2 Samuel 11:11
And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.
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(11) The ark, and Israel, and Judah.—notwithstanding the experience of the capture of the Ark by the Philistines in the days of Eli (1Samuel 4:11), it seems to have been still customary to carry it out in war as a symbol of God’s presence and pledge of His favour. (Comp. 1Samuel 14:18.) The separate mention of Israel and Judah gives no indication of a late date for this book, since these two parts of the nation had already been separated, and even hostile to each other in the early years of David’s reign. This noble answer of Uriah should have stung David to the quick, but his conscience was so deadened by his sin that the only effect was to lead him to yet baser means of concealment.

2 Samuel 11:11. The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents — It appears by this that the custom which we read of, 1 Samuel 4:4, of carrying the ark with them into the field, was still continued. It was done, no doubt, both for the encouragement of the army, who were taught to consider it as a token of the divine presence with them, and favour to them, and also for their direction, that they might consult God in any difficult case. My lord Joab and the servants of my lord are in the open field — In tents which are in the fields. His meaning is, now, when God’s people are in a doubtful and dangerous condition, it becomes me to sympathize with them, and to abstain even from lawful delights. What a generosity of temper does Uriah show in these words! David’s heart, one might have expected, would have been deeply touched to think how he had abused so brave a man, and how vilely he had indulged himself in sinful pleasures, while this man, and the rest of the brave army, were gloriously enduring all manner of hardships, and refusing the most innocent gratifications, for his service and the service of their country. But, alas! he was at present in so corrupt a state of mind, that he was rather grieved than rejoiced to find Uriah so true a soldier.

11:6-13 Giving way to sin hardens the heart, and provokes the departure of the Holy Spirit. Robbing a man of his reason, is worse than robbing him of his money; and drawing him into sin, is worse than drawing him into any wordly trouble whatever.The ark - Perhaps there was a double purpose in taking the ark; one, to excite to the utmost the enthusiasm of the people for its defense and against the Ammonites; the other, to have the means at hand of inquiring of the Lord, which David had found so serviceable. 9. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house—It is customary for servants to sleep in the porch or long gallery; and the guards of the Hebrew king did the same. Whatever his secret suspicions might have been, Uriah's refusal to indulge in the enjoyment of domestic pleasure, and his determination to sleep "at the door of the king's house," arose from a high and honorable sense of military duty and propriety (2Sa 11:11). But, doubtless, the resolution of Uriah was overruled by that Providence which brings good out of evil, and which has recorded this sad episode for the warning of the church. The ark, it seems, was now carried with them for their encouragement and direction, as was usual: see Numbers 10:35 1 Samuel 4:4.

In the open fields, to wit, in tents which are in the fields.

And to lie with my wife: he might possibly add these words, to insinuate his apprehension of the king’s design, and to awaken his conscience to the consideration of his sin, and of the injury which he had done him. His meaning is, Now when God’s people are in a doubtful and dangerous condition, it becomes me to sympathize with them, and to abstain even from lawful delights. Whereby he might possibly intimate how unworthy it was for David in such a season to indulge himself in sinful and injurious pleasures. But David’s ear was now deaf, his heart being hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

And Uriah said unto David,.... As an apology for this conduct:

the ark, and Israel and Judah, abide in tents; meaning not the people of Israel and Judah in the land of Canaan; for they did not now dwell in tents, though indeed the ark of the Lord did, 2 Samuel 7:2, which some think is here referred to; but the armies of Israel and Judah besieging Rabbah, with whom it seems the ark was, which sometimes was carried with them when they went out to war, 1 Samuel 4:4, though Abarbinel thinks this was not the ark in which were the two tables of stone, and therefore is not called the ark of the covenant, but an ark which was made to put the ephod, and Urim and Thummim in that they might upon occasion inquire of the Lord by them:

and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields: around Rabbah they were besieging; he calls Joab his lord, because he was the chief general under whom he served and the rest of the commanding officers he calls the servants of his lord as distinguished from the common soldiers. The Jews, who are for excusing David from blame in the case of Uriah, observe (l), that he was guilty of rebellion against David, and so worthy of death not only because he disobeyed his command, in not going to his house when he ordered him but by calling "Joab my lord" in his presence: but this was only a respectable character of his general and no overt act of treason to his king; nor did David so understand it, nor in the least resent it: now seeing such great men, who were far superior to him in rank and office were obliged to lie on the bare ground, he argues:

shall I then go into mine house to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? if he had any suspicion of David's crime, he might purposely add the last clause; and if not, it was enough to awaken the conscience of David, and cut him to the quick had he not been greatly hardened through the deceitfulness of sin to observe, that a faithful subject and a soldier of his would not allow himself the enjoyment of lawful pleasures, when his fellow soldiers were exposing their lives to danger for their country; and yet he under such circumstances indulged to sinful lusts and criminal pleasures:

as thou livest and as thy soul liveth I will not do this thing; he swears to it for the confirmation of it; this he did to prevent any further solicitations from the king, or his wife unto it, who were both anxiously desirous of it; for though no mention is made of his wife, yet no doubt she did all she could to prevail upon him to come to his house but all to no purpose; his mind was so bent to the contrary through the overruling providence of God to which it must be ascribed.

(l) T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 56. 1.

And Uriah said unto David, {f} The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.

(f) By this God would touch David's conscience, for seeing the fidelity and religion of his servant, he would declare himself forgetful of God, and injurious to his servant.

11. The ark] These wars were “the wars of Jehovah” (see note on ch. 2 Samuel 10:12), and the Ark had been taken along with the army as the symbol of His presence and favour. Cp. Joshua 6:6; 1 Samuel 4:3; 1 Samuel 14:18 (but see note there); 2 Samuel 15:24.

Israel, and Judah] The description of the nation as “Israel and Judah” marks the tendency to isolation on the part of Judah, which had been confirmed by the separation in the early part of David’s reign, and prepared the way for the permanent division of the kingdoms. See note on 1 Samuel 11:8, and Introd. ch. I. § 5 (d), p. 13.

tents] Properly, booths, rough shelters or huts extemporised out of the boughs of trees.

as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth] This form of oath does not occur elsewhere. We usually have either “as the Lord liveth” (ch. 2 Samuel 4:9), or “as thy soul liveth” (ch. 2 Samuel 14:19), or the two combined (1 Samuel 20:3). Possibly “as thou livest” is a textual error for “as the Lord liveth.” The Sept. reads How? as thy soul liveth, &c.

Verse 11. - The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents. The presence of the ark with the army in the field is puzzling, and shows us how little we know of the religious practices of the Jews, as, but for this chance mention of it, we should have affirmed that it was never taken out of its place in Zion, and that in previous times the conduct of Eli's sons in carrying it out of the sanctuary to war was an irregular act. The Jews themselves feel the difficulty, and some of their rabbins affirm that this was not the ark of the covenant, but a chest containing the ephod whereby inquiries were made of Jehovah. Certainly in 1 Samuel 4:3, 4 it is expressly called "the ark of the covenant;" and in 2 Samuel 6:2 "the ark of God." The use in our version of the special word "ark" obliges us to think of the ark of the covenant, whereas really it is a general word, rendered "chest" in 2 Kings 12:9, 10. It is said, too, that the war with Ammon was not a holy war, nor was it of such importance as to call for David's presence at the head of his troops. But, on the other hand, if it was not the ark of God, why did Uriah lay so great stress upon its presence in the field? Moreover, we find the ark with Saul in his war with the Philistines (l 1 Samuel 14:18), where it is expressly called "the ark of God," and is used for the purpose of inquiring the will of Jehovah. On comparing 1 Samuel 7:2 with 2 Samuel 6:3, we should have imagined that the ark abode uncared for at the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, did we not plainly find it in attendance upon Saul. We are thus compelled to conclude that David sent it, with its attendant priests, with Joab, that he might consult the Deity by its moans. In the Talmud ('Shek. Jerus.,' 9. 2) the idea of there being an inferior or second ark used for this purpose is condemned. David, in his remonstrance with Uriah, shows signs of displeasure, and the conduct of the latter suggests the idea that his suspicious had been aroused. The war was going on prosperously; he had been summoned home on an honourable pretext to give the king a report of it; and it is, to say the least, strange that he should have cared so little for a wife, to whom apparently he had not long been married, and for his domestic affairs, as not even to go to his house, which was close by. The tone, too, of Uriah's answer is excited, and his military ardour too warm. David had assumed that, as a matter of course, he would hasten to visit his wife, and Uriah's unexpected refusal upsets his devices, and leaves him with all his difficulties increased rather than done away with. Very probably, in the conversation in the guard room, Uriah had received hints that his wife was too high in the royal favour. For "tents" the Hebrew has "booths," and so the Revised Version; and for "fields" the singular, "field." The Israelites still lived mostly in tents, and in war were content with very slight and temporary shelter, and if there were any parks, or enclosures, they were called Naioth, while "the field" was the open unenclosed land, which formed the mass of the country. The separate mention of "Israel and Judah" is no indication of the book having been written after the disruption of the kingdom. Uriah had been in David's service when he was king only at Hebron, and had taken part in the long war between Judah and the house of Saul. 2 Samuel 11:11When this was told to David (the next morning), he said to Uriah, "Didst thou not come from the way (i.e., from a journey)? why didst thou not go down (as men generally do when they return from a journey)?" Uriah replied (2 Samuel 11:11), "The ark (ark of the covenant), and Israel, and Judah, dwell in the huts, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord encamp in the field; and should I go to my house to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? By thy life, and by the life of thy soul, I do no such thing!" בּסּכּות ישׁב, to sit or sojourn in huts, is the same practically as being encamped in the field. Uriah meant to say: Whereas the ark, i.e., Jehovah with the ark, and all Israel, were engaged in conflict with the enemies of God and of His kingdom, and therefore encamped in the open country, it did not become a warrior to seek rest and pleasure in his own home. This answer expressed the feelings and the consciousness of duty which ought to animate one who was fighting for the cause of God, in such plain and unmistakeable terms, that it was well adapted to prick the king to the heart. But David's soul was so beclouded by the wish to keep clear of the consequences of his sin in the eyes of the world, that he did not feel the sting, but simply made a still further attempt to attain his purpose with Uriah. He commanded him to stop in Jerusalem all that day, as he did not intend to send him away till the morrow.
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