Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.Nathan by a parable reproveth and threateneth David, 2 Samuel 12:1-12. He confesseth his sin, and is pardoned, but the child must die, 2 Samuel 12:13,14: David mourneth and prayeth for it whilst life was in it; after is satisfied and cheered: the reason, 2 Samuel 12:15-23. He goeth in to Bath-sheba: Solomon is born of her, and is called Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:24,25. David taketh Rabbah, and tortureth the people thereof, 2 Samuel 12:26-31.
Nathan, the prophet, 2 Samuel 7:2 1 Kings 1:8. When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God useth an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful God pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken and forgotten God.
Nathan prudently ushereth in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations and ancient times, that so he might surprise David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself. He manageth his relation as if it had been a real thing; and demands the king’s justice in the case. Though the application of this parable to David be easy and obvious, yet it matters not if some circumstances be not so applicable; because it was fit to put in some such clauses, either for the decency of the parable, or that David might not too early discover his designs.
The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:Noting David’s many wives and concubines.
But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.The poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb; designing Uriah, with his own and only wife. Which he had bought; as men then used to buy their wives; or, had procured. Lay in his bosom; which David might take for hyperbolical expressions of his tender care of and affection to it; although there want not instances of some who have treated such brute creatures in this manner.
And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.A traveller: this some make to be the devil, whom David gratified by his sin; but it rather seems added for the decency of the parable.
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:This seems to be more than the fact deserved, or than he had commission to inflict for it, Exodus 22:1. But it is observable, that David now, when he was most indulgent to himself, and to his own sin, was most severe to others; as appears by this passage and the following relation, 2 Samuel 12:31, which was done in the time of David’s impenitent continuance in his sin.
And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;Thou art the man; thou hast committed this crime with great aggravations; and out of thine own mouth thy sentence hath proceeded, and thou art worthy of death.
And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.Thy master’s wives, or, women, as that word is elsewhere used; as Numbers 31:18. And though we read not a word of God’s giving, or of David’s taking, any of Saul’s wives into his bosom; or, which is all one, into his bed; yet (which I think to be aimed at here) it might be according to the manner of that time, that the wives and concubines of the precedent king belonged to the successor, to be at least at his dispose. And to pretend to them, was interpreted little less than pretending to the crown; which made it fatal to Adonijah to ask Abishag, 1 Kings 2:23; and to Abner to be suspected for Rizpah, 2 Samuel 3:8. And Absalom, usurping the crown, usurped the concubines also; which is looked on as a crime unpardonable, 2 Samuel 16:21. Nor would this have been reckoned amongst the mercies and blessings which God here is said to give him, and which are opposed to that which he sinfully took. But we do read, that Merab, Saul’s daughter, was given to him for his wife by Saul’s promise, and consequently by God’s grant; though afterwards Saul perfidiously gave her to another man; and that Michal, the other daughter, was actually given to him, 1Sa 18. And it is very possible that some other of David’s wives were nearly related to the house of Saul; whereby David might design to enlarge and strengthen his interest in the kingdom; although there is no absolute necessity of restraining this to Saul, seeing the word is plural, masters, and may belong to others also, who sometimes were owned by David as his masters, lords, or superiors, such as Nabal was, and some others not elsewhere named might be, whose houses and wives, or, at least, women, God might give to David. Such and such things; such other things as thou hadst wanted, or in reason desired.
Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.The commandment of the Lord, i. e. those laws of God which forbade thee to do this thing, by not giving them that respect and observance which they deserved.
Uriah the Hittite; that valiant, and generous, and noble person.
Hast taken his wife to be thy wife: this he mentions amongst his other sins; partly because he had rewarded her, who by God’s law should have been severely punished; partly because he compassed this marriage by wicked practices, even by Uriah’s murder, and for sinful ends, even for the gratification of his inordinate and sensual lusts, and for the concealment of that sin which he was obliged to confess and lament.
Hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon; those cursed enemies of God, and of his people, whom thou hast encouraged and hardened in their idolatry, by giving up him and others of God’s people into their hands. And note here, that although David did not kill Uriah himself, nor command any to do it; but only that he should be put upon dangerous service (which a general of an army oft doth to soldiers under him, on justifiable accounts, without being therefore legally chargeable with murder, though the person so employed die in the service); yet in God’s account, who judged of David’s design therein, it is justly so reputed. And therefore, though the Ammonites slew Uriah, yet David is said to have killed him with their sword.
Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.Shall never depart from thine house, during the residue of thy life; as appears from the following history.
Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.I will raise up evil, to wit, the evil of punishment.
Out of thine own house; from thy own children and family.
Before thine eyes, i. e. openly, so as thou shalt know it as certainly as if thou didst see it, and yet not be able to hinder it.
Give them, i.e. I shall by my providence give him power over them, which I know he will abuse; and I shall not restrain him from so doing, either by my grace or providence.
Unto thy neighbour; to one who is very near to thee, even thy beloved son Absalom. But God expresseth this here darkly and doubtfully, that the accomplishment of it might not be hindered.
In the sight of the sun; in the open day, and in a public place. The accomplishment hereof, see 2 Samuel 16:22.
For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.I will do this thing, i.e. I will execute this judgment. This God did by inclining David’s heart to leave his concubines to keep his house, and so to come into Absalom’s power; by giving up Ahithophel to his own carnal policy, which readily suggested to him that wicked and desperate counsel; and by exposing Absalom to these temptations, and leaving him to his own vicious inclinations, which God certainly knew would in such circumstances produce that effect. So the sin was wholly from men, but the ordering and overruling their mistakes and miscarriages to this end was from God.
And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.I have sinned against the Lord; I now freely confess that sin which I have hitherto so wickedly smothered; and I have deserved all these and far heavier judgments for it; and I am more troubled for my sin against my sovereign Lord and gracious God, than for the shame and punishment that follow it. How serious and pathetical this confession was, we may see, Psa 51.
The Lord also hath put away thy sin, i.e. so far as concerns thy own life and eternal salvation; both which were forfeited by this sin.
Thou shalt not die, as by thy own sentence, 2 Samuel 12:5, thou didst deserve, and as thou mightest expect to do by my immediate stroke; though possibly thou mightest elude the law before a human judicature, or there be no superior to execute the law upon thee.
Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.To blaspheme, i. e. to reproach both God and his people, and the true religion. For though these were not concerned in David’s sin, the blame and shame of which should have been appropriated to him; yet heathens and wicked men would, according to their own evil minds and malicious hearts, fasten the reproach of this upon God and religion; as if God were unholy, because the man after God’s own heart was so; and partial, in conniving at so great a crime, when Saul was cast off for a far less sin; and negligent in the government of the world, and of his church, in suffering such a wickedness as even heathens have abhorred to go unpunished; and as if all religion were but hypocrisy and imposture, and a pretence for villainies. Besides, the Ammonites, upon their success against Uriah and his party, did doubtless magnify and praise their idols, and blaspheme the God of Israel.
The child shall surely die; which, considering his affection to it, and the punishment threatened to the poor innocent infant for his sake, must needs be grievous to him.
And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.The Lord struck the child with some sudden and dangerous distemper.
David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.David besought God for the child; supposing the threatening might be conditional, and so the execution of it prevented by prayer.
Went in, to wit, into his closet, as Matthew 6:6, to pray solitarily and earnestly, as he had done with others. Or this word may only note his progress and continuance in the actions here expressed.
And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.The elders of his house; the chief officers of his kingdom and household who were there present.
This excessive mourning did not proceed simply from the fear of the loss of the child; but from a deep sense of his sin, and from the Divine displeasure manifested herein; and particularly from a just apprehension of the injury which he had done to the child by his sin, which justice obliged him to do his utmost to repair by prayer or other means.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?On the seventh day; either,
1. From the beginning of the distemper. Or rather,
2. From the day of his birth, which is the most usual way of computation of men’s days or years; for it is apparent that this happened during the time of David’s fasting and lying upon the earth, 2 Samuel 12:20, which it is not probable that it lasted for seven days.
They said, whispering among themselves, 2 Samuel 12:19.
But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, Is the child dead? And they said, He is dead.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.Into the house of the Lord, i. e. to the tabernacle, to confess his sin before the Lord, and to own his justice in this stroke and the other threatenings, and to deprecate his great and just displeasure, and to acknowledge God’s rich mercy in sparing his own life, and to offer such sacrifices as were proper and required in such cases. Nor did David transgress that law, Numbers 19:14, in going thither before the seven days were expired. For neither is there the same reason of a tent, and of a dwelling-house, where the several rooms of the house are as distinct as several tents; nor is it here said, that David was in the same room, or in the same house, where the child died.
Then said his servants unto him, What thing is this that thou hast done? thou didst fast and weep for the child, while it was alive; but when the child was dead, thou didst rise and eat bread.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?For God’s threatening of the child’s death might be conditional, as that was of Nineveh’s destruction, Jonah 3:4.
But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.Wherefore should I fast, seeing fasting and prayer cannot now prevail with God for his life?
I shall go to him; into the state of the dead, in which he is, and into heaven, where I doubt not I shall find him.
And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.David comforted Bathsheba; who was now much dejected, both for her former sin, which she truly repented of, as may be gathered from Proverbs 31:1-3, &c., and for the loss of that child which was very dear to her, and which might seem to be the only tie of David’s affection to her; which being now dead, she might think that David would utterly cast her off, and leave her to that shame and punishment which she had deserved. Went in unto her, to wit, into her chamber or bed. The Lord loved him, i.e. the Lord declared to David that he loved his son, notwithstanding the just cause which David had given to God to alienate his affections from him.
And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.Either because of the Lord’s love to him, as the name signifies; or because the Lord commanded him to do so.
And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city.i.e. That part of the city where was the king’s palace, where he ordinarily resided; though now it seems he was retired to a strong fort.
And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.The same royal city so called, because it either stood beside the river, or was encompassed with water, both for defence and delight. Although the words are by some learned men rendered thus,
I have taken, or intercepted, or cut off water from the city; which well agrees, both with the words, eth being here put for meeth, which is frequent; as Genesis 4:1 44:4 Exodus 9:29, &c.; and with the relation of Josephus the Jew, who saith, The conduits of water were cut off, and so the city was taken; and with a relation of Polybius concerning the same city, which was taken afterwards by Antiochus in the same manner, by cutting off water from the city.
Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.Take it; for having taken one part of the city, he concluded the remaining part of it could not long stand out.
Lest it be called after my name; lest I have the honour of taking it. Thus he seeks to ingratiate himself with the king, by pretending great care for his honour and interest.
And David gathered all the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.David, gathered all the people together; either because Joab needed more help for the storming of the city; or, at least, for the prosecution of the victory, and execution of justice upon the whole land; or because he would have them all to partake of the spoil of the city, which was there in great abundances, 2 Samuel 12:30; the rather because they were all exposed to the hazard of utter ruin, in case the Ammonites had prevailed against them.
And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.The weight whereof was a talent of gold, or rather, the price whereof, &c. For as the Hebrew shekel signifies both a weight, and a piece of money of a certain price; so also may mishkal, as proceeding from the same root. And, in general, the same words both in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin are promiscuously used, to signify either weight or price, as is well known to the learned. And the addition of
precious stones, which are never valued by the weight of gold, makes this signification here most proper and probable. Moreover, the weight might seem too great, either for the king of Ammon or for David, to wear it upon his head. Although, if this were meant of the weight, it might be said that this was not a crown to be worn ordinarily, but merely to be put on upon the king’s head at his coronation, or upon solemn occasions, as here where this was done, in token of the translation of this kingdom to David; and, it may be, it was held up or supported by two officers of state, that it might not be too burdensome to him, and after a little while taken off.
And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.The people that were therein: the words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people; for it had been barbarous to use women and children thus; but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors or abettors of that villainous action against David’s ambassadors, (which was contrary to the law of nature, and of nations, and of all humanity,) and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which they might seem to deserve the severest punishments. Although indeed there seems to have been too much rigour used; especially, because these dreadful deaths were inflicted not only upon those great counsellors, who were the only authors of that vile usage of the ambassadors; but upon a great number of the people, who were innocent from that crime. And therefore it is probably conceived that David exercised this cruelty whilst his heart was hardened and impenitent, and when he was bereaved of that free and good Spirit of God which would have taught him more mercy and moderation.
Put them under saws: he sawed them to death; of which punishment we have examples, both in Scripture, Hebrews 11:37, and in other authors. Under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron; he caused them to be laid down upon the ground, and torn by sharp iron harrows drawn over them, and hewed in pieces by keen axes. Made them pass through the brick-kiln, i.e. to be burnt in brickkilns. Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen, i.e. of Moloch, called also Milchom, and here Malchen; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they inflicted upon their own children: see 2 Kings 16:3 23:10 Leviticus 18:21 20:2 Deu 18:10.