2 Samuel Chapter 11

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 11

David’s Sin with Bathsheba and Uriah (11:1-12:31)

            • Setting the context and clarifying chronology, ESV Study Bible writes, “The story of the Ammonite war continues up through 11:1 and is concluded in 12:26-31. In between comes the account of David and Bathsheba (11:2-12:25). The story of the war is thus a ‘frame’ around the story of David and Bathsheba: ‘Joab/Rabbah’ and ‘David/Jerusalem’ in 11:1 correspond to ‘Joab/Rabbah’ in 12:26 and ‘David/Jerusalem’ in 12:31.”

David and Bathsheba

        • In the spring, the time of the year when kings go out to war, David sent out Joab with his servants and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rammah, but David stayed behind in Jerusalem.

          • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “…the spring of the year would have been a typical time for military campaigning in the ancient Near East; the winter rains would have stopped and the labor-intensive harvest would not yet have arrived, thus leaving able-bodied men available for military exploits. Assyrian and Babylonian annals, which often mention the month in which a military campaign was launched, typically name the first month of the year (Nisanu) or the second (Aiaru), the new year beginning in springtime…”

          • The NLT illustrated Study Bible notes, “The first day of the year in the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar occurred in March or April.”

        • ESV Study Bible draws our attention to the subtle foreshadowing in this passage, “With the defeat of the Syrians, David is free to concentrate on besieging Rabbah…the time when kings go out to battle…But David remained at Jerusalem. The connection of these two phrases hints that something is wrong: the kings go out to battle, but this king does not. And all Israel went out to battle, but Israel’s leader did not. Readers can see a contrast between the king who is at leisure (11:2) and the soldiers on the field (v. 11).”

          • In the same vein, NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “This is the first mention of a leader of Israel staying off the battlefield in a time of war.”

        • Late one afternoon, David got up from his couch, and was walking on the roof of his house. From the roof, he saw a very beautiful woman bathing. David sent someone to ask about the woman. The messenger reported, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, Eliam’s daughter, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “The roofs of houses were flat and were regularly used for a variety of purposes, such as drying and storing produce (Josh 2:6), strolling and socializing, and sleeping in warm weather.”

        • Many Bible translations make it sound as if David got up from sleeping late at night to go walk on his roof. However, according to many commentaries this isn’t the best understanding of the scenario. Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers explains, “Late in the afternoon, when David had taken the siesta customary in Oriental countries, he rose from his couch and walked on the roof of his palace, which in the cool of the day was the pleasantest part of an eastern house. This palace was on the height of Mount Zion, and looked down upon the open courts of the houses in the lower city. In one of these he saw a beautiful woman bathing. In the courts of the houses it was common to have a basin of water, and the place was probably entirely concealed from every other point of observation than the roof of the palace, from which no harm was suspected.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “As v. 4 indicates, Bathsheba’s bathing was likely the purification rite prescribed in Lev 15:19-24 that was to follow menstruation. It is generally assumed that Bathsheba was in full view of the king and therefore some wonder about her intention or discretion. However, such an assumption is unwarranted. Even if Bathsheba was being appropriately discreet and the king’s actual view was limited, he knows what is taking place- he saw that she was bathing- and his imagination would be able to do the rest. Though most translations make it sound as if David did not know the identity of the woman, the city of Jerusalem was very small (10 acres…) at this point and most people living in it were likely part of the administration. Since Bathsheba’s husband and father have long been part of David’s select warriors, it is highly unlikely that David does not know her. It is also unimaginable that he does not know whose house he is looking at. Consequently, we should understand ‘David sent someone to find out about her’ (v. 3 ) as a requisition (not just to discover who she was).”

      • On Uriah, NLT Illustrated Study writes, “Uriah is a Hebrew name (meaning ‘Yahweh [is] my light’); either he was a foreign mercenary, a convert to Israelite religion, or an Israelite of Hittite heritage…He was one of the Thirty- David’s mightiest warriors (23:39).”

        • In his Bible.org article, David and Bethsheba, Bob Deffinbaugh takes the following position on Uriah’s identity, “It is obvious that Uriah had forsaken his own people and their gods to live in Israel, marry an Israelite woman, and fight in David’s army. He is no pagan, to be put to death. He is a proselyte…”

        • David sent messengers to get her. She came to him and he slept with her. (Now, she had just been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then, she went back home. Then the woman became pregnant and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “This notice [Now, she had just been purifying herself from her uncleanness.] indicates that Bathsheba has just finished menstruating, eliminating any possibility that Bathsheba could have been pregnant by her husband, thus complicating David’s attempt to cover up his misdeed.”

        • In an attempt to somehow make David’s actions look less atrocious than they were, many attempt to ascribe some amount of blame to Bathsheba. I find that there is absolutely no reason to come to this conclusion from the text. Deffinbaugh strongly agrees, and in the article cited above, lays out a very good case to support the view that Bathsheba is a victim in this account. The following are excerpts:

          • It is clear from the words of our text that David sinned. It is clear from the actions of David which follow that he sinned. It is clear from the words of God through Nathan that David sinned in a grievous manner. The problem is that many wish to view the text in a way that forces Bathsheba to share David’s guilt by assuming that she somehow seduced him. I would like to pursue this matter, because I believe there is absolutely no evidence to support such a conclusion.”

          • First and foremost, when Nathan pronounces divine judgment upon David for his sin, Bathsheba and Uriah are depicted as the victims, not the villains. When Adam and Eve sinned, God specifically indicted Adam, Eve, and the serpent, and each received their just curse. This is simply not the case with Bathsheba. Nowhere in the Bible is she indicted for this sin. It may be that the author did not choose to focus upon Bathsheba, but even in this case, the Law would clearly require us to consider her innocent until proven guilty.”

          • It is very clear in Samuel that the tragedies which take place in David’s household are the consequence of his sin, just as Nathan indicates (12:10-12). Thus, when Amnon rapes Tamar, the sister of Absalom, it is a case of the “chickens coming home to roost.” Note that it is at David’s command or summons that Tamar is called to the palace, and then to Amnon’s bedside. There is not so much as a hint that when Tamar is raped, it isn’t all of Amnon’s doing. Should this not strongly indicate that the same is true in Bathsheba’s case, of which this second incident is a kind of mirror image?”

          • When we read of this incident, we do so through Western eyes. We live in a day when a woman has the legal right to say ‘No’ at any point in a romantic relationship. If the man refuses to stop, that is regarded as a violation of her rights; it is regarded as rape. It didn’t work that way for women in the ancient Near East. Lot could offer his virgin daughters to the wicked men of Sodom, to protect strangers who were his guests, and there was not one word of protest from his daughters when he did so (Genesis 19:7-8). These virgins were expected to obey their father, who was in authority over them. Michal was first given to David as his wife, and then Saul took her back and gave her to another man. And then David took her back (1 Samuel 25:44; 2 Samuel 3:13-16). Apparently Michal had no say in this whole sequence of events.”

          • To approach this same issue from the opposite perspective, think with me about the Book of Esther. When the king summoned his wife, Queen Vashti, to appear (perhaps in a way that would inappropriately display her to the king’s guests), she refused. She was removed (see Esther 1:1-22). She did not lose her life, but she was at least replaced. Then, we read later in this same book that no one could approach the king unless he summoned them. If any approached the king and he did not raise his scepter, they were put to death (Esther 4:10-11). Does this not portray the way of eastern kings?”

          • Does this not explain why Bathsheba went to the king’s palace when summoned? Does this help to explain why she seems to have given in to the king’s lustful acts? (We do not know what protests — like Tamar’s in chapter 13 — she may have uttered, but we do have some sense of the powerlessness of a woman in those days, especially when given orders by the king.”

        • David sent Joab a message saying, “Send Uriah the Hittite to me.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the troops were doing and how the war was going. Then David told Uriah, “Go home and wash your feet.” When Uriah left the king’s house, the king sent a gift to him. But, Uriah didn’t go home. He slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord.

      • They reported to David, “Uriah didn’t go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just returned from a journey? Why didn’t you go home?” Uriah answered, “The ark, Israel, and Judah are living in tents, and my lord Joab and his men are camping in the open field. Should I go home, eat, drink, and sleep with my wife? As surely as you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing!” So David said to Uriah, “Stay here today and I will send you back tomorrow.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem that day and the next. David invited him to eat and drink with him and got him drunk. That night Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his lord’s servants, but he didn’t go home.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “Whether or not ‘wash your feet’ was a euphemism for sexual intercourse, Uriah certainly understood what David was implying (v. 11). If sexual abstinence was a requirement for soldiers on active duty, as may be inferred from 1 Sa 21:5 (cf Deut 23:10), David may have been seeking to entrap Uriah in a ritual infraction and thereby find legal grounds for eliminating him. In any case, David’s hope was that Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba and thus cloud the paternity issue. Uriah’s refusal to indulge himself while the armies of Israel were in the field must have been a stinging rebuke to David, whether Uriah intended it to be so or not (we are left in the dark about what Uriah did or did not know of David’s affair).”

        • On the “tents” Uriah mentions, the NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “(Hebrew, sukkoth, the name behind Sukkot, ‘the Festival of Shelters,’ Deut 16:13-17): These were temporary structures made of branches and foliage used by soldiers in the field, herdsmen protecting their cattle, or grape harvesters in the vineyard.”

        • The same source continues, “Uriah was willing to wine and dine with David…, so it was not sharing the table with Bathsheba that Uriah wished to avoid but sharing the marriage bed…”

David Arranges for Uriah’s Death

        • In the morning, David wrote Joab a letter and sent it by Uriah. In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah at the front of the fiercest fighting, then withdraw from him so that he will be struck down and killed.”

        • Guzik writes, “Having failed to cover his sin, David wanted Uriah dead. Many adulterers secretly wish death would free them to marry the object of their adultery. This is the very heart of murder even if the deed is not done. David had the power to act on his wish…David trusted the integrity of Uriah so much that he made him the unwitting messenger of his own death sentence.”

        • As Joab was besieging the city, he stationed Uriah where he knew the most valiant enemy soldiers were. When the men of the city came out to fight against Joab, Uriah the Hittite was killed along with some of David’s men.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Uriah was not the only casualty: David sacrificed several other Israelite soldiers while attempting to hide his sin.”

        • Guzik adds, “David commanded Joab to arrange Uriah’s death. Though it was hidden by the raging battle, Uriah was murdered just as surely as if David killed him in his own home…Joab did exactly what David commanded. He knew it was wrong but simply followed orders and murdered Uriah at David’s order.”

        • Then Joab sent a messenger to give David a battle report. He told the messenger, “When you have finished giving the account of the battle to the king, then, if the king gets angry and asks, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot from the top of the wall? Who killed Jerubbesheth’s son, Abimelech? Didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone down on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so close to the wall?’ then you will answer, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”

        • Guzik mentions Meyer’s comments on this situation, “Meyer imagines Joab saying, ‘This master of mine can sing psalms with the best; but when he wants a piece of dirty work done, he must come to me.’”

        • Guzik continues explaining, “ This is a reference to Judges 9:50-57, where Abimelech was killed by coming too close to the walls of a city under siege. The idea is that Joab knew it was a bad military move to get so close to the walls, but he did it anyway on the command of David.”

        • In his article for Bible.org, David and Uriah, Deffinbaugh writes, “This the reason for Joab’s careful instructions to the messenger. He is to report the attack on the city of Rabbah to David, and then tell of the Israelite losses which result. Joab knows that David will react (perhaps hypocritically) to the report of the attack and the resulting losses. It is at this point, Joab instructs the messenger, that he is to inform David of the death of Uriah. This will certainly end any protest or criticism on David’s part.”

        • On the confusion of names, ESV Study Bible clarifies, “Abimelech was a son of Gideon, who was also known as Jerubbaal (Judg. 8:29-9:57). Here, the element ‘baal’ in a name is changed to ‘bosheth’ (‘shame’), so it becomes son of Jerubbesheth, as cane be seen elsewhere in Samuel with the names Ish-bosheth and Mephibosheth…”

        • The messenger left and when he came to David, he reported all that Joab had sent him to tell. He said, “The men overpowered us and attacked us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot down at your men from the top of the wall, and some of your men were killed. Your servant Uriah the Hittite was also killed.” David told the messenger to encourage Joab by telling him: “Don’t let this matter upset you. The sword devours this one today and that one tomorrow. Intensify your attack on the city and overthrow it.”

        • ESV Study Bible says, “David probably knows that Joab would not have been happy about killing a good commander. David is saying, ‘He might have been killed anyway.’”

        • Guzik adds, “This was a proverb regarding fortunes of war. It was a way of saying, ‘These things happen.’ David said it to his own guilty conscience as much as he said it to Joab.”

        • When Uriah’s wife heard that he was dead, she mourned for him. After the time of mourning had passed, David had her brought to his house. She became his wife and bore him a son. However, Yahweh considered what David had done to be evil.

        • On Bathsheba, Deffinbaugh points out, “When she informs David that she is pregnant, David takes decisive action, but nowhere are we told that Bathsheba has a part in his schemes.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible notes, “The Biblical text offers no indication of Bathsheba’s feelings for Uriah, except to observe that she mourned for him. [The] time of mourning [was] probably seven days, which seems to have been the customary period (Ge 50:10; 1 Sa 31:13)…”

        • On David’s acquiring yet another wife, Guzik says, “This was nothing new for David. He had added wives before, so now he simply added another.” He goes on to cite Smith, “David is sort of a hero now, in the eyes of the people. He has taken into his harem, the poor, pregnant wife, the widow of one of his fallen captains, so that the people say, ‘My look at the way he stands behind his men! He takes care of their widows when they are killed in battle. My what a marvelous king!’”

        • Deffinbaugh offers a list of invaluable lessons Christians can learn from this series of horrific events:

          • First, ‘Can a Christian fall?’ Yes. Some folks in the Bible may cause us to question whether they really ever came to faith in God, folks like Balaam or Samson or Saul. But we have no such questions regarding David. He is not only a believer, he is a model believer. In the Bible, David sets the standard because he is a man after God’s heart. Nevertheless, this man David, in spite of his trust in God, in spite of his marvelous times of worship and his beautiful psalms, falls deeply into sin. If David can fall, so can we, which is precisely what Paul warns us about:

          • 11 Now these things happened to them as an example were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. 12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall (1 Corinthians 10:11-12).”

 

          • Second, ‘How far can a Christian fall?’ This far. David not only commits the sin of adultery, he commits murder. I think it is safe to say that there is no sin of which the Christian is not capable in the flesh. I have heard people say, ‘I don’t know how a person who _______ could have ever been a Christian.’ There are times — like this time for David — when others will hardly know we are saved by the testimony of our actions.”

 

        • Third, ‘How fast can a Christian fall?’ This fast. It is amazing how quickly David falls into the sins depicted in this one chapter. Apart from God’s sustaining grace, we can fall very far, very quickly. Let us be reminded of this fact from David’s tragic experience.”

 

        • Fourth, sin snowballs. Sin is not stagnant; it is not static. Sin grows. Look at the progression of sin in our text. David’s sin starts when he ceases to act like a soldier and becomes a late sleeper. David’s sin grows from adultery to murder. His sin begins very privately, but as the story progresses, more and more people become aware of it, and worse yet, more and more people become participants in it. His sin first acted out by his taking another man’s wife, and then taking her husband’s life, and along with his life, the lives of a number of men who must die with him to make his death credible. David’s sin blossoms so that it transforms a true and loyal friend (Uriah) to his enemy, and his enemies (the Ammonites, and in some senses, Joab) into his allies.”

 

        • Fifth, when we seek to conceal our sin, things only get worse. Thus, the best course of action is to confess our sins and to forsake them.”
  • He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (Proverbs 28:13).
        • How much better it would have been for David simply to have confessed his sin with Bathsheba and found forgiveness then, but he tries to cover up his sin, and it only makes matters worse. Man has been seeking to cover up his sins ever since the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve thought they could cover their sins by hiding their nakedness, and if not this, by hiding themselves from God. But God lovingly sought them out, not only to rebuke them and to pronounce curses upon them, but to give them the promise of forgiveness. It was God who provided a covering for their sins. The sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is God’s provision for covering our sins. Have you experienced it, my friend? If not, why not confess your sin now and receive God’s gift of forgiveness in the person and work of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary?”

 

        • Sixth, our text makes Uriah a hero and a model, not a chump and not a sucker...Is Uriah gullible? Is he ignorant of what David is trying to do? I don’t think so. This is what makes his loyalty to David and to God’s Law so striking. I think it is safe to say that here Uriah is very much like David in his earlier days, in terms of his response to Saul. As Saul sought to kill David unjustly, because he was jealous of his successes, so also David submitted himself to faithfully serving Saul, his master. He left his safety and future in God’s hands, and God did not fail him.”

 

        • Seventh, Uriah is a reminder to us that God does not always deliver the righteous from the hand of the wicked immediately, or even in this lifetime. Daniel’s three friends told the king that their God was able to deliver them. They did not presume that He would, or that He must. And God did deliver them. I think Christians look upon this deliverance as the rule, rather than the exception. But when Uriah faithfully serves his king (David), he loses his life. God is not obliged to ‘bail us out of trouble’ or to keep us from trials and tribulations just because we trust in Him. Sometimes it is the will of God for men to trust fully in Him and to submit to human government, and still to suffer adversity, from which God may not deliver us. Spirituality is no guarantee that we will no longer suffer in this life. In fact, spiritual intimacy with God is often the result of our sufferings (see Matthew 5). In the Old Testament, as in the New, God sometimes delivers His people from the hands of wicked men, but often He does not. Their ‘deliverance’ comes with the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Uriah, like all of the Old Testament saints of old, died without receiving his full reward, and that is because God wanted him to wait. Uriah, like many of the Old Testament saints, was not delivered from the hands of the wicked. This is pointed out by the author of Hebrews:

 

          • ’13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. . . . 32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; 36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated 38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. 39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect (Hebrews 11:13-16, 32-40).’
            • Uriah should not be criticized or looked down upon for his loyalty and submission to David. He should be highly commended. In fact, a friend suggested a new thought for my consideration: ‘Suppose that Uriah was added to the list of war heroes because of his loyalty and courage in this battle which cost him his life?’ It is a possibility to consider. Uriah is one of those Gentile converts whose faith and obedience puts many Israelites to shame. He is among many of those who have trusted and obeyed God who have not received their just rewards in this life, but who will be rewarded in the coming kingdom of God. Too many Christians today want their blessings ‘now’ and are not willing to suffer, waiting for their reward then. Let them think carefully about the example of Uriah for their own lives.”

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