2 Samuel 11:1-12:31
Up to this point in 1 and 2 Samuel, there are lots of ways David clearly foreshadows the Lord Jesus, but here he is shown to be a desperately flawed model. These chapters prove to be a watershed in his life: things are never the same again, the rest of the book tells of the sad fallout of this fall.
The opening verse is a telling introduction to the story. The writer makes it clear where David ought to be, but he opts for the luxury of the palace over the rigours of the battlefield. “The devil will find work for idle hands to do” – often it’s when we neglect our duty, get lazy, start pampering ourselves, that we leave ourselves especially vulnerable to temptation.
The story is an instructive account of the fall into sin. Each step seems almost harmless enough, but it makes the subsequent step easier and more likely. From the palace roof he could survey his realm, all that is his, and then he sees a beautiful woman and wonders – might she be his too? Asking who she is seems harmless enough, and it allows him to consider the possibilities. By the time he is told she is married, his mind is already made up.
Verse 4 is ironic – the ritual purity, but the impurity of the deed. Throughout, there is no mention of Bathsheba’s feelings, the attention is all on David and the impression given is that it was lust pure and simple. There is no hint of care or love in the exchange, no mention of David speaking to her, at the end of the encounter she is simply “the woman”
Hearing Bathsheba is pregnant, David is anxious to cover up his one night stand. So Bathsheba’s husband is summoned from the battlefield. David encourages him to go and spend the night with his wife, but Uriah replies “How could I whilst the king’s army are all camped out in the open field?”, and might well have been thinking “How could you sleep here in the luxury of the palace when your men are out there?” The next night David tries again, this time getting Uriah drunk, but even when drunk Uriah is a better man than David sober.
David resorts to desperate measures. Uriah is sent back to the battlefield carrying his own death warrant. Adultery now leads on to murder – multiple murder, for many must die to satisfy David’s schemes. David says to Joab “Don’t be upset” (v.25), but the LORD is very definitely upset. God has been conspicuously absent from the story, and was clearly absent from David’s thoughts, but just when David might have thought he’d got away with it, even got the girl, we learn that God has seen it all and is displeased (v.27)
God, in his grace, will not leave David in his sin, and so sends his prophet. Nathan’s story stirs David’s sense of justice and conscience, and when David delivers his verdict he finds he is self-condemned. Nathan tells him that he has despised God’s grace (vv.7,8) and despised God’s word (v.9), and so despised God Himself (v.10). The punishment will fit the crime – he had killed with the sword, and so the sword would ravage his own house (v.10), and he had taken someone’s wife, so his wives would be taken (vv.11,12). The rest of the book will recount the sorry outworking of this judgment.
David makes no excuses and owns his sin. He uses few words, but the whole of Psalm 51 fills out his confession and the contrition he felt. God responds with astonishing mercy (v.13b). He is forgiven, though there will still be consequences of his sin to face. David deserved death, and maybe there is in the baby’s death a hint of substitution – a son of David who would bear the punishment, not just for David’s sin, but for all our sin. The subsequent birth of Solomon is testimony to God’s ongoing, undeserved love (vv.24,25). And God in His grace continues to use and bless David, despite his sin and failure (vv.26-31).
Two chapters is too much to read during the study. If you can, ask people to read them before coming to the study. You may have time to read just ch.11 together. When it comes to ch.12, people may just have to look at the passage to find the answers, or steer them to the relevant verses and read them. The story is at least familiar enough.