Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 12:4

"Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he took the poor man's ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - David;   Minister, Christian;   Nathan;   Parables;   Reproof;   Scofield Reference Index - Parables;   Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children;   Children;   David;   Herds;   Home;   Needy, the;   Pleasant Sunday Afternoons;   Poor, the;   Poverty-Riches;   Religion;   Stories for Children;   Travellers;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Entertainments;   Lamb, the;   Parables;   Poor, the;   Prophets;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Nathan;   Parable;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Bathsheba;   Nathan;   Parables;   Prophecy, prophet;   Wisdom literature;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Allegory;   Lamb, Lamb of God;   Parable;   Poor and Poverty, Theology of;   CARM Theological Dictionary - Parable;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Allegory;   David;   Tekoa, Tekoah;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Nathan;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Compassion;   Court Systems;   David;   Jonah;   King, Kingship;   Parables;   Poor, Orphan, Widow;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ammon, Ammonites;   Nathan;   Parable;   Poverty;   Samuel, Books of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Nathan ;   Wayfaring Man;   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 - Food;   Nathan (1);   Parable;   Samuel, Books of;   Sin (1);   Traveller;   Wayfaring Man;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Allegory;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bath-Sheba;   Food;   Judge;   Nathan;   Parable;   Poetry;   Satire;   Yeẓ;  

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And there came a traveller unto the rich man,.... By which some understand Satan, who came to David, and stirred up his lust by the temptations that offered; who is a walker, as the word used signifies, that goes about seeking whom he may devour, and is with good men only as a wayfaring man, who does not abide with them; and whose temptations, when they succeed with such, are as meat and drink to him, very entertaining but the Jews generally understand it of the evil imagination or concupiscence in man, the lustful appetite in David, that wandered after another man's wife, and wanted to be satiated with her:

and he spared to take of his own flock, and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that came unto him; when his heart was inflamed with lust at the sight of Bathsheba, he did not go as he might, and take one of his wives and concubines, whereby he might have satisfied and repressed his lust:

but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that came to him; sent for Bathsheba and lay with her, for the gratification of his lust, she being a young beautiful woman, and more agreeable to his lustful appetite. The Jews, in their TalmudF18T. Bab. Succah, fol. 52. 2. Jarchi, Kimchi, & Abarbinel in loc. , observe a gradation in these words that the evil imagination is represented first as a traveller that passes by a man, and lodges not with him; then as a wayfaring man or host, that passes in and lodges with him; and at last as a man, as the master of the house that rules over him, and therefore called the man that came to him.

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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.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-12.html. 1999.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

CHRISTIAN CHARITY

‘And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him.’

2 Samuel 12:4

The mixture of gold and clay of which our nature is composed is nowhere so strikingly displayed as in the constant tendency of men to conceive lofty purposes, and then to attain them by mean and sordid methods. The high impulse and the low self-indulgent method are both real, and this confused and contradictory humanity of ours is able to attain them both. We are always building steps of straw to climb to heights of gold.

There is real charity in the impulse of the rich man in Samuel, there is essential meanness in his act. He really wanted to help the poor traveller who came to him, but he wanted to help him with another man’s property, to feed him on a neighbour’s sheep. A great deal of our official charity comes very near the pattern of this ancient benefactor.

I. One of the truths about the advancing culture of a human nature is, that it is always deepening the idea of possession and making it more intimate.—There are deepening degrees of ownership, and as each one of them becomes real to a man, the previous ownerships get a kind of unreality. With this deepening of the idea of property, the idea of charity must deepen also. No relief of need is satisfactory which stops short of at least the effort to inspire character, to make the poor man a sharer in what is at least the substance of the rich man’s wealth. And at the bottom of this profounder conception of charity there must lie a deeper and more spiritual conception of property. The rich man’s wealth, what is it? Not his money. It is something which came to him in the slow accumulation of his money. It is a character into which enter those qualities that make true and robust manliless in all the ages and throughout the world: independence, intelligence, and the love of struggle.

II. This makes charity a far more exacting thing than it could be without such an idea.—It clothes it in self-sacrifice. It requires the entrance into it of a high motive.

III. The deeper conception of benefaction which will not rest satisfied with anything short of the imparting of character still does not do away with the inferior and more superficial ideas.—It uses the lower forms of gift as means or types or pledges. The giving of money is ennobled by being made the type of a Diviner gift which lies beyond.

—Bishop Phillips Brooks.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Detestable as was the double guilt of this dark story, we must still remember that David was not an Alfred or a Saint Louis. He was an Eastern king, exposed to all the temptations of a king of Ammon or Damascus then, of a Sultan of Bagdad or Constantinople in modern times. What follows, however, could have been found nowhere in the ancient world but in the Jewish monarchy. A year had passed; 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 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 as specially characteristic of prophecy, making manifest his own sin in the indignation which he has expressed at the sin of another. “Thou art the man” is, or ought to be, the conclusion, expressed or unexpressed, of every practical sermon.’

(2) ‘Nathan puts his parable in such life-like form that the king has no suspicion of its real character. The rich robber that spared his own flocks and herds to feed the traveller, and stole the poor man’s ewe lamb, is a real flesh-and-blood criminal to him. And the deed is so dastardly, its heartlessness is so atrocious, that it is not enough to enforce against such a wretch the ordinary law of fourfold restitution; in the exercise of his high prerogative the king pronounces a sentence of death upon the ruffian, and confirms it with the solemnity of an oath—“The man that hath done this thing shall surely die.” The flash of indignation is yet in his eye, the flush of resentment is still on his brow, when the prophet, with calm voice and piercing eye, utters the solemn words, “Thou art the man!” Thou, great king of Israel, the robber, the ruffian, condemned by thine own voice to the death of the worst malefactor.’

(2) ‘The man who sneers at David does not know his own heart, nor does he dream how a fierce, hot breath might consume to ashes his own boastful superiority! The true man will profit by David’s example, and double the guard over his own conduct; while he will be profoundly grateful that even for David was there forgiveness with God. It is the parable of the prodigal in real life. It will send no man into the slums, but it will encourage many a man to come back or to call a halt in his course. There are scars upon your soul, perhaps; there are secrets that haunt and curse you; there are memories that torment you; but the gate of return is open, and He who pardoned David has mercy for thousands, and will make you whiter than snow if you come to Him with a broken heart.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/2-samuel-12.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 12:4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

Ver. 4. And there came a traveller.] This was the devil, say some, whom David feasted by abusing Bathsheba; and indeed he is a great traveller and trudge-over-the-world. [Job 1:7 1 Peter 5:8] Others - and better - understand it of fleshly lust, which beareth the name of the mother, called in general concupiscence or corruption; this to good David was but a stranger, and not a home dweller: and it must be our care, that though corruption enter, it may not be entertained - "How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?" [Jeremiah 4:14] - lest the traveller become the man of the house, lest the Lurdan (Lord-Dane) play rex in the soul.

And he spared to take of his own flock.] While Nathan was querulously discoursing of the cruel rich man, how he spared to take of his own flock, &c., how willingly doth David listen to the story, and how sharply - even above law - doth he censure the fact!

But took the poor man’s lamb.] So sweet are stolen waters, and so pleasant is bread of secrecies, or eaten in hugger-mugger. [Proverbs 9:17]

Quod licet ingratum est, quod non licet acrius urit:

Sic interdietis imminet roger aquis. ” - Ovid.

And dressed it for the man that was come to him.] This was for lack of true charity, doubtless, which biddeth a man to make bold with his own, and not to meddle with others’ goods. Nevertheless that saying of Gul. Parisiensis hath a great deal of truth in it, Charitas est fur fidelissimus et innocentissimus: quia omnia bona proximoram sua facit, neque tamen illi adimit. Charity is a most faithful and most innocent thief: for why? it maketh all another man’s good its own, without taking anything away from him.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-12.html. 1865-1868.

Sermon Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 12:4

The mixture of gold and clay of which our nature is composed is nowhere so strikingly displayed as in the constant tendency of men to conceive lofty purposes, and then to attain them by mean and sordid methods. The high impulse and the low self-indulgent method are both real, and this confused and contradictory humanity of ours is able to attain them both. We are always building steps of straw to climb to heights of gold.

There is real charity in the impulse of the rich man in Samuel, there is essential meanness in his act. He really wanted to help the poor traveller who came to him, but he wanted to help him with another man's property, to feed him on a neighbour's sheep. A great deal of our official charity comes very near the pattern of this ancient benefactor.

I. One of the truths about the advancing culture of a human nature is, that it is always deepening the idea of possession and making it more intimate. There are deepening degrees of ownership, and as each one of them becomes real to a man, the previous ownerships get a kind of unreality. With this deepening of the idea of property, the idea of charity must deepen also. No relief of need is satisfactory which stops short of at least the effort to inspire character, to make the poor man a sharer in what is at least the substance of the rich man's wealth. And at the bottom of this profounder conception of charity there must lie a deeper and more spiritual conception of property. The rich man's wealth, what is it? Not his money. It is something which came to him in the slow accumulation of his money. It is a character into which enter those qualities that make true and robust manliness in all the ages and throughout the world; independence, intelligence, and the love cf struggle.

II. This makes chanty a far more exacting thing than it could be without such an idea. It clothes it in self-sacrifice. It requires the entrance into it of a high motive.

III. The deeper conception of benefaction which will not rest satisfied with anything short of the imparting of character still does not do away with the inferior and more superficial ideas. It uses the lower forms of gift as means or types or pledges. The giving of money is ennobled by being made the type of a Diviner gift which lies beyond.

Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 336.


Reference: Preacher's Monthly, vol. vi., p. 18.


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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/2-samuel-12.html.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

A traveller: this some make to be the devil, whom David gratified by his sin; but it rather seems added for the decency of the parable.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". 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

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". "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 12:4. There came a traveller unto the rich man — This aptly signifies David’s roving affection, which he suffered to wander from his own home, and to covet another man’s wife. The Jewish doctors say it represents the evil disposition or desire that is in us, which must be carefully watched and resisted when we feel its motions. But took the poor man’s lamb — Nathan, in this parable, omits touching the murder committed to cover the adultery, perhaps in order that David might not readily apprehend his meaning, and so be induced, unawares, to pronounce sentence of condemnation upon himself.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-12.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

To him. This wanton cruelty caused David to pronounce him deserving of death; as simple theft was punished with only a four-fold restitution, Exodus xxii. 1. Judges sometimes diminish, and at other times increase, the severity of the law, according to the dispositions of the offenders, which lawgivers could not exactly foresee. (Calmet)

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-12.html. 1859.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.
a traveller
Genesis 18:2-7; James 1:14
took the
11:3,4
Reciprocal: Proverbs 5:19 - be thou ravished always with her love

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-12.html.