Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 12:1

Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, "There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - David;   Minister, Christian;   Nathan;   Parables;   Prophets;   Reproof;   Scofield Reference Index - Parables;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   David;   Home;   Nathan;   Parables;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Truth;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Parables;   Poor, the;   Prophets;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Allegory;   Bath-Sheba;   Nathan;   Parable;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Bathsheba;   Nathan;   Parables;   Prophecy, prophet;   Wisdom literature;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Allegory;   Lamb, Lamb of God;   Mission;   Parable;   Poor and Poverty, Theology of;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Parable;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Allegory;   David;   Tekoa, Tekoah;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Nathan;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Court Systems;   David;   Jonah;   King, Kingship;   Parables;   Poor, Orphan, Widow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ammon, Ammonites;   Guilt;   Nathan;   Parable;   Poverty;   Samuel, Books of;   Wisdom;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Parable;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Nathan ;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Nathan;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   David;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Law of Moses;   Na'than;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Nathan;   Parable;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - David;   Nathan (1);   Parable;   Samuel, Books of;   Sin (1);   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Allegory;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bath-Sheba;   Judge;   Nathan;   Parable;   Poetry;   Satire;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

There were two men in one city - See a discourse on fables at the end of Judges 9:56; (note), and a discourse on parabolic writing at the end of the thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

There is nothing in this parable that requires illustration; its bent is evident; and it was construed to make David, unwittingly, pass sentence on himself. It was in David's hand, what his own letters were in the hands of the brave but unfortunate Uriah.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Nathan came to David as if to ask his judicial decision on the case about to be submitted to him (compare 2 Samuel 14:2-11; 1 Kings 20:35-41). The circumstances of the story are exquisitely contrived to heighten the pity of David for the oppressed, and his indignation against the oppressor 1 Samuel 25:13, 1 Samuel 25:22.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-12.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

NATHAN REVEALED GOD'S JUDGMENT AGAINST DAVID

Our text does not declare that God revealed to Nathan any of the activities of the sinning king, something, of course, which God could have done. It appears to be far more likely that David's sins were public knowledge throughout Jerusalem. It is nearly impossible for this writer to believe that all of those "servants" who made the report to David concerning that naked woman's identity, who went to her with the king's invitation, who escorted her into the king's presence, took her home afterward and later conveyed her message revealing to David the fact of her pregnancy would have failed to whisper the truth all over the city.

Yes, and what about all that spying on Uriah? what he did, where he slept, the present sent to him by the king, the king's extension of his leave from the army, his banquet in the king's palace, the king's insistence upon Uriah's drinking himself into a state of drunkenness and where he slept that following night - There is simply far too much of that for it to have been kept secret. A state dinner in the palace for Uriah would have involved dozens of servants and retainers of the king, and for one to believe that none of them was able to figure out what was going on and then to talk about it afterward is to imagine the impossible.

Also, there was that letter, of which the text says, "David wrote a letter." Any action commanded by one in authority is properly ascribed to him; and this does not mean that David himself necessarily penned that communication which Uriah carried to Joab. "Seraiah was secretary" (2 Samuel 8:17), and he must actually have written the letter for David's signature.

David might have felt that he had effectively covered up his shameful deeds; but this writer cannot resist the opinion that David was profoundly wrong in such a conceit. Nathan's perfect knowledge of all that had happened probably began with his hearing some of the gossip that filled Jerusalem. Gossip is never either accurate or dependable; and when God sent Nathan to David, the Lord no doubt endowed his prophet with a true knowledge of everything that happened.

THE PARABLE OF THE POOR MAN'S EWE LAMB

"And the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, `There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.' Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, `As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb four-fold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.'"

This is one of the rare parables in the O.T. A parable is different from a fable in that a parable relates things that either actually happened, or that might reasonably have happened. "Nathan came to David as if his purpose was to ask his judicial decision on a case which had been submitted to him."[1] David could have had no suspicion whatever of the prophet's true mission, because all of his previous communications from God through Nathan had been extremely favorable to the king (as in 2 Samuel 7). Many have commented upon the attractiveness and beauty of this little parable. It was skillfully designed to arouse the sympathy of the hearer for the wronged poor man as well as angry contempt for the rich man who robbed him.

"David's anger was greatly kindled" (2 Samuel 12:5). David had committed a far worse sin than that of the rich man in the parable; but, as Willis said, "It is much easier to see sin in others than in oneself."[2]

"Because he had no pity" (2 Samuel 12:6). The Christian virtue of feeling a genuine concern and pity for our fellow mortals in our common struggles of life was the missing quality in David's heart that led to his shameful wickedness. "He had no pity." He had no pity for the beautiful young Bathsheba whom he ordered to his bed. He had no pity for Bathsheba's grandfather Ahithophel, David's trusted friend and adviser, who became the king's bitter enemy during Absalom's rebellion. He had no pity for Uriah, a brave and devoted soldier, who daily risked wounds and death for his beloved king. He had no pity for Joab whom he enlisted as an accomplice in the shameful murder of those eighteen men. He had no pity for the families of his slaughtered soldiers.

"And he shall restore the lamb fourfold" (2 Samuel 12:4). This judgment of the king was exactly in keeping with the Law of God as revealed in Exodus 22:1. From this, we are certain that David also knew the law of God regarding adultery and murder which is recorded in the same Scriptures a few paragraphs earlier. Zacchaeus, and presumably all Israel, were thoroughly familiar with God's Law (Luke 19:8).

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Coffman 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 12:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-samuel-12.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the Lord sent Nathan unto David,.... Quickly after the child was born begotten on Bathsheba, and when it was known and became the public talk of people, and the enemies of religion were full of it, and blasphemed on account of it, 2 Samuel 12:14; so that David was nine months or more without any true sense of his sin, his heart hardened, his graces dormant, the joys of salvation taken from him, and he without any communion with God, and having little concern about it; though perhaps he might have some pangs at times, which quickly went off; though some think he exercised repentance in a private way before; acknowledged his sin to the Lord, and had a sense of pardon, and before this time penned the thirty second and the hundred thirtieth psalms on this occasion, Psalm 32:1; but Nathan is sent to awaken and arouse him, to express a sense of his sin, and repentance for it in public, which he did by penning and publishing the fifty first psalm after Nathan had been with him, Psalm 51:1; for though the Lord may leave his people to fall into sin, and suffer them to continue therein some time, yet not always; they shall rise again through the assistance of his Spirit and grace, in the acts of repentance and faith, both in private and public:

and he came unto him, and said unto him: he came as if he had a case to lay before him, and to have justice done, and he told the story as if it was a real fact, and so David understood it:

there were two men in one city: pointing at David and Uriah, who both lived in Jerusalem:

the one rich and the other poor; David the rich man, king over all Israel; Uriah a subject, an officer in his army, comparatively poor.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the LORD sent a Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

(a) Because David lay now drowned in sin, the loving mercy of God which does not allow his own to perish, wakes his conscience by this story and brings him to repentance.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/2-samuel-12.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

2 Samuel 12:1-6. Nathan‘s parable.

the Lord sent Nathan unto David — The use of parables is a favorite style of speaking among Oriental people, especially in the conveyance of unwelcome truth. This exquisitely pathetic parable was founded on a common custom of pastoral people who have pet lambs, which they bring up with their children, and which they address in terms of endearment. The atrocity of the real, however, far exceeded that of the fictitious offense.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-samuel-12.html. 1871-8.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

CONTENTS

This chapter is a continuation of the same subject as the former; and relates the method the Lord was pleased to adopt for the recovery of David after his fall. Nathan the prophet is sent from the Lord to David; opens his commission with a parable. David's behaviour upon this occasion. The Lord's mercy; and his judgment in the death of the child which Bath-sheba bore to David. A relation in the close of the chapter of the war, and the event of it.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-12.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

The Lord sent — When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God takes an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful God pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken God.

He said — He prudently ushers in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations, that so he might surprize David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-12.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 12:1 And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

Ver. 1. And the Lord sent Nathan unto David.] He must be of God’s sending, that shall effectually awaken conscience, and speak to the heart. Nathan the prophet [2 Samuel 7:2] - a man so highly esteemed by David, that he called one of his sons by his name (say some), made him tutor to his son Solomon, and had him of his Cabinet Council [1 Kings 1:1-53] - is here purposely sent to let good David feel the bruise of his fall; to be unto him as Paul’s sister’s son was to the chief captain; as the cock, or rather as Christ’s look, was to Peter; to arouse him out of that dead lethargy wherein he had lain for three quarters of a year together; and to convert him from the error of his way. If God’s best children have been sometimes suffered to sleep in sin, at last he hath awakened them in a fright. Now because men that are awakened hastily out of a deep and sweet sleep are apt to take it ill, and to brawl with their best friends, wise Nathan, non aperte, sed per ambages, beginneth his reproof, not in plain terms, but by fetching about a form of speech - as she saith, 2 Samuel 14:20; by an allegory or apologue, he first fisheth out of David what the law was, and then forceth him to pronounce sentence of death against himself. (a) David was a prophet, yet needed he a prophet to be sent unto him; as one physician to another; but the sound to the sick, as Chrysostom saith. (b)

And he came unto him] In conclave Davidis, into David’s closet; for whereas some have thought that Nathan dealt now with David in the hearing of his courtiers and captains, it is more likely that he did it privately, that he might the more easily work and win upon him. Hitherto all the king’s care had been to conceal his sin from the world, - which yet he could not do with all his skill, for the enemies had got it by the end, [2 Samuel 14:1-33] - and although his conscience had galled him betwixt whiles, when he heard the lectures of the law, and groaned under a great fit of sickness, as some gather from Psalms 32:3-4, Psalms 6:1-10, Psalms 38:1-22, yet he turned the deaf ear, and continued in the hardness of his heart till the prophet came home to him, and dealt plainly and privately with him. Great is the benefit of conference and private admonition. Luther was much helped this way by Staupicius; Galeacius by Peter Martyr; Junius by a countryman of his not far from Florence; Senarclaeus by John Diazins; Latimer by blessed St Bilney, as he styleth him; Dr Taylor by that angel of God, John Bradford, who counted that hour lost wherein he had not done some good with his hand, pen, or tongue. Private admonition, saith one, is the pastor’s privy purse, as princes have theirs, besides their public disbursements. It repented good Mr Hiron, and troubled him on his death bed, that he had been so backward to it, and barren of it.

There were two men in one city.] By this pretty parable, Nathan maketh David self-condemned, or ever he was aware; and useth his own tongue as a lance to rip up and heal his own heart. (c)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-12.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 12:1. There were two men, &c.— See Judges 9:7. It is not easy to conceive any thing more masterly and exquisite than the present parable. It places Nathan's character in a fine point of view, and at the same time affords the ministers of religion a lively lesson how to manage the great and difficult duty of reproof with wisdom and discretion. We may just observe, that there is no need for parables, any more than for similes, to correspond exactly in every particular. It is sufficient, if the great and leading truth aimed at be marked out in a strong and conspicuous manner.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-12.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12

Nathan by a parable reproveth and threateneth David, 2 Samuel 12:1-12. He confesseth his sin, and is pardoned, but the child must die, 2 Samuel 12:13,14: David mourneth and prayeth for it whilst life was in it; after is satisfied and cheered: the reason, 2 Samuel 12:15-23. He goeth in to Bath-sheba: Solomon is born of her, and is called Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:24,25. David taketh Rabbah, and tortureth the people thereof, 2 Samuel 12:26-31.

Nathan, the prophet, 2 Samuel 7:2 1 Kings 1:8. When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God useth an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful God pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken and forgotten God.

Nathan prudently ushereth in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations and ancient times, that so he might surprise David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself. He manageth his relation as if it had been a real thing; and demands the king’s justice in the case. Though the application of this parable to David be easy and obvious, yet it matters not if some circumstances be not so applicable; because it was fit to put in some such clauses, either for the decency of the parable, or that David might not too early discover his designs.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-12.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-12.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Samuel 12:1. The Lord sent Nathan unto David — When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God takes an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful Lord pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken God. He said — He prudently ushers in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations, that so he might surprise David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-12.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Unto him, after the birth of the child. A whole year had nearly elapsed, and David continued blind and impenitent. The spirit of prophecy had left him; and, though he was clear-sighted, and equitable enough to punish the faults of others, he could not discern his own picture, till Nathan had removed the veil. The prophet acted with the utmost prudence, and did not condemn the king till he had pronounced sentence on himself. It is commonly supposed that the interview was private. St. Chrysostom believes that the chief lords of the court were present; which would enhance the discretion of Nathan, as well as David's humility. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the LORD. Hebrew. Jehovah. App-4.

sent. See 2 Samuel 11:27.

Nathan. Septuagint and Syriac read "Nathan the prophet". he came. Compare title of Psa 51.

men. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-samuel-12.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

The Lord sent Nathan unto David. The use of parables is a favourite style of speaking among Oriental people, especially in the conveyance of unwelcome truth. This exquisitely-pathetic parable was founded on a common custom of pastoral people who have pet lambs, which they bring up with their children, and which they address in terms of endearment. The atrocity of the real, however, far exceeded that of the fictitious offence.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-12.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(1) Sent Nathan.—Nathan was already on intimate terms with David, and recognised by him as a prophet (2 Samuel 7:1-17).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.
A. M. 2970. B.C. 1034. An. Ex. Is. 457. the Lord
7:1-5; 24:11-13; 1 Kings 13:1; 18:1; 2 Kings 1:3
unto David
11:10-17,25; 14:14; Isaiah 57:17,18
he came
Psalms 51:1; *title
There were
There is nothing in this parable which requires illustration. Its bent is evident; and it was wisely constructed, by not having too near a resemblance, to make David unwittingly pass sentence on himself. The parable was in David's hand what his own letter was in the hands of the brave Uriah. Nathan at length closed in with him in the application of it. In beginning with a parable he shewed his prudence, and great need there is of prudence in giving reproof; but now he speaks as an ambassador from God. He reminds David of the great things God had designed and done for him, and then charges him with a high contempt of the Divine authority, and threatens an entail of judgments upon his family for this sin. Those who despise the word and law of God, despise God himself, and will assuredly suffer for such contempt.
14:5-11; Judges 9:7-15; 1 Kings 20:35-41; Isaiah 5:1-7; Matthew 21:33-45; Luke 15:11-32; 16:19-31
Reciprocal: Judges 3:20 - I have;  2 Samuel 5:14 - Nathan;  2 Samuel 7:2 - Nathan;  2 Samuel 12:25 - Nathan;  1 Kings 1:8 - Nathan;  1 Kings 1:10 - General1 Kings 4:5 - son of Nathan;  1 Kings 20:39 - Thy servant;  2 Kings 14:9 - The thistle;  1 Chronicles 3:5 - Nathan;  1 Chronicles 14:4 - Nathan;  1 Chronicles 17:1 - Nathan;  1 Chronicles 29:29 - Nathan;  2 Chronicles 9:29 - Nathan;  2 Chronicles 25:7 - a man of God;  2 Chronicles 25:15 - a prophet;  2 Chronicles 29:25 - Nathan;  Psalm 32:3 - When;  Isaiah 39:3 - came Isaiah;  Jeremiah 22:1 - Go;  Ezekiel 17:2 - GeneralZechariah 12:12 - Nathan;  Matthew 13:3 - in;  Galatians 6:1 - restore

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:1". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-12.html.