We begin our studies in 2 Samuel this month with one of the saddest stories in the book—the account of David’s great sin. “We wish we could draw a veil over it, and that it might never be known, might never be said, that David did such things as are here recorded of him,” Matthew Henry writes. “But it cannot, it must not, be concealed…. Even such stories as these ‘were written for our learning,’ that ‘he that thinks he stands may take heed lest he fall.'”
The spring of the year, when the weather improves to the point that military activities can be undertaken, is “when kings go out to battle.” King David, however, sends his army to resume his campaign against Ammon under the leadership of Joab, who defeats the Ammonites in the field and lays siege to the capital, Rabbah, which Israel was unable to do previously (10:14). Meanwhile, David stays behind in Jerusalem, seemingly taking his ease. We are told that he rises from his bed in the evening, apparently having slept the afternoon away, and takes a stroll on the palace roof. How different is this David from the man of 9:1 and 10:2, who was eager to extend kindness to others. This David seems more concerned with his own well-being.
While he is in this self-focused state, David spots a woman bathing, that is, purifying herself from her ritual uncleanness following menstruation. (This small detail is more important than it may seem at first, for it establishes that the woman is not pregnant when David first sees her.) She is beautiful in his eyes, and David immediately begins to think of adding her to his collection of wives. Unfortunately, his inquiries reveal that she is Bathsheba, wife of Uriah, one of his best soldiers (23:39), and daughter of Eliam, who also may be among his elite (23:34). Her status and her connections should suffice to restrain David’s desires, but by now lust has seemingly taken hold of him. Therefore, David takes her and commits adultery with her. In doing so, he flaunts the law of God that he is charged to keep (Deut. 17:18–19) and commits a capital offense (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22).
Afterward, Bathsheba returns to her home, and it does not appear that she and David conduct an ongoing affair. But their single occasion of sin reaps terrible consequences, for Bathsheba soon discovers she is pregnant and conveys the news to David.