2 Samuel 11
The story of David and Bathsheba is so familiar and yet, there is so much to learn from this brief chapter. First, the fact that it presents David in such an unflattering light tells us volumes about the truth of God’s Word. For those who content the Bible reflects centuries of revisionist history, it’s difficult to explain how a story which positions a national hero as a murderer for the sake of his reputation made the cut. It remains in the Bible, like many other less-than-flattering accounts, because it happened and because there is much to be learned from David’s choices.
The first paragraph is ripe with poetic irony. “In the spring, when kings go off to war . . . But David remained in Jerusalem.” David, the war-hero-turned-king, chose to stay behind and let others fight his battles. Then we see he is up at night, pacing the floor. Perhaps his guilty conscience wouldn’t allow him to sleep when his men were fighting while he enjoyed palace luxuries like a bed. Whatever the cause for his sleeplessness, his meandering leads him to spy upon a woman performing the ritual cleaning required following her cycle.
He inquires and discovers that she is married, but not only that, she is married to a man who stood by his side throughout the years of running and hiding from Saul’s murderous rage. Her husband was among the thirty mighty men who hid in caves and guarded David’s life. His disdain for God’s plan for his own marriage was already evident in him taking multiple wives and concubines, but now he demonstrates disdain not only for the institution of marriage, but also for the loyalty and value of friendship.
Although we do not know how Bathsheba received his attention, it’s fair to suppose the relationship wasn’t consensual as historical tradition has suggested in painting Bathsheba as a harlot. The mention of her mourning for her husband doesn’t suggest a woman who willingly cheated on him.
One of the most painfully ironic statements in this chapter is when Uriah tells David, in verse 11, “The chest and Israel and Judah are all living in tents,” Uriah told David. “And my master Joab and my master’s troops are camping in the open field. How could I go home and eat, drink, and have sex with my wife? I swear on your very life, I will not do that!”
Uriah is unwilling to sleep in his own home for even a night while his brothers-in-arms and the Ark of the Covenant are in tents, but David was unwilling to leave the comfort of his palace for even a night. Not only was he willing to have sex with his own many wives, while his troops were deprived of their families, he stole the wife of his close friend!
The final irony is that in murdering his friend in order to keep his adultery from being known, the story now includes not only his adultery, but also murder. Friend, you can never cover up one sin with another sin! Lies will never fix the problems caused by sin! Failure to recognize sin in our life and to repent of it causes it to grow like a deadly mold, sometimes popping up in unexpected places. David’s sin of omission in failing to lead his troops led to greater and greater sin – first lust, then rape, then murder.
What sin of omission in your life is creating a warm, moist environment for future sins to flourish? Here are a few that I’ve found over the years and had to repent of: lack of prayer, lack of time in God’s Word, failure to respond to God’s calling to serve, failure to give generously as God has called us to, and failure to prioritize my life according to God’s priorities rather than worldly ones.