2 Samuel 12:5, 6
And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD lives…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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: