We have seen the Lord with David throughout his rise to the throne as well as during his reign over Israel. The summary of David’s kingship is in 2 Samuel 8:14, “And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” But as David has been rising up in the kingdom, we have seen the scriptures foreshadow his failure. In 2 Samuel 3:2-5 we see that David grew stronger and stronger, but his multiplying of wives is noted. In 2 Samuel 5:12-16 we see that the Lord established David as king and exalted his kingdom, but his multiplying of wives is noted again. We have been prepared from the text that a spiritual failure is coming and the weakness is going to be regarding women. This is what brings us to 2 Samuel 11.
The Problem (11:1)
Chapter 11 opens with ominous words. It is the spring when the kings go out to battle, but David remained at Jerusalem. This verse is not an offhanded comment. The contrast in the text is quite sharp. Israel’s men went out but David stayed back. David is not where he ought to be right now. He should be with his men in battle, not at his home in Jerusalem. David is pictured has avoiding his royal duty. Israel established a king so that he “may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20). This is the set up for what is about to happen to David. David is not where he ought to be.
Before we move forward we need to consider this setup carefully. Idle hands are problematic. Not keeping busy with what we ought to be busy doing sets us up for failure. How many sins are committed because we are not where we should be? How many sins are committed because we are not doing what we ought to be doing? One of the reasons God commands us to work secular jobs and commands us to do the work of the Lord is so that we will not have idle hands that will lead us into temptation. Paul wrote this very truth to the Thessalonians.
Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:6–12 ESV)
We do not need idle time because it puts us into temptation. We are not doing our children favors if we create for them hours of time where they have nothing to do. They are going to get in trouble. Be where you should be and do what you should be doing. Not doing so will set us up for spiritual failure.
The Sin (11:2-5)
Rather than being out in the battle, David is on the rooftop of his house. There is nothing unusual about being on your roof. There was not air conditioning back then and so being on your roof was quite common. There is nothing wrong with David being on the roof. The text does not condemn Bathsheba in anyway throughout this text. The problem was that David’s palace would be on elevated prime real estate and at this moment allowed him to look down and see her, where no one else in the city would have been able to see her. But what should David do at this point? He should go back in his house and not continue with what he sees. He does not have to entertain this. David has the power to remove this temptation from his eyes. He has the opportunity to move away from this temptation. But that is not what he does. Instead he asks to find out who this beautiful woman is.
Listen to the answer in verse 3. She is the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah. This is another opportunity to stop what he is doing. The messenger tells David that this woman is someone’s daughter and someone’s wife. Stop thinking what you are thinking. Stop entertaining in your mind what you are desiring. Listen to what is being told to you. She belongs to someone else. Your desires are misplaced. But he ignores this warning also and compels her to come to his palace. I believe the wording of verse 4 is important. David sent messengers and took her.
This is the essence of sin: just take what you want. You have the power to do what you want, so do it. This was the temptation of the serpent in the garden. Just take and eat it. For David, you can just go and take her. So that is what he does. This is the same thing we saw in 1 Samuel 25:39-40, 43, 2 Samuel 3:15, and 2 Samuel 5:13 where David is taking women into his harem. This was the very sin that Samuel warned Israel would happen if they had a king (cf. 1 Samuel 8:13). I hope that we see that a man using his power against a woman is not a new problem. It has been a sin that has been around a long time. David takes what he wants.
Finally, verses 4-5 reveal that Bathsheba was purifying herself from her uncleanness to prove that this pregnancy must be from David and not her husband from earlier. She has just finished her uncleanness. The child must belong to David and this sinful encounter.
The Coverup (11:6-24)
David is not through ignoring all the sin warnings that have been put in front of him. David sends for Uriah to come back from the battle, with the hope of covering this sin up by having him go be with his wife. But Uriah is not complicit with David’s deception. Uriah does not go to his house but sleeps at the entrance of David’s palace. David is told this and questions Uriah for not going home. Uriah’s answer is honorable. How could he go home and be with his wife when the ark of the covenant and Israel is camping in the open country? Uriah is seeking the blessing of God and showing purity while in the battle with the ark of the Lord, which is the presence of God. David pushes harder by making Uriah drunk so that he will go home. But Uriah shows his honor and still does not go to his home. This is a great contrast of holiness. David refuses to stop his lust and sleeps with Uriah’s wife, while a drunk Uriah can refuse to sleep with his own wife. He will not sleep with his own wife because of the battle while David will sleep with another man’s wife while the battle is going on. The Hittite shows great holiness and concern for God.
But even this does not stop David from what he is doing. David continues to try to cover this sin up. He sends orders by Uriah’s hand to tell Joab to put Uriah at the forefront of the fiercest fighting. Then draw back from him so that he is struck and killed (11:15). What a horrible premeditated, murderous plan! But Joab carries out the plan and Uriah is killed. Please notice that the righteous can be run over by the sins of the wicked and God does not stop it. Uriah has been righteous in all of this but he dies because of other people’s sinning. In fact, other men of Israel die in battle because of this also (11:17, 24).
The Searing Conscience (11:25-27)
When the news comes back that Uriah died as well as other soldiers in this maneuver of David, listen to what David says in verse 25. “Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another.” David has no regard for the loss of life. This statement will come back to haunt David because the sword will afflict his house because of this sin. David encourages Joab to continue to fight and finishes his coverup by taking Bathsheba to be his wife.
Now there is a wordplay that occurs toward the end of this account. David tells Joab to not let this matter displease him (11:25). Then look at verse 27. “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” While what David did has not trouble David, it troubled God. It was not evil in David’s mind but it was evil in the mind of the Lord.
There are so many important messages for our consideration and we have noted a few of them along the way. First, we need to see that sin does not just happen. You have to cross a lot of stop signs and red flags to get there. David does not see all the stop signs that were put up in his life. He should have been with his men in battle, not at home. He should have left the roof rather than inquiring about Bathsheba. He should have heard that she was someone’s daughter and someone’s wife. He should not have had her come to his house. He should have not slept with her. He should not have tried to cover up his sin twice by trying to send Uriah to his house. He should not have tried to cover up his sin by having Uriah killed. He crossed so many stop signs and ignored so many warnings that would have kept him from this disaster. We need to listen to the warnings given to us and the stop signs that God puts in front of us. Remember what the Lord tells us:
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV)
Look for those escapes and do not barrel ahead with your own plans. Stop before you commit grievous sins and errors.
Second, we need to see the scourge of sin. Here is the scourge of sin: you no longer care about your sins. It is shocking to see this happen in David. He takes a woman and commits adultery. He tries to cover up his sin twice. He continues the cover up with the death of Uriah and other soldiers. He gives a “well done” to one who helped him commit this sin. He even does not see what he did as wrong in the end. Finally, he thinks that he is going to get away with this and his happy for it. This is the scourge of sin. Your sin makes you callous to your sin. Your guilt fades away. Your confidence grows. You think you are good with God when all the while you are not. We must realize what sin is doing to us. Sin makes us no longer care about our sinning. All hope is lost when we no longer care about what we are doing. When we normalize or excuse our sin, we are no longer caring about what we have done. Just because we do not judge our actions as evil does not mean that we have not done evil. Remember what we see in the scriptures. The problem is not that we sin. The problem is how we handle our sin. This is David’s grave error. David has handled his sin with even more sinning rather than repentance.
Finally, never think that this cannot happen to us. Who would have thought that this would be the outcome for David? David has seemed so righteous and such a lover of God. He has been so faithful. But Satan attacked his weakness and he caved into his sin. We can look at these kinds of sins and think that we would never do something like this. But it is far easier than we give credit. So many people who have been faithful fell into serious, devastating sins because they were not careful and did not consider that this could also be their fate. God also gives this warning in the same place where he tells us that every temptation has a way of escape:
Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:11–12 ESV)
In short, it can happen to you. Not only can it happen to you, if you think it will never happen to you then it will happen to you. Every sin is possible. Every sin is on the table and we must guard against them all. We never so strong to think that this particular sin would never catch us. Watch out! Be careful or else the same fate will happen to you.