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CRITICAL AND EXPOSITORY NOTES
2 Samuel 11:1. “After the year,” etc., rather, at the return of the year, i.e., in the spring when kings were accustomed to begin military operations. “His servants,” the military chieftans about his person. “All Israel,” i.e., the whole army. “The children of Amnion.” “It was usual, when some strong point was attacked, to ravage the land far and near by incursion parties.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 11:2. “In an eveningtlde,” etc. When the mid-day rest was over, and noon was past. “Walked upon the roof.” This was an eastern custom, and the place and hour often used for religious meditation. “Saw a woman,” etc. Either at the well in the court-yard of her house or, as some suggest, in her chamber, the casements being open. “In either case, the place was private, visible only from a neighbouring roof; and in the East people refrain from looking down from a roof into neighbouring courts, so that it is an unfounded suggestion that Bathsheba was purposely bathing in an exposed place in order to attract the king’s gaze.” (Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.)
2 Samuel 11:3. “Bathsheba.” … “Eliam.” In 1 Chronicles 3:5, she is called Bathshua, daughter of Ammiel. “Ammiel has the same meaning as Eliam, and is, indeed, the same word, its compound parts being inverted, and means “God’s people.” (Wordsworth.) From 2 Samuel 23:34, where Eliam is called the son of Ahithophel, it is supposed by some that Bathsheba was the grand-daughter of David’s counsellor, and that this may explain his adherence to Absalom. “Uriah the Hittite.” One of David’s heroes. The Hittites were dwelling in Palestine, as far back as the days of Abraham. (Genesis 15:20; Genesis 23:7.)
2 Samuel 11:4. “David sent,” etc. “David had probably hoped that she was unmarried, but now that his passion was inflamed the knowledge that she was a wife did not deter him from his purpose.” (Wordsworth.) “The narrative leads us to infer that Bathsheba came and submitted herself to David without opposition. She was moved doubtless by vanity and ambition in not venturing to refuse the demand of the king.” (Erdmann.) “For she was purified,” etc. Rather, when she was purified, etc., she returned. (See Leviticus 15:18.)
2 Samuel 11:5. “And sent and told David.” Adultery was punishable with death. “This involved an appeal to him to take the necessary steps to avert the evil consequences of the sin.” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 11:8. “Wash thy feet,” etc. “These words contained an intimation that he was to go to his own home.” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 11:9. “Slept at the door,” etc. “In the guard room (1 Kings 14:27-28) with the royal court officials or the bodyguard. It is possible that he did this merely out of zeal of service, but also his suspicions may have been already aroused, and he may have heard something of the affair with Bathsheba.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 11:11. “The ark,” etc. This seems to indicate that the ark had accompanied the army. “As thou livest,” etc. Literally, by thy life and the life of thy soul. “This is not a tautology, but a strengthening of the oath by a repetition of the thought.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 11:16. “When Joab observed,” literally, watched. “We must understand from this a procedure different from the usual siege, a nearer approach, which challenged the warriors in the city to a sally.” (Bunsen.)
2 Samuel 11:17. “And Uriah the Hittite died also.” “Joab could foresee that this would happen from the dangerousness of the post. In becoming the instrument of David’s murderous artifice, Joab needed not to know the ground of the order. As obedient servant of the king, he carried out the order unhesitatingly, inasmuch as it was an order of the commander of the army in relation to a soldier who might have committed some grave offence against him, and whose seemingly accidental death might be desired by him for special reasons.” (Erdmann.)
2 Samuel 11:20. “If so be that the king’s wrath,” etc. “Joab assumed that David might express his displeasure at the fact that Joab had sacrificed a number of his warriors by approaching close to the wall, if such should be the case, to announce Uriah’s death to the king, for the purpose of mitigating bis wrath.” (Keil.)
2 Samuel 11:27. “When the mourning was past,” etc. The usual mourning of the Israelites lasted seven days. (Genesis 1:10; 1 Samuel 31:13.) It is not known whether it was longer in the case of widowhood. It is obvious that David would make Bathsheba his wife as early as possible.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE CHAPTER
I. Times of prosperity and inactivity are times of special temptation. In all the days of David’s adversity he maintained an unsullied reputation. In this day of his prosperity he was guilty of a series of the blackest crimes. Men by great successes in life become a special mark for the great enemy of the race, and the more so in proportion as they have hitherto been loyal to God and goodness. At such times the path of active duty is the least likely to lead into temptation. If David had been at this time at the head of his army it is likely he would have escaped this dark stain upon his life, for plenty of work is a preventive of certain kinds of sin. While a brook is in motion its waters are pure, but if their flow is stopped they become stagnant; so there are men who cannot pass from a life of activity to one of repose without degenerating in character. It seems as though David, with all his intense devotion and deep religious emotion, was of this class. He had been on the throne for a considerable number of years, but until now had probably had little leisure, and the constant demands upon his energies had kept the arrows of the tempter from piercing the weak place in his armour. How much safer he would have been in the thickest of the fight before Rabbath-Ammon than upon his house-top in Jerusalem.
II. Even good men have evil tendencies, of whose strength they have no conception. A vessel filled with gunpowder looks very trim, and clean, and safe, but the black powder is there in the hold, only needing a single spark to make its power felt. A lake seems filled with the purest water, but a stone cast into it will stir up the mud at the bottom and change it into a thick and turbid pool. A tendency to a certain disease may lie dormant for years in the constitution, and suddenly circumstances may favour its rapid development, and it may carry off its victim in a few days. So is it with the human soul. If any human eye had marked David as he sought his roof on this day, could they have dreamedth at there were the possibilities of such a fall within him? Had he any conception himself of the strength of his passion, and the weakness of his will on the side of righteousness?
III. If sin is not resisted when in the heart it will sooner or later become manifest in the life. When the sensual thought in relation to Bathsheba entered David’s heart he did not bid it depart, but dallied with it until even the knowledge that she was the wife of another seemed no obstacle to him. Even the best man while in this world needs ever to stand sentinel over his inner life, lest before he is aware a sinful desire lay hold of him and speedily pass from the region of thought into that of action. For sin never remains hidden in the soul unless it is fought and conquered there. If the spring be not cleansed the streams must reveal the fact, and if the root be not good the fruit must betray it.
OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS
2 Samuel 11:1. This entire campaign, with the siege of a capital, and the slaying of thousands, interests us now only as the occasion of David’s series of great sins. And in truth the striking excellencies or faults of one great and good man, when permanently recorded and widely read, become more important to the welfare of the human race than the overthrow of cities or kingdoms.—Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.
While Joab is busy laying siege to Rabbah, Satan is to David, and far sooner prevailed.—Trapp.
2 Samuel 11:2. There can be no safety to that soul, where the senses are let loose. He can never keep his covenant with God, that makes not a covenant with his eyes.—Bp. Hall.
David had once prayed, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;” and should have still continued his suit: that as he might keep a door in God’s house, so God would keep the doors and windows of his,—those otherwise windows of wickedness, and loopholes of lust, the eyes; through which the old serpent easily windeth himself into the heart, and maketh himself master of the, whole man. This made good Job to step from a prayer into a vow (Job 31:1). Yea, from a vow to an imprecation (2 Samuel 11:7.), as knowing the danger of irregular glancing, or inordinate gazing.—Trapp.
2 Samuel 11:3. David should rather have taken an antidote of mortification, before the venom of lust had got to the vitals. But it is hard for him who hath fallen down the ladder of hell for a round or two, to stop or step back till he come to the bottom, without extraordinary help from the hand of Heaven. Can a man commit one sin more, and but one sin more?—Trapp.
2 Samuel 11:4. Had Bathsheba been mindful of her matrimonial fidelity, perhaps David had been soon checked in his inordinate desire; her facility furthers the sin. The first motioner of evil is most faulty; but as in quarrels, so in offences, the second blow (which is the consent) makes the fray. Sin is not acted alone; if but one party be wise, both escape. It is no excuse to say, I was tempted, though by the great, though by the holy and learned: almost all sinners are misled by that transformed angel of light. The action is that we must regard, not the person. Let the mover be never so glorious, if he stir us to evil, he must be entertained with defiance.—Bp. Hall.
2 Samuel 11:15. David hath forgotten that himself was in like sort betrayed in his master’s intention, upon the dowry of the Philistines’ foreskins. I fear to ask, who ever noted so foul a plot in David’s rejected predecessor? Uriah must be the messenger of his own death, Joab must be a traitor to his friend, the host of God must shamefully turn their backs upon the Ammonites, all that Israelitish blood must be shed, that murder must be seconded with dissimulation: and all this to hide one adultery. O God, thou hadst never suffered so dear a favourite of thine to fall so fearfully, if thou hadst not meant to make him an universal example to mankind, of not presuming, of not despairing. How can we presume of not sinning, or despair for sinning, when we find so great a saint thus fallen, thus risen!—Bp. Hall.
It is a sign of the irresistible power of conscience, and an involuntary self-condemnation, when a man seeks in every way to conceal his sin from men, but to extenuate and justify it before God, and on the other hand unwillingness to make confession has its deepest ground in the pride of the human heart, which increases in proportion as the man becomes involved in sin, and the evil in him develops itself from the slightest beginnings into a power that exercises dominion over the whole inner life. “Whosoever commits sin, he is the servant of sin.”—Tr. of Lange’s Commentary.
2 Samuel 11:11. Even the best actions are not always seasonable, much less the indifferent. He that ever takes liberty to do what he may, shall offend no less than he that sometimes takes liberty to do what he may not.
If anything, the ark of God is fittest to lead our tunes; according as that is either distressed, or prospereth, should we frame our mirth or mourning. To dwell in ceiled houses, while the temple lies waste, is the ground of God’s just quarrel.—Bp. Hall.
2 Samuel 11:1-27. It has been said, “But such a sin is so unlike David’s character.” Doubtless it was, on the theory that David was a character mingled of good and evil. But on David’s own theory, that he was an utterly weak person without the help of God, the act is perfectly like David. It is David’s self. It is what David would naturally do when he had left hold of God. Had he left hold of God in the wilderness he would have become a mere robber-chieftain. He does leave hold of God in his palace of Zion, and he becomes a mere Eastern despot.—Kingsley.
Let it be noted that when Satan comes to a man, he makes his appeal to that particular part of his nature where passion is strongest and principle is weakest. Now in David what that was might be very easily discovered. From an early period of his career, he had been especially susceptible in the very matter in which now he fell. This is evident from his marriage of Abigail, and also from the great latitude in which he allowed himself, after his settlement in Jerusalem, in respect to his harem. Polygamy, though not forbidden by the Mosaic law, was regulated and discouraged; but David proceeded as if it had been a perfectly warrantable and legitimate thing, and this conduct on his part undoubtedly tended to weaken his impression of the sanctity of marriage. That sense of delicacy and chastity, which has such a purifying and preserving influence on the life, could not flourish side by side with the polygamy in which he permitted himself; and so, though he thought not of it at the time, his taking of many wives to himself prepared the way for the revolting iniquity which he committed. Here, then, in the moral weakness which constant prosperity had created, in the opportunity which idleness afforded to temptation, and in the blunted sensibility which polygamy had super-induced, we see how David was so easily overcome.
But it may be asked, How can you account for such enormous iniquity in such a man as we have seen that David was? To this I answer, that we may explain it by the absence for the time being of that restraining influence which his better nature was wont to exercise over his life. Passion had dethroned conscience; and then, owing to the intensity of his character, and the general greatness of the man, his sins became as much blacker than those of others, as his good qualities were greater than theirs. In every good man there are still two natures striving for the mastery. “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh.” The new nature is generally in the ascendant, but sometimes the old evil nature will re-assert its supremacy, and the effect of this temporary revolution will be determined by the temperament and characteristics of the individual. Now there are some men in whom everything is on a large scale. When their good nature is uppermost, they overtop all others in holiness; but if, unhappily, they should be thrown off their guard, and the old man should gain the mastery, some dreadful wickedness may be expected. This is all the more likely to be the case if the quality of intensity be added to their greatness; for a man with such a temperament is never anything by half. But it was just thus with David. He was a man of great intensity and pre-eminent energy. He was in every respect above ordinary men; and so when, for the time, the fleshly nature was the stronger within him, the sins which he committed were as much greater than those of common men, as in other circumstances his excellencies were nobler than theirs. We often make great mistakes in judging of the characters of others, because we ignore all these considerations; and many well-conducted persons among us get great credit for their good moral character, while the truth is that they are blameless not so much because they have higher-toned principles than others, as because they have feeble, timid natures, that are too cautious or too weak to let them go very far either into holiness or into sin. But David was not one of these. Everything about him was intense; and hence, when he sinned, he did it in such a way as to make well-nigh the most hardened shudder. In all this, observe, I am not extenuating David’s guilt. It is one thing to explain, it is another thing to excuse. A man of David’s nature ought to be more peculiarly on his guard than other men. The express train, dashing along at furious speed, will do more mischief if it runs off the line than the slow-going horse-car in our city streets. Everyone understands that; but everyone demands, in consequence, that the driver of the one shall be proportionately more watchful than that of the other. Now with such a nature as David had, and knew that he had, he ought to have been supremely on his guard, while again the privileges which he had received from God rendered it both easy and practicable for him to be vigilant.—Taylor.
Thus far the story belongs to the usual crimes of an Eastern despot. Detestable as was the double guilt of this dark story, we must still remember that David was not an Alfred or a Saint Louis. He was an Eastern king, exposed to all the temptations of a king of Amnion or Damascus then—of a sultan of Bagdad or Constantinople in modern times. What follows, however, could have been found nowhere in the ancient world, but in the Jewish monarchy.—Stanley.
For a king to take the wife of a poor man—how light a fault may this have appeared to one with the power and privileges which David possessed. Supposing there was a fixed law against adultery, did this law apply to the ruler of the land? Was he not in some sense above law? Such are the arguments and sophistries which would occur to one who was wrestling with his conscience either to give him leave to commit a wrong, or not to torment him for it when it was done. And then, if the husband of this woman stood in the way of the full gratification of his purpose, or of the concealment of it, was there anything strange that he, who was exposing thousands of his subjects to the chances of battle and death, should expose this one? Why was his life more precious than that of any other Israelite? Was it precious simply because it was so convenient to his master than he should lose it? And so the deeds were done.… And David, no doubt, performed all his official tasks as before, went daily to the services of the tabernacle, was probably most severe in enforcing punishment upon all wrong doers.—Maurice.
2 Samuel 11:27. Such is the solemn qualification which the Holy Scriptures append to a record of successful wickedness.… From the moment when a lawless desire first planted itself in David’s heart, till the full completion of that desire in the sinful act and its consequences, there had not been one single impediment in the way of his gratification which had not been easily, triumphantly surmounted; not one misgiving of conscience obstinately importunate; not one agent in the crime reluctant or inaccessible to persuasion; not one adverse circumstance to interfere with the exact order of the meditated plan.… “But the thing displeased the Lord.” This is the point of contrast between the text and its immediate context; between the smooth and easy course of king David’s transgression, and the few emphatic words which close the record and carry the question from the judgment of earth to the tribunal of heaven … The words first of all afford a testimony to the perfect insight of God into our hearts and lives, to His … present observation of them, His judgment upon them both present and future.… Every single thing that we say and do either pleases or displeases God. If it has no other value, it is made pleasing to Him by a pervading spirit of faith, by an habitual regard to Him, on the part of him who does it, or displeasing, whatever its apparent merit, by the habitual absence of this spirit.… God for a whole year looked upon David with disapprobation and disfavour. It is not said that David was aware of this. The contrary is rather to be inferred … But we see clearly … that all the prayers and all the praises of that whole year went for nothing with Him to whom they were addressed.… It is a solemn thought that there are multitudes with whom this is so all their life long; multitudes with whom this is so for an integral portion, it may be, of their threescore years and ten.… But it is not only upon our intercourse with God that this deplorable condition acts so fatally: it puts our life all wrong: it is impossible that anything can be in its place.… Remember, finally, this state is not necessarily, nor perhaps, commonly, a temporary state. It may last till death: and then:—! It is the tendency of such a state to prolong, to perpetuate itself; it contains in itself a blinding, searing, deadening power.… If these things be so, let us not disguise it. Our eternal life depends upon knowing the truth; first the truth of man, and then the truth of God; first our state as it is, and then the change promised. Vaughan.
Even in David’s fall Satan is defeated and God is glorified by means of Satan’s devices, which appears as follows, viz:—
1. We have here a strong proof of the veracity of Holy Scripture. David’s sin was committed in private. He was a king, a powerful king, beloved by his people, and—as is clear from his penitential Psalms—he was sincerely contrite for his sius; and in the rest of his life he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord (1 Kings 15:5). Besides, one of the worst consequences of the publication of his sin would be that he would have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme (2 Samuel 12:14). Might it not therefore have been expected that a veil would have been thrown over his sin, and that it would not have been exposed to the eyes of the world in Holy Writ? If Holy Scripture had been the work of man, the considerations would have probably prevailed, and David’s sin would not have been exposed to our view; or, if it had been revealed the historian would have extenuated it, as many of the Hebrew Rabbis have done. But the Author of this book is the Holy Ghost.… He reminds us that we have to do with One who is no respecter of persons.… and in reading the Bible we have the satisfaction of knowing that in it there is no suppression of facts, no disguise or extenuation from worldly motives; that in the Bible alone we have the revelation of the perfect Historian, “Ne quid falsi dicere audeat, ne quid veri non audiat.” …
2. This history is also a moral test of the readers of the Bible. The consequence of David’s sin is stated by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:14). But woe to the enemies of the Lord! Woe to those who blaspheme Him! For it is written, “All thine enemies, O Lord, shall feel thine hand,” etc. (Psalms 21:8). The enemies of the Lord may turn the food of Scripture into poison, and may abuse David’s sin into an occasion of selling themselves into the hands of the tempter, but the friends of God will take warning from his fall … and thus will derive a blessing from the Divine record.…
3. If David’s sin had not been recorded we should have been astonished, perplexed, and staggered by the series of tribulations which followed him henceforth to the grave. But this sad scene explains them all … If we had a similar view of men’s secret sins, if we had a clear insight into our own as they are seen by God, the anomalies of the present state of things in this world would in a great measure disappear.…
4. The failings of a David and a Solomon reminds us also that no human examples are to be substituted for the Divine law as a rule of life, and that there is no spotless example but that of Christ.—Wordsworth.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany