Week 12 – The Trials of a King

Scripture Reading:  2 Samuel 11-12, 18-19; 1 Chronicles 22, 29; Psalms 23, 32, 51

Significant Moments in The Story:

David’s affair with Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 11

The prophet Nathan confronts David about his affair with Bathsheba – 2 Samuel 12:1-15, Psalm 51

The birth of Solomon – 2 Samuel 12:24-25

The rape of David’s daughter Tamar by David’s son Amnon – 2 Samuel 13:1-22

David’s son Absalom kills Amnon and flees – 2 Samuel 13:23-36

Absalom leads a revolt against David and usurps the throne – 2 Samuel 15

Absalom’s revolt is put down and Absalom is killed – 2 Samuel 18

The death of David – 1 Kings 2, 1 Chronicles 29

Key Themes:

God knows our sins

David thought he had the perfect plan to cover up his affair with Bathsheba.  However, his plans and schemes could not hide his sin from God.  The prophet Samuel had said that God looks upon the heart.  That means that God not only sees our character, our faith, and our righteousness.  He also sees that sin which we have sought to hide and bury away, hoping nobody will ever find out about it.  When we read Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, we are reminded that God would rather we confess our sins to Him so that we can receive fully his forgiveness.  Unfortunately, we are too often like David, trying to hide our sin and thus running away from the very grace God wants to offer.

Forgiveness and consequences

In 2 Samuel 12:13-14, David repents of his sin and Nathan assures him that God has forgiven him.  However, God’s forgiveness does not protect David and his family from the consequences of David’s sin.  This theme will recur in the story of Absalom.  Absalom’s revolt is, in part, portrayed as a punishment of David’s affair with Bathsheba.  However, we could say that the revolt is perhaps even better understood as a consequence of another of David’s sins:  his unwillingness to punish his son Amnon for raping his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13).  Because David was unwilling to act and unwilling to protect his own daughter, Absalom’s own anger is allowed to grow until it results in murder and revolution.  This tragic family history is a solemn reminder that forgiveness may remove the guilt and eternal hold of sin from our lives but it does not necessarily mean that sin’s consequences are removed.

The joy of giving

1 Chronicles 29 tells us how David and other leaders gave willingly and freely of what they had to provide for the building of the Temple.  So many times, we think of our tithes and offerings as obligations and necessities.  1 Chronicles 29, though, describes the joy when we see giving not as what we have to do but what we have the blessing and opportunity to do.  Rather than thinking in terms of percentages and tax relief, our gifts and offerings that we bring each Sunday should be exuberant expressions of our love for God and our desire to see His glory revealed.

Background Information

“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle …” – 2 Samuel 11:1

It was typical for most military campaigns in the ancient Near East to take place before the harvest had arrived.  The place of a king was to be leading his armies into battle.  However, the story of David’s affair with Bathsheba begins with a problem:  David is not where he is supposed to be.  Rather than being on the battlefield, he is in Jerusalem.  He has sent his generals out into the field in his place.

Later in the story, we see one of the many problems with David not being where he is supposed to be.  In 2 Samuel 12:26-31, Joab sends word back to David that he is about to conquer the Ammonite capital of Rabbah.  Joab tells David that if he does not come out onto the battlefield with the rest of his armies, that Joab will go ahead and conquer the city and claim the victory as his own.   For David, who was on the good side of the crowds singing about Saul killing his thousands and David his ten thousands, this prospect opened a possibility of the people changing their allegiance to Joab away from him.  As we will see in the case of Absalom, allegiance to David as king was not absolute.

Uriah the Hittite

The Hittites were not Israelites but settlers from the north.  By the time of David, there were not many Hittites in the land, and those that remained took Hebrew names.

“… he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun” – 2 Samuel 12:11

When David’s son Absalom leads a revolution against David and claims the throne, Absalom takes David’s concubines up to the roof of David’s house and has sex with them in public (2 Samuel 16:20-23).  Absalom’s act is not only intended to be an insult to his father but also his way of laying claim to David’s throne by claiming the concubines as his own.  Here, in 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan foretells this event and frames it as a part of the punishment of David’s affair with Bathsheba and his plan to cover it up.  David had tried to hide his disgrace, and so his punishment will be that his disgrace will be put before all the eyes of the people to see.

Shimei, Ziba, and Mephibosheth – 2 Samuel 19:16-30

These three men played interesting roles in David’s escape from Jerusalem during Absalom’s revolution.

Shimei was a member of Saul’s family who followed David along the road during his escape from Absalom.  While he followed David, we are told he hurled stones and curses at David (2 Samuel 16:5-14).  When some of David’s troops offer to go kill him, David stops them, saying that he deserves what he is getting.  Later on, when David addresses Solomon before Solomon takes the throne, David instructs Solomon to see to it that Shimei is killed.

Mephibosheth was a son of Jonathan who was crippled.  Ziba was his servant.  After David took the throne, he wanted to be able to show some kind of kindness to Jonathan’s family.  When he found out about Mephibosheth, David gave him all of the land that had belonged to Saul and invited Mephibosheth to sit and dine at his table as one of David’s own sons (2 Samuel 9).  During Absalom’s revolt, Ziba meets David with food and wine.  When David asks Ziba where Mephibosheth is, Ziba claims that Mephibosheth has stayed behind in Jerusalem, celebrating David’s defeat and looking for an opportunity to reclaim his family’s throne.  David hastily announces that all that he had given to Mephibosheth now belongs to Ziba (2 Samuel 16:1-4).  As we read here, Mephibosheth claims upon David’s return that his intention had been to ride out to meet David himself but that Ziba had left him behind as a trick to undermine Mephibosheth in David’s eyes and claim Mephibosheth’s property as his own.

David’s preparations for the Temple – 1 Chronicles 22

Remember that David had intended to build a temple for God himself.  God, however, spoke through the prophet Nathan to tell David that his son would build the Temple, not David (1 Chronicles 17).  Though David is not allowed to build the Temple himself, he does take steps to insure that Solomon will have the materials, manpower, and leadership to get the task done.

Some Questions that May Come Up

Why do get the stories of David in the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles?

Though the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles make up 6 total books of the Old Testament, they are probably best understood as only 2 different writings.  Samuel and Kings make up a continuous narrative of the period of the kings of Israel.  These books are written from a perspective that tends to be very critical of kingship and is heavily influenced by the Deuteronomic idea that faithfulness to God will lead to blessing while disobedience of God will result in curses upon the nation, the people, and the land.  The Chronicles seem to draw on material from Samuel and Kings as well as other sources to give a history of Israel from creation through the return from exile in Babylon.  However, the view of kingship, especially the portrayal of David and his dynasty, are much more positive.  In the Chronicles, David’s kingdom and the establishment of the Temple symbolizes the bond between God and Israel.  It should be noted that incidents like David’s affair with Bathsheba is described in 2 Samuel but appears nowhere in the book of Chronicles.

Why are Judah and Israel arguing in 2 Samuel 19?

After Absalom’s revolt is quashed and Absalom is dead, there is a period of uncertainty for David and for the people of his nation.  Is David the king again?  Do the people really want him back at all?  David wants to be asked back, to be welcomed by his people.  However, there are some, it seems, within the northern tribes of Israel (interestingly, where Saul was from) who seem uncertain whether David can lead them.  David asks the people of his own southern region of Judah to invite him back into the land and into power.  When they do, the people of the northern tribes of Israel cry that they are being slighted by being left out of the welcoming of David to power.

This story, though confusing, is setting up what will become the defining narrative of The Story following the reign of Solomon:  the split of the united kingdom of Israel into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.  The split will take place in part because of rival claims to the throne and rival claims to the appropriate center of the worship of God.  However, we see this rivalry in its early stages in 2 Samuel 19.  David had been very wise in how he had managed and unified the various tribes of Israel into one kingdom.  For example, his selection of Jerusalem as the capital of the nation and the home for the ark of the covenant was inspired.  Jerusalem had not previously been inhabited by any Israelites, but by the foreign nation of the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5).  Thus, when David conquered the city and made it his capital, it had no affiliation with any one tribe or region.  It’s central location only contributed to an understanding that there was no favoritism in the choice of the capital and that David cared and ruled equally over all Israel.  Here, in 2 Samuel 19, we see that unity beginning to fray.