2 Samuel 12
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 12:1. - (JERUSALEM.)
And Jehovah sent Nathan to David. The sin Of David could not be hid. It was known to his servants (2 Samuel 11:4) and to Joab; it must have been surmised by many from his hasty marriage; and now it was fully manifest (2 Samuel 11:27). About a year had elapsed. "What a year for David to have spent! What a joyless, sunless, godless year! Were God's words still sweet to his taste? Were they still the rejoicing of his heart? or had he come to hate the threatening of the Law?" (J. Wright). At length Nathan (2 Samuel 7:3) came - an example of a faithful reprover (Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:6; 1 Samuel 1:13; 1 Samuel 2:22). Consider -

I. HIS DIVINE COMMISSION. He came, not because he was sent for by David, nor because he was prompted by natural reason or impulse (2 Samuel 7:3), but in obedience to the word of the Lord (ver. 7), and in fulfilment of his prophetic calling. "It was the true mission of the prophets, as champions of the oppressed in the courts of kings; it was the true prophetic spirit that spoke through Nathan's mouth" (Stanley).

1. Reproof should be administered only according to the will of God. It is not forevery one to assume the office of reprover (Psalm 50:16); nor to administer reproof to every one who may deserve it, especially when holding a position of authority. In this matter men are apt to run before they are sent. The duty is a relative one, and demands careful consideration before it is undertaken.

2. The will of God concerning the administration of reproof is indicated in various ways; such as the authority given to parents, magistrates, pastors, and teachers - "reprove, rebuke," etc. (2 Timothy 4:2; 5:1); the teachings of the Divine Word; the guidance of the Divine Spirit.

3. When the will of God is clearly made known, it should be humbly, readily, and diligently obeyed; both when it requires his servants to testify his favour (2 Samuel 7:4, 25) and his displeasure (2 Samuel 11:27).

II. HIS CONSUMMATE WISDOM. In nothing are wisdom and prudence more needed than in reproof. If given unwisely it is likely to excite opposition, produce equivocation, repel and harden. "A word fitly spoken," etc. (Proverbs 25:11, 12). It should be given:

1. At a proper time - when the proof of wrong doing admits of no denial, and the mind of the wrong doer is duly prepared. It is not probable that Nathan came immediately after he first heard of David's transgression. "His task was not to gain a confession, but only to facilitate it. He was appointed by God to await the time of the internal crisis of David" (Hengstenberg).

2. When the offender is alone (Matthew 18:15), and is likely to pay greater heed to it and to be less influenced by what others think. Sometimes, however, sinners must be "rebuked before all, that others also may fear" (1 Timothy 5:20).

3. In a maimer adapted to produce the most salutary effect; with harmless wisdom (Matthew 10:16) and holy and beneficent "guile" (2 Corinthians 12:16) displayed in;

(1) A respectful, courteous, and conciliatory bearing. To begin with rude reproaches is to ensure failure.

(2) An ingenious invention of a "form of speech" (2 Samuel 14:20) and illustration suitable to the case.

(3) A generous recognition of the better qualities in men. "David's goodness is not denied because of his sin, nor is David's sin denied because of his goodness."

(4) A clear statement of the truth, avoiding exaggeration and everything that may hinder its illuminating force.

(5) A strong appeal to the conscience, so as to quicken its action as a witness and judge.

(6) A dexterous application of admitted principles and expressed judgments and emotions.

(7) An effectual removal of the mists of self-deception, so as to enable the evil doer to see his actual character and conduct, and constrain him to reprove and condemn himself. The wisdom of the prophet in fulfilling his mission to the king was "inimitably admirable." "Observing that this direct road (the recommendation of self-knowledge) which led to it (the reformation of mankind) was guarded on all sides by self-love, and consequently very difficult to open access, public instructors soon found out that a different and more artful course was requisite. As they had not strength to remove this flattering passion which stood in their way and blocked up the passages to the heart, they endeavoured by stratagem to get beyond it, and, by a skilful address, if possible to deceive it. This gave rise to the only manner of conveying their instructions in parables, fables, and such sort of indirect applications; which, though they could not conquer this principle of self-love, yet often laid it asleep, or at least overreached it for a few moments, till a just judgment could be procured. The Prophet Nathan seems to have been a great master in this art of address" (Laurence Sterne).

III. HIS HOLY COURAGE. His mission was as perilous as it was painful; and might, if it failed, have cost him his life. But he feared not "the wrath of the king" (Proverbs 16:14; Proverbs 19:12; Hebrews 11:27). Such moral courage as he exhibited:

1. Is inspired by faith in God, whose face it beholds, and on whose might it relies.

2. Consists in the fearless fulfilment of duty, whatever consequences it may involve - the loss of friendship or other earthly good; the endurance of bonds, suffering, and death. "None of these things move me," etc. (Acts 20:24).

3. Appears in simple, bold, direct, and unreserved utterance of God's Word (Ezekiel 33:7). At the proper moment the prophet changed his style of address; gave it a particular application, "the very life of doctrine;" and, in the name of the supreme King and Judge, arraigned the offender, declared his guilt, and pronounced his sentence. "His example is especially to be noted by all whose office is to 'rebuke with all authority'" ('Speaker's Commentary').

IV. HIS BENEVOLEST AIM. He came not only to testify against sin, to maintain the authority of the Law, etc.; but also (in connection therewith) to benefit the sinner, by:

1. Leading him to repentance.

2. Assuring him of forgiveness.

3. Restoring him to righteousness, peace, and joy (ver. 13; Psalm 51:12). Reproofs of instruction are the way of life (Proverbs 6:23; Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 17:10). Sympathy with the holy love of God toward sinners is an essential qualification of a faithful reprover of sin; and as it is God's mercy that employs agents and means for their restoration, so it is his grace alone that makes them effectual (John 16:8).

"And so wide arms
Hath goodness infinite, that it receives
All who turn to it."

(Dante.) D.

2 Samuel 12:1-4. - (THE KING'S PALACE.)

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."

4. Avarice.

5. Voluptuousness.

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:

1. Unjust.

2. Tyrannical.

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.

2 Samuel 12:5, 6. - (JERUSALEM.)
David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; he declared with a solemn oath (2 Samuel 4:9-11) that he deserved to die (literally, "was a son of death," 1 Samuel 26:16; 1 Kings 2:26), and ordered restitution according to the Law (Exodus 22:1). His severity displayed the fiery temper of the man, and the arbitrary power of the monarch, rather than the calm deliberation of the judge; and (like the treatment of the Ammonites, ver. 31) indicated a mind ill at ease (2 Samuel 11:22-27; Psalm 32:3, 4); for he was not totally blind to his sin, nor "past feeling" (Ephesians 4:19); though he had no thought of the application of the case to himself. We have here an illustration of -

I. AN ASTONISHING FACT; viz. the self-ignorance, self-deception, internal hypocrisy, of men. Nothing is more important than self-knowledge. It is often enjoined. "From heaven came the precept, 'Know thyself.'" And it might naturally appear to be easily attained, seeing that it lies so near home. Yet how certain, how common, and how surprising its absence! "There is not anything relating to men's characters mere surprising and unaccountable than this partiality to themselves which is observable in many; as there is nothing of more melancholy reflection respecting morality and religion" (Butler, 'Upon Self-Deceit'). They are blind (at least partially) and deceived as to their sin; notwithstanding:

1. Their perception of the evil of sin in general or in the abstract. Ingratitude, selfishness, oppression, pitilessness; who is not ready to denounce these vices?

2. Their sinfulness in the sight of other people. Although David had sought to conceal his sin from others, perhaps still flattered himself that it was known only to a few, and. justified or palliated its guilt to himself, many others besides Nathan saw and abhorred it (Psalm 36:2).

"O wad some power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
And foolish notion."

3. Their condemnation of sin in others, of the very same kind as that which they tolerate in themselves. The resemblance between the rich oppressor and David was so close that it is astonishing it was not detected.

4. Their abhorrence at another time and under other circumstances of its guilt when thought of in relation to themselves (1 Samuel 24:5). "What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?" (2 Kings 8:13). Yet the dog did it (Matthew Henry). Next to these instances of self-deceit of our true disposition and character, which appear in not seeing that in ourselves which shocks us in another man, there is another species still more dangerous and delusive, and which the more guarded perpetually fall into, from the judgments they make of different vices according to their age and complexion, and the various ebbs and flows of their passions and desires" (L. Sterne, 'Self-Knowledge').

5. Their culpability beyond that of those whom they condemn. It was not a little lamb of which he had robbed the poor man, but his dearly loved wife, his one earthly treasure. It was not a lamb that he had killed, but a man, his neighbour and faithful defender. His superior position and possessions aggravated his guilt. Was he not himself "a son of death"? "What a sad proof of the blinding influence of self-love, that men are ready to form so different an estimate of their conduct when it is not seen to be their own! How ignorant are we of ourselves, and how true it is that even when our own hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things!" (Blaikie). For this fact let us seek -

II. AS ADEQUATE CAUSE. It is seldom due to insufficiency of light or means of knowing sin. Is it, then, due to men's inconsideration of themselves? or to the perversion of their moral judgment? Doubtless to both; but still more to sin itself, which is essentially setfishness - a false and inordinate love of self. "For consider: nothing is more manifest than that affection and passion of all kinds influence the judgment" (Butler); prejudicing its decisions in their own favour. Even when there is more than a suspicion that all is not well, it stifles further inquiry and prevents full conviction by:

1. Producing a general persuasion in men that their moral condition is better than it really is.

2. Directing exclusive attention to those dispositions and actions of which conscience can approve.

3. Inducing unwillingness to consider the opposite, and to know the worst of themselves. The glimpse of the truth which they perceive is painful, and (as in the case of diseased vision) it causes them to shut their eyes against perceiving the whole truth (John 3:20).

4. Inventing specious arguments in justification of the course to which they are disposed.

5. Dwelling upon supposed compensations for injury done or guilt incurred. Self-love is wondrously fertile in devising such excuses and palliatives. David may have thought that the standard by which others were judged was not applicable to him. "Perhaps, as power is intoxicating, he conceived of himself as not subjected to the ordinary rules of society. In sending an order to his general to put Uriah 'in the hottest of the battle,' he probably found a palliative for his conscience; for what was it but to give to a brave soldier a post of honour? No doubt the victim considered himself honoured by the appointment, while it gave occasion to the king to solace himself with the thought that it was an enemy and not he who put an end to the life of his subject" (W. White). His marrying Bathsheba, also, he may have supposed, made amends for the wrong he had done to her. But the means which he adopted to conceal his sin from others, and deemed a palliative of his guilt, were a special aggravation of it (vers. 9, 10).


1. Nothing is more ruinous than self-deception (Hebrews 3:13; James 1:12; 1 John 1:8).

2. To avoid it there must be honest self-examination (Psalm 4:4; 2 Corinthians 13:5).

3. We should especially guard against the blinding influence of undue self-love (Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 17:9).

4. There should also be earnest prayer to him who searcheth the hearts, for true self-knowledge (Psalm 139:23; Job 13:23; Job 34:32). - D.

Great sinners are generally able to discern and condemn in others wickedness similar to their own. This gives an advantage to those who would convince them of their sins. Nathan made use of it in dealing with David, and with good effect.

I. NATHAN'S PARABLE. It presents a picture of conduct sufficiently like that of David to prepare the way for his self-condemnation, and yet so far different that its drift should not be at once detected. It is a picture of:

1. Gross covetousness. For a poor man to covet some part of a rich man's abundance is natural, though wrong; but for a rich man to covet the little of a poor man is monstrous wickedness. Such had been David's conduct towards Uriah.

2. Robbery.

3. Oppression of the weak by the strong.

4. Violation of feelings which should have been tenderly respected. The attachment of the poor man to his pet lamb. The counterpart was the affection of Uriah for his wife, and, till she was seduced, of the wife for her husband.

II. ITS EFFECT ON THE KING. It seems surprising that he did not at once see the prophet's meaning and intention. Perhaps Nathan had been accustomed to come to him to plead the cause of the injured who could obtain no redress otherwise, and David imagined this to be his errand now. Besides, it was a good while since David's sins were committed; yet the prophet had hitherto been silent about them, and would the less be suspected of coming to administer reproof for them now. Hence, all unconsciously, he:

1. Displayed hot anger against the wrong doer.

2. Passed a severe sentence upon him; saying that he deserved death, and condemning him to the fourfold restitution which the Law required (Exodus 22:1) - a remarkable illustration of Romans 2:1. Had he been aware that he was passing sentence upon himself, he would probably have been less severe. Or if he had remembered his own greater crimes, he would hardly so harshly have condemned a man whose crime was so much less heinous. But it is no uncommon thing for great offenders to be harsh in their judgment of others who are far less culpable than themselves.


1. He applied to David himself the judgment he had pronounced. "Thou art the man!" With what terrific fore this must have fallen upon the king's ears! He was self-convicted, self-condemned. To such self-condemnation it should be the aim of religious teachers to lead their hearers. It is not permissible, indeed, unless in very extreme cases, to address individuals in public in such words as Nathan's to David; but the preacher's work is not effectually done until each hearer whose sin is described is brought to say to himself, "I am the man!" To use the language of a great preacher of a former generation (Robert Hall), "Without descending to such a minute specification of circumstances as shall make our addresses personal, they ought unquestionably to be characteristic, that the conscience of the audience may feel the hand of the preacher searching it, and every individual know where to class himself. The preacher who aims at doing good will endeavour, above all things, to insulate his hearers, to place each of them apart, and render it impossible for him to escape by losing himself in the crowd. At the day of judgment, the attention excited by the surrounding scene, the strange aspect of nature, the dissolution of the elements, and the last trump, will have no other effect than to cause the reflections of the sinner to return with a more overwhelming tide on his own character, his sentence, his unchanging destiny; and amid the innumerable millions who surround him, he will mourn apart. It is thus the Christian minister should endeavour to prepare the tribunal of conscience, and turn the eyes of every one of his hearers on himself." Hearers should welcome such preaching, and thank God for the convictions it produces, as a necessary step in the process of their salvation.

2. He faithfully delivered God's message to him.

(1) Reminding him of the great kindness of God to him.

(2) Charging him distinctly with his crimes.

(3) Pronouncing upon him the Divine sentence.

In the whole interview, Nathan acted with singular courage, and fidelity to him who sent him.

IV. THE RESULT. David's frank and penitent confession of his sin; and his pardon. Had he been utterly hardened, he might have resented the prophet's faithfulness, dismissed him with anger, or even ordered him to prison or death. But the workings of his own conscience had prepared him to recognize the justice of Nathan's words; and these now melted into contrition the long burdened yet stubborn heart, which at length found relief in the brief but sincere words, "I have sinned against the Lord;" to which the prophet was able to return the consoling reply, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die" (comp. Psalm 32:3-5). Learn:

1. The duty of reproving sin in others. (Leviticus 19:17.)

2. The value of a minister or other friend faithful enough to administer reproof.

3. The responsibility which attaches to the Tower to discern and condemn sin in others.

(1) It should induce us to avoid the sins which we condemn, and others like them.

(2) It increases our guilt if we commit such sins.

(3) It ought to induce hearty self-condemnation and penitence when we fall into them. The indignation we feel against the sins of others should be turned on our own, in dealing with which there is more hope than in endeavouring to convince and reform our neighbours; besides which, when we have forsaken our own sins, we shall be better fitted to reprove and amend other offenders (see Matthew 7:4, 5).

4. The goodness of God in first sending reprovers to warn and convert, rather than inflicting swift punishment. - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:7-10. - (THE PALACE.)
The proper purpose of reproof is conviction of sin. This purpose was accomplished by the words of the prophet. They were like a "two-edged sword" (Hebrews 4:12), the point of which was, "Thou art the man!" "If ever a word from human lips fell with crushing weight and with the illuminating power of a gleam of lightning, it was this" (Krummacher). "His indignation against the rich man of the parable showed that the moral sense was not wholly extinguished. The instant recollection of guilt breaks up the illusion of months" (Stanley). Observe that:

1. One of the most effectual means of convincing a man of sin is by setting it before him as existing in another person. "Thou art the man!" the story of whose crime has stirred thine indignation and called forth the sentence of death from thy lips. Self-interest, passion, and prejudice, that darken a man's view of his own sin, have comparatively little influence upon him when looking at the sin of another. Here the veil is removed; he sees clearly and judges impartially. For this reason (among others) our Lord "spake many things unto them in parables."

2. The force of truth depends upon the particular application which is made of it. "Thou art the man who hast done this!" (LXX.); against thyself thine indignation should be directed; upon thyself the sentence has been pronounced. It is as if hitherto only the back of the offender was seen, when, suddenly turning round, his face appeared, and David beheld himself! "Men often correctly understand a message of God without observing its personal application to them." Hence the preacher, like the prophet of old (1 Kings 14:7; 1 Kings 18:18; 1 Kings 21:19; 2 Kings 5:26; Daniel 5:22; Matthew 14:4), must directly, wisely, and faithfully apply the truth to his hearers. "'Thou art the man!' is or ought to be the conclusion, expressed or unexpressed, of every practical sermon." What is a sword without a point? "Here also is a lesson to hearers. David listened to a sermon from Nathan, which exactly suited his own case, and yet he did not apply it to himself. He turned the edge of it from himself to another. The benefit of sermons depends more upon the hearer than the preacher. The best sermon is that who hear most, but who apply most what they hear to their own hearts."

3. Every man is responsible to God for the sin which he has committed. "Thou art inexcusable, O man" (Romans 2:1), however thou mayest have persuaded thyself to the contrary. Is the man whom thou judgest accountable for his conduct; and art not thou for thine? Is he accountable to thee? How much more art thou to God? No position, however exalted, can release from responsibility to him or exempt from obedience to his commandment; no constitutional tendency, no temptation, expediency, or necessity be an adequate reason for despising it (Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 3:6).

"And self to take or leave is free,
Feeling its own sufficiency:
In spite of science, spite of fate,
The judge within thee, soon or late,
Will blame but thee, O man!

"Say not. 'I would, but could not. He
Should bear the blame who fashioned me.
Call a mere change of motive choice?'
Scorning such pleas, the inner voice
Cries, 'Thine the deed, O man!'"

(J.A. Symonds.)

4. A messenger of Heaven is always in readiness to single out the sinner, bring his sin to remembrance, and call him to account. "Thus saith the Lord God of Israel," etc. (ver. 7), "Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?" etc. (ver. 9). Every wrong done to man, yea, every sin, is a factual contempt of his commandment (Psalm 51:4). Whilst the supreme King and Judge observes it, and is long suffering towards the doer of it, he provides many witnesses, holds them in reserve, and sends them with his word at the proper moment to declare all its enormity - its ingratitude (ver. 8), presumption (ver. 9), disloyalty before him, its "intense and brutal selfishness," sensuality, cruelty, and craft. Conscience also awakes to confirm their testimony, with "a thousand several tongues, and every tongue" crying, "Thou art the man!"

5. The less expected the charge preferred against the sinner, the more overwhelming his conviction of guilt. "The further David was from thinking of a reference to himself, the greater the force with which the word must have struck him" (Erdmann). There could be no defence, no extenuation, no answer (Acts 24:25; Matthew 22:12).

6. The condemnation which one man pronounces on another sometimes recoils upon himself with increased severity. "Out of thine own mouth," etc. (Luke 19:22). "Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house," etc. "For a single moment the features of the king are charged with the expression of astonishment. He gazes eagerly at the prophet like one at a loss to divine his meaning. But, almost instantly, as if an inward light had burst upon his soul, the expression changes to one of agony and horror. The deeds of the last twelve months glare in all their infamous baseness upon him, and outraged justice, with a hundred guttering swords, seems all impatient to devour him" (Blaikie). "O wicked man, thou shalt surely die!" (Ezekiel 33:8).

7. The conviction of sin is the first step in the way of restoration to righteousness. The sense of sin is the beginning of salvation. "He that humbleth himself," etc. (Luke 14:11; 1 John 1:9). "If we would judge ourselves," etc. (1 Corinthians 11:31, 32). Every man must be revealed to himself in the light of God's righteous judgment here or hereafter (Ecclesiastes 11:9; Ecclesiastes 12:14). - D.

David, by his grievous sins, had virtually shown contempt for the well-known commandments of God against coveting the wife of another, and against adultery and murder. Hence the force of this remonstrance. It may be properly addressed to all who in any way show contempt for any of the Divine commandments; to all men, therefore, since all are in some respects and in some degree guilty of this sin.


1. Those who take no pains to know and understand them. Who do not think it worth while to inquire, in reference to their course of life, their duty to others, or any particular action, or even their religious faith and observances, what the will of God is; but are content to follow without question the customs of the world around them, or their own inclinations and habits.

2. Those who refuse to give heed when their attention is called to them. Which may be by their own consciences, or by other men.

3. Those who disobey them. And the degree of contempt shown by disobedience will be in proportion to

(1) their knowledge;

(2) their remembrance, at the time, of the commandment, its Author, and its sanctions;

(3) the difficulties of disobedience which have to be overcome; and

(4) the remonstrances of conscience, and of the Spirit of God, which are resisted and conquered.

II. THEIR SIN AND FOLLY. They may be addressed as the prophet addressed David, "Wherefore," etc.

1. What rational ground have you for doing it? Seeing the commandment

(1) is "of the Lord," who has the highest right to the obedience of his creatures;

(2) proceeds from the perfect reason and the infinite love; and therefore

(3) is adapted to promote the good of each and all. "The Law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good (Romans 7:12). Consider any particular commandment you have disregarded, and you will see that all this is true of it; and that, therefore, your conduct is foolish and wicked.

2. How can "you" do it? Who have been laid under obligations so weighty by the kindness of God; who know so well his character, claims, and laws; who have so often and in such various ways professed love and loyalty to him; who are bound by so many considerations to set a good example; or (as in David's case) are appointed to be an upholder of law, a guardian of innocence, a protector of the public morals.

3. How "dare" you do it? In view of the shame and moral injury you bring on yourself; the evil you do to others; the terrible threatenings of the Word of God against sinners; his knowledge of all you do; his awful holiness and justice; and his almighty power to execute his threatenings. In view also of death, and of the day of judgment, when your most secret sins will be brought to light and punished. - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:10-12. - (THE PALACE.)
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house, etc.

1. Sin is connected with suffering. The connection is real, intimate, inevitable. Nothing is more clearly manifest or more generally admitted; yet nothing is more practically disregarded. Men commit sin under the delusion that they can do so with impunity. But "they that plough iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same" (Job 4:8; Galatians 6:7).

2. Sin serves to account for suffering; explains and justifies its existence under the righteous and beneficent government of God. The subsequent sufferings of David would have been inexplicable if his great transgression had not been recorded. "The remainder of David's life was as disastrous as the beginning had been prosperous" (Hale). Personal suffering, however, often appears disproportionate to personal transgression (1 Samuel 4:3); and its reason in such cases must be sought in hereditary or other relationships, and in the purposes to which it is subservient. The penalties of sin (such as David suffered) take place -

I. BY DIVINE INFLICTION. "Behold, I will raise up evil against thee," etc. (ver. 11; 2 Samuel 9:27). They are:

1. Necessitated by the justice of God. "Justice is that causality in God which connects suffering with actual sin" (Schleiermacher). He who "despises the commandment of the Lord" ought to be punished.

2. Declared by the Word of God, both in the Law and the prophets. The word of Nathan was a sentence, as well as a prediction of judgment.

3. Effectuated by the power of God, which operates, not only by extraordinary agencies, but also, and most commonly, in the ordinary course of things, and by way of natural consequence; directs and controls the actions of men to the accomplishment of special results; and often makes use of the sins of one man to punish those of another. Natural law is the regular method of Divine activity. In accordance therewith the violation of moral law is followed by internal misery and external calamity, which are closely associated (Isaiah 45:7; Amos 3:4). "Vengeance is mine," etc.


1. The peculiarity of their form. Not only do they follow sin by way of natural consequence, but also the manner of their infliction corresponds with that of its commission; as that which is reaped resembles that which is sown (1 Samuel 4:1-11). "The seeds of our own punishment are sown at the same time we commit sin" (Hesiod). Having sinned with the sword, his house would be ravaged with the sword; and having sinned by the indulgence of impure passion, he would be troubled in like manner. "Amnon, Absalom, Adonijah! Amnon thought, 'Has my father indulged in it? - Absalom relied on the resentment of the people on account of the double crime. Adonijah fell because he wished to make the best of the precedence of his birth in opposition to him who had been begotten with Bathsheba" (Thenius).

"The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices
Make instruments to plague us." There is a tendency in the sin of one to perpetuate itself in others over whom his influence extends, and so to recoil upon himself.

2. The publicity of their exhibition. "For thou didst it secretly," etc. (ver. 12). Falsehood and injustice seek darkness; truth and justice seek light. The evil, which is concealed for the sake of public honour, is followed by public shame.

3. The extent and perpetuity of their infliction. "The sword shall never depart from thine house." "The fortunes of David turned upon this one sin, which, according to Scripture, itself eclipsed every other" (Blunt). "One sin led to another; the bitter spring of sin grew in time to a river of destruction that flowed over the whole land, and even endangered his throne and life" (Baumgarten). Who can tell the far reaching effects of one transgression (Ecclesiastes 9:18)?


1. To manifest the justice of God and uphold the authority of his Law.

2. To exhibit the evil of sin, and deter the sinner himself and others from its commission.

3. To humble, prove, chastise, instruct, purify, and confirm the sufferer. "If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him," etc. (2 Samuel 7:14; Deuteronomy 8:3, 5; Job 5:17; Psalm 94:12; Hebrews 12:6). This last effect is wrought only on those who turn to God in penitence and trust. The forgiveness of sin and restoration to righteousness do not counteract, except in a limited degree, the natural consequences of past transgression; but they transform punishment into chastisement, and alleviate the pressure of suffering and sorrow by Divine fellowship, and the inward peace, strength, and hope which it imparts. "In general the forgiveness of sin has only this result - punishment is changed into fatherly chastisement, the rod into the correction of love. Outwardly the consequences of sin remain the same; their internal character is changed. If it were otherwise, the forgiveness of sins might too readily be attributed to caprice" (Hengstenberg). "The personal forgiveness indulged to the King of Israel, in consideration of his penitence, did not break the connection between causes and their effects. This connection is stamped on the unchanging laws of God in nature; and it becomes every man, instead of arraigning the appointment, to bring support to his domestic happiness by the instrumentality of a good example" (W. White). His family, his kingdom, and even his own character, were permanently affected by his sin. "Broken in spirit by the consciousness of how deeply he had sinned against God and against men; humbled in the eyes of his subjects, and his influence with them weakened by the knowledge of his crimes; and even his authority in his own household, and his claim to the reverence of his sons, relaxed by the loss of character; David appears henceforth a much altered man. He is as one who goes down to the grave mourning. His active history is past - henceforth he is passive merely. All that was high and firm and noble in his character goes out of view, and all that is weak and low and wayward comes out in strong relief. The balance of his character is broken. Alas for him! The bird which once rose to heights unattained before by mortal wing, filling the air with its joyful songs, now lies with maimed wing upon the ground, pouring forth its doleful cries to God" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). - D.

Thou hast despised me. In the dreadful sins of which David had been guilty he had treated God with contempt. He had treated as of no account all the kindness of God to him; had disregarded his claims; shown contempt practically for his authority, his precepts, his observance of his conduct, his justice and its penalties, his favour, his voice in the conscience. The charge brought against David may be brought against many who are not guilty of gross and flagrant crimes like his.


1. All sin involves contempt of him. It shows:

(1) Indifference as to his Being and perfections. If the sinner does not boldly say, "no God," he practically ignores him, leaves him out of account in his conduct, and treats his presence and observation of him, his hatred to sin, his threatened judgments, as of no importance, not worthy of serious consideration (see Psalm 10:13).

(2) Contempt for his authority.

(3) Despisal of his kindness (Romans 2:4).

(4) Contempt of his wisdom, as expressed in his laws. As if the sinner thought he could guide and govern himself better than God.

(5) Disesteem of his favour and friendship.

2. Certain kinds of sin may be mentioned as showing such contempt.

(1) Unthankfulness and discontent. As if God's gifts were not worth having.

(2) Rejection of Christ and salvation - his best gifts, in which he appears more fully and manifestly than in aught else. "He that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me" (Luke 10:16). "Hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace" (Hebrews 10:29).

(3) Neglect of the Holy Scriptures. In them God comes to instruct us, to make us partakers of his own wisdom, to make known his will, etc. To neglect them is to show contempt of him.

(4) Negligence as to his service. As to the hours and exercises of devotion. God invites us to converse with him, to make known our requests, with the promise of gracious answers. To disregard prayer, or offer unreal worship, is to treat him with contempt: He is most worthy to be praised. To decline to praise him, or to praise in words only, is to despise him. In the sacrament of the Lord's Supper he comes specially near to us, to commune with us in Christ, to feed us with the body and blood of his Son. To turn away from the holy feast, or come with hypocrisy, or with hearts or hands stained with unrepented sin, is to treat him with contempt. And in more active life, to be slovenly, slothful, indifferent; to offer him a half-hearted service; to present him with niggard offerings; is to show grievous disrespect to him (see Malachi 1:6-8).

(5) Contempt for his people, or any of them. As if the godly were necessarily fanatical. Or because they may be feeble, or inexperienced (Matthew 18:10), or poor (James 2:6). Or because they differ from us in judgment or observances (Romans 14:3, 10). "He that despiseth you, despiseth me" (Luke 10:16).


1. Who is despised. "Me." The infinite Majesty, the Source and Sustainer of all beings, the Giver of all good, the Creator, Preserver, and Benefactor of those who despise him, without whom they have nothing and can do nothing; perfect in all that is good, and worthy of all esteem and love; who is reverenced, adored, loved, and served by the loftiest intelligences, by all the wise and good in all worlds; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all that is glorious in holiness and love appears, revealing the glorious excellences of God.

2. Who is the despiser. "Thou." So ignorant, so needy, so dependent, so greatly blessed, so sinful, so perverted in mind and heart, and incapable, while untaught of God, of judging aright as to the best things. It is the creature despising his Creator, folly despising wisdom, weakness despising Omnipotence, the lost despising his Deliverer, the destitute despising him who would enrich him with everlasting riches.

3. The contrast between him who is despised and the things which are valued. God is rejected and treated as of little or no account; while things which are worthless or injurious, or which if valuable have only a limited and transient worth, are highly prized and pursued as if of supreme worth and importance.

4. What is involved in despising God. It is to despise ourselves, our own souls and their salvation, the true riches and honour, our true and everlasting happiness, eternal life, all that most deserves to be valued.


1. To be themselves despised. "They that despise me shall be lightly esteemed" (1 Samuel 2:30). They shall rise "to shame and everlasting contempt" (Daniel 12:2), exposed and regarded as fools, and treated as worthless. "Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath rejected them" (Jeremiah 6:30).

2. To find by wretched experience how real and how essential to their happiness is he whom they have slighted. To learn the value of his favour by the irreparable loss of it. The sin of despising him they will no longer be able to commit. But the doom may be averted by repentance, as David's case teaches (ver. 13). - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:13. - (THE PALACE.)
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord.

1. The words of the prophet were a decisive test of the character of David. Had he treated the messenger and his message as others have done (1 Samuel 15:12-21; 1 Kings 13:4; 1 Kings 21:20; 1 Kings 22:8; Jeremiah 36:23; Luke 3:10; Acts 24:25), his partial blindness to his sin would have become total, and he would have fallen to a still lower depth, perhaps never to rise again. But his genuine piety, as well as the exceeding grace of God (2 Samuel 7:15), ensured a better issue; and the confidence in his recovery, which Nathan probably felt in coming to him, was fully justified.

2. Hardly was the sentence pronounced, "Thou art the man!" before the long repressed confession broke from his lips (1 Samuel 7:6; 1 Samuel 15:24-31), "I am the man! Who says this of me? Yet - God knows all - yes, I am the man. I have sinned against the Lord."

"Never so fast, in silent April shower,
Flushed into green the dry and leafless bower,
As Israel's crowned mourner felt
The dull hard stone within him melt"

(Keble.) The ruling principle of his nature was like a spring of water which, though choked and buried beneath a heap of rubbish, at length finds its way again to the surface. "The fundamental trait in David's character is a deep and tender susceptibility, which, although even for a time it may yield to lust or the pressure of the world, yet always quickly rises again in repentance and faith" ('Old Test. Hist. of Redemption'). "If in this matter Nathan shows himself great, David is no less so. The cutting truth of the prophetic word shakes him out of the hollow passion in which he has lived since first he saw this woman, and rouses him again to the consciousness of his better self. His greatness, however, is shown in the fact that, king as he was, he soon humbled himself, like the lowliest, before the higher truth; and, although his penitence was as deep and sincere as possible, it did not cause him either to lose his dignity or to forget his royal duties" (Ewald).

3. There is no part of his life for the proper understanding of which it is so necessary to read the history in connection with what he himself has written - "the songs of sore repentance," which he "sang in sorrowful mood" (Dante). Psalm 51. (see inscription), 'The prayer of the penitent;' the germ of which lay in this confession, but which was composed after the utterance of the word, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin;" for "the promise of forgiveness did not take immediate possession of his soul, but simply kept him from despair at first, and gave him strength to attain to a thorough knowledge of his guilt through prayer and supplication, and to pray for its entire removal that the heart might be renewed and fortified through the Holy Ghost" (Keil). "It is a generally acknowledged experience that there is often a great gulf between the objective word of forgiveness, presented from without, and its subjective appropriation by man, which hesitating conscience is unable to bridge without great struggles" (Tholuck). Psalm 32., 'The blessedness of forgiveness;' written subsequently. Other psalms have been sometimes associated with his confession, viz. Psalm 6., 38.; three others, viz. Psalm 102., 130., 143., make up "the seven penitential psalms."

4. David is here set before us as "the model and ideal of and the encouragement to true penitence." Consider his acknowledgment of sin as to -

I. ITS MATTER; or the conviction, contrition, change of mind and will, which is expressed. For words alone are not properly confession in the view of him who "looketh at the heart." Having, by means of the prophetic word, been led to enter into himself (Luke 15:17), and had his sin brought to remembrance ("the twin-brother of repentance"), its aggravation described and its punishment declared, he not only recognizes the fact of his sin; but also:

1. Looks at it as committed against the Lord; the living God, the Holy One of Israel; and not simply against man. "Thou hast despised me" (ver. 10). "For my transgressions do I know, And my sin is ever before me. Against thee only have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thine eyes," etc. (Psalm 51:3, 4.)

2. Takes the blame of it entirely to himself, as individually responsible, inexcusable, and guilty; thus accepting the judgment of conscience, without indulging vain and misleading thoughts.

3. Feels sorrow, shame, and self-condemnation on account of its nature and enormity; transgression, iniquity, sin (Psalm 32:1, 2); rebellion against the supreme King, disobedience to his Law; debt, pollution, guile, leprosy, bloodguiltiness (Psalm 51:14). He expresses no fear of consequences, and deprecates them only in so far as they include separation from God and loss of the blessings of his fellowship.

4. Puts it away from him with aversion and hatred, and purposes to forsake it completely (Proverbs 28:13); which confession implies and testifies.

"For mine iniquity will I confess;
I will be sorry for my sin."

(Psalm 38:18.)

II. ITS MANNER; or the evidence afforded of its sincerity by the language employed and the attendant circumstances. Observe:

1. Its promptness, readiness, and spontaneity. As soon as he became fully alive to his sin, he said, "I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah" (Psalm 32:5).

2. Its brevity. Two words only: "I-have-sinned against-Jehovah." "There is in the Bible no confession so unconditional, no expression of repentance so short, but also none so thoroughly true" (Disselhoff). "Saul confessed his sin more largely, less effectually. God cares not for phrases, but for affections" (Hall).

3. Its frankness and fulness, without prevarication or extenuation. "The plain and simple confession, 'I have sinned against God,' is a great thing, if we remember how rich the corrupt heart is in the discovery of excuses and apparent justification, and that the king was assailed by one of his subjects with hard, unsparing rebuke" (Hengstenberg).

4. Its publicity. He had sought, to hide his sin, but he did not seek to hide his penitence. He would have it set "in the sight of this sun," even as his chastisement would be; in order that the ways of God might be justified before men, and the evil effects of transgression upon them in some measure repaired. It is for this purpose, among others, that confession is made a condition of forgiveness (Job 33:27, 28; 1 John 1:9). "The necessity of confession (to God) arises from the load of unacknowledged guilt. By confession we sever ourselves from our sin and we disown it. Confession relieves by giving a sense of honesty. So long as we retain sin unconfessed, we are conscious of a secret insincerity" (F.W. Robertson, vol. 5.).

III. ITS ACCOMPANIMENT; or the further thoughts, feelings, and purposes which should be present in every ponitential confession.

1. Faith in the "loving kindness and tender mercies" of God (Psalm 51:1).

"But with thee is forgiveness,
That thou mayest be feared."

(Psalm 130:4, 7.)

2. Prayer for pardon, purity, the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 16:4-13); steadfastness, freedom, joy, and salvation (Psalm 51:7-12).

3. Submission to the will of God (Psalm 32:9; Psalm 38:13).

4. Consecration to his service (Psalm 51:13-17). "They were not many words which he spoke, but in them he owned two realities - sin and God. But to own them in their true meaning - sin as against God, and God as the Holy One, and yet God as merciful and gracious - was to return to the way of peace. Lower than this penitence could not descend, higher than this faith could not rise; and God was Jehovah, and David's sin was put away" (Edersheim). "It was not his sin, but his struggle with sin, which makes his history remarkable" (D. Macleod). "David experienced in a greater degree than any other Old Testament character the restlessness and desolation of a soul burdened with the consciousness of guilt, the desire for reconciliation with God, the struggle after purity and renovation of heart, the joy of fellowship, the heroic, the all-conquering power of confidence in God, the ardent love of a gracious heart for God; and has given in his psalms the imperishable testimony as to what is the fruit of the Law and what the fruit of the Spirit in man" (Oehler, 'Theology of the Old Test.,' 2:159). "The charm of his great name is broken. Our reverence for David is shaken, not destroyed. He is not what he was before; but he is far nobler and greater than many a just man who never fell and never repented. He is far more closely bound up with the sympathies of mankind than if he had never fallen" (Stanley). Even Bayle is constrained to say, "His amour with the wife of Uriah and the order he gave to destroy her husband are two most enormous crimes. But he was so grieved for them, and expiated them by so admirable a repentance, that this is not the passage in his life wherein he contributes the least to the instruction and edification of the faithful. We therein learn the frailty of saints, and it is a precept of vigilance; we therein learn in what manner we ought to lament our sins, and it is an excellent model." - D.

2 Samuel 12:13. - (THE PALACE.)
And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

"The absolver saw the mighty grief,
And hastened with relief; -
The Lord forgives; thou shalt not die'
Twas gently spoke, yet heard on high,
And all the band of angels, us'd to sing
In heaven, accordant to his raptured string,
Who many a month had turned away
With veiled eyes, nor own'd his lay,

"Now spread their wings and throng around
To the glad mournful sound,
And welcome with bright, open face
The broken heart to love's embrace.
The rock is smitten, and to future years
Springs ever fresh the tide of holy tears
And holy music, whispering peace
Till time and sin together cease."

(Keble, 'Sixth Sunday after Trinity.') In the interview of Nathan with David much may have passed which is not recorded. But it is improbable that (as some have supposed) there was a long interval between the confession of sin and the assurance of forgiveness, or that the latter was given at a second interview (ver. 15). Perceiving the sincerity of the king's repentance, the prophet forthwith declared that Jehovah also put away (literally, "caused to pass over," ch. 24:10; Zechariah 3:4) his sin, remitting the penalty of death, which the Law appointed and himself had pronounced (ver. 5); and became a messenger of mercy, "one of a thousand" (Job 33:23), as well as of judgment. "Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." Consider remission, pardon, forgiveness of sin, as -

I. NEEDED BY A SINFUL MAN. Forgiveness of sin is a change of personal relation between God and man; in which there is:

1. Release from condemnation incurred by the latter, through his violation of Divine Law; the removal of the displeasure (2 Samuel 10:27) and wrath (Psalm 38:1) of God; the blotting out of transgressions (Psalm 51:1; Psalm 32:1, 2; Isaiah 43:25; Romans 8:1); deliverance from death (Ezekiel 18:21). Since "all have sinned," all have need of it; but only those who are convinced of sin value, desire, and seek it. It also involves:

2. Restoration of communion with God; which is hindered by sin, as the light of the sun is intercepted by a cloud. "It is the foundation of all our communion with God here, and of all undeceiving expectations of our enjoyment of him hereafter" (Owen, in Psalm 130.).

3. Renewal of the heart in righteousness; which, though separate from it in thought, is never so in reality, and which was longed for by David with the same intensity and prayed for in the same breath (Psalm 51:9, 10). How lamentable is the condition of that man on whom the wrath of eternal, holy love "abideth" (John 3:36) l

II. GRANTED BY A MERCIFUL GOD. Forgiveness of sin is an act or gift, which:

1. God alone can perform or bestow; the prerogative of the supreme Ruler, against whom it has been committed (Daniel 9:9; Mark 2:7). "The Lord hath put away thy sin." "To pardon sin is one of the jura regalia, the flowers of God's crown" (T. Watson).

2. Proceeds from his abounding mercy and grace (Exodus 34:7). "It is impossible this flower should spring from any other root" (Psalm 51:1).

3. Rests upon an adequate ground or moral cause; which, although little known to David, was always present to the mind of God (1 Peter 1:20), shadowed forth in the "mediatorial sovereignty" of former ages and manifested in Jesus Christ, "in whom we have forgiveness of sins" (Acts 13:38; Ephesians 1:7).

"Here is the might,
And hero the wisdom, which did open lay
The path, that had been yearned for so long,
Betwixt the heaven and earth."

(Dante, 'Par.,' 23.)

III. ANNOUNCED BY A FAITHFUL MINISTER. The prophet said not, "I forgive;" he simply declared what God had done or purposed to do (1 Samuel 15:28); and in this sense only can there be absolution by man. "To forgive sins is the part and inalienable prerogative of God. To absolve is to dispense and convey forgiveness to those who have the right dispositions of heart for receiving it; and this is the part of God's messengers and representatives, whether under the Old or New dispensations" (E.M. Goulburn). The claim of any other power is a groundless assumption. The language employed in the New Testament refers either to cases of discipline in the Church, or to the declaration of the forgiving love of God, the reconciliation of God in Christ, and the assurance of its reality (Matthew 18:15-20; John 20:23; 2 Corinthians 2:10); this assurance defending for its beneficial influence, on:

1. Its accordance with the revealed Word of God (Jeremiah 23:28; Galatians 1:8).

2. Its utterance by a faithful, holy, merciful servant of God, in his ministerial and representative character. "The power of absolution belonged to the Church, and to the apostle through the Church. It was a power belonging to all Christians: to the apostle, because he was a Christian, not because he was an apostle. A priestly power, no doubt, because Christ has made all Christians kings and priests" (F.W. Robertson, vol. 3.).

3. Its communication to and reception by such as are truly penitent. "The poet said with a great deal of justice, that no sinner is absolved by himself; yet, in another sense, the sinner is absolved by that very self-accusation; and, sorrowing for his sins, is freed from the guilt of them" (Leighton).

IV. APPROPRIATED BY A BELIEVING HEART. The inward assurance of the blessing of forgiveness:

1. Is usually gained through many struggles and fervent prayers. David prayed for pardon after the prophet's assurance of it. "Psalm 51. shows us how David struggles to gain an inward and conscious certainty of the forgiveness of sin, which was announced to him by Nathan" (Delitzsch). "Under the Old Testament none loved God more than he, none was loved by God more than he. The paths of faith and love wherein he walked are unto the most of us like the way of an eagle in the air - too high and hard for us. Yet to this day do the cries of this man after God's own heart sound in our ears" (Owen).

2. Is personally realized through faith in the Word inspired by God and declaring his mercy. "They that really believe forgiveness in God do thereby obtain forgiveness."

3. Is commonly attended with peace, refreshment, and gladness, "sweet as the living stream to summer thirst." Happy is he who can say from the heart, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins!"

"Blessed is he whose transgression is taken away,
Whose sin is covered;
Blessed is the man to whom
Jehovah doth not reckon iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no guile."

(Psalm 32:1, 2; Romans 4:7.) D.

Two things are very surprising in this narrative - the awful wickedness of David, and the abounding mercy of God.


1. Very prompt. The prophet's address awakened no resentment. There was no attempt at evasion, palliation, or self-justification. How could there be? He at once acknowledged his sin. This was the result, not only of Nathan's faithful reproof, but of the king's own previous mental exercises. The time which had elapsed since the commission of his sins, or some part of it, had been a sorrowful time for him. Burdened with conscious guilt, but not subdued to contrition, he had been wretched (see Psalm 32:3, 4). Nathan's admonitions completed the work; the king's heart was melted to penitence, and he unburdened his soul by a frank confession.

2. Very brief. Like the prayer of the publican (Luke 18:13). When the heart is fullest, the words are fewest. Not the length of a confession, but its meaning and sincerity, are the important thing. It is so with confessions of men to each other: a word, a look, or an action without a word, is often sufficient, always better than a long speech.

3. Very appropriate. Acknowledged sin - sin "against the Lord." Nathan had laid stress on this point, and David responds accordingly. He had grievously wronged Uriah, Bathsheba too, and had sinned against the people under his rule; but most had he sinned against God. Hence his language in Psalm 51:4. Only as sin is thus viewed is "godly sorrow" possible.


1. Immediate. It startles us that so great a sinner should have been so speedily pardoned, so soon assured of pardon. We might have deemed some delay more suitable. But God is ever ready to forgive; he waits only for the sinner's penitent confession. There is no reason for delay of forgiveness except the sinner's impenitence and unbelief. The moment these are subdued, pardon is granted. This was assured by the promises of the Old Testament, such as Isaiah 55:7. In the New we have the same assurances, and the difficulties which arise from the penitent sinner's conviction of the rightness of the punishment threatened to transgressors (his conscience being on the side of the Divine justice) are removed by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.

2. Free. Burdened with no conditions, no demand for penances, or compensations, or sin offerings. The sin was too serious for these. So David felt (Psalm 51:16). Only a perfectly free pardon could meet the case. New love and service would follow; but these would spring from gratitude for forgiveness, not from the expectation of securing it. The attempt to merit or earn pardon for past transgressions by voluntary sufferings, by multiplied prayers or ceremonies, or by future obedience, is absurd on the face of it, and as contrary to the Old Testament as to the New. It was to the "multitude of God's tender mercies" (Psalm 51:1) that David appealed; and it is to the same abounding grace as shown in the gospel that we must trust.

3. Declared. Nathan pronounced the king's absolution: "The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." Men would like a similar assurance to themselves individually; and the system of some Churches is constructed to meet this wish. On confession of sin to a priest, he pronounces absolution. But this practice is unwarranted and delusive. Confessedly the absolution is worthless unless the sinner be truly penitent; and if he be, it is useless; and in multitudes of cases it is most pernicious, fostering baseless hopes. If men could read the heart, or had, like Nathan, a special message of pardon from God in each case, they might safely pronounce absolution. But in ordinary cases none can know the reality of repentance until it is proved by the life; and therefore none can safely assure the sinner of his actual forgiveness until such assurance is needless. The repenting sinner, coming to God by faith in Jesus Christ, is assured of pardon

(1) by the promises of God, and

(2) by the Spirit of God in his heart applying the promises to the individual and enabling him to confide in them, and commencing in him the Christian life. A new heart is given with pardon; and this, with its fruit in the conduct, becomes a growing evidence of pardon.

4. Yet with a reservation. The penalty of death, to which David had virtually condemned himself, was remitted; but other penalties were not. One was specifically mentioned - the death of the child (ver. 14); and the others, denounced (vers. 10-12) before the confession and forgiveness, we know from the subsequent history were inflicted. And it is often the case that the painful consequences of sin continue long after pardon is granted, perhaps till death. Shall we say, then, that the forgiveness is not real and full? By no means. But because it is real and full the pardoned sinner must suffer. Suffering, however, changes its character. As from Gad, it is no longer penal infliction, but fatherly chastisement and discipline

(1) to maintain a salutary remembrance of the sin, and produce constant gratitude and humility;

(2) to preserve in obedience and promote holiness;

(3) to vindicate to others the justice of God, and warn them against sin. And as to the penitent himself, his suffering produces no bitterness, abjectness, or sullenness. Love to him that chastises, kept alive by the sense of his forgiving and fatherly love, enables him to yield himself to the chastisement, thankful, resigned, acquiescent, and earnestly seeking to realize the intended profit. In conclusion:

1. Admire, adore, trust, and proclaim the pardoning love of God.

2. Let sinners repent of, confess, and forsake their sins, that they may obtain forgiveness. For, notwithstanding the love of God and the sacrifice of Christ, no impenitent sinner shall be forgiven.

3. Let no penitent despair. Not even the backslider, and though his sins have been as bad as David's.

4. Let none presume. One of the worst and most persistent consequences of David's sin and pardon has been the encouragement to sin, which foolish and wicked persons have derived from them, or - shall we say? - pretended to derive. For so foolish and impious is it to turn the narrative to such a purpose that it is difficult to believe in the sincerity of those who do so. Rather they love their sins, and are glad of anything that may quiet somewhat their consciences in committing them. Let any such consider that the proper effect of the narrative is to render sin odious and to awaken a dread of it; and that the sins of those who read it and persist in sin are rendered doubly guilty. Such are hardening their hearts and promoting in themselves incapacity to repent, and so incapability of being forgiven. - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:14. - (THE PALACE.)
Nevertheless, because by this deed thou hast surely caused [literally, 'causing,' etc., 'hast caused,' etc.] the enemies of Jehovah to speak evil ['despise,' 'contemn,' 'abhor,' provoke,' 'blaspheme'], etc. A scorner, being in company with a devout man, took occasion to speak contemptuously of those whom he called "the Old Testament saints," and especially of David as "a man after God's own heart," asking, "And what did he do?" "He wrote the fifty-first psalm and the thirty-second," was the reply; "and if you cherish such feelings as he there expresses, you will be a man after God's own heart." "But," he persisted, "tell me what he did besides." "He did that which the Prophet Nathan said would cause the enemies of God to blaspheme.'" The scorner felt the rebuke, and was silent. Even to this day the pernicious influence of his sin appears; but, on the other hand, the fact of its having been recorded is an evidence of, at least, the truthfulness of Scripture; whilst the invaluable lessons taught by it more than compensate for the evil effects it produces. "The sacred writer is perfectly aware of the tendency of this passage of David's history, and yet he is not directed by the Holy Spirit to suppress it. It might have been suppressed. The failings of David are not less useful than his virtues, if we will only faithfully improve the warnings they afford us. It is only to the enemies of the Lord that they afford occasion of blasphemy. They, indeed, will never want occasion; and we are not to be denied the salutary examples which the Scriptures hold forth to us because there are those who wrest them to their own destruction. But it is chiefly in the failings of the good that the enemies of the Lord find cause of triumph" (Thompson, 'Davidica'). Concerning the sin of David and other godly men, observe that -

I. IT IS RENDERED ALL THE MORE CULPABLE AND CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR PREVIOUS EXALTATION. Culpable, inasmuch as their profession of godliness, especially when hired with eminent position, increases their responsibility, and furnishes special motives to a consistent course of conduct; conspicuous, inasmuch as their apparent superiority to others:

1. Attracts the attention of men to them more than others, and makes it impossible that their failings should pass unnoticed.

2. Naturally leads men to expect more from them than others.

3. Produces a deeper impression by the contrast exhibited between what is expected from them and what is actually done by them. The transgression of David was in itself great; but it was all the greater, in the view of men, because committed by one of his acknowledged piety, and "in the fierce light that beats upon the throne, and blackens every blot."

II. IT IS CALCULATED TO EXERT A MOST INJURIOUS INFLUENCE ON OTHER MEN. The sin of every man has a baneful effect on his fellow men; but that of a godly man, in an eminent degree, by:

1. Causing them not only to despise him, but also others, who are associated and identified with him in religious faith and service, as (like him) unworthy of respect, insincere, and hypocritical.

2. Inciting them to contemn religion itself; doubt the Word of God, distrust the reality of piety everywhere, and even speak evil of God himself; wherein it is commonly implied that sin is sanctioned by religion, or at least is not prevented by it because of its essential weakness. A false impression of the requirements and character of God is given.

3. Lessening the restraints of holy example, hindering the acceptance of the truth, multiplying excuses for neglect, encouraging indulgence in sin.

4. Affording means of opposition to the faith, whereby others still are made to stumble. "This observation gives us a deep insight into the whole position of David. In him the good principle had attained to supremacy; the godless party had seen this with terror, and now they mocked piety in its representative, who, because he held this position, ought to have kept watch over his heart the more carefully, and afterwards made use of the first opportunity of throwing off the burdensome yoke" (Hengstenberg). "Towards the heathen Israel's duty was, by obedience to God's Word and commands, to set forth the theocracy, and bring it to honour and recognition. Transgressions of God's command by the king himself must lead the heathen to heap shame and reproach on Israel and on Israel's God" (Erdmann).

III. ITS INJURIOUS EFFECT ON OTHERS DEPENDS UPON THEIR OWN CHARACTER. It is only "the enemies of the Lord" who despise the Lord, his Word, or his people.

1. Their enmity disposes them to make use of the sin of another as a reason in favour of the course upon which their heart is already set; thus silencing the voice of conscience. increasing their pride and self-deception, and confirming themselves in unbelief and disobedience.

2. It also indisposes them to regard it in a proper manner; to consider the strength of his temptation, the depth of his penitence, the earnestness of his aspirations after righteousness; that the conduct of one man does not prove the character of all with whom he is associated, still less the truth of the religion they profess, or the character of the God they serve; that it may not be sanctioned by God, but forbidden, reproved, and punished by him; that it is not the standard of practice, which is found in the Law of God alone; and that "every man must give account of himself to God." Those who stand may be led by it to take heed lest they fall, and those who fall to hope to rise again; but the enemies of the Lord see in it nothing but an excuse for persisting in the evil of their way. "Bees will collect honey and spiders poison from the same plant, according to their different natures" (Scott).

3. Their sin is not lessened by the sin of another, but rather increased by the use they make of it. Nevertheless, "all conduct of ours which tends in the slightest degree to strengthen that system of false reasoning, by which sinners confirm themselves in their sins, and undermine the faith and practice of others, is sin of the deepest dye" (Thompson).

IV. ALTHOUGH IT MAY BE PARDONED, IT CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED. "The child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.,

1. To manifest the justice and righteousness of God. The penalty of death which he had incurred was transferred from the guilty father to the innocent son.

2. To humble him more deeply on account of his sin, and to produce in him "the peaceable fruit of righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). "For the most grievous sins a provision of mercy is so made as to secure long and humbling recollections of the aggravated guilt" (Halley).

3. To counteract the evil effects of his sin, and "that the visible occasion of any further blasphemy should be taken away." "God in his wisdom did take away this child, because he should have lived but to be a shame unto David" (Willet). This was only the beginning of a long course of chastisement in his family (ch. 13.), his person (Psalm 41., 55., 39.), and his kingdom (ch, 14.). Judgment was mingled with mercy; yea, it was itself the chastisement of love. "What was the answer to his prayer? First, the death of Bathsheba's child. Next, the discovery of hateful crimes in his household. Finally, the revolt of the beloved Absalom. These answers to a prayer for forgiveness? Yes, if forgiveness be what David took it to mean - having truth in the inward parts, knowing wisdom secretly" (Maurice). - D.

David's wickedness gave occasion for reproach of religion by the ungodly among his subjects, and by the heathen peoples around. Indeed, it occasions blasphemy and contempt of religion down to the present day.

I. CONDUCT WHICH OCCASIONS CONTEMPT AND REPROACH OF RELIGION. The conduct must be that of professedly religious men, and the more strict their profession, and the more prominent their position, so much the greater the mischief they do.

1. Great inconsistency between profession and conduct. Gross immorality, fraud, falsehood, avarice, intemperance, hasty temper, revenge, etc.

2. Unworthy presentation of religion itself. Ignorant rant, unctuous cant, too much insistence on mere doctrinal refinements which have little or no bearing on practical life, elaborate ceremonialism, fierce strife in a Church, sectarian bitterness and exclusiveness, indifference to the well being of the general population, clerical pretensions, ambition, or avarice, - all in their various ways and degrees occasion "the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme."

II. THE CLASS OF PERSONS LED THEREBY TO DESPISE AND REPROACH RELIGION. "The enemies of the Lord." Not his friends; they know too well the value of religion; reverence and love it too much. The effect of such conduct on them is sorrow, self-examination, and greater watchfulness and prayer, lest they also should be overcome by temptation. Also prayer and effort (if possible) to restore those who have sinned. To take occasion from the inconsistencies of Christians to despise and revile their religion is a manifest sign of enmity to God. It is also a mark of great ignorance of the religion they revile; for, did they understand it, they would perceive its opposition to the sins and follies of its professed adherents; and that its truth and goodness remained the same, whatever their conduct. Or, if it be said that it is only the profession of religion that is spoken of with contempt, it is plainly unjust to cast a slur on all who make it because of the sins of a few of their number.


1. The slanderers are themselves injured. To occasion them to blaspheme is to occasion the increase of their guilt, and the greater hardening of their hearts; whereas it should be the aim of good men to do all that is possible to bring them to the knowledge of the truth and the experience of salvation.

2. Discredit is brought upon religion. Hence some who might have been disposed to inquire into its claims, and others who were preparing to make an open profession of godliness, are deterred from doing so. In this view the inconsistencies of Christians are a serious matter. They help to promote in society a sentiment adverse to earnest godliness and the profession of it.

3. The hearts of true-hearted and consistent Christians are wounded and distressed.

4. Above all, and including all, the Name of God is dishonoured, and the progress of his kingdom checked. Finally, let inconsistent professors of religion ponder the words of our Lord (Matthew 18:7, Revised Version), "Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling] for it must needs be that the occasions come; but woe to that man through whom the occasion cometh!" - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:15-23. - (THE PALACE AND THE TABERNACLE.)
In one of the chambers of David's palace his little child lies smitten with a fatal malady. In another the king, divested of his royal robes and clothed in sackcloth, prostrates himself in profound sorrow and abasement. He prays, weeps, fasts, and lies all night upon the ground. His oldest and most confidential servants endeavour to comfort him, and beseech him to take food, in vain. At length the blow falls; and his servants fear to communicate the intelligence, lest it should plunge him into a dangerous paroxysm of grief. But their reserved demeanour and soft whispering among themselves indicate what has happened; and their answer to his question, "Is the child dead?" confirms his conclusion. Contrary to their expectation, however, he rises up, washes and anoints himself, puts on becoming garments, goes into the house of the Lord (the tabernacle adjoining the palace), and pours forth his heart in lowly adoration. Then, returning, he asks for bread, and eats. Astonished at his conduct, they inquire the reason of it; and he replies (in effect) that he has acted, not from thoughtlessness or indifference, but from a due regard to the will of God and the altered circumstances of the case. Whilst the life of the child hung in suspense, he might hope, by prayer and humiliation (since God deals with men according to their moral attitude toward him), to avert the threatening calamity; but now he is gone it is useless to indulge in lamentation; the will of God must be submitted to without repining (1 Samuel 3:18). "Those who are ignorant of the Divine life cannot comprehend the reasons of a believer's conduct in his varied experiences" (Scott). "How little can any one of us understand another! The element of conscious sin gave to David thoughts and feelings other than the ordinary ones, and beyond the appreciation of those who looked for the usual signs of grief" (R. Tuck). "In the case of a man whose penitence was so earnest and so deep, the prayer for the preservation of his child must have sprung from some other source than excessive love of any created object. His great desire was to avert the stroke, as a sign of the wrath of God, in the hope that he might be able to discern, in the preservation of the child, a proof of Divine favour consequent upon the restoration of his fellowship with God. But when the child was dead he humbled himself under the mighty hand of God, and rested satisfied with his grace, without giving himself up to fruitless pain" (O von Gerlach). Consider -

I. HIS BELIEVING RECOGNITION OF THE HAND OF GOD. "David was a great lover of his children" (Patrick); and to such a father the sufferings of his child must have been naturally a severe affliction. But:

1. He also perceived therein a just chastisement of his transgression. It is a common fact of experience (no less than a solemn declaration of Scripture) that the sufferings of a child are often the immediate and inevitable fruit of the father's sin. This is, indeed, by no means always the case. In most instances no moral cause thereof can be discerned, save the sinfulness of the race to which he belongs, and which is subject to the universal law of sorrow and mortality.

2. He perceived therein, moreover, a merciful administration of such chastisement. "Thou shalt not die. Howbeit," etc. (ver. 14). His life was spared in mercy to himself and his people. He was afflicted in such a manner as would be most conducive to his benefit. His child was smitten to stop the mouths of blasphemers. The innocent suffers for the guilty; suffers - who shall say (believing in the perfect wisdom, righteousness, and love of God) either unjustly or to his own ultimate disadvantage?

3. And he believed in the Divine susceptibility to human entreaty; and that it might be possible for the impending blow to be turned aside. "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me?" (ver. 22). He evidently regarded the prediction of the prophet, though absolute in form, as really conditional (Isaiah 38:1; Jeremiah 18:7, 8). We have to do, not with an iron fate, but with a loving Father, "full of pity and merciful" (James 4:11; Psalm 34:15; Psalm 103:13).


1. His grief was not merely natural, but spiritual; penitential sorrow for sin, exhibited in solitary, thoughtful, continued self-abasement, fasting, weeping, and genuine purposes of amendment (Psalm 51:3, 4, 13). This is the end of God's afflictive discipline; and, when attained, it may be hoped that the immediate occasion thereof will be removed. Even when affliction is not directly due to personal transgression, it should lead to reflection, humiliation and "godly sorrow"

2. It was associated with fervent supplication. And David besought God for the child" (ver. 16). "He herein only showed his natural affection, still subordinating his prayer to the will of God; as Christ did to show his human condition when he prayed that the cup might pass from him" (Wilier). What evils does prayer avert, what blessings does it obtain, both for ourselves and others!

3. Although the immediate object in view was not gained, his prayer was not unavailing. He received light, strength, and comfort; was kept from despair and enabled to endure in a right spirit whatever might occur. God always hears the cries of his children; but he often withholds what they ask. He fulfils their requests in a higher way, transforms the curse into a blessing, and gives them abundant tokens of his favour (ver. 25). "If we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us," etc. (1 John 5:14, 15).

III. HIS CHEERFUL ACQUIESCENCE IN THE WILL OF GOD. "And David arose from the ground," etc. (ver. 20). Deeming it vain to strive against and mourn over an event which could not be altered, and which he regarded as the expression of the settled determination of God (Deuteronomy 3:26), he acted accordingly:

1. With loyal submission to his sovereign, wise, and beneficent will; strengthened by the conviction that he himself would, ere long, "go the way of all the earth," and be at rest; and by the hope of meeting his child again in God (ver. 23). "Religion," it has been remarked, "is summed up in one word - submission. The chief virtue of Christianity and the root of all the rest is readiness under all circumstances to fulfil the will of God in doing and suffering."

2. With resolute restraint upon his natural feelings of sorrow and regret. "The unprofitable and bad consequences, the sinful nature, of profuse sorrowing for the dead, are easily deduced from the former part of this reflection ('Wherefore should I fast?' etc.); in the latter ('I shall go to him') we have the strongest motives to enforce our striving against it - a remedy exactly suited to the disease" (John Wesley).

3. With cheerful performance of immediate, practical, appropriate duties; in due attention to personal appearance and needs, public worship in the house of God ("weeping must not hinder worship"), edifying conversation with friends, consoling counsel to the sorrowful (ver. 24). In this manner bereavement is most easily borne and most effectually sanctified, and God is most worthily served and glorified. - D.

This part of the narrative introduces us to a spectacle which, in its main features, is common enough. A child sickening and dying, a parent striving with God in prayer and fasting for its life, but striving in vain. But there are peculiar circumstances here which give the scene a special interest.


1. The cause of it. The sufferings and deaths of little children are painful to witness, and awaken many questionings. Why should these innocent lambs suffer? Why should the sinless die? To which we may reply, Why should they not, seeing that to them death is an escape from a world of sin and misery, with its awful possibilities of evil, into the world of perfect and eternal purity, safety, and bliss? Resides, he who gave life may take it at his pleasure. Holy Scripture throws some further light upon the mystery. It teaches us in general, that, death came into the world through sin. Children die because they belong to a sinful, dying race. Their deaths are part of the penalty of the sins of men. In them the innocent suffer for the guilty, because of their guilt, and to promote their deliverance from sin. Amongst the forces at work to promote repentance and holiness, not the least powerful are the deaths of little children. God thus finds a way to the hearts of parents and their surviving children. In the case of David we have express Divine explanation of the death of the babe (ver. 14). It was inflicted on account of the sin to which it owed its existence, and to vindicate the justice of God as against the blasphemies of his enemies. And not unfrequently now the child's death is the direct consequence and penalty of the sins of its father or mother. But in such cases, as in David's, love is revealed as well as righteousness. "The Lord struck" David's child, not only to show his displeasure at David's sin, but to deepen his penitence, and promote his godliness and holiness.

2. Its effect on David. It might have seemed probable that, when the babe was taken ill, the father, while not actually desiring its death, would at least not have been much grieved at the prospect of it. For it was a child of shame, and as long as it lived would be a perpetual reminder of the dreadful past, and would keep alive the memory of it in the court and nation. And it is a striking proof of the tenderness and strength of the monarch's affections that the prospect of the death of his little boy was so distressing to him. Partly, however, his intense longing that the child's life should be spared sprang probably from the feeling that this would be a fresh assurance to him that his sins were forgiven. In his distress he resorted to prayer for the child's restoration. How could he do this, seeing Nathan had expressly told him that it should certainly die? It seems that Divine announcements of punishments were not regarded as irrevocable, however positive their terms. Compare the eases of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:1-6) and of Nineveh (Jonah 3:4-10). So David said, "Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live?" and he persevered in prayer and fasting and self-humiliation until the death of the child extinguished all hope. He "went in" to a retired part of his palace, and east himself on the ground, beseeching God for the child, and fasting (ver. 16); and in these exercises he continued day and night, until on the seventh day the child died (ver. 18). Doubtless, during that period of solitary communion with God, not only (lid he pray for the child's life, but reflected much on his sins, indulged anew his peuitential grief, prayed for forgiveness and a cleansed heart, surrendered himself and his babe to the Divine will, sought strength to endure whatever might be before him, and grace to derive lasting profit from all that he was passing through, whatever the issue might be. In all which we do well to take him as an example.

II. THE CHILD'S DEATH. The prayers offered for the restoration of the child were sincere, importunate, persevering; but they were offered in vain. "The child died." Yet not in vain. No. true. prayer is in vain. It brings blessing to him who offers it greater than that which is denied to him. God gives "more than we ask," better than we ask. The effect of his child's death on David astonished his servants. He "arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the Lord, and worshipped," etc. (ver. 20).

1. He laid aside all signs of mourning.

2. He went into the holy tent, and worshipped. His worship would now be of a different character from that which he had offered in his own privacy. No longer entreaties for the life of the child, but expressions of submission to the will of God at length made plain; acknowledgment of God's righteousness and loving kindness in what he had done; prayers for support and consolation and sanctifying grace, for himself and the sorrowing mother, and that God would, through this painful stroke, glorify his own Name.

3. He explained and justified his conduct to his astonished servants. They expressed their perplexity. He explains by reminding them of the utter uselessness of further fasting and weeping. The dead cannot be recalled to life. The living will go to the dead; the dead will not come back to the living. It is true that this consideration has often a terrible effect in increasing the anguish of bereavement. It adds despair to sorrow. The feeling that it is impossible to recall the departed; that no more will the loved one be seen, or heard, or embraced; that the rest of life must be spent without the society that was so dear and seemed so essential to happiness, is overpowering. Nevertheless, the sense of the unalterableness of the fact, and the utter uselessness of prolonged sorrow, has ultimately a calming effect. Men come at length to reconcile themselves to the unchangeable. But there is greater peace and consolation in the truth that the unchangeable is the expression of the will of the infinitely Wise and Good. Believing this, we reconcile our minds, not to a mere hard, stern fact, but to the will of our Father in heaven, who loves us, and pains us because he loves us. The second expression employed by David in reference to the impossibility of regaining his child is worthy of notice. "He shall not return to me." It reminds us that when our friends are dead all opportunity, not only of enjoying their presence and society, but of benefiting them, and otherwise doing our duty to them, is gone. A cause for regret and penitential sorrow if we have failed in our duty to them; and a reason for greater care in doing our duty to those that remain, and for seeking their forgiveness while we may for any wrong we have done to them. There is consolation, too, in reference to those who have been taken from us, that they cannot return, when we have good assurance that they are in heaven. We cannot wish them to return from heaven to earth. We thank God for their complete deliverance from sin and sorrow, and all liability to those evils.

4. He expressed his own expectations as to the future. "I shall go to him" (ver. 23). Whither? To the grave? to Sheol (equivalent to Hades)? or to heaven? The precise thought of David in these words is hardly ascertainable. He may have intended to say only that he must join the child in the region of death. Probably, however, he expressed a hope of conscious reunion in the future world; and the Christian, taking up the words, can express by them a fuller and more confident hope of rejoining his little children and Christian relatives and friends in a state of blessedness than was possible to Old Testament believers, though glimpses of the glorious future were at times enjoyed by them. "Not lost, but gone before" is a thought that is daily comforting thousands. And it is felt how much better it is that the desire for reunion should be fulfilled yonder rather than here - that we should go to our departed friends into that world of perfection and joy, not they come back to us into this world of imperfection and trouble. Only let us take care so to live that such hopes may be reasonable. Think how terrible the thought, "I shall go to him," as cherished by one impenitent sinner in respect to another who has gone to his doom! How dreadful the reunions hereafter of those who have lived together in ungodliness and sin here, and encouraged and helped each other in the practice of them! Better to have died in infancy! Better not to have been born! - G.W.

2 Samuel 12:23. - (THE PALACE.)
I shall go to him. David had at least a glimpse of the future life. The expectation of going to his child in the grave would have afforded him little comfort. But whatever meaning may be attached to the words as uttered by him, they may be profitably considered by us in the light of the gospel. Reason sheds only starlight on the future; the revelations of the Old Testament only twilight; but Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, illumines it with daylight. The Christian parent, bereaved of his little child, has -

I. THE PERSUASION OF THE CONTINUED EXISTENCE OF THE DEPARTED, in the unseen, spiritual, eternal world, "the Father's house;" where he:

1. Retains his conscious personality (neither ceasing to be, nor "swallowed up in the general sea of being").

2. Attains the highest perfection of which his nature is capable (his capacities of knowledge, holiness, and happiness being gradually developed).

3. Remains in permanent security (forever freed from the temptations and sorrows of this life). On what grounds does such a persuasion rest?

(1) The nature of a child - spiritual, immortal, blameless, "having no knowledge between good and evil" (Deuteronomy 1:39).

(2) The character of God; his justice and benevolence, and his fatherly relationship (Jeremiah 19:4; Ezekiel 16:21; Joel 2:16; Jonah 4:11), which, though consistent with the suffering of the innocent in this world (because of the beneficent purposes to which it is subservient), is not so with their final condemnation.

(3) The teachings and actions of Christ, and his redemptive work (Matthew 18:1-14; Matthew 19:13-15; Matthew 21:16; 1 Corinthians 15:22). "They belong to the kingdom of heaven." Whatever disadvantages they suffer from their relation to Adam are more than surpassed by the abounding grace of God in Christ. "He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom" (Isaiah 40:11).


1. Hope of personal salvation on the part of him who cherishes it.

2. Belief in the individual recognition of those who are known on earth.

"I have heard you say
That we shall see and know our friends in heaven
If that be true, I shall see my boy again."

(King John,' act 3. sc. 4.)

3. Expectancy of common participation in the heavenly fellowship, service, and joy of the Lord.

"Ah! thy merciless stern mercy hath chastised us,
Goading us along the narrow road;
Thy bird, who warmed and dazzled us a moment
Hath returned to thine abode.
Lord, when we are purged within the furnace,
May we have our little child again?
All thine anguish by the olives in the garden,
All thy life and death are vain,
If thou yield us not our own again!"

(Reden Noel, 'A Little Child's Monument.')

III. CONSOLATION IN THE PAINFUL LOSS OF THE DEPARTED; derived from what has been said, the fact that it comes from a Father's hand, and the benefits which it brings by

(1) teaching patience in the trials of life;

(2) moderating attachment to its blessings;

(3) spiritualizing affection for those who are left;

(4) intensifying desire for the heavenly home. Let us consider to whom they have gone, from what they have been taken, for what they have been taken, and how this bereavement will appear to us when we come to die ourselves (W.M. Taylor).

"'Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up,
Whose golden rounds are our calamities." = - D.

2 Samuel 12:24, 25. - (JERUSALEM.)
(References: 1 Kings 1-11; 1 Chronicles 22-29; 2 Chronicles 1-9.; Psalm 72; Proverbs 1:1; Ecclesiastes 1:1; Song of Solomon 1:1.) Where a while ago a dead child lay amidst signs of grief, there now lies a living child amidst signs of gladness. In him David sees a gift of God, an answer to prayer which seemed to be denied, "a pledge of pardon and a sign of hope." In him we see one who was destined to become the wisest of men, the most glorious of monarchs - Solomon (whose name occurs only here and 2 Samuel 5:14, in this book) -

"The lofty light, endow'd
With sapience so profound, if truth be truth,
That with a ken of such wide amplitude
No second hath arisen."

(Dante, 'Par.,' 10.) Notice:

1. His parentage. David, Bathsheba; from whom he inherited physical strength and beauty, mental and moral qualities, a piercing insight, large heartedness, skill in ruling, sensuous susceptibilities, etc., royal rank and privileges. "The history of a man's childhood is the description of his parents' environment" (Carlyle).

2. His birth. After David's fall, repentance, and forgiveness, and the death of his unnamed infant (see, however, 1 Chronicles 3:5); when Rabbah had fallen, peace was established, and prosperity abounded. The time was propitious.

3. His name. (1 Samuel 1:20.) "And he called his name Solomon" (equivalent to "the man of peace," "pacific," Friedrich), "because he regarded his birth as a pledge that he should now become a partaker again of the peace of God" (Keil); or perhaps in allusion to the peaceful condition of the kingdom and "from the wish that peace might be allotted him as a gift of God, in contrast with the wars of his father's life" (Erdmann; 2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Chronicles 22:9). "And Jehovah loved him," and spared his life, in contrast with that of the dead child. "And he [Jehovah] sent by the hand [through] Nathan the prophet; and he [Nathan] called his name Jedid-jah [Jedid equivalent to 'David,' 'darling;' 'beloved of Jab,' his own name being combined with that of Jehovah], because of the Lord," who loved him; "a practical declaration on the part of Jehovah that the Lord loved Solomon, from which David could and was intended to discern that the Lord had blessed his marriage with Bathsheba. Jedidiah, therefore, was not actually adopted as Solomon's name" (Keil). "The pious father, in his happiness, entreated the oracle, through Nathan, to confer on the newborn child some name of lofty import, and Solomon, as his parents called him, received through the prophet the glorious additional name of Jedidiah. The sadness of the fate of his first child rendered the omens under which the second stepped into its place the more auspicious; and we can easily understand that of all his sons this one became the dearest" (Ewald).

4. His education; or the influences that went to form his character; of Nathan, to whom it may have been entrusted; of David, during his declining years; of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3); of a home and court where polygamy prevailed; of all the learning of the age; of the revolt of Absalom, and other public events. "A shepherd life, like his father's, furnished, we may believe, a better education for his kingly calling. Born to the purple, there was the inevitable risk of a selfish luxury. Cradled in liturgies, trained to think chiefly of the magnificent 'palace' of Jehovah, of which he was to be the builder, there was the danger first of an aesthetic formalism, and then of ultimate indifference" (Smith, 'Dict. of the Bible').

5. His prospects, after the death of Absalom, if not even before (2 Samuel 7:12; 1 Chronicles 22:9; 1 Kings 1:13); his accession and eminence.

6. His closing years.

7. His prefigurement, not in personal character but royal office, of "the Prince of Peace" "We must not confine our view to David's personal life and reign. After we have seen him fallen and suffering for sin, we must see him rising again and reviving in a more glorious reign, in Solomon his son, who began to reign while David his father was still alive, in order that the continuity might be more clearly marked. And above all, we must contemplate him as culminating upward and attaining the climax of his glory, which God had revealed to him, and for which he yearned with devout aspiration, in Christ, the Divine David and the Son of David, the Solomon, the Jedidiab, the Builder of the Church visible on earth and glorified in heaven" (Wordsworth). - D.

This event, which occurred after a two years' siege, between the fall of David and his repentance, presents several significant contrasts.

1. Material success associated with moral failure. His army victorious, his enterprise terminating in triumph; David himself overcome by temptation, and troubled with a guilty conscience. Worldly success and prosperity are no true measure of moral worth and inward peace and happiness.

2. Praiseworthy conduct displayed by an unworthy character. Having captured the lower city, Joab, before attacking the citadel, "sent messengers," etc. (ver. 27). The politic general may have wished to escape the envy and secure the favour of the king; apparently, however, his conduct exhibited consideration for the honour of his master, modesty, and humility. Even the worst men have some good qualities, and often perform excellent actions. "It is possible for a man to be faithful to some one person, and perfidious to others. I do not find Joab other than firm and loyal to David in the midst of all his private falsehoods" (Hall).

3. A disastrous end following a presumptuous beginning. (Ver. 29.) In this city the great conflict was commenced, wantonly, proudly, and contemptuously (2 Samuel 10:1-4). On the king (slain in battle) and the people a terrible retribution fell; and their confidence in Moloch (Malcom)was disappointed.

4. Excessive severity practised by a generous minded ruler (ver. 31); not sanctioned by God; but expressive of David's present temper (2 Samuel 11:22-27), and demanded by the excitement of popular indignation.

(1) The cruel conduct of the Ammonites (l 1 Samuel 11:2; Amos 1:8);

(2) the common practices of the age;

(3) an intense zeal against idolatry;

(4) the strong conviction of being an appointed instrument of executing Divine vengeance (Psalm 149:7); - may palliate the culpability, though they cannot justify the procedure of David; which, in the light of truth and righteousness, must be condemned and regarded as a blot upon his great renown. This proceeds on the assumption of the correctness of the explanation usually given of the text, which is by no means certain (see critical Commentaries). - D.

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