This Chapter, which is still the prosecution of David's history, exhibits him in so painful a light, that for the honour of human nature, to say nothing of the honour of a child of God, we feel distress to add such a page to David's history. But the Holy Ghost, for the edification and comfort of the church, hath caused it to be written; and we dare not, we wish not indeed, to extenuate, or to soften, a tittle of the whole transaction. Here is shown us David committing adultery and murder; endeavoring to pass off the fruit of his baseful commerce with another man's wife upon the unsuspicious husband; involving his army in the participation of his guilt, and after all, feeling no remorse nor compunction of heart for his crimes.
2 Samuel 11:1
(1) ¶ And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
The chapter opens well. The Lord had said, that an Ammonite or Moabite should not enter into the congregation of the Lord, even to his tenth generation. Deuteronomy 23:3. And therefore in the prosecution of the war, David was following up God's will and precept. Deuteronomy 7:16.
(2) And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. (3) And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? (4) And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. (5) And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
This sin of David had everything in it that was aggravating. He had wives in abundance, for so in those days, the law, though not commanding, yet winked at it, or allowed it. He was getting in years at this time, not being less, at least, than fifty. The woman he lusted after, was not only the wife of another man, but of one of his faithful servants; and at the very hour when he was injuring him in the tenderest point, this servant was jeoparding his life for David in the high places of the field. He was, moreover, base, in the highest degree, to the woman whose chastity he violated; for certainly the rank and power of David became the great motive with her in prevailing over her honour. And, lastly, to mention no more, as a king, whose office it was to set a good example; as a servant of the Lord; as one who had himself felt, in the case of his own wife, Michal, Saul's daughter, the very painful condition of a conduct so detestable in others; all these, and several more considerations, tended to give the most finished aggravation of David's transgression. Well may we exclaim with Job, Lord! what is man, that thou shouldest magnify him, and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him? Job 7:17.
(6) ¶ And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. (7) And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. (8) And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.
Observe the progress of iniquity. This calling home Uriah was to hide David's infamy, as well as Bath-sheba's; contriving that Uriah's sleeping at home should conceal his crime by leading everyone to believe that Uriah was the father of the child. And observe, with what a plausible pretence, under colour of a regard for the success of his arms, David called the poor husband to answer this object. And to accomplish it yet more, as well as to show the high regard he had for Uriah, be sent after him a feast for his refreshment.
(9) But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
Whether Uriah had any apprehensions about him, concerning his wife's fidelity; or whether, as a soldier, he did not choose to separate from the rest of the king's guards; or whether the Lord overruled this business, so that David's guilt might be more palpable and glaring, I take not upon me to say. But so it was, that Uriah did not go home to his house that night.
(10) And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? (11) And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. (12) And David said to Uriah, Tarry here today also, and tomorrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. (13) And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
By the servants telling David of Uriah's not going to his house, it seems they were in the plot; and, no doubt, someone, at least, must have been privy to David's vileness with Bath-sheba. But David, still going on in a progression of evil, now reasons with Uriah on the subject. And, had not sin exceedingly, for the time, hardened his heart, the speech of Uriah was enough to have stung him to the soul. Still, however, bent on this dreadful business, David contrives a more effectual method, as he thought. For this purpose he brings him to his table, makes him drunk, that he might be the more unconscious what he did, hoping that this would effectually answer the design. But here again, no doubt the Lord's hand overruling, Uriah went not down to his house.
(14) ¶ And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. (15) And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
Baffled in both attempts, David now proceeds to an act, at the very mention of which, nature shudders. To conceal his shame for adultery, he ventures on murder. And, that the world might know nothing of his sin with Bath-sheba, nor Uriah ever reproach him for it, he determines to have his brave and faithful servant murdered in the battle. Alas! alas! how desperately wicked is the heart of man by nature. Reader, do not fail to remember, that all men by nature are the same. Grace alone maketh us to differ. And even grace, though it renews the soul, renews not the body. Unless, indeed, it restrains the workings of corruption, what one man commits, another is as liable to perpetrate. Oh! Lord! help both him that writes, and him that reads, ever to keep in view that striking question; Who maketh thee to differ from another?
(16) And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.
What the thoughts of Joab were upon this occasion, is not said. But it is melancholy to observe how readily he fell in with David's command. Thus David added another sin to his vast catalogue, and brought Joab, the general of his army, into an accomplice with him.
(17) And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
Here is another dreadful aggravation beside the death of Uriah; for it seems that some of David's soldiers fell also. See, David, what a train of bloody business this adulterous act of thine hath induced.
(18) Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; (19) And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, (20) And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? (21) Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
It should seem, from the apprehension Joab expressed of the king's displeasure, that he had no knowledge of David's adultery, and the motive for which he had wished the death of Uriah. From the king's letter, indeed, he saw that Uriah's death would be pleasing to him, and that the intelligence of this would soften his displeasure at the success of the Ammonites. The story of Abimelech, which Joab thought the king would consider a similar case to this of the death of Uriah, is related in Judges 9:50-55.
(22) So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. (23) And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. (24) And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. (25) Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
Observe, how hardened the heart of David still remained. He hears of the death of Uriah, of the death of several of his brave servants, wholly on this account, for this dreadful sin of his. He hears of the triumph of the Ammonites in consequence thereof; and yet, in the midst of all, only sends a message to Joab, as if it was an ordinary event, and bids him be encouraged. What an awful state was he now in! Still hardened, unfeeling, and without the least remorse!
(26) And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
What are we to think of this woman! The Holy Ghost hath not remarked anywhere on her conduct. Was she so artfully seduced by David at the first, that she fell into his snares unconsciously? She sent unto him indeed, when the effects of their unlawful commerce began to manifest itself to her feelings; as much as to say, she looked to him for protection. For by the law she was liable to be stoned, Leviticus 20:10. But when Uriah came from Joab to the king we hear nothing of her sorrow, or of throwing herself at her husband's feet for pardon.
(27) And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
The speedy marriage, and the birth of the child, probably made the matter notorious in the eyes of the people. But the chapter closes with what might well be expected, and alarming enough indeed in the relation, The thing displeased the Lord. Oh! what a matter for the most accumulated distress of soul, hath David been heaping up to himself from the dreadful events related in this chapter!
Reader! let you and I make a most serious pause over the perusal of this chapter, and endeavor to gather the improvements from it which God the Holy Ghost plainly intended the church should gather from the awful subject.
See! that the blessed Spirit hath suffered nothing to be kept back in the relation. Everything that can possibly tend to give it the most finished representation of infamy and sin is marked in it. And after the enumeration of adultery, with the art and baseness to conceal it; even leading to drunkenness, and to murder; not barely of one, but of many; we discover (and what is in the representation as awful a view as any) the most consummate boldness in sin, rioting in the fruits of it, in the marriage with the accomplice of his former shame, and a total insensibility and hardness of conscience, as if he had committed no evil at all.
And what may we suppose to be the intention of the Holy Ghost in thus unfolding to the church's view the shame of David? Is it not, Reader, to teach every child of God those most useful, however humbling, lessons; that the best of men are but men, and as liable to fall into the worst of sins as the unrenewed and unawakened. Corrupt nature; in the mass of flesh and blood, is the same in all. That the Lord's people are regenerated only in their better part, their spiritual faculties. The body still continues earthly, sensual, and tending to earth and sensuality. If therefore the affections of the body in the people of God do not break out, and show themselves as vilely as in the unregenerate; this is not from any greater purity in their earthly parts than others, but from the restraining grace of God. This is one precious design which we may venture to believe God the Holy Ghost had in view, in causing this fall of David to be so particularly and fully recorded.
And there is another we may as confidently suppose intended by it, and that is, to teach the infinite importance of being always kept by sovereign grace. David himself was so conscious of it that he cries out in a fervor of the greatest earnestness, Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Depend upon it, my Brother, the withdrawment of God's Spirit from a child of God, though but for a short space, is the saddest evil in our pilgrimage state. God hath other ways in the stores of his omnipotency, of punishing the sins of his children, than casting them into hell. It is only, as no doubt it was in this instance of David, (in his first giving way to the lust of his corrupt nature, in looking wantonly on Bath-sheba) it is only for the Lord to suspend the operations of his Holy Spirit, and the enemy, who waits for our halting, joining with our own hearts, and the world around, soon makes us to fall. And, if the Lord be withdrawn, the heart, like a cage of unclean birds, is open to the admission of every evil. And who knows what a succession of sins, like those of David, treading one upon the heels of another, may follow during the Lord's suspension of the operations of his grace? How doth the heart, as in his instance, become more and more hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. Oh! let us, like him, daily, hourly, minutely, if possible, pray, Lord! take not thine Holy Spirit from us!
And, is there not a third sweet lesson, believers in Christ have, to draw from this view of David? Yes! blessed Spirit! I venture to assure myself that in thine own most lovely and gracious office, in glorifying the Lord Jesus, thou didst, above every other consideration, design to teach the church, in the fall of David, the infinitely precious doctrine of redemption by Christ Jesus; and that there is salvation in no other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. Oh! dearest Lord, let this view of David serve to impress on my soul this grand truth, in yet stronger and stronger characters. Give me to see, to feel, to be convinced, that if a man after God's own heart, (of whom it is said by the word of truth itself, that save only in this matter of Uriah he turned not aside from anything that the Lord commanded him all the days of his life. See 1 Kings 15:5), if such a man needed redemption, oh! how infinitely endeared to every poor sinner's view ought to be the person, offices, relations, and characters of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes! thou dear Redeemer! with my latest breath, and earliest song, would I chant those sweet words, as the sum and substance of all my trust; We have redemption through thy blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of thy grace.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany