October 20-21 Sermon Resource

David and Bathsheba

  • Main text: 2 Samuel 11:1-5, 26-27; 12:1-9; Psalm 51:1-9
  • Accompanying text: Matthew 21:33-41

The text this week focuses on a dark part of Israel’s history. It is hard to see how David is a ‘man after God’s own heart’ (2 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22) in this story. We are explicitly told that his actions here are despised by God (2 Sam 11:27; 12:9). Yet, perhaps one of the reasons this text is included in the Bible (compared to 1 Chr 20:1-3 where the account is conspicuously absent) is so that we know that our sin is not the final word. While the terrible consequences of the evil we commit can be devastating for both us and others (as the rest of 2 Samuel shows us), like David we can find mercy and comfort in God’s ‘unfailing love’ and ‘great compassion’ (Psalm 51:1).

The passage begins by telling us that David remained in Jerusalem while his army was fighting for him; ‘he has ceased to be the king requested by Israel who would “go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam 8:20)’ [1]. David has sent others to fight in his place, to bear his responsibility, and while his men are in battle he is living a life of leisure, lying on his couch (2 Sam 11:2).

David sees Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop and enquires about her. This is important as it makes it clear that David is fully aware of what he is doing. He knew she was married, and many scholars believe that her father was the same Eliam mentioned in 2 Sam 23:34, i.e. she was the daughter of a friend and member of the military elite (David’s Thirty) and her grandfather was David’s adviser, Ahithophel (2 Sam 16:23). Uriah is also mentioned as a member of David’s thirty in 2 Sam 23:39 – David would have known him well. Despite this, David lies with Bathsheba and she becomes pregnant. The reference to ‘purifying herself from her uncleanness’ makes it clear that the child could only be David’s.

It is easy to gloss over Bathsheba in this story and focus on David. Yet Bathsheba’s story is one that is all too familiar for many women. While some have questioned Bathsheba’s motives, she would have had little choice in the matter. There is a massive power differential between David as King and Bathsheba, the wife of a foreigner. She was summoned to his palace and would have gone in case there was news of her husband. To refuse King David’s advances would have been very dangerous for her. Nathan in 2 Sam 12:9 states that David took what was not his, and Bathsheba’s love for her husband is made explicitly clear by her mourning for him in 2 Sam 11:26.

Bathsheba has to bear the consequences. She falls pregnant while her husband is away at war. There is now proof of their adultery and her life is forever changed. She faces the very real possibility of death for committing adultery (Lev 20:10). She goes on to lose her husband (would she have blamed herself for his death?) and David then ‘sends’ for her and ‘brings’ her into his house. She also goes on to lose the child (2 Sam 12:19). It seems unlikely from what we learn in 2 Samuel that she ever learned the truth of David’s role in her husband’s death.

One of the questions this raises is whether God react differently to the suffering of women than he does the suffering of men? Galatians 3:23 implies there is no such preferential treatment and there is consolation to be found in that God uses Bathsheba (not just David) to bring about redemption for the world in Jesus Christ (Matt 1:6; Luke 3:31). In the genealogy recorded in Matthew, Bathsheba is remembered first and foremost as the wife of Uriah (not the wife of David).

The text does not specifically cover David’s interactions with Uriah that lead to David’s having Uriah killed, but it is worth covering them briefly. David’s attempts to deceive Uriah into thinking the child is his, are unsuccessful because, unlike David, Uriah remained abstinent while Israel is at war (see 1 Sam 21:5; Deut 23:10-14). David continues his spiral of sin by having Joab place him at the front line where Uriah is certain to die (which also results in the loss of other lives, 2 Sam 11:20-21).

The parable that Nathan tells in 1 Sam 12:1-4 highlights how easy it is to see the sins of others as opposed our own sin (see also Matt 7:3-5). The Hebrew word for daughter that Nathan uses is bath, the ‘first element of the word Bathsheba’ [2]. David’s response is one of anger, and his judgment exceeds that required of by the law (Lev 6:1-7) and it is perhaps from this story that Zaccheaus decides he needs to pay back four times as much from those he defrauded without pity (see Luke 19:8) [3].

The prophet Nathan’s risk in confronting David is successful and David is convicted that he has “sinned against the Lord” (2 Sam 12:13; Psalm 51:4) which leads to his repentance. For David his lack of love to his neighbour and his abuse of his power is a direct result of his turning away from God (see Matt 22:36-40) and we see in Psalm 51 that David offers up no excuses for his actions but casts himself upon the goodness of God.

How does this text witness to Jesus Christ?

David fulfills Samuel’s prediction of 1 Sam 8:10-18 and is a king who abuses his power and takes what is not his. ‘The good news of this tragic chapter is that the history of God’s people did not finally rest even on David. Despite being a man after God’s own heart, and despite the fact that David knows how to repent sincerely in the wake of grievous sin (Psalm 51), David cannot save God’s people. He too is weak. He fails. A son of David needs to come who will not fail. In Jesus Christ, this Davidic heir arrives’ [4]. It is in Jesus Christ that we have the servant king (Phil 2:6-11) who gives life instead of taking life.


Scripture Resources:

  • Proverbs 16:18-19
  • Jeremiah 23:5-6
  • Matthew 1:1, 6
  • Luke 1:30-33

GCI Resources:


  1. Walter Brueggemann, Interpretation: First and Second Samuel, 2012. 273.
  2. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.
  3. Mary J. Evans, The Bible Speak Today: the Message of Samuel, 2004. Digital Edition
  4. The ESV Gospel Transformation Bible, 2013. Digital Edition.
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