Up until 2 Samuel 11, the record of David’s life and rule is mostly positive. That makes what we read in today’s passage all the more jarring. Despite David’s glory and God’s covenant with him (ch. 7), the kingdom of God was not ultimately safe in his hands. On his worst days, he could be just as evil as any other sinner.
Having dealt a decisive blow against the Syrian-Ammonite coalition, Joab began to besiege Rabbah, the chief city of Ammon. The army of Israel was waging battle, and soldiers loyal to David were at risk, but what was the king doing? He was living the easy life at home in Jerusalem (10:1–11:1). Then, David saw her bathing—a “very beautiful” woman named Bathsheba. It did not matter that she was the daughter of Eliam and wife of Uriah, two of David’s mighty men, especially valiant, loyal, and adept fighters in Israel’s army (23:8–39). Consumed with lust, David had an affair with her (11:2–4). When sin takes control, we stop caring about other people and about God’s approval. Moreover, we must be vigilant lest sin overtake us. Until we are glorified, there is no place where we are immune from temptation. We should heed the warning of Jerome, the early church father and Bible scholar, who comments, “Even in his own house, a man cannot use his eyes without danger.” The lust of the flesh is ever present even if we somehow escape the threat of the world or the devil.
David apparently thought he had gotten away with his adultery, but then he received word from Bathsheba that she was pregnant by him (11:5). So, David tried to cover things up by calling for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to return to Jerusalem and spend time with his wife. But Uriah would not go in and lie with his wife. He abstained from sleeping in his own bed and from having sexual intercourse with his wife—he would not enjoy the benefits of marriage and other comforts as long as his battlefield comrades were in danger (vv. 6–13). On this occasion, Uriah was far more noble and godly than David, who was not bothered that Israel’s soldiers were at risk while he was at home enjoying himself.
So, David had Joab arrange things so that Uriah would be killed in battle, afterward taking Bathsheba as his wife (vv. 14–26). The account closes with this comment: “The thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (v. 27). A more literal translation would be, “David did what was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” David tried to hide his sin, but he could not conceal it from God.