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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ 2-samuel-11.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 11". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
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2 Samuel 11:1
The year was expired.
The end of the old year: a help to begin the new one
I. The end of the year presents a fit opportunity to enquire how we regard the Divine government. God governs the world according to natural and moral laws, through the medium of the Gospel, and by the arrangements of His providence. Let us try ourselves in relation to each.
1. Natural law, as seen in the works of His hands. That is not religion, but fanaticism, which pours contempt on these works. Every man should seek them out, and find pleasure in them. His eternal power and Godhead are declared thereby. The whole year, by night and by day, has been teaching you; “day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” If you have been an attentive student of these great works, you have bowed with lowlier reverence at His footstool, confessing, “In wisdom hast Thou made them all.” If you have not, then go and learn with the little child.
2. Moral law. There was a law given from Sinai which has since been repealed; but that which substantially is understood by the moral law never has been, and never can be, abrogated. It is the law of this and all other worlds--the law for angels and men--the law of love. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and soul, and strength; and thy neighbour as thyself.”
3. The Gospel. First, the Gospel is free. You need nothing to qualify you to receive its blessings; you may receive them freely, as you are. “All things are ready.” The second thing is, the Gospel is full. You need nothing else. “My God shall supply all your need out of His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
4. God governs the world by the arrangements of His providence. These try and determine the temper of our mind very decidedly.
5. But there are other arrangements of God’s providence which surround us as individuals, and which try us more accurately.
II. The end of the year suggests, the importance of trying our moral condition.
1. If we are going to heaven, we are nearer there than ever; and this night reminds us how very soon we shall pass the portals of glory. Are we better prepared than at the commencement of the sear for the employment of heaven?
2. Has the experience of the year taught us our weakness and worthlessness, and humbled us to repentance? “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent.” “Unprofitable servants!”
3. Are we distinctly conscious of pardon for the past?
4. Are we sure there is within us a disposition opposed to all sin? Can we say with the holy Mr. Corbett, “Upon the best judgment that I can make of the nature of sin, and the frame of my own heart, and course of life, I know no sin lying upon me which doth not consist with habitual repentance, and with the hatred of sin, and with an unfeigned consent that God should be my Saviour and Sanctifier, and with the loving of God above all.”
5. Has the year left us earnestly and sinerely desiring the accomplishment of all good in us and by us?
III. The end of the year suggests the propriety of examining and revising our plans for the employment of our time.
1. As to our devotional habits.
2. As to our walking with God.
3. As to our work. Are all our talents employed for God? “Occupy till I come.” “The time is short.” Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do--do it.”
4. As to our amusements. “Use no recreation or delight of sense, but thou canst at that very time desire of God, that it may be sanctified to spiritual ends.”
IV. And lastly, the end of the year reminds us of the “end of all things,” and bids us prepare for it.
1. Look forward to death.
2. Anticipate the coming of the Lord and the future judgment. (T. E. Thoresby.)
The flight of time
When Michael Faraday, the celebrated man of science, was a poor apprentice, he used every spare moment for making experiments. In a letter to a boy friend, after telling one of these experiments, he added: “Time is all I require. Oh, that I could purchase at a cheap rate some of our modern gents’ spare hours--nay, days! I think it would be a-good bargain, both for them and for me.” The youth had learned the first secret of success--not to waste time; not to throw it away on useless persons or useless pursuits. The frivolous think of nothing but pastimes and modes of “killing time;” but a day will come to even the most frivolous when they will value time as much as our own impetuous Queen Elizabeth did when she exclaimed on her death-bed, “My kingdom for a moment.” (Quiver.)
The time when kings go forth to battle.
A summons to battle
There seems to have been in the olden times, among the petty sovereigns of the East, regular seasons for warfare; perhaps they marched forth in the spring, when the grass would afford food for their horses, or possibly in the autumn, when the troops could forage upon the standing crops. These sovereigns of small territories were little better than the captains of hordes of robbers, and their revenues were rather derived from plunder than from legitimate taxation. We may thank God that we live in a happier era, for the miseries of nations were then beyond imagination. Desolating as war now is, its evils are comparatively little compared with those days of perpetual plunder. But I am not about to talk of kings. I must transfer the text to some other and more practical use. There is a time in our hearts when the inner warfare rages with unusual violence. At certain seasons our corruptions break forth with extreme violence; and if for awhile they appear to have formed a truce with us, or to have lost their power, we suddenly find them full of vigour, fierce, and terrible; and hard will be the struggle for us, by prayer and holy watchfulness, to keep ourselves from becoming slaves to our inward enemies. I thought of using the text in reference to Christian activities. There are times when Christians, all of whom are kings unto God, should go forth to battle in a special sense.
I. The time for the kings to go forth to battle is come. The special time for Christian activities is just now. In some senses nay, in the highest sense, believers ought to be always active. There should never be an idle day, or a wasted hour, or even a barren moment to a servant of God.
1. The time for kings to go forth to battle will be always when the king’s troops are fit for battle; I mean, the time for spiritual work is when the worker is especially fit for it.
2. Another season of especial work should be, when discerning Christian men feel the motions of the Spirit of God calling them to unusual service. “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself,” said God to David, and then David did bestir himself, and the Philistines were smitten. Do you not, some of you, hear the sound of the going in the tops of the mulberry trees?
3. One other mark of the time for kings to go forth to battle is surely when the Lord Himself works. The presence of good men with us is encouraging, but oh, the presence of the God of good men should much more stimulate us. Mahomet in one of his first famous battles, stimulated his soldiers to the fight by declaring that he could hear the neighing of the horses of the angels as they rode to the conflict to win the victory for the faithful. We speak not so, but surely the horses of fire and the chariots of fire are round about the faithful servant of God, and faith’s discerning eye can see the God of providence moving heaven and earth to help his church, if his church will but arise from the dust and put on her beautiful garments, and resolve to conquer in her Master’s name.
II. Since the time for battle has come, it behoves every soldier now to go to the wars.
1. All believers belong to Christ. You are His bond servants, you bear in your bodies His brand, the marks of the Lord Christ, for “ye are not your own, ye are bought with a price,”
2. I will add, all of you believers love Christ. Your belonging to Him has wrought in you a true affection for Him.
3. Moreover, let me remind you that there is strength promised for each of you. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” Shall I say that there is work for all of us to do which lies very close to hand? The preacher will never be without his. God will take care to furnish all His servants with sufficiency of work. I remember to have read in Cotton Mather’s book upon plans of usefulness, that he remarks that sometimes at the expense of a shilling, under God’s blessing, a soul has been converted. Such books as Alleyne’s “Alarm,” Baxter’s “Call to the Unconverted,” and Doddridge’s “Rise and Progress,” have wrought wonders in years gone by; and at this hour you may have for a penny or less, truths so set forth as to ensure the reader’s attention. Mr. Cecil says he had to be very grateful to God for his mother, not so much because she pressed him to read good books, as that she took care to put good books where he was likely to take them up.
III. There are great motives to excite us to fight earnestly for Christ. The motives gather round five points.
1. The first is our King.
2. Remember next the banner under which we fight--the banner of the truth, of the atoning blood.
3. Remember, next, another word--the captives whom it is your hope by the Holy Spirit’s power to redeem from the slavery of sin. How our soldiers of the Indian mutiny advanced like lions against the mutineers when they remembered Cawnpore and all the cruelties to which their brethren had been exposed! How unweariedly they marched, how sternly they fought when they were within sight of the foe! After this sort should we fight with those who have enslaved and injured our brethren.
4. Remember, again, and this word ought to stimulate us to fight well, the enemy, the black and cruel enemy.
5. Yet one more encouragement, and that is our reward. “They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.”
IV. The highest encouragements readily present themselves to induce you to join the warring armies.
1. It is quite certain that God has an elect people still upon the earth; then see ye not that it is hopeful work to find out these elect ones by the preaching of the word?
2. Remember, also, that God has never failed a true worker yet.
3. Remember, too, that if you did not see any souls converted, yet God would he glorified by your exaltation of Christ, and your talking of Christ, and your earnest prayers and tears for the good of others.
IV. The solemn danger of inaction. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Glad response to the battle call
Even the most disagreeable duty, if done in love, may be a means of blessing. When we come really to believe this great truth we shall seek for no other reward for our service than Christ’s glad presence at the goal. We shall go to every task with eager joy, because Christ will await us in it. We shall grow to be like that English soldier in India. The doctor was inspecting the troops to see who were fit to join in the attack of Delhi, and passed by this youth, who looked sick. “Don’t say I am unfit for duty,” exclaimed the young hero; “it’s only a touch of fever, and the sound of the bugle will make me well.” Such is the ardour with which we Christians should leap forward at Christ’s summons.
The Divine presence an incentive
“As soldiers fight best in their general’s presence, and scholars ply their books most attentively when under their master’s eye, so, by living always in the sight of God, we are the more studious to please him. The oftener we consider the Lord, the more we see that no service can be holy enough or good enough for such a God as He is.” This needs no comment, but it needs to be realised. See, soldier of the cross, the eye of the Captain of our salvation is fixed upon thee! Jesus cries,, “I know thy works.” Will not this incite thee to valorous deeds, and make heroes of them? If not, what will? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
2 Samuel 11:2-24
And it came to pass in an eventide.
The fall and punishment of David illustrated
I. The circumstances of David previous to His fall. For several years he had been in a state of great trouble: But it was not in this state of trial and affliction that he offended. During this period we see him exercising, in a remarkable degree, the faith, the resignation, the humility, the patience, the meekness of the servant of God. But now God had brought his troubles to a close. For some years he had been the most powerful monarch in that quarter of the world. These were his circumstances when he fell.
II. Consider the peculiar temptation which is suffered to present itself to David, and the way in which he encountered it. The temptation arose, a temptation sudden and great. He gives way to the seduction. He calmly descends from his palace with a determination to bring the evil of his heart into act, and to perpetrate the crime which the tempter had suggested to him. This we may conceive to have been the turning point in David’s career. Oh! had David paused but for one moment; had he retired a while to deliberate upon his Conduct; had he put up one prayer for Divine help; had he passed on even to the duties of his kingly office so as to divert his thoughts into a different channel; the snare might have been broken, and he have escaped. But, alas! David is left a melancholy monument of what the best man may become when he forsakes his God, and when his God, in consequence, abandons him.
III. The state of David after his first sin, and his progress to new offences. What must David have felt after the perpetration of the first crime? Immediately the sense of the Divine presence, the inspiring hope of Divine favour and eternal glory, would withdraw from him. The consequences of his crime were becoming visible, and the once noble and generous David now resorts to low artifices to conceal his guilt. He sends for the injured husband. He treats him with a subtlety unworthy both of himself and of his loyal subject, endeavouring to impose upon him a spurious offspring. When deceit, however, would not prevail on Uriah, a fresh crime must compel him. Crime leads on to crime. David, therefore, urged by a dread of detection, determines to add murder to adultery.
IV. The criminal schemes of David had now taken effect, and Uriah could no more disturb the bed of his seducer and murderer. But when there remained no obstacle to enjoyment, the Divine Hand suddenly arrested him in his guilty career. God sent Nathan the Prophet to convince him in his guilt.
V. The dreadful consequence of this transgression. Where God forgives, He does not always wholly spare. He may so pardon the sin as not to inflict upon the sinner eternal condemnation, and yet punish him severely. And such was the case of David. Besides the wound his soul had sustained, and which, perhaps, might never afterwards be entirely healed, we find the remainder of David’s life harassed by perpetual sorrows.
1. It may teach us to guard against declension in grace, and watch against temptation. If temptation is urgent flee from it and think of the fall of David.
2. Charity and tenderness in judging of those who fall. Call them not, as the world are too apt to call them, hypocrites. David was no hypocrite--but David fell.
3. Finally, let us beware of employing the fall of David as a plea for sin, and of presuming that such a restoration as his to favour and holiness will be granted to ourselves. Before we can build upon the hope of a restoration such as his our circumstances must be those of David. (J. Venn, M. A.)
David’s great trespass
How ardently would most, if not all readers of David’s life have wished that the first verse of this chapter had been--“And David died, and was gathered unto his fathers; and his son reigned in his stead.” The golden era of his life has passed away; his sun has begun to go down; and what remains of his life is chequered with records of crime and chastisement, of sin and sorrow. What we now encounter is not like a spot but an eclipse; it is not a mere pimple that slightly disfigures a comely face, but a tumour that distorts the countenance and drains the whole body; of its vigour. There is something quite remarkable in the fearless way in which the Bible unveils the guilt of David; it is set forth in all its enormity, without an attempt to excuse or palliate it; and the only statement introduced in the whole narrative to characterise his proceedings are these quiet but terribly expressive words with which the chapter ends--“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” In the bold and fearless march of Providence, we often see the hand of God. What mere man, framing the character of one designed to be a pattern of excellence, and to bear the designation “the man after God’s own heart”--would have dared to ascribe to him such wickedness as this? The truth is, that though David’s reputation would have been far brighter, if he had died at this point of his career; the moral of his life, so to speak, would have been less complete. In some way that we cannot rightly explain, he does not appear to have been duty sensible either of the guilt or of the danger of this tendency. He does not appear to have watched against it as against other sins, nor to have taken the same pains, through grace, to subdue it. In the passage now before us we find a catastrophe, resulting from this state of things, which was truly the beginning of sorrows. The king of Israel becomes familiar with sorrows and trials, compared to which any that he had suffered when flying and biding from Saul were light indeed. The lust which he has spared and indulged, re-appearing in his children, introduces incest and murder into the bosom of his family; it violates the sanctity of his home; and in place of the comely order, and the sweet tranquility of brothers and sisters dwelling together in unity, his palace becomes an abode of brutal appetites and murderous passions--the stain and horror of which time can neither lessen nor remove. Such a fall as David’s could not have been altogether instantaneous. It must have been preceded by a spiritual declension, probably of considerable duration. The likelihood is that the great prosperity that was now flowing in upon David in every direction had had an unfavourable effect upon his soul. For a long period the very extremities of his situation had driven him to dependence on God--necessity was laid upon him; but now that necessity was removed. Add to this the fact mentioned in the beginning of this chapter, and so mentioned as to imply that it is a significant one--that at the time when kings go forth to battle, David allowed his army to go without him, and “tarried still at Jerusalem.” This seems to imply that the king had fallen into a luxurious, self-indulging mood; that he was disposed to sit still and enjoy himself rather than accompany his brave soldiers to the self-denying labours and dangers of the field. Next, let us notice the manner in which David was led on from step to step of sin. His first sin was--suffering himself to be arrested by the sight of the woman; his fall began with a sin of the heart; had he made a covenant with his eyes, like Job, he would have nipped the temptation in the bud; he would have been saved a world of agony and sin. Let us try to gather up briefly, first, the principal kinds of sin of which David was guilty on this occasion; and then, their chief aggravations.
(1) There was the crime of adultery, including, as it always does, the sin of robbery, and the murder of character, and constituting, according to the criminal law of the Jews, a capital offence, the punishment of which for both parties was death.
(2) Attempted deception, in his efforts to prevent his crime from being known.
(3) Tempting Uriah to drunkenness--braving the curse afterwards denounced by the prophet.
(4) Ingratitude and injustice to Uriah, whose noble services in the cause, of his king met with a “cruel return.
(5) Meanness and treachery; it was mean to take advantage of Uriah’s absence in the first instance; it was mean to attempt, through him, to conceal the crime; it was mean to try to intoxicate him; and it was incredibly mean to make him the bearer of a letter detailing a plot for his death.
(6) Commanding another person (Joab) to do an unjust and atrocious action. And,
(7) The crowning sin of murder--slightly masked, no doubt, and less atrocious in appearance as the mode of death was-what every soldier was exposed to, but, in substance, deliberate murder.
The aggravations of these sins were great.
(1) All this was done by the king of the nation, who was bound not only to be an example to his people in general, but especially to discountenance crime, and to encourage and reward bravery in his service.
(2) God had shown singular goodness to David; he had been rescued by God from all his enemies, placed upon the throne, and surrounded with every species of lawful enjoyment.
(3) The very profession made by David, and for the most part so consistently--his reputation as a good and holy man--made his offences the greater.
(4) He had reached a mature or almost advanced age; he was long past the boundary of youth, and therefore the more inexcusable in giving way to youthful lusts. And
(5) There was the example of Uriah--so eminent a pattern of faithfulness to his duty as a soldier--of firm aversion even to lawful indulgences that might indispose him for the hardships of a soldier’s life, or be unsuitable in the comrade of brave, self-denying men. Such was the labyrinth of guilt and wickedness into which King David was now betrayed. How, then, it may be asked, can the thing be accounted for at all? It may serve, in some slight degree, to account, for it, if we bear in mind the source of the spiritual life and the mode of its operation. When a man is converted, two opposite principles begin to struggle in his heart--the old man and the new: “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit lusteth against the flesh.” In some natures, both the old man and the new possess unusual vehemence; the desperate energisings of the old are held in check only by the still greater vigour of the new; and if by any means the new man lose his vigour for a time--if the communication with the great Source of that vigour be interrupted, frightful havoc may be wrought by the old. Some men are giants every way: Luther, for example, was a giant in intellect--a giant in animal force and power--a giant in gracious affections; and when in such men the native inclinations burst the restraints of the new nature, it is no common wickedness that may be looked for. It was so with David. But it is one thing to account for David’s sin--it is another to excuse it. These remarks are designed for the one purpose, not the other. The whole transaction bears the character of a beacon, and the beacon is one of the darkest even in the faithful records of Scripture history.
(1) First of all, it shows the frightful danger of interrupting, however briefly, the exercise of watching and praying--of discontinuing communion with the great Source of spiritual strength, especially when the evils that first made us pray earnestly are removed. An hour’s sleep may leave Samson at the mercy of Delilah, and when he awakes his strength is gone.
(2) Further, it affords a sad proof of the danger of dallying with sin even in thought. Admit sin within the precincts of the imagination, and there is the utmost danger of its ultimately mastering the soul. The outposts of the spiritual garrison should be so placed as to protect even the thoughts, and the moment the enemy is discovered there the alarm should be given and the fight begun.
(3) Still further, his fail exemplifies the frightful risk of tolerating anywhere in our hearts a single sin. One sin leads on to another and another; especially if the first be a sin which it is desirable to conceal. (W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)
Transgression: its progress and, consummation
I. The origin of David’s transgressions. Seldom, if ever, is it the case that crime, to any enormous extent, is perpetrated by men even of the common Stamp, upon sudden and momentary impulse. There is almost invariably to be observed a regular gradation in sin, until it towers in all the fierce and frightful ascendancy of open guilt. Thus was it here. Despise not the fear of extreme iniquity, as if you were incapable of such a thing. If David fell, who once stood so high and ‘holy in Christian character, to what a depth may we yet fall, we who have never yet attained to any thing like his early piety:, his primitive godliness.
II. The progress of sin now opens before us. Indolence and sensuality worked out their regular and invariable effect upon the erring monarch. He rises from his bed in the evening time--the bed of luxury, every passion pampered, every avenue to sin wide open, nothing further necessary to bring about his ruin than some external object to move the overt act of evil. The wife of Uriah, one of his principal and most faithful generals, becomes the object of temptation. The temptation triumphs, and the first work of iniquity is accomplished. Sin now becomes compulsory; the fear of detection and infamy, perhaps of personal danger from the just wrath of Uriah, drives the royal culprit to every mean and despicable expedient in order to conceal his transgression. Sin now drives on the soul to violence; and with cold and unfeeling treachery Uriah is made the innocent messenger of his own destruction. What a series of close-linked iniquities--indolence, luxury, lust adultery, hypocrisy, falsehood, treachery, murder! And this is not all; we have here but the single series of crimes; there is a complication likewise which we must not overlook if we would read off the history in all its forcible and solemn instructiveness. Bathsheba is made an accomplice in sin, a moral victim to the guilty passion of the king, while her husband is sacrifced to his fears. Here are souls and bodies of men, precious lives, sported away under the hellish dominion of triumphant guilt! What complicated crime! What an awful history!
III. The consummation of evil. All that we have hitherto looked at belongs only to substantial guilt; guilt branded, it is true, with atrocity, but the consummation of evil still remains for our reflections. Many months had elapsed since the commencement of this wretched business, and a long period of time, too, had intervened between the death of Uriah and the visit of Nathan, to awaken the royal transgressor to repentance. Throughout this whole interval, there was no movement of remorse towards heaven in the heart of the king; he feared the reproof of man, and the wrath of man, as we have seen, and laboured by murderous efforts to avoid them; but there was yet no remorse towards God, no recognition of his turpitude, as viewed by the Most High, no fear of Divine censure, of Divine indignation, no effort to arrest or even deprecate the wrath of Jehovah. Thus, then, David had fallen into practical infidelity; every active consideration of God’s existence, omniscience, and justice had vanished away. What a mystery is sin; it possesses us to self-destruction, while it diminishes nothing of our sagacity or skill in arraying and condemning the guilt of others. It is enough for satanic malice and purpose, if the soul be filled with every holy sentiment, and wisdom, and quality for external occupation, provided it remain dead to its own interests, unmoved by its own guilt! This prostration of judgment, this death of conscience, consummated the spiritual misery of the fallen monarch. How long should such a state have lasted, if God had not specially recalled the sinner to repentance? For ever! There was no human power, no natural remedy left for his restoration. To reclaim him, fear had failed, and conscience had failed, and memory of past obedience had failed. Reason was stupified, and stupified for ever, if God had not, in his faithfulness and mercy, sent a special waffling to his soul, calling forth repentance. Let us pause here one short moment, while we collect together the admonition, which may be adduced from what we have now perused.
1. And first, as we saw the steady, onward progress of sin, from the almost imperceptible germ of indolence and luxury, to the actual crime of murder, and the utter infatuation of all spiritual sense and judgment, let us hence, I say, beware of the least compliance with iniquity. We often trifle with sins of small account, set limitations to our compliance with the follies or luxuries, or harmless indulgences of the world, as they are termed.
2. Reflect with horror on the complication of sin. For our self-gratification alone it is that we are led on to crime at first; that gratification must have victims; aye, if the besetting evil within us be but pride or covetousness, it must have victims. Some must suffer for our indulgence, many will become hardened by our example in guilt; for often the man who is called, in the false language of the world, his own enemy alone, will have to answer, perhaps, for the eternal death of others.
3. Trust nothing to your own shrewdness of discernment between good and evil your own spiritual-mindedness and holiness, about the external objects and other men. Our profession is worth nothing, our spiritual attainments no proof of personal approbation with God, of personal holiness, while they range beyond self. We must deal with self, prove self, pass judgment on self, and live in communion, secret union with Christ, or our religion is but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal.
IV. The return to virtue. Mark the proof; here is a king, with all the powers of life and death over his subjects, in his own will, in his own hands. He is confronted by a man of humble state, of lowly lot, a man devoid of ally earthly influence. By this man he is accused of a grievous murder, and that, too in broad noon day, before his courtiers and counsellors, on his very throne of judgment; and so far from yielding to resentment at so daring an intrusion, or expressing the least displeasure at the abrupt and public accusation with which he is so assailed, he sinks at once into contrition, and confesses his iniquity--“I have sinned against the Lord.” This is what we need, a thorough conviction of our sins now; we shall have it certainly in the world to come, if it be not here attained. But conviction there is too late for anything but eternal torment; we must have it here, that under a thorough sense of our lost condition, we may apply to the rich mercies of the Redeemer for pardon.
V. Pardon I And may pardon be had for such iniquities as adultery and murder--for such extremes of crime? Yes, for all transgressions; the vilest may hope; this history is for our encouragement, to seek that grace which never was denied to suppliant man--“Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him.”
VI. No encouragement to careless sin, and fruitless admission of criminality, with the secret or avowed purpose of continuance in crime. That from which nature shrinks with more alarm than all the threatenings of eternal misery can inspire is present suffering; that was inflicted, in all its severity, upon David. (C. M. Fleury, A. M.)
Sloth and sin
I. David at this time enjoyed great prosperity. The promises made in adversity have not been forgotten. His devotion to God is fervid and growing. There were no rebellions at home. The land was quiet. The great wish of his heart had been formed into an avenue through which the service could be rendered to God.
1. Prosperity enervated him. Prosperity is a danger to men of David’s mould. Contrast the readiness with which he went forth in the old days when Saul hunted him as a bird! He was standing in high places! He needed clinging grace.
2. Prosperity induced sloth. Our inner life is very responsive to our outward condition.
II. When opportunity and temptation meet there is struggle. Without reserve the Bible tells the shameful story--shows how one sin drags after it another until it compels you to write against the name of the man (not free from the weakness of human imperfections, yet sincere and upright)--to write against that man the horrible list of crimes, deception, adultery, injustice, treachery, and murder.
III. The influences which sapped the wall of his will. You feel instinctively such a fall could not have been instantaneous--fifty years old, a devoted, upright man of God to so fall. The tempest has not strength in it to snap such an oak if the heart of the tree is sound. The sacred narrative shows the weakness, reveals the secret decay.
1. Close the doors of imagination against carnal imagery; make a covenant with your eves and keep it. There was a “prepared plate” in the camera of David’s mind, or the beauty of Bathsheba had been as nought to him. Take heed where you go for your recreations. Idle strolling may in some moods lead to pitfalls. He concealed when he should have confessed. Better to have crept to the mercy-seat covered with his filth than, as he did, wait in the palace with his sin. (H. E. Stone.)
David and Bathsheba
After so many splendid victories achieved by David, after such frequent triumphs over his enemies, nothing remained but the subjugation of those passions that are excited by prosperity and wealth: but these were enemies more difficult to subdue than the Philistines and the other powerful nations whom this valiant warrior had vanquished. “He that ruleth his spirit is stronger than he that taketh a city.” David was smitten with the charms of Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, a brave and generous soldier, who was at that time fighting the battles of his country, and engaged at the siege of Rabbah. Contrary to the laws of God, to every sentiment of honour, and every dictate of generosity, he led her to violate her nuptial engagements. What shall we say to this conduct? Shall we with some well-intentioned but injudicious commentators extenuate the crimes of David? No; he himself, when his eyes were opened to behold the depth of the abyss into which he was fallen, would not attempt to diminish the horror of his transgressions. He was guilty of crimes than which none more enormous are to be found in the black list of sins.
1. Are there any who are ready to justify their enormities from the example of David? Who are saying to themselves, “If David, notwithstanding these enormous crimes, was a saint of God, and obtained pardon, I am safe?” Let such consider his habitual conduct, his splendid virtues, and his deep repentance. In examining his habitual conduct, we behold a heart devoted to God. He fell into acts of the greatest wickedness; but these were not permanent, but diametrically opposite to his general walk and conversation. Justice requires also that we should contrast his murder and adultery with the splendid actions of his life. “David,” says the sacred historian (1 Kings 15:5) “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” Think of his confidence in God; of his trust in the everlasting covenant; of the magnanimity and clemency that he so often displayed; of his zeal for the glory of God; of his humility; of his acquiescence in the severest dispensations of providence; of the pious emotions which glow in his psalms, and were felt in his heart; and after taking this general review of his life, say if there are many who from the bed of death can look back to more numerous or more splendid monuments of piety and virtue. Consider, too, the depth of his repentance. Behold him prostrate in the dust, dissolved in tears, pleading for the life of his soul; looking back with unutterable anguish to his conduce; bearing the agonised remembrance of it to the grave; never palliating his crimes; fleeing for pardon to unmerited grace.
2. This subject teaches us that one sin gradually leads us to another; that he who enters upon a criminal course knows not where he shall stop in his course; that he who indulges impetuous passions and inordinate appetites will shortly be deprived of the power of saying to them, “Hitherto shall ye come and no farther;” and that, therefore, our only safety is to be found in resisting the first approaches to crime, and “abstaining from all appearance of evil.” Oppose, then, the beginnings of evil; beware of cherishing one sinful thought; you know not to what lengths of guilt and shame it may carry you; you cannot tell where its destructive consequences will end.
3. This subject addresses those who, like David, have departed from the ways of the Lord; have violated their engagements; have wounded their consciences; have grieved the Spirit of God and His saints. There is a sacrifice which has sufficient virtue to expiate all your accumulated guilt. By the application of the blood of Jesus, and the communication of his Spirit, you shall obtain the restoration of peace with God, and strength to serve Him in time to come; like David and like Peter recovered from your falls, you shall again participate of his favour and love.
4. In reviewing this history, we are naturally led to ask, Why did Providence permit this shameful fall in David? or, to extend the question, Why does God allow sin to remain, and sometimes to break out forcibly in his regenerate children? This question cannot easily be answered. It is not for want of power to prevent it; for He could perfectly sanctify them. It is not for want of hatred to their sin; it appears as odious, more odious in them than in others. It is not for want of love to them; he regards them as his friends and his children. Why, then, does he not render them immaculately holy? The following are, perhaps, some of the reasons of this dispensation. These do not at all justify the offender, though they vindicate the providence of God, and show its omnipotence in educing good from evil itself.
(1) By them, the grace of God, in justification, is illustriously, and will be eternally magnified.
(2) They are thus taught the depth of that iniquity which is in them, and rendered humble and dependent.
(3) Thus they are taught to value more dearly the advocacy and intercession of the Lord Jesus.
(4) The remembrance of the anguish of soul which they endured before God restored unto them the joy of His salvation; the recollection of “the wormwood and the gall” inspires them with additional fear of sin, and makes them more studious to mortify it. They tremble at the disease they have already felt, and walk in holy fear.
(5) They are thus, by the wonderful providence of God, fitted for service. “When thou art converted,” says Christ to Peter, after predicting his fall, “strengthen thy brethren.” By the bitter experience of the power of sin they can admonish others against it.
(6) The sins of believers make them tong for heaven. They are made ready to drop this body of flesh if with it they may drop the body of sin and death. “They groan, being burdened,” and sigh for that land of perfect holiness, where they shall no longer offend their God. (H. Kollock, D. D.)
What led to David’s great sin? He did by another what he ought to have done himself. Notice verse l, “When kings go forth;” “David sent Joab;” “David tarried still.”
1. The indulgence of the flesh in a little thing led to indulgence in a greater. (Romans 13:12-14; Romans 8:12-13; Galatians 5:16.)
2. One sin leads to another, or requires another to cover it.
3. See the hardening effect of sin! The tender-hearted David becomes a monster of cruelty! (Read, after 2 Samuel 11:26; 2 Samuel 12:26 to end.)
4. The degradation of sin! Joab taken into counsel.
5. The Lord’s unseen contemplation of man’s actions. (Verse 27. Hebrews 4:13; Proverbs 15:11.) I, the great onus of the crime. For Christians the terrible ingredient of wilful sin is this: They crucify Christ afresh. They cause His name to be blasphemed. (Romans 2:24.) This makes our responsibility; hence 1 Peter 2:12; 2 Corinthians 6:3.
II. David’s repentance. Notice immediate confession on conviction of his sin. His confession brief, heartfelt, going to the root of the matter. (R. E. Faulkner.)
David’s dark days
If the heart is lifted up, if pride and self-conceit take the place of humility and manly self-forgetfulness, the soul is likely to lose its hold upon God and its close communion with Him, and there is danger of temptation prevailing over high principle, danger of the “natural man” usurping the place of the “spiritual man,” danger of a fall. So it was with David. The height of his success and the splendour of his triumph may have thrown him off his guard. He was a strong man with a passionate nature, and through his passions he fell. It was a true instance of St. James’s awful statement. He was “drawn away of his lust, and enticed;” and when lust had conceived it brought forth sin; and sin, when it was finished, brought forth death. One deliberate sin has this terrible property about it, that, unless checked at once, by honest confession and return to God, it is sure to lead on to other sins. Such was the case with David. He tried to cover up the crime he had committed by various efforts to deceive Uriah, and make it impossible for the dark secret to be known.
2. A year had passed away since David’s fall. He had returned to Jerusalem in triumph. The dead Uriah was probably forgotten. The child of guilt was burn, and loved by David with a passionate tenderness. The dreadful story, however, was not, we maybe quite certain, all forgotten by the king himself. However much the commission of the crimes of adultery and murder had injured or blinded his conscience--as wilful sin always does--still, “the man after God’s own heart,” the man who had shown through many temptations “an honest and good heart,” the man who had loved and trusted God so faithfully, could not have rested quite at his ease under the terrible memory that he had allowed base passion to conquer his better self.
3. God was looking in mercy upon His servant, and Nathan was sent to him to bring him to the fulness of a sincere repentance, and to restore trim to peace with God. Nathan did his duty fearlessly and completely. Whatever sorrows there are and must be to penitents who have deeply fallen, still “God is the God of comfort,” and He comforted David. Bathsheba was now his wife. Another child was born to them and David--with the sense of restored peace with God--called him Solomon, “the peaceful.” (W. J. Knox Little, M. A.)
This chapter holds out the history of David’s soul downfall from the very pinnacle of the highest prosperity to which God raised him. David’s downfall was double, into two sins (without repentance), namely, the sin of adultery and the sin of murder.
I. Remarks upon the concomitant circumstances Are:--
1. The time of David’s adultery. This has a three-fold description, as
(1) The time of the year, at springtime;
(2) The time of war, when David had renewed his war against the Ammonites; and
(3) The time of the day, in an eventide (2 Samuel 11:1-2.) To which may be added
(4) The time of David’s age and reign. Common computation makes it David’s seventh year, the forty-ninth of his age, and the nineteenth of his reign. But learned Dr. Lightfoot computes it to be the twenty-sixth of his reign and so the fifty-sixth of his age, seeing he was thirty years old when he began his reign in Hebron, being in the tenth year of Samuel.
2. The place of David’s sin: it was his own palace where he was indulging himself to ease and pleasure, when he should have been fighting the Lord’s battles in the field with his army against the Ammonites. While he kept abroad in the wars in his own person he was safe enough. It was at evening tide when David should have been at his devotion, as had been his custom (Psalms 55:17), seeing he would not be in the field to fight.
3. Upon the third circumstance, the person, the sight whereof was the occasion of David’s soul fall. She is described here divers ways:
(1) A woman washing herself, to wit, from her legal uncleanness (Leviticus 15:19; Leviticus 18:19.) Possibly some window was carelessly left open for air in her chamber, that was near the palace royal, where she could espie no beholder; but lust, being quick sighted, lustful David espied her through the casement that then was casually or carelessly left open.
(2) “Very beautiful to behold.” This was a strong bait to David, who had been indulging himself with some excess of eating and drinking.
(3) She is described by her name, as well as by her beauty (2 Samuel 11:3.) David enquired after her, who she was, when he should rather have reproved himself for looking and lusting after a forbidden object; more especially when he found she was a daughter to one and a wife to another of his famous worthies (2Sa 23:34; 2 Samuel 23:39.)
(4) “David sent messengers to fetch her.” Unbridled lust, like the wild vine, will ramble over the hedge.
(5) She came from her own house into his palace, not by force but by persuasion, pretending only to speak with her; but she came not so well fortified for resisting a temptation as she should.
II. Let us turn aside with Moses to take a little prospect of this, a great wonder,
1. As to David, “A man after God’s own heart,” yet his unbridled lust had metamorphosed him into a beast, He might now well say in the words of Asaph, “So foolish was I and ignorant, and even as a beast before Thee.” (Psalms 73:23.) This teacheth us, that the best of men are but men at the best; and who art thou, O man, that thinkst thou art safe and secure enough from acts Of sin? “Surely thou knowest not the plague of thine own heart” (1 Kings 8:38.)
2. As to Bathsheba, some do say she was not free from faultiness upon several accounts.
(1) That she bathed herself in her garden, so nigh to the King’s court, for Uriah, being one of David’s worthies, had his house assigned him near to the royal palace.
(2) That she so willingly came with the first messenger without any jealousy of a snare to her, after such too open a washing herself in the view of the court.
(3) That she so easily yielded unto David’s tempting her without any reluctancy, forgetting her fidelity to her honourable husband, choosing rather to be a base harlot to a king than an honest wife to a good subject.
III. David’s adding murder to his adultery, instead of repenting for his sin.
1. First, David’s contrivement to congeal his sin from the eyes of men, in the meantime not regarding the all-seeing eye of God, etc.
(1) He sends for Uriah, that he, returning home and lying with his wife, might believe this now begotten child, to be of his own begetting.
(2) The discourse betwixt David and Uriah upon his return at royal summons (v. 7.)
(3) David deals still with Uriah while sober, and dissemblingly gives him an amicable dismission (v. 8) bidding him go home and refresh thyself after thy travail, “and rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18.) Not doubting but he would converse with his wife, and so cover both their sin and their shame.
(4) David’s expostulation with Uriah, occasioned by his not embracing the King’s leave to go to his house, but sleeping all night, among the king’s guard (v. 9.)
(5) Uriah still holds his resolution (v. 11) neither the dignity of the king (saith Peter Martyr) nor the beauty and importunity of his wife could reclaim him from his refractory humour. Thus the providence of God did counter-work all the policies and projects of David, who designed all along to have his sin concealed, when the most wise God will have it revealed; and lest the king should think it was too saucy a sullenness in a subject to be thus peremptory he renders a most pregnant reason for so persisting in his resolve.
(6) Still David, instead of repenting, proceeds from bad to worse (2 Samuel 11:12-13), when he found himself crossed in his former contrivances with Uriah while sober, he will try one trick more in making Uriah drunk, that when intoxicated he might forget his oath and lie with his wife, putting off all his former austerity.
2. The last, but worst link of that doleful chain of David’s lust: So far was David still from repenting of his sin that, seeing his craft (for concealing his adultery he failed him in all the other fair means he contrived, now) resolveth upon cruelty in the use of foul methods to get this good Uriah cut off insensibly, and so to cover his adultery with murder, that so he might not live to accuse the adulteress.
(1) In order hereunto he wrote a letter to Joab (v. 14), not with black but rather with blood, and Uriah must carry this sword to Joab for the cutting of his own throat.
(2) Uriah must be set in the hottest battle, and then lurched (v 15). Joab must believe this most excellent person had some way deserved death, and he must be the executioner; yet could he not be ignorant of the law, that no criminals should die without two or three witnesses against them; therefore, he was too obsequious in obeying so tyrannical a command (v. 16, 17), but Joab haply hoped thereby to ingratiate himself with David for the murder of Abner, which he had not yet answered, for now David was like to be no less guilty than himself. Right or wrong, he’ll please the king.
(3) Tidings hereof are dictated by Joab in what order the messenger must tell David (v. 18, 19), and if the king object any rashness in the enterprise, he must answer “Uriah is slain also,” and that answers all objections.
(4) David was pleased, saying “Let not Joab be displeased,” etc (v. 25), where he smootheth up his general, slights the slaughter of so many gallant men, and deeply dissembleth with the messenger, that so neither his bloody command nor Joab’s fawning obedience might be discovered to him. David had, been still striving against the stream in the use of fair means, and none would do to his content; but, having found success in this foul policy, oh how he hugs himself under hardness of heart.
(5) Bathsheba mourned for the death of her husband (v. 26), and no doubt it was a feigned and a merry mourning. She was inwardly pleased, both as freed from fear of his rage and punishment of an adulteress, and: as hoping now to be made a queen. Had she been sensible of her sin (afterwards doubtless she was) she would have mourned like a dove, as Queen Huzzah did (Nahum 2:7.) But after seven days of mourning (saith Josephus) the ordinary time (Genesis 50:10, 1 Samuel 31:13) the adulterer married the adulteress; and probably more haste might be made here that she might be thought to be with child by David after they were married (v. 27.) “But the thing that David had (lone displeased the Lord,” which was not simply his marrying of her, for that is nowhere forbidden in Scripture, but for his alluring her to adultery, and for murdering her husband after it. (C. Ness.)
Susceptibility to sin
Professor George Lincoln Goodale, speaking of the cultivation of plants, said: “It is impossible for us to ignore the fact that there appear to be occasions in the life of a species when it seems to be peculiarly susceptible to the influences of its surroundings. A species, like a carefully laden ship, represents a balancing of forces within and without. Disturbances may come through variation from within, as from a shifting cargo, or in some cases from without. We may suppose both forces to be active in producing variation, a change in the internal condition rendering the plant more susceptible to any change in its surroundings. “Under the influence of any marked disturbance a state of unstable equilibrium may be brought about, at which times the species as such is easily acted upon by very slight agencies.” Analogous to the learned scientist’s observation of growing plants is the experience of every growing human life. We cannot pass over its ever-repeated evidence that there are occasions when character, to use Dr. Goodale’s phrase, “seems to be peculiarly susceptible to, the influence of its surroundings;” and disturbances, whether from within or without, produce such a state of “unstable equilibrium,” that the character is “easily acted upon by any very slight agencies.” Then is it that, by the merest little only, life’s important steps are taken, and lead to either success or failure. (Homiletic Review.)
A man’s weak hours
A man is weak, not by the power that assails, but by the want of defensive power. It made no difference where the assault was made at Gettysburg on the third day, by the adversary that attempted to pierce the centre of the lines; and it made no difference that they came after a perfect whirlwind of cannonading; for the resisting power was greater than the attacking power. That is an hour of weakness when the resisting power is weak. Now, nothing is weaker than the conscience when it is paralysed by the touch of avarice. There is such an appetite in some natures for gold that, although at times they are manly and good in a thousand respects, at other times, when avarice dominates, their moral sentiments are paralysed by it; and those are their weak hours. There are some men whose weak hour is connected with their passions. There are some men whose weak hour is in the lower grade of pleasures. There are some men whose weak hour is in eating. There are other men whose weak hour is in drinking. Oh, how many noble men have been girdled, how many men of genius have been utterly destroyed, how many persons of hope and promise have been completely overthrown, by intemperance! (H. W. Beecher.)
Watchfulness against riotous appetites imperative
The fleshly passions are like mutinous sailors, to be kept below deck. “Never allow your lower nature anything better than a steerage passage. Let watchfulness wall: the decks as an armed sentinel and shoot down with great promptness anything like a mutiny of riotous appetites.” Says the apostle: “Mortify--literally, kill your members which are upon the earth.” (E. P. Thwing.)
Sin, a malicious guest;
“Sin is an ill guest,” says Manton, “for it always sets its lodgings on fire.” Entertained within the human breast, and cherished and fondled, it makes its host no return but an evil one. It places the burning coals of evil desire within the soul with evident intent to fire the whole man with fierce passions. Let these passions be suffered to rage, and the flame will burn even to the lowest hell. Who would not shut his door on such a guest? Or, if he be known to be lurking within, who would not drag him out? How foolish are these who find delight in such an enemy, and treat him with more care than their best friend. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Looking at a wrong thing perilous
Weak dallying with forbidden desires is sure to end in wicked clutching at them. Young men, take care! You stand upon the beetling edge of a great precipice, when you look over, from your fancied security, at a wrong thing; and to strain too far, and to look too friendly, leads to a perilous danger of toppling over and being lost. If you know that a thing cannot be won without transgression do not tamper with hankering for it. Keep away from the edge, and shut your eyes from beholding vanity. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
Satan ever near the idle
David’s giving himself to ease and pleasure was the root of all his wretchedness. Standing waters gather filth. Flies settle upon the sweetest perfumes when cold, and corrupt them. As the crab-fish seizeth upon the oyster gaping, so doth Satan upon the idle. No moss sticketh to the rolling stone: which if it lay still would be overgrown. The rankest weeds grow out of the fattest soil. The water that hath been heated soonest freezeth; the most active spirit soonest tireth with slacking. The earth standeth still, and is all dregs; the heavens ever move and are pure. Beware of ease and idleness: here began David’s downfall. Say not of this, as Lot did of Zoar, “Is it not a little one?” The parvity of a sin taketh not away the pravity of it: and a less maketh way for a greater, as wedges do in wood-cleaving. Pompey desired that all his soldiers might come into a certain city; when that was denied he said, “Let nay weak and wounded soldiers come in;” they did, and then soon opened the gates to all the army. (J. Trapp.)
2 Samuel 11:13
And when David had called him he made him drunk.
The sinfulness of causing drunkenness
It is a very wicked thing, under any design whatsoever, to make a person drunk. Woe to him that does so (Habakkuk 2:15-16.) God will put a cup of trembling into the hands of those who put into the hands of others the cup of drunkenness. Robbing a man of Ins reason is worse than robbing him of his money, and drawing him into sin worse than drawing him into any trouble whatsoever. (M. Henry.)
2 Samuel 11:14
David wrote a letter to Joab.
--So in the Greek story, Proetus sent Bellerophon to Jobates with his own death warrant. (Cp. Hom. II. 6:168, 169.) “Slay him he would not, that his soul abhorred; but to the father of his wife, the King of Lycia, sent him forth, with tokens charged of dire import, on folded tablets traced, poisoning, the monarch’s mind to work his death.” (A. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.)
2 Samuel 11:27
But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.
The universal insecurity of religious perseverance
The transaction is recorded at length in the chapter which contains the text; and the conclusions which we may draw from a review of it are numerous.
1. The first, and by no means the least important of these, is the proof which hence arises that none of us can lay claim to any constraining grace, which, in despite of ourselves, shall compel us to holiness and to salvation. That David enjoyed the grace of God in a very especial degree, is what no Christian can deny: and few, it is to be expected, Will suppose themselves to be more highly favoured than he was in this particular. Yet here we have a melancholy, but still a most positive and salutary proof that no portion of the grace of God, however considerable, will protect man from the most fearful enormities, unless he will employ it when given him. Our faith is not to be confidence that we shall be saved, but confidence that, if we obey. God to the best of our power, we shall be saved: and our hope must be that we may render that obedience which may be accepted through Christ; while our lives must be such as are worthy of such an hope; we must prove that we have this hope in us, by purifying ourselves, even as He is pure.
2. The next consideration which forces itself on our attention is the difference of David’s circumstances at the time of his fall from those in which he is placed, when he had the best of all testimonies, that “the Lord was with him.” We now see that, however prosperity and leisure are in themselves desirable, they have dangers, which to resist, requires all the strength which God has put at our disposal. David was not a novice to their blandishments. For ten years he had been in undisputed possession of the splendour and luxuries of the kingdom of all Israel. All this period had been as remarkable as the darkest days of his adversity for the most religious fulfilment of the two great comprehensive duties, the love of God and the love of his neighbour. Offensive, therefore, as the thought may be to him who feels himself secure in his own righteousness, or who imagines himself to be so firmly in the hand of the Lord that nothing can pluck him thence, it is, nevertheless, the inevitable conclusion from the melancholy truth now under consideration that no man, whatever his real holiness, or whatever his opinion concerning the decision of his future fate, is secure from the stains of even the most deadly sins. David, it appears, had hitherto been as holy in prosperity as in distress; and, it might be supposed, was now so intimate with grandeur and power as to have nothing to fear from their influence, especially when it is considered that it was by habitual religion that he had supported himself inviolate amidst the trials of persecution and the temptations of luxury. But at this crisis there was one remarkable circumstance. He had already done all that was required of him in active life, and there Seemed nothing now remaining but to turn his thoughts towards the interests and good government of his kingdom. When his pillow was the rock and his curtain the cave; when his sword, under Providence, procured him his daily bread from the foes of his country, and the means of existence formed the object and pursuit of life--he was pious and immovable; he must have been active, or he must have resigned his life. But now the case was widely different; he had not only all the necessities, but all the luxuries which the most refined voluptuousness could devise, attending in profusion round him: he had certainly the duty of his charge, to impress its importance on his mind; but then he had the opportunity of neglecting it; and even David, it appears, was not proof against the solicitations of this opportunity! To all of us is this example fraught with materials for the most serious personal application. The flesh itself works along with us so long as we toil for its support; but when we have once accomplished this it ungratefully turns upon us and endeavours to enslave us to its dominion. Where the necessities of life do not compel him to labour there is great danger, even to the confirmed Christian, lest the value of time and the necessity of improving it, should not be always present to his mind; while the temptations arising from the very nature of his situation are such as at all times require the very closest and most diligent circumspection. And when the unguarded moment and the temptation coincide, as they are wont to do, the example before us is a terrible demonstration of the ruin which must follow. The crime of Bathsheba cannot be long concealed: the punishment was death; either, therefore, Bathsheba must be sacrificed to the law, or her husband removed in time to allow her to become the wife of David before suspicion could arise. David no longer hesitates: the fatal order is deliberately sealed, and put into the hands of the generous, unsuspecting victim, who immediately is placed by his commander in the post most congenial to his feelings, the forefront of the hottest battle, and betrayed by his cowardly companions into the hands of an unsparing enemy. Such is the natural uniform progress of sin, wherever it takes root, though the soil be the heart of David. (H. Thompson, M. A.)
Two aspects of David
1. This chapter reveals the character of David in its most distressing aspects. From end to end it is a production worthy only of the very genius of perdition, His very greatness becomes the measure of his sin. All his senses are set on fire of hell. The spirit of generosity is dead within him. The spirit of justice is exiled from his nature. How is the star of the morning dashed from heaven l How is the fine gold become dimmed! How are the mighty fallen! It is almost impossible to believe that this is human nature at all. Let us not seek to excuse David. We injure the Bible, and the whole purpose of the inspired volume, if we speak so much as one word in defence of a series of actions which might have been conceived by Satan and executed within the darkness of perdition.
2. The all-important sentence is the last: “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” Without that sentence the chapter would have been intolerable. From this time forth David must bear the judgment of the Lord. Do not let it be supposed that even king David could perform such a series of wrongs and cruelties, and play as skilfully on his harp as ever, and sing as jubilantly before Heaven as he ever did. David’s harp acquired a new tone after this infamy. Psalms were written by David after this great transgression which could not have been written before its commission. Years were added to the life of the king; he was bent down under an invisible load; his face was wrinkled with grief, and his eyes were dimmed by contrite tears.
3. We see now something of what human nature is when it is left to show itself. We are bound to go to history as the one revelation of human nature. It is in vain to invent and discuss theories of psychology; it is in vain to look upon one aspect of human nature, and to judge the whole by the part; it is in vain, too, to fix upon any given date in human history and to judge men by that standard of civilisation. The one inquiry is what men have done in their very worst moods. An answer to that inquiry will settle the whole question respecting human depravity. We are bound to look at such a chapter as the first in the epistle to the Romans, if we would see what human nature is in its innermost and largest possibilities. Nor must we shrink from dwelling upon the hideous spectacle, To speak of revolted sensibilities, highly excited prejudices, and to declare that such instances are beyond the range of careful study, is simply to deprive ourselves of some of the most solid lessons of human history. We must know what sin is before we can have any adequate idea of the Divine relation to it. Sin explains the cross, sin explains the atonement, sin explains Christ.
4. The Bible is to be judged by what God would have done, not by what man would have done. Find a single sentence which approves of David’s guilt. Happily, there is no such sentence in the whole record. The spirit of the Bible, therefore, is not seen in what David did, but in the judgments which followed him and darkened his day with tremendous thunder-clouds. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (J. Parker, D. D.)
The aggravation of David’s sin
As for David’s fall, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints. David’s fall was such as is not so much as named among the Gentiles. But, past speaking about as David’s fall was, it was what followed his fall that so displeased the Lord. In the words of Butler’s latest editor, “it is safer to be wicked in the ordinary way than from this corruption lying at the root.” As Thomas Goodwin points out in his great treatise on the “Aggravation of Sin,.” it was the “matter of Uriah,” even more than the matter of Bathsheba, that awakened the anger of the Lord against David. That is to say, it was David’s sin of deliberation and determination, rather than his sin of sudden and intoxicating passion. It was both matters; it was both sins; but it cannot be overlooked that it was after a twelvemonth of self-deceit, internal hypocrisy, and self-forgiving silence on David’s part that Nathan was sent to David in such Divine indignation. How a man like David could have lived all that time soaked to the eyes in adultery and murder and not go mad is simply inconceivable: That is to say, it would be inconceivable if we had not ourselves out of which to parallel and illustrate David, and make David both possible and natural to us. (Alex. Whyte, D. D.)