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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

2 Samuel 11

Verse 1

THE BAD DAYS OF DAVID'S REIGN

(2 Samuel 11-20)

These chapters relate David's sins and God's punishment of them. Willis classified the events of these chapters as follows:

(1)"David's adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah followed by God's judgment against David (2 Samuel 11-12);

(2) the rape of Tamar by Amnon and his murder by Absalom (2 Samuel 13);

(3) the rebellion of Absalom (2 Samuel 14-19); and

(4) the rebellion of Sheba."[1]

THE FALL OF THE MAN AFTER GOD'S OWN HEART

Up until this chapter, the sacred narrative has been one unbroken account of the successes and honors of David the king of Israel, but beginning with the episode related in this chapter, there follows a long and tragic record of the lustful sin that displeased the Lord and resulted in a series of the most grievous divine punishments as a consequence.

It is true, of course, that David was called a "man after God's own heart," but there is no mention of that, as far as we are able to determine, after the shameful events of this chapter. There was never a sinless person on this earth, save only the Lord Jesus Christ; and the signal honors bestowed upon David by God Himself were never intended as any kind of suggestion that David's life would not be blemished by sins, as in the case of all the other sinful mortals who ever lived.

In the days of his youthful innocence, David was no doubt entitled to the praise which is heaped upon his name in the Word of God; and, in addition to that, David never failed to repent of his sins when they were exposed, always asking and receiving the forgiveness of God. Furthermore, he never, for a moment, failed to acknowledge the One True God of Israel.

In God's eternal plan of redemption for Adam's sinful race, David occupied a key position as God's chosen founder of that dynasty which, in the fullness of time, would legally convey the title, "King of Israel" to Him alone, who, of all who ever lived, was justly so named. The conveyance of that title came through the descendants of Bathsheba and her son Solomon; significantly, that title of Jesus Christ was inscribed by Pilate upon the Cross itself! but there was something else.

David was also the literal and fleshly ancestor of the blessed Messiah through his son Nathan who stands in the ancestry of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Thus, in a double sense, the Messiah was truly the "son of David" (Matthew 1:1), his legal son through Joseph from whom he inherited the kingship, and his actual son through "Nathan the son of David the son of Jesse" (Luke 3:31).

Great indeed as were the honors and privileges heaped upon David by God Himself, the Lord did not, in any sense, diminish or temper the punishments poured out upon David as a consequence of his sins. David was the man after God's own heart in that God foreknew his unwavering faith in the One True God and that there was also in him the ability to found the Kingdom of Israel that stands in the Scriptures as a forerunner and type of the Kingdom of God, which is the True Israel.

DAVID REMAINS AT HOME IN JERUSALEM

"In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem."

"Israel's great victory at Medeba took place in the autumn; but with winter coming on, Joab returned to Jerusalem,"[2] no doubt intending to renew the siege of Rabbah in the spring. However, circumstances delayed that enterprise for a full year, during which Hadadezer and all of his allies were defeated and subjected to David; thus it was the following spring that found Joab renewing his siege against Rabbah; but this time David remained in Jerusalem, confident that Joab alone would be able to handle the subjugation of Rabbah. This verse is included here to set the stage for the tragedy that followed. Instead of being with his soldiers in the field of battle, David remained at ease in his capital.

"In the spring ... when kings go forth to battle" (2 Samuel 11:1). It would have been well for David if indeed he had gone forth to battle as kings were supposed to do; but as Payne put it, "There is dramatic irony in this verse, because this is precisely what David did not do."[3] He remained at ease in Zion where temptations overwhelmed him.

Verse 2

DAVID COMMITTED ADULTERY WITH BATHSHEBA

"It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, `Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came unto him, and he lay with her, (Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, `I am with child.'"

"He saw from the roof a woman bathing" (2 Samuel 11:2). Our text here does not indicate that there was anything improper about Bathsheba's bathing in such a place which exposed her; but the suspicion remains that she was not nearly so discreet as she should have been. Most of the commentators blame David, pointing out that, "In the East, it was improper for one neighbor to look over the battlements of his house into the inner court of the adjacent building."[4] In this light, David appears in this passage as somewhat of a "Peeping Tom." At any rate, he had no business whatever feasting his lustful eyes upon the feminine charms of his neighbor's wife. "We do know that David would have been saved much sorrow if he had looked in some other direction instead of continuing to look at that naked woman."[5]

In this connection, it should be noted that David already had a harem of at least twenty women, who, it seems, should have been fully capable of gratifying David's sexual lust; but no! That is not the way lust operates. Gratifying the appetites of the flesh only intensifies them and strengthens their power to overwhelm men in sin.

"Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" (2 Samuel 11:3). Bathsheba was also called Bathshua the daughter of Amiel (1 Chronicles 3:5). Amid here is a legitimate variation of Eliam, "The component syllables being placed in reverse order."[6] The meaning is practically the same for both variations. "They mean, the God of my people or the people of my God."[7] Bathsheba's father Amiel is also said to be the son of Ahithophel (2 Samuel 23:34), which would mean that Bathsheba was the granddaughter of Ahithophel; and, "This goes a long way to explain Ahithophel's opposition to David,"[8] during the rebellion of Absalom. He no doubt would have resented the shame and disgrace that David had brought upon his beautiful granddaughter Bathsheba.

"Uriah's name is a compound of [~Yah], indicating that he was a worshipper of Jehovah."[9] His high rank as an officer of David, and his residence adjacent to the palace indicate that at that time there was no objection to Hittites marrying the daughters of Israelites, as came to be the case in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah. Both Amiel and Uriah were numbered among David's "mighty men" (2 Samuel 23:34,39); and David's respect for this noble soldier who daily risked his life in the service of the king should have led him to deny the lust aroused in him by her exposed beauty.

"So David sent messengers and took her" (2 Samuel 11:40). There is no suggestion here of any unwillingness on Bathsheba's part, which supports the suspicion regarding her which we mentioned earlier.

"She was purifying herself from her uncleanness" (2 Samuel 11:4). This is a reference to her bathing. "The remark is added to explain why conception followed so immediately."[10] The "uncleanness" mentioned here refers to a woman's menstrual period; and, as Adam Clarke noted, "That is the time in which women are most apt to conceive."[11]

"And he lay with her" (2 Samuel 11:4). What a shame that, "The man who had previously shown himself so noble and chivalrous, here stoops to rob one of his own officers of his honor. Stern and terrible was his punishment."[12] Here David set the stage for the brutal, savage rape of his daughter Tamar, by one of David's sons. Here was the cause of Absalom's murder of Amnon. Absalom's conceited rebellion was another consequence of this lustful violation of Bathsheba's honor by David. God revealed to David that because of this terrible sin, "The sword shall never depart from thy house."

"From that day, David's house was the scene of horrible crimes, feuds, scandals, miseries of every kind; and the long interval after his repentance, reaching from the birth of Solomon until David's death, is passed over by the Scriptures in gloomy silence. No act of the penitent king after he was restored to his throne (after Absalom's rebellion) was deemed worthy by the sacred historian of any mention whatever."[13]

"And she sent and told David, `I am with child.'" (2 Samuel 11:5). Both David and Bathsheba were guilty of a capital offense by their sin. Leviticus 20:10 has this, "If a man commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death." Thus, Bathsheba recognized the danger she was in and sent word to the king, confident that he would, in some manner, handle the situation. Bathsheba was in great alarm, as no doubt was David. Uriah was exactly the type of man who would have demanded and executed the supreme penalty against his unfaithful wife, and both David and Bathsheba were acutely aware of this. David's power as king enabled him to avoid the death sentence for himself and his adulteress lover; but, "Already punishment was beginning to be required of both of them."[14]

Verse 6

DAVID WAS TRYING TO COVER UP HIS SIN

"So David sent word to Joab, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered. Then David said to Uriah, "Have you not come from a journey? Go down to your house, and wash your feet." And Uriah went out of the king's house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house"? Uriah said to David "The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go down to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing." Then David said to Uriah, "Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house."

In view of Uriah's determination not to visit his wife, some scholars suppose that, "It is not impossible that a rumor of his wife's adultery had reached Uriah."[15] Of course, there seems to have been a stern prohibition against sexual relations on the part of soldiers who were consecrated to warfare (1 Samuel 21:5), but that does not appear to this writer as a sufficient explanation of Uriah's behavior in this episode.

"Send me Uriah the Hittite" (2 Samuel 11:6). David had only one purpose in this, namely, that of bringing Uriah home so that the child to be born to Bathsheba might APPEAR to be the child of Uriah. This was effort no. 1 by David to hide his own sin.

"David asked him ... how the war prospered" (2 Samuel 11:7). This was pure hypocrisy on David's part. He had brought Uriah to Jerusalem for an utterly different purpose than that of getting information about the progress of the war. His purpose here was to deceive Uriah as concerning David's real purpose in sending for him. This was David's effort No. 2.

"Go down to your house and wash your feet" (2 Samuel 11:8). This was David's effort no. 3. It was a direct invitation of the king for Uriah to spend the night with his wife. "The expression `wash your feet' was a well-known idiom fully understood and explained by Uriah in 2 Samuel 11:11."[16]

"But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house" (2 Samuel 11:9). David had instructed some of his servants to observe Uriah's actions and report back to the king. One wonders if those servants were the very persons who had brought Bathsheba to the king's bedroom. "Those servants (messengers) were some of the vile people who hang about great personages ready to minister to their sins."[17] Such "servants" would certainly have gossiped among themselves about the king's actions.

"They told David, `Uriah did not go down to his house.'" (2 Samuel 11:10). David must have been naive indeed if he supposed that the members of his household had faithfully kept his sinful behavior a secret. By this time, his shameful conduct was known all over Jerusalem.

"The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths" (2 Samuel 11:11). Some scholars consider it uncertain, but apparently the ark of the covenant had been carried with Israel in their siege of Rabbah. The fact that, during Absalom's rebellion, the ark was also carried by Absalom's supporters supports the idea that it was customary for Israel to take the ark with them into battle (2 Samuel 15:24).

"Booths" (2 Samuel 11:11). Payne believed that this word is a reference to the temporary dwellings used by Israel during the Feast of Tabernacles, indicating that, "Now some six months had passed,"[18] since the spring of the year when the siege began.

"I will not do this thing" (2 Samuel 11:11). This flat refusal of Uriah to spend the night with Bathsheba forced David to take further steps in his vain efforts to conceal his sin.

"So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next" (2 Samuel 11:12). This was David's effort no. 1 to conceal his wickedness. He extended Uriah's leave, still hoping that he would go down and spend the night with his wife.

"He made him drunk" (2 Samuel 11:13). This was effort no. 5, the same being another sin in the eyes of the Lord. Habakkuk has this: "Thus saith the Lord, Woe to him who makes his neighbors to drink ... and makes them drunk ... shame will come upon your glory" (Habakkuk 2:15,16). "Robbing a man of his reason is worse than robbing him of his money; and drawing him into sin is worse than drawing him into any trouble whatsoever."[19] This fifth effort on David's part to maneuver Uriah into spending a night with Bathsheba was completely foiled by Uriah's steadfast refusal. Instead, he slept with the guard at the entrance to the palace.

We have already seen that one sin always leads to another; and when once a sinner has embarked upon such a downward road there is no limit to the number or grievousness of the sins that will be committed.

Verse 14

DAVID MURDERED EIGHTEEN MEN; INCLUDING URIAH

"In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, `Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die.' And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was slain also. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting: and he instructed the messenger, `When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, then, if the king's anger rises, and he says to you, "Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerub-besheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone upon him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?" then you shall say, `Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'"

"In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab" (2 Samuel 11:14). This act of treachery on David's part was exceedingly despicable in that he even sent the letter by the hand of Uriah whom he had ordered slain! This was effort no. 6 on David's part to avoid public knowledge of his own adultery. Yes, the dog-like loyalty of Joab to David is evident in the truth that Joab would not have hesitated to do anything, no matter how wicked, if he knew that David desired it done.

"Some of the servants of David ... fell. Uriah the Hittite was slain also" (2 Samuel 11:16). The Septuagint (LXX) has a somewhat fuller account of this episode, and from it we learn that the number of the slain was eighteen men,[20] all eighteen of them murdered (their death was nothing else than murder) by the express command of David and the expert compliance with his order on the part of Joab. This massacre was effort no. 7 by the sinful king to cover up his crime. However, even more was to follow.

"Joab then added his own touch to this iniquitous drama. He went through the form of sending the king a report of the disaster which followed his sending men too near the wall. With well-feigned hypocrisy, he makes the messenger believe that David will be displeased at the loss of life, and will blame him for his lack of caution; but it is curious that the messenger was instructed to make mention of the death of Uriah only after the king expressed his anger."[21]

It is not at all unlikely that David had suggested this kind of a report in that letter to Joab. Such a procedure would make everything look "oh, so normal." We cannot be certain of this. Nevertheless, we shall call this effort no. 8!

Verse 22

THE MURDERS WERE ATTRIBUTED TO THE FORTUNES OF WAR

"So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, `The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; and some of the king's servants are dead; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.' David said to the messenger, `Thus shall you say to Joab, "Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; strengthen your attack upon the city, and overthrow it," and encourage him.'"

David no doubt hoped that this would be the end of any embarrassment arising from his violation of Uriah's wife. After all, Uriah's death was due merely to the chance casualties of a battle - nothing to worry about! However, as we have already suggested, everybody in the whole city of Jerusalem was fully aware of what had happened; and David would soon confront God's prophet and receive the terrible sentence pronounced upon him.

Verse 26

DAVID MARRIED BATHSHEBA; COVER-UP NO. 9

"When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she made lamentation for her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord."

All of David's efforts to maneuver Uriah into resuming his relations with Bathsheba bear eloquent testimony to the fact that David really had no intention whatever, at first, of marrying Bathsheba; but there was no way to avoid it. She was already pregnant with David's child, and the situation required, absolutely, that David marry her.

"She made lamentation for her husband" (2 Samuel 11:25). "This whole episode suggests that she observed the form without the feeling of sorrow. She lost a captain and got a king for her spouse; and what an affliction that was! She must have shed reluctant tears and forced out groans from a joyful heart."[22]

We have called this marriage, "Cover-Up No 9." And that is exactly what it was. However long the `mourning' lasted, as soon as it was over, "David took Bathsheba as his wife, so that she might be married to him as long as possible before the child was born. He hoped thus to forestall any suspicion of premarital relations that might otherwise arise."[23]

"But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord" (2 Samuel 11:27). The next chapter carries the account of God's dramatic confrontation with David in the appearance before the king of Nathan the prophet. It was a moment of tragic sorrow for David and for all Israel.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/2-samuel-11.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.