspecting victim, who immediately is placed by his commander in the post most congenial to his feelings, the forefront of the hottest battle, and betrayed by his cowardly companions into the hands of an unsparing enemy. Such is the natural uniform progress of sin, wherever it takes root, though the soil be the heart of David.
(H. Thompson, M. A.)
2. The all-important sentence is the last: "But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." Without that sentence the chapter would have been intolerable. From this time forth David must bear the judgment of the Lord. Do not let it be supposed that even king David could perform such a series of wrongs and cruelties, and play as skilfully on his harp as ever, and sing as jubilantly before Heaven as he ever did. David's harp acquired a new tone after this infamy. Psalms were written by David after this great transgression which could not have been written before its commission. Years were added to the life of the king; he was bent down under an invisible load; his face was wrinkled with grief, and his eyes were dimmed by contrite tears.
3. We see now something of what human nature is when it is left to show itself. We are bound to go to history as the one revelation of human nature. It is in vain to invent and discuss theories of psychology; it is in vain to look upon one aspect of human nature, and to judge the whole by the part; it is in vain, too, to fix upon any given date in human history and to judge men by that standard of civilisation. The one inquiry is what men have done in their very worst moods. An answer to that inquiry will settle the whole question respecting human depravity. We are bound to look at such a chapter as the first in the epistle to the Romans, if we would see what human nature is in its innermost and largest possibilities. Nor must we shrink from dwelling upon the hideous spectacle, To speak of revolted sensibilities, highly excited prejudices, and to declare that such instances are beyond the range of careful study, is simply to deprive ourselves of some of the most solid lessons of human history. We must know what sin is before we can have any adequate idea of the Divine relation to it. Sin explains the cross, sin explains the atonement, sin explains Christ.
4. The Bible is to be judged by what God would have done, not by what man would have done. Find a single sentence which approves of David's guilt. Happily, there is no such sentence in the whole record. The spirit of the Bible, therefore, is not seen in what David did, but in the judgments which followed him and darkened his day with tremendous thunder-clouds. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(Alex. Whyte, D. D.).
PeopleAbimelech, Ammonites, Bathsheba, David, Eliam, Jerubbaal, Jerubbesheth, Joab, Uriah, Urijah
PlacesJerusalem, Rabbah, Thebez
TopicsBathsheba, Bath-sheba, Bathshe'ba, Daughter, David, Eliam, Eli'am, Hittite, Inquired, Inquireth, Isn't, Someone, Uriah, Uri'ah, Urijah, Wife
Outline1. While Joab besieges Rabbah, David commits adultery with Bathsheba
6. Uriah, sent for by David to cover the adultery, would not go home.
14. He carries to Joab the letter of his death
18. Joab sends the news thereof to David
26. David takes Bathsheba as his wife
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 11:3
LibraryDavid's Fall 2Sam 11:27
John Newton—Olney Hymns
How those are to be Admonished with whom Everything Succeeds According to their Wish, and those with whom Nothing Does.
The Sixth Commandment
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