Bible Study Series: Life of David
2 Sam 11-12: David & Uriah: The Consequences of Covering up Sin
by F Gordon
In this passage, following on from 2 Samuel 11.1-5, we have David trying to cover up his sin of adultery.
2 Samuel 11.5 And the woman conceived; so she sent and told David, and said, "I am with child."
Jeremiah says the heart of man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. David has already fallen to lust and adultery. Now Bathsheba has informed David she is pregnant. Decision time, does he repent of his sins and fall upon God or does he try to cover up his sin and get away with it? Under the law of Moses these sins were punishable by death.
2 Samuel 11.6-10 Then David sent to Joab, saying, "Send me Uriah the Hittite." And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah had come to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people were doing, and how the war prospered. 8 And David said to Uriah, "Go down to your house and wash your feet." So Uriah departed from the king's house, and a gift of food from the king followed him. 9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 So when they told David, saying, "Uriah did not go down to his house," David said to Uriah, "Did you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?"
David’s first plan of covering his sin was to bring Uriah home from the battlefield and back into the arms of Bathsheba. This was a cunning plan sure to succeed but what he didn't count on was that Uriah was no ordinary man. He didn't go to his wife but slept at the door of David’s house with the servants. David can’t believe this and asks, “Why did you not go down to your house?”
2 Samuel 11.11 And Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are dwelling in tents, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields. Shall I then go to my house to eat and drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing."
Uriah’s response shows he was a man of honour, respect and righteousness. This man was more concerned with the ark of God and the nation of Israel camped in the open fields than he was for his own pleasures. Here stood a godly man that was holy in his actions concerning the ark and God’s people. David, God’s chosen king, however, is trying to cover up his adultery with Bathsheba with all deceitfulness.
2 Samuel 11.12-13 Then David said to Uriah, "Wait here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart." So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 Now when David called him, he ate and drank before him; and he made him drunk. And at evening he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.
Plan A had failed. David’s next cunning plan was to get Uriah drunk. David must have thought surely if he is drunk he will let his guard down, a man will do things he normally wouldn’t when he is drunk. But Uriah again did not go to his house.
The worst plan of all
2 Samuel 11.14-15 In the morning it happened that David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, "Set Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retreat from him, that he may be struck down and die."
David now resorted to the worst plan of all to cover his tracks. Uriah was put at the front of the worst battle and left alone to die. David used Joab and Israels enemies to murder Uriah to cover his own sin. Joab must have thought, ‘What is this David? You are a sweet psalmist with a heart after God, our king, and yet you are murdering Uriah, one of the mighty men of David.’
Uriah even carried the letter of his own death sentence to Joab by his own hand, and he was innocent. Like Uriah, Jesus also carried his own death sentence, he said to Judas, “go do what you must do”. He was betrayed with all deceit but Christ went willingly to the cross for our sin carrying his death sentence.
David did not start on this path to murder, but as James says, sin is not barren. It started with desire and lust, then adultery, then deceit, and finally murder. Sins progression always gives birth to death.
But God was watching
2 Samuel 11.26-27 When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. 27 And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
Now David’s plan seems to have worked. Uriah is gone, Bathsheba is David’s and all seems well. But God was watching and He was displeased with David’s behaviour. God sees everything and is always watching. No one gets away with sin. Proverbs 5.21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, And He ponders all his paths. Proverbs 15.3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good. Proverbs 20.17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, But afterward his mouth will be filled with gravel. David is about to experience this. Hebrews 4.13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 13.4 Marriage is honourable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
The effects of sin
There was a period of about 1 year before God sent His prophet Nathan to David Why was it so long? Why not straight away? God allowed David to suffer the consequences of his sin before He sent Nathan to confront him. David wrote 2 psalms about this year out of fellowship with God. Psalm 32 and Psalm 38.
Psalm 32.3-4 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
David had tried to sweep all his sin under the carpet and kept silent about it. There was no repentance or confession before God. This had an effect on David physically and mentally. His bones grew old, they had no vitality, no spring in his step, and he groaned a lot. There is a difference between the saved man and the unbeliever just as there is a difference between a sheep and a pig. A sheep will fall in the mud and want to get out and shake the mud off. A pig however, will fall in the mud and roll over and over singing ‘home sweet home!’ God will not allow His children to get away with sin. There will be a consequence of discipline upon them. Here the hand of God was heavy upon David day and night. He had no joy, he was lifeless as in a drought, his bones ached and he groaned continually. God’s hand is gracious when it lifts up but when in discipline, it presses down. David felt three things; rotting bones, God’s heavy hand, and everything in life drying up.
Nathan tells a story
2 Samuel 12.1-4 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him, and said to him: "There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had exceedingly many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children. It ate of his own food and drank from his own cup and lay in his bosom; and it was like a daughter to him. 4 And a traveller came to the rich man, who refused to take from his own flock and from his own herd to prepare one for the wayfaring man who had come to him; but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him."
After 1 year God sends His servant Nathan to confront the king. This must have been very difficult for Nathan to do. This is a masterpiece of storytelling for it causes us all to rise up at the injustice of the rich man. How dare someone who has abundance take from the poor the only possession they treasure.
2 Samuel 12.5-6 So David's anger was greatly aroused against the man, and he said to Nathan, "As the Lord lives, the man who has done this shall surely die! 6 And he shall restore fourfold for the lamb, because he did this thing and because he had no pity."
David rises up like us all at the story and calls for judgement against the rich man. He must die for this act and before he dies, he must pay fourfold for the lamb. At this stage David has no idea that the story was about him. He was blinded to his own sin and the condition of his heart. He is the rich man, he had abundance, wealth, seven wives and yet he took from Uriah his treasure, Bathsheba.
We also, like David, can be quick to rise up and condemn others, to highlight others weaknesses, failures, hypocrisy but fail as David to see the state of our own wretched hearts. Jesus said “why do you worry about the speck in your brother's eye when you have a plank in your own?”
You are the man!
2 Samuel 12.7-8 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!
Nathan said; “You are the man!” This story allowed David to judge and condemn himself and it would have come like a heavy blow to him. He was found out, caught, and exposed for the deceitful wretch he was. Peter needed his eyes opened to his true state as well, with great boasts of ‘I’m made of sterner stuff’, ‘Jesus I will never betray you!’ Only for him to fail miserably at a young girl's question. Jacob wrestled all night with the Angel of the Lord who asked him his name; Jacob, surplanter, cheat, swindler. God had to break him to then make him a blessing.
God showed David all that he had done for him. The kingship, how he was protected from Saul, given his master's house and wives, the house of Israel and Judah. All given by God’s grace and kindness to David.
2 Samuel 12.9 Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.
God told David that he had despised God’s goodness and commandments and laid all the blame right on David. “You killed Uriah, you took his wife”.
2 Samuel 12.10-12 Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.' 11 Thus says the Lord: 'Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. 12 For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.' "
We have to live with the consequences of our sin. Part of God’s discipline to His child was that he would have adversity from within his house and that what David did in secret would be done to him out in the open.
2 Samuel 12.13-14 So David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die."
David instantly when confronted with his sin confessed and God forgave him. But he had to live with the consequences of his sin. How does a man of God pick himself up after such a big fall? David records Psalm 51 after he has confessed his sin and this psalm is the path back to fellowship for all of us saints that fail and are taken by the deceitfulness of sin.
Next we will look at Psalm 51 and see how David picks himself back up and returns to fellowship with and serve the Lord his God.