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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 12

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-31

David did not immediately confess his sin to God, andPsalms 32:3-4; Psalms 32:3-4 shows that the Lord waited for some time at least before sending the prophet Nathan to him, likely over nine months, for a son had been born to Bathsheba. He was giving David opportunity to voluntarily confess his sin, and in that time, as David says, "day and night" God's hand was heavy upon him. How could his conscience have any rest? The misery of this experience continued until God finally sent Nathan to him with a very pointed parable. David did not know it was a parable concerning him until he was told it was.

The great difference between the rich man and the poor man is emphasized. The rich man had everything: the poor man had nothing but a little lamb which he had cared for tenderly, so that it was like a daughter to him. But when the rich man wanted a lamb to prepare a meal for a visitor, he stole the poor man's lamb in spite of having flocks of his own. In the parable there was just enough in the way of difference from David's case as to not make it too apparent. Yet the parable greatly understated the fact that David himself must be called upon to face, for the case of this rich man was not nearly so serious as that of David, who was guilty, not only of stealing, but of adultery and murder.

When David heard Nathan's parable he was indignant at hearing of the selfish greed of the rich man, and immediately passed judgment that the rich man Should be put to death for this, and that the poor man should be given a fourfold restoration (vs.5-6). David little realized that he was sentencing himself to death! How stern and decisive we can be as to the faults of others, while forgetting our own!

But Nathan delivers God's verdict with shocking force, "You are the man!" Faithfully he declares what God has to say to David. Six verses are occupied with the summary of evidence and of the solemn sentence of judgment that was to shake, not only David, but all his house. First God reminds David that He had in pure grace anointed him as king of Israel, delivering him from King Saul's efforts to kill him More than that, God had given Saul's house and his wives into David's keeping, and had also brought both Judah and all Israel into subjection to David In fact, He would have given David yet more if David felt he did not have enough (vs.7-8). All of this was to remind David how totally dependent he was on the great grace of God

But despite this abundant incentive to be fully subject to the authority of the Lord, David had despised the positive commandment of the Lord. He is told, "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" (v.9). The Lord's verdict is clear and positive: David is guilty. He could not dare to make the slightest excuse for himself.

Nor would he escape the terrible consequences of his crime. God would raise up serious trouble against him from within his own house. He had grossly violated the sanctity of another man's house. What a shock it must have been to David to be told that a neighbor of his would commit adultery with David's wives, not secretly, but with brazen contempt for David and with the full knowledge of the people. How much more shocking it would have been if at this time the Lord had told him that the neighbor would be his own son (ch.16:21-22)! David had sinned secretly, wanting to keep his actions from the people, but God would recompense him publicly before all the people (v.12). When the Lord Jesus warned his disciples against hypocrisy, He told them "There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known" (Luke 12:1). How deeply humiliating a principle! But the light of God must reveal everything as it really is. We do well to take this seriously to heart.

What could David say? Could he offer any excuse? Could he suggest that someone else might be partly to blame for his sin? Could he plead circumstances that aggravated the temptation to do evil, as is the general case with many criminals today? No! He stood exposed before God, and could only respond, "I have sinned against the Lord" (v.13).

This is no easy place for anyone to take, and specially for a king of a large nation. But simple honesty must acknowledge one's personal guilt, and plead no extenuating circumstances, no excuses whatever. This is one important reason that David is called a man after God's heart. Two psalms of David (32 and 51) show us something of the depth of his repentance, and that he took time in the Lord's presence alone to thoroughly judge the wickedness of what he had done. He was a totally broken man. This was much different than Saul's confession, "I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel" (1 Samuel 15:30). Saul did not actually feel the dishonor he had done to God, but used a confession with the object of getting his own way.

Nathan knew that David's confession was real. He immediately assured David that the Lord had put away his sin, and he would not die, as justice would demand. Yet, while forgiveness is full and free, this did not absolve David from suffering the governmental results of his sin. As well as the ensuing trouble in his own house, he was told by Nathan that because his sin gave occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that had been born to Bathsheba would die. Nathan, as a true prophet, has delivered only the message from God, then he leaves David alone with God.


God, in His faithful government, did not take the child away immediately, but inflicted him with serious illness. This deepened the soul-exercise of David, keeping him in prayer and fasting for the seven days of his son's illness. Evidently he thought that the earnestness of his prayer might change God's mind. His servants did everything they could to divert him from the intensity of his prostrate distress. But he would not listen until he heard them whispering together, and questioning them, found that the child had died.

When David know that his child had died, he changed his attitude completely, rose and washed, anointed himself and changed his clothes, went to the house of God and worshiped. Then he returned to his own house and ate (v.20) His servants were puzzled by this, for they had the usual impression that death would call for far more distress and sorrow than sickness would. To their questions David replied that while the child was alive there was some hope that he might recover, and to this end he had prayed and fasted. But now that death had taken place, prayer and fasting could never bring the child back again. He adds, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." Actually, he might have realized that all his prayers and fasting would not result in the healing of his son, for God had positively told him through Nathan that the child would die.

However, though it was by means of wickedness that David obtained Bathsheba, yet the grace of God transcended this in David's later having a son by her, whom we are told "the Lord loved." In fact, Solomon was destined to succeed David as king of Israel, and from this line the official genealogy of Christ the Messiah is traced down to Joseph the husband of Mary, who as a virgin, gave birth to the Lord Jesus. Against all the darkness of man's sin, how beautifully the grace of God shines out!

Verse 26 brings us back to consider the conquest of the Ammonites, a matter that Should have engaged David's energies at the time he had been idle at home, which led to his sad fall. Joab and the army continued their fight and took possession of Rabbah, the royal city of Ammon. It seems his triumph was only partial at the time, however, evidently gaining an entrance into the city, but with "mopping up" operations still necessary to be carried out. Joab therefore sent to David, asking him to bring the rest of his army and finish the taking of the city. He tells David that if he (Joab) took the city it might be called after his own name (v.28). it is not likely that Joab was averse to such honor, but he evidently wanted to stir up David to a sense of his own responsibility.

David accepted the admonition (perhaps because the question of his own honor was involved), and went to battle, having evidently no difficulty in subduing the city. If he had gone with Joab in the first place, the victory may have been won more quickly, for David was a capable man of war. Typically, this was a victory over satanic doctrine, and God intended the entire army to be engaged in this, for it is no light matter to Him. All the people of God are to be fully united in such a conquest

The crown of the king of Ammon, weighing one talent of gold set with precious stones, was taken from his head and placed on David's head (v.30). Smith's Bible dictionary reckons a golden talent to weigh almost 200 pounds, though David's Dictionary lowers this to 131 pounds. It seems incredible that this would be sustained on a man's head, but perhaps it is what we call "an exceeding weight of glory!" We might well wonder at David's being so desirous of honor as to wear something like this.

The people of the city were taken Out and given manual employment with saws, sharp implements of iron (such as harrows, or possibly picks and axes), and in the manufacture of bricks. This was appropriate, for the Ammonites picture those who are high-minded and intellectual, priding themselves on their religious superiority. Such people need good, practical work to bring them down to a proper level. David did the same with the people of all the Ammonite Cities. This work being accomplished, he returned to Jerusalem with the army.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-samuel-12.html. 1897-1910.
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