2 Samuel 11
Benson Commentary
And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 11:1. After the year was expired — Hebrew, at the return of the year: when that year ended, and the next began, which was in the spring-time. When kings go forth to battle — Which is, when the ground is fit for the march of soldiers, and brings forth provision for man and beast. David sent Joab and all Israel — All his soldiers. And they destroyed the children of Ammon — Laid waste their country, and killed all the people they could meet with. But David tarried still at Jerusalem — He committed the care of this war to Joab, and did not himself go out to fight, as he had done against Hadarezer: had he been now on his post, at the head of his forces, he had been out of the way of temptation.

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.
2 Samuel 11:2. David arose from off his bed — Where he had lain down to sleep in the heat of the day, as the manner was in those countries; and where he had probably slept for some time. The bed of sloth often proves the bed of lust. And walked upon the roof of his house — To take the fresh air, for the roofs of the houses in that country were flat for this purpose. He saw a woman washing herself — In a bath, which was in her garden; probably from some ceremonial pollution.

And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?
2 Samuel 11:3. David sent and inquired after the woman — Thus, instead of suppressing that desire which the sight of his eyes had kindled, he seeks rather to feed it; and first inquires who she was; that if she were unmarried he might make her either his wife or his concubine. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba? — This seems to have been an answer given by some one to David’s inquiry. Uriah is called a Hittite, because he was such by nation, but a proselyte to the Jewish religion; and for his valour made one of the king’s guards among the Cherethites and the Pelethites; which was the reason, perhaps, that he had a house so near the king’s.

And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
2 Samuel 11:4. David sent messengers and took her — — From her own house into his palace, not by force, but by persuasion. And he lay with her — See how all the way to sin is down hill! When men begin they cannot soon stop themselves. And she returned unto her house — With a guilty conscience, and oppressed with terror, no doubt; for she had committed a sin for which the law condemned her to be stoned. She returned, it is probable, early in the morning, to prevent discovery. But how little did it avail to conceal from man a crime, of the commission of which the holy and sin-avenging God, who is no respecter of persons, had been a witness. Alas for poor Bath-sheba! Her confusion and distress were doubtless unutterable. But, in the mean time who can describe the wretched state of David’s mind, when the tumult of passion was subsided, Bath-sheba departed, and reason and reflection returned! “The calm reflections of a spirit truly religious,” says Dr. Delaney, “will best imagine the horrors of so complicated a guilt on the recoil of conscience; when all those passions whose blandishments, but a few moments before, deluded, seduced, and overset his reason, now resumed their full deformity, or rushed into their contrary extremes; desire, into distraction; the sweets of pleasure, into bitterness of soul; love, into self-detestation; and hope, almost into the horrors of despair. The wife of one of his own worthies, apparently an innocent and a valuable woman, abused, and tainted, and brought to the very brink of ruin and infamy! A brave man basely dishonoured! and a faithful subject irreparably injured! The laws of God trampled under foot, of that God who had so eminently distinguished, exalted, and honoured him! Well might he cry out, in the anguish of this distracted condition, Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me. In one word, his condition was now so dreadful that it was not easy to bring himself to the presumption of even petitioning for mercy! And this I take to be the true reason why we find no psalm of David penned upon this occasion.” Here we may observe, that any other historian but the sacred would have endeavoured to draw a veil over the conduct of the admired hero of his story, that his reader might not see him falling into such crimes as would shock us even in the most abandoned of men. But the Scriptures are divine. They were written by persons whom divine inspiration had raised above the low thoughts of the mere human mind, and they therefore proceed in another manner. They give us a faithful account of things, without any false colouring, without partiality to any one, without concealing the blemishes or vices of the most favoured characters. For they were intended as well to instruct us by the sins of these persons as by their virtues, and therefore set forth their example in all its parts, that we may as well learn to shun the former as to imitate the latter. We have in this crime of David with Bath- sheba as strong a picture represented to us, as ever was set before the eyes of men, of the true nature and progress of vice, how it insinuates itself into the corrupt minds of men, how easily it overcomes them, if not resisted, and how it proceeds from bad to worse, till, it may be, it plunges them into the greatest depth of iniquity and misery, even, as we see here, into adultery and murder!

And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.
2 Samuel 11:5-6. The woman conceived, and sent and told David — She was afraid of infamy, and perhaps of the severity of her husband, who might cause her to be stoned. And therefore she prays David to consult her honour and safety. Send me Uriah the Hittite — It is likely David ordered an account of the state of the war to be sent by him, as a colour for having sent for him home.

And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.
And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.
And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.
2 Samuel 11:8-9. David said, Go down to thy house — Not doubting but he would there converse with his wife, and so hide their sin and shame. There followed him a mess of meat from the king — In token of David’s peculiar favour and kindness to him; and that, eating freely of good cheer, he might be the more desirous of enjoying the company of his wife. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house — Like a true soldier, he lay all night in the guard-chamber, and did not go home to his wife. This he did by the secret influence of God upon his mind, and the order of his wise providence, that David’s sin might be brought to light notwithstanding all his contrivances to conceal it.

But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house?
2 Samuel 11:10. David said, Camest thou not from thy journey? — Wearied with hard service and travel; nor did I expect or desire that thou shouldest now attend upon my person: or keep watch among my guards. He still artfully pretends kindness to him, and great care of him.

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.
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.

And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow.
2 Samuel 11:12-13. Tarry here to-day — He pretended still more kindness to him in giving him time to rest himself after his journey; and perhaps pretended also that he could not sooner finish the despatches which he intended to send by him to Joab. When David had called him in — Invited him to supper the night before he went away. And he made him drunk — He made him merry, as the Hebrew word often signifies. He caused him to drink more than was proper. What mean and shameful contrivances did David employ against this brave man! How base is sin, how low it will make men stoop, and what vile and unworthy things it will induce them to do! This was a great addition, to David’s sin, that by one evil he endeavoured to effect another; by intoxicating Uriah he strove to make him forget his oath before mentioned.

And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.
And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.
2 Samuel 11:15. Retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die — Thus swift is the progress of vice! thus does it lead from bad to worse! thus does it corrupt man’s whole nature, and bring him to such degeneracy as he could not before have thought himself capable of! So far is David from repenting, that he seeks to cover one scandalous and wicked action by another still more scandalous and wicked; to conceal the great crime of adultery by the still greater crime of murder! How are the beginnings of sin to be dreaded! for who knows where they will end? David hath sinned, therefore Uriah must die. That innocent, valiant, gallant man, who was ready to die for his prince’s honour, must die by his prince’s hand! See how fleshly lusts war against the soul, and what devastation they make in that war! How they blind the eyes, sear the conscience, harden the heart, and destroy all sense of honour and justice! See the shameful and deplorable change which they have made in David. Is this the man whose heart smote him because he had cut off Saul’s skirt? who more than once generously saved the life of his most bitter enemy when he had it in his power; but who is now using the basest contrivances to take away the life of a most worthy and faithful servant? Is this he that executed judgment and justice to all his people; and that exercised himself in God’s laws day and night, conscious what extraordinary favours he had received from him, and the infinite obligations he was under to him; the just, the generous, the pious David? Yes, this is the very man. Alas! how can he do such unjust and base actions? How can he be so ungrateful to his heavenly benefactor, as thus to transgress and trample under foot his law in the most capital of all its articles? How can he give such scandal and cause of stumbling to his subjects, whose piety and virtue he was appointed to promote? And how can he thus expose to contempt and reproach the true religion among the idolatrous nations all around? Alas! sin, through its deceitfulness, has gained entrance, and re-established its empire in his soul! Sin has produced this horrid transformation in the mind and heart of one of the bravest and worthiest of men. Reader, take warning, and withstand the first assaults of evil, lest, if they once prevail, they deprive thee of all religious and moral sense and feeling, and plunge thee into the greatest depth of guilt and baseness, to the present dishonour of God and religion, and thy own everlasting ruin and misery!

And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.
2 Samuel 11:16-17. Where he knew that valiant men were — He ordered him, with others, to attack a part of the city which he knew would be valiantly defended; or out of which he knew the best men they had in the city would issue forth against them. Joab also was herein very guilty in complying with David’s wicked command; unless he supposed that Uriah had committed some great crime, for which David consulting his honour, chose to punish him in this manner, rather than openly. The men of the city went out —

They seem to have made a sally out of the city upon the Israelites, when they saw the latter were preparing for an assault. There fell some of the servants of David — This was a further aggravation of David’s sin, that he not only exposed an innocent and a valiant faithful servant to be killed, but other persons also with him, who might otherwise have lived to have done good service to their country. For it is not to be imagined that David meant Uriah to be set alone in the fore-front of the battle, where the service was hottest, but that there was to be a party with him, whom he was to lead on. This was accordingly ordered by Joab, and those men fell with Uriah.

And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.
Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war;
And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king,
And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall?
Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for.
And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate.
And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
2 Samuel 11:25. Let not this thing displease thee — Be not disheartened by this loss. David showed no sign of grief or displeasure at these tidings, as he heard the news, which he desired, of Uriah’s death. The sword devoureth one as well as another — Makes no distinction between good and bad. Make thy battle more strong, &c. — Assault the city with greater force, till thou art made master of it. And encourage thou him — Joab and his soldiery.

And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
2 Samuel 11:27. When the mourning was past — Which commonly continued only the space of seven days, 1 Samuel 31:13; nor could the nature of the thing admit of longer delay, lest the too early birth of the child should discover David’s sin. Bare a son — By which it appears that David continued in the state of impenitence for divers months together, and this notwithstanding his frequent attendance upon God’s ordinances — which is an eminent instance of the corruption of man’s nature, of the deceitfulness of sin, and of the tremendous judgment of God in punishing one sin by delivering a man up to another.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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