Category Archives: Judgment

2 Samuel 14 – A King’s Plans

Discussion Question

Have you ever been banished from somewhere?

Background (Context)

Previously, we read of David’s sons: the wickedness of Amnon and the revenge from Absalom. One son committed sexual immorality and lust while the other, the eldest, committed murder. Instead of David’s children being wiser than he, they revealed their own kind of wickedness. We also watched as David stood at a distance and failed to get involved. He failed to intervene, or disciple, or discipline, or rebuke. As Chapter 13 closed, we heard of Absalom putting distance between himself and the kingdom as David wept for the loss of his son Amnon. Absalom was banished from the kingdom without the king even ordering it. We continue to see the story unfold as our beloved king is slow to reconcile.

Read 2 Samuel 14

Read 2 Samuel 14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Joab’s scheme to return Absalom to the kingdom (1-24)
  • Absalom’s scheme to return to the kingdom (25-33)

Joab’s scheme to return Absalom to the kingdom (1-24)

“Joab son of Zeruiah…” Remember him from earlier chapters? He was David’s nephew (1 Chronicles 2:16) but the chief of the army (2 Samuel 8:16). He seems to be keen for the kingdom of David even if he’s not keen on the kingdom of God. In this chapter we’ll watch as he acts on what he thinks would be best for the kingdom of David.

“…knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom.” This is a tricky verse to digest. See, if David longed for Absalom then why does Joab need to go to such lengths to ‘trick’ David into bringing Absalom back and then, when Absalom returns, the king forbids him to see the king face to face. If David longed for Absalom then it would only take a nudge from Joab to go out and get him. This is a translation issue and 2 Samuel 14:1 should read something like, the king’s heart was against Absalom or the king’s heart was upon Absalom (meaning that he thought on him a lot and could just as easily be a negative thought). The reason for the english translations to go the way they do is because of the confusing 2 Samuel 13:39. That verse is a lot trickier (so says John Woodhouse and Dale Ralph Davis in their commentaries. The relationship between Davie and Absalom makes more sense when we see that David did not long to see him but was very mindful of him.

“So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there.” It is reasonable to imagine that Joab saw the absence of Absalom as a problem for the future of the kingdom. He was the next heir to the throne and so being absent created a weakness in succession. Plus, as we’ll see later in the chapter, Absalom was much liked by the people and so if Absalom remains an outcast (which was really self inflicted) then the kingdom of David has a serious crack in it that needs fixing. So Joab takes charge to trick the king into a decision. He invites a woman from a town about 16km south of Jerusalem. His plan could not be accomplished by anybody but by somebody who could think on their feet, follow the plan and know how to close the deal.

“He said to her, “Pretend…go to the king and speak these words…”” We can recall when Nathan wanted to convict David of sin and needed him to repent. He came to the king with the word of the LORD in his mouth. This woman will go to the king with the ‘words of Joab in her mouth.’ Nathan’s story was quite brief and effective while the plan of Joab’s had three phases involving a dress up performance by the woman. It seems to me like a tip to us that Joab is not doing something that is wise and worthy but something cunning and wise in Joab’s eyes but not perhaps the king’s or God’s. 

“She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead…two sons…one struck the other and killed him.” Like Nathan’s story about the man who had a precious sheep which paralleled secretly the story of David and Uriah’s wife, this story has been manufactured to parallel the death of Amnon by the hand of his brother. The woman is reciting to the king and to the reader the words that were given to her by Joab. We may also recall the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4 which resulted in God protecting the murdering brother. That kind of mercy and protection is what the woman will try to get from the king.

“They would put out the only burning coal I have left…” The story hinges on mercy being extended on compassionate grounds. If the woman loses her guilty son then the family name will come to an end.

“The king said…Go home, and I will issue an order in your behalf.” The story has not pulled the king in emotionally and we might hear the king here simpy asking the woman to go and leave it with him. Perhaps he’ll then get someone in charge to go and make it known that this woman and her son should be left alone. End of story. The king can get on with his day and this stranger can leave his room now. But the woman, in her cunningness, wants the king to give her his decision…

“Let my lord the king pardon me and my family, and let the king and his throne be without guilt.” The woman is pushing to get the king’s response right there and then. Remember that it is fake news and she just wants to corner the king into showing mercy in this situation. She may be suggesting that there will be no repercussions coming back to the king with regard to this or she may be suggesting that if he answers now, then he will not be tempted to forget her and not fulfill his word to issue an order.

“As surely as the LORD lives…not one hair of your son’s head will fall to the ground.” The woman has three attempts to get the king to come to a final declaration that the murdering son will be kept safe from all repercussions. He first said something like ‘leave it with me’ (V8). Then he said to the effect of, ‘if you run into problems, let me know about it’ (V10). But finally he declares by an oath to God that the son is safe from punishment. See Numbers 35:12 and 21 on what the ‘avenger of blood’ refers to.

“Let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.” I reckon it’s touch and go whether the king’s patience is getting tested by now. The woman was no doubt introduced to the king by Joab and so the king is being gracious with the meeting. Perhaps the king has come to enjoy this interaction.

“Why then have you devised a thing like this…” Not quite the same power as Nathan saying ‘You are the man!’ But the vibe is the same. The king has not brought back his banished son. Absalom was banished by his own means but the fact remains that David has not sought his return.

“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.” Cool illustration of death. There is a perminance to death like water spilled on the ground. I recall the proverb that a bent metal cannot be straightened (Eccles 1:15; 7:13). Some things can only travel in one direction. Death is a one way street. 

“But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.” God could have resorted to the death penalty for all who have fallen short of his glory but he has devised ways for people to return to him. The sacrificial system communicates to the people that with God there is forgiveness. Even Cain was given protection in the world to not face death before his days were numbered. God’s nature is always to have mercy. This woman speaks a truth that is perhaps beyond her own understanding. Verse 14 is highlighted in my bible. We can talk forever about who is right and wrong but it is great to learn the lesson that God seeks restoration. We have no greater vision of this than the cross of Christ. It was while we were still sinners that Christ died for us. Christ came into the world to save sinners.

“…for my lord the king is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil…” For some reason, the woman returns to her story that she is really there to get pardon for her son but used the occasion to push David to restore Absalom also. But she pushes on the king’s ambition to be full of wisdom and discerning between right and wrong, good and evil. This, by the way, is the challenge to all mankind. In the garden we were tested to choose between good and evil. Stupidly we took the fruit thinking that it would teach us the difference between good and evil but it really just gave us the experience of what happens when we choose evil. See also Phil 1:9-11.

“Isn’t the hand of Joab with you in all this?” David has seen through this fiscade now and wants the woman to come out of her disguise so they can talk about the true issue: Absalom.

“…Joab did this to change the present situation.” We get insight into Joab a little here. He is not content with the situation of David’s oldest son living as an outcast to the kingdom. In all of the drama with Amnon and Absalom, we would have loved David to step in and teach Amnon a better way, to send Amnon away for his sin, and so on. The delay in acting has created this situation.

“The king said to Joab…” We see that Joab has been present this whole time. It explains how she was brought to the king’s ear, why he entertained her so long and I can imagine that David looked at Joab when he asked the woman ‘is the hand of Joab in this?’ The woman in the story now disappears and is not mentioned again.

“Joab fell with his face to the ground…the king has granted his servant’s request.” Joab has got what he wanted out of this story – at least he thinks he has. Joab has manipulated David and, instead of being wise coucel and rebuke like Nathan to the king, it was foolish methods and lies in order to coerce the king into doing what seemed wise in Joab’s eyes.

“…he must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” He is allowed back to Jerusalem but he is forbidden from seeing the king’s face. The son of the king remains in a banished state. Joab has not actually got what he wanted. And, we see that David is not actually keen to see Absalom or that he heart longed for him. David is not happy that Absalom killed his brother. There are not good guys and bad guys in the bible. Only those who turn their face to righteousness, failing but trying, and those who do not. People are not two-dimensional. We are all complex and the people in the bible are no different. David and Absalom’s relationship will go through more before the end. But for now, David wants his son to return but not fully. 

Absalom’s scheme to return to the kingdom (25-33)

“In all Israel there was not a man so highly praised for his handsome appearance as Absalom.” There is a change in scene and mood at Verse 25 so that we have a new episode or sequel to the events of Verses 1-24. We are reminded, though, of what the world and Israel look out for – outward beauty, strength, might and accomplishment. The people once loved Saul because he truly looked the part of a mighty king. But God chose David because he looks at the heart of a person. While Absalom is exiled from seeing the king, his reputation is of one that people like to look at!

“…his hair…was two hundred shekels by the royal standard.” This is about 2.6kg. The exact weight is probably not the emphasis but the vanity of the man. This description of Absalom’s hair will be more significant in chapter 18 but brings irony to 2 Sam 14:11!

“…His daughter’s name was Tamar…” Informs us of how much Absalom loved his sister who’s reputation had been taken from her.

“Then he said to his servants…” While Absalom was banished from the king’s presence, he did not live in a dungeon. He had servants. Absalom could not see the king and his attempts to see the king’s chief officer were denied. So he forces Joab to come to him by setting fire to Joab’s field. It seems that Joab has been proactive in this chapter to get his way but was blindsided by David sending Absalom to an isolated part of the kingdom and by Absalom setting fire to his field.

“…Why have I come from Geshur?…I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.” It seems that Absalom finds himself in a bit of limbo. He’s not free of the king to live wherever he wants (like Geshur) but he is not found guilty of a crime. He demands this nowhere-man kinda life to end. Be set free or be condemned. Joab had failed to get Absalom to the king, but Absalom has demanded an ultimatum and it appears that it has put David in the position of making a decision about his son: will he put him to death or will he release him?

“…Absalom…cam in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king.” Absalom’s only grief with the king has been that Amnon’s crime was not dealt with. Absalom is now ready to receive what the king would have for him. Will the king do as he had said to the ‘fake’ woman? Will any hair on this man’s head fall to the ground over this matter?

“And the king kissed Absalom.” The response of the father to the prodigal son comes to mind: Luke 15:20. But David has not been standing on the verandah waiting for the son to come home. Through Chapters 13 and 14 we have seen that David is not in the driver’s seat. But the resolution has finally been that the matter is over. Absalom is back in the kingdom.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

David’s attention has been on the loss of his son, Amnon. His failure to deal with Amnon’s sin has continued over to his failure to deal with the vengeance of Absalom. So, a man of the sword, Joab, acts like the voice of God to direct David by trickery. Absalom, likewise, reverts to trickery in order to get a hearing from Joab and David. The key to understanding this passage is to hear the words of the woman in Verse 14. God’s ways are to seek restoration of relationship. God’s desire is for the sinner to come home and he devises ways so that this can happen. The prodigal son makes a good New Testament improvement on this story. And the restoration of sinners open to us through Christ is where we see God devising the only way for us to be right with him before it is too late – like water spilled on the ground.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: God has devised a plan so that a person does not remain banished. The cross of Christ means that God has made provision for the forgiveness of sins. John 1:12 (a favourite verse of Leanne’s) teaches us that all who receive Christ and believe in his name, they are given the right to become children of God. Absalom had become an alienated son of the king – unpermitted to see the king’s face again. But, by human means and clumsy trickery, David kissed his son and received him home. Not so with God! We are made sons of the living God by his eternal plan to deliver us from evil. God is not distantly waiting for us to live out our days and then see what happens after that. Hebrews 1:3 says that after he had provided purification for sins, then he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Topic B: We must die. The illustration of water being poured out on the ground that cannot be picked up again – that is a vivid picture of finality. Death is (in the common sense of the word without speaking of clinical deaths) a one way trip. Verse 14 reminds us to work out what needs to be done before that event occurs for us. Psalm 2 says, kiss [the] son, or he will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction (Ps 2:12). Ecclesiastes instructs us not to avoid thinking of death, “it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of everyone; the living should take this to heart” (Ecc 7:2). And, in passing, Habakuk reminds us that the grave is greedy and death is never satisfied (Habakuk 2:5). We may all have eternity in our hearts (Ecc 3:11) but death awaits all of us and we must be ready for what comes next.Topic C: We will not be sent to purgatory. Absalom was neither cast out nor drawn near. 2 Samuel 14 pictures this as unsatisfactory. The unethical theology of purgatory looks a little like this. Not good enough for the kingdom but not condemned to hell either. The bible does not teach of any such circumstances. Hebrews 9:27 tells us that we all must face death and then, after that, face judgment. Revelation 20 declares that on judgment day anybody whose name is not written in the book of life is cast into the lake of fire (meaning hell). “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7). Many people in this life ignore the warning to make peace with God through Christ and leave their eternity up to chance. There is only one way to be right with God and that is to repent and love the LORD now. After death, it is too late.

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)

Structure

  • 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 12

A Forgiven King

Discussion Question

What has the grace of God taught you?

Background (Context)

A familiar pattern in the Bible is unfolding again in the book of 2 Samual. God gives and establishes something great, but the sinfulness of humanity puts a huge question mark over whether God can really succeed. Israel is in the promised land with a good king who loved God and leaned on God for wisdom and understanding. Yet, even David acted out in shameful sin. Will sin ever be taken out of the picture in God’s plans!?

God had made a great promise to David in Chapter 7. That his kingdom would never end. But he also promised that when the king does wrong, God will punish him with harm inflicted by human hands.

David sinned in Chapter 12. He did more than take fruit from a tree but the same principle applies. He saw something that was not his and he was lead to believe that he must have it. Then he tried to cover up his sin so that nobody would be any wiser. He would save face before all of Israel and still be the good king that everybody believed him to be. There was no mention of God in chapter 11 until the very end when we read: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”

Read 2 Samuel 7:18-29

12 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’

11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’ ”

13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”

Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

15 After Nathan had gone home, the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became ill. 16 David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground. 17 The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up from the ground, but he refused, and he would not eat any food with them.

18 On the seventh day the child died. David’s attendants were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they thought, “While the child was still living, he wouldn’t listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we now tell him the child is dead? He may do something desperate.”

19 David noticed that his attendants were whispering among themselves, and he realized the child was dead. “Is the child dead?” he asked.

“Yes,” they replied, “he is dead.”

20 Then David got up from the ground. After he had washed, put on lotions and changed his clothes, he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house, and at his request they served him food, and he ate.

21 His attendants asked him, “Why are you acting this way? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept, but now that the child is dead, you get up and eat!”

22 He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ 23 But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.  

26 Meanwhile Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal citadel. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and taken its water supply. 28 Now muster the rest of the troops and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will take the city, and it will be named after me.”

29 So David mustered the entire army and went to Rabbah, and attacked and captured it. 30 David took the crown from their king’s head, and it was placed on his own head. It weighed a talent of gold, and it was set with precious stones. David took a great quantity of plunder from the city 31 and brought out the people who were there, consigning them to labor with saws and with iron picks and axes, and he made them work at brickmaking. David did this to all the Ammonite towns. Then he and his entire army returned to Jerusalem.

What did you see? (Observation)

Structure

  • Nathan tells a story (1-6)
  • What the LORD said to the murderer (7-10)
  • What the LORD said to the adulterer (11-14)
  • The death of the child (15-23)
  • The birth of Solomon (24-25)
  • Another victory story for David (26-31)

Nathan tells a story (1-6)

“The LORD sent Nathan to David…” This is an act of grace! We finished Chapter 11 hearing that what David did displeased the LORD and the next thing we read is that God reaches out to David. God does not abandon his relationship with David. Like a Father to a son, he does not discard David but approaches him. Discipline is not abandonment. We don’t know much about Nathan except for the few stories that he is in but that he was a good prophet to king David. One of David’s sons is even named Nathan! David had approached Nathan for advice in Chapter 7 when he wanted to do something for God. Nathan is now used by God to send a message to the king.

“When he came to him, he said, “There were two men…” How does Nathan approach the king of Israel to tell him that the king has sinned. How does one rebuke a king? You tell him a story! The power of a story is illustrated in these verses as David is drawn to announce his own guilt. It’s not until Verse 7 that we hear the words that the LORD had given to Nathan to speak. Whether the story of the two men was a creation of Nathan or a message from God, we can only imagine. Perhaps Nathan was taking the announcement of sin from God and wrapping it in a story so that David would hear it. The fact is that the whole bible is a story given to us so that we can come to admit that we are not better than Adam or Eve or David and that we all need a Saviour.

“David burned with anger against the man…because [the man] did such a thing and had no pity.” Nathan has lead David to the right conclusion. David has become outraged against a fictional character and is ready to be told that this is exactly what David has done. He acted selfishly, destroying the lives of others and, in the end, showed no pity. Remember his words to Joab in 2 Sam 11:25. Casualties were just par for the course.

“As surely as the LORD lives…” Christians are stereotypically accused of being hypocrites. Well, we are. We quickly judge others but forget that we are guilty of the same or perhaps worse. David declares guilt upon a man in the name of the LORD. As readers of this story we see right through David and want him to see the error of his ways and to change.

What the LORD said to the murdering adulterer (7-14)

“You are the man!” Nathan is now able to deliver the full blow of the powerful, confronting, condemning words of the LORD to David who is able to hear them and be ashamed.

“This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…” For the first time in this story, we hear exactly what the LORD wishes David to hear. It is not simply a story left for David to interpret but the blunt truth that he has sinned in an amazing way and it’s time to be served. Note that He is described as the God of Israel which, I’m sure David would understand, is a higher rank to king of Israel. Nathan is not outranking David, he is simply passing on the message he was ordered to give. Preachers and Christians do not have higher authority in themselves but stand charged to deliver news from the Creator of all mankind.

“I anointed you…I delivered you…I gave…I gave…I would have given you even more.” The first point from God to David is that He has given so much to David and would have even kept on giving. I can recall the scenario in the garden of Eden that everything on the planet was given to Adam and Eve and who knows what the potential for the future held to a couple who would love God and love one another. But they took the one thing that was not theirs to take. How important it is to cultivate thanksgiving into our daily routine! Coveting, envy and greed have no place in our lives – but they are there aren’t they?

“Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes?” When we sin, we don’t simply do something wrong, but we despise the One who gives us life and words to live by. We do what is evil to the LORD and therefore show contempt for Him. Sin is always relational because it is against the LORD that we always sin.

“You struck down Uriah…with the sword…therefore, the sword will never depart from your house.” David’s first crime dealt with is the crime of murder. He organised for another man to be killed for self gain. The consequences to David will be that he will no longer look forward to retirement from the sword. This is not prescriptive of how God deals with our sin in this life but descriptive of how he dealt with David. We are able to listen in on this incident and see how our God acted justly in responding to David’s guilt. The eye for an eye principle is being followed in spirit if not literally. It is true that Deuteronomy 22:22 says clearly what should happen to David, but God is dealing particularly with David – the king of Israel. We’ll hold our breath for now and listen to the rest of the discipline being placed on David’s house.

“…and took his wife…took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.” The second crime dealt with is the crime of adultery. In David’s case, he really took Uriah’s wife completely. But it began by taking her for one night as if Uriah did not exist. God was prepared to keep on giving to David but David felt a need to take something that was not his.

“Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you.” God had promised David that his kingdom would never end. Because of this promise, the penalty would not be the removal of David’s kingdom. But that didn’t mean that his household would be an oasis. God’s promise was to chastise the kings of David’s kingdom like a Father disciplines a son. The promise suggested that this would start with Solomon but it did not need to wait until then. David will be the first king of God’s kingdom to live through the consequences of sin. This account of David’s fall very much resembles that of Adam and Eve. They did not die on the spot, as the penalty implied, but received mercy to live the rest of their lives (and still die) but looking daily at the consequences of their sin – even for one of their own children to kill another. David will watch the calamity on his household and know that he had deserved it.

“You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.” See 2 Samuel 16:22.

“Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”” After David’s righteous outburst against the rich man in Nathan’s story, he now only says, I have sinned against the LORD. No excuses. No elaborating or placing the blame. This is a response that we want so many of our friends and family to make. Yet it is most common for people to blame their circumstances, or even God (the woman you put here!) David says exactly the right amount of words: I have sinned against the LORD. It’s similar to the words that Jesus would put into the mouth of the prodigal son in his parable about forgiveness. We are not victims of our circumstances. We are sinners who need to confess that in our heart and before God.

“Nathan replied, “The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die.” Why doesn’t David need to die? Because the LORD has taken away his sin. This is the tremendous gospel of this account. The sin is not swept under the carpet. The consequences have already been explained and we are yet to meditate on the death of the child born. But the promise from the LORD to David is that his kingdom will never be torn away from him (2 Samuel 7:15) as it had been to Saul (1 Samuel 15:23). The grace of God is based on his promises and not on our merit or deserving. David did not deserve to receive such mercy. But his sin has been dealt with by the LORD. David does say more on his confession or reflections in Psalm 51 (also Psalm 32).

“But because…you have shown utter contempt for the LORD, the son born to you will die.” See earlier comments regarding sin being always about contempt for or despising the LORD. David did not only commit the sins but he then covered them up and called them of no matter. I will reserve more on the death of the child for the next section.

The death of the child (15-23)

“…the LORD struck the child…” We will not take from this that all children who become ill and die are a result of someone else’s sin. The Pharisees had this same error in Jesus’ time and were corrected for it (John 9). Just as Joab said to Abishai, “The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” The story in Chapter 12 does not teach us to have no care for a dying child since we look at the grieving of David who knew full well why it was happening. It does not tell us that we ought to expect such harsh treatment from God as a result of our sin either because this is a unique story about the unique character of king David. The message is that David’s sin caused trauma in the household. It will be tempting for a Bible reader to be confused about the mercy of God when this innocent child is punished, but the LORD gives and the LORD takes away – blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:21). On the flipside, we might remember that the gift of children is not something we must presume upon either (1 Samuel 1-2).

“The elders of his household stood beside him to get him up…but he refused…he would not eat…the child died…David’s attendants were afraid to tell him…” The sorrow of David and his pertitioning of God through pleading and fasting, night and day, seemed like a mystery to his attendants and elders. They saw it purely as grief and despair when in fact it was an endeavour to change the mind of the LORD. When the child died after 7 days of illness, the attendants feared that David would be even worse! If he grieved so much while the child was alive, how much more once the child is dead. While David is the guilty one in this story being chastised by God, he is able to teach us something at this point. His actions are not out of despair but out of faith that God is good and hears. While the child was still alive, then there was hope.

“He may do something desperate.” They may have feared that David would kill himself or someone else! Who knows. They feared what David had already been found guilty of doing: desperately taking a man’s wife and then killing the man. Now, this repentant man gives us a glimpse into the heart of a servant of God. We readers need to know that the sin of David has been dealt with. David’s actions while lamenting and pleading were the actions of someone who serves the living God.

“…he went into the house of the LORD and worshiped…” This father worshiped God after the death of his son. To worship is to praise God for who he is. In all of life, the LORD is to be praised. David did not hold a grudge against the LORD since the LORD had done exactly as he said He would do. It is one thing to question: what are you doing, LORD? Quite another to question: what right do you have?

“Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” What a profound little gem in the Old Testament about the afterlife. David is amongst the living who cannot bring back the dead. That is a fool’s desperation. The attendants of David worried that he might do something desperate (Verse 18) but David had a rational mind toward death. The gem here is that David talks about going to his son. David will one day die and he states here that he will one day go to him. This could mean anything from “I will return to the dust like that child” through to “I will join him in heaven one day.” What he means will depend on the rest of scripture to interpret (reveal the meaning). Jesus, the true forever King, taught his disciples that he would one day see them in the kingdom of God where there are many rooms. Death, however, is a one way door. We all go through it and none of us return to advise on what happens on the other side. But we know Jesus who has returned. Our knowledge and hope for the future is not based on wishful thinking or theology born out of desperation, but on the sound report from the risen Son of God. For now, David is resolved that it is goodbye to his son until eternity.

The birth of Solomon (24-25)

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba…” She has been identified as Uriah’s wife for most of the past two chapters in order to underscore the sin of David who had taken another man’s wife. Now that Uriah is dead and God has dealt with the sin, she is now recorded by name and as David’s wife. It will not be forgotten forever since she is not remembered in Matthew 1 as Bathsheba but as Uriah’s wife. Our world is marred by the repercussions of sin everywhere.

“…they named him Solomon.” 2 Samuel informs us that Solomon was the second son born to David by Bathsheba. His name means ‘peace’ which points forward to what will happen in Israel under his reign rather than a reflection on the circumstances of his birth. See 1 Chronicles 22:9.

“The LORD…sent word…to name him Jedidiah.” This name means loved by the LORD. He will be known by the world as Solomon the peace bringer but the LORD will know him as loved. See Nehemiah 13:26. No earthly king can bring peace. But the love that God first shows to us through the LORD Jesus Christ, that is our only peace.

Another victory story for David (26-31)

It is sad how the narrative of 2 Samuel 11 and 12 effects the reading of the rest of David’s story. Before this, we were hearing of the great humility and dependence on God that David displayed. Now, in these final verses, we read of a king who does not sound different at all. He claimed victory where one of his commanders had done the work and he turned his captives into slaves. The changed atmosphere is striking when you compare Chapters 11 and 12 with what we read in the shortened account of 1 Chronicles 20:1-3.

 

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The LORD our God will not let sin go unattended. And yet He keeps His promises. This means that all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved! Our salvation is based on the promises of God through Christ and not by our own merits. Our world is under the curse of sin. The story of Genesis 3 recounts this and the house of David illustrates this for us now. The forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection are contained in a story about David. The message of the gospel is packaged for us in the story of David’s salvation (just as David’s rebuke was packaged in the form of a sheep farmer story).

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Packaging our message. One NIV translation titles chapter 12: “Nathan Rebukes David”. But who is it that rebukes David? It is God’s word that David is rebuked by when Nathan says, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says…’ But the rebuke from God comes through the mouth of Nathan and is packaged in a story. It is packaged in a relationship already trusted by David. Nathan has permission to speak to David but it is the word of God that Nathan speaks. We can error in two ways here. We can firstly express our own distaste and disgust with people without regard to what the Bible actually says on a matter. Secondly, we can blurt out the message of God into an audience not ready to hear what they desperately need to hear. But the word of God, the truth and hope of the gospel, when packaged in a relationship and the right timing can be more effective on the hearer. Proverbs 15:23, 25:11. Nathan was right but so was his method of communication.

Topic B: The gospel is not fair. David was outraged at the wicked rich man who killed a poor man’s sheep. We too may be outraged to see how low David fell and yet his kingdom was not removed from him nor was his life. Even more so that a child was killed instead of David. Have you ever considered how unfair the gospel is? We all deserve to be excluded from God’s kingdom forever because of our contempt for the One who made us. And yet it is Jesus who dies instead of us. He was more innocent than that child of Bathsheba who died in his mortal sin. If we do not have a solid doctrine of sin then we will not have a solid doctrine of grace either. It is not fair that we despise the work of God and yet are allowed to enter His eternal rest. But it is through the wounds of Jesus that we are healed. It is for our transgressions that he was punished. The gospel is not fair.

Topic C: Good grief. David lost his child. It is a horrible story and it is difficult to shine a light on David after this. We are taught, however, some real truths about the curse of sin and how to proceed with faith. While the child was ill but still alive, David pleaded with the LORD to change his mind. David prayed with all his effort. He was not lost in despair but directed his hope to the living God. Once the child died, David ceased his petition but continued his relationship with God. He worshipped the LORD. He did not disrespect God for doing good in His sight. He also spoke of eternal hope. The reality of sin in this world is that we cannot bring people back. They are gone. But, in faith and hope, we shall see them again. David held to the promises of God, the faithfulness of God and the mercies of God. The curse of sin is real. Death is real. But God is always God. David rose and comforted Bathsheba. The pain may be present but the LORD who brings comfort to all who mourn – He is to be praised. Matthew 5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.