What David said of the mournful report of Saul's death may more fitly
be applied to the sad story of this chapter, the adultery and murder
David was guilty of.--"Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the
streets of Ashkelon." 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. But it cannot, it must not, be concealed.
The scripture is faithful in relating the faults even of those whom it
most applauds, which is an instance of the sincerity of the penmen, and
an evidence that it was not written to serve any party: and even such
stories as these "were written for our learning," that "he that thinks
he stands may take heed lest he fall," and that others' harms may be
our warnings. Many, no doubt, have been emboldened to sin, and hardened
in it, by this story, and to them it is a "savour of death unto death;"
but many have by it been awakened to a holy jealousy over themselves,
and constant watchfulness against sin, and to them it is a "savour of
life unto life." Those are very great sins, and greatly aggravated,
which here we find David guilty of.
I. He committed adultery with Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah,
2 Samuel 11:1-5.
II. He endeavoured to father the spurious brood upon Uriah,
2 Samuel 11:6-13.
III. When that project failed, he plotted the death of Uriah by the
sword of the children of Ammon, and effected it,
2 Samuel 11:14-25.
IV. He married Bath-sheba,
2 Samuel 11:26,27.
Is this David? Is this the man after God's own heart? How is his
behaviour changed, worse than it was before Ahimelech! How has this
gold become dim! Let him that readeth understand what the best of men
are when God leaves them to themselves.
David's Sin with Bath-sheba.
B. C. 1037.
1 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time
when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his
servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the
children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still
2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from
off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and
from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was
very beautiful to look upon.
3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said,
Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah
4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto
him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her
uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.
5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I
am with child.
I. David's glory, in pursuing the war against the Ammonites,
2 Samuel 11:1.
We cannot take that pleasure in viewing this great action which
hitherto we have taken in observing David's achievements, because the
beauty of it was stained and sullied by sin; otherwise we might take
notice of David's wisdom and bravery in following his blow. Having
routed the army of the Ammonites in the field, as soon as ever the
season of the year permitted he sent more forces to waste the country
and further to avenge the quarrel of his ambassadors. Rabbah, their
metropolis, made a stand, and held out a great while. To this city Joab
laid close siege, and it was at the time of this siege that David fell
into this sin.
II. David's shame, in being himself conquered, and led captive by his
own lust. The sin he was guilty of was adultery, against the letter of
the seventh commandment, and (in the judgment of the patriarchal age) a
heinous crime, and an iniquity to be punished by the judges
a sin which takes away the heart, and gets a man a wound and
dishonour, more than any other, and the reproach of which is not
1. Observe the occasions which led to this sin.
(1.) Neglect of his business. When he should have been abroad with his
army in the field, fighting the battles of the Lord, he devolved the
care upon others, and he himself tarried still at Jerusalem,
2 Samuel 11:1.
To the war with the Syrians David went in person,
2 Samuel 10:17.
Had he been now at his post at the head of his forces, he would have
been out of the way of this temptation. When we are out of the way of
our duty we are in the way of temptation.
(2.) Love of ease, and the indulgence of a slothful temper: He came
off his bed at evening-tide,
2 Samuel 11:2.
There he had dozed away the afternoon in idleness, which he should have
spent in some exercise for his own improvement or the good of others.
He used to pray, not only morning and evening, but at noon, in the day
of his trouble: it is to be feared he had, this noon, omitted to do so.
Idleness gives great advantage to the tempter. Standing waters gather
filth. The bed of sloth often proves the bed of lust.
(3.) A wandering eye: He saw a woman washing herself, probably
from some ceremonial pollution, according to the law. The sin came in
at the eye, as Eve's did. Perhaps he sought to see her, at least he did
not practise according to his own prayer, Turn away my eyes from
beholding vanity, and his son's caution in a like case, Look not
thou on the wine it is red. Either he had not, like Job, made a
covenant with his eyes, or, at this time, he had forgotten it.
2. The steps of the sin. When he saw her, lust immediately conceived,
(1.) He enquired who she was
(2 Samuel 11:3),
perhaps intending only, if she were unmarried, to take her to wife, as
he had taken several; but, if she were a wife, having no design upon
(2.) The corrupt desire growing more violent, though he was told she
was a wife, and whose wife she was, yet he sent messengers for her, and
then, it may be, intended only to please himself with her company and
(3.) When she came he lay with her, she too easily consenting,
because he was a great man, and famed for his goodness too. Surely
(thinks she) that can be no sin which such a man as David is the mover
of. See how the way of sin is down-hill; when men begin to do evil they
cannot soon stop themselves. The beginning of lust, as of
strife, is like the letting forth of water; it is therefore wisdom
to leave it off before it be meddled with. The foolish fly fires her
wings, and fools away her life at last, by playing about the
3. The aggravations of the sin.
(1.) He was now in years, fifty at least, some think more, when those
lusts which are more properly youthful, one would think, should not
have been violent in him,
(2.) He had many wives and concubines of his own; this is insisted on,
2 Samuel 12:8.
(3.) Uriah, whom he wronged, was one of his own worthies, a person of
honour and virtue, one that was now abroad in his service, hazarding
his life in the high places of the field for the honour and safety of
him and his kingdom, where he himself should have been.
(4.) Bath-sheba, whom he debauched, was a lady of good reputation, and,
till she was drawn by him and his influence into this wickedness, had
no doubt preserved her purity. Little did she think that ever she could
have done so bad a thing as to forsake the guide of her youth, and
forget the covenant of her God; nor perhaps could any one in the
world but David have prevailed against her. The adulterer not only
wrongs and ruins his own soul, but, as much as he can, another's soul
(5.) David was a king, whom God had entrusted with the sword of justice
and the execution of the law upon other criminals, particularly upon
adulterers, who were, by the law, to be put to death; for him therefore
to be guilty of those crimes himself was to make himself a pattern,
when he should have been a terror, to evil doers. With what face could
he rebuke or punish that in others which he was conscious to himself of
being guilty of? See
Much more might be said to aggravate the sin; and I can think but of
one excuse for it, which is that it was done but once; it was far from
being his practice; it was by the surprise of a temptation that he was
drawn into it. He was not one of those of whom the prophet complains
that they were as fed horses, neighing every one after his
but this once God left him to himself, as he did Hezekiah, that he
might know what was in his heart,
2 Chronicles 32:31.
Had he been told of it before, he would have said, as Hazael, What!
is thy servant a dog? But by this instance we are taught what need
we have to pray every day, Father, in heaven, lead us not into
temptation, and to watch, that we enter not into it.
David's Contrivance to Hide His Crime; David's Contrivance Defeated.
B. C. 1037.
6 And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite.
And Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how
Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.
8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy
feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there
followed him a mess of meat from the king.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the
servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.
10 And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down
unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy
journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house?
11 And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah,
abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord,
are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house,
to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest,
and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.
12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to
morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that
day, and the morrow.
13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before
him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his
bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his
Uriah, we may suppose, had now been absent from his wife some weeks,
making the campaign in the country of the Ammonites, and not intending
to return till the end of it. The situation of his wife would bring
to light the hidden works of darkness; and when Uriah, at his
return, should find how he had been abused, and by whom, it might well
1. That he would prosecute his wife, according to law, and have her
stoned to death; for jealousy is the rage of a man, especially a
man of honour, and he that is thus injured will not spare in the day
This Bath-sheba was apprehensive of when she sent to let David know she
was with child, intimating that he was concerned to protect her, and,
it is likely, if he had not promised her so to do (so wretchedly
abusing his royal power), she would not have consented to him. Hope of
impunity is a great encouragement to iniquity.
2. It might also be expected that since he could not prosecute David by
law for an offence of this nature he would take his revenge another
way, and raise a rebellion against him. There have been instances of
kings who by provocations of this nature, given to some of their
powerful subjects, have lost their crowns. To prevent this double
mischief, David endeavours to father the child which should be born
upon Uriah himself, and therefore sends for him home to stay a night or
two with his wife. Observe,
I. How the plot was laid. Uriah must come home from the army under
pretence of bringing David an account how the war prospered, and
how they went on with the siege of Rabbah,
2 Samuel 11:7.
Thus does he pretend a more than ordinary concern for his army when
that was the least thing in his thoughts; if he had not had another
turn to serve, an express of much less figure than Uriah might have
sufficed to bring him a report of the state of the war. David, having
had as much conference with Uriah as he thought requisite to cover the
design, sent him to his house, and, that he might be the more pleasant
there with the wife of his youth, sent a dish of meat after him for
2 Samuel 11:8.
When that project failed the first night, and Uriah, being weary of his
journey and more desirous of sleep than meat, lay all night in the
guard-chamber, the next night he made him drunk
(2 Samuel 11:13),
or made him merry, tempted him to drink more than was fit, that he
might forget his vow
(2 Samuel 11:11),
and might be disposed to go home to his own bed, to which perhaps, if
David could have made him dead drunk, he would have ordered him to be
carried. It is a very wicked thing, upon any design whatsoever, to make
a person drunk. Woe to him that does so,
God will put a cup of trembling into the hands of those who put into
the hands of others the cup of drunkenness. Robbing a man of his reason
is worse than robbing him of his money, and drawing him into sin worse
than drawing him into any trouble whatsoever. Every good man,
especially every magistrate, should endeavour to prevent this sin, by
admonishing, restraining, and denying the glass to those whom they see
falling into excess; but to further it is to do the devil's work, to
officiate as factor for him.
II. How this plot was defeated by Uriah's firm resolution not to lie in
his own bed. Both nights he slept with the life-guard, and went not
down to his house, though, it is probable, his wife pressed him to
do it as much as David,
2 Samuel 11:9,12.
1. Some think he suspected what was done, being informed of his wife's
attendance at court, and therefore he would not go near her. But if he
had had any suspicion of that kind, surely he would have opened the
letter that David sent by him to Joab.
2. Whether he suspected any thing or no, Providence put this
resolution into his heart, and kept him to it, for the discovering of
David's sin, and that the baffling of his design to conceal it might
awaken David's conscience to confess it and repent of it.
3. The reason he gave to David for this strange instance of self-denial
and mortification was very noble,
2 Samuel 11:11.
While the army was encamped in the field, he would not lie at ease in
his own house. "The ark is in a tent," whether at home, in the tent
David had pitched for it, or abroad, with Joab in the camp, is not
certain. "Joab, and all the mighty men of Israel, lie hard and uneasy,
and much exposed to the weather and to the enemy; and shall I go and
take my ease and pleasure at my own house?" No, he protests he will not
do it. Now,
(1.) This was in itself a generous resolution, and showed Uriah to be a
man of a public spirit, bold and hardy, and mortified to the delights
of sense. In times of public difficulty and danger it does not become
us to repose ourselves in security, or roll ourselves in pleasure, or,
with the king and Haman, to sit down to drink when the city Shushan
We should voluntarily endure hardness when the church of God is
constrained to endure it.
(2.) It might have been of use to awaken David's conscience, and make
his heart to smite him for what he had done.
[1.] That he had basely abused so brave a man as Uriah was, a man so
heartily concerned for him and his kingdom, and that acted for him and
it with so much vigour.
[2.] That he was himself so unlike him. The consideration of the public
hardships and hazards kept Uriah from lawful pleasures, yet could not
keep David, though more nearly interested, from unlawful ones. Uriah's
severity to himself should have shamed David for his indulgence of
himself. The law was, When the host goeth forth against the enemy
then, in a special manner, keep thyself from every wicked
Uriah outdid that law, but David violated it.
David Causes Uriah to Be Slain; David Informed of Uriah's Death.
B. C. 1037.
14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a
letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the
forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he
may be smitten, and die.
16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he
assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men
17 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and
there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and
Uriah the Hittite died also.
18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the
19 And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an
end of telling the matters of the war unto the king,
20 And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say unto
thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did
fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall?
21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman
cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died
in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant
Uriah the Hittite is dead also.
22 So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that
Joab had sent him for.
23 And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed
against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon
them even unto the entering of the gate.
24 And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants;
and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah
the Hittite is dead also.
25 Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto
Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth
one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the
city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.
26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was
dead, she mourned for her husband.
27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her
to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But
the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.
When David's project of fathering the child upon Uriah himself failed,
so that, in process of time, Uriah would certainly know the wrong that
had been done him, to prevent the fruits of his revenge, the devil put
it into David's heart to take him off, and then neither he nor
Bath-sheba would be in any danger (what prosecution could there be when
there was no prosecutor?), suggesting further that, when Uriah was out
of the way, Bath-sheba might, if he pleased, be his own for ever.
Adulteries have often occasioned murders, and one wickedness must be
covered and secured with another. The beginnings of sin are therefore
to be dreaded; for who knows where they will end? It is resolved in
David's breast (which one would think could never possibly have
harboured so vile a thought) that Uriah must die. That innocent,
valiant, gallant man, who was ready to die for his prince's honour,
must die by his prince's hand. David has sinned, and Bath-sheba has
sinned, and both against him, and therefore he must die; David
determines he must. Is this the man whose heart smote him because he
had cut off Saul's skirt? Quantum mutatus ab illo!--But ah, how
changed! Is this he that executed judgment and justice to all his
people? How can he now do so unjust a thing? See how fleshly lusts war
against the soul, and what devastations they make in that war; how they
blink the eyes, harden the heart, sear the conscience, and deprive men
of all sense of honour and justice. Whoso committeth adultery with a
woman lacketh understanding and quite loses it; he that doth it
destroys his own soul,
But, as the eye of the adulterer, so the hand of the murderer seeks
Works of darkness hate the light. When David bravely slew Goliath it
was done publicly, and he gloried in it; but, when he basely slew
Uriah, it must be done clandestinely, for he is ashamed of it, and well
he may. Who would do a thing that he dare not own? The devil, having as
a poisonous serpent, put it into David's heart to murder Uriah, as a
subtle serpent he puts it into his head how to do it. Not as Absalom
slew Amnon, by commanding his servants to assassinate him, nor as Ahab
slew Naboth by suborning witnesses to accuse him, but by exposing him
to the enemy, a way of doing it which, perhaps, would not seem so
odious to conscience and the world, because soldiers expose themselves
of course. If Uriah had not been in that dangerous post, another must;
he has (as we say) a chance for his life; if he fight stoutly, he may
perhaps come off; and, if he die, it is in the field of honour, where a
soldier would choose to die; and yet all this will not save it from
being a wilful murder, of malice prepense.
I. Orders are sent to Joab to set Uriah in the front of the hottest
battle, and then to desert him, and abandon him to the enemy,
2 Samuel 11:14,15.
This was David's project to take off Uriah, and it succeeded, as he
designed. Many were the aggravations of this murder.
1. It was deliberate. He took time to consider of it; and though he had
time to consider of it, for he wrote a letter about it, and though he
had time to have countermanded the order afterwards before it could be
put in execution, yet he persisted in it.
2. He sent the letter by Uriah himself, than which nothing could be
more base and barbarous, to make him accessory to his own death. And
what a paradox was it that he could bear such a malice against him in
whom yet he could repose such a confidence as that he would carry
letters which he must not know the purport of.
3. Advantage must be taken of Uriah's own courage and zeal for his king
and country, which deserve the greatest praise and recompence, to
betray him the more easily to his fate. If he had not been forward to
expose himself, perhaps he was a man of such importance that Joab could
not have exposed him; and that this noble fire should be designedly
turned upon himself was a most detestable instance of ingratitude.
4. Many must be involved in the guilt. Joab, the general, to whom the
blood of his soldiers, especially the worthies, ought to be precious,
must do it; he, and all that retire from Uriah when they ought in
conscience to support and second him, become guilty of his death.
5. Uriah cannot thus die alone: the party he commands is in danger of
being cut off with him; and it proved so: some of the people, even the
servants of David (so they are called, to aggravate David's sin in
being so prodigal of their lives), fell with him,
2 Samuel 11:17.
Nay, this wilful misconduct by which Uriah must be betrayed might be of
fatal consequence to the whole army, and might oblige them to raise the
6. It will be the triumph and joy of the Ammonites, the sworn enemies
of God and Israel; it will gratify them exceedingly. David prayed for
himself, that he might not fall into the hands of man, nor flee from
(2 Samuel 24:13,14);
yet he sells his servant Uriah to the Ammonites, and not for any
iniquity in his hand.
II. Joab executes these orders. In the next assault that is made upon
the city Uriah has the most dangerous post assigned him, is encouraged
to hope that if he be repulsed by the besieged he shall be relieved by
Joab, in dependence on which he marches on with resolution, but,
succours not coming on, the service proves too hot, and he is slain in
2 Samuel 11:16,17.
It was strange that Joab would do such a thing merely upon a letter,
without knowing the reason. But,
1. Perhaps he supposed Uriah had been guilty of some great crime, to
enquire into which David had sent for him, and that, because he would
not punish him openly, he took this course with him to put him to
2. Joab had been guilty of blood, and we may suppose it pleased him
very well to see David himself falling into the same guilt, and he was
willing enough to serve him in it, that he might continue to be
favourable to him. It is common for those who have done ill themselves
to desire to be countenanced therein by others doing ill likewise,
especially by the sins of those that are eminent in the profession of
religion. Or, perhaps, David knew that Joab had a pique against Uriah,
and would gladly be avenged on him; otherwise Joab, when he saw cause,
knew how to dispute the king's orders, as
2 Samuel 19:5,24:3.
III. He sends an account of it to David. An express is despatched away
immediately with a report of this last disgrace and loss which they had
2 Samuel 11:18.
And, to disguise the affair,
1. He supposes that David would appear to be angry at his bad conduct,
would ask why they came so near the wall
(2 Samuel 11:20),
did they not know that Abimelech lost his life by doing do?
2 Samuel 11:21.
We had the story
which book, it is likely, was published as a part of the sacred history
in Samuel's time; and (be it noted to their praise, and for imitation)
even the soldiers were conversant with their bibles, and could readily
quote the scripture-story, and make use of it for admonition to
themselves not to run upon the same attempts which they found had been
2. He slyly orders the messenger to soothe it with telling him that
Uriah the Hittite was dead also, which gave too broad an intimation to
the messenger, and by him to others, that David would be secretly
pleased to hear that; for murder will out. And, when men do such base
things, they must expect to be bantered and upbraided with them, even
by their inferiors. The messenger delivered his message agreeably to
2 Samuel 11:22-24.
He makes the besieged to sally out first upon the besiegers (they
came out unto us into the field), represents the besiegers as doing
their part with great bravery (we were upon them even to the
entering of the gate--we forced them to retire into the city with
precipitation), and so concludes with a slight mention of the slaughter
made among them by some shot from the wall: Some of the king's
servants are dead, and particularly Uriah the Hittite, an
officer of note, stood first in the list of the slain.
IV. David receives the account with a secret satisfaction,
2 Samuel 11:25.
Let not Joab be displeased, for David is not. He blames not his
conduct, nor thinks they did wrong in approaching so near the wall; all
is well now that Uriah is put out of the way. This point being gained,
he can make light of the loss, and turn it off easily with an excuse:
The sword devours one as well as another; it was a chance of
war, nothing more common. He orders Joab to make the battle more strong
next time, while he, by his sin, was weakening it, and provoking God to
blast the undertaking.
V. He marries the widow in a little time. She submitted to the ceremony
of mourning for her husband as short a time as custom would admit
(2 Samuel 11:26),
and then David took her to his house as his wife, and she bore him a
son. Uriah's revenge was prevented by his death, but the birth of the
child so soon after the marriage published the crime. Sin will have
shame. Yet that was not the worst of it: The thing that David had
done displeased the Lord. The whole matter of Uriah (as it
1 Kings 15:5),
the adultery, falsehood, murder, and this marriage at last, it was all
displeasing to the Lord. He had pleased himself, but displeased God.
Note, God sees and hates sin in his own people. Nay, the nearer any are
to God in profession the more displeasing to him their sins are; for in
them there is more ingratitude, treachery, and reproach, than in the
sins of others. Let none therefore encourage themselves in sin by the
example of David; for those that sin as he did will fall under the
displeasure of God as he did. Let us therefore stand in awe and sin
not, not sin after the similitude of his transgression.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '2 Samuel' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".