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Life of David

Anatomy of a Murder

2 Samuel 11

Few incidents in the Old Testament have been used as often - and tell as good a story - as David and Bathsheba. We'll take it in two parts; this lesson will deal with just how David got himself into the mess. Next time we'll deal with how God got him out of it.

(2 Sam 11 NIV) 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, "Isn't this 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. (She had purified herself from her 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} When David was told, "Uriah did not go home," he asked him, "Haven't you just come from a distance? Why didn't you go home?" {11} Uriah said to David, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with 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 in the front line 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 Abimelech son of Jerub-Besheth ? Didn't a woman throw 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, 'Also, 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 to 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.

Start to Checkpoint

It's interesting to see how David got into this mess:

  • If you look into the preceding chapters, you will find that this is a time of triumph in David's life, both personally (his care for Jonathan's son) and militarily (his defeat of the Ammonites). We often think Satan attacks when we're down. It is not always so.
  • David is in the wrong place at this time, for this is the season "when kings go out to war."
  • His eyes are wandering into the wrong places, too.
  • Why? Perhaps it is because he has so many wives. Is his mind preoccupied with sex - especially since the palace business is really happening with the army in the field? Too much leisure time and too many women to occupy it, perhaps? At the very least, we can fault his attitude towards women - toys to play with.
Next step: involve others

David will not commit this sin alone. Isn't it interesting that even the most "private" of sins - adultery - always seems to require a little help from our friends?

  • First, there is the messenger who finds out who she is. No doubt he laid a little groundwork for the king.
  • Then he sends messengers to take her to the palace.
  • Finally, later, he will connive with Joab.

Why do we seem to need to involve others in such sin?

  • We know it's wrong, but we feel better if we get someone else involved - and they don't object. After all, if it was really all that bad, they would say something, wouldn't they?
  • We often use them to do what we consider the risky part. After all, if this was discovered half way through, it was just some servant, right?
  • Sometimes, we like to think that we have laid some of the guilt on them as well. This may be, but it doesn't lessen our own.
  • For people like David, it gives a sense of power and particularly control. It says, "I can handle this situation. Nothing can go wrong; I'm in complete control."

About the adultery itself there is little to say. This is a Bible lesson, not a Hollywood epic, so we'll skip the sex scenes. It is sufficient to note that the sin began when David put his eyes on Bathsheba and decided that he had to have her. The sin starts with the eyes, goes through the heart and evidences itself in the body.

In our time we take adultery very casually; it is worth remembering that it was a capital offense in Israel. Of course, we would say that this is a result of sexual repression - in a country where the king has dozens of women, and in any number of neighboring towns you can find temple prostitutes. We see it in the light of "if it feels good, do it." David more likely saw it as forbidden fruit.

Whatever the view, sin has consequences. She's pregnant.

Cover Up

This is our most common tactic in dealing with sin. A new wrinkle has come up with Christians today. There seems to be an attitude that says that if I confess my sin to God (and do nothing else) that this should be sufficient. God seeks reconciliation for us; we seek a band-aid. Why?

  • "Out of sight, out of mind."
  • We can safely ignore God; we can always ask forgiveness from him. The important thing is that no one else finds out.
  • After all, we're in control of events, aren't we? We can pull the strings to make it happen, right?
  • And since we're covering up, all those friends we've connived with will want to cover up too. There's no one to bring it to mind.
Checkpoint: Uriah the Hittite

God often gives us a chance to figure out what we should do on our own. One way he does this is to send us a checkpoint - a person or event which sharply reminds us of what we should be doing. Uriah the Hittite is David's checkpoint.

  • You have to remember that Uriah is not an Israelite - he's a Hittite, which means that his devotion to David is not from family reasons.
  • He's listed as one of David's thirty "Mighty Men" - his personal bodyguard, the toughest of warriors who have been with him from the earliest days. He's a good friend and servant to David; they've been through a lot together.
  • Look at his attitude. It's a perfect example of the servant not being above the master. His buddies, the army, the ark are all in tents - and he's going to go home and relax?
  • This is also a man who is accepting of what God has given him. The campaign means hardship, but he does not reject it or squirm out of it.

Uriah should have been an example to shame David into repentance. David didn't see it that way.


David has a choice at this point: repent, or go all the way in the cover up. He chooses to complete the cover up. His partner in crime is Joab:

  • David has chosen a man to whom murder is no stranger. Once before Joab has murdered; then for revenge, now as a favor to the king (and a point of blackmail, perhaps?)
  • He's a conniver, a man who plots.
  • Notice Joab's "wink" in his instructions to the messenger. He doesn't know why David wants the man dead, but he's sure it's not a legitimate execution. You can almost see the wink in the words.
  • David winks back in his reply, and spirals deeper into sin.
The magnitude of the sin - man's view

The sedate language of the Old Testament sometimes soothes our ears so that we do not recognize the gravity of the sin:

  • First there is adultery - a capital offense then. We think little of it now; our reaction would be something like "Why didn't she get an abortion?" This is a measure of our depravity. Adultery is deadly.
  • Then there is murder. About this we care! But note that this murder has no real redeeming circumstances about it. There is no revenge, or other motive. It is the murder of a loyal, long time friend who did absolutely nothing to deserve it.
  • Consider for a moment Bathsheba's view: how would you like to find out that your second husband murdered your first one - to get you?
  • In all this there is a great sense of betrayal - a betrayal of a loyal friend, a betrayal of trust, a betrayal of the kingship itself.

This is slime.

The magnitude of the sin - God's view
  • First, there is the sheer ingratitude of the man. Look at what God has done for him - and if that wasn't enough, how much more would have been!
  • More than that, he has dragged God's name in the mud. The enemies of God all around can now point to David. As today, when a prominent Christian is found out to be so wicked, the cry is, "They're all hypocrites." And if God produces nothing but hypocrites, what kind of god is he?

Lessons for Us

All this happened a long time ago, but human nature hasn't changed that much. There are lessons in here for all of us.

Lead us not into temptation
  • We must remember that we are not immune to temptation, no matter who we are. This especially applies in the high moments of our lives.
  • We need to ask ourselves "Where am I supposed to be, and what am I supposed to be doing?" We should do this frequently.
  • We should check our attitudes towards other human beings. David thought women to be playthings. Is there someone in our lives that we esteem too lightly - and sin against too quickly?
  • We must check our attitude towards God - if we see him as the easy mark for forgiveness, with no thought of the awesome, holy God, we are in for a big surprise.
Deliver us from evil

But once we start down the trail, what can we do then? Aren't we trapped by our own actions? Not at all:

  • If you know someone is an evil person, a conniver, then stay away. Don't ask their help; ask the help of the righteous.
  • The best method of cover up is: don't start it. Confess quickly before the splinter goes into gangrene.
  • When God presents you with a check point, listen!
Hallowed be thy name

Remember, in all these things, you bear the name "Christian." This is not something that is about "just me." It is a matter which reflects upon the church itself. When (I did not say if) your sin is found out, the enemies of God will have a fine time telling the world just how rotten those Christians really are. God's name in the mud!

Do you care?

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