David’s sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent murder of her husband Uriah is found in 2 Sam. 11 and is one of the better known stories in the Old Testament. Instead of being a boring rehash, I hope to help you see some new things in this old story.
In 2 Samuel 11 we find David, having already conquered all the other surrounding kingdoms, sending his army to conquer Ammon. I’ve heard some decry the fact that David stayed behind, saying that if only he had been where he should have been – at the head of his army – none of this would ever have happened. This may be true, but it is equally plausible that David had legitimate reasons for staying behind. We just aren’t told. All we know is that he stayed behind. Then this happens:
2 Sam. 11:2-5 “It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king's house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, "I am pregnant."”
Now, first things first, let’s put to bed an old, tired, erroneous narrative. BATHSHEBA WAS NOT BATHING ON THE ROOF!!! Sorry to shout, but I get so tired of hearing people say that. Read the Bible again, it nowhere says that she is bathing on the roof. There is no mention of her on a roof. DAVID was on the roof and from the roof he saw her. Ten minutes of research into the historical context would show anyone who cares to look that most houses back then were built with a small courtyard in the center. They bathed in this court yard – they had no running water, remember – and were shielded from view on three sides by their house and on the fourth by an erected screen. No one could see them bathe, unless he happened to be on the roof of the house next door. If that happened, it was the responsibility of the accidental voyeur to turn away and not become a purposeful peeping tom. This kind of thing isn’t so far back in our own past, by the way. My father, who likes to say he was raised so far back in the Arkansas hills that they had to pump in the sunshine, didn’t have running water in his house until he was 12. His whole family, including his mother and two sisters, would take turns bathing on the back porch in warm weather. If you knew someone was taking a bath out back, you just didn’t go out back. If a visitor somehow stumbled back there when a bath was being taken, it was on him to skedaddle, and fast, too, or Granddad might start grabbing after the buckshot. So it was David at fault here, for not looking away, not Bathsheba for innocently taking a bath.
Now notice who Bathsheba was. When David asked, he is told she is “the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah”. These names meant something to David; Bathsheba wasn’t just a random woman. In 2 Samuel 23, where David’s mighty men are listed – these are the 37 greatest warriors in David’s employ and David’s power was built on their strength and loyalty – we see both of these men listed. Uriah is the last listed, in verse 39. Eliam is mentioned in verse 34 and we are told that he is the son of Ahithophel. In 2 Sam. 15:12 we find out that Ahithophel is David’s counselor and in 16:23 we learn that he was so wise that his counsel was like God’s counsel. He was, in his way, as important to David’s continued rule as were the mighty men. So, David was considering adultery with a woman who was the daughter of one of his most trusted warriors, the granddaughter of his most important advisor, and the wife of another important warrior. Basic common sense should have told him to back away from her, but David was apparently feeling pretty full of himself. After all, he was David the mighty and he could have whatever he wanted.
We know how the story goes: David’s carnal desires get the best of him. When Bathsheba winds up pregnant, he tries to get Uriah to go home to her so that all would think that the child was Uriah’s. When Uriah refuses to enjoy the comforts of home while his brothers are fighting, David has him killed and marries Bathsheba. The last line of 2 Sam. 11:27 is one of the bigger understatements in scripture: “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”
So, Nathan confronts David with his sin and David repents. Most people focus on 2 Sam. 12:13, where Nathan tells David that God has forgiven him and that he will not die. God’s incredible mercy is the theme of these sermons, as well as the redemption of the fallen disciple of the Lord. Truly, this is a great example of those qualities of God. We can study this and have hope, knowing that if God will forgive David of adultery and murder He will forgive us of our sins. However, that is not the only thing being taught in this passage. We shouldn’t forget what else God says through Nathan, nor the rest of the history of David’s life recorded in 2 Samuel. Read all of what Nathan says:
2 Sam. 12:10-14 “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' Thus says the LORD, 'Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'" David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." And Nathan said to David, "The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die."”
David was forgiven of his sins, but he’d still have to face some consequences. David was forgiven, but his life would not be as pleasant as it would have been had he not sinned. If you list the consequences Nathan names and keep that list before you while you read the remainder of 2 Samuel you will find that almost everything that is recorded after 12:14 is David living through one of these consequences. Here is the list:
1) The sword will not depart from your house.
2) I will raise up evil against you out of your own house.
3) Your neighbor will sleep with your wives in the sight of all.
4) The son born to you (by Bathsheba) will die.
The last listed consequence is the first one to be fulfilled as we see in 12:15-23. David’s son is struck ill and dies one week later. Then, in chapter 13, David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar (evil from out of your own house) and Tamar’s full brother Absalom kills Amnon for that rape (sword not departing your house, evil against you from your own house). Chapters 15-18 detail Absalom’s revolt against David, which was so serious that David had to flee across the Jordan to avoid being killed (sword not departing, evil from own house). To show how serious he was in trying to overthrow his father Absalom set up a tent on the roof of the palace and had relations with the concubines David left behind when he fled (Your neighbor sleeps with your wives in the sight of all). This was done at Ahithophel’s suggestion (16:20-22) who had joined Absalom’s revolt. Do you think that Ahithophel might have joined Absalom because he was still angry with David for forcing his granddaughter? Seems likely. Then, as soon as Absalom’s revolt is quashed and David returns to Jerusalem, another revolt arises (chapter 20) headed by a man named Sheba (the sword will not depart).
Even though he was forgiven, David had to deal with the consequences of his sin for the rest of his life. Interestingly, when he wasn’t running for his life David was planning to build the temple of God. While he was told he couldn’t build it, he did draw up the architectural plans, gather all the materials needed (including a personal donation that would be measured in the billions of dollars in today’s money) and plan the order of worship in the Temple, all at the direction of God by His prophets (1 Chron. 28:11-19, 2 Chron. 29:25). In other words, he was still the man after God’s own heart whose life was devoted to serving his God in every way he could. And he STILL had to suffer the consequences of his sins! Even though he was forgiven. Even though his life was devoted to God, because of his sins the final years of his life weren’t as pleasant as they might have been.
And that is a lesson we can all learn from. If we truly repent, God will forgive us of all our sins. 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” However, we may still have to live with life-changing consequences. God will forgive you your fornication, but you might still have to deal with an STD, some of which still can’t be cured. Or maybe you get her pregnant (or you become pregnant) and that will certainly upset your life plans. God will forgive you for getting drunk, but if you drive and get caught, you will have to deal with the DUI. If you drive and kill someone, there are longer, more stringent consequences. You can be forgiven, you can devote the rest of your life to God, but those consequences still aren’t going away.
The first reason I should want to overcome temptation is because of my love for God. He sacrificed His Son so I could be washed free of my sins and stand clean before Him. I should love Him and want to maintain that holy state. I should be willing to fight hard to maintain my purity. God also offers us another incentive to remain pure: the threat of Hell. When my fleshly desires are almost overwhelming me, the threat of eternal torment in a lake of fire combined with my desire to please God might help me defeat the temptation. However, if you find all of that to not be enough, remember the last 20 years of David’s life. I don’t want the last years of my life to be anything like David’s. There will be consequences in this life for your sins, even if you are pardoned in the next life. Those consequences hold the potential to be bad enough to scare most anyone straight. I hope the thought of those consequences helps you overcome your next temptation.
“Jehovah also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, [there will be consequences].” (2 Sam. 12:13b-14)