“And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.” (2 Samuel 11:1-2).
Little in life is caused by an accident, but instead behind every action, whether good or evil, there is a cause. David paved his own road to adultery. He opened a door to wickedness that would take some time to close. He could never say, as some do, “The devil made me do it”, for he walked into the situation with his eyes wide open. Because of the lessons that can be learned from David’s sin, we will study 2 Samuel 11 in some detail.
When kings go forth
David was one king that did not “go forth to battle” and he was slain in his own home instead of on the battlefield. There may be several reasons why he did not go out with his men, but whatever the circumstances he failed in his duty as leader of the nation of Israel. Here is the cause of David’s sin, because if he had gone forth the adultery with Bathsheba and the death of Uriah would never have happened. “For Satan finds some mischief still
for idle hands to do” (Against idleness and Mischief by Isaac Watts).
The battle appears to be the one against the Ammonites mentioned in the previous chapter. The phrase “at the time when kings go forth to battle” may simply mean when the weather conditions are right, but it is possible that there was agreed times in the year when battles could take place, though this seems unlikely. Armies and their equipment could easily get bogged down in the rainy season, so the time for battle would be during the Spring and Summer months. The words “after the year was expired” must mean the previous year in the Jewish calendar, therefore the continuation of the battle with Ammon took place sometime in April. “When that year ended, and the next begun, which was in the spring time. When kings – Which is, when the ground is fit for the march of soldiers, and brings forth provision for man and beast” (John Wesley).
David tarried in Jerusalem while his men where fighting against Ammon. He probably thought that since he had thoroughly routed them the previous year, that there was no need to waste his time in this easy cleanup operation. He had been a leader and warrior for some years, so we see that he was stepping out of his usual routine. We can safely say that David was in the wrong place at the wrong time and would get himself into more hot water than Bathsheba’s bathtub could hold.
Jerusalem is iconic of David’s victory over paganism, but he would make it the place of his greatest defeat. He brought corruption into the city of God. He would come to regret staying behind while his men were fighting for the continuance of both Jerusalem and all Israel. If we are disgusted at the sinfulness of this hero of faith, how much more would he have been with himself when he came to realize how unclean he was in God’s sight!
David was in bed rather than in battle, and maybe because of his inactivity he could not get to sleep, so he decided to get some fresh air. Some commentators suggest that David had actually been in bed all day and that such laziness was the root of his sleeplessness. “The bed of sloth often proves the bed of lust” (Matthew Henry). People in the Mediterranean world often take an afternoon nap [siesta], so it is possible that David had not bothered to get up from this until the evening. “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man” (Proverbs 6:10-11). Others say that his mind was restless due to his conscience nagging him about sleeping in fine linen while his men fought a bloody battle. If he had been able to sleep then he would never have seen the bathing woman.
David walked into a scene being played out in another house. Was Bathsheba being immodest in bathing like this? Her property must have been walled and it is likely that all the other houses round about were of a similar build, therefore only someone from a loftier position might see into her courtyard. But did she have to bath in the open since there was no-one but herself at home? It is certain that David did not go out expecting to see anyone taking a bath, so in some respects Bathsheba is partly to blame for what happened next. Nevertheless, David saw but did not have to stare. He could have prayed for victory over temptation, but he did not. “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” (Psalm 119:37). He must have known about Job’s covenant but failed to follow the same principle. “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
All this is taking place while brave Uriah is fighting for David on the battlefield. Jesus said that “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Mathhew 6:22-23). John Bunyan describes sight as the “eyegate” into the soul of man. “So they open the gate, both Ear-gate and Eye-gate, and let in Diabolus with all his bands, quite forgetting their good Shaddai” (Holy War). David’s laziness was the cause of his sin. He could blame the devil, Bathsheba, and a multitude of other reasons, but he brought it all upon himself. This “private” viewing would eventually affect the lives of many. His sin started in secret on the rooftop, so justice demanded that it became public. “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither any thing hid, that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17).