Unit: History of Israel (2 Samuel; 1 & 2 Chronicles)
Theme: A King’s House
Lesson Text: 2 Samuel 12:1-14
Supplemental Text: 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51
Aim: Offer a broken and contrite heart to the Lord.
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By Mark Scott
Just when the house of David had reached its zenith, the situation was about to implode. In the spring, when kings go back to battle, David stayed home (2 Samuel 11:1). David would have been safer in a foxhole than on his balcony. The narrative begins, “David saw a woman bathing.” The narrative ends, “But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (2 Samuel 11:2, 27). The narrator has told us how we are to feel about the story.
In the aftermath of David’s double sin, several lessons become apparent: We should care enough for others to confront them, parables can invade secret defenses, we can be blind to our own sins, “Aha” moments can be important, sin always carries consequences, and God can always forgive.
2 Samuel 12:1-4
The Old Testament does not contain as many parables as the Gospels, but it does have some (e.g., Judges 9:7-15; 1 Kings 20:35-42; 2 Kings 14:9-10; Ezekiel 16:1-54; 17:2-24; 19:2-9; 19:10-14; 23:1-49; 24:3-14). But no Old Testament parable is so pointed and clear as this one by the prophet Nathan (his name means “giver,” and did he ever “give” one to the king). If someone, even a prophet, confronts the king, it is better to come through a side window than walk through the front door. So, Nathan sneaks up beside David with a parable.
Nathan compared a rich man with a poor man (truly needy; impoverished). The Hebrews loved contrasts, so this kind of story would gain the ear immediately. The riches of the rich man were obvious—a very large number of sheep and cattle. The poverty of the poor man was underlined by his fivefold care for his one ewe lamb (bought, raised, grew, shared food and drink, and slept in the poor man’s arms). The lamb was like a family member.
When the traveler came, the rich man stole the poor man’s lamb and offered that for his banquet. The listener’s sense of justice was immediately aroused. Everyone hearing this story wanted to cry out, “Unfair.”
2 Samuel 12:5-9
David was about to slit his own throat. He burned with anger (to snort with one’s nostrils) and pronounced the death penalty as well as the accustomed recompense (Exodus 22:1). Nathan pointed his prophetic finger at David and said, “You are the man!” Months of cover-up come crashing down, and David ended up in a heap in the Jerusalem oval office.
Nathan continued the verdict. First, they looked at history. Nathan reminded David that God had anointed (the verb for “Messiah”) him and delivered (rescued) him from Saul. God had also given David Saul’s house and the land of Israel and Judah. God had planned to give David even more, but that gift had been compromised.
Second, Nathan had David look inward. David’s actions indicated he had despised the word of the Lord. (In v. 14, the word used is contempt.) David had murdered Uriah by letting the Ammonites do his dirty work. There is nothing in the text that would indicate Uriah and Bathsheba were not happy together. In fact, she mourned his loss (2 Samuel 11:26-27). In addition, Uriah was not even a true Israelite. He was a Hittite (descended from Heth, the second son of Canaan), but he was a loyal soldier to David. He was more righteous in his drunkenness than David was in his deception (2 Samuel 11:10-13). The verdict was in.
2 Samuel 12:10-14
Someone said, “Forgiveness is always possible with the Lord, but stupid is forever.” David’s double sin would have a twofold result. First, war would continue to mark David’s life. The sword would not depart from his house. David remained a man of bloodshed (a reason given later for why he would not be allowed to build the temple).
In addition to that, calamity (evil) would come out of his household. God repays in kind (Galatians 6:7). Since David’s sin was sexual, judgment would come in a sexual way. Part of this was manifest in Amnon’s sin with Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-22), and then Nathan predicted more sexual sin within Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 16:20-22). David’s dirty laundry would be hung out for all to see.
The best part of our text is David’s confession, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan assured David of God’s forgiveness, but the son born from this union would die. Psalm 51 is the drama of a changed heart. A contrite heart can gain the ear of God, who can cleanse a diseased heart.
Dr. Mark Scott serves as minister with Park Plaza Christian Church in Joplin, Mo. He retired in May after more than 30 years as professor of New Testament with Ozark Christian College in Joplin.