Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 11:1-5. - (THE KING'S PALACE.)1 Chronicles 20:1).
1. He was about fifty years of age; had been reigning in Jerusalem upwards of twelve years; dwelt in a stately palace on Mount Zion; and possessed numerous sons and daughters, a splendid court and a powerful army. He had been "preserved whithersoever he went," subdued his enemies, and returned in triumph. His natural gifts and fervent piety (Psalm 24:4; Psalm 101:7) were even more extraordinary than his material prosperity; and he now stood on the pinnacle of human greatness and glory.
2. "We might well wish, in our human fashion, that, as he stood at this elevation, he had closed a life hitherto (as far as was possible before Christianity) almost entirely spotless, and bequeathed to posterity a wholly unclouded memory, and the purest type of true royalty. But the ascent of the dizzy height is always attended by the possibility of a slip and then of a headlong fall" (Ewald).
3. "Rising from the couch where he had indulged in his noonday siesta to an undue length, David forthwith ascended to the roof of his house. So ambition commonly follows excess; nor do they whom the contagion of luxury once corrupts readily seek after moderate and lowly ways. But that ascent of David, alas! was a prelude to his deplorable downfall. For he ascended only that he might fall, beholding thence, as from a watchtower, Bathsheba the wife of Uriah, and immediately becoming passionately enamoured of her" (J. Doughty, 'Analecta Sacra:' 1658).
4. It was the turning point of his career, which was henceforth marked by a long series of calamities. And "it is sad to think that the cup of life, alter being filled for him by God and made pure and sweet by previous suffering and self-restraint, should have been recklessly poisoned by his own hand" (Binney).
"His steps were turn'd into deceitful ways:
I. AT A SEASON OF SLOTHFUL RELAXATION. In the spring of the year, "when kings go forth to war," instead of going forth with his army to complete the subjugation of Ammon, "David sent Joab," etc., and abode in Jerusalem. Formerly, when "the Lord had given him rest" (2 Samuel 7:1), he spent his leisure in a worthy manner, and displayed an ardent and even excessive zeal; but now, in choosing rest for himself, he showed a lack of zeal, and his unhappy choice was followed by disastrous consequences. "His actual fall into sin seems to have begun by the abdication of his functions as captain of Israel" (Maclaren); which was itself the effect of "previous relaxation of the girded loins and negligence of the untrimmed lamp." Inactivity (voluntarily chosen, without adequate reason, and regardless of opportunities of useful service) is commonly:
1. Induced by a course of successful enterprise, and the attainment of great prosperity. If adversity has slain its thousands, prosperity has slain its tens of thousands. "When his pillow was the rock and his curtain the cave; when his sword, under Providence, procured him his daily bread from the foes of his country, and the means of existence formed the object and pursuit of life, - he was pious and immovable; he must have been active or he must have resigned his life. But now the case was widely different. He had not only all the necessaries, but all the luxuries which the most refined voluptuousness could devise, attending in rich profusion around him. He had certainly the duty of his charge to impress its importance on his mind; but then he had the opportunity of neglecting it, and even David, it appears, was not proof against the solicitations of this opportunity" (Thompson, 'Davidica').
2. Indicative of a state of spiritual declension.
(1) Of a gradual decay of faith and neglect of watchfulness and prayer, and so leaving his hold of God;
(2) of a defective sense of responsibility to God;
(3) of pride and security, "mortal's chief enemy," so that the self-denying labours and hardships of the battlefield seemed no longer necessary; and
(4) of undue love of ease and sensuous pleasure, fostered in David's case by polygamy. "The sense of delicacy and chastity, which has such a purifying and preserving influence on the life, could not flourish side by side with the polygamy in which he permitted himself" (W.M. Taylor). The majestic forest tree falling suddenly beneath the blast excites our surprise; but, on examination, it will be found to have been undergoing at heart a gradual process of decay, which at length brought the giant to the ground.
3. Conducive to the indulgence of sinful propensities; exposing to the peril of falling into "the snare of the devil." Want of proper occupation tends to develop the hidden evil of the heart. "Standing waters gather filth" (Matthew Henry). "Idle hours bring forth idle thoughts, and idle thoughts are nothing but dry kindling wood that waits only for a spark to be suddenly ablaze" (Disselhoff). "The industrious man hath no leisure to sin; the idle hath no leisure or power to avoid sin" (Hall). David "may have been quite unconscious of bad habits of mind; but they must have been there growing in secret. The tyrannous self-will, which is too often developed by long successes and command; the unscrupulous craft, which is too often developed by long adversity and the necessity of sustaining one's self in a difficult position; - these must have been there. But even they could not have led David to do the deed he did had there not been in him likewise that fearful moral weakness which comes from long indulgence of the passions - a weakness which is reckless of conscience, of public opinion, and of danger either to earthly welfare or everlasting salvation" (C. Kingsley). "This single act can only be regarded as the expression of his whole disposition of mind" (Hengstenberg).
II. UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF STRONG TEMPTATION; or the desire of self-gratification. For "each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust [desire], and enticed," etc. (James 1:13-15). "Lust is egoistic desire under the incitement of impulse. But the action is not yet performed; it still lies with the man to combat the lust, or by the free choice of his will to yield himself to it" (Martensen, 'Christian Ethics'). It:
1. Arises in most cases from impressions made upon the senses by external objects. "And it came to pass in an eventide," etc. (ver. 2). The eye is the most common inlet of temptation. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food," etc. (Genesis 3:6). Achan first saw, then coveted and took (Joshua 7:21). "David at this time had forgotten the prayer, 'Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.' We see, therefore, how dangerous a thing it is to suffer the eyes to wander. Job made a covenant with his eyes" (Wilier). "They who abuse the eye deserve to have the inward eye darkened" (Gregory).
2. Derives its force from various circumstances; such as
(1) the unexpected, sudden, and deceitful manner of its occurrence;
(2) the power and opportunity of its gratification;
(3) the temperament, predisposition, and besetting sins of its subject;
(4) the entertainment of it in the fancy, which forms false images of good, and invests them with a perilous fascination; and
(5) the delay of endeavour to overcome it, wherein there always lies peculiar and most imminent danger (Genesis 39:9).
3. Becomes by such means an absorbing passion (Matthew 6:28, 29); blinding the mental vision, perverting the moral judgment, and influencing (though not absolutely compelling) the choice of the personal will, by which sin comes into actual existence. "There is a black spot, though it be no bigger than a bean's eye, in every soul, which, if once set a-working, will overcloud the whole man in darkness, and something very like madness, and will hurry him into the night of destruction" (Arabic saying). To escape this fatal issue there is need, not merely of resolute resistance and fervent prayer, but also of instant flight. "The temptation of the flesh is overcome and impure passion mortified by flight, and not by fighting face to face. He then who flies fastest and furthest is most sure of victory. Once more I say to thee, Fly! for thou art as stubble. Therefore fly, fly, if indeed thou wouldest not be overtaken, led captive, and slain!" (Scupoli).
III. AGAINST THE RESTRAINTS OF RECOGNIZED OBLIGATION. "And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba," etc.? (ver. 3). Whilst he knew not who she was, there might be at least some excuse (considering the position of an Oriental monarch, and the common practices of the age) for his passion (2 Samuel 3:1-5); but now that he was informed that she was "the wife of Uriah," the claims of a higher law than his own inclination must have risen up distinctly before him; and he had to choose between renouncing his evil desire or breaking through the numerous restraints placed in his path. These restraints are:
1. Set up by the express commandments of the Divine Law, which says, "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife;" "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" "Thou shalt not steal" (2 Samuel 12:4-6).
2. Strengthened by the special responsibilities of peculiar position and relationship; such as David held, as King of Israel, under Jehovah, with respect to his subjects, and more particularly his faithful servant Uriah.
3. Enforced by the terrible consequences threatened against transgressors (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 28:15). It is nevertheless possible to burst through all such restraints. And in the exercise of his freedom and the abuse of his power, David set them at nought, and "despised the commandment of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:9). "When lust has conceived, every restraint generally increases its vehemence, the thoughts of future consequences and the consideration of the presence, purity, and justice of God are excluded; his Law and authority are disregarded; faith and fear and love are out of exercise; and the enhanced imagination of the satisfaction to be found in indulgence possesses and engrosses the soul" (Scott).
IV. WITH THE PERSISTENCY OF WILFUL PRESUMPTION. "And David sent messengers, and took her," etc. (vers. 4, 5). Regarding himself as a special favourite of Heaven, he perhaps imagined (as others have done) that he might leave the ways of lowly obedience and self-denial, and go whithersoever he pleased, and yet be preserved from harm (Deuteronomy 29:19; Psalm 19:13; Matthew 4:6); and under this delusion he persisted in his purpose, and fell from his moral elevation into the depths of sin and to the verge of destruction. "How are the mighty fallen!" By such persistency:
1. The sinful purpose of the heart is confirmed and completed in outward action.
2. The guilt incurred is aggravated.
3. The natural consequences of sin become more serious and extensive; and, in some respects, they cannot possibly be averted (ch. 12:11-14).
1. No man, however holy, is exempt from the liability of falling into sin. "Be not highminded, but fear;" "Let him that thinketh he standeth," etc. "If such a strong and tall cedar as David fall, how ought weaker Christians to fear and to pray that God would deliver them from temptation!" (Guild).
2. Material prosperity and outward show are frequently associated with moral failure and secret iniquity. Whilst the conquest of Rabbah went forward, David became the victim of his own unfaithfulness.
3. The fall of men into sin is to be attributed to themselves - their voluntary choice of evil; and not to their circumstances, or constitution, or the withholding from them of the help of God. "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God," etc.
4. It is of unspeakable importance to maintain the exercise of the spiritual life in full vigour, and to watch against the first approach of evil. "The narrow way has precipices on both sides; let us walk it awake and watchful, for we are not more exact than David, who by a moment's neglect was precipitated into the very gulf of sin" (Chrysostom).
5. By the record of the sins of good men (1 Samuel 21:2), the truth and worth of the Word of God are plainly shown. "If such a story does not give one a view of the unfathomable depths of sin and of its power, he will never learn what sin is" (Schmid).
6. In the whole course of history One alone has appeared "without sin;" he was tempted and overcame, and he is the Succourer of them that are tempted. - D.
(1) the praying Hannah,
(2) the provoking Peuinnah,
(3) the broken hearted wife of Phineas,
(4) the proud Michel,
(5) the persuasive Abigail,
(6) the beautiful Bathsheba,
(7) the unfortunate Tamar,
(8) the wily woman of Tekoah,
(9) the devoted Rizpah,
(10) the peaceable woman of Abel, and (in a minor degree)
(11) the terrified nurse of Mephibesheth (2 Samuel 4:3),
(12) the faithful maidservant at En-rogel,
(13) the sympathizing woman of Bahurim (2 Samuel 17:17, 18).
Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (Ammiel, 1 Chronicles 3:5), the granddaughter of Ahithophel the king's counsellor (2 Samuel 23:34), and well known (ver. 3) as the wife of Uriah the Hittite. "Eliam and Uriah must have been thrown much together, being beth of the same rank, and being each one of the thirty-seven officers of the king's guard" (Blunt, 'Undesigned Coincidences'). She was:
1. Endowed with perilous gifts - extraordinary beauty (ver. 2), ardent temperament, quick perceptions, ambitious aims. Something of her natural character may be inferred from 1 Kings 1:15-21 and 1 Kings 2:13-21, "a woman ignorant of ruling, but skilled in love matters."
2. Destitute of adequate safeguards, such as would have been afforded by the presence of her husband, who was away at the siege of Rabbah; careful moral training; and firm religious principles (Proverbs 11:22).
3. Overcome by a great temptation. "And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came," etc. "There is no intimation whatever" (as Delany endeavours to show) "that David brought Bathsheba into the palace through craft or violence; but rather that she came at his request, without any hesitation, and offered no resistance to his desires. Consequently, she is not to be regarded as free from blame" (Keil). "One is even disposed to suspect that she was a designing, ambitious woman, who laid a snare for the king. Nothing is told us concerning her in order that the iniquity of David might not be relieved" (R. Tuck, 'The First Three Kings of Israel'). She, like others, admired the king, felt flattered by his attentions, and had not sufficient moral strength to resist his wishes or control her own inordinate vanity. "Had she been mindful of her matrimonial fidelity, perhaps David had been soon checked in his inordinate desire" (Hall). Yet she was a woman "more sinned against than sinning" (ver. 27; 2 Samuel 12:4).
4. Observant of customary ceremonies. "And she was purified," etc. "More scrupulous about the ceremonial law than the moral" (Leviticus 15:18). "She also mourned for her husband when she heard of his death (ver. 26), but not for her sin which caused it" (Guild); being chiefly concerned about appearances; for her sin had been kept, as far as possible, a profound secret.
5. Visited by deserved chastisement. Beset by tormenting anxieties and terrible fears, knowing the penalty due to her transgression; and, subsequently, overwhelmed with grief on account of the affliction and death of her child; nor was this the only retribution she experienced.
6. Treated with merciful consideration. (Ver. 27.) As David himself, the supreme administrator on earth of the Divine Law, did not suffer death, "and it is easy to perceive that, to leave this single act of criminality unpunished in a great king, was for the advantage of the people" (Michaelis, 'Laws of Moses,' 1:37), as he was expressly exempted from it by the word of the prophet (2 Samuel 12:13); so, in the exercise of his royal prerogative, he very properly dispensed with the penalty in the case of the partner of his guilt. Like him, also, she probably repented of her sin; and "mercy glorieth against judgment" (James 2:13). Evil was even overruled for good (2 Samuel 12:24; 1 Chronicles 3:5; Matthew 1:6; Luke 3:31). It has been thought (though without sufficient reason) that the counsels contained in Proverbs 31. were given by her to her son Solomon. "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised," D.
2 Samuel 11:5-15. - (JERUSALEM, RABBAH.)
"The gates of hell are open night and day;
I. GUILTY FEARS. After his sudden fall he probably felt some measure of compunction; but repressed the reproaches of conscience, and continued, in the view of men, the same as he had ever been. It is evident that, when the message (ver. 5) came to him, he was not truly penitent.
1. It awakened his fears concerning the possible exposure of his sin. Would not the wife of Uriah, on the return of her husband, be constrained. to declare the author of her shame?
2. His fears were intensified by the probable consquences of such exposure. Even if he should be able to save Bathsheba, and himself escape legal punishment, by virtue of his high position as the Lord's anointed, how could he avert the private vengeance of Uriah, or maintain the confidence, affection, and allegiance of his army and people? What other Eastern monarchs did with impunity, could not be done by him in Israel without incurring the moral indignation of the people, and causing the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme.
3. He was impelled by his fears to use his utmost efforts with a view to the concealment of his sin. "And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite" (ver. 6). His endeavour to hide his transgression "as Adam" (Job 31:33) was itself a tacit acknowledgment of its disreputable character. And "he that covereth his sins shall not prosper," etc. (Proverbs 28:13). Would that men, after their first wrong step, immediately confessed their error, made reparation, and returned to the way of truth and righteousness!
II. FRUSTRATED DEVICES.
1. In their attempts at concealment men are wont to employ extraordinary ingenuity (1 Samuel 18:17-30), and to hide their base designs under the cover of kindness (vers. 7-9).
2. Their crafty purposes are often defeated by simplicity and sincerity, beyond their calculation. "The ark," etc. (vers. 9-12). "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 unmistakable 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" (Keil).
3. Although defeated, their attempts are usually repeated (ver. 13), but only to issue in greater disappointment, perplexity, and anxiety. The devices of sin are like a labyrinth, in which the sinner becomes more and more inextricably involved. They are like the meshes of a net, in which he becomes more and more hopelessly entangled.
III. INCREASING CRIMINALITY. (Vers. 14, 15.) "He sent back the unsuspicious warrior to Babbah, to Joab, with a letter, which, under the name of 'Uriah's letter,' has become notorious throughout the world. It was written with the same pen with which the sweet psalmist had written his psalms" (Krummacher).
1. The course of sin is downward into ever deeper moral abasement. "It is the nature of sin to multiply itself, and to draw the wretched sinner on to greater and greater enormities." Adultery was followed by
(5) temptation (ver. 13; Habakkuk 2:15),
"One sin another doth provoke; 2. It is so because of its blinding, hardening, and enslaving power (2 Peter 2:19; Proverbs 6:22), its delusive promises of good, its specious pleas of necessity, its urgent impulses to desperate expedients. "Such are the accursed entanglements of sin; such the workings and gradations of it in the distracted, bewildered breast that admits it. Millions have been lost in these Labyrinths of guilt; but none, sure, in any more intricate and perplexing than this!" (Delany). 3. Although it may be followed by apparent and temporary success, it cannot ultimately prosper. "The Lord shall reward," etc. (2 Samuel 3:39; Proverbs 11:21; Isaiah 5:18). "The means which David took to extricate himself from the complications in which his adultery involved him appeared well chosen; but there was one thing he had not taken into consideration - that he could not here, as in former embarassments, confidently expect the assistance of God. It was God's design that David's sin should be fully manifested, for only in this way was perfect cure possible, and therefore he suffered the means to fail" (Hengstenberg). - D.
2. It is so because of its blinding, hardening, and enslaving power (2 Peter 2:19; Proverbs 6:22), its delusive promises of good, its specious pleas of necessity, its urgent impulses to desperate expedients. "Such are the accursed entanglements of sin; such the workings and gradations of it in the distracted, bewildered breast that admits it. Millions have been lost in these Labyrinths of guilt; but none, sure, in any more intricate and perplexing than this!" (Delany).
3. Although it may be followed by apparent and temporary success, it cannot ultimately prosper. "The Lord shall reward," etc. (2 Samuel 3:39; Proverbs 11:21; Isaiah 5:18). "The means which David took to extricate himself from the complications in which his adultery involved him appeared well chosen; but there was one thing he had not taken into consideration - that he could not here, as in former embarassments, confidently expect the assistance of God. It was God's design that David's sin should be fully manifested, for only in this way was perfect cure possible, and therefore he suffered the means to fail" (Hengstenberg). - D.
1 Samuel 26:6), he belonged to a notable people (Genesis 23:3; Ezekiel 16:3; 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6), had adopted the faith of Israel, and joined David in exile; he was one of the famous "thirty" (1 Chronicles 11:41; 2 Samuel 23:39), married Bathsheba (the young and beautiful daughter of a brother officer), to whom he was fondly attached (2 Samuel 12:3), and had a house overlooked by the king's palace. The story of this man, "immortal by his wrongs," constitutes a little tragedy. He was:
1. Greatly distinguished for his heroic courage. For more than twenty years he had taken part in the conflicts of David, and contributed to his victories; and, by the valour which he displayed, gained and kept an honourable position.
2. Grievously wronged by his royal master. Having been secretly dishonoured by the king, he was specially sent for, treated with guile, and tempted to become an unconscious agent in concealing the crime. "Were honour driven out of the world, it should find a refuge in the breast of kings."
3. A noble example of patriotic devotion. "The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents," etc. (ver. 11). He "may be regarded from a moral standpoint as a type of the marvellous power and self-control for which those troops, then in their prime, must have been distinguished" (Ewald). In contrast with the indulgent habit (ver. 1) of the king, he exhibited sympathy, self-denial, zeal, and determination: "I will not do this thing."
"The ark of God is in the field, "And can it be? thou liest awake, "Oh, dream no more of quiet life; 4. A pitiable instance of a common failing. (Ver. 13.) He was susceptible to the power of temptation, even as others. Though proof against indulgence in one form, he was overcome by it in another. But he did not entirely lose his self-control. And the guilt of the tempted is far surpassed by that of the tempter. Intoxication weakens the sense of duty, strengthens the force of the passions, is often used as an incitement to vice, and is a fruitful source of incalculable moral, and physical evil in the individual, the family, and society (1 Samuel 25:37, 38; 2 Samuel 13:38). 5. The unsuspecting bearer of his own death warrant. "And David wrote a letter to Joab," etc. - the first letter mentioned in the Bible - telling him "that he had offended him," etc. (Josephus). And without suspecting its contents, he delivered the treacherous missive. 6. The hapless victim of his unswerving fidelity. "He assigned Uriah a place where he knew that valiant men were" (ver. 16). "Honour is pretended to poor Uriah; death is meant. He was not the first or last that perished by his friends" (Hall). "He fell unconscious of his wife's dishonour" (Stanley). "Thus fell this brave man, a sacrifice to his own heroic virtue and his prince's guilt. He fell, but not alone; some of his brave companions in arms stood by him to the last, nor deserted him in death" (Delany). The report of his fate was received by the king with the cold and commonplace reflection, "The sword devoureth one as well as another" (ver. 25). "That the sin of David was fulfilling some righteous judgment of God against Uriah and his house, I doubt not - for God often makes his enemies his instruments and, without sanctifying the means, strikes out of them good. Still, a sin it was, great and grievous and offensive to that God to whom the blood of Uriah cried from the ground" (Blunt). - D.
"And can it be? thou liest awake, "Oh, dream no more of quiet life; 4. A pitiable instance of a common failing. (Ver. 13.) He was susceptible to the power of temptation, even as others. Though proof against indulgence in one form, he was overcome by it in another. But he did not entirely lose his self-control. And the guilt of the tempted is far surpassed by that of the tempter. Intoxication weakens the sense of duty, strengthens the force of the passions, is often used as an incitement to vice, and is a fruitful source of incalculable moral, and physical evil in the individual, the family, and society (1 Samuel 25:37, 38; 2 Samuel 13:38). 5. The unsuspecting bearer of his own death warrant. "And David wrote a letter to Joab," etc. - the first letter mentioned in the Bible - telling him "that he had offended him," etc. (Josephus). And without suspecting its contents, he delivered the treacherous missive. 6. The hapless victim of his unswerving fidelity. "He assigned Uriah a place where he knew that valiant men were" (ver. 16). "Honour is pretended to poor Uriah; death is meant. He was not the first or last that perished by his friends" (Hall). "He fell unconscious of his wife's dishonour" (Stanley). "Thus fell this brave man, a sacrifice to his own heroic virtue and his prince's guilt. He fell, but not alone; some of his brave companions in arms stood by him to the last, nor deserted him in death" (Delany). The report of his fate was received by the king with the cold and commonplace reflection, "The sword devoureth one as well as another" (ver. 25). "That the sin of David was fulfilling some righteous judgment of God against Uriah and his house, I doubt not - for God often makes his enemies his instruments and, without sanctifying the means, strikes out of them good. Still, a sin it was, great and grievous and offensive to that God to whom the blood of Uriah cried from the ground" (Blunt). - D.
"Oh, dream no more of quiet life;
4. A pitiable instance of a common failing. (Ver. 13.) He was susceptible to the power of temptation, even as others. Though proof against indulgence in one form, he was overcome by it in another. But he did not entirely lose his self-control. And the guilt of the tempted is far surpassed by that of the tempter. Intoxication weakens the sense of duty, strengthens the force of the passions, is often used as an incitement to vice, and is a fruitful source of incalculable moral, and physical evil in the individual, the family, and society (1 Samuel 25:37, 38; 2 Samuel 13:38).
5. The unsuspecting bearer of his own death warrant. "And David wrote a letter to Joab," etc. - the first letter mentioned in the Bible - telling him "that he had offended him," etc. (Josephus). And without suspecting its contents, he delivered the treacherous missive.
6. The hapless victim of his unswerving fidelity. "He assigned Uriah a place where he knew that valiant men were" (ver. 16). "Honour is pretended to poor Uriah; death is meant. He was not the first or last that perished by his friends" (Hall). "He fell unconscious of his wife's dishonour" (Stanley). "Thus fell this brave man, a sacrifice to his own heroic virtue and his prince's guilt. He fell, but not alone; some of his brave companions in arms stood by him to the last, nor deserted him in death" (Delany). The report of his fate was received by the king with the cold and commonplace reflection, "The sword devoureth one as well as another" (ver. 25). "That the sin of David was fulfilling some righteous judgment of God against Uriah and his house, I doubt not - for God often makes his enemies his instruments and, without sanctifying the means, strikes out of them good. Still, a sin it was, great and grievous and offensive to that God to whom the blood of Uriah cried from the ground" (Blunt). - D.
2 Samuel 11:16-21. - (RABBAH.)2 Samuel 3:22-30), become a willing agent and ready accomplice in his execution "with the sword of the children of Ammon" (2 Samuel 12:9).
1. There is seldom wanting a suitable accomplice in effecting a sinful purpose, however iniquitous it may be. The character of Joab was well known to David. "It was his very wickedness that commended him to the king as the most fitting instrument for carrying out his infamous design." He had formerly deprecated his wickedness (2 Samuel 3:29, 39); but now that he had himself fallen into sin, he associated himself with it, and made use of it for his own ends, although, as he afterwards found, to his own cost. "How Joab must have rejoiced when David sank down to his own level!"
2. In serving another, such an accomplice is chiefly concerned about serving himself. He seeks supremely his own advantage. Joab acted not from loyalty, but self-love. "To make himself great, powerful, indispensable, was the object of his life" (Plumptre). "Possibly he had some information that Bathsheba had been with David" ('Speaker's Commentary'). Anyhow, perceiving the design of the king against Uriah, he served him, in order that he might gain complete power over him; and in this he succeeded. "When David made him a partner and secret agent of his guilty purpose touching Uriah, he sold himself into his hands, and in that fatal letter he sealed away his liberty and surrendered himself up to this his unscrupulous accomplice" (Blunt). "All fellowship in sin begets despotism." Henceforth Joab did with the king very much as he pleased.
3. No authority of man can justify the violation of the Law of God. How often have men imagined that the command or sanction of one in authority has been a sufficient warrant for doing what their own consciences condemned, and laid the blame of their conduct on the instigator thereof rather than on themselves! Joab probably needed little self excuse; but it ever he should want a defence, he might plead the king's letter. He was reckless of human life; to effect his purpose made a greater sacrifice of it than the king intended (ver. 17), and became more hardened than ever in wickedness. "We ought to obey God rather than men."
4. There may be exemption from punishment when there is no exoneration from blame. "How must this example needs harden Joab against the conscience of Abner's blood! while he cannot but think, 'David cannot avenge that in me which he acteth himself'" (Hall). Nevertheless, his guilt, in the sight of God, remains; and judgment comes at last (Ecclesiastes 12:14). - D.
2 Samuel 11:21. - (JERUSALEM, RABBAH.)1 Samuel 12:8-12). This event, which had taken place two hundred and thirty years before, was familiar to Joab and others; and, viewed as a warning, likely to be recalled by the king to point his reproof (Judges 9:53). Of such warnings observe that they -
I. ARE OF IMMENSE SERVICE; in making general lessons concerning danger and duty:
1. More distinct.
2. More impressive.
3. More beneficial.
They are beacon lights, danger signals, startling voices; and leach that in the way of inconsideration, rashness, and presumption, there is imminent peril; that destruction may come unexpectedly, suddenly, and by a feeble hand - "a woman slew him;" and that; (although neither Joab nor David laid it to heart) every violation of God's Law is surely followed by retribution (Judges 9:56, 57). They are "written for our admonition" (1 Corinthians 10:11).
II. SHOULD BE DULY HEEDED.
1. Intelligently studied.
2. Constantly remembered.
3. Practically observed.
They are "written for our learning" (Romans 15:4). "The world exists for the education of each man. There is no age or state of society or mode of action in history to which there is not something corresponding in his life. Everything tends in a most wonderful manner to abbreviate itself and yield its whole nature to him" (Emerson).
III. MAY BE DELIBERATELY SLIGHTED.
1. For some immediate personal advantage.
2. From the persuasion of immunity, though others perish (ver. 17).
3. With a plausible excuse, when remonstrated with. Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. "Joab quoted God's Word, but was not careful to keep it" (Wordsworth).
IV. WILL BE ASSUREDLY VINDICATED.
1. By the occurrence of similar events (1 Kings 2:34). "The history of the past is a prophecy of the future."
2. In the bitter experience of the obdurate.
3. With ever-increasing clearness and force to successive generations. "Remember the days of old," etc. (Deuteronomy 32:7). - D.
2 Samuel 11:22-27. - (JERUSALEM, RABBAH.)Order of events:
1. Report of Uriah's death (vers. 22-25).
2. Bathsheba mourns (seven days, 1 Samuel 31:13) for her husband (ver. 26), being probably unacquainted with the manner in which it was brought about.
3. David makes her his wife.
4. Joab takes Rabbah, except the citadel (2 Samuel 12:26).
5. David, on receiving Joab's message, goes to Rabbah and conquers the city (2 Samuel 12:27-31).
6. David and all the people return to Jerusalem.
7. Bathsheba bears a son (ver. 27).
"When I kept silence my bones waxed old
I. THE OUTWARD LIFE. Many a man carries in his breast a guilty secret, unsuspected by others. He may be the object of their admiration and envy, and distinguished (as David was) by:
1. Apparent sincerity in public and in private life. He judges offenders in the gate, or receives news (from the battlefield) with words of resignation or encouragement (ver. 25). "Alas! how often do men hide baseness and satisfaction at successful plotting under the commonplace of resignation to the inevitable, of submission to the conditions of existence!" He goes to the house of God (2 Samuel 7:8), "returns to bless his household" (2 Samuel 6:20), and maintains the form of private devotion. Yet he is inwardly "like the troubled sea when it cannot rest," etc. (Isaiah 57:20).
2. Restless activity (2 Samuel 12:29), which, though it appear to be a display of admirable energy, is really pursued as a welcome diversion from disquieting thoughts. "The enterprise promised an opportunity of escaping from himself; and he probably went thither in the maddest of all attempts, that, namely, of outrunning a guilty conscience" (W.M. Taylor).
3. Earthly prosperity. "And he took the king's crown," etc. (2 Samuel 12:30). In this there was, probably, something of vain glory (1 John 2:16). It was the culmination of his victories over the heathen. But the honour of wearing the crown of "their king" (or Milcom, Moloch) was a poor compensation for the dishonour he had done to his own, and the loss of uprightness of heart; his triumph over idolatry a miserable set off against his overthrow by Satan.
4. Unusual severity. (2 Samuel 12:31.) The effect of sin is to harden the heart.
"I waive the quantum o' the sin,
II. THE INWARD LIFE. The experience of David was marked by:
1. Obstinate silence. (Psalm 32:3.) He not only sought to conceal his transgression from men, but also sullenly refused to admit "the iniquity of his sin" to himself, or acknowledge it before God. The impulse to confession in such a man must have been strong; but he struggled against it with all his might (Psalm 32:9), as others have done.
2. Self-deceiving guile. "The deceit of the impenitent heart consists in its seeking to excuse and justify itself despite the condemnation of conscience, while it obtains no relief from the feeling of guilt, but rather brings about a sharper reaction of conscience, and increases the pains that come from the conflict of mutually accusing and excusing thoughts" (Erdmann). "The roots of this deceit, which makes its appearance immediately after a fall into sin, are pride, lack of trust in God, and love of sin" (Hengstenberg).
3. Spiritual deprivation. For during these long, weary months of silence the light of God's countenance was hidden, the joy of his salvation lost (Psalm 51:8, 12). "His harp was out of tune, and his soul like a tree in winter, with the life in the root only" (Matthew Henry). "We are not to conceive of him as one who had quite fallen, nor as one spiritually dead, but as sick unto death. It is certain that he had not quite lost all desire after God, that he had not entirely given up prayer; doubtless there were still many fruits of faith perceptible in him; but his soul was checked in its flight toward God, a curse rested upon him, which made solitary communion with the Divine Being for any length of time intolerable, and moved him to seek distractions in order to escape the torment of conscience and keep it from attaining to full life."
4. Inexpressible misery; consisting of "the burden of the heart weighing on itself, the burden of a secret, the sense of hypocrisy, the knowledge of inward depravity, while all without looks pure as snow to men" (F.W. Robertson); the remembrance of sin that cannot be forgotten (Psalm 51:3), the remorse of conscience that cannot be quieted, the sense of Divine displeasure, the dread of approaching woes (Psalm 51:11); continuing without cessation; consuming the vital energies, and exhausting the physical strength (Psalm 38:6). "Whithersoever the sinner may turn himself, or however he may be mentally affected, his malady is in no degree lightened nor his welfare in any degree promoted until he is restored to God" (Calvin, in Psalm 32.). "I will reprove thee" etc. (Psalm 50:21). Although for a season concealed, it will be in due time revealed (Matthew 10:26). "Not only was the fruit of the sin to be first of all brought to light (ver. 27), and the hardened sinner to be deprived of the possibility of either denying or concealing his crimes; God would first of all break his unbroken heart by the torture of his own conscience, and prepare it to feel the reproaches of the prophet .... Nathan's reproof could not possibly have berne its saving fruit if David had been still living in utter blindness as to the character of his sin at the time the prophet went to him" (Keil). "No language ever described so vividly the sense of a weight at the heart - a weight that cannot be uplifted; and it was the weight of God's own presence, of that presence which he had once spoken of as the fulness of joy. With this oppression, like that of the air before the thunderstorm, came the drying up of all the moisture and freshness of life, the parching heat of fever. Did the Prophet Nathan bring all this to his consciousness? No, surely. The Prophet Nathan came at the appointed time to tell him in clear words, by a living instance, that which he had been hearing in muttered accents within his heart for months before. He came to tell him that the God of righteousness and mercy, who cared for Uriah, the poor man with the single ewe lamb, was calling him, the king, to account for an act of unrighteousness and unmercifulness. Nathan brought him to face steadily the light at which he had been winking, and to own that the light was good, that it was the darkness which was horrible and hateful, so that he might turn to the light and crave that it should once more penetrate into the depths of his being, and take possession of him" (Maurice). - D.
2 Samuel 11:27. - (JERUSALEM.)1 Chronicles 21:7). This is the only remark which the sacred historian makes on the conduct of David. It reveals its true nature as with a sunbeam; "contains the moral decision from a theocratic point of view, and is, as it were, a superscription of the following history of the Divine judgments on David and his house on account of this sin" (Erdmann). The Divine displeasure (indignation, anger, wrath) is -
I. REAL. Jehovah is the living, personal, supreme Ruler of men, and to him each man is responsible for his actions. As he is capable of being pleased, so he is of being displeased. His wrath is no less real than his love, wisdom, or power; like, yet unlike, that of man, being above all human imperfection. The Scriptures declare that he is displeased with men when they do evil (Psalm 2:5; Psalm 6:1; Psalm 7:11; Mark 3:5). "The wrath of God is revealed," etc. (Romans 2:18). This is confirmed by conscience, in which his displeasure is reflected as a clouded sky in the surface of a lake.
II. DESERVED. Sin is rebellion against his authority, disobedience to his Law, opposition to his holiness, ingratitude toward his goodness; a transgression of the covenant, "a coming short of the mark," iniquity (Psalm 32:1). Every wrong done to man is a dishonouring of God (Psalm 51:4). In the sin of David there were elements of peculiar and aggravated guilt (ch. 12:7-9). But in every case it is "exceeding sinful," "the abominable thing which he hates" (Jeremiah 44:4). It is the one real evil in man.
"Sin alone is that
III. IMPARTIAL. The Holy One of Israel is unaffected by any of those influences that make human displeasure at wrong doing partial and defective. He is neither blind nor indifferent to the sins of his children (2 Samuel 7:14). They have not, any more than others, a licence to sin. David, "his chosen," is not above the Law, nor exempt from due punishment. "For there is no respect of persons with God" (Romans 2:11). "Without respect of persons, the Father judgeth according to every man's work," etc. (1 Peter 1:17; Amos 3:2); estimating it according to its exact moral "weight" (1 Samuel 2:3).
IV. UNAVOIDABLE. However men may conceal it from others, or endeavour to hide it from themselves, they cannot hide it from God (Job 22:13). What pleases men may displease him (1 Thessalonians 2:4). His knowledge is infinite; his righteousness and justice essential, unchangeable, and eternal. Wherever and whenever sin exists, the holy energy of his wrath must burn against it; "for our God is a consuming fire," an "almighty foe to ill." Although delayed, it is not extinct. "A year had passed since his fall. The child of his sin had been born. And all this time God was silent. Yet like a dark cloud on a summer's day hung this sentence over him, 'But the thing that David did," etc. Soon it would burst in a storm of judgment."
V. EFFICIENT AND DREADFUL. As "in the king's favour there is life," so in his displeasure there is death. It is manifested in the punishment of the sinner, both inwardly and outwardly; as in the case of David (2 Samuel 12:10, 11). Every future moment must answer for the present. The penalties of transgression in this life are numerous and terrible. And who shall tell what will follow hereafter, when the wind becomes a whirlwind?
VI. MINGLED WITH MERCY. God is displeased with sin rather than with the sinner (except in so far as he voluntarily identifies himself with it); whom, in his essential nature, he loves; who possesses the capacity of restoration; whose salvation he seeks; and to whom, on his repentance, punishment becomes chastisement, a means of purification and blessing (2 Samuel 7:15). "There is no more terrible, there is no more instructive, portion of the Word of God than this whole record. The long death sleep of that once living soul; its awakening under the prophet's voice; its deep repentance; its free forgiveness; its long, heavy, repeated, almost incessant chastisement; - speak to every ear which is not altogether deaf lessons of the holiness and truth, of the severity and love, of the justice and mercy, of the Lord our God, which is borne perhaps with equal force in no other record of his ways with man" ('Heroes of Hebrew History'). "O God, thou hadst never suffered so dear a favourite of thine to fall so fearfully, if thou hadst not meant to make him a universal example to mankind, of not presuming, of not despairing. How can we presume of not sinning, or despair for sinning, when we find so great a saint thus fallen, thus risen?" (Hall). - D.
I. THE WICKEDNESS WHICH DISPLEASED GOD. Many things done by good men of old times which appear to us very culpable, were in them innocent or excusable, on account of the different standard by which their conduct was regulated, and the different public opinion of their days. But the sins of David recorded in this chapter were not of such a description. The law of nature everywhere and in all times, as well as the laws of the revelation known to David, are clear and emphatic in condemning them.
1. The sins themselves.
(1) Adultery; and, growing out of this,
(2) deceit. Pretences to Uriah of concern about the war, and about Uriah's comfort while in Jerusalem (vers. 7-10); and to Joab's messenger, of regarding the deaths of Uriah and other brave soldiers whose lives had been sacrificed through his directions, as being ordinary casualties of war (ver. 25).
(3) Murder of Uriah and the soldiers who fell with him.
(4) Leading others into crime: Uriah into drunkenness, Joab into murder.
2. Their aggravations.
(1) His age, position, knowledge, experiences, and reputation. He was between fifty and sixty years old. As king, he was the highest guardian of justice and protector of innocence. He knew well the wickedness of his conduct. He had been marvellously guided, advanced, and blessed by God, with whom he had been accustomed to maintain the closest converse. He was well known as a devout man, professing himself a devoted servant of God. He had thus a reputation to sustain.
(2) The difficulties in his way. The necessity of sending messengers (ver. 4) to Bathsheba. Think of his stooping to that! Difficulties, necessitating some consideration and calling for determined resolution to conquer them, increase the guilt of sin.
(3) His abundant harem, as contrasted with Uriah's one wife; hinted at in 2 Samuel 12:2, 3.
(4) Uriah's position and conduct. His relation to David, as one of his chief military officers, and distinguished for his valour (2 Samuel 23:39; 1 Chronicles 11:41). He was at the time with the army in the field, and might justly look to the king to be the protector (if necessary) of his wife from evil. He cherished noble sentiments (ver. 11) of duty and honour as a soldier. (Did he, however, know or suspect how matters stood; and frame his language to the king as a subterfuge?)
(5) The deliberateness of the later crimes.
(6) The time cousumed, giving ample opportunity for reflection. When these things are considered, the wickedness of David assumes proportions which are appalling.
3. How they were possible.
(1) There must have been secret and very serious declension in piety. Had he been in the state of mind and heart which is revealed in ch. 7., it is impossible that he could have so sinned. The height of prosperity and power which he had reached had corrupted him.
(2) There is much in what Dean Stanley says of "that abyss which yawns by the side of lofty genius and strong passions," which "opened and closed over him."
(3) His position as an Eastern monarch, accustomed to polygamy, accustomed also to act in many things according to his own will.
(4) Some think that his being in the way of temptation arose from a self-indulgent neglect of duty in remaining at Jerusalem instead of leading his army in the field.
(5) He found in Bathsheba a ready consent to his will.
(6) The later sins and crimes seemed necessary, after the first step, to save himself and his companion in guilt from utter disgrace and ruin. Such considerations may help to explain, but cannot be accepted as excusing, his wickedness.
II. HOW THE DISPLEASURE OF GOD WAS MANIFESTED.
1. The message by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:1-12); who boldly reproved David in the name of the Lord, and announced the punishments which would fall upon him.
2. The death of the chill.
3. Family scandals, sins, and sorrows.
4. Absalom's rebellion, and all the humiliations and troubles it involved.
5. Joab's increased ascendency. "There was a guilty secret between the two" (Trench). The worst part of his punishment sprang from sins like his own, and was probably occasioned by them, at least in part.
1. Do nothing, however pleasant, or gainful, or common among men, or seemingly safe, to the account of which may be appended the terrible words, "The thing... displeased the Lord."
2. Let none presume on their security against even disgraceful sin. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12); "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." (Matthew 26:41)
3. Guard against the beginnings of evil. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:23). David had already committed adultery when he gazed lustfully on Bathsheba (comp. Matthew 5:28). Pray, as David did afterwards, "Create in me a clean heart" (Psalm 51:10). The beginning of sin is, like that of strife, "as when one letteth out water" (Proverbs 17:14). The trickling of water through a small crevice in an embankment may seem inconsiderable; but, unless stopped, it may issue in widespread devastation and misery. One sin leads to another and another, and all to pain and sorrow. Gehazi's covetousness led him to falsehood and robbery, and then to lifelong leprosy, transmitted to his children's children (2 Kings 5:20-27). Peter's self-confidence prepared the way for cowardice, falsehood, and profanity, followed by bitter anguish. The pilferings of Judas from "the bag" issued in the betrayal of his Lord; and then remorse and suicide.
4. How vain are all attempts to conceal sin and prevent punishment! God is looking on all the time the sinner is cunningly endeavouring to hide his sin (see Job 34:21, 22). "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). - G.W.