2 Samuel 12:1-4
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him, There were two men in one city; the one rich…
1. This is the first and almost the only parable contained in the Old Testament. There is one instance of a fable of earlier date (Judges 9:8-15). The former belongs to a higher order of teaching than the latter (Smith's 'Dict. of the Bible,' art. "Fable;" Trench, 'Notes on the Parables'); and it was employed most perfectly by the great Teacher. Compare his parables of the unmerciful servant, the rich fool, the rich man and Lazarus.
2. It was in part an acted parable (like 2 Samuel 14:5-7; 1 Kings 20:35-43); and was at first regarded by the king as the simple, literal statement of a case in which one of his subjects, a poor man, had suffered wrong at the hands of another, a rich man; and with reference to which the prophet appeared as an advocate on behalf of the former against the latter, seeking justice and judgment. "Nathan, it is likely, used to come to him on such errands, which made this the less suspected. It becomes those who have interest in princes and free access to them to intercede for those that are wronged, that they may have right done them" (Matthew Henry).
3. Its moral and spiritual aim (which is always the chief thing to be considered in the interpretation of a parable) was to set forth the guilt of a rich oppressor, and thereby to awaken the general sense of outraged justice in the king concerning his own conduct.
4. "It is one of those little gems of Divinity that are scattered so plentifully through the sacred Scriptures, that sparkle with a lustre, pure and brilliant as the light of heaven, and attest the sacred origin of the wonderful book that contains them" (Blaikie). Consider the guilt of this rich man in the light of -
I. HIS POSITION compared with that of the poor man, and his relation to him. "There were two men in one city," etc. (vers. 1-3).
1. He had much possessions, "exceeding many flocks and herds." Providence had been very kind to him. He had abundance for personal gratification and princely hospitality and liberality. But the poor man had nothing "save one little ewe lamb," which he valued all the more on that account, and reared amidst his family with the utmost care and tenderness.
2. He had great power, which he might use for good or evil; in fulfilment of the Law or in frustration of it; to protect and benefit "the poor and needy" or to oppress and rob them.
3. He dwelt in the same city with the poor man, and was well acquainted with his circumstances. He knew the story of the little lamb. The picture is exquisitely drawn by one who was familiar with many such scenes in humble life, and adapted to excite sympathy and pity. The obligations of the rich man toward his "neighbour" are manifest; and they shadow forth the greater obligations of others in a still higher position (vers. 7, 8). Although the king had well nigh absolute power over the property and lives of his subjects, it belonged to the true idea of his office to "reign, command, and punish, as though it were not he that reigned, commanded, and punished, but the One to whom he never ceases to be responsible, and as though he might himself be in the position of any other member of the community and the latter in his own" (Ewald, 'Antiquities').
II. HIS DISPOSITION. "And there came a traveller," etc. (ver. 4). "The Jewish doctors say, it represents that which they call 'the evil disposition,' or desire that is in us, which must be diligently watched and observed when we feel its motions. 'In the beginning it is but a traveller, but in time it becomes a guest, and in conclusion is the master of the house'" (Patrick). This is pressing the imagery of the parable too far. Nevertheless, "the sin is traced to its root, viz. insatiable covetousness; this hidden background of all sins" (Keil); sinful, selfish, inordinate desire (2 Samuel 11:1-5). It is a "root of bitterness." And in the case supposed what evils it involved!
1. Discontentment with a man's own possessions, notwithstanding their abundance "Nature is content with little, grace with less, sin with nothing."
2. Ingratitude toward the Giver of them.
3. Envy of another man on account of some imaginary advantage he possesses, notwithstanding its comparative insignificance - "One little ewe lamb."
6. Pride in the possession of power; and its irresponsible exercise. There was no sense of personal accountability to God.
7. Vanity or love of display, though at the expense of another an undue regard for outward appearance.
8. Deceitfulness. Did the guest who enjoyed the rich man's hospitality dream at whose cost it was provided?
9. Pitilessness and obduracy. "Because he had no pity" (ver. 6).
10. Idolatry (Colossians 3:5) It is only when sin is viewed in the light of the spirituality Of the commandment, that its "exceeding sinfulness" becomes manifest (Romans 7:13). "Covetousness is a subtle sin, a dangerous sin, a mother sin, a radical vice, a breach of all the ten commandments" (T. Watson).
III. His CONDUCT. "And he spared to take of his own flock," etc. It was:
3. Cruel; "a wanton aggravation of the evils of poverty, humbling the poor man with a sense of injustice and inability to protect himself, deriving a momentary gratification from seeing his neighbour laid low at his feet, as if no lamb was so savoury as that which had been torn from the poor man's bosom amidst the tears of his children."
4. Lawless and reckless; "a despising of the commandment of the Lord" (ver 9). The poor man's complaint is unheard. But is you condemn yourself. This is a parable; and I would have you consider whether under another name it is not spoken concerning you. Reserve your rebuke, lest it come back upon yourself" (R. Halley). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.