2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:1-13.
 Acknowledging Our Sin

Copyright © 2008, American Journal of Biblical Theology
www.biblicaltheology.com   Scripture quotes from KJV


Several years ago the Christian community was shocked by the scandals surrounding the Jimmy Swaggart ministries.  Rev. Swaggart accused two fellow ministers of sexual misconduct and financial dishonesty.  He used sensational revelations and allegations to build television ratings and to enhance contributions.  Rather than extending a helping hand, he hurled epithets with intent to stifle the other two men's effectiveness.  Ultimately one evangelist (Jimmy Bakker) was tried, found guilty of fraud, and sentenced to prison. Truth had prevailed; justice had been served.  The victor took to the airways with even greater passion for righteousness and justice.

Then counter allegations began to surface.  Pictures began to be made available to the press.  A specific woman came forward with accounts of sexual improprieties between her and the evangelist who had waged spiritual battle over other's sins.  Rev. Swaggartís support base began to crumble.  Christians were shocked and stunned to view the man weeping on camera and admitting, "I have sinned."  The entire spectacle was a lesson in Jesus' words,

Luke 6:42. 

Cast out first the beam out of thine own eye.

We need to acknowledge first our own sin.  Rather than taking a magnifying glass to others' faults, we need to put our own life under God's microscope.  Usually such close inspection is quite painful and humbling.  That step may be our first step toward healing and forgiveness.  David learned that truth the hard way.

2 Sam 11:1. 

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.

Kings usually led their troops into war.  That was what the King was called for, and what was expected.  Davidís leisurely absence from the battle lines must have been evident to the troops, an absence that would have affected both their morale and their focus.  This verse alone describes a growing problem in David's current ministry.  He is not where he is supposed to be, and is absent by his own choice. 

What is it that would draw David away from his responsibilities?  What form of rationalization is David using to justify sending his troops off without his leadership.  We might notice a little bit of this growing lethargy in Davidís desire to build a palace for himself, and another for God, as previously recorded in 2 Samuel 7.   David is acting as if he thinks he has now attained his goals.  He is now the king, the country is relatively secure, and he is free to send his troops out with his subordinates to do some mop-up operations.

The error of Davidís assumption of his completed tasks was addressed to him by the prophet Nathan[1] and it is evident that he understood when he responded to the LORD in prayer.[2]  However, the basic direction of his leadership did not seem to change very much.  When we encounter David in the coming spring, we find him wholly outside of Godís will.

2 Sam 11:2. 

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the kingís house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon,

It might be curious to note that David had been in bed at a time when the sun was still shining.  He is the king.  What is he doing taking a nap in the early evening?  Equally, of interest, why was David wandering around the roof at this time?  Again, he was not where he was supposed to be.  He was living a life of leisure while his troops were fighting for their lives and their land.  On one of his visits to the roof, he saw a beautiful woman bathing on the neighboring rooftop.  The palace was large, and its southern bulwark, for the most part, stretched across the entire width of the small city.  As he looked to the south, all he saw was the top of the smaller structures that crowded together on this small hilltop.  The home of Uriah and Bathsheba could have been only a few yards from the palace wall.

Why would a woman be bathing on the rooftop, in plain sight of the palace?  One could surmise that she wanted David to see her.  It is more likely that the rooftop was a place of privacy that was visible only from the palace rooftop where there would be no expectation of any viewers. 

What was initially a rare and quite innocent encounter could have easily remained such.  What would be the proper response of a man in this situation?  Upon recognizing the situation, David could simply and quickly turned away, admiring her beauty, but leaving it there. 

Though the seeds of this sin were well planted by this time, the encounter could have been remained innocent if when David first realized his sinful response to the encounter he first would seek the LORD for his defense against the temptation.  Had David sought out God's plan in this situation, the sequence of events that would become the greatest scandal of his life, a scandal that would shape the character of his reign and would be forever remembered, would have ended harmlessly here.

2 Sam 11:3. 

And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

David's seeking to find out her identity was not that unreasonable in ancient Near-Eastern culture.  He found the young woman quite attractive, and the King was expected to have multiple wives.  As David settled into his reign, he also shared his task with other kings who were all expected to simply take those things in their kingdom that they wanted.  The temptation to take was great.  If this woman was an uncommitted virgin, David would have been expected to give her an opportunity to come to the palace if he, as the king, chose to invite her.  However, word came back that the beautiful bather was Bathsheba, daughter of a respected Jew named Eliam and granddaughter of his chief advisor, Ahithophel.  She was also the wife of Uriah, a Hittite, one of the most ancient people groups of the near-east, who had converted to Judaism.  Uriah was also an officer in David's army, under Joash, not unexpected for one who would live so close to the palace.  As a wife of one of his officers, the taking of Bathsheba was not allowed.

Knowing this, what should David have done? 

2 Sam 11:4. 

And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.

What David did was clearly premeditated, and by using his own messengers to get her, was arrogant and self-serving.  He knew her husband was away from home, so he invited her to come to him.  Again, her willingness to become quickly intimate with David defends the argument of some scholars that Bathshebaís behavior on the rooftop simply and obviously illustrated her intentions, and she was a willing participant in the adultery.  It is interesting that the scripture includes that statement that she ceremonially cleansed herself, and by doing so, acknowledged the sinfulness of the act. and her intent of walking away from the encounter without consequence.

2 Sam 11:5. 

And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. 

Oh, how the plot thickens.  Let us observe the progression of the sin.   The scandal started by David's idleness, brought on by his own lack of commitment to his original calling as the king and the leader of his armies.  This led to the incident on the rooftop, where, innocently seeing Bathsheba he immediately lusted after her and actively sought her out.  Only David's messengers could know about what happened until now.  With Bathsheba pregnant, the whole world would soon know of the sin between David and Bathsheba.  This inspired David to action. 

Davidís strategy was to cover one sin with another.  What happens when we utilize such a strategy?  Each sin, requiring cover, only adds to the complexity of the cover, making it more and more difficult to cover what is becoming a greater and greater sin. 

2 Sam 11:6-8. 

And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. 8And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the kingís house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. 

What did David do?  It is imperative that Bathsheba sleep with her husband quickly so that it would appear that the child who would be born would be Uriahís.  Such a move also compromises the strategy of the army in the field, and jeopardizes the safety of his soldiers.  When sin covers sin, there is little limit to the collateral damage of the unconsidered consequences.  He called for Uriah to return from the battle, and interviewed him about the battle status, an interview that may have served useful to him politically, but was clearly meant to hide his true intentions for calling Uriah back..  The then told Uriah to go to his house and "wash his feet."  Our language today makes use of many different euphemisms to describe sexual encounters, and Hebrew culture did the same.  One who reads the scriptures literally, without contextual exposition would wonder why Uriahís feet were dirty.  However, David was using a euphemism that called upon Uriah to go home and enjoy intimacy with his wife, an intimacy that was ritually cleansed with washing. 

However, their culture also held that soldiers would abstain from sexual relations while engaged in battle.  Uriah was a good man, and could not follow David's orders when his comrades were still in the battle.  His dedication was so great, that he would not even go to his home, a few steps away from the palace entrance, lest he would dishonor his men. 

2 Samuel 11:9-11. 

But Uriah slept at the door of the kingís house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. 10And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? 11And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.

David's plan was not working.  David was trying to cover up the sin he had committed and Uriah would not, because of his own integrity, go along with Davidís plan.  This meant that David would have to take an even more aggressive approach to the problem. 

2 Sam 11:12-13. 

And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. 13And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.

David continued down the spiral of sinful behavior as he became desperate to cover up his sin with Bathsheba.  Had he been thinking clearly he might have at least had his servants escort Uriah home.  Even a short visit at home by the drunken Uriah would have ended the sequence of events that was now clearly in a free-fall.

It is evident that even David was not immune from the compromise in judgment that desperation and guilt from sin can bring.  When we try to cover one sin with another, the spiral can quickly escalate to the point where we are not thinking clearly at all as we depend upon our own limited wisdom to handle the situation.  Even at this point, had David turned to God, the impact of the sin and scandal on Davidís life could have been minimal.  Had he come forward with an honest confession there would have certainly been some impact on his reputation as his hypocrisy would be more openly exposed. 

A demonstration of honesty, even at this late period in the sequence of sin, would have minimized the collateral damage of Davidís free-fall from integrity.  Often we may think we have gone too far, we may think that the consequences of confession are greater than the consequences of the sin.  However, like the events taking place in Davidís life, any continuation of the free-fall is the result of a failure to seek God.  Surely God would have dealt with David in a fair manner.  Still, David insisted on solving the problem his own way, the way a ďkingĒ would doÖ

2 Sam 11:14-15. 

And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.

Joab, Davidís commander, would honor the order of the King without question.  Joab would likely assume that this death sentence was Davidís way of discreetly punishing Uriah for some secret sin against God or against the throne of the King.  However, this also put Joab into a difficult situation.  Military strategy is designed to protect your troops, not to put them into danger.  By putting his troops in danger, Joab would be bringing his own position and authority under scrutiny. 

It is one thing to take responsibility for our sin ourselves.  However, we see in Davidís downward spiral he was now including a broader and broader group of people into his web of deceit.  This time he was causing another person to be part of the sin itself, conspiring with the unwitting Joab to commit murder.

2 Sam 11:16-25. 

And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. 17And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. 18Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; 19And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, 20And if so be that the kingís wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? 21Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. 22So the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for. 23And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. 24And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the kingís servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. 25Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.

Not only did Uriah die as a result of Davidís premeditated conspiracy, others were with him when Joab clearly commanded them to fight too near to the cityís defenses.  Joab knew that he would be criticized for the strategy of his attack.  It was commonly known from past experience that during a siege it is not wise to approach the walls of the city.  By David's failure to censure Joab for his poor strategy, he again was making this an obvious part of the scandal.

David's small sin of indiscretion swelled into lust when sin presented itself.  David acted on that lust, and by this time he had murdered several men in order to cover up his own act of hypocrisy.  What does this teach us about the nature of sin?

James 1:13-15.  Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

2 Sam 11:26-27. 

And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

David had now ďcoveredĒ the crimes, married Bathsheba who would bear a son.  The people would not be any the wiser.  If the child was the son of David or the son of Uriah it would make little difference to the people, he would still be a prince since David married the pregnant widow.  The people would think that this was a valiant thing to do.  One can envision Davidís own self-satisfaction over his apparent success at protecting the ďhonorĒ of the throne.  However, it is not the worldly throne that we are called to honor.

2 Sam 12:1-4. 

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. 2The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: 3But 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. 4And there came a traveller 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 manís lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him.

One of David's primary responsibilities as the king of Israel was to render justice in matters in the kingdom.  The story brought by Nathan was not received by David as a parable.  He was hearing about a poor man who was the victim of a rich man's greed.  As God often works on the behalf of the poor, it was the King's place to champion the cause of the poor.  It is obvious that Nathan was playing on the theme of what David had done to Uriah.  Even the word used for "daughter" in verse 3 is of interest when "Bathsheba" means "daughter of an oath."  David heard the name of Bathsheba in Nathanís story.  The rich man killed the pet lamb to provide hospitality to a traveler.  The poor man had no one to protect his property.

2 Sam 12:5-6. 

And Davidís 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: 6And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

What was David's response towards the rich man?  The word for anger includes the concept of "snorting and heavy breathing".  David really got angry.  He started his judgment with an oath calling upon the name of the Lord, and referred to the rich man (in the Hebrew) as the "son of death."  He told Nathan that this person, who would do such a travesty, deserves death.  David also stated that restitution is required.  The fourfold restitution stated here is translated as sevenfold in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew.  The demand for restitution is in the Law, in Exodus 22:1.

Without knowing it, the fourfold sentence he had set down was a sentence passed on himself.  In subsequent years four of his sons would die, starting with Bathsheba's first son, and followed by Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah.

2 Sam 12:7-9. 

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; 8And I gave thee thy masterís house, and thy masterís wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. 9Wherefore 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.

God listed the many blessings that He had given to David.  He anointed him king, delivered him from Saul, gave him Saul's property and family, including Saul's wives; gave him a united kingdom to rule, and He would continue to meet other needs as well.  However, it would seem that this was not enough.  David would take for his own what he desire.  David despised God's laws; killed Uriah; and took Uriahís wife.  David had no excuse for his sin, just as we have no excuse for ours.

2 Sam 12:10. 

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.

Godís judgment upon David was an affirmation of what David had brought upon himself because of the violent nature of his spirit.  The sword would not leave David's house; violence would characterize the solution for many issues to come, issues that would be resolved without consideration of Godís purpose.  Under the Mosaic Law, the penalty for adultery (as well as murder) was death by stoning.  Short of forgiveness, David was subject to such an end.  However, we find that God is far more merciful than was David.  David sentenced the rich man of Nathanís parable to death, while God sentenced David to life; not life in prison, but a free life with all of sinís consequences. 

2 Sam 12:11-13. 

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 neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. 12For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. 13And 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.

David acknowledged that he had sinned.  He had sinned against Bathsheba, her husband, his servants, his commander, his nation, and ultimately, his God.  Even when our sin hurts no other person, it damages our relationship with God.  David responded by sincerely confessing his sin.  Though, repentance is not stated it is assumed because God forgave David's sin.  There is no evidence of any such hypocritical behavior in the remainder of Davidís life.  However, he would never escape the consequences of his sin, even to the point of his death.

Note that though David was forgiven, there would still be a price to pay.  He and those around him would have to live with the consequences of his act.  David's own actions are an indicator of character flaws that are a part of who he is, and common to man.  When these flaws are taught to his children, they will also suffer.

Think about your own life.  Do you not believe that God wants you to experience the fullness of your salvation in its joy and peace?  What is keeping you from experiencing that joy?  Very possibly, you may be suffering from the consequences of  unconfessed sin.  It may not be a sin of murder or adultery, but there are many other sins that destroy our joy and our fellowship with one another and stand firmly between where we are and where God calls us to be.  What are those sins?  Are you refusing to forgive others for their sins?  The scriptures also teach that to be forgiven we must forgive others.  However, forgiveness starts at home.  We must first acknowledge our own sin.  As David made no excuses, we also have no excuse for our sin.   We must confess our transgressions and bring them to God, turning from our wickedness.  Then God is faithful to forgive our sin and restore to us the joy of our salvation.

We all deserve death and hell for our sin.  Psalm 51 was written by David following his learning that his sin with Bathsheba was known by God and by all others.  It demonstrates several truths about our need for forgiveness.

Psa 51:1-13.  Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. 7Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.


[1] 2 Samuel 7:4 ff.

[2] 2 Samuel 7:18 ff.