2 Samuel 12


In this chapter, we read about how the prophet Nathan confronts David for his sinful concerning Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah. We read about God’s condemnation of David’s actions and motives, whilst at the same time reading about God’s love and mercy towards him.

Nathan Rebukes David

‘The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, ‘There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. ‘Now a traveller came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveller who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.’ David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.’ 2 Samuel 12:1-6

This chapter begins by telling us that the Lord sent Nathan to confront David about his actions, 1 Chronicles 20:1-3, and we can imagine how apprehensive he would have been about approaching David, the king of Israel with such a condemning message.

When Nathan met David he tells him a parable which would result in David condemning himself as king. The parable speaks about a sin which was committed against a poor man by a rich man. David’s reaction to the deed of the ruthless rich man was immediate and according to justice.

This judgment of the king was exactly in keeping with the Law of God, it was punishment by death Exodus 22:1. This tells us that David also knew the law of God regarding adultery and murder, Exodus 20:13-14.

‘Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’ ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ 2 Samuel 12:7-12

When Nathan told David that he was that man, we can imagine that David would have paused and become stunned. After reminding David of everything God has done for him, Nathan tells him God would have given him even more.

It appears that David hasn’t been counting his blessings but taking them for granted. When he committed adultery with Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11:3-5, and ordered the murder of her husband Uriah, which also led to many of his own men dying, 2 Samuel 11:14-21, he forgot about his role as king, he forgot that it was God who anointed him as king of Israel.

Notice that God tell David he despises Him because of his sinful actions with Uriah and Bathsheba. This makes it clear that David’s sins were sins committed against God Himself, Uriah’s enemies may have been killed on the battlefront, but God held David personally responsible because he was the one who gave the orders in the first place, 2 Samuel 11:14.

God tells David He would take all of his wives; this is simply because David took Uriah’s wife. God also tells David that the sword will never depart from his house, this was to become a reality very soon, we know that three of his sons would be murdered, Amnon by Absalom, 2 Samuel 13:23-38, Absalom by Joab, 2 Samuel 18:14-15, and Adonijah by Solomon, 1 Kings 2:23-25. Sadly, even as the generations pass, the bloodshed of David’s family doesn’t end but continues, 2 Kings 11:1.

God also tells David, in broad daylight, in front of his very eyes, He will take his wives and give them to someone else close to him and they will sleep with them. This is a reference to Absalom, David’s son, when Absalom tried to take his father’s reign, one of the first things he did was publicly sleep, that is sexually, with David’s concubines, 2 Samuel 16:21-22.

Because David thought what he did with Bathsheba and Uriah was a secret, God tells him he is going to be punished publicly, that is his family will be punished and everyone will know why they were being punished.

David was well aware of what God was telling him, he was going to reap what he sowed and was going to carry this burden and grief for the rest of his life.

We all must learn that when we sin, our sin not only affects us as individuals but it can have serious consequences for others, especially those close to us.

‘Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ Nathan replied, ‘The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.’ 2 Samuel 12:13-14

David’s response is immediate and sincere, he openly confesses that he has sinned, Psalm 51. He now knows that he can’t hide his sin from God, Psalm 69:5 / Psalm 90:8 / Jeremiah 16:17-18. Notice Nathan’s reply to David, the Lord has taken away your sin, God in His mercy forgave David. This clearly tells us that sins were forgiven even in the Old Testament period, Leviticus 4:26 / Leviticus 4:31 / Leviticus 4:35 / Leviticus 5:10 / Leviticus 5:13 / Leviticus 5:16 / Numbers 14:18.

David obviously thought that he was going to die as a result of his sinful behaviour and deserved to die because of his sins, Leviticus 20:10, but Nathan tells him he’s not going to die. God was going to show him grace and mercy, which in turn he would learn to show grace and mercy to others.

Although David wasn’t going to die, the child he had with Bathsheba was going to. It’s probably been around a year since David slept with Bathsheba and Nathan confronted him and he probably thought he was getting away with his sinful actions, but his sin finally caught up with him and judgment was going to be done. Once again we’re reminded that the innocent may get caught up in our sinful behaviour, here it was to be his son.

‘After Nathan had gone home, the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them. On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, ‘While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.’ David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. ‘Is the child dead?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ they replied, ‘he is dead.’ Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate. His attendants asked him, ‘Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!’ He answered, ‘While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The LORD may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.’ 2 Samuel 12:15-23

After Nathan returns home, immediately the Lord struck David’s child with an illness. David is clearly devastated and so he fasts and mourns. The elders try to encourage him but he refuses to get up or eat. Although David pleads with the Lord, this is one prayer which won’t be answered, the child dies which meant that God’s judgment upon David didn’t change.

David’s attendants were scared to tell David the child was dead but when David notices they were whispering amongst themselves, he knew inside himself that his child was dead.

He asks them if the child is dead, and when they told him, he was dead, David goes head and eats, which confuses everyone present. They thought he would mourn the death of his child but David was demonstrating that he had fully accepted God’s judgment and had to move on.

Notice that David says, ‘I will go to him, but he will not return to me’, this tells us that David knew that one day, he too would die and join his child in the grave.

Concerning life after death, we should remember that, even if Solomon was the wisest man of his day, Solomon was not omniscient. There were things which even he didn’t know because God hadn’t yet revealed them.

When he wrote, ‘for the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing,’ Ecclesiastes 9:5, Solomon was merely expressing the view of death commonly held among his people in his day. But, when we examine the Old Testament Scriptures it becomes clear that, even among God’s ancient chosen people, Israel, there was no clear understanding of, or belief in, life after death. A clear teaching about life after death came when Christ came, 2 Timothy 1:10.

Although it’s difficult to understand why an innocent child had to pay the consequences of David and Bathsheba’s sinful behaviour, we can have confidence because of what Jesus brought concerning life and immortality that this child will be in heaven with the Lord, Mark 10:13-15.

And although David didn’t know about the afterlife at this point, we can be assured that both him and his child are now together in heaven.

‘Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah. Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, ‘I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.’ So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah and attacked and captured it. David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labour with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.’ 2 Samuel 12:24-31

After mourning the loss of his child, David goes to his wife Bathsheba and comforts her, he sleeps with her and they have another child and call him Solomon, 1 Chronicles 20:1-3.

They both had no idea that God would bring this child into the world and he would become the most prominent king in Israel’s history. They both had no idea that this child would continue to fulfil the seed-line promise which God had begun in Genesis, Genesis 3:15 / Genesis 12:1-3.

David names the child Solomon which means ‘peaceable’ but the name God gave him through Nathan was Jedidiah, which means ‘beloved of the Lord’. Although the Lord took away their first child as a means of punishment, the Lord now blesses them with a second child, Romans 8:28.

As Joab was fighting against Rabbah of the Ammonites he send word back to David about what he’s achieved. He had taken the city’s water supply which meant the city couldn’t function without it. The city of waters was the name of the fortification built to protect the fountain that still flows in Amman the capital of Jordan.

Joab’s loyalty to David is very evident here because he could have easily taken the city himself but he wanted David to get involved so that David could receive the glory for taking the city.

David proceeds to take the crown from the king’s head, the word king used here has a footnote in most Bibles which informs us it was taken from ‘Milcom’s’ head, which was also the name of the national idol of the Ammonites, Amos 1:15 / Zephaniah 1:5.

Because of the precious stones inlaid on it, the crown itself weighed around 125 pounds, which is quite heavy and I don’t believe we are to think that David was going to wear this permanently on his head.

After defeating all the Ammonite towns, David took the spoils of war and then makes them slaves and puts them to work, whilst he and his men return to Jerusalem.

Go To 2 Samuel 13