What Did David Do Wrong That Led Him to Adultery and Murder? #263 David and Bathsheba, #1
Hello friends and a felicitous Tuesday to you! Our Bible passages today include 2nd Samuel 11, which has the saddest violence yet in it, plus Psalms 62 and 63, Ezekiel 18 and 2nd Corinthians 4.
Our focus passage is all about David and Bathsheba in 2nd Samuel 11, but before we get there, I would be remiss if I didn’t cover a part of our 2nd Corinthians 4 passage, which is one of my favorite in the Bible. I love verses 7-9!
7 Now we have this treasure in clay jars, so that this extraordinary power may be from God and not from us. 8 We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; we are perplexed but not in despair; 9 we are persecuted but not abandoned; we are struck down but not destroyed.
2nd Corinthians 4:7-9
We human beings are but clay jars – weak, fragile, messy, dirty. The extraordinary thing about us is that we are made in the Imago Dei – the Image of God AND, though we are weak, fragile, messy and dirty – WE HAVE this amazing treasure in jars of clay! What is the treasure? “6 For God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6) Remember yesterday? We are the LETTERS of Jesus to a lost and dying world – His Word and His presence and His light is to shine out of us – shining in the darkness to give the world knowledge of God’s glory through the appearing and testimony of Jesus. Shine the light of Jesus! Spread the fragrance of Jesus! Share the Letters of Jesus written on your heart!
In addition to being a podcaster, I am also a pastor/preacher, and have been so for about 25 years. I love pastors and preachers, but there are some things that pastors and preachers of my ilk – myself included – do that can tend to be a little aggravating. Let me let you in on a dirty little secret of pastors and preachers: Sometimes, we jump to conclusions. Sometimes we make up stuff. Sometimes we connect two dots or ideas that really shouldn’t be connected. I have tried to avoid such behavior for years, but I am sure that my hands are not unstained with this blight. Jumping to conclusions and making assumptions is dangerous for pastors when we are dealing with the Bible. The Bible is quite infallible, error free, and is absolutely true, but my opinions on the Bible, and even more, my assumptions on the Bible – they are not error-free…they are most certainly not infallible. The problem is, however, that people assume preachers know what they are talking about, so they tend to take what they are given as gospel truth, rather than do the ‘noble Berean’ thing and search the Scripture themselves. I usually try to differentiate between my opinion and what the Word of God actually says…but, again – I’m sure I’ve failed to do that.
When pastors and preachers interject their opinion into the text we fall into what is called ‘eisegesis,’ or reading our own theology and opinions into the text, as opposed to ‘exegesis,’ which indicates getting our theology and opinions out of the text. This is a great danger, and leads to many, many Bible myths, and I’m reminded of two of those myths from our passage today, which is all about David’s sin with Bathsheba. Let’s read the passage now, and, as we listen, try and see what happened to lead David into the sin of adultery and murder.
I can think of three Bible myths that I have heard preached from this passage.
#1. Bathsheba was in the wrong.
#2. David should have been with his men leading them into war.
#3. David should not have been strolling on his rooftop ogling women who were bathing.
To be sure, I’m not declaring those three things ‘myths’ because I am sure all three are false, I am declaring them myths because the Bible doesn’t even begin to hint that they are right. They are assumptions, and assumptions are dangerous, because they make a sump out of A and ions, or something like that. Trust me, making assumptions about the Bible is dangerous…if the Holy Spirit had wanted to draw attention to one of these things, He very likely would have, and the fact that He didn’t means that we should be quite silent in the face of uncertainty. It is conceivable that Bathsheba was bathing on the roof trying to attract the attention of a man while her husband was gone, but it is probably far more likely that this was not the case, since the Bible doesn’t even imply that. To blame Bathsheba here is a fairly misogynistic form of victim-blaming that is dangerous. The Bible nowhere condemns Bathsheba, and neither should we.
Speaking of Bathsheba – it is an interesting fact of etymology that her name has nothing to do with bathing or baths…even though that is where David first saw her. ‘Bath’ in Hebrew means daughter of, in much the same way as ‘Ben’ means ‘son of.’ So, Benjamin is the son of Jamin, and Bathsheba is the daughter of Sheba. Same with the use of the word ‘talent’ in the New Testament. That word was a currency/weight during New Testament times, and only came to be associated with our understanding of the word talent – as in, she is a talented piano player – in the 1100-1200s. But I digress: main point is that we have no biblical indication that Bathsheba did anything wrong at all.
We also have no biblical indication that David’s mistake was in not leading his men to war. It is conceivable that the first verse may be indicating that David should have led his men to war, but I see no scriptural command for kings of God’s people to do such a thing. 2nd Samuel 12 may also indicate that kings were expected to lead their men in battle, but – again, I stress that this appears to be a cultural expectation of the ancient near east and not a command from God. The Bible does not rebuke David for this, so I don’t believe this was the source of his sin with Bathsheba. Likewise his stroll on the roof – was this the act of a peeping tom? If so, the Bible does not explicitly point that out. To be sure, it would indeed be wrong if David was strolling on the roof of the palace hoping to catch a glimpse of something untoward, but, in absence of the Bible telling us that, we should probably practice Paul’s commands in Romans 14 here (letting each servant be judged by his own master), and mind our business.
So – what led David to sin? I believe this most biblical answer is this: his sinful heart – his incurable sin nature. In the New Testament, we are told very clearly: there is NO ONE righteous, not even one. In the Old Testament, God speaks to Jeremiah and says:
The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it?
David was a man after God’s own heart – that was God’s testimony about him…and yet, King David too had a deceitfully wicked heart, and in our passage today, King David ‘went with his heart’ instead of following God’s commands, and his wicked heart led him to adultery, a type of rape of power, deception, conspiracy, and cold-blooded murder. It is sobering to realize the extent of darkness in the fallen human heart. You have certainly heard the saying about power corrupting, and it is most certainly true. One way we can see David’s entitlement – an area where he very obviously transgressed God’s law is in the number of wives that he accumulated for himself, in direct violation of God’s commands:
17 [The King] He must not acquire many wives for himself so that his heart won’t go astray. He must not acquire very large amounts of silver and gold for himself.
This command was ignored by David, and step by step, this led him further and further away from being the mighty young man of God who was victorious over Goliath and wrote Psalms in the fields, and more towards a person who felt entitled to take what he wanted – even another man’s wife. The message of David and Bathsheba is: Guard your heart, and follow God’s commands, not your own fleshly desires. Tim Keller will close us out for part one of our series on David and Bathsheba:
Think of the character of David. Think of what we have already seen about him. Here is a man of great leadership qualities. Here’s a man of incredible devotion to God and tremendous devotion to his people. Here’s a man of artistic genius, remember? He’s a poet, a man of tremendous courage, a man of character. Where did this come from? It seems like it came out of the blue. How could he do such a thing?
Robert Alter, who has written a great commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel, says this is not at all out of the blue. He says if you go back and read what has been going on in David’s life, David has slowly but surely been changed through the way political power is ordinarily wielded. Slowly but surely, the way he wielded political power changed him.
Years and years of not exactly lying, not technically lying, but deceiving, years and years of marginalizing opponents, not dealing directly and honestly with them … Most of all, what happens (especially to political leaders) is years and years of more and more taking liberties and feeling like they’re above the rules because of the majestic self-pity that happens to political leaders.
You say, “What are you talking about?” See, if you’re in leadership, especially if you’re in great leadership, two things … You suffer a lot. All kinds of hassles, all kinds of attacks, all kinds of problems come to people who are in leadership. If you’re not there, you don’t know what they are. Leaders get lots and lots of suffering, but leaders also get all kinds of acclaim. People are always praising them.
When you put those two things together, what tends to happen to leaders is bit by bit, they develop a self-pity, a majestic self-pity, I call it, because they say, “Nobody knows how much I suffer. Nobody knows what I go through to rule this people. I deserve a few breaks. I deserve a few comforts. Yes, they’re not quite in accordance with the rules. People wouldn’t understand, but I deserve it.”
So bit by bit, David has been changed, David has been corrupted by the way political power is wielded in his life. He has been doing it in smaller and smaller doses, and finally he drives over a cliff. This is not out of the blue. This has been happening to him all along. Robert Alter says he doesn’t even realize just how much of a train wreck his life has become. He blew up his life. He doesn’t even realize it completely yet.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).