Although David doesn’t recognize Bathsheba at first sight, he would have recognized her by the names of her family members: “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” (2 Samuel 11:3). Uriah is one of
King David’s thirty most valiant and celebrated soldiers (2 Samuel 23:39; 1
Chronicles 11:41). So is Eliam (2 Samuel 23:34). And Bathsheba’s grandfather is Ahithophel, David’s most trusted counselor (2 Samuel 15:12; 16:23; 23:34). These men have risked their lives in constant devotion and support of King David. They are part of the intimate circle that surrounds him. And David is about to betray them by sleeping with their wife / daughter / granddaughter.
This fact makes the comparison between David’s deception and Uriah’s valor even more painful to read. David decides to cover up Bathsheba’s pregnancy by finding an excuse to call Uriah from the battlefield to Jerusalem; he’s confident that Uriah will drop by his home in the city and spend the night with his wife. Then when it’s time to announce the pregnancy publicly, everyone will think that Uriah is the father, and David will be saved from scandal. But Uriah shows an exceptional
commitment to Yahweh, to Israel, to his general and to his fellow soldiers: “The
ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of
my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing” (2 Samuel 11:11). But what did David do under the same conditions, having the opportunity to show the same valor? He slept with the wife of the man who is showing him so much devotion.
When he can’t eliminate Uriah’s valor by insistence or by alcohol, David sends him back to the battlefield with the orders for his own execution. Uriah’s faithfulness will carry him to his death. Then David can marry his widow, and when her pregnancy becomes apparent to all, everyone can congratulate David on being a father again, never knowing the real circumstances of his baby’s conception. And draped over this whole scenario are David’s hypocritical condolences: “Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it” (2 Samuel 11:25). Everything will go on like normal, as if David’s sins had never occurred. Any pagan king would be impressed with David’s underhandedness and deceit.
But not Yahweh: “The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Samuel 11:27). Both David and Bathsheba should die: “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). David deserves to die twice, if that were possible: “You shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death” (Numbers 35:31). The one who celebrates Yahweh’s glory so often in the Psalms causes Yahweh’s enemies to blaspheme him (2 Samuel 12:14).
It’s in this background that we must understand Yahweh’s mercy in not killing David (2 Samuel 12:13), His severity in decreeing that he should suffer (2 Samuel 12:11-12, 14), Yahweh’s grace in loving Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24-25), His grace in giving him victory over the Ammonites (2 Samuel 12:26-31), His severity in the evil that is raised up in his house in 2 Samuel 13 through the actions of his firstborn Amnon (mentioned for the first time in 2 Samuel 3:2) and by Absalom. David’s sins in 1 Samuel 11 are scandalous, rebellious and of inconceivable unfaithfulness and
Secondly, notice the shock in the appearance of these sins precisely at this point of 2 Samuel. If it weren’t for the first verse of 2 Samuel 11, we would think that we were in another decade of David’s reign, at a point in time far removed from the readings of 2 Samuel 5 – 7 and 8 – 10. The first verse portrays the events of 2 Samuel 11 – 12 in line with the conquest and foundation of Jerusalem, with the arrival of the ark in the holy city, with Yahweh’s covenant with David, with His profound grace in promising him a throne established eternally, with great military successes, with peace imposed on the nations, with the wealth that has poured into the city, with the mercy shown to Mephibosheth and more recently, with the victory over the Ammonites and their allies in 2 Samuel 10:18-19 that will now be solidified by attacking the Ammonite capital: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah” (2 Samuel 11:1). How could he have sinned so brazenly in the midst of such a great abundance of Yahweh’s blessings and grace?
Perhaps we might try to answer that question by the same verse where it says, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle… but David remained at Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 11:1). David wasn’t where he was supposed to be. If he had been on the battlefield where he belonged, he would not have seen Bathsheba bathing; if he had not seen her, he wouldn’t have called her; he would not have committed adultery with her; he would not have sent Uriah to his death…
There may be some truth to that reasoning, but it is interesting that when David repents of his sin in Psalm 51, he never says, “Forgive me, LORD; I was in the wrong place.” Instead, he identifies something much more profound as the motive for his sin: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Notice that he is not trying to blame his mother for what he did, nor is he saying that he was conceived in adultery and therefore commits it now, nor anything of that sort. He says that the wickedness that motivated him to commit these sins is within him, it’s a part of his being, and it has been a part of his being ever since the moment that he was conceived. David recognizes that sin is the most natural thing that he does, even in obstinate rebellion against so much grace and privilege from Yahweh.
Pained by this recognition, he cries out, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow… Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:7, 9-10). There is a cleansing from sin and wickedness that only Yahweh can do, and David cries out for it repeatedly. David, Yahweh’s
anointed, realizes that he himself needs a Redeemer, someone who can rescue him
from the sin nature within him. And this desire directs us to the other Anointed One of Yahweh, the Anointed One above all, of whom the Bible will tell us, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). Even King David, in the
midst of so much grace and privilege, recognized his desperate need to receive the forgiveness of sins and new birth that only Jesus Christ could procure through His death on the cross for us.
Do you recognize your own sin nature that is capable of manifesting itself even in the midst of Yahweh’s grace and privileges?
If you say yes, have you cried out to Him for the creation of a new heart, a new birth that comes only through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ?