Introduction: David’s Fall and Repentance
It’s a lesson to take to heart that we should be more wary of our successes than our failures, but it’s one that’s often forgotten by those who get carried away with success. The rise and fall of statesmen also depends on whether they are careful or not when they think they are successful.
King David of Israel also had self-control when he was a young boy shepherding under his father and suffering under King Saul, and he kept his nerves in check in his early years as king after unifying Israel. But as the country grew stronger and the Great War continued, David lost his self-control and fell into serious sin. At such times, lust usually leads to great mistakes.
This is exactly what David did when he sent his commander-in-chief, Joab, his men, and the entire army into battle at Ammon and heard of the victory.
David saw Bathsheba bathing down below.
In the evening, David was walking on the roof of the palace and saw a woman bathing down below. The roof of the palace must have been higher than any of the houses, and from there he could see all of the surrounding villages. The bathing woman was very beautiful, even from a distance.
She could have bathed in a valley or in her own yard. She thought the covering partitions on all sides shielded her, but she didn’t realize that there were prying eyes looking down from above.
It’s not just the sight of a woman bathing naked that’s fascinating; it’s the fact that the fascination quickly turns into sexual arousal. If you get a taste for it, you get a perverted mental illness called voyeurism.
King David may have been indulging in a bit of voyeurism himself, using his privileged position above the royal palace to his advantage. The woman would often come out to bathe, and King David would often walk around the palace and spy on her.
While Israel’s generals and soldiers were trying to finalize the battle against the Ammonites, the king was watching the woman bathe and spying on her.
Finally, David sent a servant to inquire about the woman. She was Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
Bathsheba was the daughter of Cephas, where “Cephas” is not a family name but a Sabbath name. In English, the Sabbath is called the ‘Sabbath’. The Sabbath falls on the seventh day of the week, so the English word seven is probably also derived from Sheba.
The term daughter of Sabbath means perfect daughter. Bathsheba, as her name suggests, must have been perfect in beauty. So much so that the king, the most powerful man in the land, fell in love with her.
Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, happened to be a soldier in the battle of Ammon. When David found out, he sent a messenger to bring Bathsheba to the palace, but she was menstruating. This had something to do with the fact that Bathsheba had been taking frequent baths around this time.
According to Old Testament law, menstruating women are unclean and should not be approached by men. This was probably due to an aversion to blood and hygiene reasons. Modern medical science also dictates that intercourse should be avoided during menstruation, not only for aesthetic reasons but also to protect the woman’s uterus.
David’s adultery with Bathsheba
David waited for Bathsheba to stop menstruating, or in other words, for her unclean period to pass, and then he invited her to bed with him. The Bible doesn’t say how Bathsheba reacted when David asked her to join him.
After David slept with Bathsheba, he sent her home. He tried to pretend that nothing had happened. But when Bathsheba became pregnant, she told David. We can understand why Bathsheba would tell the king right away that she was pregnant.
David felt burdened and sought a way to relieve himself of that burden: He brought Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, to the front and had him sleep with her so that the child she now carried would be considered Uriah’s child.
David wrote to Joab, the commander, to have Uriah come to Jerusalem, and after pretending to inquire about the state of the battle, he sent him back to his wife’s house. But the loyal Uriah did not return home but stayed with the men who guarded the palace gates.
When David realized this, he questioned Uriah, and Uriah replied that the kingdom was at war with the Ammonites, so how could he go home alone to sleep with his wife? Uriah was not in the same frame of mind as David.
David murdered to cover up his sins
Eventually, David sent another letter to Joab to send Uriah to the front lines in order to kill him and make the crime complete. Joab followed David’s instructions and sent Uriah to the very base of the enemy’s wall, where he was killed by an enemy arrow. Until the moment of his death, Uriah must have thought he was dying for his country and for David.
After Uriah’s death and a period of mourning for Bathsheba’s husband, David called her in and officially made her his concubine. There was nothing wrong with taking a widow whose husband had died as a concubine. Everything had gone according to David’s plan.
As David stretched out his legs with a sigh of relief, the prophet Nathan came to him. Nathan reported to David about a wicked rich man.
The rich man, who had many sheep and cattle, had taken a lamb from a poor man who had only one lamb to serve his guests. David was angry and demanded that the rich man be killed immediately. Then Nathan spoke up in a stern voice.
“You are the one!”
Here, David’s anger at the rich man is a form of what Freud called projection. David was angry because he saw himself in the rich man.
Nathan was prepared to die to expose David’s hidden sin. Any other king would have killed him like a mouse or a bird, but because he was David, he once again repented of his sin before God.
Thus, Psalm 51 and other penitential psalms were created. Sin can never be hidden.
The story of David and Bathsheba offers several profound biblical lessons:
- Sin Has Consequences: One of the central lessons of this story is that sin carries consequences. David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the subsequent cover-up led to a series of tragic events, including the death of their child and conflicts within David’s family. This illustrates the biblical principle that wrongdoing often has far-reaching effects.
- Repentance and Forgiveness: After being confronted by the prophet Nathan, David repented sincerely (see Psalm 51) and sought God’s forgiveness. This demonstrates that no matter how grave our sins, God is willing to forgive when we genuinely repent and turn back to Him. It’s a powerful reminder of God’s grace and mercy.
- Accountability: The story emphasizes the importance of accountability, even for powerful leaders. Nathan fearlessly confronted David about his sin, reminding us that no one is above God’s moral standards. This highlights the biblical principle that everyone is accountable to God for their actions.
- Guarding Against Temptation: David’s temptation and fall serve as a cautionary tale about the dangers of yielding to temptation. It reminds us that even the most faithful can stumble when they let their guard down. The Bible encourages believers to be vigilant and seek God’s strength to resist temptation.
- Respect for Marriage: Bathsheba’s status as Uriah’s wife underscores the sanctity of marriage in biblical teachings. Adultery is viewed as a serious violation of God’s design for marriage. This story reinforces the importance of honoring marital commitments.
- Human Flaws and God’s Use of Imperfect People: David, described as a man after God’s own heart, committed a grievous sin. This demonstrates that even people with great faith and potential can make grave mistakes. However, God can still use imperfect individuals for His purposes when they repent and seek His guidance.
In summary, the story of David and Bathsheba serves as a reminder of the consequences of sin, the power of repentance and forgiveness, the importance of accountability, and the need to guard against temptation. It also underscores the sanctity of marriage and highlights God’s ability to work through flawed individuals who turn to Him in humility and contrition.