“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle…David remained at Jerusalem” (2 Sam. 11:1). Throughout this chapter it is David who is controlling the situations in all the relationships. David and Bathsheba (vv. 2-5). David and Uriah (vv. 6-13). David and Joab (vv. 14-25). Sadly, however, David is not driven by steadfast love (חֶסֶד or ḥesed) in these relationships (esp. with Bathsheba and Uriah) like David was with Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9) or even Hanun the Ammonite (2 Sam. 10).
Bathsheba is “the daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah the Hittite” (v. 3). Eliam was one of David’s mighty men and the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite (see 2 Sam. 23:34). Ahithophel was one of David’s counselors who joined with the conspiracy of Absalom, later is David’s life, to overthrow David (2 Sam. 15:12). So Bathsheba was the granddaughter of one of David’s counselors. Putting this into perspective, she was considerably younger than David, perhaps an entire generation (or 40yrs). Seeing Bathsheba’s “relationship” to David before any encounter, makes the encounter in 2 Samuel 11, even more disgusting and vile. Uriah, like Eliam his father-in-law, was a mighty man of David and a Hittite, that is a Gentile (see 2 Sam. 23:39), but one who turned to Yahweh some time before (see v. 11).
Wait, speaking of Yahweh, where has He been in all of this? The last part of the last verse says, “But the thing that David had done displeased Yahweh” (2 Sam. 11:27b). The Hebrew is a bit stronger than “displease,” since I might displease a driver behind me for not driving faster, but it is unlikely that I would be doing evil in their sight by not driving faster. The NASB rightly translates this, “But the thing that David had done was evil in the sight of Yahweh” (2 Sam. 11:27b). A couple verses earlier David had said to the messenger to say to Joab, “Do not let this thing be evil in your sight” (v. 25). Joab is certainly not happy about losing several men in the death of Uriah (v. 17), including a great fighter like Uriah. David encourages him to just move on. But Yahweh will not just ignore or move on (see Prov. 15:3; Heb. 4:13), even if David has ignored Him in all these actions.
Let’s quickly recap David’s actions. He didn’t go off to war with Joab and the army against the Ammonites (v. 1). He also didn’t place himself under “normal” restrictions like the rest of his men would have been (v. 11; see 1 Sam. 21:5). This alone would have meant that David would abstain from sexual intimacy even with his own wives, let alone the wife of another. Instead David “saw” Bathsheba bathing, “sent” messengers to inquire about her, “took” her, and “lay” with her (vv. 2-4). Bathsheba couldn’t have been pregnant before she lay with David (see the end of v. 4) and thus when she says, and the only time she speaks in this chapter, “I am pregnant” (v. 5b) we know, and David knows, the child is his. What’s there left to do but to seek to cover it all up, thus doing what is right in his own eyes (see Judges 21:25, but there was a king and David is it).
When David sends for Uriah the goal is quite simple in David’s eyes, talk with the mighty man about the war and send him down to his house to sleep with his wife. That way the pregnancy might at least appear to be caused by Uriah, her husband, and not David, the anointed king of Israel. However Uriah does not go down to his house, any night, and after the first night he says plainly, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing” (v. 11). Uriah disobeys King David’s order, but does so for a greater act of faithfulness. In fact, Uriah has greater devotion and loyalty to Yahweh in this chapter than David does. David’s sin doesn’t just impact himself, but like Saul’s sin before him (see 1 Sam. 15), the impact is upon the people of Israel.
The connection with Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam and Eve is unmistakable (including the final sentence of the previous paragraph). For David saw Bathsheba bathing and she was very beautiful, good in his sight, so he takes her (vv. 2-3). Genesis 3:6 says, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Adam’s sin would be likened to spiritual adultery, willingly taking the fruit, while David’s was physical adultery. Both Adam and David tasted of the forbidden fruit. This reminds us that the kingdom of God wasn’t safe in Adam’s hands, and it is not even safe or secure in David’s hands. So what hope do we have? Is there any hope? Jesus Christ! Jesus will reign over all His people with justice and righteousness always (see 2 Sam. 8:15).
May we not miss the warning in this passage. David is Yahweh’s anointed king, a man after His own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; 16:1-13). David fell hard and fast with his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, don’t think it could never happen to you, for then the first step has already been taken. “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).