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2 Samuel 12:1 . The Lord sent Nathan to David. The substance of the mission, the visitations he foretold, the perfect accomplishment of them, as well from that very day as in future ages, leaves not a vestige of doubt of the divine authority of the prophet. Who but a man of God would have dared to speak as Nathan to an absolute monarch in the zenith of conquest and glory; and to add, The sword shall never depart from thy house? The child of lawless desire died presently; Absalom assassinated Amnon, and was himself pierced in the oak. Jehu slew forty two of David’s house going to Jezebel’s feast; and Athaliah, hearing of the death of her father and her husband, slew all the seed-royal in Jerusalem, except Joash an infant, who escaped in his nurse’s arms. Thus the strokes of justice continued to fulfil the word of the Lord by Nathan till the final Babylonian captivity, when Nebuchadnezzar slew sixty six of the rebels, many of whom were of David’s line.
2 Samuel 12:14 . The enemies to blaspheme, by uttering slanderous speeches against religion, and against all classes of professors, as though the whole church were composed of hypocrites and deceivers. The Ammonites, on hearing of this, would be among the foremost to utter malignant words, but assuredly words of gross ignorance concerning the scrutiny of heaven, the characters of justice, and the nature and fruits of true repentance. See on Psalms 51:0.
2 Samuel 12:30 . A talent of gold. Three hundred shekels, or seven pounds and a half, is the lowest estimate of the weight of this crown. The candlestick of the tabernacle weighed a talent. This is joined with the precious stones. אבן aben, stone; probably some large diamond, as the two in the crown of Portugal, of which fac similes may be seen in the British Museum.
2 Samuel 12:31 . And put them under saws for decapitation, and made them pass before Moloch their idol, where infants had been consumed, to be burned alive in the brickkilns. These were the rebels first lawfully condemned, and the soldiers put them to death in a wanton manner, as was the practice of the gentile world, being enraged that Rabbah had sustained a siege of twenty months. Under these circumstances, could it be expected that the ringleaders of this rebellion should receive a pardon. What a mercy that David did not burn the city; what a favour that he should place Shobi, son of Nahash, on the throne. While we lament the wanton cruelties of the soldiers, surely there is no need of the rebels to complain of David. See 2 Samuel 17:27.
In the preseding chapter we left the victorious monarch awfully loaded with the worst of crimes; and after the first alarms and struggles of conscience, as after the cessation of acute pains, stupor seized his mind: and a more awful state can scarcely be conceived. The man so abandoned to accumulated guilt is not qualified to perform any religious duty: and if the Lord should come and surprise him in his slumber, who for ten thousand worlds would be found in his situation? So for nine months David slept, chasing away as well as he could the recollection of his sins, and the idea of Uriah’s bloody ghost. But so circumstanced, life could not be life to him; nor could he rejoice in all the prosperity of his throne. All his days were spent in pensive gloom, and his anguish oft betrayed itself by secret sighs. The morning however arrived when tidings were brought of the birth of a son. This, for the moment, would elevate his soul; he would think that heaven, overlooking his sin, had blessed his marriage; that he should again taste happiness on earth, and that the mystery of his crimes would remain partially concealed. Scarcely, it is presumed, had he indulged these hopes, than Nathan solicited an audience. He entered the chamber; grief and indignation were painted in his countenance, and the king at once perceived that something calamitous had occurred. The prophet laid before him a striking case of real woe, and almost unparalleled in the annals of wickedness. It interested all the powers of his soul; for self love, which blinds us to our own sins, leaves our eyes wide open to the faults of others. The king, deeply affected, by an oath of the Lord declared that the tyrant, whomsoever he might be, should surely die. Nathan, unfolding the moral of his parable, replied, Thou art the man. And like the prophet who came to Eli, and like Daniel before Belshazzar, he recited the kindness of the Lord in placing him on the throne, and unravelled all the mystery of his sin. Nathan, like a faithful minister of God, proceeded next to pass the divine sentence, nor softened one iota of his message. He declared, because of Uriah’s blood, that the sword should never depart from David’s house; a sentence executed on the broadest scale, as the subsequent history will unfold. He announced that David’s wives should be ravished, not secretly like Bathsheba, but openly before all Israel; and Absalom, though with different views, executed this part of the sentence. The prophet closed his awful mission by announcing a mortal sickness on the infant begotten in adultery, that no man in future might ever sin under the cloak of David’s example. The monarch, thunderstruck and appalled to receive this message, and to hear those sentences from God, acknowledged the whole of his guilt. He exchanged his robe for sackcloth, and his throne for the dunghill. Grief was his food, and tears his drink. He poured forth all his soul in the fifty first psalm, for grief is eloquent, and anguish will utter its woes. He spared not himself in any thing; but made his repentance as public as his sin; and accompanied it with all the fruits in his power. Hence said Ambrose, “We have many who imitate David in his sin, but few who imitate him in repentance.”
From this case we learn many important lessons:
(1) That those who have committed secret sins, and slumber on secure and at ease, must expect a day when they are not aware, that God will send a Nathan or a judgment to spoil their joys and false repose. They had better therefore open their hearts in such a way to God or man, as would ease their conscience, and afford them repentance unto life. The counsel of some wise and holy minister is often the safest way to peace of mind.
(2) We learn from this, and from many other cases in the sacred writings, that the pardon of great and grievous sins is often accompanied with punishments which no tears, and no repentance can remove. How holy and dreadful is the God of justice! How indignant is he against men, who highly honoured by providence and grace, presume to dishonour his holy name, and cause the sons of Belial to blaspheme.
(3) While we revere the terrors of justice, we cannot but admire the fidelity with which Nathan executed his arduous mission, and pronounced the sentence of heaven. To address a monarch, and a monarch whose pleasure is little less than law, and to address him in the highest judicial style, is no common task; yet he neither softened the terms, nor apologized for his conduct. Oh that those reverend dignitaries who crowd the courts, and receive the highest favours of kings, would learn of Nathan to speak for God. Familiar with the rich, the noble, and the great, surely they cannot be ignorant of the sneers and puns daily directed against religion. They cannot but see the insults offered to the laws of marriage; and the immodesty which shows her brazen front on our theatres. Why then do they not cry aloud, and lift up their voice like a trumpet? Why then do they not speak at table to Herod? Why not reason before Felix of righteousness, temperance, and a judgment to come. Ah, the Nathans have ceased from the courts; the Pauls are found no more; nor even the Massillons to exhibit the horrors of the hero dying in his sins. But is it true? Is it really true that many of those ministers by flattering the follies of the great; by seeking preferments in preference to conversions, have led them to despise religion and its ancient ministers, because they despise its modern ministers! Woe then to the idle shepherds who eat the fat, and wear the fleece! God will require the souls of millions at their hands.
(4) We must farther regard Nathan’s mission as a singular mark of God’s compassion to David in his fallen state. Had the Holy Ghost never revealed the mystery of his sins, he had slumbered on, a stranger to the favours and comforts of his God. Therefore the voice which called him to repentance, and the consequences of his crimes which caused that repentance to be lasting as his life, were salutary marks of God’s love. Hence every man, properly acquainted with himself, will think life short enough to mourn for foul and scandalous offences.
(5) But the sins of David were not only revealed for his sake, and to purge the throne and church of Israel, but to apprize all mankind that God will not be a party in concealment. He will stir up evil against the fallen in their own house, and in their accomplices in vice: he will bring to light the hidden works of darkness, and make manifest the secrets of the heart. He sees at midnight as at noon; he is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity; and consequently the most cautious cannot long conceal a crime from the public eye. Let us therefore learn to love righteousness and truth, that we may never be ashamed of the light.
(6) It is farther presumed that God revealed David’s sins, to afford some sanctifying rays of hope to others who may have committed great and grievous sins. I say, sanctifying rays of hope; for though, on unfeigned repentance, followed by correspondent fruits, he will freely forgive the great part of the sins committed against himself, yet when the innocent is wronged and the weak are oppressed, he mostly accompanies pardon with such a series of punishments as induce the world to behold his purity, and revere his name. How marvellous are the characters of divine justice: the whole earth is full of his glory!
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany