“304. SIN AND SORROW—2 SAMUEL 11-12”

Sin and Sorrow—2 Samuel 11-12

The Ammonites, who, although beaten, were not wholly reduced, having retired to their fortified towns, held out with much obstinacy. The next campaign against them was conducted by Joab, who, after ravaging the country, laid siege to the metropolitan city of Rabbah.

It was while the army was engaged in these distant operations that David fell into those deep sins, which have left a dark blot upon his name, that all his tears have not been able to expunge from the view of man, nor all his griefs to make man forget It is indeed profitable that they should be held in remembrance, in their causes and results, that the sad fall of so distinguished a saint—a man so near to God—should teach us not to be high-minded, but fear.

The facts are so well known to every reader, that it will suffice to indicate them very briefly.

David, when walking upon the roof of his palace, after having risen from his afternoon rest, obtained a view of a beautiful woman, of whom he became most passionately enamored. Her name was Bathsheba, and she was the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who, notwithstanding his Canaanitish origin, was one of the king’s most distinguished officers, and a member of the illustrious band of “worthies.” After gratifying his criminal passion, and finding that it would not be much longer possible to conceal a fact which would expose Bathsheba to the death punishment of an adulteress, David did not shrink from sending orders to Joab so to expose her valiant husband in battle, as to ensure his destruction by the sword of the Ammonites. Joab obeyed this order to the letter, and Uriah perished. Bathsheba was then free, and David barely suffered the days of her mourning to pass (probably a month) before he added her to the number of his wives.

Here is adultery: here is murder. O, David, David, how art thou fallen! To our minds, there is nothing in all that man has written so terribly emphatic as the quiet sentence which the historian inserts at the end of his account of these sad transactions.

“But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.”

His high displeasure was made known to David by the prophet Nathan, in a parable of touching beauty, applied to the case with a degree of force, which at once brought conviction home to the heart of a man not hardened in guilt by a course of petty unrepented sins, but who had plunged headlong into one great and complicated crime. The awful words “Thou art the man,” at once brought David to his knees. He confessed his guilt. He deplored it with many tears. He was pardoned, in so far as that God hid not his face from him forever. But seeing that this deed, in a man so honored, had “given great occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme,” it became necessary that God should vindicate his own righteousness, by testifying, in the punishment of his servant, his abhorrence of that servant’s sin. The sentence pronounced upon him—“Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house,” furnishes the key to David’s future history and career, which was as unprosperous and troubled, as the earlier part of his reign had been happy and successful. There was in all things a great change—even in the man himself. Broken in spirit by the consciousness of how deeply he had sinned against God and against man; humbled in the eyes of his subjects, and his influence with them weakened by the knowledge of his crimes; and even his authority in his own household, and his claim to the reverence of his sons, relaxed by his loss of character—David appears henceforth as a much altered man. He is as one who goes down to the grave mourning. His active history is past—henceforth he is passive merely. All that was high, and firm, and noble in his character, goes out of view—and all that is weak, and low, and wayward, comes out in strong relief. Of the infirmities of his temper and character, there may have been previous indications, but they were but dimly discernible through the splendor of his worthier qualities; now that splendor has waxed pale—the most fine gold has become dim, and the spots become broad and distinct. The balance of his character is broken. Still he is pious—but even his piety takes an altered aspect. It is no longer buoyant, exulting, triumphant, glad; it is repressed, humble, patient, contrite, suffering. His trust in the Lord is not less than it had been, and that trust sustains him, and still gives dignity to his character and sentiments. But even that trust is different. He is still a son—but he is no longer a Joseph, rejoicing in his father’s love, and proud of the coat of many colors which that love has cast upon him; but rather a Reuben, pardoned, pitied, and forgiven, yet not unpunished, by the father whose honor he has defiled. Alas, for him! The bird which once rose to heights unattained before by mortal wing, filling the air with its joyful songs, now lies with maimed wing upon the ground, pouring forth its doleful cries to God.

The change we have indicated furnishes the key to David’s subsequent career, and unless it be borne in mind, the incidents of that career will not be thoroughly understood.

As this was a turning point in the history of David, it would be interesting to know at what period of his life it occurred. The common computation places it in the twentieth year of his reign, and the fiftieth of his age. But David lived to the age of seventy, and reigned forty years; and as Solomon his son was not born till a year or two after these events, he must, according to that account, have been twenty-one or twenty-two years of age when he succeeded his father. The impression conveyed by the narrative of his accession, and particularly by his request to the Lord. for wisdom on account of his extreme youth and inexperience, is, that be was not near so old as this. We apprehend that, on the other hand, the learned Lightfoot goes a little too far, in fixing the date to the twenty-sixth year of David’s reign, and the fifty-sixth of his life. The middle between these extremes, is probably nearer the truth; and David may with sufficient probability be supposed to have lived fifty-three years, and to have reigned twenty-three, when this base unrighteousness rent from his head the honor due to his gray hairs.

Of Bathsheba we would wish to know something more than appears in the narrative. She is said to have been the daughter of Eliam. A person of that name occurs in the list of the worthies—2Sa_23:34—and is supposed by some to have been her father. This person was a son of Ahithophel the famous counsellor of David, and his eventual defection from his cause, when Absalom raised the standard of rebellion, is fancied to have risen from his disgust at this dishonor done to his grand-daughter. It must be allowed, that the fact that this Eliam was of the same body to which Bathsheba’s husband belonged—his companion in arms and honor, is much in favor of this supposition. In 1Ch_3:5, the father of Bathsheba is called Ammiel, which is the same name as Eliam reversed. This form of the name leads Lightfoot to identify Ammiel of Lo-debar beyond the Jordan. In that case, Bathsheba was sister of that Machir, son of Ammiel of Lo-debar, in whose house Mephibosheth had been brought up, and who afterwards signalized his loyalty to David, by the bountiful contributions which he furnished for the subsistence of the court, when the king sought refuge beyond the river, 2Sa_9:5; 2Sa_17:27.