2 Samuel Chapter 12

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12

Nathan Rebukes David

        • Yahweh sent Nathan to David. When he came, Nathan said to him: “There were two men in a certain city. One was rich and the other was poor. The rich man had a large number of flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing except for a little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup, and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. Now, a traveler came to the rich man, and he didn’t want to take one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare for the guest who had come to him. So, he took the poor man’s lamb instead and prepared it for his guest.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, “The Lord sent Nathan to David at least nine months after his adulterous sin. This story is a rare OT instance of a parable (see also Judg 9:8-15)…”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “While Nathan’s parable did not speak of adultery and murder per se, Nathan’s rich man did resemble David in two specific respects: first, he ignored the many sheep that he had and took the one precious lamb of the poor man (a lamb that was like a ‘daughter’ to him (v. 3); the Hebrew word bat [‘daughter’] is the first syllable of the name Bathsheba); second, he followed his first offense with an act of audacious hypocrisy (i.e., his apparent show of hospitality in v. 4). Fundamentally, the rich man’s crime involved abuse of power, just as did David’s.”

        • David was infuriated with the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as Yahweh lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He must pay for that lamb four times over because of what he did and because of his lack of pity.”

            • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “While David’s emotional response was that the offender should die (v. 5), he restrained himself to remain within the law. Fourfold restitution for sheep theft is mandated in Ex 22:1…”

        • ESV Study Bible adds, “David has a true concern for justice when he is not blinded by his own passion…”

        • Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what Yahweh, the God of Israel says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel and rescued you from Saul’s hand. I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms. I also gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all of that that wasn’t enough, I would’ve given you more. Why then, have you shown contempt for the word of Yahweh by doing what I consider evil? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and you have taken his wife to be yours. Therefore, the sword will never leave your house, because you despised Me and you took Uriah the Hittite’s wife to be your own.’ This is what Yahweh says: ‘I will raise up evil against you from within your own family. Before your very eyes I will take your wives, give them to someone who is close to you, and he will sleep with them in broad daylight. You acted secretly, but I will do this in front of all of Israel and in broad daylight.”

          • HCSB writes, “The law of Moses required the death penalty for adulterers (Lv 20:10; Dt 22:22) and murderers (Gn 9:6; Lv 24:17; Nm 35:33), yet David was spared that penalty. Being king, of course, he had the ability to forestall action by whichever human authority would have dared enforce the law. But the Lord’s hand was also at work in the situation, for He could have overridden any such efforts. The Lord is a God of grace (see Ex 34:6), and chose to spare David’s life. In so doing He transformed David into a historical object lesson of divine grace…The Lord gave David better than he deserved; he would not die. But the consequences of his sins would play themselves out in the history of his family, as Nathan predicted (12:10-14, 18; 13:28-29; 18:14-15; 1 Kg 2:24-25).”

          • ESV Study Bible adds the following notes:

          • That the Lord has special concern for the poor is a major theme in the Bible, and as his representative, the king and other judges were supposed to protect against abuse by the powerful (Ex 23:6; Lev 19:15; Prov 31:9; Isa 3:14; etc)…”

          • In explanation of the statement “the sword will never leave your house,” “With the sword is a general term for causing violent death, as in 2 Sam 11:25, not necessarily a reference to the specific mode of death (see 11:24)…David’s sons Amnon (13:29), Absalom (18:15), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:25) all will die by the sword.”

          • Absalom will rebel against David and publicly lie with David’s concubines on a rooftop (2 Sam 16:22).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “His wives [rendered ‘your master’s wives’ above] were probably the concubines of Saul’s harem (cp 3:7)…”

        • David responded to Nathan, “I have sinned against Yahweh.” Nathan replied, “Yahweh has forgiven your sin; you will not die. However, because you have utterly scorned the word of Yahweh by what you have done, the child born to you will die.” Then Nathan went home.

          • Those comparing translations or consulting footnotes will see that there is a discrepancy between the Masoretic text in v. 14 and the Dead Sea Scrolls. NET Bible’s text critical notes explain this interesting situation:

          • The MT has here ‘because you have caused the enemies of the Lord to treat the Lord with such contempt.’ This is one of the so-called tiqqune sopherim, or ’emendations of the scribes.’ According to this ancient tradition, the scribes changed the text in order to soften somewhat the negative light in which David was presented. If that is the case, the MT reflects the altered text. The present translation departs from the MT here. Elsewhere the Piel stem of this verb means ‘treat with contempt,’ but never ’cause someone to treat with contempt.’”

          • ***Time Out*** Let’s spend a little time trying to understand exactly what has just happened considering Yahweh has just decreed that the child resulting from David and Bathsheba’s adulterous relationship will, in fact, die as a result of David’s actions. This is an undeniable truth. Verse 14 says that the baby will die because of how David treated Yahweh. Verse 15 states that it is Yahweh Himself who strikes the baby with the illness that kills him.

            • This is a hard pill to swallow. It’s very troubling. But, it is important that we don’t attempt to alter the facts of the situation just because we find them unpalatable or theologically difficult.

            • What do I mean by that? The following quote from an article addressing this topic is a prime example:

              • We are not told what actually caused the infant’s death, only that the infant died and God did not intervene to stop this death, despite David’s prayers. The pronouncement of the prophet that the child would die was an announcement of what God foreknew would transpire, a prediction of future events. It was not a judicial finding with subsequent execution by God. It did not mean God would kill the child or cause the child’s death, but rather that God knew the child would die and God would not intervene to miraculously save the child.”

            • Talk about a serious case of self delusion. No one is ever justified in completely misrepresenting the Biblical text because it offends a theological presupposition one may have.

          • That being said, this is an incredibly difficult text to comprehend, and the testimony of Scripture as a whole seems to send us mixed messages here. The following Scriptures seem to say that God does punish children for the sins of their fathers: Exod 20:5; 34:7; Num 14:18; Deut 5:9 etc. However, the following seem to say just the opposite: Deut 24:16; Ezek 18:20, etc.

          • While I have certainly read a lot of what I consider to be insufficient explanations, I won’t belabor the point by sharing them. Instead, I will offer what I find (so far) to be the best, most sufficient explanation and include quotes from a couple of sources in support of it. The explanation is really 2-fold:

            • 1) The death of David and Bathsheba’s son was not a punishment for the child, rather the child’s death was a punishment for David.

              • Now, some will object to this on the basis that they consider death to be a punishment to the child. I understand and am tempted to agree with this perspective. However, how I feel has no bearing on what Scripture teaches. And, I think that’s where the rub may be. Hence, the second point:

            • 2) When God says that sons won’t be punished for the sins of the fathers, He is speaking from an eternal perspective, not indicating that they will suffer no earthly punishment.

          • The following sources offer further supportive discussion:

            • RationalChristianity.net writes, “While David’s son died as a result of David’s sin…the effects ended there; he would not be punished for his father’s sin in the afterlife (Ezek 18:19-20). 2 Samuel 12:14 implies that the death of David’s son was meant to be a lesson to others who were disobeying God. When word got around that David had committed adultery and murder, some Israelites would probably have said to themselves, ‘If the king can do those things and not face any consequences, why can’t I?’ People in other nations who heard of it wouldn’t see it as reason to follow Israel’s God, but if they heard of the consequences they would know that God saw and dealt with David’s sin. It’s possible that his son’s death also ensured that David’s repentance was permanent, for he would always remember his son and the effects of his adultery.”

              • I think these passages can be understood by looking at what God does in the Bible. When parents do wrong or experience punishment on earth, their children share the ill effects – if a parent is put in jail, their children are adversely affected; if a parent is abusive or negligent, their children suffer. This sort of thing occurs in many places in the Bible. For instance, Achan and his family died as a result of his disobeying God (Joshua 7). However, while children often shared the earthly punishment of their parents, they would not be punished for their parents’ sins in the afterlife. Ezekiel 18 makes it clear that the real guilt belongs to the person who sinned, not their family. Deuteronomy 24:16 is an application of this principle to human-administered justice: while God decreed that some sins merited the death penalty, humans were not to apply the penalty to anyone other than the guilty party. If, as in the case of Achan, a family or nation was to be corporately punished, only God had the authority to decide that corporate punishment was merited.”

              • On the other hand, God often extends mercy to the families of people who are righteous. Rahab’s family was allowed to survive because she respected God (Joshua 2). God spared Noah’s family because Noah was righteous (Genesis 7:1). And of course the nation of Israel was blessed because of Abraham’s obedience to God (Genesis 22:17-18). Again, the blessings received by a righteous person’s family only affected their life on earth. A person’s relatives will not be saved or condemned in the afterlife because of that person’s actions; rather each will be judged as individuals.”

            • In other words, the true distinction is between life on earth and the afterlife. People do not receive precisely what they deserve while they are on earth; they are affected by the actions of those around them, and thus can be said to be punished (i.e. experience suffering) for their relatives’ wrongs. But this is a temporary state of affairs; when people enter the eternal afterlife, they will be judged as individuals, and what punishment they receive will be only for things they are truly guilty of.”

              • Why then would God corporately punish a family when not all of them had sinned? In some cases, the relatives of the wrongdoers shared in their guilt by failing to stop the person from doing wrong or rebuke them for their wrong. In other cases, it’s possible that the loss of the wrongdoer’s family line was part of their punishment.”

            • Finally, what about the passages in Matthew and Luke, which seem to say the Jews of Jesus’ day would be held accountable for murders committed by previous generations? Jesus’ statement is true in a figurative sense, i.e. that his contemporaries who rejected him would experience a far greater condemnation than others who rejected him without the benefit of hearing his teaching or seeing his miracles. The Jewish leaders were expected to know the Scriptures and be in close relationship with God, both of which would have enabled them to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. They were given advance notice of the Messiah’s arrival by John the Baptist. They also had many opportunities to hear Jesus’ teaching, interact with him and witness the miracles he performed, especially since Jesus focused his ministry on the Jews. Since they had far more opportunity to accept Jesus than anyone else, their punishment for rejecting him would be far greater than that of others…”

            • Inerrancy.org writes, “This was not the child’s punishment but the punishment for the guilt of David and Bathsheba. God will make everything just in the end, and we have to wait until then until we see complete justice on earth. Some Calvinists say that since babies die, this ‘proves’ that babies are guilty of Adam’s sin. This is false reasoning, because suffering consequences does not prove guilt. Otherwise, the fact that kittens die would ‘prove’ that they also are guilty for Adam’s sin. However, the truth of the matter is that all of Creation was subjected to the Fall, as Romans 8:19-22 says. Conclusion: 1. All Christians agree that newborn babies have no personal sins of their own. 2. All Christians agree that all are born with a sinful nature. 3. Unfortunately, all Christians do not yet agree that suffering consequences does not prove guilt. See Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties p.185-186 and 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered p.115-116 for more info”

David’s Child Dies

        • Yahweh afflicted the baby that Uriah’s wife had borne to David with an illness. David pleaded with God on behalf of the boy. David fasted and spent nights lying on the ground. The elders of his household stood over him to pick him up from the ground, but he refused, and he wouldn’t eat any food with them.

        • Guzik notes, “Though Uriah was dead, and David was legally married to Bathsheba, the Biblical writer still referred to Bathsheba as Uriah’s wife. This is because when the child was conceived Uriah was alive and Bathsheba was Uriah’s wife. It is God’s way of saying, ‘Uriah’s death and the subsequent marriage doesn’t make everything alright’..Extraordinary prayer and fasting are not tools to get whatever we want from God. They are demonstrations of radical submission and surrender to God’s power and will.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “David confesses and appears to have genuine repentance. Yet the results of his actions remain…When the child falls ill, David still hopes that the Lord might change his mind and so petitions him with fasting (as in Judg 20:26; Ezra 8:23; Est 4:16; Ps 35:13; etc…).”

          • Is it right for David to beseech God to spare the life of this child when He has already said that He is going to take the life of the child? I believe the answer is “Yes!” David knew that some prophecies were warnings of what God would do unless men repented. God sometimes foretold future judgment, which would come to pass if men did not repent. The hope for divine relenting in response to human repenting is set down in Jeremiah 18:5-8:

          • 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 6 ‘Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?’ declares the LORD.’Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. 7 At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; 8 if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.’”

        • David was certainly right in his assumption that the life of this child was in God’s hands, and that his best course of action was to appeal to God to spare the child’s life. David believed in the sovereignty of God, and thus he rested his case with God. David’s prayers are not only the expression of his repentance, but the exercise of his faith. Believing in God’s sovereignty did not keep David from taking action (fasting and praying); his faith prompted him to act.”

        • The baby died on the seventh day, and David’s servants were afraid to tell him that the baby was dead. They said, “When the baby was still alive he would not listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we tell him the baby is dead? He may do some harm.”

          • What were the servants afraid David would do? Translations render this in differing ways: that David would harm himself, do some harm, do something desperate, do evil, etc. NET Bible’s text critical notes points out, “The object is not stated in the Hebrew text. The statement may be intentionally vague, meaning that he might harm himself or them!”

        • When David saw his servants whispering to one another, he realized the baby was dead. So, he asked them, “Is the baby dead?” They answered, “He is dead.” David got up from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of Yahweh and worshiped. Then he came home, requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.

          • Guzik says, “This shows that David’s extraordinary prayer and fasting were answered. He had a sense of peace when the child died, knowing he did all he could to seek God’s mercy in a time of chastisement. The ability to worship and honor God in a time of trial or crisis is a wonderful demonstration of spiritual confidence.”

        • His servants asked him, “What did you just do? While the baby was still alive, you fasted and wept; but when he died, you got up and ate.” David replied, “While the baby was still alive, I fasted and wept, because I thought, ‘Who knows? Yahweh may be gracious to me and let him live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back? I’ll go to him, but he will not come back to me.”

        • And here we have come upon another short little sentence (the very last in the passage above) over which much debate takes place. What exactly did David mean by that:

          • Some argue that this is proof of some level of consciousness after death (an intermediate state) during which David expects to be reunited with his son. Others counter that this passage is no proof of that at all. Instead, they say, David could be referring to seeing his son again at the resurrection.

          • Some say this is evidence (regardless of the conscious intermediate state vs unconscious until resurrection debate) that all babies are automatically “saved,” or admitted into God’s Kingdom/eternity. Others object with differing views: only “elect” babies make it to God’s Kingdom; only babies who would have believed make it to the Kingdom; since no babies can repent and trust in Jesus Christ, none will enter God’s Kingdom; etc… This can be a particularly hairy discussion because it entails views on whether or not Scripture indicates that there is an age of accountability, man’s sin nature, total depravity, and even foundational doctrine such as original sin.

          • Some say that it is clear that whatever the details, at minimum we can say that David obviously expects to be reunited with his child at some point after death. To that, others counter that the sentence means no such thing. David is merely indicating that he, himself, will also one day die and be buried in the ground just like his son.

        • While all of these facets are clearly way too complicated to address in any detail, I will at least include Deffinbaugh’s response to the latter assertion that this text merely indicates that David is saying he will one day die and go into the ground, and that David is not insinuating any hope for re-unification with his son:

          • There are some who understand David to be speaking of joining the child in the grave. In the context of our text, I find it difficult to understand how. David has fasted, wept, and prayed, so much so that his servants have become concerned for his own well-being. They could not convince him to get up off the ground or to eat. Suddenly, after the child dies, David goes on with his life as though nothing had happened, and when asked why by his servants, he gives the answer we find in our text. A part of this answer is that while he cannot bring the child back, he will someday be with the child. In the minds of some, David would be saying something like this:

            • ‘I was greatly intent on expressing my repentance, and in petitioning God for the life of this child. But now the child is dead, and I know that he will be buried in lot #23 at Restland Cemetery. To my great joy and comfort, I know that I will be buried in lot #24. This is the reason why I can be comforted in my grief. We will be side by side in the grave.’

          • I simply do not find this explanation to be an adequate explanation for David’s comfort and conduct. I believe that David is looking beyond the grave, to his reunion with this child…”

The Birth of Solomon

        • David comforted his wife Bathsheba- he went and slept with her. She gave birth to a son and he named him Solomon. Yahweh loved him, and because Yahweh loved him, He sent word through the prophet Nathan to name him Jedidiah.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Even after Uriah’s death, Bathsheba was still called Uriah’s wife (12:9; see also Matt 1:6). Only here is she called David’s wife.”

      • The same source continues, “Solomon, pronounced Shelomoh in Hebrew…probably means ‘his peace,’ from the Hebrew shalom. It might mean ‘his replacement”; cp. Shelemiah (Jer 36:14), ‘Yahweh has provided compensation’) and Shelumiel (Num 1:6, ‘God [is] my compensation’); both contain the root shelem (‘replacement, compensation’). Jedediah means ‘loved by Yahweh.’ This God-given second name for Solomon, mentioned only here, guaranteed his future, as it expressed God’s special love for him.”

David Captures Rabbah

        • NET Bible writes, “Here the narrative resumes the battle story that began in 11:1 (see 11:25). The author has interrupted that story to give the related account of David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. He now returns to the earlier story and brings it to a conclusion.”

        • Meanwhile Joab fought against the Ammonite royal city of Rabbah, and captured it. Then Joab sent messengers to David saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and have captured its water supply. So gather the rest of the troops, lay siege to the city, and capture it. Otherwise, I’ll be the one to capture the city and it will be after me.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible explains, “Rabbah, capital of the Ammonite kingdom, was located at what is today Amman, Jordan, on a rocky 40-acre outcrop known today as the Citadel. It is referred to as the city of waters presumably because of its natural springs feeding the Jabbok River. However, this expression may refer instead to Rabbah’s water supply. During excavations in 1969, archaeologists discovered the remains of a city wall. The area enclosed by the wall included a 6-foot high tunnel cut through the bedrock. At the base of this tunnel was a staircase leading to an underground chamber 55 feet long and 23 feet high This chamber, similar to the underground water system discovered at Megiddo, may be the remains of Rabbah’s reservoir. Perhaps it is the structure to which Joab refers. With the water supply cut off, the city would soon surrender.”

        • Guzik adds, “Joab goaded David into returning to battle by saying, ‘I’ll take all the credit to myself if you don’t come and finish this war.’”

        • So David assembled all the troops, went to Rabbah, fought against it, and captured it. He took the king’s crown from his head and it was put on David’s head. The crown, which was made of gold and set with a precious stone, weighed 75 pounds. He also took a large amount of plunder from the city. He brought out the people who were in the city and put them under saws, harrows, and iron axes, then put them through the brick kilns. This is how he dealt with all the Ammonite cities. Then David and the whole army went back to Jerusalem.

          • The Greek has an interesting alternative tradition from the Masoretic on whose head David took the crown from which some Bible translations opt for instead. NLT Illustrated Study Bible footnotes explain, “Or from the head of Milcom (as in Greek version) Milcom, also called Molech, was the god of the Ammonites.” ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes that, “If the latter is correct, the phrase would refer to the crown worn by the city’s idol of Milcom. Several Ammonite statues depict divine and royal figures wearing large crowns.” NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Ammonite statues showing individuals (gods or kings) wearing large crowns have survived to the present day.”

          • ***Time Out*** Wait- most English translations say that David enslaved the Ammonites. Why have I sided with the Masoretic in saying that he tortured them by cutting them with various implements and burned them in brick kilns? While I was all but ready to chalk this up to error in the Masoretic text, especially since most English translations depart from it here, further research has revealed that the LXX and other ancient witnesses agree with the MT here also. Therefore, the torture rendering may very well be accurate rather than the far more palatable enslavement alternative (you know it’s bad when slavery is far more palatable).

          • The ESV is an example of how the passage is rendered by translations that opt for slavery:

            • 2 Samuel 12:31: “And he brought out the people who were in it and set them to labor with saws and iron picks and iron axes and made them toil at the brick kilns. And thus he did to all the cities of the Ammonites. Then David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.”

          • The following is the King James Version rendering:

            • 2 Sam 12:31: “And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.”

            • The HCSB (which sides with the slavery rendering) has this to say about the Masoretic tradition of this passage:

              • Did David make the Ammonites labor at brickmaking, or make them ‘pass through’ the brick kilns as a form of torture? The Hebrew MT (followed by the KJV) has the verb ‘pass through.’ This appears to be a scribal error in which the verb ‘avad “work” was replaced with ‘avar “pass over or through” by confusion of the similar-appearing Hebrew letters ‘d’ (daleth) and ‘r’ (resh).”

          • Ok, sounds good…but there’s a problem. This explanation doesn’t jive with the MT parallel passage in 1 Chronicles. So, it’s really hard to sell a scribal error here. The parallel to this passage in 1 Chronicles 20:3 of the Masoretic reads:

          • 1 Chronicles 20:3: “And he brought out the people that were in it, and cut them with saws, and with harrows of iron, and with axes. Even so dealt David with all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.”

          • Now, this text doesn’t mention David passing the Ammonites through the brick kilns, but it doesn’t just say he put them to work with saws and axes either. Rather, it says saws and axes were used to cut them, just like 2 Sam 12:31 says. How do all the other translations that side with slavery deal with 1 Chronicles 20:3? It appears that they just align it with the MT of 2 Sam 12:31. HCSB does have a footnote which reads, “text emended” as well as noting the MT rendering “and sawed them with the saw.” Other translations seem to just footnote the MT tradition (he sawed).

          • What does the Greek tradition (LXX) say? Below are the two passages according to the LXX:

          • 2 Samuel 12:31 (Benton version LXX): “And he brought forth the people that were in it, and put them under the saw, and under iron harrows, and axes of iron, and made them pass through the brick-kiln: and thus he did to all the cities of the children of Ammon. And David and all the people returned to Jerusalem.”

            • 1 Chronicles 20:3 (Benton version LXX): “And he brought out the people that were in it, and sawed them asunder with saws, and cut them with iron axes, and with harrows: and thus David did to all the children of Ammon. And David and all his people returned to Jerusalem.”

          • And, that’s not all. There are other witnesses, including the following:

            • Josephus sides with the MT and LXX in his Antiquities VII 7.5 “He also found many other vessels in the city, and those both splendid and of great price: but as for the men, he tormented them, and then destroyed them.”

          • So, if the MT and LXX are correct, then David tortured the Ammonites. And honestly, to me, the evidence seems to lean in that direction. Poole’s Commentary has this to say on the matter:

            • Put them under saws: he sawed them to death; of which punishment we have examples, both in Scripture, Hebrews 11:37, and in other authors. Under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron; he caused them to be laid down upon the ground, and torn by sharp iron harrows drawn over them, and hewed in pieces by keen axes. Made them pass through the brick-kiln, i.e. to be burnt in brickkilns. Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen, i.e. of Moloch, called also Milchom, and here Malchen; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they inflicted upon their own children: see 2 Kings 16:3 23:10 Leviticus 18:21 20:2 Deu 18:10.”

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