The Temptation of David

The Temptation of David

The Temptation of David.

“You can’t keep the birds from flying overhead, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”  (Martin Luther).

Main Characters:

David (1040-970 BC) was totally unique in Scripture. Raised a shepherd boy, the last of eight boys, the one everyone seemed to overlook, he became a renowned musician, a legendary poet, a fierce warrior, and the most beloved King in the history of Israel. He was a faithful worshiper of Yahweh, and, the highest accolade one could receive, he was “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14). Was he a prophet? Yes. His psalms prove that. Was he a priest? Well, he led worship and offered sacrifices when the ark was brought to Jerusalem, wearing a priestly garment at the time. Was he a king? Unquestionably, the greatest king of Israel. David’s life certainly hinted at his distant relative, the Messiah Jesus, who was the ultimate Prophet, Priest and King.

Bathsheba was the beautiful Jewish wife of Uriah the Hittite. She was innocently obeying Jewish Law one day as she gave herself a purifying bath in her courtyard/roof. Leviticus 15 provides all the details on how women were to engage in the purification rites according to the Law. She was not seducing David, she was merely obeying Scripture. She had to obey the king as he beckoned for her presence in his palace. Those who didn’t obey the king were punished one way or the other. She became pregnant by David because of their late-afternoon tryst, a surprise development, and she ended up losing her husband who was placed murderously by David on the front lines of battle. She then became David’s eighth wife, and had a major role in the palace as the queen. She and David lost their first child as punishment for the affair, and she eventually produced a boy, Solomon, who later became a great king. The line of ancestry ran directly from David and Bathsheba clear through to Jesus. So after all she suffered early on, she was honored by becoming a direct descendent of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

Uriah the Hittite was the loyal husband of Bathsheba. His name in Hebrew means, “Yahweh is my light.” He was either a convert to Judaism, or he was born Jewish but settled in a Hittite community that was cooperative with Israel. He was not considered a Gentile, or he wouldn’t have been able to marry the Jewish Bathsheba. Uriah was an elite warrior under King David, and considered one of his thirty “Might Men.” (2 Samuel 23:39). Thus Uriah was known for his valiant exploits on the battlefield. Because of his high stature as one of David’s select warriors, Uriah probably had a close personal relationship with David. Uriah was terribly betrayed by David, who seduced his wife and then had him killed unnecessarily. Uriah held steadfastly to his warrior code of honor after pressure to compromise by David’s cover-up. There is no doubt Uriah was a man of sterling character and faithfulness.

Nathan was a classic prophet, and one of the luckiest. He was tutored by the prophet Samuel in an elite academy for mystics, and Jewish tradition holds that he wrote the conclusion to the book of Samuel. Held in high esteem throughout his life as prophet and historian, the announcer of David’s covenant in 2 Samuel 7, and the official conscience of the King, in his case the King was David himself. And thankfully for Nathan, David responded to Nathan’s confrontation with humility and contrition. For it was Nathan who had the dicey task of confronting David about his affair with Bathsheba and his having her husband killed on the front lines. 2 Samuel 12:1 reports that “the Lord sent Nathan to David.” We don’t know if Nathan was shaking in his boots or not. He didn’t know how David would respond. Nathan seems to be quite confident at this command performance, though. He boldly approaches the King, creatively tells David a parable that goes straight to the heart, and concluded by laying down the law, God’s law, pointing directly at David and challenging him, saying, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12).

That word of judgment from Nathan was one thing. But what came next had to be painful for Nathan to utter. Nathan told David that Bathsheba’s pregnancy will result in the child’s death as punishment for David’s evil deeds. After that difficult word, Scripture simply says that Nathan walked out of the palace and returned home. Just like that. Mission accomplished.

King David’s Descent into Sin

(1.) He didn’t go out to lead his troops in battle in the spring like he was supposed to (2 Samuel 11:1). Rather than fulfilling his role of commander of the army, he decided to stay behind in Jerusalem. If he had done what he was obligated to do, he never would have seen Bathsheba, which started his descent, step-by-step.

(2.)  After his afternoon nap, he was restless and walked on the roof of his palace just for something to do. He was not conducting the business of his reign, he was not engaged in anything productive. Rooftops of homes in Jerusalem were typically flat, and were the place where residents relaxed in the cool of the day and occasionally bathed. David placed himself in a position of temptation. Like the old proverb says, “Idle hands make the devils’ workshop.”

(3.) He didn’t walk away when he first saw Bathsheba on the roof bathing. He entertained his lust by looking with great interest. He allowed his desire to control his actions. He started letting the birds make a nest in his hair.

(4.) He sent a servant to find out who she was, instead of turning the other way and avoiding the temptation. He didn’t have to take this step, which would have ended his descent.

(5.) He discovered she was married to Uriah, yet he continued his pursuit of Bathsheba. He didn’t care if she remained faithful to her husband, he only cared about satisfying his lust.

(6.) He intentionally committed adultery with Bathsheba in his palace. She was put into a difficult position, because people had to think twice about disobeying the king. He had his way with her because of his authority over her.

(7.) He tried to cover up his adultery after being told she was pregnant. He called Uriah to the palace, and encouraged him to go home and be with his wife. That way, it’s obvious that she was made pregnant by her husband.

(8.) When that bit of deceit failed because of Uriah’s honor, David tried the same strategy again. He called to Uriah, and encouraged him to go home to his wife.

(9.) When that ploy failed again because of Uriah’s commitment to abstinence during battle, David invited Uriah to the palace and got him drunk, hoping that then maybe he would finally have a weak moment and go home to his wife. Uriah remained loyal to his code even then, and once again David failed in covering up her pregnancy.

(10.)  Finally David asked his commander in the field of battle to put Uriah on the front lines where the fighting was most fierce, and have all his other troops retreat, leaving Uriah vulnerable to the enemy. Sure enough, Uriah died as David had wanted, essentially murdering Uriah by arranging his death in battle.

“Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” (Sir Walter Scott).

So David’s descent went deeper and deeper, from laziness to lust to adultery to murder. David stole Uriah’s wife, who then became David’s eighth wife. Bathsheba only had one husband, and she grieved when she learned of his death in battle. Did Bathsheba find that coincidence unsettling, that her husband would happen to die right after she was made pregnant by David?

There were dire consequences to David’s web of sin. The punishments foretold by his prophet Nathan all came true… murder would be a constant threat to his family; his own household would betray him; his wives would be given to other men; the baby born to Bathsheba would die. David had to find out the hard way that “you reap what you sow.”

Being a man after God’s own heart, David deeply repented of his sin, he confessed it with a broken, contrite spirit, and God forgave him. His confession is recorded in Psalm 51, and has been a prayer for penitents ever since.