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Monday, July 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 12

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Sent Nathan unto David This was after the birth of the child of Bathsheba. Compare 2 Samuel 12:14-15 with 2 Samuel 11:27. By this time, perhaps, David began to think that his sin was unknown or forgotten.

Two men in one city David and Uriah.

Verses 1-14


“The year had passed; the dead Uriah was forgotten; the child of guilt was born in the royal house, and loved with all the passionate tenderness of David’s paternal heart. Suddenly the prophet Nathan appears before him. He comes as if to claim redress for a wrong in humble life. It was the true mission of the prophets, as champions of the oppressed, in the courts of kings. It was the true prophetic spirit that spoke through Nathan’s mouth. The apologue of the rich man and the ewe lamb has, besides its own intrinsic tenderness, a supernatural elevation, which is the best sign of true revelation. It ventures to disregard all particulars, and is content to aim at awakening the general sense of outraged justice. It fastens on the essential guilt of David’s sin not its sensuality, or its impurity, so much as its meanness and selfishness. It rouses the king’s conscience by that teaching described in 1 Corinthians 14:24-25, as specially characteristic of prophecy, making manifest his own sin in the indignation which he has expressed at the sin of another.” Stanley.

Verse 3

3. One little ewe lamb Referring tenderly to Bathsheba.

Lay in his bosom As a family pet. Perhaps designed to indicate that Uriah was passionately devoted to his wife.

Verse 4

4. Spared to take of his own David had Saul’s harem, and all the house of Israel, from which to take young virgins as wives, without interfering with Uriah’s possessions. Compare 2 Samuel 12:8.

Verse 6

6. Fourfold Compare Exodus 22:1: “If a man steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.”

Verse 7

7. Thou art the man Terrible words for David’s guilty soul.

Self-condemned and self-sentenced unto death, how shall he escape the wrath of God! In this unflinching charge Nathan appears the great, bold, faithful prophet.

Verse 8

8. Thy master’s wives In the East, when the king died or was superseded by another, his successor received his wives and concubines together with the kingdom. Hence for Absalom to go in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (2 Samuel 16:21-22) was to be a proof to Israel that he had taken possession of all the prerogatives of the kingdom. Thus David had succeeded Saul in all the rights of the kingdom, though we have no record of his touching any of his wives or concubines.

Such and such things Literally, according to these and according to those; that is, whatsoever thou mightest have desired.

Verse 9

9. Despised the commandment of the Lord Which says, “Thou shalt not kill.” David was guilty of murder.

Thou hast killed Uriah… with the sword… hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon This is not tautology, for to slay with the sword of the heathen Ammonites was even more aggravating than to kill one outright; and the last term, hast slain from הרג , to murder is stronger than the former, hast killed from נכה , to smite.

Verse 10

10. The sword shall never depart from thine house This prediction was most terribly fulfilled, as the subsequent history will show, especially from the murder of Amnon by his brother to the slaughter of the sons of Zedekiah before their father’s eyes.

Verse 11

11. Evil against thee out of thine own house This was realized especially in Absalom’s rebellion.

Take thy wives See how this was fulfilled in 2 Samuel 16:22.

Thy neighbour Absalom, who was also his son. 2 Samuel 3:3. But though a son, he became so bitterly alienated from his father by rebellion as to be significantly called neighbour.

Verse 13

13. I have sinned against the Lord David’s heart is now laid open to his eyes, and he sees, and shudders at, his enormous crimes, and feels that death is his just desert. But for him there is yet a voice of mercy.

The Lord… hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die Amazing grace! Pardon seems to be in waiting for the sinner to confess and repent.

Verse 14

14. Howbeit The honour of God’s holy law must be regarded. Though David be forgiven he must yet suffer loss. “He is still a son, but he is no longer a Joseph, rejoicing in his father’s love, and proud of the coat of many colours which that love has cast upon him; but rather a Reuben, pardoned, pitied, and forgiven, yet not unpunished by the father whose honour he has defiled. Alas for him! The bird which once rose to heights unattained before by mortal wing, filling the air with its joyful songs, now lies with maimed wing upon the ground, pouring forth its doleful cries to God.” Kitto. To this period of David’s life belongs Psalms 51:0.

Verse 15

15. The Lord struck the child With some fatal disease which, on the seventh day, resulted in death.

Verses 15-23


There is no section of Old Testament history more graphically and touchingly worded than this. Every verse presents a vivid picture. We seem to see the infant child wracked with pain and struck with death. (15.) The conscience-smitten king flies to his chamber, and spends seven days and nights in fasting and in tears, much of the time prostrate upon the floor, and pouring out his groanings all night to God, (16;) his most confidential advisers try to lift him up and console him, but he will not be comforted, (17.) At length the child dies, but they fear to tell the king, lest his frenzy know no control, and, lingering in the distance, they whisper to each other with mingled sorrow and amazement, (18, 19;) but as soon as he learns of his death he dries up his tears, and enters the sanctuary, and worships God, (20.) The servants marvel, but he explains his conduct in words most tenderly expressive of his faith in God and immortality.

Verse 16

16. Besought God for the child For, according to 2 Samuel 12:22, he entertained some hope that God might yet spare him.

Went in Into some private apartment of his own house.

Lay all night upon the earth Evidence of profoundest anguish and grief. Compare 2 Samuel 13:31.

Verse 17

17. The elders of his house The oldest, most experienced, and confidential of his servants.

Verse 20

20. Washed… anointed… changed his apparel The common custom in the East after a period of mourning, for not only the apparel, but the person, becomes unclean by prostration on the ground.

Came into the house of the Lord Went from his own house, where he had wept and fasted, to the sanctuary, where the ark abode.

Verse 21

21. What thing is this that thou hast done The bereaved are accustomed to fast and weep after the death of their relative; but David does his mourning before the death of the child, and feasts immediately after. “The practice of the East is, to leave a relation of the deceased person to weep and mourn, till, on the third or fourth day at furthest, the relations and friends go to see him, cause him to eat, lead him to a bath, and cause him to put on new vestments, he having before thrown himself on the ground. The extremity of David’s sorrow for the child’s illness, and his not observing the common forms of grief afterwards, was what surprised his servants.” Harmer’s Observations.

Verse 23

23. I shall go to him So as to rejoin him in a state of conscious existence in another world. Nothing short of this idea can well satisfy the profound faith and hope of the forgiven king. He was evidently comforted by the thought here expressed; but what comfort could it be if the place of reunion with the lost child were but the grave the cold, dark charnel house of corruption, earth, and worms! How many are comforted by this same faith that their beloved dead “are not lost, but gone before.”

Verse 24

BIRTH OF SOLOMON, 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24. Called his name Solomon שׁלמה , Shelomoh, the peaceful; so called because his reign was to be a peaceful one, (compare 1 Chronicles 22:9,) and also because, being peculiarly associated in prophecy with “David’s greater Son,” in whom the throne of his kingdom should be established forever, (comp. 2 Samuel 7:13,) he was to be a figure of that Messiah who is the Prince of Peace.

The Lord loved him Did not smite him as he did the other child of Bathsheba, but let him live, and bestowed upon him remarkable favour.

Verse 25

25. He sent That is, Jehovah sent Nathan to give the child yet another name peculiarly comforting to David.

Jedidiah That is, darling of Jehovah. This name and that of David are from cognate roots, which are identical in meaning, and all such play on words had great significance with both the ancient and modern Orientals. Great must have been David’s comfort when Nathan, who had so lately uttered against him the judgment of God, came with a message of love, and gave the newborn child a name so expressive of Jehovah’s restored favour.

Because of the Lord That is, because the Lord loved him.

Verse 26

CONQUEST OF RABBAH, 2 Samuel 12:26-30.

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26. Joab fought against Rabbah This siege seems to have been going on during all the incidents recorded between 2 Samuel 11:1 and here.

Took the royal city Called in the next verse, the city of waters. Ancient Rabbah seems to have been divided into two parts the city proper, containing the royal palace, and amply supplied with water from the stream that still flows through its ruins, and the citadel, or acropolis, which occupied one of the neighbouring heights. See note on 2 Samuel 11:1.

Verse 28

28. Encamp against the city and take it The city here meant was the acropolis or upper city, which, like the stronghold of Zion, still held out against the besiegers, after the lower city had fallen into their hands. See note on 2 Samuel 5:6.

It be called after my name So that I bear away all the glory of the victory. This was a sort of challenge, half jest, half earnest, and shows Joab’s characteristic boldness with the king. Compare his rebuke in 2 Samuel 19:5-7.

Verse 29

29. All the people All the men of war that were not with Joab at Rabbah, doubtless largely made up of fresh recruits.

Verse 30

30. Took their king’s crown Some take מלכם , malcam, rendered their king, as a proper name, Milcom, (compare 1 Kings 11:5; 2 Kings 23:23, and Zephaniah 1:5,) the great Ammonite idol, elsewhere called Molech. The Septuagint reads, took the crown of Molcom their king. But David would hardly have suffered the crown of that abominable idol to be put upon his head.

The weight… a talent of gold More than one hundred pounds. This seems incredibly heavy for a crown worn upon the head, and so many interpreters have explained the meaning as worth the weight of a gold talent. But this explanation hardly accords with the natural meaning of the words. Pfeiffer, without sufficient evidence, understands here the weight not of a Hebrew but a Syriac talent. It is better to regard the statement as an inexact but popular estimate of the weight of a crown unusually large and heavy. Sir Harford Jones Brydges describes the Persian crown of state as excessively heavy, and relates that, happening to look back, on quitting the audience chamber, he saw the king lifting his crown from his head, as if anxious to relieve himself from its oppressive weight.

With the precious stones The meaning is, according to 1 Chronicles 20:2, that the crown was set with precious stones.

Verse 31

31. Put them under saws That is, as 1 Chronicles 20:3 explains it, cut them with saws. They were sawn asunder, as Isaiah is said to have been tortured. Hebrews 11:37. Shaw, in his Travels, describes a case of sawing asunder by placing the criminal between boards, and then beginning at the head. The above cut of ancient saws is from paintings found at Herculaneum.

Harrows of iron Rather, as the cognate Hebrew word is rendered in Amos 1:3, Threshing instruments of iron. The victims were probably made to lie down on the ground, as were the Moabites when David measured them with a line, (2 Samuel 8:2,) and a heavy threshing instrument, with jagged iron rollers underneath, was drawn over them.

Axes of iron For cut of ancient axes see on 1 Samuel 13:21. But it is not clear that the word מגזרות , which occurs here only, means axes. Keil renders it simply iron cutting tools, and we incline to believe with him that “the meaning cannot be more precisely determined.”

Made them pass through the brick-kiln Burned to death vast numbers of them by forcing them into the fires of brick-kilns. By these various instruments and methods of torture did David execute the captive Ammonites, thus retaliating upon them cruelties equivalent to what they themselves were accustomed to impose upon their captives. Many have cried out against these terrible cruelties, and thought it impossible that David could have been barbarous enough to authorize them. Hence has arisen another interpretation, which makes the text mean that David enslaved the people, and set them at sawing and hewing wood, making or using iron instruments, and burning brick. But this interpretation accords not well with the words, has the text in Chronicles decidedly against it, and is also open to the objection that the Hebrew people had little or no need of these kinds of labour. Their houses were of stone, or else simply tents, their iron instruments were comparatively few, and they certainly made no such use of wood as required so many sawyers and hewers as all these cities of the Ammonites afforded. But if we consider the customs of that age, and the barbarous character of these Ammonites, we will see the ground and reason of David’s severity. They were wont to rip up women with child, (Amos 1:13;) they would not covenant with the men of Jabesh except that they might thrust out all their right eyes, (1 Samuel 11:2,) and they had provoked this war by their most shameful treatment of David’s friendly ambassadors. 2 Samuel 10:4. If, then, it was proper barbarously to mutilate Adoni-bezek because he had thus mutilated other kings, (Judges 1:6-7,) and to hew Agag in pieces because his sword had made women childless, (1 Samuel 15:33,) and utterly destroy the idolatrous nations of Canaan, (Deuteronomy 7:2; Joshua 6:21; Joshua 8:25-26; 1 Samuel 15:3,) it is surely a strange inconsistency to cry out against this retaliatory severity of David, as if it were unparalleled and diabolical. The measure was strictly in accordance with the military customs of the age.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/2-samuel-12.html. 1874-1909.
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