This article contains an exposition of 2 Samuel 12:1-25, as well as questions and discussion points for Bible study.

4 pages.

2 Samuel 12:1-25 – David is Again Brought Back to the Messianic Track

Chapter 11 describes the sin of David with Uriah and Bathsheba. Chapter 12 deals with the confession of guilt, punishment, and grace. Through the sin which he committed, David had wandered off the Messianic track, but is allowed to return to it and continue on it. The word ‘again’ is used because David had wandered off that track before. See outline 5 about 1 Samuel 30. In that outline I explained the expression ‘Messianic track’.

Why is chapter 12 dealt with instead of chapter 11? I consciously made that choice, not because I prefer to avoid talking about David’s sin. When the LORD tells us what sort of person David really is, then we must honestly recognize his sin for what it is. Apparently, this is how we should come to know David, a man inclined to all kinds of evil, just like all of us. But when the guilt has been confessed and God has forgiven the sin, what would we find more important -- to highlight the reconciliation or become wrapped up in the details of the sin? To pose the question is to answer it, to Christians at least.

I have to say something about the context of the events. In chapter 8 and 10 you can read that God fulfilled his promises concerning the expansion of David’s kingdom. His kingdom has reached the pinnacle of its glory. At this point, things go wrong in the heart of the kingdom, in the heart of the king. When this happens, God is going to perform ‘heart surgery’ for the sake of the future of his kingdom.

1. Verses 1-6🔗

God allowed David time to come to him and confess his sin on his own initiative. By the time Nathan visits David, Bathsheba had already given birth to the child that David fathered (v. 14). However, David does not come; he continues to cover up his sin (cf. Ps 32:3). The LORD does not simply leave it at this, though. If David does not come to him, he will go to David. On the one hand this results in judgment and punishment. God cannot simply leave sin unpunished. On the other hand this results in grace. God wants to continue to travel with his servant.

Question 1: What is the similarity between the manner in which God deals with David and the way in which he dealt with Adam after the fall into sin (Gen 3:9)?

Notice David’s reaction to the story Nathan told him. The verdict he pronounces on the rich man is, in light of the Law of Moses, too severe (see the KorteVerklaring). Covering up your own sins often goes hand in hand with judging others’ sins too severely. The verdict that David pronounces, though, does suit his own sin (see Lev. 20:10).

2. Verses 7-14🔗

Pay attention to the introduction, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says...” The King of Israel presents himself to his revolutionary viceroy who has gone in his own, wrong direction. He is now called to account by his ‘Superior’.

By despising God’s command (v. 9), David despised God Himself (v. 10). God has granted him so many good things (v. 8), yet this is his token of appreciation. This is the most severe reproach David gets to hear. It is the kind of reproach that can be found in other places in the Bible (e.g. Isa 5:1-4; Amos 2:9,10).

Question 2:    In verse 9 David’s murder of Uriah is mentioned first. Only after that is his sin with Bathsheba mentioned, even though he committed that sin first. 1 Kings 15:5 also mentions the ‘case of Uriah the Hittite’. How can you explain this? In light of that, assess the heading above chapter 11 in the NIV. Why do we often emphasize David’s sin with Bathsheba more than his killing of Uriah?

Notice how the punishment matches the sin - sword is matched with another sword and adultery with another adultery (vv. 10, 11). And whereas David wanted to hide his sin out of fear of being caught, the sin with which he will be punished will be committed in public. See 2 Samuel 16:21. The punishment is very severe, yet David does not receive the punishment he deserves (v. 13).

David’s confession of sin may be short, but it is therefore not ‘cheap’. You need to place this confession beside Psalm 51, and then you realize how deep David’s guilt feelings run.

Question 3:  In Psalm 51:4 David says, “Against you, you only, have I sinned...”  Did he not sin against Uriah and Bathsheba? Why does David put it like this? What can we learn from this?

As soon as the guilt is confessed, even in just a few words, grace is extended. This is the way the LORD deals with his people.

Question 4: Why was it necessary for David to compose Psalm 51 after he confessed his sins?

Apparently and despite his cunning, David did not manage to keep his sin secret (v. 14). If you really stop to think about it, it is actually not so surprising. The enemies of God appreciate such an opportunity and make the most of it: ‘What kind of a servant does the God of Israel employ anyway?’ The LORD is greatly offended when his children are the cause of this kind of slanderous talk. For that reason, another punishment follows which will soon be executed. Then the enemies of God will know right away how God deals with the misdeeds of his servant!

Question 5:  How can David’s punishment be reconciled with Ezekiel 18:1-4?

3. Verses 15-25🔗

David’s prayer for his son’s life does not imply that he deems this punishment too severe. This becomes obvious afterwards. When the child dies he does not react rebelliously. However, as long as there is life he hopes and prays that this ‘cup’ will pass him. Seemingly, David is also able, through prayer, to accept from God’s hand whatever his will is. His reaction described in verse 20 points in that direction.

Question 6: David’s words and verses 22 and 23 appear very sober and ‘business-like’.  However, considering verse 20, how ought we to view them? I am pointing to the fact that David worships in the house of God. What is the implication of this in this situation?

Question 7: “I will go to him” (v. 23). Some say that David believed his little son was inheaven. Could you draw such a conclusion from this verse without additional information? Or does David here mean the same thing as what Jacob said in Genesis 37:35 “I will go down to the grave to my son”?

Precisely from the marriage with Bathsheba, which came about through sin, the future heir to the throne is born. God decided it that way (1 Chron 22:9,10). Thus, this marriage receives a place on the road that leads to the coming Messiah. Read Matthew 1:6b. This marriage is specifically mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. God’s grace and his faithfulness triumphs over sin.

4. The work of the LORD in this account🔗

David wandered off the messianic track. Instead of displaying the style of a king anointed by God, he acts like a typical eastern despot. In the meantime, the enemies slander. However, God comes into action to bring the derailed king back on track. His grace becomes apparent even before the announcement of forgiveness in verse 13. Already in verse 7 God’s grace shines forth. It is grace when your guilt is exposed and when you are led to confess that guilt. God leads sinful David down a different road than sinful Saul. He only does that for the sake of his word and according to his will (cf. 7:21). His promise will be fulfilled. Christ must come to die for David’s sins and for ours. The fact that God ensures David’s return, shows at the same time his care for our salvation. Christ’s death makes our return from sin to the way of the LORD possible, even from serious sins.

For the introduction🔗

  1. You can illustrate the seriousness of David’s sin by showing that he broke quite a few of the Ten Commandments. Clearly, his sin was against the sixth, seventh, and eighth commandments, but also against the third (v. 14) and the ninth (deceiving Uriah). In this account there is a strong emphasis on the transgression of the tenth commandment. David desired more (and something different) than what God had already granted to him. Whoever does that, in fact deems God’s gifts insufficient (v. 8).
  2. Show that David sinned against the law for the king in Deuteronomy 17 (esp. vv. 19, 20).
  3. By killing Uriah, David has incurred bloodguilt upon himself in a most grisly manner. Once in the past he had been thankful to a woman for preventing him from committing such a sin (1 Sam 25:33).
  4. Make clear that Bathsheba should not be included as part of the judgment pronounced on David. ‘She must have enjoyed it, too’ or even, ‘she probably bathed herself intentionally at that time’ are comments which are not in place here. There is no reason to suggest a woman is by default always partly responsible. Whether or not she was partly guilty is completely beside the point. Somebody wrote in this context, ‘In Nathan’s parable, the question is not about whether the ewe lamb was responsible or not, either’.
  5. It may be a good idea to pay some more attention to Psalm 51. Verse 7, for instance, is of importance. There, David identifies the root of the sin: by nature, this is the kind of human I am. In this context, we are like David. When we sing this psalm in church we do not thereby indicate that we have committed the same terrible sins as he. However, it does mean that we, by nature, are capable of the same. Knowing this, we ought not to think that we are much better than those who actually did commit these sins. (Compare Galatians 6:1.)  Also of importance is verse 13: Saul was rejected as king, yet God took his spirit away from him. Also note verse 15: How will a king reprimand his subjects, as long as he himself continues to cling to sin himself?
  6. In connection with this last point (Ps 51:15), you could point to the responsible position of office-bearers in the church. However, it is good not to limit yourself to paying attention to the responsibility of office-bearers. Every child of God can potentially wander off salvation’s track. Neither should we limit the application to the area of sexuality. Especially in this chapter we may emphasize the fact that there always is a way back, thanks to Jesus Christ. Note: In the Canons of Dordt, chapter V, article 4 you can read how believing children of God - through God’s righteous permission - can fall into sin. There, David is mentioned as an example. When you refer to this article it is important that you do not simply equate David with us. You must not lose sight of David’s special position!

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