“And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:1-14).
A son has been born to David through his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and everything he did to cover the original sin has only made matters worse. God has given him enough time to repent, but since he has no intention in doing so, He must bring judgement upon him.
God sent the prophet Nathan to bring David to repentance. Nathan used a parable about an unjust man who stole his neighbour’s goods to get David to convict himself. Nathan had already been used by God to bring David bad news about his desire to build a temple (2 Samuel 7), and now his words must be even more severe. This must have been a little frightening for the prophet, so his use of a parable was very wise. “He sought to get inside David’s guard and cut the iron bonds of his self-deception to strike a moral blindness from his eyes” (Holmon Bible Dictionary). The parable he told was like holding up a mirror to David’s face, for the intention was to get him to see himself in the story.
David did react with anger when he heard what the rich man had done, so we can imagine his response when the prophet had directly rebuked him for his sin. David initially failed to see himself in the story but took the moral high ground and played the hypocrite because he knew what Scripture demanded. “If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exodus 22:1). He pronounced that the man must die even though there was no such judgement for stealing a sheep.
As soon as David had condemned himself with his own words, Nathan said, “You are the man I am talking about.” “Thine own mouth condemneth thee, and not I: yea, thine own lips testify against thee” (Job 15:6) … “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee” (Luke 19:22). These words must have been like a bolt of lightening to David’s soul. Maybe he expected to be praised for his wise judgement on the sinner, but he received condemnation instead. Nathan’s rebuke was not watered down in any way for he was dealing with a serious matter. “Rebuke with all authority” (Titus 2:15).
Nathan pointed out that God had anointed David as king and therefore expected him to live like one rather than a dictator that trampled over people. He had been protected from Saul’s attempts to kill him. Was David’s reign going to match that of Saul by becoming increasingly wicked? Also, had not David already taken several wives, so why go after a woman who was already married? God had given him everything he need and would have given him much more besides if it was legitimate. Nathan got right down to the root of the problem by stating that David had contempt for the word of God by thinking he was above the law. Those who despise the Scriptures will engage in all manner of wickedness, but the judgement will come upon them anyhow.
David used death to get what he wanted, so now violent bloodshed would plague his reign. He would know sorrow, pain and anguish throughout his life. His own sons would cause him much grief and his wives would be taken away. Everything he held dear would be affected by the sin he had committed. David had tried to hide his sin but everyone in Israel would hear about it. He had brought shame and humiliation upon himself.
David finally repented for his sin. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10). If he had done this earlier much of the heartache could have been avoided. Psalm 51 was written as a sign of his repentance. Though he was forgiven there were still the consequences of his actions that had to be lived through. He would suffer the judgement described by Nathan because he had brought dishonour on the nation and made it a laughingstock of others.
Thankfully David did not excuse his sin, tone it down or blame it on others, but showed true repentance by accepting that it was all his own fault. He saw himself as the guilty one and worthy of the death penalty, for this is what God demanded in Genesis 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” “He that killeth any man shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 24:17). The same is true for adultery, “The man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10). David got off lightly, though he would have to pay the price until he died. If David had been executed for his crimes then God’s plan for the future kingdom would have come to nothing.
David would not die, but his newborn son would. Many wonder why God took the life of an innocent child to punish David, but we should acknowledge that it was an act of His mercy. The child would have grown up with the stigma of being the illegitimate son of David and maybe have to suffer the maliciousness of his other children. We know that the child was taken directly to Heaven; therefore God blessed him in doing so.
“For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) … “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). This was certainly true in David’s life. What sorrow and heartache he caused through his sin! In our next study we will look at death of David’s son.