DAVID AND BATHSHEBA
II Samuel 11:1-12:25
3. The First Cover Up
4. The Second Cover Up
5. God Sees
6. God Judges
7. God's Mercy
8. Concluding Remarks
There are no Ďnewí sins.
Even though we can talk about Ďcomputer fraudí, itís still Ďfraudí even though itís performed in a different medium. The things we do wrong are the things men and women have always done wrong - thatís why older christians try to steer younger ones away from the things that they themselves got ensnared by, were led astray by or saw others stumble because of.
Even though the older believerís advice can sound legalistic to the young person - a series of Ďdonít do thisí or Ďdonít do thatí which seem to designed to remove what little fun there is from living - it normally has certain wisdom and reason attached to the instruction which the new convert would be better off thinking about rather than outrightly rejecting.
A fly may do what it pleases for a long time and enjoy the freedom of a house for many days but, as soon it gets entangled in the spiderís web or begins to ingest the fly poison that the owner of the house has set up to kill such insects, it will no longer be free to go about itís own way.
Beware of such spiders, so the advice goes, for they donít play games (Is 14:17).
However, we often give our old enemy - satan or the devil - too much glory. I have spoken above of the enemy trying to trap or ensnare a believer in order to remove the life of Christ from them. But, in the passage we are going to be looking at here (II Sam 11:1-12:25), satan is decidedly absent from any and all of the circumstances that transpire.
Here, weíre looking at one man allowing his own desires to have free course and, when things go rather badly wrong, of plotting to cover up his mistakes. Satan was nowhere to be seen and, indeed, was probably so delighted at Davidís own personal self-destruction, that he had nothing that needed to be done as he watched one of Godís believers remove the glorious destiny that had been promised him through this one incident and replace it with a future that brought him trouble and suffering from Godís hand.
To understand the problem, weíll take the incident step by step. The reader should make sure that he has read the passage before embarking on this commentary.
II Sam 11:1-3
ĎThereís no harm in lookingí is a saying that the world has devised for itself but which is not an absolute truth. For some people, to look is to allow their weaknesses to come to the fore even though some, who have a strong will, will be able to resist with ease what others find a temptation. When we see something we want, we begin to desire it and we are then led astray by our own desires and begin to crave something that we want to possess, whether thereís a good reason why we can or canít have the object of our desire.
James 1:4 notes that temptations to sin are sure to come - there is no way that a believer can go out of the worldís systems and still be effective for Christ, thinking to lock himself away from desire and so prevent himself from being tempted. Desire comes from within a man (Mark 7:21-23) and will be there whether the believer stares at the four plain walls of a hermitís cell or sees the full potential of manís achievements in any of the worldís great cities.
Temptations, then, are sure to come to the believer because the desire to sin springs up from within a man and is not an external phenomenon that we get plagued with or Ďcatchí. However, temptation is not, in itself, sin - but giving in to the temptation is.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness (Mtw 4:1-11 - here it was by satan as a result of His circumstances) for a significant period of time but never gave in to the continual bombardment that sought to remove Him from the centre of Godís purposes. The situation here was a little different than what normally befalls us, the temptation that Jesus was given being external to Him, whereas the temptations we experience are egged on by the desire which is within us and which is fired up by our fallen nature set opposed to the will of God.
God certainly does not tempt us (James 1:13) but our own desires give way to temptation and we are only too good at contriving situations for ourselves to get what we desire.
In the incident cited at the beginning, David had the option of asking God for Bathsheba as his wife - even though she was the wife of another man, he could have waited to see whether God would answer his prayer and so not take the matter into his own hands.
Davidís position is peculiar here and may seem almost alien to many of us for he had the whole of the kingdom of Israel and Judah and had all that he could ever need at his disposal, letting himself desire what he was not rightfully entitled to and forgetting or suppressing the commandment which had been his delight throughout his life which read (Ex 20:17)
ĎThou shalt not covet...your neighbourís wifeí
It should have been a simple thing for David to turn his eyes away from the scene which he was witnessing and look the other way, or even to go down below into his house so as not to allow himself to be tempted but, continuing to stay on the roof, he overlooked the courtyard where Bathsheba was washing herself to cleanse her ceremonial defilement after a period of seven days following her menstrual discharge.
II Sam 11:4-5
David gave in to the temptation and allowed himself to sin. Though satan may use our weaknesses, it is us who sin and we bear the responsibility. Of course, as previously noted, satan is far, far away from this incident and shouldnít be looked on as being the prime mover.
Notice that God did not stop David sinning but that David already knew the commandment that should have steered him away from committing such an act (Ex 20:14). We, too, have Godís words which we must apply to our lives and remember them when we find ourselves in situations that would lead us away from the way that is obviously Godís. Unfortunately, although David knew the commandment he didnít apply it.
If we know what is right to do and yet we fail to apply it to our situation then, figuratively speaking, we are more guilty than those who do not know Godís Word (James 4:17). Now, being christians, we have no excuse for ignorance. This is why we are told to count the cost of discipleship before we follow Jesus (Luke 14:28-30) in case we fail to complete what we started.
Davidís problem here, then, was that he did not master his desires but, rather, gave in to the temptation that presented itself to him (James 1:15a).
Notice here, though, Godís hand in this incident which, all too often, goes unnoticed.
Bathsheba had just cleansed herself from the ritual defilement of her menstrual discharge that had been outlined under the Law (Lev 15:19-24, II Sam 11:4) so that David actually slept with her during a Ďsaferí period than at other times.
Let me go through the reasoning for the statement may be a little lost on most of us (which it was on me until I started thinking about it). I am assured by a nurse friend of mine that the average menstrual cycle for a woman is 32 days - 4 days of discharge with 28 free. The reader may disagree with that statement but if they work though the reasoning here, they will get virtually the same answer.
In that 32 day period, I am going to call the four days of discharge days 1 through 4, while the remaining days are 5 through 32. Now, if Bathsheba was cleansing herself from her menstrual discharge, then she would have been performing it on day 12 in our example (Lev 15:19 - that is, four days of discharge plus 7 days of waiting).
Now, the prime time for conception to take place is two days either side of the 28 day Ďcleaní period which would correspond to the numbered days 16 through 20, reaching a peak on day 18. I asked my nurse friend what chances there would have been for conception occurring on days 12 and 13 in my example and was told below 1% and around 4% respectively.
The chances for conception to have taken place on day 12 in our example are virtually nil, therefore, with a 4% chance of occurring if sexual intercourse had taken place on day 13 (David may have delayed one day while he was enquiring about the woman and plotting what to do, even though the text doesnít read this way to me).
In other words, Bathsheba shouldnít have got pregnant and Davidís sin should have remained hidden. So why did she get pregnant? Is there something we can say here about the dealings of God with His servants?
It appears that the likelihood is that God made sure David wasnít going to hide his sin by allowing Bathsheba to conceive. Sin always comes to light (Num 32:23), whether visibly for people to see or an inward voice that will not keep silent. Here, Bathsheba became pregnant and David, upon finding out, could have admitted his sin before God and Uriah, Bathshebaís husband - but, instead, he tried to cover it up.
God isnít being a spoilsport here by bringing Davidís sinful actions to light, but allowing him opportunity to repent and to come back into a right relationship with Him. The final outcome of the childís life may have been much different had David come forward and admitted his responsibility but, as it was, Davidís own denial of responsibility ended ultimately in the death of the baby (II Sam 12:14,18), something which, having been directly judged by God, he found it impossible to avert through prayer.
3. The First Cover Up
II Sam 11:6-13
Sin leads to sin.
It is degenerative and forces mankind to commit grosser sin until they are overtaken by spiritual death. Paul notes this in Rom 1:18-32 where the simple act of rejecting the plain truth about God leads ultimately into all kinds of perverse acts which are considered abominable before the Lord. Sin, then, is destructive and tears down.
Obedience to the way of the Spirit, however, is edifying to a man or woman and builds up a person into more of the person they were created to be.
David, in his first attempt at a covering of his own sin, tried to make someone else responsible - what he effectively does is to try and get Uriah to sleep with his wife so that he naturally thinks that the conception that has taken place is the result of his action.
If Bathsheba had conceived on day 12 of our 32 day cycle as previously noted, David would have been told by Bathsheba of her pregnancy somewhere around day 36 when her normal monthly discharge had been missed. So, weíre looking at a time period of around three and a half weeks from when the sin was first committed to when Uriah is summoned to appear before the king in Jerusalem.
David here uses deceit and it is only that Uriah is more upright in heart and noble than David that his plan ultimately fails, refusing to take his ease and pleasure when his brothers were under threat of destruction and death in battle against the Ammonites (II Sam 11:11).
So, David hasnít covered his sin and he contrives a subsequent situation whereby he deliberately gets Uriah drunk to try and overcome his resolve not to take his own pleasure by sleeping with his wife. Of course, it must have been some strategy that David successfully employed here for Uriah would have been a reluctant participant in the celebrations and it is noticeable that the Scripture says (11:13 - my italics) that
Ď...[David] made him drunk...í
But God refuses to let David cover his sin and Uriah once again sleeps in the presence of the king - whether Uriah would have been in any fit state to actually have had intercourse with his wife is another matter entirely, but just waking up in the same bed as his wife and not remembering what went on the night before would probably have been sufficient to make him think that he had, somehow, impregnated her and that the resulting pregnancy was his responsibility.
Again, God gives David ample opportunity to repent by refusing to allow a cover up but Davidís response seems to be only to try and contrive another situation whereby he can sort out the mess heís in where he doesnít have to confess and deal with his sin.
This is so similar to what took place in the Garden (Gen 3:8) that it shows us that, throughout all the years since the Creation, man just hasnít changed. He still tries to cover his own sin and hide from the convicting presence of God.
4. The Second Cover Up
II Sam 11:14-25
David is getting desperate. Even though confession is the simplest course of action, David instead chooses murder to rid himself of having to judge himself and condemn his own actions. David chooses here once more to deliberately transgress one of the ten commandments, ĎThou shalt not killí (Ex 20:13), even though he really should have been wise to what he is now attempting to do.
David had positioned himself so that he is only attempting to cover his sin rather than confess it (James 4:2-3). From the Ďsimpleí matter of deceit, David jumps straight into pre-meditated murder. We shouldnít overlook the significance of this and should note that our often proclaimed Ďlittle white lieí can often be quite a whopper which leads us into a course of action that, had we initially started with the premise, we would have rejected.
If David had been told at the very beginning of the chapter ĎWhy not murder Uriah?í he would have balked at the suggestion but now circumstances are dictating to David the way he is acting and he is no longer in control of his own destiny, having chosen a course of action that he is being driven to complete.
Throughout these series of events, David always has opportunity to repent and return back to God, but consistently he chooses to go his own way (Prov 14:12).
Sin always leads from one action to another and, as previously noted, is degenerative. Like the beginning of an avalanche or when a snowball rolls down a hill, things begin small. Sometimes we fail because of our weak nature, even though God cannot accept that as a valid excuse, having crucified our old way with Christ on the cross (see my notes on Baptism).
If such things should happen to us and we step out into a place where we stand actively opposed to Godís will for our lives, we need to remember not to cover our sin, because it cannot and will not be covered forever. Simply approach God and confess before Him what has been committed wrongly and then, from that confession, He may show us something that needs to be done in order for things to be put right.
If theft has taken place, restitution will need to be made. If the sin affects only an individual then it may be necessary to go to that individual and admit to what has been done to ask forgiveness from them.
David, at the very least, needed to confront Uriah and admit what heíd done and take it from there. Lev 20:10 commands that both the adulterer and the adulteress be put to death and Uriah would have been well within his rights to insist upon the death penalty. Even if Bathsheba were to claim that she had been raped, the death penalty would still have been enforceable upon both because she had not cried out when the action was being taken (Deut 22:24).
It may have been a chance that David should have taken in confessing before Uriah as to what heíd done because it seems more likely that he would have forgiven the infidelity because of his love for his wife and for his previously demonstrated love for the nation (II Sam 11:11).
But David saw only the need to cover his sin no matter what the ultimate cost.
5. God Sees
II Sam 11:26-27
To the time of Davidís first sin to the time of Godís dealings with him, there transpired at least nine months during which time David could have repented - the only problem being that now David would need to confess to murder rather than the initial act of adultery.
But, if my understanding of Davidís position is correct, he thought that heíd covered it all up rather nicely.
II Sam 11:27 is the first time that God is mentioned in this story but He hasnít been far from the proceedings throughout and has been monitoring the situation from the first day that the thought entered Davidís mind that he wanted to have sex with Bathsheba.
God allows His people to make their own choices that are set against His will. True, He may warn them but, if they fail to heed His voice, He will not always stop them as can be seen through this incident. But this story is a little different from that scenario mentioned for God is not recorded as coming to David until after the event. In other words, David should have been able to assess the situation correctly from what he already knew about God and so make the correct decision.
When God has given David ample opportunity to repent, He has no other choice - if He is to bring David back to Himself - but to step into the picture and judge His servant.
The world gets away with many sins in the short term that Godís people cannot be allowed to, for Godís concern is to make us more like His Son with each passing day. A father loves his child when he corrects him from living in ways that are opposed to what is right and correct - so, too, it is because God loves His people that He must enter into judgment with them and break the power of sin which hangs over their lives.
God sees all things and every area of our lives are laid bare before Him - everything we do, God knows about, whether good or bad (Heb 4:13).
6. God Judges
II Sam 12:1-23
God turned to Nathan the prophet to let David judge himself as to his punishment. David, as you would have expected, condemned himself and seems to have totally forgotten about the previous incidents in which he trampled over Godís laws for His people. Had it still been alive in his mind, he may have been rather more wary in uttering the condemnation of the man in the story that heís being told.
Nathanís illumination of Davidís sin (II Sam 12:9) shows us that God held him up to be guilty on at least two counts each of which deserved the penalty of death (Lev 20:10, 24:17), but David was convicted of his sin (II Sam 24:13 and see Psalm 51).
What happens here, though, is very specific for David finds that his sin is forgiven (II Sam 12:13) but that Godís judgment upon his life is still going to be enforced (II Sam 12:14). There is a difference between the forgiveness of sin and the defilement which causes judgment to fall upon an individual or nation. Both have been dealt with by Christ at Calvary but they are not the same thing and it needs to be realised that, although the forgiveness of sins may be granted to us by God, any consequent judgment may not necessarily be revoked or reversed.
Judgment here is because David had despised and rejected what He knew was the will of the Lord, not that he was unaware of what he should do and fell foul of a Ďhiddení rule. Therefore, because of disobedience to the will and purpose of God, David showed that his regard for God was tantamount to hatred. The act of disobedience brought judgment even though the sin was considered by God to be as if it had never happened.
Godís judgment left a scar on Davidís life that was never removed and forgotten but which was written down for all to see. Sin does cause scars - even though we may be forgiven our sin, the judgment may still be carried out. David did find the forgiveness of God in this incident even though God did not avert His judgment upon both David and the baby which had been conceived (II Sam 12:11-12,14).
Sin looks good sometimes in our own eyes but what our vision never shows us is the scar it will leave, especially on the inside of our lives and from which there is no running away. God, in His mercy, may heal those scars but we will live with the memory even if He should.
Scars are things that are visible - cuts in our character that are weaknesses through which we give ourselves into the hands of the enemy, who uses both the flaws and scars within us when he gets opportunity. There was a similar consequence that came about as a result of this incident for Ahithophel, Absalomís counsellor in the rebellion against David (II Sam 15:12, 15:31, 15:34), appears to have been the grandfather of Bathsheba whom David had taken in adultery (II Sam 11:3, 23:34). Although God had spoken that the judgment would fall, there was good reason for it for a relative of one of those heíd wronged appears to have allowed himself to become so bitter that they were happy to plot against the established rule. We may think that this reaction was only natural but God foresaw it and allowed Ahithophel free vent to his bitterness and anger which resulted in David receiving judgment for his sexual act.
So, the spoken judgments were fulfilled in Davidís life - II Samuel 12:10 in II Sam 13:28-29 and I Kings 1:5, and II Samuel 12:11 in II Samuel 16:22.
David was very much in anguish of heart because he knew that God would execute judgment upon him. When it happened, he acknowledged that it was the hand of God that was against him (II Sam 16:11 - this verse may be taken as only referring to just the incident of cursing).
How better it would have been for David never to have given in to temptation or, when he had, to have repented before God immediately and sought to put right his error instead of trying to cover it up through further sin.
7. Godís Mercy
II Sam 12:24-25
Though we sin, God uses our errors for His glory. God does not cause us to sin so that He can use the error of our ways, but neither is He taken by surprise when they do occur. He uses what we have done against Him so that we may glorify His name in us and deals with the past, putting it away and using the experience for His glory.
Sometimes, the influence of the past has to be removed and the weakness strengthened so that God is able to use us in situations in which others would stumble. Whatever God may do, the power of the past needs to be broken so that God can use it for His glory.
Davidís sin, as we have seen, was forgiven even though the judgment was yet to be implemented. But God, in His infinite mercy, used both David and Bathsheba to bring to Him Solomon, the next king of Israel and Judah, who built the Temple in Jerusalem.
Godís mercy is overflowing towards us - He will use our sinful past to His advantage, His glory and our delight in Him.
8. Concluding Remarks
First and foremost, we can learn from this incident that we should not yield or give in to temptation. All our problems in our relationship with God develop from our refusal to cut across what feels right to do and to do what is known to be pleasing to God.
If, however, temptation is given in to and sin committed, never try and cover the sin for, as David discovered, it leads only to greater and greater sin and, once in the rut of trying to cover oneís tracks, it is only a short time before all manner of sin will be committed to protect oneís own back.
Finally, remember that the forgiveness of sin and the judgment upon sin are two different concepts and actions. In Godís time we may repent of our wrong doing by asking forgiveness and putting right those things that our sin has affected.
But, having oneís sin forgiven does not ameliorate Godís judgment and there may be certain consequences of our actions that develop out of the situations that we have created for ourselves.
However, as I said at the beginning of this section, it is far better that we do not give in to temptation, than to need to know experientially the next steps along the way to renewed peace with God.