Here begins a part of David’s history in which he is not a picture of the Lord Jesus, but of a believer sinning. It is also a believer with a great responsibility. He offends God, commits adultery and commits murder. The position and responsibility of a believer also determine the seriousness of his sin. It makes a difference to God whether an ordinary member of His people sins or a leader of His people sin (Lev 4:1-2,13,22,27). The consequences are inevitable, although there is forgiveness for the sins he has committed.
We also learn that we do not suddenly start living in sin. Falling into sin can happen suddenly, but David comes to live in sin. He chooses this and makes sin part of his life.
1 - 5 Adultery of David with Bathsheba
1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out [to battle], that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem. 2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. 3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house. 5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am pregnant.”
This chapter follows historically on the previous one, it is the following year, “in the spring”. According to the customs of that time, the spring, when the late rain has stopped, is the time for military action to be taken again. For David it means that the time has come to defeat Moab definitively. But instead of going out at the head of the army, he stays at home and sends Joab and the whole people. It seems that he spent the whole day in bed, because we read that “when evening came David arose from his bed”.
David stays at home, while he should have gone to battle. He neglects his duty and takes rest while he should have worked. Here the saying is true: ‘Idle hands are the devil’s playground.’ If we are not busy with what we should or may do, we are on a road on which the temptation can overtake us as a traveler (2Sam 12:1-4). Someone who has nothing to do, is an easy prey for the devil. He can get on well with that. Doing nothing is creating space for sin.
David “saw”. He does not seek temptation, but sees it. The temptation appears suddenly. Then it comes down to what one does. However, David’s mental defense mechanism has been eliminated by his laziness. If the inner condition is prepared by laziness, desire can easily enter. The law which James mentions in his letter then comes into effect (Jam 1:14-15). Desire does not have to lead to sin, but the power to say ‘no’ to sin is lacking when one lives in laxness. Then the lusts find a partner in the flesh. If David had been strong, he would have made a covenant with his eyes (Job 31:1).
With us it will be exactly the same if we open ourselves up to pornographic material. Sometimes you suddenly see a picture, by accident. This can happen because you see a picture on a billboard along the road. It can also happen through a picture you see on the ‘digital highway’, without searching for it. What do you do then? Were you just driving, a bit aimless, or surfing, a bit aimless? Then you have opened the door wide for sin.
Sin with Bathsheba is preceded by taking more wives, after he has come from Hebron (2Sam 5:13). His many wives have demolished the threshold for his desire for another wife. Taking more wives is a violation of the king’s law (Deu 17:17a). If David commits the sin of adultery, he is over fifty years old. The danger of adultery remains, even at old age and is perhaps then the greatest.
David spent the whole day in idleness. Laziness, laxness and passivity are enormous dangers for every believer. When we give in to laziness, the enemy comes, the traveler who wants to stay overnight with us (2Sam 12:1-4). This traveler is sin, lust. David comes to his sin because he does not immediately, after he has seen the washing Bathsheba, place himself before the LORD to have his thoughts purified. Instead, he holds on to that picture and informs who the woman is. He is informed in detail about her, and he is also told that she is married. However, lust has him in her grip so much that he cannot be stopped in his intention to take possession of that woman by having relations with her (cf. Jer 5:8).
David abuses his position. He also abuses Bathsheba. Because she is another person’s wife, he also cheats on her husband. He lets her come and has relations with her. The history is described without sensation. It’s simply the events. The mention that she has “purified herself from her uncleanness” seems to indicate that she has just had her period and that she has washed herself to that end (verse 4; Lev 12:2-5; 15:19-28). At the same time it makes clear why she is pregnant immediately, because a few days after menstruation the chance of pregnancy is naturally greatest. It is usually the most fertile period. When Bathsheba discovers that she is pregnant, she lets him know. She says nothing else, but leaves everything to him (verse 5).
The question is whether we are equipped to meet sin. It is not about the sins of others, but those of me. David’s sin is the sin that is committed large-scale today and that takes away the life force of God’s people. The accidents in traffic and in the air are insignificant compared to the accidents in families and lives caused by this sin. Satan specializes in making sin popular and entertainment. We are no longer afraid of sin. Of the history of David and Bathsheba a film is made. Why do people want to see that film? Do we throw away a DVD if it contains erotic scenes?
6 - 13 David and Uria
6 Then David sent to Joab, [saying], “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked concerning the welfare of Joab and the people and the state of the war. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, 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? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you go.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he did not go down to his house.
If the evil deed is not judged, another evil emerges from the evil. David realizes that he has to take measures before it comes to light that he has committed adultery and he has to be killed. Now he becomes a murderer to avoid this fate. He comes up with a cunning plan.
Now that David has chosen the path of sin, he can do two things. He can acknowledge that he has been wrong and beg God for mercy. He can also continue on the way of sin and try to erase the consequences. He chooses the latter.
David has not yet set out to kill Uria. First he tries to get Uria with his wife surreptitiously. He lets him come to him. Hypocritically he informs to Joab, the men and how the war is going. He pretends concern for his men and the battle they are engaged in. Uria reports of it.
After the report David gives Uria leave to go home and be with his wife. He manipulates him to achieve that goal. Uria will undoubtedly also have relations with her. This will make it look as if the child being born is Uria’s child. The king’s adultery would then have remained hidden. How he abuses his royal power here! However, he did not take into account the loyalty of Uria.
When David lets Uria come to him and asks why he did not go home, Uria speaks the language of faith, the language of a faithful and dedicated believer. He cannot take his ease, as David did, by which he came to his sin. The words of Uria (verse 11) remind David of his own duty. God lets Uria say those things to speak to David’s conscience. It is an impressive plea of dedication, which at the same time exposes razor-sharp David’s unfaithfulness. We see in this discourse the love of God who speaks in a penetrating way to the conscience of David. But he is deaf to it, for he has silenced his conscience.
As David cannot be brought to leave the way of sin, so Uria cannot be brought to leave the way of dedication. Even the present David has sent out after him does not detract Uria from the way of faithfulness to his duty. David makes another attempt to get Uria with his wife (verse 12). He tries it with a new trick. He invites Uria to come and eat and drink with him. What is a proof of grace with Mephibosheth (2Sam 9:13) is a trick with Uria. David only uses his invitation to make Uria drunk, hoping that he would then go to his wife and have relations with her (cf. Hab 2:15-16).
David, however, fails to let Uria go to his wife Bathsheba to cover his terrible sin. Uria is in no way to be moved to forsake his duty. Uria’s dedication to his duty breaks up David. David's getting tighter and tighter and he's getting meaner, too. He is unstoppable and runs on the way of sin to a next sin.
14 - 25 David Lets Uria Kill
14 Now in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent [it] by the hand of Uriah. 15 He had written in the letter, saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” 16 So it was as Joab kept watch on the city, that he put Uriah at the place where he knew there [were] valiant men. 17 The men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David’s servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died. 18 Then Joab sent and reported to David all the events of the war. 19 He charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling all the events of the war to the king, 20 and if it happens that the king’s wrath rises and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? 21 Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’—then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’” 22 So the messenger departed and came and reported to David all that Joab had sent him [to tell]. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men prevailed against us and came out against us in the field, but we pressed them as far as the entrance of the gate. 24 Moreover, the archers shot at your servants from the wall; so some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” 25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your battle against the city stronger and overthrow it’; and [so] encourage him.”
David orders Joab to ensure that Uria is killed. It is nothing less than an order to have him murdered. The brave man who is prepared to die for the honor of his king is killed by his king. David has lost his mind through his adultery (Pro 6:32). He killed Goliath in broad daylight and before the eyes of all the people. He secretly lets the murder of Uria happen, as a work of darkness.
David is so hardened that he orders the murder by giving the letter for Joab and the instructions to Uria himself. The fact that he gives the letter to Uria is an extra proof of the integrity of Uria. David knows that this faithful soldier will never open the letter. By making Joab complicit in his iniquity, he simultaneously makes himself a slave to him. By the way, Joab did not have to do this. Later he also knows how to act when David is wrong in his eyes (2Sam 19:5-7; 24:3).
How deeply David sunk! When he was chased in the mountains like a partridge by Saul (1Sam 26:20), he was happier than now. Then he had a living faith and a good conscience.
Joab is well acquainted with David’s way of thinking, because he knows how he will react (verses 18-21). In view of this, the messenger must then say that Uria is dead. When David has heard the report, he does not become angry or sad, against Joab’s expectation (verse 25). He has achieved his goal and has got away from it by making a general remark, without any sympathy because of the death of his subjects. Uria is dead. That was what it was all about. He soothes Joab’s conscience, but his own conscience seems to be scorched.
26 - 27 David Takes Bathsheba to Be His Wife
26 Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 When the [time of] mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.
Bathsheba also receives the message of her husband’s death and mourns for him. This mourning must not have lasted too long and must not have been too deep, for immediately after the time of mourning David sends for her and she becomes his wife. In this way sin must remain hidden.
However, his sin will find him (Num 32:23). It also seems that the matter has become well known anyway. Can we not understand that from what Nathan says about the slander of the LORD’s enemies by this sinful act of David (2Sam 12:14)? It was also possible to count in that time and it was noted that the son of Bathsheba was born much earlier than nine months after his marriage.
David may have tried to hide his sin from the eyes of men, but it is impossible to hide it from the eyes of the all-seeing God. We read: “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the LORD.” We see what sin is to God when we read the profound confession of David in Psalm 51. This psalm David wrote “when the prophet Nathan came to him after he came to Bathsheba” (Psa 51:1a).
The lesson this history contains for us is that we must be careful not to hang around and do what the Lord commands. Sin never comes alone. We must be careful of the lust of the eyes. If we have sinned, we should not try to camouflage that sin, because that leads to another sin. We must confess sin. I am now thinking of the sexual relationship that the former President of the United States, Bill Clinton, had with Monica Lewinski (November 1995-March 1997, Wikipedia). How did he try to deny the charges so as not to lose his face to the world.
Actually, we should not even think about Clinton’s relationship with Lewinski. Don’t we have enough to do with ourselves? How often do we try to find an excuse for sin, so we don’t have to confess it, afraid of losing face as we are? That need not be just on the sexual level. It can happen in all kinds of situations. Also then there is One Who looks from the beginning and it must be said that it is “bad in the sight of the LORD”.
We may all pray for ourselves: ‘Lord, do not lead me into temptation, but keep me close to Yourself, in Your way. “Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You” (Psa 16:1). I know, Lord, that these words were in Your heart when You walked here on earth. You spoke them, not because You were afraid to stumble, but because as Man You found complete safety and protection with Your God. These words indicate how You were completely dependent on Your God. Thank You for allowing me to pray these words too. With me it is for fear that I give in to sin. There is so much around me that connects to the sin dwelling in me, that I want to ask again: Preserve me, O God, for I take refuge in You.’