2 Samuel 13 – A King’s Legacy

Discussion Question

“Godly parents have often been afflicted with wicked children; grace does not run in the blood, but corruption does.” Matthew Henry wrote this with regard to 2 Samuel 13. Discuss what you think he means.

Background (Context)

Sons in the bible. When the curse of sin was pronounced in Genesis 3, there was also hope in Verse 15. A child of Eve will crush the serpent’s head. It is a brief line full of mystery that is only fully understood when we see that Jesus is that offspring. But for a long while, Adam and Eve and their descendants that followed might have wondered who will be the offspring of Eve to overcome the power of Satan? The first choice for this was Abel and Cain. But Genesis Chapter 4 describes one brother killing the other. The bible continues to tease its readers over the question of ‘what will this son be like?’ In 1 Samuel, we meet the child of Hannah who proves to be a great prophet and judge in Israel named – Samuel. We then meet his sons and find that they were wicked sons. God had spoken to David in 2 Samuel 7 about promising for his throne to never be without a son of his on it. Our chapter this week speaks into this theme of sons and what they will do as part of God’s unfolding story of salvation.

Sons of David. 1 Chronicles 3 lists the sons that were born to David in Hebron before relocating his throne room to Jerusalem and then the sons and daughters born to him by Bathsheba in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 13 we are concerned with Amnon who is David’s firstborn son and so the likely heir to the throne. Also Absalom, Amnon’s half brother and Absalom’s sister Tamar.

2 Samuel 11 and 12 dealt with the details and aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. It all began with David wandering around his palace and turning a brief glance into a moment of desire. That desire became fully grown into sin. 2 Samuel 13 will tell the story of his first son Amnon and the similarity of the story is scary.

Read 2 Samuel 13

Read 2 Samuel 13 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Part 1: the sin (1-22)
    • Amnon’s “love” (1-14)
    • Amnon’s hatred (15-22)
  • Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)
    • Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)
    • The King’s response (30-39)

Part 1: the sin (1-22)

Amnon’s “love” (1-14)

“In the course of time, Amnon…fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.” The story begins and introduces the problem straight away. Tamar is a half-sister of Amon. By the time the law of God is given to Moses, this is not acceptable (Leviticus 20:17; see also Ezekiel 22:11). But Amnon believes he is in love with Tamar when really he only desires her. Much like David had desired Bathsheba from his view of her bathing on the rooftop.

“Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill.” It’s difficult to imagine any obsession that is healthy and this one is far from it! This is a shut-down of any sober thought. He has fooled himself to thinking that Tamar is all that he needs and that life is not complete without her. Love-sickness is not so uncommon. It happens often amongst the young but not isolated to them. Grown-ups can get obsessed over people and things too. The need to have becomes greater than anything else. But to be sober-minded about all things is wise.

“She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” This guy just sounds sex-crazed. I don’t even mean that to be humorous. His desire to have her is sexual. All he can see are the obstacles preventing him from doing ‘anything to her.’ As the story unfolds and we learn of his later hatred toward her, he is not obsessing over her personality but over her body. He sees her as an object. What a terrible thing to do – see others as merely objects. The New Testament gives us this advice: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2) He ought to have been slapped across the face and told to treat her as his sister with absolute purity. But his advisor gives terrible advice.

“…Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother.” This relationship is described again in Verse 32. David’s brother’s son makes him Amnon’s cousin.

“…a very shrewd man…” This is a description of one’s intelligence and quick response to things. It is neither positive nor negative. It does not mean wise, but clever. Perhaps a description of someone who knows how to get what they want out of a situation. Jonadab seems to be a sort of snake in the garden character in this story – he only needs to nudge Amnon and Absalom for them to fall.

“Amnon said to [David], ‘I would like my sister Tamar…’” There is not much to explain from Verses 4 to 7 but to highlight David’s passive role in this event. Should he have known about Amnon’s obsession? He doesn’t hesitate in ordering Tamar to go to Amnon. Does he not perceive what is happening? Or does he just hope that things won’t go bad. The King’s intervention would have been helpful at this point of the story and may have saved his son’s life!

“…made the bread in his sight and baked it…” She is cooking just as she was asked to do. We cannot read between the lines. The passage does not imply any evil on her part.

“…he refused to eat.” Amnon gives Tamar the first clue that there is something wrong. Up until now she has been making him bread. Now she is to become aware of his intentions.

“Come to bed with me, my sister.” He calls her his sister and the reply from her is to call him her brother. They are not using their names but the relationship that makes this wrong even more wrong.

“No, my brother! Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel!” This is not seduction, or two attracted people going where they both know they should not go. Leviticus 20:17.

“What about me…what about you…?” She is trying to be rational about all of this. After this fleeting act, there will be repercussions.

“Please speak to the king…” Tamar pleads with Amnon to include the king in this process. Rather than act as he wishes, he ought to ask for help. God’s law certainly forbade this marriage. Perhaps Tamar is clutching at straws now as she pleads with Amnon to rethink what he is doing. She is not dumbstruck with love/desire but is desperate for escape.

“…he refused to listen…he was stronger…he raped her.” Let nobody suggest that the bible encourages, excuses or implies a man forcing himself on a woman to be anywhere near acceptable (also a woman on a man). It is not. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 talks of sex inside of marriage as the right place to experience this. To read 1 Corinthians 7 as forced sex is to be unkind to the message of the text. Sex inside of marriage is to be consenting – always. See also 1 Peter 3:7.

I think it ironic that this episode describes Amnon’s love for Tamar. Love is love, right? Well, no. This episode is about Amnon’s sin with Tamar. His lust. The cravings of his flesh which made himself ill and destroyed Tamar (and himself). What was called love is quickly exchanged for hatred.

Amnon’s hatred (15-22)

“Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred.” As passionately as he had ‘loved’ her, he now hates her. She was an object of lust initially and now she is an object of rejection. Even less of a person to him as she was before.

“Sending me away would be a greater wrong…” It was wrong enough what he did to her but now, by discarding her, he is leaving her with no future life (as it would play out in the Israel culture). This evil, she may learn to live with, but the penalty of being rejected by all because of something that she did not cause – that is perhaps greater. It is odd for us to consider living with a perpetrator as perhaps better. There is no silver lining here in this story. Sin is ugly. There are no dreams of a fairytale ending.

“But he refused to listen to her…” There is a mirror shape to this story. Verse 14 is at the center and what we read as we progress in the story is a reversal of what has previously happened. He refused to listen to her when she said, “No!” and now he refuses to listen to her again as she tries to reason with him. He will expel her out of his bedroom as aggressively as he lured her in.

“She was wearing an ornate robe…” The text tells us that this was a visual clue that she was a virgin daughter of the king. The language matches the coat that Joseph wore in Genesis 37:23.

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’” It sounds like Absalom already despised Amnon. He didn’t need to ask any questions before deducing that this was Amnon’s doing. He had ‘been with’ her and Absalom knew it. Absalom was so aware of Amnon’s obsession, why wasn’t David clued into this?

“Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” It would be quite out of character, given how this chapter continues, that Absalom is saying: don’t sweat it, he’s your bro, let it go. That is not what this means. Rather, it will be difficult to move forward with this accusation because he is her brother, the son of the king and now Absalom is instructing her not to put this matter onto her own heart since he will deal with this. In the first instance, he takes her in to his household. The rest of the chapter unfolds what Absalom intends to do to take vengeance.

“When King David heard all this, he was furious.” One would hope that his fury would give way to action – to bring justice to this event. It does not. David does nothing. Absalom remains silent and never interacts with his brother. But there is anger.

Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)

Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)

“Two years later…” This tells us something very important about what happened immediately after this terrible evil…nothing. David, though furious, did nothing. Absalom remained furious but was biding his time. The time lapse of two years makes the point of inaction toward evil by the right people an important theme in this account. If only David had been more involved from the beginning!

“Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor…” What we get here is an occasion for a party. A shearers celebration was about to happen NNE of Jerusalem and Absalom will take this opportunity to invite all of the sons of David to the party. Is two years enough time to let troubled water run under the bridge? Perhaps that’s what Absalom wanted his brothers to think.

“All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” David is being respectful and polite but there is still a reluctance in this story for David to be engaged in the action. David is also suspicious of Amnon’s invitation, surely there is no reason for David to think that Absalom has forgotten what happened. But if the king will not go, then perhaps his prince.

“Strike Amnon down…kill him…Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.” Amnon was the clear target and he was taken out. It shocked the other brothers though and they fled. After a two year coldness, Absalom struck down the guilty man in vengeance for his sister. He had taken her matter to his own heart and dealt with it. When David was doing nothing, Absalom did something.

The King’s response (30-39)

“…the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons…” This messenger may have been speedy with his message but was terrible with the facts. This is called efficiency over effectiveness! While the sons of David were riding mules, this guy may have had a stallion! But then there’s the fact that David so quickly believes this false news! Surely it reveals how fearful David was of the pent up anger in Absalom.

“But Jonadab…said…” While David was reacting to the devastating news that all of his sons have been killed by another of his sons, Jonadab speaks some truth to the king. But, hang on, how does he know what has happened!? We were told earlier that he was a shrewd man but how does he know what happened at a distant location even before the king’s sons had made it back to the palace? Surely this says that Jonadab knew of these plans all along. The news was reported that Absalom struck down the king’s sons but Jonadab mentions they. Jonadab then reveals that this plan has been Absalom’s intentions for two years now. Jonadab knew this but did not reveal it to the king!

“Now the man standing watch looked up…” This is simply a description of the watchman on guard. He spots the people at a distance. This is good timing because Jonadab may have wanted a distraction from the fact that he knew so much about all of this.

“…the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly, The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.” Clearly a devastating outcome for the family. What they failed to act on two years earlier has boiled up and been taken care of for them. Now the family is divided, the sons of David against David’s son, Absalom.

“Absalom fled and went to …the king of Geshur.” This was his kinsmen. Absalom’s mother was from there.

“But David mourned many days for his son.” David grieved over the loss of Amnon. Did he grieve for Absalom also? It is unclear.

“…David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” John Woodhouse has reason to question the translations of this verse and it is worth mentioning, however, all of the main translations do not support his observation. He states that David mourned for Amnon for the rest of his life (day after day), and this held the king back from marching out against Absalom, but he mourned over Amnon, because he was dead. His point is that David did not pursue Absalom because he continued to grieve.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The King remained mostly inactive against the sins that were occurring under his roof by his children. This is not a satisfactory account of David. His sons demonstrate, not being better than David but being worse in terms of their sin. And the penalty for sin is overlooked until vengeance is taken by the third child. What we do not see in this story is a righteous king who takes all sin seriously and acts justly against the wicked.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The sorrow of expecting others to do any better with sin. It is a scary thing to say ‘like father like son’ when we recognise the sins of the father at first. David had fallen when he failed to be vigilent against sin in his own encounter with Uriah’s wife. It is foolish for us to think that the next generation will do any better than the last. The bible teaches us over and over that each generation fails to live righteous lives. In the passage today, we can learn about sabotaging sin when we stop obsessions from growing. We could learn about engaging in the life of others more so that we can steer one another correctly. And we can also learn that sin perpetuates. Our hope is not to fix the problem of sin ourselves but to give thanks and praise that God has fixed it and promised to cast all suggestion of sin out of the new heaven.

Topic B: God’s vengeance is promised. A well known sentence from the Old Testament is “vengeance is mine, says the LORD” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). King David demonstrates what it is like for a king to not act on behalf of the victims of evil. But we worship the God who promises to repay evil. This is how we differ from Amnon. He felt it necessary to repay his step-brother but God instructs us to trust Him with regards to judgement. Romans 12:19 instructs us that because it is God’s to avenge, we ought to leave pay-backs to Him. Hebrews 10:30-39 take the promise of God’s vengeance to give us perseverance in the present. Be assured that ‘it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’  But it will not simply be the evil people by our standard who will face judgment. It will be all those who do not listen and respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Our God will avenge. We can be assured of that.

Topic C: The Son and the brother who did better than the history of all sons. All of the offspring of Eve failed to crush Satan’s head. The sons of David were frequently disappointing. Even the good kings that followed him failed to turn the hearts of Israel completely toward God. There is only One Son who we can all look to and admire, praise and worship because he is perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus said, don’t simply avoid adultery, but destroy the idea of lust. He said go further than not murdering, and learn to love your enemies. Jesus satisfied all of these ‘impossible’ commands and then laid down his life so that we could be called his brother and be called sons of God (John 1:12).

2 Samuel 11

A Failed King

Discussion Question

“People never just sin. Sin is always the culmination of several ungodly thoughts rallied together to turn something that is actually terrible into something that is enticing – and then we take it.” Discuss.

Background (Context)

David is the king over Israel as God had decreed. He was chosen by God and carried from the shepherd fields to the battlefield for the sake of God’s Name. He was a legendary warrior who God delivered time and time again. More than that, God promised to David that his kingdom would stand forever. So far, in this book, we have watched David demonstrate the kindness, mercy, righteousness and justice of the Kingdom of God. He has demonstrated what good prayer looks like, what trust in the LORD looks like and has shown us the virtues of gentleness and humility.

While we have noticed hints of David’s broken nature, such as the many wives, we come now to a new lesson from David. We will see just how broken he was. This story is almost as famous as his battle against Goliath and yet it teaches us something completely different.

Read 2 Samuel 11

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him. 9 But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants and did not go down to his house.

10 David was told, “Uriah did not go home.” So he asked Uriah, “Haven’t you just come from a military campaign? Why didn’t you go home?”

11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”

12 Then David said to him, “Stay here one more day, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. 13 At David’s invitation, he ate and drank with him, and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah went out to sleep on his mat among his master’s servants; he did not go home.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In it he wrote, “Put Uriah out in front where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die.”

16 So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought against Joab, some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.

18 Joab sent David a full account of the battle. 19 He instructed the messenger: “When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, 20 the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? 21 Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman drop an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died in Thebez? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.’ ”

22 The messenger set out, and when he arrived he told David everything Joab had sent him to say. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and came out against us in the open, but we drove them back to the entrance of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot arrows at your servants from the wall, and some of the king’s men died. Moreover, your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead.”

25 David told the messenger, “Say this to Joab: ‘Don’t let this upset you; the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.’ Say this to encourage Joab.”

26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband was dead, she mourned for him. 27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Beginning: Springtime for David and Israel (1)
  • Problem: Our king did not go (1)
  • Quest: From little things big things grow (2-24)
    • One evening when idleness turned to sin (2-5)
    • The man who was more righteous than David (6-13)
    • Part 2 of the cover up (14-17)
    • Joab is dragged into the mess (18-24)
  • Resolution: Everything put back in order (25-27)
  • End: Or so it looks… (27)

Beginning: Springtime for David and Israel (1)

“In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…” To my ears, this sounds very ‘Monty Python’ and I can imagine all the kings speaking like proper Brits and striding off to slaughter something somewhere. The reality is that the season brings better conditions for fighting and you lose men to the sword and not to the weather. See 1 Kings 20:22, 26.

“…David sent Joab out with the king’s men…they destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah.” This is only the beginning of the story where the scene is set. David’s kingdom is in good shape where his men can be sent off, with a successful commander (Joab) and win battles. The kingdom is being protected. Rabbah is mentioned as being under siege. It seems likely that this is the same city that is under siege later in the story. This will add to the sadness of this narrative even more.

Problem: Our king did not go (1)

“But David remained in Jerusalem.” The problem of this story is not that a war is on but that David, the warrior king, has stayed at home. It’s not the first time since we saw in Chapter 10 that he stayed behind while others went to battle and that was fine then. His staying behind is not wrong by definition. But the story has opened up for us to expect that something is wrong: it’s the season when kings go off to war, but our king, who is not a stranger to battles, stayed in Jerusalem. Will this result in something good?

Quest: From little things big things grow (2-24)

The main content is in the middle of the story. We flesh out what takes place when our hero stays at home. “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings” is what I remember my mother saying. We’ll look at Verses 2-24 in the 4 stages of how things went wrong and how David tried to cover it all up.

One evening when idleness turned to sin (2-5)

“One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.” It’s evening and David was in bed. He has already retired for the night. What time this is, we don’t know, but the day is done for him. He has arisen in order to wander. There is no threat to his world right now. Even the business of the kingdom is being taken care of by others. So, his mind is active when he ought to be getting rest. The bible both commends sleep and rest because we put our trust in God and it condemns oversleep when there is work to be done. David has no work that is pressing and ought to enjoy the peace that God has brought him. Proverbs 3:21-26 (esp 24).

“From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…” He didn’t go onto the roof in order to perve. But there he sees a beautiful woman bathing. David may already have mischief in his mind when he got up from his bed – that is uncertain – but now he has a decision to make. He has not acted in sin yet – although he has looked long enough to observe that the woman was beautiful. So he has gazed for too long. Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” You cannot keep temptation from coming across you but you can stop it from giving birth to sin. See James 1:13-18 on the movement from temptation to death.

“…and David sent someone to find out about her.” Wrong move. What could David have done right then and there? I suggest that running back inside and sitting before the LORD and talking to Him about this test. The problem, though, is that David is not giving any indication that his mind is on godly things. When we feel little need for God because of prosperity and calm, we are less inclined to lean on Him for help. The folly is in thinking that we are ever at peace with the evil one. Mark 13:33, Galatians 6:1, Colossians 4:2 1 Peter 4:7, 5:8 and Job 31:1 to do with watchfulness, sober mindedness and prayerfulness. Note also that David is moving slowly toward making this sin fully mature but there is still time for him to repent and stop his investigation. But he is standing too close to the fire. “It won’t hurt to just ask questions about her.”

“She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” So now David knows that she is not just a beautiful object on a roof but that she has a name and a father and she is married. Great. Time to go back to bed. Walk away and live.

“David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.” While sleeping with her was the final act of sin – we must see how many steps leading to this that David took. When the Apostle Paul writes to Christians and tells them to “put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed” (Col 3:5) he doesn’t mean to stand at arms reach from these sins but to put them to death. David puts fuel on the fire when he sends for Bathsheba. His imagination of what could happen is inflamed when she is standing in the same room as him. “…and he slept with her…” is not a statement that shocks us because, as sinners, we can see it coming in the story. Sin never just happens. It comes to fulfillment when we imagine something that is really quite terrible to be something that we desire and really need. I believe this is why Paul calls it idolatry. We believe that we absolutely need this when the only thing we need is trust in God.

“Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.” Her bath on the roof should not be taken as her trying to seduce the king but that she was following the Levitical law about her monthly period (Leviticus 15:25-30). Perhaps she bathed at night so as to be discreet?

“The woman conceived…” Bathsheba’s name is not used. Perhaps we are returned to the initial status of her in the story: she was just a beautiful woman on a roof to David and now she is a woman her has conceived. A night of passion is now to become a scandal. Her monthly period mentioned in the last verse means that this must be David’s child. There were consequences to this sin. He had looked and taken and thought that there would be no consequences but he was wrong.  

The man who was more righteous than David (6-13)

“So David sent word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David.” The second problem in the story is now, ‘what will David do about his obvious sin?’ His options are to come clean, to cover up, or to simply ignore his actions and call this wrong a right, this evil as good. He is in need of repenting before God and offering a sacrifice of atonement (with the real hope of avoiding the penalty of Deut 22:22). He is also in need of repenting to the husband. He summons Uriah from the battle to return to Jerusalem and before David.

“David asked him how Joab was, how the soldiers were and how the war was going.” We have the privilege of knowing what David has done and that this man ought to be angry at David. But they are able to catch up on how things are going. They talk business rather than talk about the wrong that has taken place. The greatest concern to Uriah is the events of the battle and he is led to believe that this is David’s concern also. But the greatest concern to David is his own reputation. The first part of David’s plan to avoid repercussion is to make Uriah believe that he has acted as a messenger of the king.

“Go down to your house and wash your feet.” Rather than being instructed to go back off to the frontline, he is invited to make himself at home back with his wife. The king has given Uriah some R&R.

“…and a gift from the king was sent after him.” Presumably some money or such to help Uriah feel comfortable and without worry. David is orchestrating an environment for Uriah much like David’s own status at the beginning of the Chapter. No worries and every reason to relax with your wife.

“But Uriah slept at the entrance to the palace…” David’s plan fails when Uriah does not actually go home but sleeps in the entrance to the palace with all his master’s servants. He would have been the only servant returning to his house – with a gift. David’s first interaction with Uriah was smooth but failed. He now confronts Uriah again.

“How could I…?” Uriah cannot fathom sleeping in comfort with his wife when the king’s men and the ark are all out on a war mission. Without knowing it, Uriah is rebuking David for his evil. What’s worse than going home and making love to your wife is making love to someone else’s! How could he!?

“As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” How ironic is this! How could David sleep with another man’s wife. David should have had this mantra in his head all along: as long as YOU/Uriah live, I will not sleep with Bathsheba. But it is Uriah who speaks of never betraying the king’s men. He serves his lord and will not act so selfishly. Uriah is representing righteousness in this Chapter. But this level of righteousness does still not provoke David to repentance. David has another crack at covering up his sin.

“…and David made him drunk. But in the evening Uriah…did not go home.” If Uriah is so level headed about doing what is right then David organises for Uriah to be not so level headed! The drunkenness ought to lower his inhibitions. But Uriah’s conscience, even in a drunken state, did not allow him to go home. Unless, of course, he was too drunk to find the front door! But I think that it was his deep down conviction that kept him from going home again. The real distinction between Uriah here and David in the passage is the line that Uriah draws for himself. We are not even talking about a sin for Uriah to go home to his wife. It is more that his conviction is that he must be alert and on duty even while at home. David, on the other hand, walked to easily across any line of dignity in this story. And yet, he still goes further into darkness yet!

Part 2 of the cover up (14-17)

“In the morning David wrote…’Put Uriah out in front…then withdraw from him so he will…die.’” We can see how far David would go to cover up his own guilt and sin. The bible has done us a real service in presenting David so highly in our minds with all of his endeavours for the kingdom of God and then to show us that even a man as godly as David can go so deep into the heart of darkness. The first sin of sexual immorality was bad enough. Pride and power have brought David to murder. He has drawn Joab into the problem too. Joab has been a questionable character. He did the wrong thing in Chapter 3 and was cursed by David. He gave us a demonstration of loyalty to David and God in Chapter 10. Joab will do what David asks of him. Well, someone once said, ‘two wrongs don’t make a right.’ Adultery and now murder. But he has also misused all the blessings that God has given him to do these things. The power that he has is only because God gave it to him.

“So while Joab had the city under siege, he put Uriah at a place where he knew the strongest defenders were.” Let me point out how ridiculous this is. In Joab’s campaign, there was no place where the fighting was fiercest. There was a fortified city that was currently under siege. The strategy of Joab at this point was only to continue doing nothing outside the city while the inhabitants got tired or hungry etc. But, in order to fulfill David’s command, he sends troups to where the city was being defended the best. As mentioned in Verse 1, this is likely Rabbah. David is so engaged with his own personal warfare that he really is not in tuned with what is happening in the real battle.

“…some of the men in David’s army fell; moreover, Uriah the Hittite died.” To cover up his sin, he has drawn other people into his schemes and everybody around him is getting hurt. One night of pleasure has snowballed into this massive cover-up.

How men will report what has happened (18-24)

“Joab sent David a full account of the battle…” Verses 18 to 21 report what Joab planned to say to David and it was all the truth. He wanted everything conveyed and, when he pre-empted what David might say, he wanted the truth be known to David that Uriah was dead. This suggests that Joab knew what was really important for David and that everything else will become white noise to him.

“Who killed Abimelek son of Jerub-Besheth?” The little example that Joab gives of Abimelek points to Judges 9:50-54. (Jerub-Besheth is also known as Jerub-Baal who we know as Gideon). Now, this story has two layers to it. The first layer is the obvious one: Joab illustrates from Scripture that going so close to a fortified wall during battle is stupid. The story of Abimelek is the story of a dumb way to die. The second layer is more interesting: it is a little parable against David (unbeknownst to Joab) that he should never have gone so close to sin (literally on the roof of his palace) to be destroyed by a woman. He should never have gone there. When someone asks you: why did you sleep with that woman!? You can answer, I did an Abimelek. I don’t wish to make this point humorous but it explains why Joab and the writer of 2 Samuel included that speech on Abimelek. Who brought down the reputation of David? It was a woman and it is completely David’s fault.

“The messenger said to David…” What we are told in Verses 23 and 24 is a slight but important variant on the message that Joab sent the messenger to report. Although we’re told in Verse 22 that the messenger told David everything Joab had sent him to say, there was a slight spin on the retelling. Namely, a little back-story that explains why they found themselves at the bottom of the wall. From Joab, the reason was quite clear – it allowed Uriah to be killed. But from the messenger’s mouth, the story was a little more nuanced and people might believe that it was inevitable for the battle to go down that way. It is a small cover-up by the messenger to help the army save face but follows the theme of the Chapter on cover-ups. We are now at the end of the quest. We saw what David did and the events that followed to cover up what he did. The story only needs to wrap up and everybody lives happily ever after…

Resolution: Everything put back in order (25-27)

“David told the messenger…the sword devours one as well as another. Press the attack against the city and destroy it.” David has only learned to be cold during this episode. He is satisfied to move on as if nothing has happened and wants to encourage Joab and others to keep pressing on. His secret is safe and he has an allie in Joab. His advice to Joab is not to stay back and wait longer in the siege but to get on the front foot and end this conflict. This is not a good side of David.

“Say this to encourage Joab.” Far from the king rebuking Joab for ordering a stupid attack that ended in deaths, David wishes to give a gentle message of courage to Joab as if to say: don’t think of what has happened as evil because your king does not see it as evil. David’s conscience has been seared. He lamented over the death of Saul but has no care for the death of Uriah. He calls evil good (Isaiah 5:20).

“David had [Uriah’s wife] brought to his house, and she became his wife…” Bethsheba is not named because what is important to the story is that she is Uriah’s wife. She has lost her husband. Her husband was taken away from her – not by the hand of God but by the hand of her lord. The shepherd king has torn apart her marriage. David may want the world to not remember Uriah but the bible does not want us to forget. In Matthew 1:6 we are reminded that Solomon was the son of David by…Uriah’s wife!

“…and bore him a son.” While David would have hoped that everyone once thought this would be Uriah’s son growing up with Bathsheba and Uriah, he now hopes that the world will see it as his son, conceived after the death of Uriah. 1 Chronicles 3:5 lists the four sons of David by Bathsheba as Shammua, Shobab, Nathan and Solomon. This list is not by birth order since Solomon is the second child born to David by Bathsheba. That list in Chronicles is listed to emphasise Solomon, who everybody knew, as a child of Bathsheba, by putting his name last. We don’t know which of the remaining three was born in 2 Sam 11, but we know that the son dies (2 Sam 12:18). One of the sons of Bathsheba, however, is Solomon who will become the next king – the son of the king and of a kingdom that is promised will never fail! We will read of the consequences of sin in the next chapter.

End: Or so it looks… (27)

“But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.” David may have managed to cover up his sin for the rest of the world to know about, but as David was watching Bathsheba bathing from his rooftop, the LORD was watching David. As David summoned Uriah and drank with the man whose wife he took, God was watching. As David instructed Joab to send men to their death, God was watching. Nothing is hidden from God.

The Good Shepherd who would come a millenia later is sent by God to be the true ruler and eternal king of Israel. It is a kingdom, not leveraged off the greatness of men, but established by the only true God our Saviour who died so that everything that displeases Him can be paid for by the blood of the Messiah. In other words, the kingdom of God is a gracious and merciful kingdom established only by the righteousness of God and not by the righteousness of people. David, one of mankind’s best, was a sinner. We may shake our heads at David like we would shake our heads at the news of a murderer on TV but David, has portrayed what a good man of God looks like – mostly – until we get to this Chapter.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Sin does not simply pop in and out of our lives. It begins with a seed of wandering thoughts that are not watchful, grows into an attractive fruit that looks delicious and appears harmless. It then bites us and the sinful man or woman will proceed to cover up their sin as if it is not that bad. We adjust our expectations and consider how we can manage the situation – to contain the damage. We are fooled to believe that if everybody else thinks things are normal then we can take courage and believe that evil is ok. But none of this pleases the LORD.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Standing too close to the wall. David had a number of chances to walk away from temptation but he chose to wander, to ponder and to squander his freedom with sin. As the little analogy of Joab went: he stood too close to the wall and we all know that is a foolish thing to do. Are you standing too close to something that is likely to end in sin? Have you created boundaries for yourself to be careful around dangerous situations? David’s situation did not give anybody else reason to worry for him. He was simply being kingly. David is to blame for putting himself into danger. Bathsheba didn’t cause him to sin. Neither did Uriah. David stood too close to the wall. Where are you standing? Colossians 3:1-14 directs our paths to ponder heavenly things and so walk well away from danger.

Topic B: Sexual sin as an example of lust and lust as something broader than sexual sin. Colossians 3:5 tells us to put to death whatever belongs to your earthly nature. It lists sexual immorality first and then continues with other areas of human desire. Many of the items in the list sound related to sexual immorality: impurity, lust and evil desires. But then is listed greed and calls it idolatry. Or is it calling everything in that list idolatry and greed is related to everything else as part of our earthly nature!? Lust craves to have something in greater amounts than what is needed or is allowed. Sex is not sinful but sexual immorality craves to take more than belongs to you. Living in your means is perfectly acceptable and praised by God and so money plays a part of that but greed is the lust for money and things. Jesus said that you cannot – you cannot – serve both God and money. Yet many of us fool ourselves to think that we can. This Chapter in 2 Samual leads us to look sin in the face and be serious about how we deal with it. After all, Paul tells us to PUT IT TO DEATH.

Topic C: A seared conscience. By the end of 2 Samual 10, David had made peace with his sin by normalising it. He had covered over the effects of it and, as far as he was concerned, life could go on. He failed to take ownership of his own wrong and instructed Joab and others (such as Bathsheba) to make peace with it too. He had not listened to his conscience when sleeping with Bathsheba nor lying to Uriah nor orchestrating Uriah’s death. He failed to hear any inner voice warn him against his actions. And now his conscience was seared. It is quite easy to move the lines of our own moral compass to allow ungodly things to seem ok. After all, if nobody knows about it, is it really a problem? Sexual sin, ungodly uses of our mouth (gossip, slander, lies) and the sins of envy, pride and covetousness are all easily covered over when nobody else can see what is going on. But God is displeased. Ephesians 5:10 is a good project to overcome a seared conscience: “find out what pleases the Lord.”

One last but important note: It is easy to exit a study like this an do one of two things: to not take sin seriously as if this was David’s problem and it has no real relation to me and my sin or secondly, to be overwhelmed by our sin which has been brought up in this study and feel despair because of it. I want to suggest that both are problems in the highest degree. The middle ground is to confess that we all need the LORD’s help and give thanks and praise with rejoicing that Christ has paid for our sin – as dark and nasty as that sin may be. It could be helpful to close your group time with ‘the grace’ “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” 2 Cor 13:14

Also read the following verses of assurance: Matthew 11:28; John 3:16; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 John 2:1