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19. David’s Downfall (2 Samuel 11-24)

2 Samuel 11-24176


Some years ago I read a story in the newspaper that I found amusing. A man and his wife decided to go to a drive-in movie. The husband had the bright idea of trying to save the price of one admission. Just outside of the theater entrance, they stopped the car and the husband slipped into the trunk. The wife then paid for her admission, parked inside, and went back to let her husband out of the trunk. There was only one problem – he had the trunk keys in his pocket! After their efforts failed, the wife had to call for help. I don’t know how many rescue people showed up, but by the time it was all over everyone knew that they had tried to cheat the theater out of the price of a ticket. The rescue people had to force the trunk open, which resulted in a good deal of damage. When it was all over, neither the husband nor the wife saw the movie, they suffered considerable humiliation, and they had to pay for the repairs to their trunk.

This story reminds me of the account of David’s sin with Bathsheba in our text. To David, his actions on that fateful spring night seemed trivial, just a momentary pause in an otherwise pious life. The consequences, however, were devastating, not just for David, or for Uriah, but also for David’s family and the entire nation. The whole nation paid a high price for David’s immorality.

When we study the Old Testament (or even the New), we must overcome the mindset that these biblical events were the “long ago and the far away” – events far removed from us, not only in space and time, but also in relevance. That is not the case with our text, however. In the light of recent events in American politics, our problem is almost the opposite. A man’s abuse of his political power, followed by his futile attempts to cover up his sin, are common knowledge today. Reports of such things have dominated the news for several years. We are so accustomed to this kind of sin that we have become desensitized to it. We ought to be shocked and horrified, but these things are just too common. Our text should help us to put these things back into their proper perspective and to view sin as God does.

As we study the declining and most difficult years of David’s life, let us all be acutely aware that we are fully capable of committing the sins David committed, or ones just as evil. Some may already have walked in David’s footsteps. Others may be on the verge of doing so. Let us listen well to the words of our text and to the promptings and conviction of the Holy Spirit, so that we need not learn David’s lessons the hard way as he did.

What Is a Man Like You Doing In a Place Like This?

Conditions Favorable to David’s Fall

If you build a new house, you must construct a guard rail around your roof to avoid bringing culpability to yourself in the event someone should fall from it (Deuteronomy 22:8).177

28 If a bull gores a man or a woman so that either dies, then the ox must surely be stoned and its flesh must not be eaten; but the owner of the bull will be acquitted. 29 But if the bull had the habit of goring, and its owner was warned, and he did not take the necessary precautions, and then it killed a man or a woman, the bull must be stoned and the man must be put to death (Exodus 21:28-29).

There are certain conditions that predispose us to problems in the future. If one is building a house with a roof which is used as we might use a balcony (which was common in the biblical world — see Acts 10:ff.), then to fail to put guard rails around the perimeter of the roof would make it too easy for someone to fall off, and the owner would be liable. If a man owned an ox that had previously gored someone, he was guilty of murder if that ox ever gored anyone again. If you fail to fasten your child in his or her seatbelt, you may be held liable for any injury to your child if an accident occurs. We can also get a ticket for failing to fasten our own seatbelt. Neglecting important matters can lead to serious trouble, for us and for others.

As I read the story of David’s fall in 2 Samuel 11, I am reminded of these words in the Book of Proverbs:

6 For at the window of my house
through my window-lattice I looked out
7 and I saw among the naive,
I discerned among the youths,
a young man who lacked wisdom.
8 He was passing by the street near her corner,
making his way along the road to her house
9 in the twilight, the evening,
in the dark of the night.
10 All of a sudden a woman came out to meet him!
She was dressed like a prostitute and with secret intent.
11 (She is loud and rebellious,
she does not remain at home—
12 at one time outside, at another in the wide plazas,
and by every corner she lies in wait.)
13 So she grabbed him and kissed him,
and with a bold expression she said to him,
14 “I have fresh meat at home;
today I have fulfilled my vows!
15 That is why I came out to meet you,
to look for you, and I found you!
16 I have spread my bed with elegant coverings,
with richly colored fabric from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of lovemaking until morning,
let’s delight ourselves with sexual intercourse.
19 For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a journey of some distance.
20 He has taken a bag of money with him;
he will not return until the end of the month.”
21 She persuaded him with persuasive words;
with her smooth speech she compelled him.
22 Suddenly he went after her
like an ox that goes to the slaughter,
like a stag prancing into a trapper’s snare
23 till an arrow pierces his liver—
like a bird hurrying into a trap;
and he does not know that it will cost him his life (Proverbs 7:6-23).

Let me begin by saying that I am in no way comparing this harlot with Bathsheba, so as to imply that Bathsheba somehow lured David into sin as this woman lures this nave young man into sin. Proverbs 7:22-23 describes the young man’s actions as sudden and impulsive, and so they are. But his sudden impulse to sin comes at the end of a sequence of wrong choices on his part. The young man is out at night, wandering the streets. He seems to be lingering at a place where he should not be. The woman finds this young man and tells him what she knows he wants to hear. He listens to her seductive words and then suddenly decides to partake of her offer.

The point of this proverb is to teach young men to beware of such women and of such circumstances. The proverb may be summed up: “Don’t go there!” As I read the story of David’s downfall, I see his sudden impulse to sin as the outcome of a sequence of failures on David’s part. Let me briefly call attention to a couple of very serious errors on David’s part.

First, David chose not to be engaged in Israel’s battle with the Ammonites. Second Samuel 11 begins with these words:

In the spring of the year, at the time when kings normally conduct wars, David sent out Joab with his soldiers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1, emphasis mine).

David should have been on the battlefield and not in the bedroom.

Second, in a time of war, a soldier was not to indulge himself in the normal comforts of life, including sexual relations with his wife (let alone anyone else’s wife). When David and his men fled from Saul to Ahimelech the priest at Nob, he requested bread from Ahimelech. Note very carefully the priest’s words and David’s response:

4 The priest replied to David, “I don’t have any ordinary bread at my disposal. Only holy bread is available, and then only if the soldiers have abstained from women.” 5 David said to the priest, “Certainly women have been kept away from us, just as on previous occasions when I have gone out. The soldiers’ equipment is holy, even on an ordinary journey. How much more so will they be holy today, along with their equipment!” (1 Samuel 21:4-5)

David’s words to Ahimelech reflect his awareness of the fact that men who are at war don’t “make love.” The tragedy is that when David ceased to behave as a warrior should, he also sought to persuade Uriah to do likewise. David must have felt the sting of Nathan’s response:

7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.” When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him. 9 But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house. 10 So they informed David, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you just arrived from a journey? Why haven’t you gone down to your house?” 11 Uriah replied to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah reside in huts, and my lord Joab and my lord’s soldiers are camping in the field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and have marital relations with my wife? As surely as you are alive, I will not do this thing!” (2 Samuel 11:7-11, emphasis mine)

Third, Joab will soon gently rebuke David for not being present and not participating in Israel’s conflict with the Ammonites:

26 So Joab fought in Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal city. 27 Then Joab sent messengers to David saying, “I have fought in Rabbah and have captured the water supply of the city. 28 So now assemble the rest of the army and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will capture the city and it will be named for me.” 29 So David assembled all the army and went to Rabbah and fought against it and captured it. 30 He took the crown of their king from his head—it was gold, weighed about seventy-five pounds, and held a precious stone—and it was placed on David’s head. He also took from the city a great deal of plunder (2 Samuel 12:26-30).

This was certainly a hollow victory for David, but at least he finally made an appearance at Rabbah. All of this is to say that while David’s sin appears to be sudden, and certainly out of character, it is one that results from David’s neglect of duty and his misuse of power. We shall see this as we consider the sequence of events at his downfall.

David’s Fall

David arises from his bed in the evening and strolls about on his roof. Does this mean that he has spent the day in bed? He certainly did not stay home to catch up on his work there. David’s roof would have been the “penthouse apartment” of that day. His palace no doubt had a commanding view of Jerusalem, and the view would have been even better from the roof.178 As he looked out, he beheld a woman bathing. This is not necessarily unusual. I have seen many poor people bathing themselves on the streets of India. (In such circumstances, they don’t do so completely unclothed, either.) The poor do not have the privilege of complete privacy.

When David caught sight of this woman, he was not a gentleman. He did not look away; instead his eyes fixed on her as he contemplated her beauty. He was, at this moment, no better than a peeping tom. I must pause here for a moment to say that what David did was not possible for most men, because they did not live in a palace that allowed them to look down on the world below. But the same sin has become even easier for men and women today. I am speaking of pornography. We may, by only a few clicks of a mouse, look at all the nakedness and perversion we wish on the internet. We can, by merely pushing a certain button on the remote control, see more nudity than David saw on the screen of our television while watching a network broadcast. Countless lives have been destroyed by looking at things we should not see.

Had David not been the king of Israel, this matter would have gone no further. But he was the most powerful man in Israel. What David wanted, he could get, and without as much as a word of protest. David first sent his servants to inquire about this woman’s identity. When he was told that she was married, this was another checkpoint that should have terminated his pursuit. But it was not a barrier for David. He sent and had this woman brought to him, and he slept with her.

It is my opinion that the author makes no attempt to place any of the blame on Bathsheba. We are not told that she acted in a provocative manner. Every step was taken at the initiative of David. Nathan’s rebuke places the entire blame on David, and not on Bathsheba. She was but a young woman, the wife of a foreigner; David was the king. When he summoned someone to come, they came. It was not David’s charms that brought Bathsheba. The two had never met before that night. It was David’s power that brought this event to pass.

When Bathsheba learned that she was pregnant, she sent word to David. David now reached another checkpoint in his life. He could own up to his sin and accept the consequences, or he could attempt a cover-up. David chose the latter. David once again abuses his power. He summons Uriah from the field of battle on the pretext of obtaining a first-hand report on how the war was going. His plan is to bring Uriah home, assuming that Uriah will do what he himself did – sleep with Bathsheba. Then, it would appear as though this child David fathered was Uriah’s child.

It would have worked, too, if Uriah had acted as David did. How tempting it was for Uriah to do as David suggested – to go to his house and to spend the night with his wife. Uriah was a soldier, but he was much more than that; Uriah was a military hero (see 2 Samuel 23:39).179 He was a man who understood duty, and he would not forsake his duties, even to be with his wife and even after David got him drunk (2 Samuel 11:13).

David’s plan to get Uriah to sleep with his wife failed. Uriah would know that the child was not his. David was faced with another decision. Would he finally confess his sin, or would he move to another level of evil? Sad to say, David chose not to confess. It is at this point that David enters into an uncharacteristic partnership with Joab. David considered Joab to be a murderer:

“You know what Joab son of Zeruiah did to me—how he murdered two commanders of the Israelite armies, Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether. During peacetime he struck them down like he would in battle; when he shed their blood as if in battle, he stained his own belt and the sandals on his feet” (1 Kings 2:5).

Sin makes strange bedfellows of men. This alliance between David and Joab would never have happened had David not, for the moment, become like Joab, a man whose violence David despised.

Realizing that Uriah has too much integrity to sleep with his wife during war, David changes his plans. David sends orders to Joab, placing Uriah’s death warrant in this valiant warrior’s hand. This man could be trusted to carry these orders and not even to look at them. What an incredible man Uriah was!

While Uriah is at his best, David has now reached an all-time low. When you stop to think about it, David has now become very much like Saul. Uriah is a loyal servant of David, who would not harm his king, yet the king (David) seeks his life through the same means Saul employed when he sought to kill David:

Then Saul said to David, “Here’s my oldest daughter, Merab. I want to give her to you in marriage. Only be a brave warrior for me and fight the battles of the Lord.” For Saul thought, “There’s no need for me to raise my hand against him. Let it be the hand of the Philistines!” (1 Samuel 18:17, emphasis mine)

David’s orders show his actions to be even more evil than those of Saul in the passage above. Saul hoped that David would die in war; he did not command that David be placed in the heat of the battle and then have his support removed. Saul’s plan hoped for David’s death. David’s plan brought about Uriah’s death at the cost of other innocent lives. David was willing to suffer losses at the hand of the enemy in order to be rid of Uriah. David’s plan gave the enemy the advantage and a momentary victory. What a far cry away David is at this moment from the valiant warrior he once had been.

Joab carried out David’s orders precisely, bringing about Uriah’s death along with other Israelite warriors. When Joab’s report of Uriah’s death reached David, his response is incredibly calloused:

David said to the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this thing upset you. There is no way to anticipate whom the sword will cut down. Press the battle against the city and conquer it.’ Encourage him with these words” (2 Samuel 11:25).

What a contrast this is to David’s response to the report of the defeat of the Israelites and the deaths of Saul and his sons (see 2 Samuel 1). What a contrast to David’s response to the death of Abner (2 Samuel 3:28-39). When David was told that Uriah was dead, it is as though David had said, “Well, you win a few, and you lose a few.”

I have to wonder if Bathsheba had any idea (at least initially) that it was David who issued the order that Uriah be killed. I seriously doubt that David would ever have told her; nevertheless, it became a matter of public knowledge. David’s plan was to have Uriah killed and then to do the magnanimous thing of taking his wife into his harem. His plan was to accomplish Uriah’s death with only one other person knowing about it – Joab. It did not turn out as David had hoped.

2 “Nothing is hidden that will not be revealed, and nothing is secret that will not be made known. 3 So then whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the housetops” (Luke 12:2-3; see also Numbers 32:23; 1 Timothy 5:24-25).

Confrontation and Confession

When I was a student in seminary, one of the courses I was required to take was homiletics (how to preach). I was very much convinced of the importance of the original languages and theology, but I had little time for methods courses. If I had been Nathan and I knew that I would have to confront David for his sin, I would have taken as many homiletics courses as I could get. It matters, of course, that what you say is true, but it also matters a great deal how you speak the truth.

Nathan confronted David with the truth very carefully. I don’t know how long Nathan took to prepare this message, but his approach was masterful, and it accomplished his task. He confronted David with his sin, brought him to repentance, and stayed alive in the process. David had grown up as a shepherd. I think he loved sheep. When he kept his father’s flock, David may very well have had a pet lamb. Nathan tells David about a poor man who owned only one lamb, a pet lamb. The lamb was like a daughter to him, like a member of the household. The man would carry this lamb in his arms and feed it at the table. A rich man who had a large flock of sheep had a visitor come and stay for dinner. Rather than killing one of his sheep, the rich man took the poor man’s pet lamb, killed it, and fed it to his guest.

Nathan had chosen his words well, not to mention the fact that God’s Spirit was piercing David’s heart. David was furious. This fellow should die! David was probably saying that he’d like to get his hands on the fellow. By law, the man could only be required to pay back the poor man four-fold, but that would never replace what he had lost.

It is only now that Nathan drives his message home. The real villain was David. It was not a little lamb that had been stolen from a poor man, but one young wife, who had been taken from a man under David’s authority. As the rich man in the story had many sheep, David had many wives. As the rich man took what wasn’t his, David took Uriah’s wife. If David felt the rich thief deserved to die, how much more did David deserve to die for what he had done to Uriah?

One thing has troubled me about Nathan’s rebuke. Why was it so late in coming? Why didn’t God confront David before he sinned with Bathsheba? Why didn’t God rebuke David before he had Uriah killed? Why did God wait so long to act? I think we have some hints in the Bible. In 2 Peter 3, we read:

8 Now, dear friends, do not let this one thing escape your notice, that a single day is like a thousand years with the Lord and a thousand years are like a single day. 9 The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9).

From this we learn that God delays bringing judgment upon men as a manifestation of His grace. God delays judgment (He is longsuffering) in order to give men the opportunity to repent.

We find another reason in Genesis 15:

13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign country. They will be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years. 14 But I will execute judgment on the nation that they will serve. Afterward they will come out with many possessions. 15 But as for you, you will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. 16 In the fourth generation your descendants will return here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its limit” (Genesis 15:13-16, emphasis mine).

Rather than “nipping sin in the bud,” God sometimes delays His judgment in order to allow sin to come to full bloom. In Proverbs, we find many warnings. The young man or woman (“my son”) is encouraged to avoid sin by being told where that wrong path will lead. For example, in Proverbs 7, we are told a story about a nave young man and an adulterous woman. At the conclusion, the nave person is told:

24 So now, sons, listen to me;
and pay attention to the words I speak.
25 Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not wander into her pathways;
26 for she has brought down many fatally wounded;
and all those she has slain are many.
27 Her house is the way to the grave,
going down to the chambers of death (Proverbs 7:24-27, emphasis mine).

Some of us don’t learn things the easy way – by being warned in advance; instead, we have to learn the hard way. It is at these times that God allows our sin to play itself out to its fully developed form. Then we can see for ourselves where such sin leads. God allowed David’s sin to grow, unchecked, until his uncontrolled lust brought about the death of several Israelites and devastating consequences for David’s family and the nation. No wonder the Bible tells us,

The payoff [i.e., end result or consequence] of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

There is yet another reason, I believe, for God’s delay in sending Nathan to confront David. It is not that God waited to begin dealing with David. God waited to send Nathan to confront David until He had sufficiently prepared David for repentance. David himself tells us this in Psalm 32:

3 When I refused to confess my sin,
my whole body wasted away,
while I groaned in pain all day long.
4 For day and night you tormented me;
you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. (Selah)
5 Then I confessed my sin;
I no longer covered up my wrongdoing.
I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.”
And then you forgave my sins. (Selah) (Psalm 32:3-5)

God waited to directly rebuke David until his spirit had been adequately tenderized and sensitized to his sin. David’s heart had been condemning him long before Nathan spoke his words of rebuke. I believe Nathan’s rebuke was almost a relief to David. Now, at last, his sin was out in the open and could be confessed and forgiven.

Sometimes I am asked to define what real repentance looks like. I usually tell folks that while repentance may be difficult to describe in advance, it is easy to recognize. You will know true repentance when you see it. There is no mistaking repentance in David’s words and actions:

Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven your sin. You are not going to die” (2 Samuel 12:13).

David truly was a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). In spite of his terrible sins, David loved God, and he listened to Nathan’s rebuke. His response is only one short sentence. There are no excuses and no qualifications. David admitted he was guilty of the charges Nathan spelled out. David will elaborate on this in Psalms 32 and 51, but it all comes down to a very simple admission of guilt.

David was forgiven (12:13). He should have died for his sins, and he did not. But there were going to be painful consequences for his sin.

Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt in this matter, the son who will be born to you will certainly die” (2 Samuel 12:14).

Not only would David’s son die, but David’s family and his kingdom would suffer as well. The consequences were closely linked to David’s sins:

9 “‘Why have you shown contempt for the word of the Lord by doing evil in my sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you have taken his wife as your own. You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 So now the sword will never depart from your house. For you have despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own.’ 11 This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you from inside your own house. Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion. He will have sexual relations with your wives in broad daylight. Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight’” (2 Samuel 12:9-12).

The consequences for David’s sins were spelled out and fulfilled precisely. Because David used the sword to strike down Uriah the Hittite, God said the sword would not depart from David’s dynasty. The sword was often employed in David’s dynasty. His son, Absalom, would kill another son, Amnon. Absalom would seek to overthrow David, and thus David would have to fight against Absalom and his forces to defend his kingdom. Joab would kill Absalom. Adonijah would seek to establish himself as king in David’s place, and Solomon would eventually have him executed (1 Kings 1 and 2).

Because David took another man’s wife privately, God said that another man would take David’s wives publicly. And so it happened:

20 Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give us your advice. What should we do?” 21 Ahithophel replied to Absalom, “Have sex with your father’s concubines whom he left to care for the palace. All Israel will hear that you have made yourself repulsive to your father. Then your followers will be motivated.” 22 So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and Absalom had sex with his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (2 Samuel 16:20-22, emphasis mine).

Because David regarded the Lord with contempt, the son Bathsheba had conceived by David would die. And while this son did die, David set a very positive example for all of us in the way he handled it. From the time the child took ill until the moment he died, David fasted and prayed, if perchance God might relent concerning his death. When the boy died, the servants were afraid to tell David, for fear he might harm himself. If he was so distraught when the infant was sick, how might he react when he learned the boy had died? David noticed the servants were whispering and discerned that the boy had died. When he asked them directly if the boy was dead, they answered that he was.

David’s servants were shocked to see the king get up from the ground, bathe, change his clothes, eat, and then go to the house of the Lord to worship. They asked him why he had responded as he had. David told them that he knew God might take pity on the child when He observed his repentance. But now that the child was dead, David accepted this as from the Lord, confident that though the child could not come to him, he would someday join this child in heaven.180

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

The Rape of Tamar, David’s Daughter

It is not long before the promised consequences of David’s sin begin to unfold. The first incident is the rape of David’s daughter, Tamar,181 by her half-brother, Amnon. Amnon “fell in love”182 with Tamar, and thanks to the counsel of his “friend,” Jonadab, Amnon persuaded David that he was ill and that having his sister serve him a meal would be therapeutic. Why David could not sense the potential risk in this is a wonder to me, but I suspect that his dullness in this area was related to his own moral collapse. (David may well have been suspicious and then dismissed it as a thought originating from his own guilt-stricken conscience.)

I think it is significant that Tamar was forcibly assaulted. I am convinced that it was an abuse of David’s power that brought about his sexual union with Bathsheba. The woman was not “invited” to David’s home; David sent messengers who brought her to him. And now, it is David’s son – his oldest son – who violated David’s daughter and his half-sister. It was David who ordered Tamar to go to Amnon’s house. Amnon, too, used his power to accomplish his sin – not just his physical power, but his authority. Amnon ordered all the servants out of his room. What was Tamar to do? David now came to appreciate what it felt like to have a loved one misused by one in authority. Unwittingly, David was a participant in this wicked scheme, which only added to his suffering.

Jonadab’s plan worked. Granted, he does not spell out all of the details, but Amnon seems to have no difficulty grasping what Jonadab meant. The pleas of Tamar are ignored, but after Amnon has succeeded in humbling his half-sister, he comes to despise her. Unlike David, he has no sense of honor at all. He will not marry her, as Tamar believed he could, and as she begged him to do. He has Tamar thrown out of his house and locked out. His cruelty is beyond description.

When David learned of this incident, he was fuming with anger. Originally, I thought that David did nothing at all. But verses 21 and 22 seem to imply otherwise:

21 Now king David heard about all these things and was very angry. 22 But Absalom said nothing to Amnon, either bad or good, for Absalom hated Amnon because he had humiliated his sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:21-22).

Both David and Absalom were furious, but Absalom kept it all inside. He said nothing whatever to Amnon, bad or good. I take it that David’s response was different. I think David had much to say to Amnon. But in spite of his words, David seems to have done nothing about it. At the very least, he could have sent Amnon away, or he could have insisted that Amnon take Tamar as his wife. He could have at least made his disapproval very public, as he had done when Joab murdered Abner (2 Samuel 3:27-39).

Absalom waited two years to avenge the wrong Amnon had committed against his sister. He persuaded David to send Amnon, along with his other sons, to a celebration he was holding at his ranch at sheep shearing time. Once again, David seems to have some doubts about this, but he finally gives in, thereby becoming an unwitting participant in this killing. From the initial reports David received, he feared that all of his sons had been killed by Absalom, but this was not the case. Jonadab knew full well this was not the case, and he tells David so. Just as he facilitated the rape of Tamar, Jonadab seems to have been aware of Absalom’s plan to kill Amnon, and yet he did nothing to stop either crime. Jonadab is the kind of “friend” no one needs.

The Alienation of Absalom

After Absalom had Amnon killed, he fled to his grandfather, King Talmai of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3; 13:37). Even though David was consoled over the death of Amnon and yearned to go to Absalom, he did not do so. Absalom remained in Geshur for three years. Finally, Joab orchestrated events so that David agreed to allow Absalom to return to Israel, but still David would not see his son face to face. By the time David was willing to meet with Absalom, their relationship was already badly damaged.

Absalom Goes Into Politics

Absalom was certainly a logical candidate for king, if matters of the heart were not considered. He was good looking, bright, and he had a charming way of dealing with people. Somewhere along the way Absalom set his mind on taking the kingdom from his father. Just as Absalom had quietly waited to kill Amnon, he was also patient and deliberate in his plan to snatch the kingdom from the hand of his father, David:

2 Now Absalom used to get up early and stand beside the road that led to the city gate. Whenever anyone came by who had a complaint to bring to the king for arbitration, Absalom would call out to him, “What city are you from?” He would answer, “I am from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Absalom would then say to him, “Look, your claims are legitimate and appropriate. But there is no representative of the king who will listen to you.” 4 Absalom would then say, “If only they would make me a judge in the land! Then everyone who had a judicial complaint could come to me and I would make sure he receives a just settlement.” 5 When someone approached to bow before him, Absalom would extend his hand and embrace him and kiss him. 6 Absalom acted this way toward everyone in Israel who would come to the king for justice. In this way Absalom won the loyalty of the citizens of Israel (2 Samuel 15:2-6).

It isn’t difficult to understand what had happened and how Absalom capitalized on it. The people would bring their disputes or concerns to the king (1 Kings 3:16-28), or his representative, for a judgment. David may have become “too busy” (or too important) for such matters, and a bureaucracy may have been established to handle these matters. Those who have waited in line to transfer a car title or to renew their driver’s license know how frustrating this can become. A shrewd man like Absalom saw this as his opportunity to gain favor from those who were discontented with David’s government.

It can hardly be summed up better than to say that Absalom became the typical politician. He spent time among the people, promising them that he would give them what they wanted, if he were only king. He endeared others to himself by giving the appearance that he was a humble servant of the people and not an arrogant king who had no time for the little people. The people loved it; they loved him. And so it was that Absalom managed to turn the hearts of the people away from David to himself.

Absalom also gathered leaders about him who would strengthen his position. He recruited Ahithophel the Gilonite, who was formerly David’s trusted advisor. David realized too late what was going on. It was through the word of a messenger that David was informed that a full-scale revolt was going on, under the leadership of Absalom. The only thing left to do was to flee from Jerusalem with the hope of escaping long enough to regroup, so that Absalom’s forces might be defeated and his plot foiled.

Leaving only a skeleton crew behind, David fled from Jerusalem, along with his family and those loyal to him. Here is another time in David’s life when his true friends show their colors. Ittai the Gittite refused to leave the side of David, even though David encouraged him to do so (15:19-22). Hushai the Arkite served David by going back to Jerusalem and claiming to be a loyal follower of Absalom, thereby affording him the opportunity to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel (15:31-37). Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, met David with donkeys and a supply of food for the king and those with him (16:1-4).

Shimei was a Benjamite who resented the fact that David had replaced the dynasty of Saul. He falsely accused David of shedding the blood of those in Saul’s household. Abishai, the son of Zeruiah and the brother of Joab and Asahel, wanted to kill Shimei on the spot, but David would not allow it. David wanted to be certain that God was not speaking through Shimei.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Absalom arrived with his men and took the throne. His first decision was what to do about David. The advice of Ahithophel was directly contradicted by that of Hushai (David’s supporter). The conflicting counsel of these two advisors can be summarized as follows:


Ahithophel’s Advice

Hushai’s Counsel

Pursue David immediately

Wait to attack

Use a select force of men

Assemble the entire army

Ahithophel will lead the pursuit

Absalom should lead the attack

Kill only David

Kill David and his army

Even though Ahithophel’s counsel was valued almost as much as prophecy (16:23), God superintended these events so that Hushai’s counsel prevailed. This gave David and his followers the time they needed to make their escape and to prepare for battle. Ahithophel realized that Absalom would never prevail over David once he embraced the plan Hushai proposed, so he went to his home, put his affairs in order, and took his own life.

David divided his men into three forces, led by Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite. David intended to march with his army but was persuaded that this time it would be best for all if he remained behind. David’s instruction to his commanders was the worst order he ever gave in war:

The king gave this order to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.” Now the entire army was listening when the king gave all the leaders this order concerning Absalom (2 Samuel 18:5).

The folly of this order is staggering. It was sending his men to their own death. They are to risk their lives fighting an enemy that is seeking to kill them, yet they are ordered not to harm the one who is behind it all. Anyone knows that the commander of the enemy’s forces is the primary target in battle:

2 David then sent out the army—a third under the leadership of Joab, a third under the leadership of Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under the leadership of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the army, “I too will indeed march out with you.” 3 But the army said, “You should not do this. For if we should have to make a rapid retreat, they won’t be too concerned about us. Even if half of us should die, they won’t be too concerned about us. But you are like ten thousand of us! So it is better if you remain in the city for support.” 4 Then the king said to them, “I will do whatever seems best to you.” So the king stayed beside the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands (2 Samuel 18:2-4; see also 1 Kings 22:29-33).

Our own history should teach us that an army should never be sent to fight a war it is commanded not to win. Fortunately for David, this is an order that Joab will ignore.

The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim, and David’s army prevailed over the army of Absalom. God used the terrain as an ally. We are told that “the forest consumed more soldiers than the sword devoured that day” (18:8). Providentially, Absalom encountered David’s men, but as he was riding his mule, his head caught in the limbs of an oak tree, plucking him from his mount and leaving him hanging from the tree. David’s men saw him hanging there but would not strike him because of David’s orders. Joab realized the foolishness of this order183 and killed Absalom himself. When messengers came to David to report their victory, it became obvious that David cared more about Absalom than his own warriors. When David continued to grieve over Absalom, his warriors were ashamed and began to leave quietly, as though they had done wrong. Joab rebuked David and told him that if he wanted to keep his army and his throne, he had better make himself accessible to his soldiers and show some appreciation. To David’s credit, he took Joab’s advice, and David’s men were encouraged.

David’s return to Jerusalem created a very awkward situation for those who had previously rejected him as their king. David took the initiative to send word to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, urging them to tell the elders not to delay any longer in welcoming him back to the throne. He also made Amasa (who had been the commander of Absalom’s army, but who was also a relative) the commander of his army, in place of Joab.

The men of Judah were quick to welcome David back, but the remaining tribes of Israel were much more reluctant. As David and those with him crossed the Jordan, Ziba, the servant of Saul’s house, came to assist the king. Shimei, who had cursed David as he was fleeing from Jerusalem, was profuse with his apologies. Abishai wanted to execute him (again), but David showed mercy to Shimei, assuring him that he would not die for what he had done. Others came to greet David as well. The men of Israel then complained because David’s welcoming party was made up primarily of men from his own tribe – Judah. There were strong words of contention between the men of Judah and the men of Israel, widening the gap in their relationship and setting the stage for the divided kingdom.

Sheba, a Benjamite, took advantage of the strife between Judah and the other tribes of Israel and announced a rebellion against David and Judah. David returned to his palace and ordered Amasa to gather the men of Judah so that they could squelch the rebellion of Sheba. For some reason, Amasa took longer than the appointed three days David had set. David therefore sent Abishai (Joab’s brother) after Sheba, along with Joab and the forces of Judah. When they came upon Amasa, Joab stepped forward to greet him. Joab caught Amasa off guard and stabbed him with his dagger. Joab was once again the commander of the army. Sheba was put to death, and the battle between Judah and Israel ended. David once again was king, as Joab was once again commander of his army. But David’s kingdom was never the same as it had been before his sin.

The Closing Chapters of 2 Samuel

In chapter 21 of 2 Samuel, we come across a very interesting (and somewhat puzzling) event. After David had resumed his reign over Israel, the nation suffered a three-year famine. It was obvious that God was seeking to get David’s attention. When David inquired of the Lord, he was informed that the famine was due to Saul’s slaughter of the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites should have been annihilated by the Israelites, but they were deceived and foolishly entered into a covenant with them that guaranteed their safety. Apparently, Saul sought to cast this covenant aside by killing some of the Gibeonites. The solution to this injustice required the death of seven of Saul’s descendants. When these seven were put to death and their bones – along with the bones of Saul and Jonathan – were buried in the grave of Kish, the famine ended.

Next we read of David’s final battles. David’s physical strength was waning, and others had to step up to fill the gap. David fought his Goliath years before, and now it became the task of some of his faithful men to carry on as David had. While Saul could only infect his soldiers with his own fears, David’s men became mighty men of war. The courage of his men was a tribute to David, their leader (21:15-22).

The psalm that is recorded in 2 Samuel 22 is also recorded in the Old Testament as Psalm 18. I believe it is repeated here because its message is particularly pertinent to the context. As one looks back on David’s life, and on his many military victories, this psalm helps us to see David’s success in its proper perspective. The thrust of the psalm is to give God the glory for David’s victories:

35 He trains my hands for battle;
my arms can bend even the strongest bow.
36 You give me your protective shield;
your willingness to help enables me to prevail.
37 You widen my path;
my feet do not slip.
38 I chase my enemies and destroy them;
I do not turn back until I wipe them out.
39 I wipe them out and beat them to death;
they cannot get up;
they fall at my feet.
40 You give me strength for battle;
you make my foes kneel before me.
41 You make my enemies retreat;
I destroy those who hate me.
42 They cry out, but there is no one to help them;
they cry out to the Lord, but he does not answer them.
43 I grind them as fine as the dust of the ground;
I crush them and stomp on them like clay in the streets.
44 You rescue me from a hostile army;
you preserve me as a leader of nations;
people over whom I had no authority are now my subjects.
45 Foreigners are powerless before me;
when they hear of my exploits, they submit to me.
46 Foreigners lose their courage;
they shake with fear as they leave their strongholds.
47 The Lord is alive!
My protector is praiseworthy!
The God who delivers me is exalted as king!
48 The one true God completely vindicates me;
he makes nations submit to me;
49 He delivers me from my enemies;
you snatch me away from those who attack me;
you rescue me from violent men.
50 So I will give you thanks, O Lord, before the nations!
I will sing praises to you.
51 He gives his chosen king magnificent victories;
he is faithful to his chosen ruler,
to David and to his descendants forever” (2 Samuel 22:35-51, emphasis mine).

The author of 2 Samuel wants to make it very clear that it is God who is the hero and that David is only God’s chosen instrument.

The first seven verses of chapter 23 are some of David’s final words. Here, David does not speak as a warrior, but as a writer and singer of songs. He is assured that God’s Spirit has spoken through him in the things he has spoken and written:

2 The Lord’s spirit spoke through me;
his word was on my tongue.
3 The God of Israel spoke,
the protector of Israel spoke to me.
The one who rules fairly among men,
the one who rules in the fear of God (2 Samuel 23:2-3).

It is because of God’s covenant with David that he has been so successful. Those who are evil face an entirely different fate. They will experience the judgment of God (23:6-7).

The remainder of chapter 23 is the “hall of fame” of those warriors who fought valiantly for David and for Israel. The point of this seems to be that David’s victories, though significant, were not solely David’s doings. In chapter 22, we are reminded that it is really God who is Israel’s king, and it is He who wins their battles. Now, we are reminded that David’s victories were also a team effort. These mighty men who are listed are a part of the reason why David was so successful in battle. Numbered last among these mighty men of war is Uriah the Hittite, the soldier whose wife David took for himself, the soldier whose life David took in an attempt to cover his sin.

The final incident in 2 Samuel is a very important event for David and for Israel. It is David’s second major sin. In some ways, this is even more willful than David’s sin with Bathsheba:

1 The Lord’s anger again raged against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go count Israel and Judah.” 2 The king told Joab, the general of his army, “Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba and muster the army, so I may know the size of the army.” 3 Joab replied to the king, “May the Lord your God make the army a hundred times larger right before the eyes of my lord the king! But why does my master the king want to do this?” 4 But the king’s edict stood, despite the objections of Joab and the leaders of the army. So Joab and the leaders of the army left the king’s presence in order to muster the Israelite army (2 Samuel 24:1-4).

1 An adversary opposed Israel, inciting David to count how many warriors Israel had. 2 David told Joab and the leaders of the army, “Go, count the number of warriors from Beersheba to Dan. Then bring back a report to me so I may know how many we have.” 3 Joab replied, “May the Lord make his army a hundred times larger! My master, O king, do not all of them serve my master? Why does my master want to do this? Why bring judgment on Israel?” 4 But the king’s edict stood, despite Joab’s objections. So Joab left and traveled throughout Israel before returning to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:1-4).

These parallel accounts in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles give us a more complete picture of what took place, so far as the contributing factors are concerned. In 2 Samuel, we read that God was angry with Israel and that He prompted David to act in a way that would bring judgment on the people. First Chronicles tells us that “an adversary” opposed Israel. In my opinion, the “adversary” is Satan.184 In this incident, we see that a man’s sin is a personal choice, for which he is held accountable. Nevertheless, Satan may be “fanning the flames,” as he is inclined to do. And behind it all, God is completely sovereign. As in the first two chapters of the Book of Job, God may allow Satan to inflict or influence someone, so that His (God’s) sovereign purposes are realized. David’s sin did bring divine discipline on the nation Israel, but our text makes it clear that they deserved to suffer because of their sin as a nation. I find it very difficult to do more than one task at a time (for example, listening to a Christian CD, while writing this sermon); God is able to do many things at one time. He is able to give men, and even Satan, a measure of freedom, and yet have the outcome achieve His foreordained plans and purposes.

22 “Israelite men, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed through him among you, just as you yourselves know— 23 this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. 24 But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:22-24, emphasis mine).

From this point on, we view David’s sin from his perspective. David decided to number the Israelites. This was something that was not necessarily evil, in and of itself (see Numbers 1:1-2; 4:1-2; 26:1-4), but there was this instruction given in Exodus 30:

11 The Lord spoke to Moses: 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites according to their number, then each man is to pay a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, so that there will be no plague among them when you number them” (Exodus 30:11-12).

We cannot be certain of the exact reason why numbering Israel was wrong at that moment. It did not seem necessary, and it may have been done only to bolster David’s ego. We know that it was wrong, and even a man as spiritually insensitive as Joab knew it, along with other leaders.

David would not be talked out of his intended course of action, and thus he ordered Joab to go ahead with the numbering. After almost a year, Joab reported the number of soldiers who were available to the king. It was then that David was troubled by his conscience for what he had done. David’s stricken conscience was probably due to the fact that God seems to have struck Israel with some kind of plague (1 Chronicles 21:7). When David confessed his sin and consulted with the prophet Gad, the Lord gave David his choice as to which judgment he would choose:

12 “Go, tell David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am offering you three forms of judgment. Pick one of them and I will carry it out against you.’” 13 Gad went to David and told him, “Shall seven years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemy with him in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decide what should I tell the one who sent me” (2 Samuel 24:12-13).

David’s choice of judgment revealed that he was still a “man after God’s heart.” He chose to suffer three days of plague, not because it was the shortest punishment time-wise, but because this would come directly from the hand of God:

David said to Gad, “I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the Lord, for his mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by men!” (2 Samuel 24:14)

The plague came upon Israel for the appointed time, and 70,000 men died throughout the kingdom. The plague seems to have spread across Israel, because when the angel was stretching out his hand over Jerusalem (for the plague to fall on that city), the Lord stayed the judgment, and the city of Jerusalem was spared. The angel was near the threshing floor of Araunah, the Jebusite. David cried out to God that this punishment was due to his sin. He prayed that judgment might fall on him and on his family, and not on these people. Gad instructed David to build an altar for the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah. David purchased the land from Araunah, built an altar, and then offered burnt sacrifices and peace offerings. It was on this very spot (or somewhere nearby) that Abraham had offered up his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It was also on this spot that Solomon would build the temple (2 Chronicles 3:1).


As I have considered this text, I have a couple of concerns I must share with you before I move on to the application of the text. To begin, what we have observed in the White House in recent years is all too similar to what took place in the palace of King David centuries ago. As a result, I fear that this text is not the least bit shocking to us. We are not horrified that a man who professes to believe in God would be unfaithful and engage in sexual immorality – indeed, that he would use his position and power as a great leader to do so. Compared to recent revelations of presidential misconduct, David’s story may hardly seem shocking at all. A friend of mine from the Third World told me that the kind of conduct we have seen in our country is expected of political leaders in other parts of the world. I must say, therefore, that we should not judge David’s actions (or the actions of our contemporaries) in the light of our culture, but rather in the light of God’s Word. David’s conduct was appalling; if to no one else, it was appalling to God.

Furthermore, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard men use this text regarding David’s sins as the justification for their own sins. When confronted with their sin, all too many respond something like this: “Well, I’m only human and, after all, David sinned.” The inference usually is, “Well, David sinned, confessed, and then was let off easy by God, so why should God deal this way with me?”

I must say several things in response to this kind of argument. First, Paul deals very specifically with this kind of logic in Romans 6 and also in 1 Corinthians 6:

1 What shall we say then? Are we to remain in sin so that grace may increase? 2 Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2)

12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, 13 and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness (Romans 6:12-13).

21 So what benefit did you then reap from those things that you are now ashamed of? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now, freed from sin and enslaved to God, you have your benefit leading to sanctification, and the end is eternal life. 23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:21-23).

9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, 10 thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

God’s grace is never an excuse for sin. I have never yet seen a Christian who knowingly sinned and came away with a smile on his face, smugly satisfied for having done so. The wages of sin is death. Satan promises much, but he gives little. The price for sin is high, and the ride is short.

Second, when we read the whole story of David’s life after his sin, we become painfully aware of just how costly his sin was. David did repent of his sins, and God did forgive them, but the consequences of his sins were great (2 Samuel 12:13-14). David’s son died. David’s daughter was raped by one of his sons. Another son seeks to take the throne from David. Also, all too many Israelites died.

In recent days, many Christian leaders have fallen into sexual sin (along with other sins). Some of these men have sincerely repented; the confessions of others leave some doubt. All too often, those who have fallen seem to think that all they have to do is to “repent” and then everything will go back to the way it was – that somehow they can “turn back the clock” on their sin and its consequences. It was never the same for David after his sin, and it will never be the same for you, or for me either. Sin always comes at a cost that exceeds any momentary pleasures it may promise, or even provide.

What a difference there is between this description of David’s sin, which we find in our Holy Bibles, and the version of it we see coming out of Hollywood. Sin is not glorified or glamorized. The consequences are not overlooked, nor its pleasures overrated. Our text was meant to warn us about sin and not to tempt us to sin.

Having said this, there are some other important lessons for us to learn from our text. Let me conclude by suggesting just a few areas of application.

First, we see that even though man’s sin is evil and has very painful consequences, God can still cause what we meant for evil to be used for good. We saw this with the sins of Joseph’s brothers:

As for you, you meant to harm me, but God intended it for a good purpose, so he could preserve the lives of many people, as you can see this day (Genesis 50:20).

While the first child born to David and Bathsheba died, their son Solomon was loved of the Lord and chosen to be the next king of Israel. David’s sin of numbering the Israelites cost many their lives, but it resulted in the purchase of the place where the temple was to be built by Solomon. God is able to take the sins of men (without causing or justifying them) and turn them into instruments of His blessings. God is able to cause all things to work together for good, to those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Man’s sin cannot thwart the eternal purposes of God.

Second, covering up our sins only adds to our sin; confessing our sins and repenting of them is the only cure. David sought to cover up his sin by committing murder. It only made him guiltier. It was only after David confessed his sins that he experienced God’s forgiveness and reconciliation.

Third, our text has a great deal to teach us about leadership, especially about bad leadership. While David exemplified good leadership when he stood up to Goliath, he also provides us with many illustrations of bad leadership. David abused his position and power in taking Bathsheba and in killing her husband, Uriah the Hittite. A poor and powerless man could not have done what David did. David frequently failed in his leadership as a father. David’s failure to lead in his family cost his daughter Tamar her innocence and shattered her life. Surely David should have seen the warning signs in what Amnon requested. David failed to lead in a righteous manner in dealing with the sin of Amnon. David’s failure to discipline Amnon was partly to blame for Absalom’s rage and vengeance. David failed to deal with Absalom as he should have. David was virtually forced to deal with this son, even though he loved him deeply. And then, of course, David sent his men to fight with Absalom and his army but urged his forces not to hurt this rebel.

Fourth, we learn that there really is no such thing as a private sin. How many times in the past few years have we been told that the sins of the highest political leader in our nation were “private,” and thus not a matter of public concern? David’s sin was private, and it had everything to do with his public life and leadership. Sin undermined David’s authority and his administration. David’s sin cost not only the life of a military hero – Uriah the Hittite – but also the lives of some of his other valiant warriors. David’s sin was devastating to his family. David’s sins divided the nation and put Israelites at war with fellow-Israelites. Private sin has everything to do with public policy, with public ministry, and with politics. Let me remind you of God’s words to David:

“‘Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight’” (2 Samuel 12:12).

When I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, we were having a very special chapel service in honor of the graduating class. It was a very solemn occasion, at least for the administration. But a couple of the students had made a banner that was rolled up like a scroll. They suspended it above the curtain, out of sight, and had a fishing line attached so that it could be released from the back of the auditorium. At a very solemn moment, the banner was released, and it unrolled before the eyes of all. It read something like this: “Is This The Best The Grace Of God Can Do?” Apparently a recent speaker had used these words, and now they were being applied to the senior class.

There was a certain measure of truth to those words. How easy it is for seminarians, after years of studying the original languages, theology, and homiletics to think that we are really something special. That’s exactly the way David felt, just before he fell. Our text should remind us that even the greatest men in the Bible were men who had feet of clay (as a friend of mine would say, “I’m clay all the way up to my arm pits.”). The best men who have ever lived were still sinners, whose eternal salvation was due to God’s grace alone, and the free gift of salvation that God gives all who believe, apart from works.

This ought to warn us about idolizing men. That was the problem with Israel’s desire to have a king. It was idolatrous. They wanted someone they could see, who would go before them and fight their battles. No man is worthy of being our idol. Only God deserves our worship and adoration as God. David, though a great king, could never fulfill the hopes of Israel for the “perfect king,” the promised deliverer (Genesis 3:15; 49:10; Deuteronomy 18:18-19; 2 Samuel 7:14-16). Only the Messiah could fill such a role. David sacrificed others, for his own self-interest. Jesus set aside His self-interest and sacrificed Himself, so that we might have eternal life:

5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
6 who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
8 He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

He alone is the One we should worship and adore as King of kings and Lord of lords. He alone is the One to whom we should entrust ourselves for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.

176 This is the edited manuscript of a message delivered by Robert L. Deffinbaugh, teacher and elder at Community Bible Chapel, on March 25, 2001.

177 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without (continued) cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at:

178 We know from personal experience that the roof of the “King David Hotel” in Jerusalem has a commanding view of the city.

179 My thanks to Virginia Oubre, who reminded me that Bathsheba’s father, Eliam, was also a military hero (2 Samuel 23:34), and that her grandfather was Ahithophel, David’s counselor, who abandoned David and became Absalom’s advisor (2 Samuel 15:12ff.). Did the fact that Uriah was the husband of Ahithophel’s granddaughter have anything to do with this? I suspect it did (compare 2 Samuel 3:6-12).

180 This is an issue that requires more time and explanation than we can provide in this study. For a more detailed exposition of 2 Samuel 12 and the death of David’s son, please consult my lesson on the Biblical Studies Foundation web site. It can be found at: /docs/ot/books/2sa/deffin/2sam-12.htm

181 We know from 2 Samuel 3:2-3 that Amnon was David’s firstborn son, whose mother was Ahinoam the Jezreelite. His third son was Absalom, the son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. Further, we learn from 2 Samuel 13:1 that Tamar was Absalom’s sister. She would thus be the half-sister of Amnon.

182 For those who seek to overwork the fine points of the Greek language, I should warn you that the word for “love” in 2 Samuel 13:1-2 in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) is agape. My point is that we need to be careful not to assume that “agape love” is always “the highest form of love.”

183 David’s foolish order here reminds me a bit of the oath Saul foolishly imposed on his men, causing them not to be nourished in the time of battle – see 1 Samuel 14:24ff.

184 In the King James Bible, this Hebrew word occurs twenty-seven times. Nineteen times it is rendered “Satan.” Seven times it is rendered “adversary,” and in two of these instances the “adversary” is God (Numbers 22:22-23). Thus, most translations render this word “Satan” in our text.

Related Topics: Hamartiology (Sin)

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