Nathan’s message to David

Chapter 12

Nathan’s message to David

v1 The *Lord sent Nathan to David. Nathan went to David and he said, ‘Two men lived in a city. One man was rich. The other man was poor. v2 The rich man had many sheep and cows. v3 But the poor man had only one young sheep, which was female. He had bought it and he looked after it. The little sheep grew up with the man and his children. It ate the same food as the man. It drank from his cup. It even went to sleep while the man held it. The little sheep was like a daughter to the man.

v4 One day, a traveller came to visit the rich man. The rich man wanted to prepare a meal for his guest. But the rich man did not want to kill one of his own sheep or cows. Instead, he took the poor man’s little female sheep. He cooked it as a meal for his guest.’

v5 David was very angry with the rich man. David said to Nathan, ‘The *Lord will punish that rich man. The man who did this evil thing deserves to die. v6 He had no pity when he did this. So he must hand over 4 sheep to the poor man.’

Nathan was a *prophet (verse 25). The *Lord spoke to the *prophets. Then they gave the *Lord’s message to other people. Nathan had to give a serious message to King David. First, Nathan told David a story. In the *New Testament, Jesus told many stories. The Bible calls them ‘parables’. David did not know that this was only a story. In the *Old Testament, the kings were judges too (8:15). They had to punish guilty people. So, David thought that Nathan was describing a real situation. David acted as a judge.

The man in Nathan’s story was unfair, selfish and unkind. He also used his power in the wrong way. The rich man did not care about the poor man. The rich man’s behaviour made David very angry. He decided to punish the rich man severely. In God’s law, a man had to hand over 4 sheep for every sheep that he stole (Exodus 22:1). The rich man had no pity. David thought that this *sin was very great. So, David said that the rich man deserved to die. David did not know that he was really the guilty man. It is easy to make such decisions about someone else. However, often people do not see their own *sin or they hide it. David did not realise that his own behaviour was even worse than the behaviour of the man in the story.

v7 Then Nathan said to David, ‘You have behaved like that rich man! The *Lord, the God of *Israel, says, “I *anointed you as king over *Israel. I rescued you from Saul. v8 I gave you Saul’s *kingdom and his wives. I made you the king of *Israel and *Judah. If that had not been enough for you, I would have given you even more. v9 But you did this evil thing. So, you acted as if God’s law has no value. You killed Uriah the *Hittite by the sword of the *Ammonites. Then you took his wife for yourself. v10 Therefore, in the future, your family will always fight. There will be constant wars. This is because you did not respect me. And so you took the wife of Uriah the *Hittite for yourself.

v11 I will make people in your family cause you trouble. You will see when I take your wives away from you. I will give them to one of your relatives. He will have sex with them in public. v12 You did it in secret. But he will do this so that all the *Israelites will see.” ’

v13 Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have *sinned against the *Lord.’

Nathan answered, ‘The *Lord has taken away your *sin. You will not die. v14 But your actions have caused the *Lord’s enemies to speak evil words against the *Lord. Therefore, your son will die.’

v15 Then Nathan went home.

‘You have behaved like that rich man’. Nathan’s words probably surprised David. Nathan brought the *Lord’s judgement to David. Nathan’s story was not quite the same as the events in David’s life. But it included the same principles. David was a rich man. He had everything that he needed. God had given it all to him. David already had several wives. (God wanted men to have only one wife. But at that time, it was common for kings to have many wives. It showed that the king was powerful.) Uriah was a poor man. He had one wife whom he loved. But David took Uriah’s wife and he murdered Uriah. David had no pity. He had behaved exactly like the rich man in the story. In verse 9, the *Lord said that David had killed Uriah. The *Ammonites had actually killed him. But David was responsible for his death. ‘By the sword’ refers to a battle. David had sent Uriah to die in the battle (11:14-15).

David could hide his actions from other people. But the *Lord had seen everything. Verses 9 and 10 show David’s biggest *sin. He had not obeyed or respected God’s law or God himself. People watch their leaders and often copy them. So this *sin would affect all the *Israelites. It would also affect the *Lord’s enemies (verse 14). Therefore, the *Lord had to punish David. In Numbers 20:1-13 the *Lord had to punish the great leader Moses. These punishments seem severe. But the *Lord wants everyone to know that he is holy. All leaders teach by their behaviour. In the *New Testament, James says that the *Lord will be stricter with teachers than with other people (James 3:1).

King Saul did not obey the *Lord’s commands. The *Lord punished him. He said that Saul would not be the king any more (1 Samuel 13:13-14 and 15:23). But the *Lord had promised that he would not do that to David (7:13-16). God’s punishment matched David’s *sin. There would be wars and trouble in his family. He would also lose his wives (16:21-22). David *sinned in secret but his punishment would be in public. You can read about David’s troubles in the rest of 2 Samuel.

David admitted that he had *sinned. He was humble. He knew that he deserved to die. But he still loved the *Lord. Contrast this with Saul in 1 Samuel chapters 13 and 15. Saul made excuses. He did not want to confess that he was wrong. Romans 6:23 says that the result of *sin is death. David was sincere and the *Lord forgave him. David did not die, but his child died.

Please read Psalm 51 now. David wrote it after Nathan visited him. This psalm shows how David felt. He was very sorry that he *sinned against the *Lord. David wanted to live a good life in the future. The Bible calls this ‘repentance’. Psalm 32 may also refer to this event.

The child’s death

The *Lord acted against David’s child, whose mother was Uriah’s wife. So, the child became ill. v16 David prayed to God about the child. David would not eat anything. He stayed inside. He would lie on the floor all night. v17 The older servants in his house went to him. They tried to get him up from the ground. But David refused to get up. And he would not eat any food with them.

v18 On the seventh day, the child died. David’s servants were afraid to tell him that his child had died. The servants thought, ‘We spoke to David while the child was still alive. But he would not listen to us. We are afraid to tell David that his child is dead. He may do something very bad.’

v19 David noticed that his servants were whispering to each other. He realised that the child was dead. So, David asked them, ‘Is the child dead?’

They answered, ‘Yes, the child is dead.’

v20 Then David got up from the ground. He washed himself and he rubbed himself with oils. He put on clean clothes. Then he went to *worship in the *house of the *Lord. After this, he went home and he asked for something to eat. His servants gave him some food and he ate it.

v21 His servants said, ‘We do not understand why you are behaving like this. When the child was still alive, you refused to eat. You cried. The child has died now. But you get up and eat.’

v22 David said, ‘When the child was still alive, I refused to eat. I cried. I thought that the *Lord might be kind to me. He might let the child live. v23 Now the child is dead. There is no reason for me to refuse food. I cannot make the child alive again. One day I will go to him. But he will not return to me.’

We do not know how old David’s child was. The child was probably still a baby. But the child became very ill. The *Lord said that the child would die. But David knew that the *Lord is kind. David hoped that the *Lord would cure him. So, David prayed for 7 days and nights. He would not listen to anyone. He cried. He would not eat or get up from the floor. Kings did not usually behave like that. Children often died when they were young. David had many wives and other children. This was not David’s only son. But David was very sad. So, the servants were afraid to tell David when his son died. The servants may even have thought that David would kill himself.

When a person died, his or her family cried. They did not eat. They wore old clothes and they did not wash. Often they put dust or ashes on their heads to show how sad they were (Genesis 37:34; Jeremiah 6:26). But David did the opposite. He behaved like this when his son was still alive. But he stopped as soon as his son died. In hot countries, people rub their skin with oil. It helps them to feel cooler. It also makes them smell pleasant. The *ark of the *Lord was still in a tent or temporary building. They called this tent ‘the *house of the *Lord’. The *Lord was present at the *ark. As soon as David was clean, he went to *worship the *Lord. Afterwards, David went home and he had a meal. The *Lord was more important to David than food was. Food would make his body strong. Only the *Lord could make his spirit strong again.

David’s servants did not understand him. So, he had to explain his behaviour. ‘One day I will go to him’ means that David would die too. In the *Old Testament, people did not know much about what happened after death. But they knew that dead people did not live again in this world. David accepted the *Lord’s judgement. So, David lived his normal life again.

The birth of Solomon

v24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba. He slept with her and he had sex with her. Then she had another baby. David called him Solomon. The *Lord loved Solomon. v25 The *Lord sent a message by Nathan the *prophet to call the baby Jedidiah. This was because the *Lord loved the baby.

Bathsheba would have been very sad that her baby died. But David comforted her.

David could have sex with Bathsheba because she was now his wife. God was kind to them and they had another son. The name ‘Solomon’ comes from the *Hebrew word for ‘peace’. In 1 Chronicles 22:6-10 we read something else. God had told David that Solomon would become king of *Israel after him. The *Lord would give *Israel peace instead of war. And Solomon would build a *temple for the *Lord. The name ‘Jedidiah’ means ‘the *Lord loves him’. This time, Nathan brought a good message to David from the *Lord.

David defeats Rabbah

v26 Meanwhile, Joab fought against the *Ammonite city of Rabbah. He defeated this royal city. v27 Joab sent a message to David. The message said, ‘I have fought against Rabbah. I have taken its water supply. v28 Now gather the rest of the army. Surround the city with your soldiers and defeat it. If I defeat it myself, they will call it my city.’

v29 So David gathered his army and he went to Rabbah. He fought against the city and he defeated it. v30 David took the crown off the king’s head and the *Israelites put it on David’s head. The gold crown weighed about 30 kilos (about 70 pounds). It had precious stones like diamonds in it too. David took many valuable things from the city. v31 He also took all the people out of the city. He made them work hard with saws, iron picks (a type of tool) and axes. He forced them to make bricks. David did the same to all the other *Ammonite towns. Then David and his whole army returned to Jerusalem.

(Verses 29-31 See also 1 Chronicles 20:2-3.)

It was difficult to defeat a royal city like Rabbah. *Ammonite soldiers would have defended it. Rabbah was close to the river Jabbok. The lower part of the city probably went right down to the river. The people in the city got their water from this river. So, soldiers guarded the river. Whoever controlled the city’s water supply controlled the whole city. Joab defeated the *Ammonites at the river but he did not attack the city. Joab was very loyal to David. He wanted David to defeat the city. Then David would have the honour.

The *Ammonite king had a very big and very valuable crown. This crown showed that he was a great king. When David defeated the city, he took the crown. It was too heavy to wear for very long. However, it showed that the *Ammonite king had handed over his power to David. When a king won a battle, he also took all his enemies’ valuable things. David did not kill the *Ammonites. Instead, he forced them to work for him. As soon as David had defeated Rabbah, he could rule over all the *Ammonites. The tools in verse 31 show that they cut the bricks from large pieces of rock. (They did not make them from mud.) David’s army had attacked many towns. So, his workmen probably used the bricks to mend the towns. And they may have also built new towns. But David continued to live in Jerusalem. He ruled his large *kingdom from his capital city.