In this post we will look at the fall of David. In the chiastic structure of the book this section answers the fall of Saul.
Chapter 10 shows us Israel’s defeat of the Ammonites and the Syrians. I might have included chapter 10 under the previous section where David is king. Chapter 11 shows us the situation with David and Bathsheba. And Chapter 12 shows us the prophetic rebuke that David received from Nathan. These two chapters are the ones dealing with the fall.
Saul and Nahash were foils, the Israelite Saul was a serpent and the Gentile Nahash (which means “serpent”) was wise. The text invites us to make such comparisons because Chapters 9 and 10 stress hesed (“loyal-love”). David showed hesed to Mephiboseth, heir of Saul, because of his covenant with Jonathan and David displayed hesed to the son of Nahash because of the hesed Nahash had shown to David. However, the reaction of Mephiboseth and the son of Nahash was different. Mephiboseth welcomed David’s hesed and showed him hesed in return, while the son of Nahash rebelled against David.
Then chapters 11-12 show us the fall. This is after David has been established as the new Adam (God made covenant with David that the seed of David would reign forever). It has been observed that Adam committed Spiritual adultery and now David committed physical adultery and that both tasted forbidden fruit (so to speak).
Also we noted before that the sin of Saul and the sin of David are parallel. David, like Saul, was acting like an ANE king rather than a Biblical king (regulations in Deuteronomy).
David’s habit of taking women, which is now routine for him, prepared him for this great sin. And if he failed to repent of it, the kingdom would have been torn from him as it was from Saul. Yet even with his repentance, these sins would have a huge impact on the history of the nation.
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem” (2 Sam 11:1).
Chapter 10 had explained to us why David was at war with the Ammonites and now in chapter 11 David is not leading his troops into battle but leaving it all to Joab.
The siege against Rabbah is completed at the end of the passage (2 Sam 12:26-31). “Now Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and took the royal city” (26). And Joab called for David to come and finish the siege so that the crown would be taken from the Ammonite king and placed on David’s head.
That these chapters begin and end with this suggests that the story might be a chiasm.
This puts at the center, and therefore the focus of the text, on Nathan’s prophetic confrontation with David.
It also works quite well since David mourned for his infant son before his son died, which is the opposite of what we would have expected.
This chiasm is suggested in Leithart’s book.
What this shows is the dramatic change that the prophetic confrontation had upon David and it was what saved the nation of Israel from God’s judgment. This was the calling of the prophet. Before the confrontation David was performing a typical coverup (like the politicians of the world) and afterward David began to act as a Biblical king should – he went out to battle and came in with plunder. If David had been following the law of God about war, he would not have been engaging in sexual relations (let alone adultery). This is why he cannot get Uriah to do so.
Uriah was a Hittite. Every time you see his name it is, “Uriah the Hittite.” This means that he was a Canaanite by birth but Uriah was a convert to the true faith, like Rahab. And this Gentile believer was married to an Israelite woman.
And he was blameless – after all, he refused to sleep with his wife while the war was ongoing. His death was most unjust.
The story includes several messengers to and from Joab and David and then YHWH sent His messenger, Nathan, to David. And Nathan came with a parable that appealed to the shepherd David and that was more than just about stealing – it was about exploitation or oppression. But the story is more than a simple parable, it follows the events of David’s fall. The lamb was Bathsheba. It is even called like a “daughter” (Hebrew = “bath”) meant to remind us of her name. The story even resembles modern sitcoms when the characters say something that is meant to be understood sexually. He “lay” with the lamb.
Moreover, the reference to the bosom (ESV, arms – but see footnote) is meant to be connected with verse 8: “It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms (bosom), and it was like a daughter (Heb. “Bath”) to him” (2 Sam 12:3). “And I gave you your master’s (Saul’s) house and your master’s wives into your arms (bosom)…” (2 Sam 12:8).
Thus the parable is appealing to the details of the story of what David did with Bathsheba.
The allusion to what David did to Uriah the Hittite is simply that the lamb was slaughtered. This shedding of blood does not mirror what happened to Bathsheba but her husband. Nathan’s rebuke will highlight the murder aspect more than this.
David’s response was an oath: “As YHWH lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (2 Sam 12:5-6).
The parable used the word “man” four times and David’s response added two more so that the seventh “man” is Nathan’s charge, “You are the man” (or in contemporary language, “You da man!”).
Because David had struck down Uriah the Hittite “with the sword of the Ammonites,” “now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” Additionally, in response to his secret adultery God would take his wives and give them to his neighbor who would lie with them publicly. And the infant child also was to die. All of this in addition to the loss of the other men who died in the effort to get Uriah killed in battle.
In the next part David mourned for the loss of this infant son so much that the servants were afraid to tell him when the son died. But when they told him, he stopped mourning and pleading with God. This outraged the servants, “What is this thing that you have done?” is usually a question for something extremely outrageous that even unbelievers punish as wrong (often involving sexual sin in Genesis, like rape or having two husbands). But David’s response is well known for its faith (cf. v.22-23) “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” The death and resurrection motif here is on purpose.
David deserved to die, but a substitute died in his place. The text means to point us to the heir of David – Jesus Christ.
Next he will comfort Bathsheba and she will give birth to Solomon who is given a royal name by YHWH: Jedidiah. Solomon includes the Hebrew word “shalom” for peace and wholeness. In the next section, David’s son and first in line for the throne Absalom (which also includes the Hebrew word “shalom” in his name) and Amnon will both be disqualified for kingship.