Not so long ago I read 2 Samuel 11 and 12 and reflected on the various things that were recorded. It all began one evening when King David got out of bed and walked out on to terrace of his house. It was the custom at that time to rise at daybreak and take a nap when it was hot during the day and to lounge on flat-roofed terraces in the evenings when it was nice and cool.
The author of 2 Samuel 11 made a point of mentioning that it was during the spring of that year, at the time when kings went out to battle. However, David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel while he stayed in Jerusalem. David should have been with his men. That was where he belonged. Instead of leading his men into battle, the king was being led into temptation.
He came outside just in time to see a woman taking a bath. He must have stopped in his tracks, hardly believing his eyes. It says that she was beautiful to behold. This reminded me of Eve. She saw the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and saw that it was good for food and pleasant to the eyes. The woman was pleasant to David’s eyes. He desired to have her just as Eve desired to have the fruit.
In both situations, the temptation appealed to the senses–sight and appetite. Both wanted to sample what they saw. They saw no harm in it. Eve wanted to become wise. David wanted to satisfy his lust. The woman was beautiful and he wanted her. Even after he found out that she was married to one of his men, this didn’t phase him. This was God offering him a way out. She’s a married woman. Leave her be. Unfortunately, David succumbed to temptation. He sent messengers to get her and he slept with her.
After they were done, Bathsheba returned to her home. There was no contact until she became pregnant. She let David know as soon as possible. She might have been afraid for her life because if it were known that she had committed adultery she would be put to death. David tried to cover his tracks by sending for Uriah and after some small chat, he sent him home, hoping that he would sleep with his wife. David paid Uriah one of the greatest compliments by sending him some food from the royal table. David was going to great lengths to cover up his sin. He hoped that Uriah would jump at the opportunity to sleep with his wife after being away at war and when the child was born, the unsuspecting husband would think that it was his.
However David’s plan didn’t work. Uriah, a decent man, didn’t think that it was fair that he should enjoy the comforts of home while the other men were camping out in open fields. It didn’t seem right to him. His upstanding character only made David’s sin all the more terrible. Here was a man who didn’t want to get special treatment. Some men would call him crazy for passing up an opportunity to sleep with his wife.
David tried his best to get Uriah to do what he wanted. He invited him to dinner and got him drunk. Still Uriah didn’t go home to his wife. Again he slept at the palace entrance with the king’s palace guard. How this must have frustrated David who was growing desperate now. His plan to pass the unborn child off as Uriah’s failed miserably. Finally, David changed his strategy.
He wrote a letter which instructed Joab to “station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” Then he had Uriah himself deliver it to Joab. This was a cruel and coldblooded act. He was sending an innocent and wronged man to his death. Uriah was paying the consequences for David’s actions. David was the one deserving of death, not Uriah. Uriah had done nothing wrong. He was simply a loyal servant of the king. I wonder what must have gone through Joab’s mind when he read the contents of that letter? Did it change the way he saw David? He was an accomplice. He executed the king’s wishes even though they were wrong. Was he simply following orders?
When David was told that Uriah was killed, there was no remorse. And as soon as Bathsheba finished mourning for her husband, David married her. David’s dastardly deeds left an indelible stain on his character. What a far cry this man was from the ruddy youth and humble shepherd boy with the unshakable faith in the God of Israel. Lust had led this king to commit polygamy, adultery and murder. How this must have grieved God.
David’s actions led to consequences he could not have foreseen–the rape of his daughter Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon; the murder of Amnon by his half-brother Absalom; Absalom’s treason and Absalom’s death. The sins of David affected his children. David confessed his sin and repented when the prophet Nathan confronted him about it and was forgiven. We read David’s full confession in Psalm 51. However, his actions did not go unpunished.
God told David that “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” True to His word, the Lord struck the child and he became ill. David fasted and prayed but the child died. While he was alive, David said to himself, “Who can tell whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’” However, God made it clear that the child would not be spared. His exact words were, “the child also who is born to you shall surely die.” The child’s fate was sealed. There was no chance of him living. This was to be the consequence of David’s actions. The child he had tried to pass off as Uriah’s had to die.
As I read this, I remembered the same words God said to Adam. If he ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he would surely die. It was a certainty. Death would be the consequence of his disobedience. Death was the consequence of David’s sin–not his death but the child’s.
God who is righteous and holy had to make an example of David who willfully sinned against Him. When David committed adultery and murder, he was sinning against God. He acknowledged this. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge” (Psalm 51:4). The penalty of breaking God’s law was death. An innocent child died. Likewise, God’s innocent Son died for our sins.
The lesson of this all is that nothing or no one is worth all of this trouble. We can’t always get what we want. If God wanted David to marry Bathsheba, He would have made it happen. God blesses us with what we have and we ought to be thankful and not try to take what belongs to someone else. And this chapter in David’s life gives us an idea of what a person is capable of when he is influenced by the desires of the flesh and does not walk in the Spirit.