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Monday, May 27th, 2024
the Week of Proper 3 / Ordinary 8
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 12

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

David’s response to his sins 11:26-12:15a

At first, David piously tried to salve Joab’s conscience for his complicity in Uriah’s death (2 Samuel 11:25). The Hebrew word translated "displease" literally means "be evil in your sight." David was calling what was sin something other than sin (cf. 1 John 1:9). What David had done was not only evil in Joab’s eyes, but, of infinitely greater importance, it was evil in God’s eyes. David further hardened his heart and covered up his sin by marrying Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:27).

"The Hebrew phrase translated ’had her brought [NIV]’ (2 Samuel 11:27) is literally ’sent and collected her’ and emphasizes the abuse of royal power that David is increasingly willing to exercise. . ." [Note: Youngblood, p. 938.]

The same phrase appears in 1 Samuel 14:52 where it describes Saul’s method of recruiting soldiers.

"How could a man-a man after God’s own heart-fall to such a level? If you are honest about your own heart, it’s not hard to understand." [Note: Swindoll, p. 194.]

Here are some suggestions for guarding oneself against similar sexual sin. First, realize that there is nothing that will guarantee you immunity from sinning in this way. We face the choice to yield to sexual temptation over and over again, and overcoming it once or many times is no guarantee that we will always overcome it (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12). Second, cultivate your daily commitment to the Lord. We cannot afford to live one day out of fellowship with Him. We can strengthen our hearts against temptation that may assail us during the day by recommitting ourselves to pleasing Him and obeying Him daily in prayer before we encounter the temptations of that day (cf. Romans 6:12-13). Third, cultivate intimacy with your spouse, if you are married. Covetousness is less of a problem, though it will always be a problem, if you are content with the person whom God has given you. Contentment is something that we learn (cf. Philippians 4:11). Fourth, cultivate accountability with your mate, if you are married. Voluntarily tell your spouse where you have been, what you have been doing, and who you have been with. Do not wait for your mate to ask you these questions, but volunteer this information. If you do this regularly and know that you are going to have to do it, because you have made a commitment to yourself to do it, it will affect what you do. Fifth, anticipate temptation and avoid it. If you know that a particular individual attracts you strongly, do not spend too much time with him or her. Furthermore, refrain from saying anything to such a person that you would not say if your spouse, or that person’s spouse, were standing there with you.

About one year passed between the events of chapter 11 and those of chapter 12. This seems clear from the fact that God struck David and Bathsheba’s child shortly after Nathan confronted David with his sin (2 Samuel 12:15). God graciously gave David months to confess his sin, but when he did not, the Lord sent Nathan to confront him. These must have been months of inner turmoil for David (cf. Psalms 32:3-4).

"David wasn’t relaxing and taking life easy, sipping lemonade on his patio, during the aftermath of his adultery. Count on it . . . he had sleepless nights. He could see his sin written across the ceiling of his room as he tossed and turned in bed. He saw it written across the walls. He saw it on the plate where he tried to choke down his meals. He saw it on the faces of his counselors. He was a miserable husband, an irritable father, a poor leader, and a songless composer. He lived a lie but he couldn’t escape the truth.

"He had no joy. (’Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation’ Psalms 51:12.) He was unstable. He felt inferior and insecure. (’Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me’ Psalms 51:10.) Sin does that to you. It’s part of the wages that sin inevitably demands. A carnal Christian will dance all around and try to tell you, ’Everything’s fine. Don’t press me. I’m really free . . . really having fun . . . I’m doing well. You just haven’t any idea.’ But down inside it’s there. Everything is empty, hollow, joyless, pointless. A true Christian cannot deny that. True guilt is there. Oppressively there. Constantly there." [Note: Ibid., p. 199.]

Finally the Lord sent His prophet to confront the king. This required considerable courage on Nathan’s part since David could have hardened his heart and had the prophet executed, as he had executed Uriah.

"In confronting someone in his sin, the timing is as important as the wording. Simply to tighten your belt, grab your Bible and, at your convenience, confront a person who is in sin is unwise. Most importantly, you need to be sure that you’re sent by God. Nathan was." [Note: Ibid., p. 200.]

Nathan’s parable (cf. 2 Samuel 14:1-20; 1 Kings 20:35-42; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 3:1-5) appealed to David’s compassion as a shepherd and drew an emotional response from the king (2 Samuel 12:5). [Note: See Simon, pp. 207-42; and Peter W. Coxon, "A Note on ’Bathsheba’ in 2 Samuel 12, 1-6," Biblica 62:2 (1981):247-50.] Just like the man in the parable, David deserved to die, but David deserved to die for adultery (Leviticus 20:10) and murder (Leviticus 24:17). Hypocritically David ordered the man in Nathan’s story to make restitution, appealing to the Mosaic Law (Exodus 22:1) that he himself had disregarded. The man in the parable was not under a death sentence according to the Mosaic Law. [Note: See Anthony Phillips, "The Interpretation of 2 Samuel xii 5-6," Vetus Testamentum 16 (1966):242-44.] David was reacting emotionally. He seems to have been trying to get rid of his own guilty conscience by condemning someone else while subconsciously passing judgment on himself. [Note: Baldwin, p. 236. See J. P. Fokkelman, Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel, vol. 1: King David, p. 77.] It is interesting that four of David’s sons died, perhaps as a divine fulfillment of the fourfold restitution that David ordered. They were David’s first child by Bathsheba (Acts 11:18), Amnon (2 Samuel 13:28-29), Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14-15), and Adonijah (1 Kings 2:23-25). [Note: Jones, p. 103.]

"You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7) is certainly one of the most dramatic sentences in the Bible. Since several months had passed since David had committed his gross sins, they were probably not in the forefront of his thinking when Nathan entered his presence and told his story. We see a prophet exercising authority over a king here. This was always the case in Israel’s monarchy, as we shall see repeatedly in the Books of Kings. [Note: See William Sanford LaSor, "The Prophets during the Monarchy: Turning Points in Israel’s Decline," in Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration, pp. 59-70.] David had abused the great blessings that God had given him. Notice that the Lord said that He had done five great things for David (2 Samuel 12:8), but David had done four sinful things in spite of God’s goodness (2 Samuel 12:9). He had despised God by disobeying His Word as though he were superior to it. David had seen what had happened to Saul for rejecting God’s word.

David’s punishment would be twofold (cf. Galatians 6:7): his own fertility (children) would be the source of his discipline, and God would remove the sources of his fertility (children) from him (2 Samuel 12:11). The executions of these sentences follow in the text (2 Samuel 13:11-14; 2 Samuel 13:38-39; 2 Samuel 16:22; 2 Samuel 18:15). Acts 11:9-10 of the twelfth chapter have been called "the literary, historical, and theological crux and center of 2 Samuel as a whole." [Note: Youngblood, p. 944. ] Compare David’s earlier curse of Joab’s house in 2 Samuel 3:29 where "never" also is in view.

"As David ’took’ Uriah’s wife (2 Samuel 11:9-10), so the Lord will ’take’ David’s wives (2 Samuel 11:11). As the Lord ’gave’ Saul’s property and Israel’s kingdom to David (2 Samuel 11:8), so he says that he will now ’give’ David’s wives to someone else, to ’one who is close to you’ (2 Samuel 11:11)-ironically, an expression earlier used of David himself in similar circumstances (see 1 Samuel 15:28; 1 Samuel 28:17 . . .)." [Note: Ibid., p. 945.]

"Just as David willfully takes Bathsheba for himself (2 Samuel 11:2-4), so Amnon forces Tamar (2 Samuel 13:8-14), Absalom enters the royal harem (2 Samuel 16:22), and Adonijah tries to claim his deceased father’s concubine (1 Kings 2:13-17)." [Note: P. Kyle McCarter Jr., "’Plots, True or False’: The Succession Narrative as Court Apologetic," Interpretation 35:4 (October 1981):359.]

"We need to remember that, like many sins, David’s were carried out secretly-at least for a while [2 Samuel 12:12]. One of the things that accompanies the promotion of individuals to higher positions of authority is an increase in privacy. This closed-door policy maintained by those in high office brings great temptation for things to be done in secret. Unaccountability is common among those in command. So it was with David." [Note: Swindoll, p. 196.]

Psalms 32:3-4 probably records David’s misery during the time between his sinning and his confessing. This psalm, and especially Psalms 51, gives further insight into David’s feelings when he confessed his sins. God spared David’s life by pure grace; normally David would have died for his sins (Leviticus 20:10; Leviticus 24:17). His pardon came as a special revelation from God through Nathan (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s confession was genuine. He called his sin what it was rather than trying to cover it up or explain it away, which was Saul’s typical response. Moreover he acknowledged that his sin was primarily against Yahweh, not just against Bathsheba and Uriah.

"Repentance has its reward (cf. 1 Samuel 7:3)." [Note: Gordon, p. 258.]

"This was the turning-point in the life of David, and the clearest indication that he was different from Saul in the most essential relationship of all, that of submission to the Lord God. For that reason he found forgiveness, whereas Saul never accepted his guilt or the rejection that followed from it." [Note: Baldwin, p. 239.]

Whereas the Lord removed the guilt of David’s sin (forgiveness) he did not remove the consequences of it (discipline). Someone observed that after you hammer a nail in a board you may remove the nail, but the hole remains.

"Just as judges today sometimes commute a sentence, so too God has the right and the power to modify or even cancel his own decisions in the light of the human response. In this case David’s immediate signs of remorse allowed immediate forgiveness; but the deed itself could not be undone, and some consequences were inevitable." [Note: Payne, p. 209.]

"David’s voyeurism in 2 Samuel 11:2 and Nathan’s curse in 2 Samuel 12:11 foreshadow Absalom’s rooftop orgy (2 Samuel 16:20-22)." [Note: Jon D. Levenson and Baruch Halpern, "The Political Import of David’s Marriages," Journal of Biblical Literature 99:4 (1980):514.]

This is how God deals with sin normally. He removes the guilt that would result in damnation, but He usually allows at least some of the consequences to follow and uses these for discipline and instruction. God’s punishment fit David’s crimes (cf. Galatians 6:7). In David’s case the infant he fathered died.

"God could not ignore David’s sin and thus let unbelievers impugn the holiness of His character." [Note: Laney, p. 109.]

Verses 15-25

The death of one child and the birth of another 12:15b-25

Why did God take the life of this child since its parents sinned?

"That the child should be punished for what David did seems wrong. We need to remind ourselves, however, that even today innocent children suffer from the things their parents do. The more pointed question deals with whether God should be credited with the cause of the suffering. I once sat at the funeral of a child who had been accidentally killed by a drunk man riding through the community on a motorcycle. In the funeral message the minister tried to convince those of us present that God had a purpose in the child’s death as though it were something God had planned. I was revolted by what he said because he took an evil event and made God the cause. In understanding Nathan’s interpretation of the child’s illness we need to separate the physical cause and the religious interpretation or application. Whatever the child’s illness, both Nathan and David saw it as connected with David’s sin and raised no questions about it as we do." [Note: Kenneth L. Chafin, 1, 2 Samuel, p. 309.]

"When David slept with the woman and created new life, the woman did not belong to him but to Uriah. The child cannot belong to David. He cannot enrich himself through his sin, and in a sense, justice is done to Uriah." [Note: Vogels, p. 251.]

David prayed for the child’s recovery, lying on the ground as Uriah had previously slept (2 Samuel 11:9; 2 Samuel 11:11). However when God took its life, David knew the time for praying was over. Praying for the dead finds no support in this passage or anywhere else in Scripture. David’s servants apparently believed he would become hysterical with grief when he learned the child had died (2 Samuel 12:19). The king was probably referring to the grave rather than to heaven when he said, "I shall go to him . . ." (2 Samuel 12:23). In the context the issue was the inevitability of death, not what happens after death. The child could not come back to life, but David would someday join him in death. Scripture is silent on the eternal state of dead infants, but we can find great comfort in knowing that the Judge of all the earth will do right (Genesis 18:25).

The birth of David and Bathsheba’s second son, Solomon (whose name comes from the Hebrew word shalom, peace), was a blessing from the Lord. It demonstrates that God’s grace is greater than all our sins. [Note: Merrill, "2 Samuel," in The Old . . ., p. 236.] Solomon had another name, Jedidiah (lit. beloved of Yahweh). The former was perhaps a throne name that David gave him to anticipate his reigning as king. [Note: Shemaryahu Talmon, King, Cult, and Calendar in Ancient Israel: Collected Studies, p. 152.] It may indicate that David felt that God was now at peace with him. [Note: NET Bible note on 2 Samuel 12:24.] Solomon was born about 991 B.C. The fact that God allowed him to live and even made him David’s successor on the throne is testimony to God’s great grace to David (cf. Romans 5:20). The statement, "Now the Lord loved him," (2 Samuel 12:24) is the Hebrew way of saying the Lord chose him. [Note: Heater, p. 145. Cf. Malachi 1:2-3.]

Verses 26-31

God’s faithfulness to David 12:26-31

In spite of David’s rebellion, God granted his army victory over the Ammonites. David’s military leaders evidently executed the defeated warriors (1 Chronicles 20:3) and forced many of the people to do labor of various kinds to support Israel (2 Samuel 12:31). [Note: On the crown mentioned in 2 Samuel 12:30, see Siegfried H. Horn, "The Crown of the King of the Ammonites," Andrews University Seminary Bulletin 11:2 (1973):170-80. For an explanation of David’s actions in 2 Samuel 12:31, see G. C. O’Ceallaigh, "’And So David Did to All the Cities of Ammon,’" Vetus Testamentum 12 (1962):179-89.]

Chapters 10-12 contain very important revelation that helps us understand the complexity of God’s righteous ways. We often think too superficially about the way God deals with sin in His people’s lives. We see in these chapters that David’s great sins did not completely wash out his past record of godly behavior. God continued to bless him in part because God had chosen him as His anointed, but also because he genuinely had a heart for God and usually sought to please God. His sins had terrible consequences, as we shall see, but God did not cast David off. The most important factor seems to be David’s basic heart attitude toward God. In this he was very different from Saul, and it is for this reason, I believe, that David did not end as Saul did. When David sinned, he confessed his sin. When Saul sinned, he made excuses. [Note: For a structural analysis of chapters 10-12, see Roth, "You Are . . ."]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-12.html. 2012.
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