II Samuel 12
vs. 1-14. — The facts are:
1. God sends Nathan the prophet to David, who tells him a story of the
greed of a wicked rich man, who, to satisfy his avarice, took away and
slew the pot ewe lamb of a poor man.
2. David, accepting the story as a matter of fact, is very angry with this
man, and swears that for his deed and lack of compassion he ought to die
and restore fourfold.
3. Nathan thereupon reveals the parabolic character of his narrative, by
saying unto David, “Thou art the man!”
4. He then proceeds to state:
from Saul, in giving him the royal succession, and in guaranteeing all else
that might be needed;
taking possession of Uriah’s wife.
5. He also declares, by way of punishment, that war would arise in his own
house; that the purity and safety of his domestic life would be invaded; and
that the punishment of his secret sin would be open.
6. On David confessing his guilt, Nathan assures him that the Lord had so
far put away his sin that he should not die, but that the child of his guilt
1 “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.
2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:” Jehovah sent Nathan
unto David. Though David had remained unrepentant for nearly a year, for we
read in v. 14 that the child was born, yet we are not to suppose that there had been
no compunctions of conscience. A man could scarcely pass from utter callousness
to a state of mind so tender as that depicted in Psalm 51 without some preparation.
Assuredly David had suffered much mental distress, but he had given no
outward sign of contrition, and possibly, but for Nathan’s message, he
might have overpowered his conscience, and his self-reproaches have
become less frequent and agitating. More probably he was slowly ripening
for repentance, and Nathan’s words let loose the agonizing feelings which
had more and more struggled within him against his baser lusts. And the
prophet’s apologue was exactly suited to rouse up that strong sense of
justice which was so noble an element in David’s character. Doubtless it
was framed for this purpose, and Nathan knew what was the right chord to
touch. But we must not, because he was wise and skillful, refuse Nathan
our fullest admiration for his manly courage. It is a very dangerous thing to
tell princes of their sins, and especially when that prince is an absolute
monarch, and his sins adultery and murder. But the position which Nathan
held in David’s court made it his duty so to do, and there is no stronger
testimony to the power of religion and of God’s grace than that it makes
men so brave in doing their duty. We may feel sure that Nathan had long
grieved over David’s fall, and reflected upon the steps which ought to be
taken for his admonition. And now, in answer to prayer, the command
came from Jehovah bidding him go and bear his testimony. Nathan’s
parable is admirably adapted for its purpose. While making no direct
reference to adultery or murder, it puts very strongly the injustice and
heartlessness of the oppression of the weak by the strong, as exemplified in
the deed of the rich man. On many occasions David had shown a warm and
generous indignation at injustice, and a righteous pity for those wronged.
Would such a feeling be called out now? David’s conduct was bad enough,
and if there was no outburst of anger at the base deed reported to him, and
no welling up of pity for the poor man robbed of his one joy, then was his
case hopeless, and Nathan must withdraw in despair, and leave David to
his fate. But his better feelings were not destroyed, and when Nathan saw
them deeply stirred, he broke in with the stern application to the king’s
own sin, “Thou art the man!” (v. 7) The courage and the skill of the prophet
are alike admirable.
A Faithful Reprover of Sin (v. 1)
“And Jehovah sent Nathan to David.” The sin Of David could not be hid. It
was known to his servants (ch. 11:4) and to Joab; it must have been surmised by
many from his hasty marriage; and now it was fully manifest (ch. 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 came — an example of a faithful reprover
(Psalm 141:5; Proverbs 27:6). Consider:
maintain the authority of the Law, etc.; but also (in connection therewith)
to benefit the sinner, by:
Ø Leading him to repentance.
Ø Assuring him of forgiveness.
Ø Restoring him to righteousness, peace, and joy (v. 13;
“Reproofs of instruction are the way of life” (Proverbs 6:23; 13:18; 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.”
3 “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.”
Was unto him as a daughter. The Orientals are excessively fond
of pet animals, and, as the dog is with them unclean, its place is taken
by fawns, kids, or lambs. The description, therefore, is not overcharged,
for in many an English home the dog or cat takes its place as one of the
family. The Revised Version preserves the tenderness of the original in
translating “it did eat of his own morsel.”
4 “And there came a traveler 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 traveler,... wayfaring
man,… man that was come to him. Nathan probably used these three terms
chiefly to diversify his language, but it has served as a handle for much
allegorizing. Thus Rashi explains it of covetousness, which comes at first as
a mere “passer by,” the literal meaning of the word rendered “traveler.” But,
if admitted, it grows into “a wayfaring man,” who comes and goes on business,
and stays a longer time. Finally it changes into “one who has come to him,”
and remains permanently. Such allegorical interpretations are common in the
Fathers, and thus Augustine compares the three stages of sin to our Lord’s three
miracles of raising the dead. The sinner is at first like Jairus’s daughter, just
dead, and repentance can restore him immediately to life; but, if sin be
persisted in, he becomes like the son of the widow of Nain, carried away to
burial; and finally like Lazarus, given over to corruption.
Nathan’s Parable (vs. 1-4)
This remarkable parable is, perhaps, the most exquisite gem of the kind
in the Old Testament. Its beauty and pathos are enhanced by the plain
matter of fact way in which the historian narrates, in ch. 11., the fall of
David and his subsequent crime. Apart from its specific purpose, it
indicates to us the occasional functions of the prophets in those times as
admonishers of kings and rulers, and consequently as representatives of the
Divine element in the history of
parable may be briefly indicated thus.
David’s fall to the visit of Nathan. During that period many public and
private acts had been performed by the king in the ordinary course of life,
in addition to those referred to in ch. 11:14-27. It was his policy
to keep up a good appearance — to be in administration, in public worship,
in regard for religious ordinances, and in general morality all that he had
ever been. He passed still as the pious, just ruler and exemplary man. That
was one life. But inwardly there was another. The conscience was dull, or,
if it spoke plainly, was constantly being suppressed. The uncomfortableness
of secret sin induced self-reproach and loss of self-respect. He was an
instance of a man “holding the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).
This double life is the experience of every good man who falls into
sin and seeks to cover it up. He knows too much to be really happy, but he
is too enslaved by his sin to be truly godly. The outside is fair; within is
sin. They, most probably without words, communed with each other over
their guilt, and so far strengthened the chains of iniquity. Two individuals
in possession of a dreadful secret do not, dare not, speak about it. There is
simply a common understanding and a mutual support in keeping up the
appearance necessary to social reputation. It is a pitiable sight before God
and holy angels! It is a case of the fallen, the defiled, the inwardly
wretched, and the prospectively condemned, seeking to find comfort and
strength in each other’s sympathy. The channels of sympathetic feeling are
filled by a polluted stream of affection and interest.
conscience lend a charm to personal life; much more does such deep and
strong piety as once characterized the “man after God’s own heart.” If we,
in reading the historic narrative of David’s early years, and the psalms, in
which his best thoughts are embodied, feel the spell of his spirit, we may be
sure that those in daily converse with him recognized a charm of the most
exalted kind. But all that was now gone, because the honesty and the purity
from which it sprang were no more. In vain did he strive to maintain the
form of godliness; in vain his careful discharge of official duties and kindly
bearing towards his friends. The “secret of the Lord” WAS LOST! The salt
had lost its savor. To truly spiritual men he would not be as in former times.
This loss of a spiritual charm always takes place when good men fall into
sin and cover it up. The light of the spiritual eye is dim. The pure ring of
the voice is gone. The “form of godliness” is left, but the “power” is no
more. (II Timothy 3:5)
was commissioned by God to speak to David. The lustful look, the secret
deed, the scheme for concealment and for the death of Uriah, were allowed
to pass and issue in seeming success without one act of a decidedly
positive character, as far as we know, on the part of God either to smite
with punishment or bring to penitence. The “workers of iniquity”
flourished, and the innocent perished unavenged (Psalm 92:7; compare
Psalm 12:5; Proverbs 1:11-19). That conscience uttered its protest, and that
the laws of mind as constituted by God worked misery from the first in the
inner life of David, is no doubt true; but there was no open justice, no
obvious interposition on behalf of the oppressed, no distinct and
proportionate chastisement, no special call to repentance. Human nature
took its course, and human society remained in relation to the sinner
unchanged. Yet God is not indifferent. He slumbereth not. Government
does not relax its hold on each man. The explanation is that God is in no
haste in what He does; He reserves His action for a while for reasons more
complicated and far reaching than we can trace. The very reserve only
renders the judgment, when it comes, more impressive. Human nature is
evidently favored as a free power, which must have certain scope both for
origination of evil, maturing of evil, and filling up its own measure of
chastisement. Of God, there is a patience, a goodness, in the reserve
which need to be studied (Romans 2:4-9; I Peter 3:20; II Peter 3:9, 15).
This reserve attends many A MODERN SINNER’S cause.
himself the probability is that the coils of iniquity would have been formed
around him more and more as time advanced; for the law of habit here
holds good. (The chains of habit are too loose to be felt until they are too
strong to be broken. CY – 2018) It is instructive to observe that the first step
towards a change in his condition was on the Divine side. God sent his prophet
Nathan, charged with a merciful purpose, though mercy was to be tempered
with judgment. Certainly David might well say in subsequent days, “My
salvation cometh from Him” (Psalm 62:1, 7). Here we have an
illustration of the great truth that God is the Author of our salvation. He
seeks us. He comes to us in our low estate. This is true of mankind as a
whole (John 3:16-17; I John 4:9, 10), of each one brought from
the ways of sin (<620419>1 John 4:19), and of the backslider (Psalm 23:3).
IT IS ALL OF GRACE! Our Saviour’s earthly life of pleading and
seeking was a visible and audible illustration of the outgoing of the
heart of the Father towards the fallen.
simplicity of Nathan’s parable, in order to reach the conscience and heart
of David, suggest to us the fact of a certain defensive attitude of David’s
mind, which had to be broken down. It is a special weapon in a “holy war,”
designed to attack a peculiar line of defense. It is well known how men,
when they have done a wrong, are on the qui vive (on the alert or lookout)
lest the wrong should be detected and brought home to them; and the resources
of reason,ingenuity, and cunning are employed to ward off any approach to
THE INNER LIFE! Any attempt to touch the springs of penitence or remorse,
or to arouse the fears which attend conviction, is neutralized by some counter
move of thought or resolve. Hearers of the gospel knows if they would only
testify honestly, how they too often fortify themselves against statements,
arguments, and appeals. The failure of some ministers and teachers lies in
their not knowing enough of human nature to direct their statements so as
to meet the actual MENTAL ATTITUDE OF THOSE WHO LIVE IN
SIN! A study of this subject is of extreme importance to all who seek to
convince and to save men. There are various avenues to the conscience
and heart. Some are so utterly closed and guarded that it is a waste of
power to seek to penetrate through them. A fortress should be attacked in
its weakest point, and only a very special survey can find out where it is.
Nathan had reconnoitred the position, and assailed David along the best line.
approached David in friendliness, recognizing him as a man generally
mindful of his people, pitiful towards the poor and weak, and a lover of
justice. He knew that there were still elements of good in the fallen saint.
The great transgression had not obliterated all trace of the noble qualities
of former days. Where these did not come in the way of the one selfish lust
which had for the time gained dominion, they were not only cherished, but
were at hand for expression when occasion required. In proportion as these
could be strengthened and utilized, there would be hope of bringing them
to bear, by a reflected light, on THE ONE DEED in which they had been
suppressed. By a flank movement, and using a piece of history as the
instrument, he hoped to turn the whole force of David’s better qualities on
the cherished secret sin. It was an instance of a wise setting of one part of a
man’s nature against another part, so that, by a sort. of moral dynamic, the
worse should be forced out. In dealing with men we ought to avail
ourselves of their good qualities and bring them to bear on the removal of
the bad. When Christ dealt with publicans and sinners he did not make a
direct attack on their sins. There was a something in them which he made
the ground of appeal. In the vilest sinner there is some human love, or
kindliness, or sense of right. Who is wise to win souls? What are the
methods, according to varying temperaments, education, habits, and
History is a mental reflector. In Nathan’s story, which was not a parable to
David when he heard it, David saw a sin and a judgment. He was true to
his better qualities when he denounced the sin and pronounced sentence of
death. The story became to David a parable the moment the prophet said
to him, “Thou art the man!” The whole figures then become specific, and
he was the one most conspicuous against whom the judgment was
pronounced. The psychological and moral changes involved in this we
cannot now deal with; the point is that, when David’s aroused righteous
indignation pronounced judgment on the evil man, the human conscience
really forestalled the judgment of God on David’s sin by declaring its
deserts. God does not, in providence or on the day of judgment, declare
anything really new to the impenitent sinner. Conscience some time or
other has virtually given the sentence of condemnation. Those who worked
themselves up to a state of self-delusion (Matthew 7:22-23) knew a
time when the conscience witnessed against the formalities which issued in
its being seared (Ephesians 4:19; I Timothy 4:2). It is this assent of
conscience which will render the sense of injustice impossible in the future
judgments God may see fit to bring on those who “hold the truth in
unrighteousness.” (Romans 1:18)
Ø We should take warning from the instances in the Bible, and not
presume on God’s silence, or think that, because we are left to pursue our
own courses, it will always be so.
Ø There are always in existence agents or agencies by which in due time
sin will be rebuked and exposed either in this life or in the life to come
(Matthew 10:26; II Corinthians 5:10).
Ø In dealing with the lapsed we should not act on the same rule in all
cases, but deal with each according to his peculiar character.
Ø It will repay parents, teachers, and evangelists to study human nature
and the records of biography and sacred history to find out the best
methods of reaching the conscience of the impenitent.
Ø We should be ready, as was Nathan, to carry through the most painful
duties when God calls us in His providence to them.
The Parable of the Rich Oppressor; or, the Poor Man’s Lamb
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 Jesus Christ.
Compare His parables of:
2. It was in part an acted parable (like ch.14:5-7; I 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 luster, pure and brilliant
as the light of heaven, and attest the sacred origin of the wonderful book
that contains them” (Blaikie).
5 “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: 6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold,
because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”
Shall surely die. It is strange language to declare that a man
shall be put to death and then fined four lambs; But David says nothing of
the sort, but that the man is “a son of death,” that is, a wretch who
deserves to die. The Revised Version correctly renders, “is worthy to die.”
The sentence actually passed, of fourfold restitution, is exactly in
accordance with the Mosaic Law (Exodus 22:1), but the moral
turpitude of the offence was far greater than could be atoned for by the
legal penalty. Rightly, therefore, David expressed his indignation, and
regretted that the sentence was so light; but a judge must not strain the
law, which necessarily has regard chiefly to the outward offence.
The Blinding Influence of Sin (vs. 5-6)
“David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man;” he declared with a
solemn oath (ch. 4:9-11) that he deserved to die (literally, “was a son of death,”
I Samuel 26:16; I 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, v. 31) indicated a mind ill at ease
(ch. 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:
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/ourselves which is
observable in many; as there is nothing of more melancholy reflection
respecting morality and
blind (at least partially) and deceived as to their sin; notwithstanding:
Ø 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?
Ø 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, but
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.”
Ø 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.
Ø Their abhorrence at another time and under other circumstances of its
guilt when thought of in relation to themselves (I Samuel 24:5).
“What! is thy servant a dog, that he should do this great thing?”
II 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’).
Ø 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
neighbor 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!” (I John 3:20 - Blaikie). For this fact let us seek:
means of knowing sin. Is it, then, due to men’s lack of consideration of
themselves? or to the perversion of their moral judgment? Doubtless to
both; but still more to sin itself, which is essentially selfishness — a false
and inordinate love of self. “For consider: nothing is more manifest than
that affection and passion of
all kinds influence the judgment” (
prejudicing its decisions in their own favor. Even when there is more than
a suspicion that all is not well, it stifles further inquiry and prevents full
Ø Producing a general persuasion in men that their moral condition is
better than it really is.
Ø Directing exclusive attention to those dispositions and actions of which
conscience can approve.
Ø 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).
Ø Inventing specious arguments in justification of the course to which they
Ø 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 honor? No doubt the victim considered
himself honored 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. (Like
so many today? – CY – 2018) 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 (vs. 9-10).
Ø Nothing is more ruinous than self-deception (Hebrews 3:13; James 1:12;
I John 1:8).
Ø To avoid it there must be honest self-examination (Psalm 4:4;
II Corinthians 13:5).
Ø We should especially guard against the blinding influence of undue
self-love (Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 17:9).
Ø There should also be earnest prayer to Him who searcheth the hearts, for
true self-knowledge (Psalm 139:23; Job 13:23; 34:32).
7 “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! Abruptly and with sudden vehemence
comes the application to David himself. So skillfully had the parable been
contrived, that up to this point David had had no suspicion that he was the
rich man who had acted so meanly by his poorer neighbor Uriah. And
now he stood self-condemned. Yet even so self-love might have made his
indignation break forth against Nathan; but probably the reproof only
completed a work that had long been secretly in progress, and brushed
away the last obstacles to repentance. I anointed thee. The solemn
anointing made David the representative of Jehovah, and thus his sin was
aggravated by the degradation in the eyes of the people, both of the kingly
office and also of Jehovah Himself. Rank and authority are given to men
THAT THEY MAY LEAD OTHERS TO DO RIGHT! It is a fearful misuse
of them when they give prestige to sin.
Unconscious Self-Condemnation (vs. 5-7)
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.
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:
Ø 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.
Ø Oppression of the weak by the strong.
Ø 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.
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
Ø Displayed hot anger against the wrong doer.
Ø 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.
Ø He applied to David himself the judgment he had pronounced. “Thou
art the man!” With what terrific force 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 endeavor, 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. (Zechariah
12:12) It is thus the Christian minister should endeavor 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.
Ø He faithfully delivered God’s message to him.
o Reminding him of the great kindness of God to him.
o Charging him distinctly with his crimes.
o Pronouncing upon him the Divine sentence.
In the whole interview, Nathan acted with singular courage, and fidelity to
Him who sent him.
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” (compare Psalm 32:3-5).
Ø The duty of reproving sin in others. (Leviticus 19:17.)
Ø The value of a minister or other friend faithful enough to administer
Ø The responsibility which attaches to the power to discern and condemn
sin in others.
o It should induce us to avoid the sins which we condemn, and others
o increases our guilt if we commit such sins.
o 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 endeavoring to convince and reform our neighbors;
besides which, when we have forsaken our own sins, we shall be
better fitted to reprove and amend other offenders (see Matthew
Ø The goodness of God in first sending reprovers to warn and convert,
rather than inflicting swift punishment.
8 “And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into
thy bosom, and
gave thee the house of
that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee
such and such things. 9 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.” I gave… thy master’s wives into
thy bosom. These words probably mean that, as the whole possessions of his
predecessor belonged, by Oriental custom, to the next occupant of the throne,
David might have claimed the entire household and the wives both of Saul and
Ishbosbeth as his own, though apparently he had not done so. As far as we know,
Saul had but one wife (I Samuel 14:50) and one concubine, Rizpah (here, ch. 3:7).
Of Ishbosheth’s family arrangements we know little, but his harem, if he had one,
would become the property of David. But independently of this, the permission
of polygamy had made it possible for him to take any of the
content, he had lusted after a married woman, and had gotten rid of her
husband by murder, meanly using the sword of the Ammonites to accomplish
his own criminal purpose. The word used in this clause, and rendered “thou hast
slain him,” is a very strong one, and literally means “thou hast murdered him,”
though the sword was that of the enemy.
Despising the Commandments of God (v. 9)
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.
Ø 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.
Ø Those who refuse to give heed when their attention is called to them.
Which may be by their own consciences, or by other men.
Ø Those who disobey them. And the degree of contempt shown by
disobedience will be in proportion to:
o their knowledge;
o their remembrance, at the time, of the commandment, its Author,
and its sanctions;
o the difficulties of disobedience which have to be overcome; and
o the remonstrances of conscience, and of the Spirit of God,
which are resisted and conquered.
addressed David, “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of
the Lord, to do evil in His sight?”
Ø What rational ground have you for doing it? Seeing the commandment
o is “of the Lord,” who has the highest right to the obedience of
o proceeds from the perfect reason and the infinite love; and therefore;
o 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
Ø 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. (Along the lines of Romans
Ø How “dare” you do it? In view of:
o the shame and moral injury you bring on yourself;
o the evil you do to others;
o the terrible threatenings of the Word of God against sinners;
o His knowledge of all you do;
o His awful holiness and justice; and
o His almighty power to execute His threatenings.
In view also of:
o your death, and,
o the day of judgment, when your most secret sins will be
brought to light and punished.
10 “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.” The sword shall never depart from thine house;
that is, thy crime shall not be expiated by one slaughter, but by many, so that thy
punishment shall cease only at thine own death. This sentence was fulfilled
in Amnon’s murder (ch. 13:28), who had been encouraged in his crime
by his father’s example. Upon this followed Absalom’s rebellion and
death (ch. 18:14); and finally, when in his last hours David made
Solomon his successor, he knew that he was virtually passing sentence on
Adonijah, the eldest of his surviving sons. But what a fearful choice! for
had he not done so, then Bathsheba and her four sons would doubtless
have been slain, whereas there was some hope that Solomon might spare
his brother. That Adonijah was unworthy we gather from the fact that he
had ceased to be cohen, and that this office was conferred, after Absalom’s
rebellion, on Ira the Jairite (ch. 20:26), Solomon being then too
young to hold such a position. Until he committed this crime, David’s
family had probably dwelt in concord, and it was his own wickedness
which broke up their unity, and introduced among them strife, mutual
hatred, and the shedding of blood.
Thou Art the Man (vs. 7-10)
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” (
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.” (Matthew 13:3)
2. The force of truth depends upon the particular application which is
made of it. “Thou art the man who hast done this!” (Septuagint); 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 (I Kings 14:7; 18:18; 21:19; II 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!’”
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. (v. 7), “Wherefore hast thou despised the
commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?” etc. (v. 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 (v. 8),
presumption (v. 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 defense, 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; I John 1:9). “If we would
judge ourselves,” etc. (I 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; 12:14).
11 “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 neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the
sight of this sun. 12 For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing
Fulfilled for political purposes by Absalom, under the advice of Bathsheba’s
grandfather (ch. 16:22). The punishment was thus complete. For the murdered
Uriah there was fourfold restitution, according to David’s own sentence.
For the adultery there was open disgrace wrought upon his royal
dignity “before the sun,” in open daylight. As he had brought shame and
dishonor upon the family relations of his neighbor, so were his own
family rights violated by his rebellious son. And, as is often the case, the
sins which followed were worse than those which prepared the way. Vice
begins as a small stream trickling through the opposing dam. but it quickly
breaks down all moral restraints, and rushes along like a destroying flood.
Despisers of God (v. 10)
“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 favor, 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.
Ø All sin involves contempt of Him. It shows:
o 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. (Psalm 10:13).
o Contempt for His authority.
o Despisal of His kindness (“Or despisest thou the riches of His
goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that
the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance!”Romans 2:4).
o Contempt of His wisdom, as expressed in His laws. As if the
sinner thought he could guide and govern himself better than God.
o Low regard for His favor and friendship.
Ø Certain kinds of sin may be mentioned as showing such contempt.
o Unthankfulness and discontent. As if God’s gifts were not worth
o 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).
o 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.
o 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 grudged offerings;
is to show grievous disrespect to him (see Malachi 1:6-8).
o 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).
Ø 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
Ø 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:
o the creature despising his CREATOR,
o folly despising wisdom,
o weakness despising Omnipotence,
o the lost despising his Deliverer,
o the destitute despising HIM who would enrich him
with everlasting riches.
Ø 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.
Ø What is involved in despising God. It is to despise:
o our own souls and their salvation,
o the true riches and honor,
o our true and everlasting happiness,
o eternal life,
all that most deserves to be valued.
Ø To be themselves despised. “They that despise me shall be lightly
esteemed” (I Samuel 2:30). They shall rise “to shame and everlasting
contempt” (Daniel 12:2),
o exposed, (see *** below for the idea of being exposed – CY – 2018)
o regarded as fools, and
o treated as worthless.
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any
two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and
spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts
and the intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not
manifest in His sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the
eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” (Hebrews 4:12-13)
13 “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things
are naked and opened (laid open) unto the eyes of Him with whom we have
to do.” The main difficulty in this verse is as to the meaning of the word
τετραχηλισμένα – tetrachaelismena (translated “laid open”). The verb
τραχηλιζω – trachaelizo (which occurs nowhere else in the New Testament or
Septuagint, but is, with its compound ἐκτραχηλιζω - ektrachaelizo, not
uncommon in Philo and Josephus) has in classical Greek the sense of “seizing
by the throat,” or “bending back the neck,” as in wrestling. And this, with the
further idea of “overthrowing” or “laying prostrate,” is the prevailing sense
in Philo, from whom Wetstein quotes many passages in illustration. Taking, then,
with most modern commentators, the sense of bending back the neck as the
primary one, we have only to consider what secondary meaning is here to
be attached to it. Some take the idea to be that of being thrown on the
ground supine, so as to be thoroughly exposed to view. See an
allusion to the Roman custom of exposing criminals “reducto capite,”
“retortis cervieibus,” so that all might see their faces (see Suetonius,
‘Vitel.,’ 17; Pliny, ‘Panegyr.,’ 34. 3). There is, however, no other known
instance of the Greek verb being used with this reference, which there
seems to be no necessity for assuming. The idea may be simply the general
one expressed “that whatever shamefaced creature bows its head, and
would fain withdraw and cloak itself from the eyes of God, has indeed
the throat, as it were, bent back before those eyes, with no possibility
of escape, exposed and naked to their view.” Many of the
ancients (Chrysostom, Theodoret, Ecumenius, Theophylact) saw in
τετραχηλισμένα a reference to the treatment of sacrificial victims, as
being smitten on the neck or hung by the neck for the purpose of being
flayed kern the neck downwards, or cut open thence, so as to expose rite
entrails to view. But no instance is known of such use of the word
τραχηλιζω, the idea of which may have been suggested to commentators
by the figure of the sword in the verse preceding; which figure, however,
there is no reason to suppose continued here, the idea of which is
simply COMPLETE EXPOSURE introduced by οὐκ …ἀφανὴς – ouk
……aphanaes – neither…..not manifest, not apparent. The ancients take
the concluding expression, πρὸς ὃν ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος – pros hon haemin ho logos
as meaning “to whom our account must be given,” i.e. “to whom we are
responsible as our judge” — in the sense of λόγον δίδόναι – logon didonai –
give account. The Authorized Version seems better to give
the general idea of relation by the apt phrase, “with whom we have to do.”
Of course, λόγος (account) here has no reference to the Word of God, the
recurrence of the word, in a subordinate sense, being merely accidental. (end ***)
“Reprobate silver shall men call them, because the Lord hath
rejected them” (Jeremiah 6:30).
Ø 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 favor 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 (v. 13).
The Penalties of Sin (vs. 10-12)
“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 (I 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:
etc. (v. 11; II Samuel 9:27). They are:
Ø Necessitated by the justice of God. “Justice is that causality (the
relationship between cause and effect) in God which connects
suffering with actual sin” (Schleiermacher). He who
“despises the commandment of the Lord” ought to be punished.
Ø 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.
Ø 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,
I will repay saith the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)
Ø 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 (I Samuel 4:1-11). (I recommend Proverbs ch 14 v14 – Spurgeon
Sermon – How a Man’s Conduct Comes Home to Him - # 12146 –
this website – CY – 2018) “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
“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.
Ø The publicity of their exhibition. “For thou didst it secretly,” etc.
(v. 12). Falsehood and injustice seek darkness; truth and justice seek
light. The evil, which is concealed for the sake of public honor, is
followed by public shame.
Ø 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
Ø To manifest the justice of God and uphold the authority of His Law.
Ø To exhibit the evil of sin, and deter the sinner himself and others from its
Ø To humble, prove, chastise, instruct, purify, and confirm the sufferer. “If
he commit iniquity, I will chasten him,” etc. (ch. 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. ( ...... “My son, despise not thou the chastening
of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of Him: For whom the
Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He
receiveth. Hebrews 12:11) 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.’).
13 “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 Jehovah. Saul had used the same
words, and had meant very little by them; nor had he added “against
Jehovah,” because his purpose was to appease Samuel, and prevail upon
him not to disgrace him before the people. David’s confession came from
the heart. There is no excuse making, no attempt at lessening his fault, no
desire to evade punishment. Psalm 51 is the lasting testimony, not only to
the reality, but to the tenderness of his repentance, and we may even feel
here that confession was to him a relief. The deep internal wound was at
length disclosed, and healing had become possible. Up to this time he had
shut God away from his heart, and so there had been no remedy for a soul
diseased. It was because his sorrow was genuine that comfort was not
delayed. Jehovah also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Now,
death was the legal penalty for adultery (Leviticus 20:10), and though it
might not be easy to exact it of a king, yet, until it was remitted, David
would be in the eyes of all “a son of death” (see on v. 5); and how could
he administer justice to others while the death sentence for a capital crime
was hanging over himself? Had not the prophet been authorized to use his
dispensing power as the mouthpiece of Jehovah, David could not have
remained king. And we can see no reason for supposing, with Ewald and
others, that a substantial interval of time elapsed between David’s
confession and Nathan’s absolution. The sole conceivable reason for such a
view would be the supposition that David’s repentance began and was
completed with the one stab of shame which pierced through him when he
heard Nathan’s sudden reproach. Such a mere thrill, following upon such
persistent callousness, would have merited little attention. But if months of
brooding sorrow and secret shame had been humbling David, then his open
confession was the proof that the Spirit’s work had reached the goal, and
was now complete. And we gather from Psalm 51:3 that such was the
case. “My sin,” he says, “is ever before me.” It had long haunted him; had
long occupied his thoughts by day, and broken his rest at night. Like a
flood, his iniquities had gone over his head, and threatened to drown him;
like a heavy burden, they had pressed upon him so as to break him down
(Psalm 38:4). Both these psalms tell of long continued sorrow of heart;
but with confession had come relief. He had offered to God the sacrifice of
a broken spirit, and knew that it had not been despised. We shall see
subsequently that his time and attention had been much occupied with the
Ammonite war, and this had probably helped him in evading the secret
pleadings of his own conscience.
The Convicted Sinner
The fitness of the parable is revealed in its sequel. Nathan, laying aside the
character of a friendly visitor relating a story of wrong, now assumes the
functions of the prophet of God, and turns the whole light and force of
David’s just indignation in upon himself, and, with an incisiveness most
irresistible, brings an accusation of guilt without naming the actual deed
done; states the aggravating circumstances arising out of the exceeding
goodness of God in the past; declares the retribution about to come; and,
on witnessing the true penitence of the sinner, announces the fact of
forgiveness, but qualifies the announcement by foretelling an event of
blended justice and mercy. The commission of sin is unhappily common
enough, and also, we may thankfully admit, the conviction of sinners is an
event of frequent occurrence. Few sins exhibit the peculiar aggravations of
this one of David, and few convictions are more sudden and thorough than
his; but as there are common qualities in all sins and true convictions of sin,
we may regard this case of David’s as setting forth features in human
experience and Divine procedure universally true.
David all along knew of the existence of the sin, but had conducted himself
as though it were not. In general terms he would doubtless speak of sin as
an evil of deepest dye, and desire its banishment from mankind. Such
sentiments were at the base of his deep interest in Nathan’s story, and gave
rise to the outburst of indignation. Sin was evil, the sinner ought to be
punished, the doer of this deed must come under the ban of law. All this
was quite correct. It was orthodoxy. The friendly visitor could not but
admit its force. But it was just here, when David was dealing with
generalities, and was eager to see general principles applied to a particular
case, that Nathan brought him away from the general to the particular,
from others to himself. “Thou art the man!” This was a straight charge.
Nathan held a twofold position —
he was a man in
neighbor, a pious friend of David’s; he was also a prophet, a
representative of God, and in that capacity a superior to David. When,
then, the friendly visitor said, with an unrecordable tone and gesture,
“Thou art the man!” it was evident to David:
Ø that his deed, long kept secret, was known to his most influential and
incorruptible subject and friend; and
Ø that God was speaking straight to his conscience. Even so far as related
to Nathan as a good man in
the deed was startling and astounding; but the most potent element in the
utterance was the direct charge of God. A sinner cannot look on the Holy
One — he dare not. The conscience knows the awful voice of God, and,
when that voice speaks straight to it, all thought of men and opinions
vanishes, and the soul in its solemn individuality feels itself in the actual
presence of the Eternal. In true conviction the man “comes to himself.”
(Luke 15:17) The deed of evil is brought home. In a light not of earth,
self is seen to be undone, because the sin, hitherto professedly not a
reality, is now forced on self as its own offspring.
charge is brought home, and before the paralyzed man can speak, the
prophet, in the name of God, with swift words reminds him of his
privileges and the manifold blessings and honors God had showered on
him or was ready to grant if needed. He was a chosen servant of the
Eternal, called to perform a part in the working out of a great future for the
world; he had filled a position of honor and influence; he had been
charged with high and holy duties; he had been blessed with plenty, and
more than ordinary provision for the necessary cravings of nature (vs. 7-8).
Yet, “Thou art the man!” None can doubt that here was sin of the most
aggravated character. No sin is excusable or free from Divine
condemnation; otherwise it were not sin, but weakness or fault. But some
sins are worthy of being punished with “many stripes” (Luke 12:47)
because of being committed under special circumstances, e.g. the possession of
religious light and feeling; the occupation of a position of power, and the being
recipient of manifold tokens of Divine care and love. But be the privileges
many or few, when God brings home the guilt to the conscience, the sin is
revealed in the light of past mercies. The swift review of David’s
advantages by Nathan finds its analogue in the swift floating before the
mind of the circumstances of one’s position which render the sin so utterly
inexcusable. Men see in a few moments the reasons for their utter shame
and self-abasement. This is a feature in all true conviction, and tends to the
proper prostration of the soul before God. Saul of Tarsus knew this. It is
an unspeakable mercy that God does set our sins in the light of HIS
“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord?” (v. 9).
No sooner did the light flash on the conscience to set forth the aggravated
character of the sin, than with unrelenting incisiveness the “wherefore”
followed to probe those depths of the heart from whence the evil sprang.
The question really contains an inquiry and a statement. Why? “Thou didst
despise.” The eye of the sinner is turned in upon himself, to search out and
behold those vile feelings and false principles out of which issued the
preference of self-will over THE HOLY WILL OF GOD which had been so
clearly expressed in the Law of the Lord and in the special intimations of
wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) The time of conviction is a
time of probing and searching. It is well for men under conviction to face
the real facts, and get at the causes that lie out of sight. There must be some
dreadfully subtle evils lurking within to induce a man to “despise”
the august majesty of God’s will BY SETTING IT ASIDE? Was it not
in reference to this probing, and probably in reference to this very deed,
that the psalmist said, “Search me, O God” (Psalm 139:23-24; compare
ch. 51:5-6, 10)?
prophet ceases not; without giving the convicted man time to speak, he
passes on to tell of the retribution that is sure to come by the will of God.
The man of whom Nathan once spoke such good things (ch. 7:12-17)
is now informed of coming trouble in life; that this trouble will be
the same in kind with that of his sin — murder and adultery; (I recommend
Proverbs ch. 14 v. 14 – Spurgeon Sermon – How a Man’s Conduct Comes
Home to Him - # 1246 – this website – CY – 2018) that it will not
be secret, as was his, in performance, but open, to his disgrace; that it will
arise out of his own house, consequent in a measure on the mischief
wrought by his own sin on his domestic life. Had David not fallen, he
would have been a different man, and consequently his private influence at
home among his children would have been more holy and powerful; his
relation to his kingdom would have been more satisfactory, and therefore
moral and political circumstances would probably, arise of so important a
character as to have prevented the creation of the conditions out of which
the troubles now recorded in his later history arose. He was to reap
according to his sowing. In the conviction of sin, the recognition of
personal guilt is the chief element, as we have seen; but just as
here the messenger revealed the aggravation of the guilt, probed the heart
for causes, and referred to coming retribution, so in the simple processes of
mind attending true conviction there is an anticipation of punishment — an
assurance that evil is coming on the soul as a consequence of sin done. Sin
is transgression of law; law involves authority to vindicate its
righteousness; and, as soon as the conviction of sin is real, the logic of
conscience points to coming judgment. Whether it be a temporal judgment,
as in Old Testament references, or eternal, as in New Testament
references, the experience is virtually the same.
in silence till the prophet had delivered his charge. The time was brief, but
the power accompanying the words was Divine. Swifter than lightning the
spell of hypocritical concealment was broken. The bonds in which the
unholy passion had long held the soul were snapped asunder. The eye of
conscience, turning in upon self, gave fresh life to the old suppressed
loyalty to righteousness and God, and, as a consequence, the confession
came, “I have sinned against the Lord.” The question as to whether the
historian here simply gives a summary of what passed, and intended to
include also the fifty-first psalm, or whether literally this is all that was said
and done, does not affect our purpose. There is here a recognition prompt,
unqualified, of sin, not as a fault, a weakness, but of sin as known by
conscience and stamped with the curse of God and man. It is also a
recognition of sin as against God, not as a wrong done to Uriah,
to Potiphar’s wife when she tried to seduce him, “....how then can I do
this great wickedness, and sin against God.” Genesis 39:9 – CY – 2018)
The conscience is not indifferent to the injuries done to men, but when fully
aroused, and face to face with sin as sin, it seems to see only God. Hence
the expression in Psalm 51:4 – “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned,
and done this evil in thy sight....” Again, there is pain and shame, not
because of what men may say or do, not because personal influence will
now be weakened, but because it is sin. It is the sin which troubles and
appalls the truly convicted soul. Moreover, there is abstention from all
claim to consideration; no excuse, no palliation. The convicted one can
only say, “I have sinned.” There is obviously an inward bowing of the
spirit before the holy God; an absolute surrender as:
The very brevity of the confession bespeaks the depth of penitential woe.
Contrast the wordy confession (I Samuel 15:17-25; compare Luke 15:18-19;
Nathan stood by the prostrate silent king, and whether this confession was
the literal whole or not, we do not know; but he saw enough to enable him
to say in the name of God, “The Lord hath put away thy sin” — a
statement clear and unreserved, intended to go home to the smitten heart.
The forgiveness of sin has to do with a personal relation of God to man.
(“But there is forgiveness with thee.” Psalm 130:4 “.... with Him there
is plenteous redemption.” Ibid. v. 7 – CY – 2018) It is the restoration of the
personal relation of favor and fellowship which had been interrupted by sin.
It is conditional on true repentance, the objective ground being the sacrificial
death of Christ — under the Old Testament dispensation by anticipation
(Romans 3:25), and under the New by retrospective reference. God is the sole
Judge of the reality of repentance. He looketh at the heart. He knew that
David’s conviction had issued in the state’ of mind known as true repentance,
and foreseeing this before it occurred, he commissioned the prophet to
“declare and pronounce” to David “being penitent,” the remission of
his sin. “Thy sins are forgiven thee!” Blessed words! How often brought
to penitents since our Lord uttered them! But the pardon left untouched
the natural consequences of sin referred to in vs. 19-20, because a personal
relation does not alter the course of the forces which a man sets in motion
on earth by his sin. Also, the child born must die, not to its injury, but gain,
yet in judgment, so that the father should not find comfort in the fruit of his
sin, and in mercy, lest there should be a living memorial of his guilt and
shame to which men might point and further blaspheme the Name of the
Lord. (No doubt, there have been myriads who have experienced a
living memorial of their guilt and shame. May God have mercy upon
us all! CY – 2018) The same holds good of our forgiveness; it is free, full,
but qualified by the continuance of some ill consequences which chastise
us all our days. The sinner never entirely gets rid of all the earthly effects
of his sin while on earth; they work in his flow of thought and feeling, and
often in the checks on his influence, and possibly on the character and
health of others. The full redemption comes with the glorified body and
the new heavens and earth. (II Corinthians 5:1-6; II Peter 3:10-13)
Ø The first thing to be sought in men in order to their salvation is a due
recognition of themselves as sinners in the sight of God. A general
recognition of the evil of sin as distinct from consciousness of personal
guilt may really be a cover for unpardoned sin.
Ø The tendency and drift of God’s messages to men living in sin is to bring
them to a right mind in reference to their personal position in His sight, as a
preliminary to their seeking forgiveness.
Ø Much will be found to depend, in respect to religious views and action,
on the apprehension men have of what Sin really is and their own guilt. A
prepared state of mind is necessary to get good out of gospel statements.
Ø The Christian religion especially lays stress on intense individuality in
our relationships to God (He is a “one on one” God – CY – 2018) and to
good and evil, and aims to bring us to a true self-knowledge.
Ø It is an astonishing illustration of the tremendous power of our lower
tendencies that they may even gain ascendancy over men of most exalted
privileges and whose very position would suggest superiority to them.
Ø The essence of sin abides in all times, though the form may vary; for as
Adam preferred the suggestion of the evil one and so despised the word of
the Lord, so did David; and on this method did Satan vainly seek to win over
Christ in the wilderness.
Ø It is of extreme importance to remember that we may carry about with
us deep laid and subtle tendencies which may assert their power in an
unguarded hour; and hence we should often probe our heart, and search
and see by the help of God whether there be any evil way within us.
Ø It should operate as a deterrent to know that OUR SINS will entail
unavoidable social and physical troubles as long as life lasts.
Ø We are authorized in speaking to the truly penitent of the free and full
forgiveness which God has in store for them, and which through His
abounding grace THEY MAY HAVE AT ONCE!
Ø In the fuller sense of the words it may be declared to the penitent that
they shall not die (John 3:16).
Ø The evil deeds of professors are a stumbling block to other men, and
give occasion to them to blaspheme, and as this must be a most bitter
element in the life of the restored backslider, so it is a warning to all
Christians to take heed lest they fall (I Corinthians 10:12), and so bring
occasion for reproach on THE NAME WHICH IS ABOVE EVERY NAME!
The Acknowledgment of Sin (v. 13)
“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 (I Samuel 15:12-21;
I Kings 13:4; 21:20; 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 (ch. 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 (I Samuel 7:6; 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,
The dull hard stone within him melt”
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. (which inscription reads – A Psalm of David,
when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba),
‘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:
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:
Ø Looks at it as committed against the Lord; the living God, the Holy One
“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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø Puts it away from him with aversion and hatred, and purposes to
forsake it completely (“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper:
but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”
Proverbs 28:13); which confession implies and testifies.
“For mine iniquity will I confess;
I will be sorry for my sin.”
language employed and the attendant circumstances. Observe:
Ø Its promptness, readiness, and spontaneity. As soon as he became fully
alive to his sin, he said, “I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah”
Ø 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
Ø Its frankness and fullness, 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).
Ø 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; I John 1:9; Romans 10:10b).
“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.).
purposes which should be present in every potential confession.
Ø 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.)
Ø Prayer for pardon, purity, the Holy Spirit (I Samuel 16:4-13);
steadfastness, freedom, joy, and salvation (Psalm 51:7-12).
Ø Submission to the will of God (Psalm 32:9; 38:13).
Ø Consecration to His service (Psalm 51:13-17). “They were not many
words which he spoke, but in them he owned two realities:
o sin and
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;
o the restlessness and desolation of a soul burdened with the
consciousness of guilt,
o the desire for reconciliation with God,
o the struggle after purity and renovation of heart,
o the joy of fellowship,
o the heroic, the all-conquering power of confidence in God,
o 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.”
The Forgiveness of Sin (vs. 13)
“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 (v. 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 (v. 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.”
(Romans 5:20) Consider remission, pardon, forgiveness of sin, as:
personal relation between God and man; in which there is incurred by
man through his violation of Divine Law:
Ø Release from condemnation;
Ø the removal of the displeasure and wrath (Psalm 38:1) of God;
Ø the blotting out of transgressions (Psalm 51:1; 32:1-2; Isaiah 43:25;
Ø deliverance from death (Ezekiel 18:21).
Since “all have sinned,” all have need of deliverance; but only those
who are convinced of sin:
o desire, and
o seek it.
It also involves:
Ø 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.).
Ø 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)
Ø God alone can perform or bestow; the prerogative of the supreme
Ruler, against whom sin 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, (rights which belong to the king only, in this case, “King of
Kings” – CY – 2018), the flowers of God’s crown” (T. Watson).
Ø Proceeds from His abounding mercy and grace (Exodus 34:7). “It is
impossible THIS FLOWER should spring from any other root”
Ø Rests upon an adequate ground or moral cause; which, although little
known to David, was always present to the mind of God (I 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 here the wisdom, which did open lay
The path, that had been yearned for so long,
Betwixt the heaven and earth.”
(Dante, ‘Par.,’ 23.)
“I forgive;” he simply declared what God had done or purposed to do
(I 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; II Corinthians 2:10);
this assurance depending for its beneficial influence, on:
Ø Its accordance with the revealed Word of God (Jeremiah 23:28;
Ø 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” – Revelation
1:6 - (F.W. Robertson, vol. 3.).
Ø 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).
assurance of the blessing of forgiveness:
Ø 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).
Ø 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.”
Ø 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.)
Confession and Pardon (v. 13)
Two things are very surprising in this narrative:
Ø the awful wickedness of David, and
Ø the abounding mercy of God.
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø 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. (Joseph
refused to do this (Genesis 39:9) Hence David’s language in Psalm 51:4.
Only as sin is thus viewed is “godly sorrow” possible. (II Corinthians 7:10)
Ø 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 (“Let the wicked
forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him
return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to
our God, FOR HE WILL ABUNDANTLY PARDON!” Caps mine –
CY – 2018). In the New Testament 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.
Ø 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” (ibid. v. 1)
that David appealed; and it is to the same abounding grace as shown in
the ospel that we must trust.
Ø 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 harmful,
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:
o by the promises of God, and
o 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
in the onduct, becomes a growing evidence of pardon.
Ø 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 (v. 14); and the
others, denounced (vs. 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 God, is no
longer penal infliction, but fatherly chastisement and discipline:
o to maintain a salutary remembrance of the sin (so it will not be
done again! – CY – 2018),and produce constant gratitude and humility;
o to perseverve in obedience and promote holiness;
o 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 (experienced to the maximum degree – something bad),
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.
Ø Admire, adore, trust, and proclaim the pardoning love of God.
Ø 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.
Ø Let no penitent despair. Not even the backslider, and though his sins
have been as bad as David’s.
Ø 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? — (“Shall we continue in sin that grace may a bound? God
forbid.” Romans 6:1 – CY – 2018) - 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.
Giving Occasion to Blaspheme (v. 14)
“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 Psalms,” 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. (II Peter 3:16) 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,
CONSPICUOUS BY THEIR PREVIOUS EXALTATION. Culpable,
(blameworthy) 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:
Ø Attracts the attention of men to them more than others, and makes it
impossible that their failings should pass unnoticed.
Ø Naturally leads men to expect more from them than others.
Ø 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 acknowledged piety, and “in the fierce
light that beats upon the throne, and blackens every blot.”
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,
Ø 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.
Ø 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.
Ø Lessening the restraints of holy example, hindering the acceptance of the
truth, multiplying excuses for neglect, encouraging indulgence in sin.
Ø 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
and commands, to set forth the theocracy, and bring it to honor and
recognition. Transgressions of God’s command by the king himself must
lead the heathen to heap shame and reproach on
OWN CHARACTER. It is only “the enemies of the Lord” who despise the
Lord, His Word, or His people.
Ø Their enmity disposes them to make use of the sin of another as a reason
in favor of the course upon which their heart is already set (everybody
is doing it); thus:
o silencing the voice of conscience,
o increasing their pride and self-deception, and
o confirming themselves in unbelief and disobedience.
Ø 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”
Ø 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).
UNPUNISHED. “The child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.
Ø To manifest the justice and righteousness of God. The penalty of death
which he had incurred was transferred from the guilty father to the
Ø 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). (The
forgiven sinner has no more conscience of the sin, but it is different
with the memory. God forgives and forgets but I remember and I
trust that, when forgiven, it will help me not to want to do the same sin
again. Hebrews 8:12; 10:2 - CY – 2018)
Ø 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
o in his family (ch. 13.),
o his person (Psalm 41., 55., 39.), and
o his kingdom (ch, 14.).
Judgment was mingled with mercy; yea, it was itself the
chastisement of love. “What was the answer to his prayer?
o First, the death of Bathsheba’s child.
o Next, the discovery of hateful crimes in his household.
o 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 (Psalm 51:6),
knowing wisdom secretly” (Maurice).
14 “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.”
Religion Reproached through the Conduct of the Religious
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.
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.
Ø Great inconsistency between profession and conduct. Gross immorality,
fraud, falsehood, avarice, intemperance, hasty temper, revenge, etc.
Ø Unworthy presentation of religion itself.
o Ignorant rant,
o unctuous cant,
o too much insistence on mere doctrinal refinements which
have little or no bearing on practical life,
o elaborate ceremonialism,
o fierce strife in a Church,
o sectarian bitterness and exclusiveness,
o indifference to the well being of the general population,
o clerical pretensions,
o ambition, or
— all in their various ways and degrees occasion “the enemies
of the Lord to blaspheme.”
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.
Ø 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
Ø 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.
Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth
not with me scattereth abroad.” (Matthew 121:30)
Ø The hearts of true-hearted and consistent Christians are wounded and
Ø Above all, and including all, THE NAME OF GOD IS DISHONORED
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!”
(vs. 15-31) The facts are:
1. The child born to David becoming very sick, he entreats God for its life
by prayer and fasting.
2. He persists in refusing the consolations which the elders of his
household offer him.
3. The child dying on the seventh day and David observing the whisperings
of his servants, at once ascertains by direct inquiry the certainty of it.
4. His servants noticing that, on ascertaining the fact of the child’s death,
he lays aside the tokens of grief and resumes his usual manner, are
amazed at his conduct.
5. Whereupon he justifies his conduct, and intimates his expectation of
some day going to the child.
6. Bathsheba is comforted by David, and bears to him another son,
7. Joab, carrying on war against Rabbah of the Ammonites, and being
about to bring the war to a conclusion, urges on David that he should
come and enjoy the honor of taking the city.
8. David, complying with this request, takes possession of Rabbah, and
acquires the king’s crown with much spoil.
9. He completes his conquest of the Ammonites by causing some of them
to endure great sufferings.
15 “And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that
Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.” Thou hast given great
occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme; Hebrew, thou hast made the
enemies of Jehovah to despise; that is, to despise Jehovah’s government, the theocracy,
of which David was the visible head and earthly representative. Jehovah’s enemies
are not the heathen, but Israelitish unbelievers, who would scoff at all
religion when one in David’s position fell into terrible open sin. But the
death of the adulterous offspring of David and Bathsheba would prove to
these irreligious men that Jehovah’s righteous rule could reach and punish
the king himself, and would thus vindicate his justice from their reproach.
16 “David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and
went in, and lay all night upon the earth. 17 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. 18 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? 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.” David... went in. He went, not into the sanctuary, which he
did not enter until after the child’s death, but into some private room in his
own house. There he remained, passing his nights stretched on the ground,
and fasting until the seventh day. His fasting does not imply that he took no
food during this long interval, but that he abstained from the royal table,
and ate so much only as was necessary to maintain life. Now, what was the
meaning of this privacy and abstinence? Evidently it was David’s
acknowledgment, before all his subjects, of his iniquity, and of his sorrow
for it. The sickness of the child followed immediately upon Nathan’s visit,
and we may feel sure that news of his rebuke, and of all that passed
between him and the king, ran quickly throughout
once takes the position of a condemned criminal, and humbles himself with
that thoroughness which forms so noble a part of his character. Grieved as
he was at the child’s sickness, and at the mother’s sorrow, yet his grief was
mainly for his sin; and he was willing that all should know how intense was
his shame and self-reproach. And even when the most honorable of the
rulers of his household (Genesis 24:2), or, as Ewald thinks, his uncles
and elder brethren, came to comfort him, he persists in maintaining an
attitude of heart stricken penitence.
20 “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.
21 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.”
Then David arose from the earth. If David’s grief had been
occasioned by love for the child, then its death and the consciousness that,
while his guilt had caused its sickness, his prayers had not availed to save
it, would have aggravated his anguish. There was much personal regard for
the child, which had been made the more precious by these very events.
But David’s sorrow was, as we have seen, that of penitence, and not that
of natural affection. When, therefore, the threatened penalty had been paid
by the death of the child, David felt it to be his duty to show his
resignation, and therefore he went into the sanctuary and worshipped, in
proof that he acknowledged the justice of God’s dealings, and was content
to bear the punishment as his righteous desert.
David 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:
Ø expressions of submission to the will of God at length made plain;
Ø acknowledgment of God’s righteousness and loving kindness in
what He had done;
Ø 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.
22 “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?” God; Hebrew, Jehovah, usually rendered “Lord.” Similarly
in Genesis 6:5 in the Authorized Version we find God in capital letters, as
here, for the Hebrew Jehovah.
23 “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.”
I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. These words indicate,
first of all, much personal feeling for the child. Hence some
have supposed that, as Solomon is placed last of Bathsheba’s four sons in
ch. 5:14 and I Chronicles 3:5, three other sons had already
been borne by her, and that consequently this child, the fruit of their
adultery, would now have been seven or eight years of age. It is certainly
remarkable that in v. 16 David calls him “the lad” (so the Hebrew),
though in every other place he is styled “the child.” On the other hand, we
gather from v. 14 that probably he was as yet the only child, and this is
the more reasonable view, even if Solomon was the youngest son (but see
note on v. 24). But secondly, the words indicate a belief in the continued
existence of the child, and even that David would recognize and know him
in the future world. Less than this would have given no comfort to the
father for his loss. Now, it is true that we can find no clear dogmatic
teaching in the early Scriptures upon the immortality of the soul. Job could
give expression to no such hope in 7:6-10, and the belief in a world to
come would have solved the difficulties of himself and his friends, which
really are left unsolved. (I think the writer wrong because Job 19:25-27
is full of belief! CY – 2018) Even in the Psalms there are words that border on
despair (see Psalm 6:5; 30:9; 88:11 [63:3 says that God’s lovingkindness is
better than life! CY – 2018]; 115:17); nor had Hezekiah any
such belief in continued existence as could solace him in the expectation of
an early death (Isaiah 38:18-19). This hopelessness was not unnatural
at a time when the doctrine had not been as yet clearly taught. On the other
hand, in Psalm 17:15 and 16:9-11 We find proof that David did believe
in his own immortality. For though the latter words have a second and
higher meaning, yet the primary sense of Psalm 16:10 is that David’s
own soul (or self) would not always remain in Sheol, the abode of the
departed, nor would he, Jehovah’s anointed one, see such corruption as
would end in annihilation.
David 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
David expressed his own expectations as to the future. “I shall go to him”
(v. 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!
David’s Behaviour in Affliction (vs. 15-23)
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 endeavor 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 demeanor 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
(I 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 favor 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:
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:
Ø 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.
Ø He perceived therein, moreover, a merciful administration of such
chastisement. “Thou shalt not die. Howbeit, ....the child shall die.”
(v. 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
Ø 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?” (v. 22). He evidently regarded
the prediction of the prophet, though absolute in form, as really conditional
(Isaiah 38:1,21; Jeremiah 18:7-8). We have to do, not with an iron
fate, but with a loving Father, “full of pity and merciful” (James 5:11;
Psalm 34:15; 103:13).
Ø 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:
o humiliation and
o “godly sorrow”
Ø It was associated with fervent supplication. And David besought God
for the child” (v. 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!
Ø 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 favor (v. 25). “If we ask
anything according to His will, He heareth us,” etc. (I John 5:14-15).
David arose from the ground,” etc. (v. 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:
Ø 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 (v. 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 fulfill the will of God in
doing and suffering.”
I have written in the disclaimer of this website – www.adultbibleclass.com,
an excerpt from Dwight L. Moody:
“Someone has said that there are four things necessary in studying the Bible: Admit, Submit,
Commit, and Transmit. First, admit its truth; second, submit to its teachings; third, commit it
to memory; and fourth, transmit it. If the Christian life is a good thing for you, pass it on to
someone else. You know it is always regarded a great event in the family when a child can
feed itself. It is propped up at the table, and at first, perhaps, it uses the spoon upside down,
but by and by it uses it all right, and mother, or perhaps sister, claps her hands and says “Just see,
baby’s feeding himself”. Well, what we need as Christians is to be able to feed ourselves.
Ø 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).
Ø 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 (v. 24). In this manner
bereavement is most easily borne and most effectually sanctified, and
God is most worthily served and glorified.
The mercy of God to David was immediate, and it continued throughout
his life; the judgment with which it was tempered was chiefly to come in
days hence, but it began in the severe sickness of Bathsheba’s child. It is
not an unusual thing for a father to have to face the loss of an infant; in
such cases natural affection will manifest itself in unmistakable forms. The
extraordinary way in which David’s feelings were excited by the
apprehended death of this child is to be accounted for by reasons springing
out of the peculiar circumstances of his position. These will appear as we
proceed to consider the struggle between natural affection and the order of
OF NATURAL AFFECTION AGAINST WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE
ORDINATION OF GOD. The declaration of the prophet (v. 14), that
the child should die, was accepted by David as an ordination of God, and
the severe sickness which came on soon after Nathan’s departure was
interpreted by the king as the first stage in the execution of it. But David
was not conscious of a rebellious spirit in the exhibition of such distress,
and in such earnest entreaty that the intended cause of providential
judgment might be averted. Human affection is as much a part of the order
of Nature as is the law of gravity, and its spontaneous action is as natural
as is the falling of a weight to the earth. Affection is nothing if it does not
feel. There is no law requiring it to be annihilated, if that were possible, in
presence of the inevitable. To the pious Hebrew all changes in nature were
brought about by God; they were the outcome of His will, as surely as
would be the death of this child according to the word of the prophet.
Divine ordinations were silent and spoken. Yet the silent ordinations in
daily providence were modified by prayer and to meet new conditions; and
why, then, might not this spoken one be modified at the entreaty of an
agonized parent? As a father, he could not help thinking of this infant as a
severe sufferer in being deprived of the blessing of life through no fault of
its own. If spared, the child might be a perpetual memorial of befitting
sorrow and shame, and so would help to keep him lowly and penitent. Nor
could he but feel for the poor woman cruelly sinned against, and whose
grief would be consequent on her husband’s sin. Moreover, precedents
were not wanting in the case Of Abraham (Genesis 18:20-33) and of
Moses (Exodus 32:30-35), in which men pleaded against what seemed
to be inevitable. Subsequent to David’s time, we know that men were
permitted to pray against the apparently inevitable (Joel 2:12-14). Our
Saviour gave utterance to human sensibility when he prayed that, if
possible, the cup might pass from Him. God has never expressed
displeasure at the utterance of the sorrows which spring from natural
affection, for feelings often struggle thus with the course of providence.
Stoicism has no place in Christianity. The physical order is subordinate to
TO DO WITH THE ANTICIPATED DISASTER. The intensity of
David’s anguish arose, not from the fact that he was a father, but from the
knowledge he had that the providence that was bringing death to his child
was connected with his own sin. That another should suffer for his sin, and
this other a little child, was indeed a bitter reason for pleading with God.
Although the course of providence, which connects the suffering of
offspring with the sins of parents, is in the widest moral bearings of the
fact, both just and merciful, yet it is not always seen to be so. Nevertheless,
the great anguish of the evil doer on that account is not a protest so much
as a lament over his own sin, and a prayer that, if possible, this organic
issue of sin may, by some intervention, be prevented or modified. The
educational value of that feeling on the life of a repentant sinner is of great
worth in itself, and really leads to the formation of a character that shall, in
the order of providence, do much to lessen the evils that otherwise would
STRUGGLING AGAINST THE ORDER OF
GOD. A great change had recently come over David. The alienation of the
backsliding heart was gone. As of old, so he now brings his sorrows and
troubles to his God. The overwhelmed heart flies to the Rock that is high.
He sits not with the scornful,
mocking at the ways of
seeing evil where only there is mysterious judgment. The best and tenderest
feelings of human nature, where sanctified by the spirit of piety, turn
instinctively to God for help, and they find prayer as the form in which
their yearnings are expressed. Some men fancy that they only see and feel
the apparent severities of the providential order, and that sullen vexation
and displeasure are the only appropriate conditions of mind in relation to it.
Christians see and feel quite as much, but their bruised spirit finds refuge in
Him who ordains all in justice and mercy, and implores Him, so far as may
be wise and good, to let the penitent, entreating heart count for something
among the elements which determine the ultimate issues.
UNALTERABLE, NATURAL AFFECTION IS SUBORDINATED TO
THE HIGHER PRINCIPLE OF ACQUIESCENCE IN THE WILL OF
GOD. David was right in feeling as he did, in expressing his feeling in
earnest prayer, in waiting as long as there was hope of reversal of the
sentence. He acted as a father, as a husband, as a penitent. But when once
the human desire and human view of wisdom and kindness were proved, by
accomplished fact, not to be in accord with Divine wisdom, then, as
became a trustful, restored child of God, David ceased to plead and to be
in anguish. “Not my will, but thine be done!” was the spirit of his action. It
was his duty and privilege now to rest in the Lord, and believe that He will
bring to pass the kindest and wisest issue. The death of the child is
accepted as the best thing, and the evils once supposed to issue from the
event are now believed to be qualified by a love which maketh all things
work together for good. It is the sign of an enlightened mind when a man
can thus rise from his griefs, and conform his mental and moral-and social
life to the unalterable will of God. It takes time for a good man to recover
from the natural, and, therefore, reasonable, outflow of his feelings; but
when he does recover, he retains all the sanctity and softening influence of
his anguish in combination with a calm spirit, concerned now in ministering
to the consolation of others (v. 24), and cheered by the hope of a time
when the breaches caused by sin will be healed (v. 23).
Ø It becomes us to regard all death in our homes as connected with sin,
and we should always give due weight to its moral causes in our
consideration of the course of providence.
Ø Men not familiar with the secret life of a Christian are not in a position
to understand his conduct on special occasions, just as David’s servants
could not understand his conduct in relation to the death of the child.
Ø We should avail ourselves of such light concerning the future as may be
vouchsafed, in order to obtain consolation amidst the bereavements of
life (v. 23; I Thessalonians 4:13-18).
Ø The doctrine of recognition in heaven is certainly in accord with
sanctified instincts, and may be held as variously hinted at in Scripture
(v. 23; compare Matthew 17:3-4; I Thessalonians 2:19).
24 “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.” He called his name Solomon. It is
rashly assumed that Solomon’s birth followed next in order after that of the
deceased child. More probably there was a long interval of time, and son
after son was born, with little increase of happiness to the family polluted by
Amnon’s sin and troubled by its miserable consequences. While we must not
lay too great stress upon Solomon calling himself “a little child” (I Kings 3:7)
after his accession, yet it forbids our believing that he was more than just
grown up, It was the remarkable ability of Solomon, his goodness and
precocious talent, which made him so great a comfort to his parents, and
which received Jehovah’s seal of approval in the name Jedidiah (Beloved
of Jehovah) . This name would scarcely be given him until his good and great
qualities were developing; and as it was a sort of indication that he was the
chosen and elect son of David, and therefore the next king, we shall probably
be right in believing that this second mission of Nathan, and this mark of
Divine favor to David’s youngest child, did not take place until after Absalom’s
death, possibly not until Solomon was ten or twelve years of age. The
name Solomon means “the peaceful,” and answers to the German
Friedrich. It was given to the child in recognition that David’s wars were
now over, and that the era of quiet had begun, which was to be
consecrated to the building of Jehovah’s temple. It was the name given to
the infant at his birth, and was a name of hope. Alas! this peace was to be
rudely broken by the rebellion of the son whom David, in vain expectation
and with all a father’s pride, had named Absalom, “his father’s peace.”
The Death of a Child (v. 23)
“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.
o Reason sheds only starlight on the future;
o the revelations of the Old Testament only twilight;
o but Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness,
illumines it with daylight.
The Christian parent, bereaved of his little child, has:
DEPARTED, in the unseen, spiritual, eternal world, “the Father’s house;”
Ø Retains his conscious personality (neither ceasing to be, nor “swallowed
up in the general sea of being”).
Ø Attains the highest perfection of which his nature is capable (his
capacities of knowledge, holiness, and happiness being gradually
Ø Remains in permanent security (forever freed from the temptations and
sorrows of this life). On what grounds does such a persuasion rest?
o The nature of a child — spiritual, immortal, blameless, “having no
knowledge between good and evil” (Deuteronomy 1:39).
o 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.
o The teachings and actions of Christ, and His redemptive work
(Matthew 18:1-14; 19:13-15; 21:16; I 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 JESUS CHRIST!
“He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry
them in His bosom; and shall gently lead those that are
with young.” (Isaiah 40:11).
Ø Hope of personal salvation on the part of him who cherishes it.
Ø 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.)
Ø 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.’)
derived from what has been said, the fact that it comes from a Father’s
hand, and the benefits which it brings by
Ø teaching patience in the trials of life;
Ø moderating attachment to its blessings;
Ø spiritualizing affection for those who are left;
Ø intensifying desire for the heavenly home.
“Let us consider:
Ø to whom they have gone,
Ø from what they have been taken,
Ø for what they have been taken, and
Ø how this bereavement will appear to us
WHEN WE COME TO DIE OURSELVES!”
“‘Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up,
Whose golden rounds are our calamities.”
Tokens of Restoration (vs. 23-24)
In vs. 23, 24 we have two statements which incidentally reveal the reality
and completeness of the restoration of the fallen king to the favor and
care of God.
(1) The name (Solomon) given by himself, probably at circumcision, to his
(2) the name (Jedidiah) which the prophet was instructed to give to the
son, not as a substitute, but as a supplement. The one indicated David’s
sense of peace with God and in himself, the other God’s abiding favor.
Here, then, we may observe:
is not a state rendered problematical by the observance of conditions
extending over a long period. David was at peace with God, and God did
regard him with unqualified favor. Old things had passed away — the
displeasure of God, the fear and apprehension of the man; the relation of
complacent delight and tender care on the one side, and filial love and trust
on the other, was now complete. It is important to keep this truth clear. It
is bound up with the great doctrine of justification. God once accepting
and forgiving a sinner becomes and remains to him a gracious God,
forgetting all the past and cherishing only love and tender interest. It is a
misreading of the gospel, and implies an ignorance of the most blessed
Christian experience to imagine that a really forgiven one is kept in
suspense and dread, or that God is holding back the fullness of His favor
till we have repented a little more, or more fully perfected our general life.
WE ARE ACCEPTED IN CHRIST! When He “restoreth” our “soul”
(Psalm 23:3), it is actual, not possible, germinal restoration.
CIRCUMSTANCES, The inward token in David’s case was the assured
peace of a conscience purged by the grace of God (Psalm 51:7-10, 12),
which came in answer to his penitential cry. The outward token
was the life of another child, the peaceful order of the kingdom, and
especially this welcome message of the prophet (v. 25). The reality of
restoration WAS KNOWN AS SOON AS THE ALMIGHTY WORD
OF PARDON WAS SPOKEN, the confirmatory signs of it — to strengthen
the heart and ward off subtle temptations of the evil one-came in process of
time. No doubt fallen Peter found pardon during the dark night of his penitence;
but the outward token, which was also an instruction to the other disciples not
to distrust and shun him, came in the gracious message of the angel of the
Lord, “Tell His disciples, and Peter” (Mark 16:7), and again in the exhortation
and encouragement given in the presence of those who might otherwise have
distrusted him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17). The ordinary sign of
full restoration is in the “witness of the Spirit” (Romans 8:14-16), and
the outward care and blessing vouchsafed to our work of faith and labor
of love (John 15:7-8). God will be sure to give His people some “token
for good” (Psalm 86:17).
ILLUSTRATION OF HIS WONDERFUL CONSIDERATION FOR HIS
PEOPLE. There is something truly wonderful in this grace shown to
David. Not only is he forgiven and treated in all things spiritual as though
he had not sinned; not only
permitted to reign over
close, though it may be very subdued, fellowship with God; but God goes,
as it were, out of the ordinary course of providence, and sends a messenger
to give him, in this other name for his child, a special sign of full
restoration. Thus the occasional doubts suggested by the evil one, the
possible distrust of the prophet
sneers of the profane, are all anticipated by the love that slumbers not and
that cares most tenderly and minutely for all the need of the reconciled
ones. “How excellent is thy loving kindness, O God!” (Psalm 36:7);
It is “better than life!” (ibid. ch. 63:3) “He is rich in mercy”
(Ephesians 2:4); and “plenteous in redemption.” (Psalm 130:7)
25 “And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his
name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.” He sent. Some commentators make
David the subject of the sentence, and translate, “And he, David, sent in the
hand of Nathan, and called,” etc. They suppose that this means that Nathan
was entrusted with Solomon’s education; but “in the hand” is the ordinary
Hebrew preposition, meaning “by,” and the sense plainly is that God sent a
message by Nathan. David had already called the child Solomon, and now
Jehovah, some years afterwards, gives him an indication of His special favor
by naming him Yedidyah. The word is formed from the same root as David,
that is, “lovely,” with the addition of the Divine name. As we have already
pointed out, this was no slight matter, but the virtual selection of Solomon
to be David’s successor, and probably, therefore, was delayed until he had
given indication of his great intellectual gifts. His elder brothers would not
be passed over without valid reasons.
The Birth of Solomon (vs. 24-25)
(References: I Kings 1-11; I Chronicles 22-29; II 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 ch. 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.)
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, I Chronicles 3:5); when Rabbah
had fallen, peace was established, and prosperity abounded. The time was
3. His name. (I 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; ch. 7:12; I 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 (ch. 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 (ch. 7:12;
I Chronicles 22:9; I 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).
26 “And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and
took the royal city. 27 And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have
fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters. 28 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. 29 And David gathered all
the people together, and went to Rabbah, and fought against it, and took it.”
Joab… took the royal city. As the siege of Rabbah would be
conducted by the slow process of blockade, it might easily be prolonged
into the second year, and so give ample space for David’s sin and its
punishment by the death of the child. But more probably the narrator,
having commenced the history of David’s sin, completes the story before
returning to his account of the war. Thus the capture of Rabbah would
occupy some of the interval between David’s adultery and Nathan’s visit of
rebuke, and would lessen the difficulty, which we cannot help feeling, of
David remaining for nine or ten months with the guilt of adultery and
murder resting upon him, and no open act of repentance. Some short time,
then, after Uriah’s death, Joab captured “the city of waters.” This is not a
poetical name for Rabbah, but means the “water city,” that is, the town
upon the Jabbok, whence the supply of water was obtained. The citadel,
which occupied a high rock on the northwestern side, must, therefore, soon
be starved into submission, and the whole of “the royal city,” that is, of the
metropolis of the Ammonites, be in Joab’s power. He therefore urges
David to come in person, both that the honor of the conquest may be his,
and also because probably the blockading force had been reduced to as
small a body of men as was safe, and the presence of a large army was
necessary for completing the subjugation of the country, which would
follow upon the capture of the capital.
A GOOD MAN’S FALL INTO SIN UNFITS HIM FOR MANY OF
THE DUTIES OF HIS DAILY LIFE. Joab was not only left to carry on
the war alone, but he even felt it to be right (v. 28) to stir up the king
that he might come and take part, and so share in the honor about to be
won. The secret of this most probably lay in the fact that, during and after
David’s entanglement with Bathsheba and crime against Uriah, he was not
in a mind to enter upon the perils of war. A woman’s spell was on him; his
conscience was secretly troubled; he who feared not the lion or the giant
now fears lest, if he go to the war, he should be slain. Therefore he tarries
do what otherwise he would have done, and it required even an urgent
request from his general, coupled with an assurance that the city was
virtually captured already (vs. 27-29), to induce him to move. There are
sins which sometimes drive men to desperate deeds and perilous places,
and give apparently more zest to life; but in the case of good men, a known
habit of sin impairs their energy in life; it creates an abiding fear; it
paralyzes certain incumbent moral actions; it keeps from entering on work
which otherwise would be cheerfully undertaken; it makes him less a man.
30 “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.” Their king; Hebrew, Malcam. This is another mode of
spelling Milcom, the god of the Ammonites, and is found also in
Zephaniah 1:5, and probably in Jeremiah 49:1, 3; Amos 1:15.
Strictly, Milcom or Malcom is a proper name for the supreme deity,
formed from the word melec, a king, or, as it was pronounced in other
Semitic dialects, Moloch. Grammatically, Malcam also means “their king,”
and even so belongs to Milcom. For the crown weighed a hundred pounds,
a ponderous mass, which no man could possibly bear, and, least of all,
when making, as was the case with the Ammonite king, his last stand for
his life. But after the capture of the city, it was lifted from the head of the
idol, and placed formally upon David’s head, and held there for a few