David and Bathsheba
v1 The next spring came. Kings usually went to fight wars during springtime. David sent Joab out with David’s officers and the *Israelite army. They defeated the *Ammonites and surrounded the city called Rabbah. But David stayed in Jerusalem.
(Verse 1 See also 1 Chronicles 20:1.)
Kings preferred not to fight wars in the winter. It was wet and often cold. The roads and the land became muddy. The soldiers could not move from one area to another. People would not be able to supply the soldiers with food and the other things that they needed. In chapter 10, the *Israelites had already fought the *Ammonites. David wanted to defeat them completely and take their capital city (see the notes on 10:3). Sometimes David led the army himself (10:17). At other times, he sent Joab out to lead the army (10:7). In this battle, David had sent Joab.
v2 One evening, David got up from his bed. He walked round on the roof of his palace. While he was on the roof, he saw a woman. This woman was having a bath. She was very beautiful. v3 David sent a servant to find out who she was. The servant said, ‘The woman is called Bathsheba. She is the daughter of Eliam, and the wife of Uriah (who belongs to the people called Hittites).’ v4 David sent his servants to get Bathsheba. She went to David. David had sex with her. (She had finished bleeding that month. She had just made herself *pure again.) Then she returned to her home. v5 Later, the woman discovered that she was expecting a baby. She sent a message to David and said, ‘I am expecting a baby.’
Israel is a hot country after the winter. People used to get up early in the morning to do their work. They stopped in the afternoon when it became too hot. Then they went to bed. They slept until it was cooler. David’s palace had a flat roof. In the evening, it was cooler on the roof than inside the palace. There were many houses in Jerusalem. Some of them had a private garden. There would be a wall round the garden. Bathsheba probably had a bath in her private garden. People would not be able to see her. But David saw her because he was up high on his roof. He saw that she was beautiful. He had a strong desire for her.
Uriah came from the *Hittite nation. This nation had become very strong and it had defeated many other nations. The Hittites ruled many nations on the east side of *Israel for over 400 years. Then in the end, other nations defeated the *Hittite nation. This happened about 200 years before David became king. But *Hittite people still lived in many different countries. Uriah lived in Jerusalem. He was one of David’s best soldiers (23:39).
A married person should not have sex with someone who is not their own husband or wife. God says this in the 10 commandments (laws) in Exodus 20:14. The Bible calls it ‘adultery’. David knew God’s laws but he did not obey this law. David saw Bathsheba but he should not have watched her. He had a wrong desire for her. Jesus said that such behaviour is adultery too (Matthew 5:27-28). Bathsheba’s father and husband were both in David’s group of 30 brave men (23:34; 23:39). David discovered that Bathsheba was married. He should have left her alone. Instead, he used his power as king to get her. David *sinned. Bathsheba could not obey both God and David. Perhaps she was afraid to refuse the king’s command. Verse 4 suggests that Bathsheba went to David only once.
A young woman bleeds each month when she is not expecting a baby. The *Jewish law says that a woman is not ‘clean’ (or ‘*pure’) when she bleeds. This does not mean that she is physically dirty. But she cannot go to religious events (in other words, the ceremonies of the *Jewish religion). She has to make herself *pure when she stops bleeding (Leviticus 15:19-24; 15:28-30). Bathsheba was not expecting a baby before David had sex with her. Verse 4 proves this. Uriah was fighting in the war. He was not at his home. Therefore, Bathsheba was expecting David’s baby.
v6 David then sent a message to Joab: ‘Send Uriah the *Hittite to me.’ So, Joab sent Uriah to David. v7 Uriah went to David. And David asked him if Joab and the soldiers were well. David also asked him about the war. v8 Then David said to Uriah, ‘Go home and wash your feet.’ So, Uriah left the palace. The king sent him a gift. v9 But Uriah did not go home. Instead, he slept by the door of the palace with the king’s servants. v10 The servants told David that Uriah did not go home. David said to Uriah, ‘You have had a long journey. Why did you not go home?’
v11 Uriah said, ‘The *ark of the *Lord and the men from *Israel and *Judah are staying in tents. My master Joab and the king’s officers are camping in the open country. It is not right for me to go home. I cannot eat and drink at home. I cannot have sex with my wife. I promise that I would never do that.’
v12 So David said to Uriah, ‘Stay here for one more day. Tomorrow I will send you back to the battle.’ So, Uriah stayed in Jerusalem until the next day. v13 Then David invited Uriah to eat and drink with him. And David made Uriah drink too much wine. That evening Uriah slept on his bed next to the king’s servants. Uriah still did not go home.
v14 In the morning, David wrote a letter to Joab. And Uriah delivered the letter to Joab. v15 David wrote, ‘Put Uriah at the front of the battle where the men fight very fiercely. Leave him there on his own. Then he will die in the battle.’ v16 Joab watched the city. He saw where the fierce soldiers were fighting. So, he put Uriah there. v17 The soldiers came out of the city and they fought against Joab. They killed some of David’s soldiers. Uriah the *Hittite also died.
*Adultery is a serious *sin. In the *Old Testament, God said that the guilty man and woman should die (Leviticus 20:10). So, David had a problem. Bathsheba’s baby did not belong to Uriah. David wanted Uriah to go home to his wife. Later, everyone would believe that Bathsheba was expecting her husband’s baby. David pretended that he wanted to hear about the war and the soldiers. In verse 8, David’s gift showed that he was pleased with Uriah. ‘Wash your feet’ probably meant ‘have a rest and enjoy yourself at home’. But Uriah would not go home. He was not an *Israelite but he was loyal to the *Lord. Deuteronomy 23:9-11 may show that men should not have sex during a war. (See also 1 Samuel 21:4-5.) Uriah obeyed this rule even when he was away from the battle. Uriah had a duty to the other soldiers. He was not selfish. He would not enjoy himself while the other men were in the war. He had a good character and high moral standards. He was an honest man. Uriah’s good behaviour is very different from David’s bad behaviour.
David realised that Uriah would not change his decision. So, David used his power in the wrong way again. Usually it is an honour to eat and drink with the king. But David did not care about Uriah. David just wanted Uriah to go home and have sex with his wife. This would have solved David’s problem. People often cannot control their behaviour when they drink too much alcohol. But Uriah still would not go home.
The next day, David did a very wicked thing. Uriah was an innocent man. But David decided that Uriah had to die. This was murder. Uriah did not know what David wrote to Joab. But Uriah had to carry the letter that led to his own death. Joab did not know the facts. But he had to obey David. Uriah died in the battle. And other soldiers died too.
v18 Joab sent David a report of the battle. Joab told the man who took the message. ‘Give this account of the battle to the king. When you finish, v19 the king may become angry. He may say, “Why did you go so near to the city to fight? You know that the enemies would shoot arrows at you from the city wall. v20 Do you remember who killed Abimelech, the son of Jerub-Besheth? v21 There was a woman on the city wall at Thebez. She had a large stone that she used to make flour from grain. She threw the stone on Abimelech and he died. So why did you get so close to the wall?” If the king asks you this then say to him, “Your servant Uriah the *Hittite is also dead.” ’
v22 So the man went to David with the message. He told David everything that Joab had told him to say. v23 ‘Our enemies were winning the battle. They came out from the city and they fought us in the fields. But we fought them back to the gate of their city. v24 There were men with arrows on the wall. They shot their arrows and some of the king’s soldiers died. Uriah the *Hittite also died.’
v25 David spoke to the man who brought the message. He said, ‘Tell Joab, “Do not be sad about this. All kinds of people die in a battle. Go and make a stronger attack on the city. Go and defeat it.” Say this to encourage Joab.’
v26 The wife of Uriah the *Hittite heard that her husband was dead. She cried and she was very sad. v27 At the end of this time, David brought her to his house. She became David’s wife. Then she had a son. But God was not pleased with the thing that David had done.
David was a good soldier. He did not want his soldiers to die in a battle. David would not be pleased that several *Israelites died. Joab knew that. But Uriah could not die alone. People would suspect that something was wrong. David and Joab both knew that it was dangerous to fight near a city wall. They had probably spoken about Abimelech and the way that he died. (This story is in Judges 9:50-57.) So, Joab knew that David would not like Joab’s action. But Joab made sure that the enemy killed Uriah. Joab spoke his report, he did not write it. David heard about Uriah. So, David was not angry with Joab. David said that he expected people to die in battles. But he also expected Joab to defeat the city next time.
Bathsheba was very sad that her husband had died. When she finished crying, David sent for her. He married her. Later she had a son. Most people would think that everything was in order. Only a few of David’s servants knew what had happened. But they were loyal to their king.
David should have had a guilty conscience. He pretended that nothing was wrong. David could lie to other people. They would believe his lies. But God knew the truth. David had *sinned in many ways. God did not punish David immediately. But God did not forget David’s *sins.