Sunday School Lesson for July 7, 2002
2 Samuel 11:1-12:31
*Focal Teaching Passage: 2 Samuel 11:1-27
*David Sins With Bathsheba (11:1-5)
The setting for the story of David’s fall in to sin against God is presented in this verse. It was the springtime—the traditional season of war and the time of the year when the weather was much more favorable—when hostility between the Israelite army and the Ammonites was re-ignited. While Joab was dispatched to lead the Israelite troops in battle, "David remained in Jerusalem." Whether or not this was an instance of neglect on David’s part, or simply a response to the counsel of his advisors, his presence in Jerusalem proved to be tragically significant in light of the temptation he would soon face.
David’s moral collapse began when he arose from his bed one "evening" and paced the "roof of the palace" (v.2). From this high vantage point, he observed a beautiful woman bathing within the courtyard of her home. His lustful curiosity having been awakened, David "sent someone to find out about her" (v.3). David learned that she was the "daughter of one of [his] best fighters (cf. 23:34), the granddaughter of his most trusted counselor (cf. 16:23; 23:34), and the wife of one of his inner circle of honored soldiers (cf. 23:39)" (Bergen, 364). Having identified her as the "wife of Uriah the Hittite," David "sent messengers to get her" (v. 4). The latter part of verse four states David’s sin in stark terms—"he slept with her." The mention of Bathsheba’s act of purification serves to confirm that she was not pregnant when she was brought to David. Following their sexual encounter, however, she soon began to notice the bodily changes signaling her pregnancy. Verse five records that she sent a message to the King declaring "I am pregnant."
Several facts related to these verses are significant for our study:
*David Plots a Cover-up (11:6-27)
At this point, David devised a plan to cover his sin and shield his guilt from public knowledge. First, he had Bathsheba’s husband sent back to Jerusalem by Joab. When Uriah arrived from the battlefront, David commanded him to "Go down to your house and wash your feet" (v.8). This was a way of suggesting that he should go and "spend a night of marital intimacy with Bathsheba" (Bergen, 365). As a greater encouragement to Uriah, David included a "gift," perhaps consisting of food or wine (v.8). Yet, the plan did not meet with success as Uriah proved to be doggedly loyal to his troops and nation. Note carefully his words—"the ark of Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open fields" (v. 11). It is interesting that Uriah, a Hittite, was so deeply concerned about the chief symbol of Israel’s covenant. Joyce Baldwin notes that Uriah was also quite aware of his
solidarity with the fighting men at the front, over whom he will not steal an advantage. Both of these considerations applied even more forcibly to the king, who had final responsibility for the war, and had laid much stress on covenant loyalty himself, but now a foreigner is showing him to be despicably lax (233).
Despite the king’s overtures, Uriah declared, "As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing" (v. 11). Apparently he was deeply committed to remaining in a state of ritual purity in order to secure the Lord’s favor in a time of war. He probably believed that if he went home and enjoyed sexual relations with his wife, he would have "rendered himself temporarily unfit for military service (cf. Lev. 15:18) and thus unfit for service to the Lord" (Bergen, 366).
The next phase of David’s cover-up plot was even more insidious. Having failed in his rather subtle attempt to make it appear that Uriah was responsible for Bathsheba’s pregnancy, he determined to make Uriah drunk in the hope that he would stumble home into the arms of his wife. But once again the plan failed as Uriah, ever loyal and humble, simply slept on his mat "among his master’s servants."
At this juncture, David grew even more desperate and decided to have Uriah killed in battle. Obediently conforming to the strange orders of the king (vv. 14-15), Joab placed Uriah and other fighting men at the front lines of battle near the wall of the city of Rabbah were the "strongest defenders were" (vv. 16, 24). Note that Joab was specifically ordered to withdraw from Uriah so that he would be exposed to enemy attack (v.15). As David had planned, Uriah was killed along with several of the king’s choice soldiers (v.17). Dale Davis notes the tragic irony of this episode: "Here is the one [David] who puts Mephibosheth at his table and Uriah in his grave" (120).
Upon learning of her husband’s death, Bathsheba began to mourn for him in the customary manner. Bergen describes this ritual as including "weeping; wailing—that is expressing a mournful, high-pitched cry; rolling in dust; modifying one’s diet for a period of time; and modifying one’s garb, either putting on sackcloth or, in the case of a woman who lost her spouse, wearing garments that identified her as a widow" (367). We also learn in this verse that David "brought her to his house" and she became his wife. Though she ultimately "bore him son," that which David had perpetrated "displeased the Lord" (v. 27). This statement by the author (note the NASB translation: "the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord") destroys any thought that David’s actions following the death of Uriah were in some way noble. David had acted in direct violation of the covenant and had disregarded the Ten Commandments. The penalty for this action would be severe indeed.
David Confronted by Nathan (12:1-10)
In this section the prophet Nathan—sent directly by Yahweh—quickly confronted the king by way of a clever parable that David took as an actual case to be adjudicated. It soon became apparent, however, that Nathan employed the compelling story of the poor man and his lamb in order to bring David’s sin out in the open—"You are the man!" Several key points may be made here:
David Learns of the Consequences of His Sin (12:10b-12)
Nathan, under divine inspiration, pronounced the consequences of David’s rebellion against the Lord:
Major Themes for Application and Discussion
One: The speed with which one may fall into sin. How do you explain David’s sudden moral demise? What factors led to this terrible sin?
Two: The insidious nature of evil. From this narrative, what do you learn about the way sin operates? What other biblical passages provide such insight? (Hint: see James 1:13-16).
Three: The necessity of proper moral safeguards. What might David have done in order to avoid this tragic fall? How might this terrible act of evil been avoided?
Four: The connection between the forgiveness of sin and the consequences of sin. Does forgiveness of sin (which David was freely granted by God) remove or prevent the consequences of sin?