Adam Clarke Commentary
2 Samuel 11
David sends Joab against the Ammonites, who besieges the city of Rabbah, 2 Samuel 11:1. He sees Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing; is enamoured of her; sends for and takes her to his bed, 2 Samuel 11:2-4. She conceives, and informs David, 2 Samuel 11:5. David sends to Joab, and orders him to send to him Uriah, 2 Samuel 11:6. He arrives; and David having inquired the state of the army, dismisses him, desiring him to go to his own house, 2 Samuel 11:7, 2 Samuel 11:8. Uriah sleeps at the door of the king‘s house, 2 Samuel 11:9. The next day the king urges him to go to his house; but he refuses to go, and gives the most pious and loyal reasons for his refusal, 2 Samuel 11:10-11. David after two days sends him back to the army, with a letter to Joab, desiring him to place Uriah in the front of the battle, that he may be slain, 2 Samuel 11:12-15. He does so; and Uriah falls, 2 Samuel 11:16, 2 Samuel 11:17. Joab communicates this news in an artful message to David, 2 Samuel 11:18-25. David sends for Bath-sheba and takes her to wife, and she bears him a son, 2 Samuel 11:26, 2 Samuel 11:27.
When kings go forth - This was about a year after the war with the Syrians spoken of before, and about the spring of the year, as the most proper season for military operations. Calmet thinks they made two campaigns, one in autumn and the other in spring; the winter being in many respects inconvenient, and the summer too hot.
In an evening-tide - David arose - He had been reposing on the roof of his house, to enjoy the breeze, as the noonday was too hot for the performance of business. This is still a constant custom on the flat-roofed houses in the East.
He saw a woman washing herself - How could any woman of delicacy expose herself where she could be so fully and openly viewed? Did she not know that she was at least in view of the king‘s terrace? Was there no design in all this? Et fugit ad salices, et se cupit ante videri. In a Bengal town pools of water are to be seen everywhere, and women may be seen morning and evening bathing in them, and carrying water home. Thus David might have seen Bath-sheba, and no blame attach to her.
The daughter of Eliam - Called, 1 Chronicles 3:5, Ammiel; a word of the same meaning, The people of my God, The God of my people. This name expressed the covenant - I will be your God; We will be thy people.
And she came in unto him - We hear nothing of her reluctance, and there is no evidence that she was taken by force.
And the woman conceived - A proof of the observation on 2 Samuel 11:4; as that is the time in which women are most apt to conceive.
Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet - Uriah had come off a journey, and needed this refreshment; but David‘s design was that he should go and lie with his wife, that the child now conceived should pass for his, the honor of Bath-sheba be screened, and his own crime concealed. At this time he had no design of the murder of Uriah, nor of taking Bath-sheba to wife.
A mess of meat from the king - All this was artfully contrived.
Slept at the door - That is, in one of the apartments or niches in the court of the king‘s house. But in Bengal servants and others generally sleep on the verandahs or porches in face of their master‘s house.
Camest thou not from thy journey? - It is not thy duty to keep watch or guard; thou art come from a journey, and needest rest and refreshment.
The ark, and Israel - abide in tents - It appears therefore that they had taken the ark with them to battle.
He made him drunk - Supposing that in this state he would have been off his guard, and hastened down to his house.
David wrote a letter - This was the sum of treachery and villany. He made this most noble man the carrier of letters which prescribed the mode in which he was to be murdered. This case some have likened to that of Bellerophon, son of Glaucus, king of Ephyra, who being in the court of Proetus, king of the Argives, his queen Antia, or as others Sthenoboea, fell violently in love with him; but he, refusing to gratify her criminal passions, was in revenge accused by her to Proetus her husband, as having attempted to corrupt her. Proetus not willing to violate the laws of hospitality by slaying him in his own house, wrote letters to Jobates, king of Lycia, the father of Sthenoboea, and sent them by the hand of Bellerophon, stating his crime, and desiring Jobates to put him to death. To meet the wishes of his son-in-law, and keep his own hands innocent of blood, he sent him with a small force against a very warlike people called the Solymi; but, contrary to all expectation, he not only escaped with his life, but gained a complete victory over them. He was afterwards sent upon several equally dangerous and hopeless expeditions, but still came off with success; and to reward him Jobates gave him one of his daughters to wife, and a part of his kingdom. Sthenoboea, hearing this, through rage and despair killed herself.
Uriah the Hittite died also - He was led to the attack of a place defended by valiant men; and in the heat of the assault, Joab and his men retired from this brave soldier, who cheerfully gave up his life for his king and his country.
If - the king‘s wrath arise - It is likely that Joab had by some indiscretion suffered loss about this time;; and he contrived to get rid of the odium by connecting the transaction with the death of Uriah, which he knew would be so pleasing to the king.
The sword devoureth one as well as another - What abominable hypocrisy was here! He well knew that Uriah‘s death was no chance-medley; he was by his own order thrust on the edge of the sword.
She mourned for her husband - The whole of her conduct indicates that she observed the form without feeling the power of sorrow.
When the mourning was past - Probably it lasted only seven days.
She became his wife - This hurried marriage was no doubt intended on both sides to cover the pregnancy.
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord - It was necessary to add this, lest the splendor of David‘s former virtues should induce any to suppose his crimes were passed over, or looked on with an indulgent eye, by the God of purity and justice. Sorely he sinned, and sorely did he suffer for it; he sowed one grain of sweet, and reaped a long harvest of calamity and wo.
God of purity and mercy! save the reader from the ευπεριστατος ἁμαρτια , well circumstanced sin; and let him learn,
See the notes on the succeeding chapter, 2 Samuel 12 (note).
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