David’s covenant of love with Jonathan lasted even beyond death. Thus, after his kingdom was somewhat settled, he went looking for any of the house of Saul to whom he could show kindness for Jonathan’s sake. He found Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan, and took him into the palace as his own son.
This story reminds me of the John Wesley quote: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
However, showing kindness to others does not always mean they will show kindness in return. David tries to deal loyally with Hanun, son of Nahash, king of the Ammonites, because his father dealt loyally with him. However, Hanun thought David sent envoys to spy out his land to overthrow him. Thus, Hanun seized David’s envoys, shaved off half of each of their beards, cut off their garments at the hip, and sent them home. They must have been quite a sight! As a result, David went to war with the Ammonites and the Arameans whom the Ammonites recruited to help them. I guess David’s kindness only extended so far.
Chapters 11 and 12 deal with the story of David and Bathsheba. There are, perhaps, a number of lessons we can learn from this tale. First, David was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time. He stayed at home for some unknown reason when normally kings would have been in battle.
Second, in the midst of this time of idleness, he took a walk on the roof of his palace. It was then that he saw a woman bathing who was very beautiful. I wonder: did David know beforehand what could be seen from his rooftop? Did Bathsheba know that she was potentially exposing herself to the king?
Third, David made the mistake of inquiring further about this woman.
Then, fourth, despite finding out that the woman was married, David invited her to his palace.
Thus, David made a few mistakes in a row, and at any point he could have turned back on his course of action but he did not. As often happens, especially when one does not want it to happen, intercourse in this situation led to pregnancy.
It was at this point that David tried to “cover his tracks” by inviting Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, home from the battle. David unsuccessfully tried to get Uriah to sleep with his wife. When that did not work, David had his general, Joab, make sure that Uriah would die in battle. Once again, David took a series of wrong steps, and he could have made a course correction at any point but he did not.
During this reading of this story, I found 2 Samuel 11:27 to be rather startling: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Is that all? I think most readers would find this story of adultery and murder to be far more shocking than it apparently was to the Lord. Then again, the Lord is never caught off guard by anything we do. In response, the Lord dispatches the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin.
Notice, Nathan is wise. He does not confront David directly. Instead, he tells a story about a rich man stealing a lamb from a poor man. When David admits that the rich man is terribly in the wrong for doing this, Nathan says to David: “You are the man!”
Is it not interesting that Nathan’s story is about theft, not adultery or murder? Thus, the story seems to posit that theft is David’s sin. This is not unusual in a society where women were considered to be the property of men, either their fathers or their husbands.
Part of the punishment for David’s sin is that the child he has conceived with Bathsheba is taken in death. This hardly seems just, considering that David was the one who sinned, not the child. David poignantly pleads with the Lord for the child’s life, all to no avail. Once the child, in fact, dies, David seems to accept the fact rather readily: “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
Notice, there is no concept of heaven mentioned here. The Israelites believed that after death one goes to a shadowy place called Sheol. It is from Sheol that Samuel’s “shade” or “ghost” is called up by the witch of Endor. It would be hundreds of years before some of the Jews (namely the Pharisees) would develop a belief in resurrection.
Did the Lord really take David and Bathsheba’s child as a punishment for the parents’ sin? This seems to be the meaning of the story in 2 Samuel. However, we also need to remember that it was common in David’s day for people to view sickness and death as a punishment from God or the gods. This does not mean that the death of this child was, in fact, God’s punishment.
At any rate, after the death of their first child, Bathsheba conceives again and gives birth to Solomon. The Lord sends a message by Nathan to name the child “Jedidiah” which means “beloved of the Lord”. The fact that the Lord especially loved this child prepares us for the fact that this child, Solomon, will one day succeed to the throne of his father.
David’s sin with Bathsheba will also lead to other consequences. Nathan tells him that the sword will never depart from his house and David’s “neighbor” will sleep with David’s wives in broad daylight.
Is it not intriguing that Nathan has to relay God’s word to David? Up to this point in the narrative, David has been speaking to the Lord on a regular basis. Maybe that is the problem that led to David’s sin with Bathsheba in the first place. Perhaps he had ceased to “inquire of the Lord” and so it was much easier for him to make this misstep. Then, since David is out of communication with the Lord, Nathan is the one who must confront him about his sin. This is perhaps the biggest lesson for us in David’s story: that we too need to stay in constant communication with our heavenly Father, especially if we want to avoid certain missteps in life.