The Parable of Nathan
2 Samuel 12:1-14
And the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him, There were two men in one city; the one rich…

The introduction to the parable must not be over. looked, for in it we are taught that the first step to repentance springs from the Divine favour. "The Lord sent Nathan." The man who has fallen into a pit and broken his limbs must have help from without. It is useless for him to talk of climbing out unaided, somebody must come and lift him out and place him again upon the spot from which he fell. The first step towards recovery must come from above him. In considering the parable itself, notice: —


1. The analogy.

(1) The men in the parable were on an equality; in some respects they were fellow-men and fellow-citizens. "There were two men in one city." So David and Uriah, although one was a king and the other a subject, were on a level on the common ground of humanity, and were both subject to the laws, political, social, and religious, which had been given by God to the nation which regarded Jerusalem as the seat of government.

(2) David was by birth a member of the highly-favoured nation to whom God had given laws, and Uriah, by choice, was a citizen of the city where dwelt David the king, who, more than any other man, was bound to obey the law of his nation and of his God.

(3) There is analogy in their qualities. They were both courageous, valiant men. David had, from his youth, been noted for this characteristic; from his shepherd-day when he slew the lion and the bear, up to the present time his bravery had been unquestioned. Uriah the Hittite was a man of like spirit in this respect, and his very bravery had been used by his master to compass his death. It was well known to David that if Uriah was placed in the forefront of the battle he would hold his post or die.

2. The parable also sets forth the contrast in the two men — "the one rich and the other poor."(1) The king's position made it possible for him to indulge his unlawful desires without hindrance. The position of Uriah obliged him to submit to his master's will. This inequality aggravated David's crime.

(2) The parable seems to hint at a further contrast. "The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb." David had many wives; the narrative implies that Uriah had but one. His love was therefore deeper, because purer, than that of David. His strong affection was an emotion to which the king was a comparative stranger, even as the rich man in the parable could not estimate, his poor neighbour's affection for his only lamb. For the lawless passion of David cannot be placed upon a level with the pure love of Uriah. The one is life and the other death. The river which keeps within its channel is a blessing to the country through which it flows; but the same river, when it bursts its banks and overflows the land, becomes a means of desolation and destruction. So it is with lawful affection and lawless passion.


1. It awakened strong emotion: "David's anger was greatly kindled against the man." (v. 5.) This effect was the result of looking at the crime from a distance.

2. It revealed great self-ignorance. The knowledge most indispensable in life is self-knowledge; a man who does not possess this is an ignorant man, whatever are his other requirements. Knowledge is said to be power, and the knowledge of oneself is the greatest power.

3. But the effect of the application of the parable is a remarkable illustration of the power of conscience. Some men do everything upon a large scale. Their emotions are deep, their sins are great, and so are their virtues. The captain of a vessel of large dimensions which carries a rich cargo, has a heavier weight of responsibility than he has who has only the charge of a small craft. If he pilot the vessel safely into harbour he has the more honour, but if she gets wrecked the disaster makes a deeper impression.

III. THE EFFECT OF DAVID'S CONFESSION UPON GOD. Confession of sin to a human friend against whom we have offended will often bring an assurance of forgiveness. The good parent makes it indispensable before the child is restored to its position and favour. So is it in the government of God. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (John 1:9.)

1. The path of duty is the path that "leads not into temptation." If David had been at the head of his army at this time it is likely that he would have escaped this dark stain upon his life. A brook is kept pure while it is in motion, but if its waters were to be stopped from flowing they would become stagnant.

2. That tendencies to sin, though not on the surface, are yet latent in the depths of the heart. To the eye of a stranger a powder-vessel may look very trim and clean and safe, but the black powder is there in the hold, only needing a single spark to make its awful power felt.

3. Impurities in the springs of thought will be revealed in the streams of action.

4. Although sin is forgiven, some of its consequences must remain. "The Lord hath put away thy sin," but "the sword shall never depart from thine house."

5. The parable, and the fact that gave rise to it, lead us to observe —

(1) That impartial reason is ever ready to condemn any flagrant iniquity. There is as discernible a difference between good and evil as between white and black, when nothing interposes to obstruct the sight, or misrepresent the object.

(2) The prejudices of interest and lust may, and do hinder men from discerning, or at least distinguishing in practice between right and wrong, even in the plainest cases. Such was most apparently the case with David.

(3) Although men do sometimes suffer themselves to commit gross sins, in open contradiction to their own inward light, yet all notorious iniquity stands condemned by the universal verdict of mankind.

(R. Moss, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Yahweh sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

The Force of Private Admonition
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