Good morning! Today in 2 Samuel 10-12 we see the “Achilles heel” of King David. Though a faithful person, a loyal leader and a skilled military commander, his desire for all the access that a king can demand leads him into adulterous trouble with Bathsheba, made worse by his attempt to hide his action. However, unlike Saul, when confronted David does not make excuses or try to rationalize his behavior. He takes his lumps then goes back to acting as king, but the ramifications of his action will be with his lineage for decades to come.
Chapter 10 starts with drama among the Ammonites and Arameans, fighting against Israel. The young Ammonite king’s advisors encourage paranoid thinking and quickly turn a son away from the sound policies of the father. Joab’s leadership in commanding Israel’s forces with his brother Abishai carries the day. David shows commendable regard for the honor of his humiliated ambassadors, not forcing them to parade half-shorn, half-clothed all the way to Jerusalem. David is also able to correctly analyze a threat like the Arameans and defeat them. We don’t hear anything of God’s endorsement of the battles in this chapters; this sounds more matter-of-fact. Defending the country and defeating opponents is just part of the job description for royal leaders.
David’s great undoing comes in 2 Samuel 11. Despite his successes against outside enemies, David can’t detect the threat within his own desires. Confident and comfortable in his palace of Lebanon cedars, David doesn’t go out to battle with his troops, but stays home instead. Desiring Bathsheba, David sleeps with her though she is married. (We also learn that she’s in the time of purification, which makes David’s action all the more unclean.) David then recalls Bathsheba’s husband Uriah from the battlefront and tries to coax him to sleep with his wife. When he displays too much honor for comfort (unlike David) at a time when his soldiers are out in the field, David gets him drunk but it still doesn’t work. With a sealed letter carried by Uriah himself, David orders his general to arrange for Uriah’s death. Joab does so, and loses other Israelite soldiers in the process. Trying to cover up wrongdoing compounds sin upon sin, leading to the death of many. But once told of Uriah’s death, David essentially shrugs off the military losses and takes Bathsheba for his own wife.
The reckoning for David’s actions comes in chapter 12, where we see God weigh in through the proclamation of Nathan. The prophet tells a parable about a rich person taking the lone sheep from a poor person’s family. When David is outraged at the injustice of the story, Nathan confronts him: “You are the man!” God has given every good thing to David and been loyal throughout, yet David took advantage of the privilege which was his as king, committing both adultery and murder. As punishment, God will allow conflict and strife in David’s household henceforth, and his own wives will publicly sleep with another man. David is penitent and recognizes his wrongdoing, so what was said to him before remains true—God will not abandon his house to death. However, the child he and Bathsheba created does die, despite David’s impassioned pleas for divine mercy. After a time, Bathsheba bears David another son, Solomon, whom God favors and destines for greatness. Meanwhile, David returns to the “proper role” of kings—leading the army in battle against the Ammonites. The utter destruction David wreaks on Ammonite cities may be a manifestation of his own remorse, and the lengths to which he goes in recommitting as God’s warrior king again. However, the consequences of his actions will manifest for years in the royal family. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Samuel 13-14. Thanks for reading!