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Bible: What Does 2 Samuel 11-13 Teach Us About Adultery, Murder, and Revenge?

Updated on September 8, 2016

David the King


David and Adultery

As so often happens, a terrible fall transpires after a glorious victory. Why?

The champion lowers his guard. David, occupying himself with idleness instead of duty, commits adultery with Bathsheba and impregnates her (vv. 1-5).

To prevent the revelation of this scandal, the king attempts to cover up his wrongdoing by first arranging for Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, to lie with her in his own home (vv. 6-8).

The loyal soldier unwittingly foils David's plot, however, when he decides instead to camp out with his men.

Why? He thought it unseemly to take advantage of the king's favor when others had to "rough" it (vv. 9-11).

David's second try—getting Uriah drunk—also fails to make him go home (vv. 12-13).

Failing to realize his objective using mild measures, the king resorts to indirect murder, ordering General Joab to assign Uriah the place of hottest action in the battle where he would be more likely to die (vv. 14-15).

[David makes his letter to Joab sound as if Uriah deserved to die; especially despicable on the king's part was using the latter to deliver his own death sentence]!

The plan finally works, for Uriah falls in battle (vv. 16-17).

Now comes Joab's turn to cover up, or at least ameliorate the effects of, a major strategic blunder.

Knowing that Israel's great loss of life in the battle would greatly anger David—especially since the general had sent men too near the city, making them easy targets—he instructs his messenger to David merely to mention in closing that Uriah had died also (vv. 18-21).

That addendum does the trick, for David does not reprimand Joab.

In fact, he encourages him, saying, in effect, "You win some; you lose some" (vv. 22-25). The way now seems clear for David to take Bathsheba as his wife.

The people would regard him as a compassionate and caring friend of the family, rather than as an adulterous, conniving murderer (vv. 26-27a).

Yet one cannot fool the all-seeing One (v. 27b).

Nathan the Prophet


Child of David and Bathsheba

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2 Samuel 12

Yahweh sends Nathan the prophet to David to tell him the parable "Rich Man, Poor Man" (vv. 1-4).

[Meant only to uncover the king's adultery, the story stresses the rich man's theft of the poor man's lone, female lamb].

Having heard the account, David, properly incensed by the rich man's cruelty, pronounces the harshest of sentences upon him.

He remains blind to his own guilt (or perhaps he continues to try to cover it) until the prophet identifies him as "the man" (vv. 5-7a).

Furthermore, after citing the king's privileges and other “would-have-been” divine blessings (vv. 7b-8), Nathan not only indicts him for Uriah’s callous murder, but also for the theft of the warrior’s wife (v. 9).

As consequences for his sins, David's house will experience continual bloodshed (v. 10), and his "neighbor" (namely, Absalom) will commit adultery publicly with the king's wives (vv. 11-12; cf. 16:22).

After David acknowledges his transgressions against God, the prophet reveals the LORD’s merciful verdict to him: He would spare the king's life, but not that of his illegitimate son (vv. 13-14).

Soon thereafter, He strikes Bathsheba's son with a grave illness (v. 15). David devotes one week pleading with God, lying on the ground and fasting, for the child's sake (vv. 16-17).

When he first perceives and then learns that the child has finally died (v. 19), the king rises, washes, worships, and eats (v. 20).

This behavior puzzles the servants, who had withheld news of the child's death from David for fear that he might harm himself or others (vv. 18, 21).

The king's answer reflects both his belief in the LORD's mercy and his submission to God's will (vv. 22-23).

[David's final words do not categorically assert that all young children who die go to heaven; they may simply state his recognition that he also will die someday.

In other words, he will join the boy in the grave].

Interestingly, after the child's death, Bathsheba conceives and bears a son to David; Solomon (Jedidiah) is his name [vv. 24-25].

Meanwhile, battles continue in Ammon, and Joab captures Rabbah's water supply; the general then humbly asks David to take the city for himself (vv. 26-28).

The king follows through on that request, conquers the land, and confiscates their king's crown and other spoil (vv. 29-30).

He also makes Rabbah's people into servants (v. 31).

[It appears odd that a mention of another military endeavor should find its way into the narrative at this point].

Amnon and Tamar


2 Samuel 13

Another woe springs up in David's family, as his son Amnon (by Ahinoam) [see 3:2] satisfies his sexual desire for Tamar, the virgin sister of Absalom, the king's son by another woman (Maacah, see 3:4) [vv. 1-2].

Inquiring about Amnon's waning health, David's nephew Jonadab learns that his friend suffers from "love'' sickness.

The latter therefore suggests a crafty scheme to help the former "get what he wants" (vv. 3-5).

Feigning illness, Amnon succeeds (with the king's permission) in moving Tamar within his grasp (vv. 6-8).

After he watches her prepare his meal, the predator deceitfully positions his quarry, step by step, until he finally seizes her at his bedside (vv. 9-11).

Despite Tamar's resistance of his advances and her reasoned pleas for him to stop—pleas that include saying that

(1) forcible rape is disgraceful (v. 12);

(2) his actions would shame her (v. 13a);

(3) his actions are foolish (v. 13b);

(4) force is unnecessary because David would allow the marriage (v. 13c)—Amnon sexually assaults her (v. 14).

Perhaps because she did not participate in the relationship willingly, Amnon despises her afterwards and callously sends her away (v. 15).

Plucky gal that she is, however, Tamar demands that he treat her righteously.

Unfortunately, the crude boor orders his servants not only to remove her from his sight, but to keep her out of his way (vv. 16-18).

Using the only recourse remaining to her, the young victim assumes the typical outward signs of grief (v. 19).

But even these actions bring her no compassion from her brother Absalom. David himself becomes angry, but does nothing (vv. 20-21).

Absalom's Party


The Avenger of Tamar

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Though Absalom takes no immediate action against the now-hated Amnon, he begins to plan a "hit," set to occur about two years later (vv. 22-23).

At that time, the king's "servant" (Absalom) invites David and all his sons to a sheep-shearing celebration, but the king politely refuses.

Even after Absalom continues to urge him, David says, "No," but still gives him his blessing (vv. 23-25).

Suspicions arise in the king's heart when his son directly asks for Amnon to attend.

Despite having these serious misgivings, David allows all his sons to go because Absalom persists so fervently (vv. 26-27).

As things turn out, Absalom's servants kill the drunken Amnon at the party; David's remaining sons escape unharmed, however, since Absalom had not targeted them (vv. 28-29).

A false rumor reaches the king, purporting that Absalom had killed all of David's sons; consequently, the king and his household begin to grieve (vv. 30-31).

Jonadab, however, knowing the truth that only Amnon has died and that Absalom had long planned the murder to avenge his sister's rape, gets David up to speed on the matter (vv. 32-33).

Absalom flees to Talmai, the king of Geshur, while David's other sons return to their father, weeping bitterly (vv. 34-37).

The vigilante/avenger stays in Geshur for three years; as time passes, David finds comfort and longs to visit him (vv. 38-39).

© 2013 glynch1


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