2 Samuel 1-10 showed us the glory days of Israel under David’s rule. War, victory, expansion, peace, rest, worship, and triumph characterize the first 10 chapters. But in chapter 11 we see the troubles, the dark days of David’s kingdom beginning. And rather than these dark days beginning with the actions of a foreign pagan king, another wicked nation, or even a rebellious Israel, David’s kingdom grows dark because of David himself. Before us in chapter 11 we have five scenes that describe the dreadful details of David the sinner.[1]

I would ask you to remember that, because too many read into chapter 11 too many things that aren’t there.[2] For example: not a word is given to explain the motives of Bathsheba. Was she an eager and willing accomplice or a devastated victim of kingly rape? Not a word is given to explain the reaction of Uriah. Did he refuse to go to his home because he was far more righteous than David or because he suspected something rotten in David? Or had he heard rumors of adultery flying around the palace and therefore wanted to stay at the palace? Not a word is given to explain Joab carrying out David’s vile orders to kill Uriah. Was he happy to carry it out, or shocked that he was commanded to carry it out? These things are things we not only do not know but cannot know from this chapter. But, do you know what we do know? That David is a lustful adulterer, a deceitful entertainer, a murderous schemer, and a wicked commander. Yes, many things do not come into view in chapter, but there is one thing the author does not want us to miss: David the sinner.

So I repeat it again: before us in chapter 11 we have five scenes that describe the dreadful details of David the sinner.[3]

The Opening Scene (v1)

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.”

Because it was very difficult for armies to move and wage war during the rainy season it was customary in this time to go to war in the spring. This is the setting in v1. David has sent Joab, the commander of his army, and all the host of Israel out to war, likely the war we read about in chapter 10 against the Ammonites. David though, stays behind in Jerusalem. Many pause here and say this was the beginning of David’s troubles, but I don’t think it was at all. We’ve already seen David remain at home and send out his armies, and we see him do it again here. It wasn’t evil for David to remain home, no. David’s fault is what he does while he’s home.[4] It seems that while he should’ve been busy reigning justly David shows himself, in v1, to be a kind of sedentary king far too used to a hefty amount of leisure.[5] At the beginning of chapter 9 and 10 David was eager to show kindness (hesed) to others, will he continue the trend here in his leisure as chapter 11 begins? Let’s see what he does.

David’s Sinful Deed (v2-5)

“It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

Here we see and learn much. After what seems to be an unusually long nap David wakes and goes up to his roof for a stroll.[6] During this stroll up on the roof, which remember this is the king’s palace so it’s higher than all the other homes in town, David looked out  and down and saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful. v4 mentions she was bathing to purify herself, likely because she had just finished her monthly cycle. After seeing her bathing David doesn’t look away quickly as he should’ve done, no, he lingers long enough to notice her beauty. Such that David desires more information about her. He sends one or a few of his servants to get the info on her and finds out she is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah. Interesting we see both who Bathsheba’s father and husband are. It isn’t unusual to get the details about a woman’s husband but it is rather peculiar to get details about the father of a woman. Perhaps this detail is included because both men were prominent men to David and among his mighty men. Anywho, Uriah is clearly more in view here in this chapter, but did you notice it says he is ‘Uriah the Hittite’? Five times in this chapter along we’ll read he is a Hittite.[7] This makes us ask, ‘Was Uriah therefore a foreign mercenary?’ Probably not, his actions will show him to be of upstanding character and not one who’s just a ‘gun for hire.’ It’s more likely he came into Israel from outside and had become an Israelite citizen. However he go into Israel his name is telling. Uriah means ‘The LORD is my light’ and sure enough, again and again throughout this chapter Uriah, a non-Israelite, shows himself to be more upright and godly than David the king of Israel.[8]

David is so drunk in his lust that the knowledge of Bathsheba being both the daughter of one of his mighty men and the wife of one of his mighty men doesn’t stop him from acting on his fleshly cravings. We even perhaps get a glimpse that his servants no what he’s thinking is wrong because when they tell him who she is they tell him who she is in v3 with a question. The action in v4-5 is quick, verbs rush by us as David’s lust has taken over the driver’s seat.[9] He sent, he took, he lay, she returned, and she conceived. David’s royal self-indulgence doesn’t take long. There’s no conversation, no caring, no affection, we don’t see him calling her by name, or even speaking to her, and at the end of it in v5 she is only referred to as ‘the woman.’ David, though God’s choice as king and a man after God’s own heart, here acts more like the pagan kings around him, putting his own plans and purposes above the nation’s. (Psalm 51 should’ve happened right here!)

Let’s keep on to see what comes of this.

David’s Sinful Deception (v6-13)

“So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.”

As this episode moves on David’s desires are still driving him. He just desired to have Bathsheba, now desires to cover up what he did. So, slick move #1? ‘Let’s bring Uriah home and try to get him to sleep with his wife. That way no one will no the child is mine.’ David sends for Uriah, Uriah comes to him, and David in v7 starts what had to be awkward small talk with him about how the war is going. It is likely that Uriah knew David could’ve gotten this info from somewhere else, so the question of why he has been brought home just might be rising in his mind. We don’t hear Uriah’s answer to this in v7 because, after all, David’s not really interested in how the war is doing is he?[10] No, he gets to the real business in v8, telling him to enjoy a break and to go refresh himself at home. This order Uriah disobeys in v9 and goes off to sleep with the palace servants. David learns of this in v10 and questions him about why he did this. Uriah’s answer in v11 is sharp and should’ve been a rebuke to David. He says that he cannot go home and enjoy ease and satisfaction while the ark and the army is out at war. In his response Uriah brings Bathsheba into the discussion saying “Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” I do wonder if he overheard some discussion among the servants about David’s actions with his wife. If he knew of it, this is surely a rebuke.[11] If he didn’t know of it, his words would’ve been sharp nonetheless to David.

Having been unsuccessful the first time, David tries again, inviting Uriah over that evening for a feast. David now tries to cover his sin by getting Uriah drunk so that he’ll go home and sleep with his wife. But Uriah drunk is more godly than David sober, because he once again returns to sleep, not at his house, but among the palace servants.[12] Having now been unsuccessful twice, David tries a different approach.

David’s Sinful Directions (v14-25)

“In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men. And the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite also died. Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting. And he instructed the messenger, “When you have finished telling all the news about the fighting to the king, then, if the king’s anger rises, and if he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the wall? Who killed Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman cast an upper millstone on him from the wall, so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so near the wall?’ then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’” So the messenger went and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us and came out against us in the field, but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall. Some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

After being frustrated with two unsuccessful attempts in v6-13 to cover up his sin, David now decides the only way to cover up his sin is to get rid of Uriah. So David sends Uriah back to the war with a message for Joab, which is ultimately his own death warrant. Joab receives these directions it seems that he understands what is occurring, at least he knows something is up between Uriah and David. But there is a problem with this plan. If the troops go out with Uriah and then they all retreat leaving Uriah alone, a plot might be easily discovered against Uriah’s life because all those men who retreat would have to be in on that plan. So in v16-17 Joab makes a slight adjustment and just sends a whole unit far too forward with Uriah and the outcome is that Uriah and many other men die, showing us the consequences of David’s sin spreading wider and wider.[13] Which might have sadly pleased David more, because even though there will be many national funerals, the only one that mattered would be hidden among the numerous dead, and that to David is all that matters.

But this led to another problem. David has a track record with killing messengers who bring him bad news. So in v18-21 Joab gave his own directions to his messenger that he thought would be enough to settle David if this news made him angry. ‘Give David a full report yes, but if he responds speaking about this other battle where a woman killed a man because they ventured to close to the city wall, add one more detail – Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’ Off the messenger goes to relay the news, and in v22-24 he gives tells David the outcome, with a few minor adjustments of his own to the message. David’s response in v25 is dreadful, “David said to the messenger, “Thus shall you say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter displease you, for the sword devours now one and now another. Strengthen your attack against the city and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.” David is so keen on covering up his sin that the news of these extra deaths in war doesn’t even phase him, he simply shrugs it off as if it was merely the consequences of war. Be appalled Church, the man after God’s own heart has just turned the sword on God’s on people.[14]

The Final Scene (v26-27)

“When the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she lamented over her husband. And when the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”

Bathsheba heard the news, she mourns, returns to David, becomes his wife, and bore him a son. When you get to v27 do not forget v25. There David said to Joab “Do not let this thing displease you.” Even though David now believes he is at the end of this tale, that he is off the hook, and that his crisis is now over, we get one more detail in v27, “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.” Lesson? God, who shows up for the first time in this chapter here in v27, has just revealed that this is far from over. And from here on out David will be remembered for this. One example is far ahead in the future, 1 Kings 15:5, “…David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.”

Conclusion:

Well Church, the dark days have begun for David and all Israel. I think in terms of application we can sum it all up in a phrase. The phrase is found in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “…let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

For David…I think it’s right to say that upon rising from his nap he didn’t intend to become an adulterer, a conspirator, a murderer, and a hypocrite. No, sin is too deceptive for that. It always seeks to lure us away and promise us freedom, while never showing us the cost. The Gospel Transformation Study Bible says it like this, “Once in its grip, one is taken to places one never intended to go and held longer than one ever intended to stay.”[15] Matthew Henry says it like this, “Adulteries have often occasioned murders, and one wickedness has often been covered over by another. The beginnings of sin are therefore to be dreaded; for who knows where they will end?”[16]

David, in the grip of sin, has shown himself to be a son of Adam here.[17] Like Adam, David sinned after being given great covenantal privileges. Adam was brought into covenant with God in Gen. 1:28 and after this covenant he fell. So too, David was brought into covenant with God in 2 Sam. 7 and after this covenant he fell. Like Adam, David sinned in relation to a woman and forbidden fruit. It was Eve who gave Adam the fruit, that Adam took for himself leaping into spiritual adultery, bringing spiritual death to all humanity. Here it was Bathsheba whom David saw, took for himself leaping into literal adultery, bringing devastation to all Israel. David’s fall is as spectacular as it is terrible. And yet, I think if most of were to see/hear about something this fowl on the news we would just shake our heads and say ‘What’s this world coming to?’ and change the channel. But sin like this, I mean really nasty – rotten sin, is present in our own hearts. It is. Deny it all you desire, humanities track record has proven it, and if you’re honest with yourself, your track record has proven it too. Put anyone in the right circumstances and that person is capable of anything. 

I think there are two groups of people that need addressing here: First, I would venture to guess that in a group our size there might be a few of you who are right now at this very moment being tempted by an adulterous affair. The grass may look greener now, but it’s a fantasy. Cow-patties exist in that pasture too! Will you not learn from David how disastrous adultery is? Dread the beginnings of sin. Once desire is conceived, James 1:15 tells us, it gives birth to sin, and once sin is full grown it brings forth death. May you be awakened anew to a holy jealousy, a constant watchfulness over your hearts, and fight by fleeing sexual immorality with all your might.

Second, broadening this further, I know there are many of you who are right now tempted with forbidden fruit. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, but privately and secretly you indulge yourselves in secret sins of all kinds and console yourself thinking, very much like David, ‘All is well, no one will ever find out!’ Don’t be duped. Fall enough in private where no one sees and eventually you’ll fall in public where everyone sees. And even if you’re successful in hiding your secret life, are you rejoicing in great wickedness? Do you not also remember that nothing is a secret to God? He knows – He sees – and He is grieved. Hear me, David pleased himself here but greatly displeased the Lord. May you too be awakened anew to a holy jealousy, a constant watchfulness over your hearts, and fight by fleeing sin with all your might.

I do think David’s sinfulness is a vivid display of what we all know ourselves to be, of how destructive our own sin can be, and therefore knowing sins design we must set ourselves against it. You see, I’m glad this chapter is in the Bible. Because if David didn’t fall into sin we might believe that there is a shred of hope that we can be saved on our righteousness without Christ at all! But seeing such a noble man as David fall we’re again reminded of where our hope ought to be.[18] After seeing these same things in his own heart in Romans 7 Paul rejoices in the only Person he can rejoice in, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

The good news here is that God’s people ultimately don’t rest on David. God’s choice for king – yes. Man after God’s own heart – yes. A sinner – yes. Ultimately we must look past David for redemption to the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived the righteous life we couldn’t, who died the death we should’ve, who rose and ascended to rule over all, and who now gives grace and forgiveness to all who come to Him in faith. This Son of David, never abuses power and always leads us well.


[1] A. A. Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 11, 2 Samuel, First Edition (Waco, Texas: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 152.

[2] Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 140–41.

[3] Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 11, 2 Samuel, 152.

[4] John L. Mackay and J. Gary Millar, ESV Expository Commentary: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 363.

[5] Robert Alter, ed., The David Story: A Translation With Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel, Stated 1st Edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Co Inc, 1999), 250.

[6] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 363.

[7] Mackay and Millar, 366–67.

[8] Alter, The David Story, 250.

[9] Walter Brueggemann, quoted in Davis, 2 Samuel, 142.

[10] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 365.

[11] Peter J. Leithart, A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2003), 240.

[12] Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 11, 2 Samuel, 152.

[13] Alter, The David Story, 254.

[14] Davis, 2 Samuel, 145.

[15] ESV Bibles by Crossway, ESV Gospel Transformation Bible (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2013), 394.

[16] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary Vol. 2, Joshua – Esther (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 388.

[17] Leithart, A Son to Me, 236.

[18] Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2018), 213.

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