1 - 6 A Rich, a Poor and a Traveler
1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said,
“There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.
3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb
Which he bought and nourished;
And it grew up together with him and his children.
It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom,
And was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man,
And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd,
To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him;
Rather he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
When the child is born, Nathan is sent to David by the LORD. Why did the LORD wait so long? Is that perhaps because He waited in His great patience for David’s confession? However, this confession does not come. Therefore He must come now Himself.
Nathan, when he arrives at David’s house, starts telling him a story without any introduction. He has already come to David once before. Then he came with a beautiful word from the LORD about building the house of David (2Sam 7:4-17). Now he comes with a message of judgment. He does so in the form of a story to discover David to himself.
In the story Nathan tells, David is the rich man and Uria the poor man. David is the man with “great many flocks and herds”, which represent the many wives he has, which is very much against the thoughts of God. The poor man is the man with the one little ewe lamb, the simple soldier Uria, who has one wife, which is very much in accordance with God’s thoughts. In the traveler we see the picture of lust that can present itself just like that. The question is what someone does with this traveler when he arrives at his place. You can send him away or take him into your home. He who takes him into the house, which is in his heart, and gives him food, is in the power of the traveler.
When David hears the story, his “anger burned greatly”. He makes a sharp and twofold judgement. As for him, the rich one “deserves to die”. At the same time, he demands that the rich one compensate the poor with a large amount of compensation: “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold.” The latter is according to the law and also happened with David. He has lost four children: the child he conceived in unfaithfulness, Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah.
His judgment that the rich man “deserves to die” goes beyond the law. It is inconceivable that David had no exercises of conscience. However, a human being can suppress these exercises. Yet they are there and they appear here in a word about others. If he had not lived in sin himself, he would not have pronounced such a judgment. He pronounces this judgment on himself.
How well we can judge others, while we ourselves may be living in sin (cf. Rom 2:1)! If we realize this deeply, we will pray: ‘Lord, give me the opportunity to learn from what I notice of others who I am. Give me to take to heart what You say about the log and the speck (Mt 7:3-5). I want to be discovered on myself, but am I open to it? If You show me something that is not good, give me that the first thing I do is to place myself in Your light so that You can show me who I am. In that attitude, let me go to others to serve’ (Gal 6:1).
7 - 9 David Faced with His Sins
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if [that had been] too little, I would have added to you many more things like these! 9 Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
The words “you are the man!” strike David into the deepest of his conscience. They are enough to break him completely and bring him to a complete confession. That is the proof that he is truly a believer. The right word at the right time can lead a wandering believer to confession.
Nathan says to David what he got when the LORD made him king instead of Saul. He has also received everything that had belonged to Saul. David is reminded of how many blessings God has given him. And if that was too little, God would have wanted to give more (verse 8b), if he had only asked Him to do so, and had not acted arbitrarily. By his actions David “despised the word of the LORD”. We may ask ourselves whether we are satisfied with what God has given us and whether we are grateful to Him for that. If we want more, we should ask Him.
Because David despised the word of the LORD, he came to a double sin. First of all, he took his neighbor’s wife. Secondly, he killed his neighbor.
10 - 13 God’s Judgment on David’s Sins
10 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ 11 Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give [them] to your companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’” 13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.
David has despised the LORD Himself. Sin is a contempt of God’s Word (verse 9) and of God Himself. Sin can be forgiven. That certainty God Himself gives in His Word (1Jn 1:9). This does not mean, however, that the consequences will always be removed. If our children have sinned, they get punishment. Confession is not to escape a deserved punishment, but to restore the relationship broken by sin. We must bear the consequences.
For David it means that the sword he has used will not depart from his house. He will experience his one beloved child killing his other beloved child. Isn’t that terrible? It also means that the sin of fornication he has committed is punished with what will happen to his wives. His neighbor will commit adultery with his wives. That neighbor will turn out to be his son Absalom (2Sam 16:22). What David has done in secret shall be done with his wives in full daylight. The punishment is heavy because his sin is heavy.
The only word David speaks after Nathan has confronted him with his sin is: “I have sinned against the LORD” (verse 13). Nathan sees through the depth and sincerity of this statement. David doesn’t need to argue. Where there is true humiliation and confession, they will be recognized, no matter how few words are used. Nathan, therefore, speaks without hesitation directly that the sin is forgiven.
14 - 23 The Death of the Child
14 However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.” 15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was [very] sick. 16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. 18 Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was [still] alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do [himself] harm!” 19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And they said, “He is dead.” 20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed [himself], and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22 He said, “While the child was [still] alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23 But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
There is also a direct punishment for sin, after confession, because of the blaspheming by the enemies of the LORD that was caused by David through his deed. That direct punishment is the death of the child born of adultery. The LORD could have killed the child immediately, but first he makes him sick to death for a week because of an incurable disease. Bathsheba is still called “the wife [lit. translation] of Uria” (verse 15). It emphasizes that the child is attached to the sin David did.
The death of the child is also the grace of God. It forbears that David has to live with this son who would have constantly reminded him to the sin of adultery. This grace is not given to anyone in such a situation. That does not mean that there is no grace for such a person. If there is true repentance for sin, God has another form of grace for that situation. Where sin has entered, there is always grace with God that goes beyond sin when an appeal is made to Him.
David cannot and will not accept what has been said to him about his son. What he hears leads him to an intense search of God for the child. He is completely focused on this need. David knows that God’s heart can be moved. We learn from David what prayer is. David does not accept the message as a fate. He knows God as a God who can revoke a decision. That is not because the decision is not good, but because He wants to be prayed for it. Our prayers have a place in God’s plan. Our relationship with God determines our begging.
As said before the LORD does not directly take the life of the child. It takes seven days before he dies. In those seven days David seeks God and fasts. He spends the night lying on the ground. This also means that after the confession of verse 13 there will be a period of awareness of what really happened. This is also necessary in our lives. After failure and confession we cannot immediately continue. Restoration takes time.
David does not eat with the elders, i.e. he has no contact with them. God uses those seven days (a full period) to bring David to awareness of what he has done. David will undoubtedly have seen his sin in all its awfulness before God. The child is the result. At the same time he hopes for the grace of God to let his son live. God does not do that. That is not because He could not do otherwise. God has often let Himself be entreated. God does not do it now, possibly because He does not want to leave a memory of sin.
If the child died on the seventh day, his servants do not dare to say it to David. Although they live close to him, they don’t know him very well. They look at the matter from a human point of view. However, prayer life cannot be viewed in a natural way. When David hears that the child has died, he takes it from the hand of God. That is trust. The fervent prayer must go hand in hand with a full confidence in God. Thus the Lord Jesus prayed in Gethsemane. After He had risen from His prayer there, He could continue His way in peace.
When the child has died, David’s attitude changes (verse 20). He stands up, washes and anointed, changes his clothes and goes to the place where the ark is. There he bows down in adoration. The one who prays is also a worshiper. After that he eats again. The servants ask him how this can be done. Their question testifies that there is a good relationship between the servants and their king.
David tells them of his deep exercises in the presence of the LORD. The result is not that the child is healed, but his confidence in the LORD is strengthened. He does not speak of the death of the child as an inevitable event, but as a matter which he accepts from the hand of the LORD. He rests in the will of the LORD, not because he cannot do otherwise, but because the LORD knows what is best.
In so doing, he does not close his eyes to the actual situation. The child is dead. Fasting further makes no sense. No one can bring a dead person to life. What God has taken, a man cannot take back, not even David. Something else is possible. In faith David speaks about going to the child. Such statements are rare in the Old Testament. It is clear to him that the child is in glory. We may know that of all children who died young.
24 - 25 Birth of Solomon
24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him 25 and sent [word] through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the LORD’s sake.
When David is restored, he is able to comfort Bathsheba. Only now does God’s Word speak about Bathsheba as David’s wife. They have a son. David calls him “Solomon” which means “peaceful” or “man of peace”. He becomes the first-born, the successor of David. In 1 Chronicles this son is announced and it is told to him how his name will be (1Chr 22:9-10). That fits with that book, because in it God writes history from the point of view of His advice and not from the point of view of man’s responsibility as here. God will be this son to Father, and Solomon will be Him to son. Thus Solomon is a picture of the Lord Jesus. Hence we read here: “The LORD loved him.”
Again the LORD sends his prophet Nathan with a message to David. This time the message again contains an encouragement. Nathan must tell David which name Solomon gets from the LORD. His name must be “Jedidiah”, which means “beloved of the LORD”. This is a small star that shines in the scene of adultery and murder. It is the light in the darkness of sin. In him we find, as it were, the history of the house of David concentrated.
26 - 31 The City of Rabbah Captured
26 Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the sons of Ammon and captured the royal city. 27 Joab sent messengers to David and said, “I have fought against Rabbah, I have even captured the city of waters. 28 Now therefore, gather the rest of the people together and camp against the city and capture it, or I will capture the city myself and it will be named after me.” 29 So David gathered all the people and went to Rabbah, fought against it and captured it. 30 Then he took the crown of their king from his head; and its weight [was] a talent of gold, and [in it was] a precious stone; and it was [placed] on David’s head. And he brought out the spoil of the city in great amounts. 31 He also brought out the people who were in it, and set [them] under saws, sharp iron instruments, and iron axes, and made them pass through the brickkiln. And thus he did to all the cities of the sons of Ammon. Then David and all the people returned [to] Jerusalem.
After the birth of Solomon the final victory over the Ammonites is described. Yet we also see here that David’s restoration does not fully restore his spiritual power and insight. Joab should encourage him to be active. We also see that his performance against Rabbah has something cruel, which we are not used to from David. Possibly this occurrence is also a consequence of his life in sin. His fellowship with God has been restored through his confession, but the long loss of fellowship with God can lead to a weakening of the knowledge of God’s will.