2Sa 12:1 Unto him, after the birth of the child. A whole year had nearly elapsed, and David continued blind and impenitent. The spirit of prophecy had left him; and, though he was clear-sighted, and equitable enough to punish the faults of others, he could not discern his own picture, till Nathan had removed the veil. The prophet acted with the utmost prudence, and did not condemn the king till he had pronounced sentence on himself. It is commonly supposed that the interview was private. St. Chrysostom believes that the chief lords of the court were present; which would enhance the discretion of Nathan, as well as David’s humility. (Calmet)
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
the Lord sent Nathan unto David — The use of parables is a favorite style of speaking among Oriental people, especially in the conveyance of unwelcome truth. This exquisitely pathetic parable was founded on a common custom of pastoral people who have pet lambs, which they bring up with their children, and which they address in terms of endearment. The atrocity of the real, however, far exceeded that of the fictitious offense.
2Sa 12:1 And the Lord sent Nathan unto David,…. Quickly after the child was born begotten on Bathsheba, and when it was known and became the public talk of people, and the enemies of religion were full of it, and blasphemed on account of it, 2Sa_12:14; so that David was nine months or more without any true sense of his sin, his heart hardened, his graces dormant, the joys of salvation taken from him, and he without any communion with God, and having little concern about it; though perhaps he might have some pangs at times, which quickly went off; though some think he exercised repentance in a private way before; acknowledged his sin to the Lord, and had a sense of pardon, and before this time penned the thirty second and the hundred thirtieth psalms on this occasion, Psa_32:1; but Nathan is sent to awaken and arouse him, to express a sense of his sin, and repentance for it in public, which he did by penning and publishing the fifty first psalm after Nathan had been with him, Psa_51:1; for though the Lord may leave his people to fall into sin, and suffer them to continue therein some time, yet not always; they shall rise again through the assistance of his Spirit and grace, in the acts of repentance and faith, both in private and public:
and he came unto him, and said unto him: he came as if he had a case to lay before him, and to have justice done, and he told the story as if it was a real fact, and so David understood it:
there were two men in one city: pointing at David and Uriah, who both lived in Jerusalem:
the one rich and the other poor; David the rich man, king over all Israel; Uriah a subject, an officer in his army, comparatively poor.
2Sa 12:2 The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds. In which the wealth of men lay in those times and countries; these in the parable signify David’s wives and concubines, which were many; he had six wives in Hebron, and he took more wives and concubines out of Jerusalem, when he was come from Hebron, 2Sa_3:2; and besides his master’s, or Saul’s wives, given to him, 2Sa_12:8.
2Sa 12:3 Daughter. All these expressions tended to shew the affection of the owner for this pet lamb. (Haydock) — In Arabia, one of the finest is commonly fed in the house along with the children. (Bochart, Anim. T. i. B. ii. 46.) — It is not necessary that every word of this parable should have been verified in Bethsabee. (Calmet) — Many things are usually added for ornament. (Menochius) — Yet she had been treated in the most tender manner by her husband, who had her alone, while David had eighteen wives. (Haydock)
2Sa 12:3 But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb,…. Uriah had but one wife, who was much younger than he, called a lamb, an ewe lamb, a little one. Abarbinel thinks Uriah had been a widower; and had children by another wife, supposed in the parable, and was much older than Bathsheba:
which he had bought; for men in those times and countries did not receive portions with their wives, but gave dowries to them, and for them:
and nourished up; as his own flesh, as husbands should their wives, Eph_5:29,
and it grew up together with him, and with his children; which Kimchi also supposes Uriah had by a former wife:
it did eat of his own meat, and drink of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter; all which are expressive of the care, kindness, love, and tenderness of a loving husband, whose affections are endeared to his wife, making her partaker of all he has, and to share in whatever he eats and drinks, and in his dearest embraces; and as there were instances of creatures, lambs and others, particularly tame or pet lambs, used in this way in a literal sense, to which the reference in the parable is, David had no suspicion of its being a parable. Bochart (q) has given many instances of creatures nourished and brought up in such a familiar manner.
(q) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 46. col. 521, 522.
2Sa 12:4 And there came a traveller unto the rich man,…. By which some understand Satan, who came to David, and stirred up his lust by the temptations that offered; who is a walker, as the word used signifies, that goes about seeking whom he may devour, and is with good men only as a wayfaring man, who does not abide with them; and whose temptations, when they succeed with such, are as meat and drink to him, very entertaining but the Jews generally understand it of the evil imagination or concupiscence in man, the lustful appetite in David, that wandered after another man’s wife, and wanted to be satiated with her:
and he spared to take of his own flock, and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that came unto him; when his heart was inflamed with lust at the sight of Bathsheba, he did not go as he might, and take one of his wives and concubines, whereby he might have satisfied and repressed his lust:
but took the poor man’s lamb, and dressed it for the man that came to him; sent for Bathsheba and lay with her, for the gratification of his lust, she being a young beautiful woman, and more agreeable to his lustful appetite. The Jews, in their Talmud (r), observe a gradation in these words that the evil imagination is represented first as a traveller that passes by a man, and lodges not with him; then as a wayfaring man or host, that passes in and lodges with him; and at last as a man, as the master of the house that rules over him, and therefore called the man that came to him.
(r) T. Bab. Succah, fol. 52. 2. Jarchi, Kimchi, & Abarbinel in loc.
2Sa 12:5 And David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man,…. That had done this, taking it for a real fact:
and he said to Nathan, as the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die; which be said in the transport of his wrath and fury; otherwise a thief, according to the law of Moses, was not to be put to death, but to make restitution; and if he was not able to make it, then to be sold, but he was not to die for it; but David thought the crime was so greatly aggravated by being done by a rich man, and by the loss the poor man sustained, it being his all, and the fact, in all its circumstances, so cruel and barbarous, that the guilty person ought to die: how much more vehemently, and indeed with justice, would he have passed the sentence of death on him, or condemned him to it, had it been put in the parable, that the rich man not only took the poor man’s ewe lamb, but killed the poor man himself? but this Nathan left out, that David might not take his meaning, as Abarbinel thinks, who then would have been upon his guard, and not have condemned himself; and hereby also Nathan had this advantage against him, that if this man deserved to die, who had only taken the poor man’s ewe lamb, then how much more ought he to die, who had not only committed adultery with Bathsheba, but had slain Uriah?
Keil and Delitzsch
David was so enraged at this act of violence on the part of the rich man, that in the heat of his anger he pronounced this sentence at once: “As the Lord liveth, the man who did this deserves to die; and the lamb he shall restore fourfold.” The fourfold restoration corresponds to the law in Exo_22:1. The culprit himself was also to be put to death, because the forcible robbery of a poor man’s pet-lamb was almost as bad as man-stealing.
2Sa 12:6 And he shall restore the lamb fourfold,…. Which was according to the law in Exo_22:1; but Kimchi thinks, because the word is of the dual number, it signifies double the number, and that the sentence was to restore eight lambs, because he being a rich man stole from the poor man; so Mr. Weemse (s) renders it, twice four, twice as much as was commanded in the law; for the Hebrews, he observes, double in the dual number till they come to seven:
because he did this thing; committed this theft:
and because he had no pity; on the poor man, but took his all. The Jews observe, that accordingly David was punished with the loss of four of his children, that which was born of Bathsheba, Ammon, Tamar, and Absalom; so most of the commentators, but Ben Gersom, instead of Tamar, has Adonijah.
(s) Of the Moral Law, l. 2. ch. 10. p. 252. Vid. Gusset. Ebr. Comment. p. 776.
2Sa 12:6 Fold. Septuagint, “seven-fold,” which Grabe corrects by the Hebrew. (Haydock) — David lost four of his sons; the first born of Bethsabee, Amnon, Absalon, and Adonias: and saw his daughter Thamar, (Calmet) and his ten inferior wives, dishonoured, in punishment of his crime. (Menochius)
Thou art the man – What a terrible word! And by it David appears to have been transfixed, and brought into the dust before the messenger of God.
Thou Art this son of death, and thou shalt restore this lamb Fourfold. It is indulging fancy too much to say David was called, in the course of a just Providence to pay this fourfold debt? to lose four sons by untimely deaths, viz., this son of Bath-sheba, on whom David had set his heart, was slain by the Lord; Amnon, murdered by his brother Absalom; Absalom, slain in the oak by Joab; and Adonijah, slain by the order of his brother Solomon, even at the altar of the Lord! The sword and calamity did not depart from his house, from the murder of wretched Amnon by his brother to the slaughter of the sons of Zedekiah, before their father’s eyes, by the king of Babylon. His daughter was dishonored by her own brother, and his wives contaminated publicly by his own son! How dreadfully, then, was David punished for his sin! Who would repeat his transgression to share in its penalty? Can his conduct ever be an inducement to, or an encouragement in, sin? Surely, No. It must ever fill the reader and the hearer with horror. Behold the goodness and severity of God! Reader, lay all these solemn things to heart.
Thy master’s wives into thy bosom – Perhaps this means no more than that he had given him absolute power over every thing possessed by Saul; and as it was the custom for the new king to succeed even to the wives and concubines, the whole harem of the deceased king, so it was in this case; and the possession of the wives was a sure proof that he had got all regal rights. But could David, as the son-in-law of Saul, take the wives of his father-in-law? However, we find delicacy was seldom consulted in these cases; and Absalom lay with his own father’s wives in the most public manner, to show that he had seized on the kingdom, because the wives of the preceding belonged to the succeeding king, and to none other.
2Sa 12:8 And I gave thee thy master’s house,…. Not his palace at Gibeah, but rather his family, his wives, servants, wealth, and riches, all being confiscated through the rebellion of Ishbosheth; or rather his kingdom he succeeded him in:
and thy master’s wives into thy bosom; though we read of no more than one that belonged to Saul, if he is meant by his master, excepting Rizpah his concubine, nor ever of David taking them into his bosom and bed; wherefore this can be understood only of his having them at his disposal, to give them to whom he pleased; the word may be rendered his “women”, as well as his “wives”, and may design his daughters, Merab and Michal, who were both given to David, though taken again and given to others: the Jews say, that Eglah, David’s sixth wife, was the wife of Saul;
and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; the kingdom of both; gave him to be king over all the tribes of Israel:
and if that had been too little; either his wives too few, as the Jews interpret it, or his kingdom too small:
I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things; more and greater favours; and indeed such he had promised him, as a firm or stable house or kingdom, and that the Messiah should spring from him.
2Sa 12:9 Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?…. The commandment referred to is the law of God, particularly the sixth and seventh precepts of it, Exo_20:13; which David had shown no regard unto, and by his breaking them had slighted and despised them:
thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; and so had despised and broken the sixth command, Exo_20:13; for though he had not taken away his life with his own hand, he had plotted and contrived it, and had given orders to put him in such a position as would issue in it:
and hast taken his wife to be thy wife; after he had defiled her, being another man’s wife, and had taken such unlawful methods to make her his wife, whereby he had despised and broken both the sixth and the seventh commands, Exo_20:13,
and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon; though he had not put him to death with his own sword, he had done that which was as bad or worse in some respects, he had exposed him to the sword of the Ammonites, by which it was taken away; and not his only, but that of some of the Israelites also, which gave that uncircumcised people reason to triumph over the children of Israel, and even to blaspheme the God of Israel.
2Sa 12:10 House. What a dismal scene opens itself to our view during the remaining part of David’s reign! (Haydock) — Scarcely one of his successors was free from war; even Solomon was disturbed by the rebellion of Jeroboam, &c., and many of David’s family and descendants came to an untimely end, ver. 6. (Calmet) — Six sons of Josaphat, all Joram’s, except one, Josias, the children of Sedecias, &c., 4 Kings xxv., &c. (Worthington)
Keil and Delitzsch
The punishment answers to the sin. There is first of all (2Sa_12:10) the punishment for the murder of Uriah: “The sword shall not depart from thy house for ever, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife,” etc. “For ever” must not be toned down to the indefinite idea of a long period, but must be held firmly in its literal signification. the expression “thy house,” however, does not refer to the house of David as continued in his descendants, but simply as existing under David himself until it was broken up by his death. The fulfilment of this threat commenced with the murder of Amnon by Absalom (2Sa_13:29); it was continued in the death of Absalom the rebel (2Sa_18:14), and was consummated in the execution of Adonijah (1Ki_2:24-25).
2Sa 12:11 Thus saith the Lord,…. For what he said was not of himself, but under a spirit of prophecy:
behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house: that is, evil persons, who should be guilty of evil things, and that as a chastisement of him for the sins he had committed, and those out of his own family, as Amnon and Absalom:
and I will take thy wives before thine eyes; which is so expressed, because it was done in his lifetime, and he knowing it, but not able to hinder it, though he did not, strictly speaking, see it with his eyes:
and give them unto thy neighbour; or friend, meaning his son Absalom, as they were:
and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun; pointing to the sun in the firmament, and which might be then shining in the room where they were: and which is represented by Homer (u) as seeing all things, “and eyes” are ascribed to it here in the original; the meaning is, that this fact should be done in the daytime, openly and publicly, and was fulfilled, when by the advice of Ahithophel a tent was spread on the top of the house, and Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel, 2Sa_16:22.
(u) Odyss. 11. ver. 119. & 12. ver. 380.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown
I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, etc. — The prophet speaks of God threatening to do what He only permitted to be done. The fact is, that David’s loss of character by the discovery of his crimes, tended, in the natural course of things, to diminish the respect of his family, to weaken the authority of his government, and to encourage the prevalence of many disorders throughout his kingdom.
2Sa 12:12 For thou didst it secretly,…. Committed adultery with Bathsheba privately, and endeavoured to conceal it, by getting her husband killed in battle, and then marrying her as soon as he could to hide the shame of it:
but one will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun; as the above fact was; that is, he would suffer it to he done, and so order it in his providence, that everything should concur to the doing of it; as David’s leaving his wives behind him, Ahithophel’s wicked counsel he was suffered to give, and the lustful inclination Absalom was left unto, and not any of the people of Israel having religion, spirit, and courage enough to remonstrate against it.
2Sa 12:13 And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord,…. Which confession, though short, was a full one, arising from a thorough conviction of the evil of the sin he had been guilty of, accompanied with real brokenness of heart, sincere humiliation, and a sorrow after a godly sort, as the fifty first psalm, that penitential psalm composed upon this occasion shows, Psa_51:1,
and Nathan said unto David; being fully satisfied with the sincerity and genuineness of his repentance, of which he gave proof by words and deeds, and being under the direction and impulse of the Spirit of God:
the Lord hath put away thy sin; would not charge it upon him, impute it to him, or punish him for it, but freely and fully forgive it, cast it behind his back, and into the depth of the sea; cause it to pass from him and never more bring it against him, and which is the Lord’s act, and his only, against whom sin is committed:
thou shall not die; though he should die a corporeal death, yet not by the immediate hand of God, or by the sword of justice as a malefactor, a murderer, and adulterer, as he, according to the law, deserved to die; nor should he die a spiritual death, though his grace had been so low, and his corruptions had risen so high; nor an eternal death, the second death, the lost wages of sin.
2Sa 12:14 Howbeit, because by this deed,…. This complicated wickedness, adultery with Bathsheba, and the murder of her husband, and occasioning the death of others:
thou hast given great reason to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme; to insult over Israel, and the God of Israel, and to magnify their own idols on account of the advantage they got when Uriah and other Israelites were slain; and to speak ill of God as a respecter of persons, who had cast off Saul and his family from the kingdom, and yet established David in it, guilty of crimes the other was not; and of the word, ways, and worship of God, and of the true religion, as all hypocrisy and deceit, when men that made such pretensions to it were guilty of such atrocious crimes; wherefore to let such see and know that the Lord did not approve of and countenance such actions, but abhorred and resented them:
the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die; which would be a visible testimony of God’s displeasure at his sin, to all men that should hear of it, and know it; and being taken away in such a manner would be a great affliction to him, and the more as his affections were much towards the child, as appears by what follows; or otherwise the removal of it might have been considered as a mercy, since its life would have kept up the remembrance of the sin, and have been a standing reproach to him.