David, the Man After God's Heart
teacher's guide Lesson 12

Lesson Twelve

David, Bathsheba, and Uriah

Text: 2 Samuel 11

The objective of this lesson: to stress that even righteous people fall to temptation. Becoming a "person after God's own heart" does not grant a person immunity to temptation nor the ability to avoid all the consequences of evil.

The Bible often tells us of a person's successes and failures. That was not commonly the case in the cultures of the Old Testament. One of the challenges of the historian working in ancient history is to determine actually what happened. Most kings kept records (often embellished) of their achievements, but said little or nothing about their failures.

The Bible focused on people's strengths and weakness. While the Bible commends people's strengths, it neither ignores nor justifies their spiritual failures. Christians must understand they are righteous before God because of God's continuing forgiveness, not because they are "beyond" evil.

King David was a truly successful man in very difficult circumstances and times. His success was based on the fact that the Lord was with him. He depended on God, and God sustained him--even in the most trying circumstances!

The key to human moral success is God's presence in our lives. God sustains us when we allow Him to be our primary influence. Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Paul was spiritually strong when he was weak and totally dependent on God. The presence of God in Paul's life made him strong, not Paul's past experiences and achievements.

Scripture is frank about a person's accomplishments and also about a person's failures. Among the reasons are two prominent ones. (1) The Bible frequently reminds us that we are not God. Humans are not divine, not even the best of them. (2) There are important lessons to be learned from failure as certainly as there are lessons to be learned from success. It is as important to understand why a spiritual person failed as it is to understand why the same person succeeded.

Being a righteous person does not make us God. It increases our understanding of God's thoughts and actions, but it does not place us in a position to "evaluate" or "second-guess" God's thoughts and actions. The honest person who belongs to God is willing to learn from his or her failures as well as his or her successes. That involves admitting and accepting responsibility for failure as well as success.

At the time of year when the heads of kingdoms commonly waged war, David sent Joab (the commander of his army), his leaders, and his army to fight a battle against the Ammonites at the city of Rabbah.

Our common times of spiritual, moral, and ethical crisis often result from self-indulgence in moments of pleasure and ease rather than in times of commitment and responsibility.

David arose from what likely was his regular afternoon nap. The geographical situation of his palace enabled him to look down on the houses surrounding the palace. He observed a beautiful woman bathing. Though he had numerous wives, the woman piqued his desire and interest. Note the progression that began with his observation of the woman. (1) He saw. (2) He inquired. (3) He sent. (4) He indulged himself. It has been observed that evil entices a person to consider an idea, then urges the person to investigate the idea, and then allures the person to yield to the temptation to indulge himself or herself.

The beginning of David's failure in this incident did not occur because David was in need with no way to address his need. It began as a matter of arrogant self-indulgence (he was King; he had the power to create opportunity to do as he wished).

Nothing was stated regarding Bathsheba's role in this evil. The focus was on David the King. Please remember it was not 21st century America. The King was the most significant, powerful man in Israel. Bathsheba existed, as did all Israelites, as a servant of the King (review Samuel's statement in 1 Samuel 8:10-18). The responsibility for what occurred was placed by scripture on King David. 2 Samuel 11 begins a series of chapters that focus on David's failures (chapters 11-20--adultery, murder, rape of the King's daughter, and rebellions). The events of those times are in total contrast to the events and times when David fled from King Saul.

Avoid the temptation to excuse David's actions on the basis of Bathsheba's actions. Avoid the temptation to consider the incident from today's culture or ethical responsibilities. Remember women did not have the rights American women are accustomed to having. Remember that David was King--a concept most of us do not relate to or comprehend. This is not stated in a desire to exonerate Bathsheba, but in a desire to keep the focus on David. Americans often seek to escape responsibility by deflecting blame. This is not the approach of the Bible.

David was informed by Bathsheba that she was pregnant. David knew she was married to Uriah the Hittite. Uriah's name is a Hebrew name perhaps suggesting that some earlier male in his family converted to Judaism and established citizenship in Israel.

When righteous people make bad choices, they are astounded by the consequences of their choices. The unrighteous frequently are unconcerned about the spiritual or moral implications of their choices. Thus the bad choices of the righteous provide Satan a golden opportunity to exploit and deceive the righteous. The righteous often began a desperate search for the means to hide their bad choices. That panic decision frequently provides Satan an excellent opportunity to deceive them.

David attempted to hide his evil act by having Uriah sent from the battle to report on the conflict. Evidently David's intent was to cover his evil by making it possible for Uriah to appear to be the child's father. After David heard Uriah's report, he urged Uriah to go home. Immediately, unknown to the King, Uriah refused. He slept with the King's servants.

David was convinced he could hide his deed by manipulation. It is unlikely that David's deed was hidden from those in the palace. (Why would his servants report to him that Uriah did not go home?) Palace servants could be controlled--after all, he was King! The thing David seemed to fear most was public opinion.

When the fact that Uriah did not go home was reported to King David, he sent for Uriah and asked him why he did not go home. Uriah said since the army was in the field fighting a battle, it was inappropriate for him to go home and enjoy the pleasures of being at home. (Wonder what that reply did to David's conscience? Maybe nothing!) Uriah declared he would not dishonor his fellow troops by going home.

Our "simple solutions" to cover the evil we commit are never "simple." Take this incident as an example. Seeing led to lust. Lust led to inquiry. Inquiry led to adultery. Adultery led to murder. Escalation! Escalation! Escalation! Always the "next step" is simple, logical, and will solve the crisis. The result of indulgence is being trapped by the evil deed. The deed must be hidden at all costs--the disaster is not considered to be the fact the deed occurred, but the discovery of the deed by others. Be certain that God will reveal our evil!

David told Uriah to remain in Jerusalem another day, and then David would send him back. That night David invited Uriah to eat with him. David deliberately got Uriah drunk hoping a man uninhibited by alcohol would abandon his convictions and go home. Still, even a drunk Uriah slept with the King's servants.

Do not overlook the fact that a righteous man tried to use evil to encourage another righteous man to violate his conscience.

The next morning David wrote to Joab, David's commander, instructing Joab to arrange the battle in a manner that would kill Uriah. Unknowingly, Uriah carried his own death warrant to his field commander. Joab did as the King requested (ordered) and sent a report on the battle to David. The battle strategy was unwise and unprofessional! However, when the report was sent to King David, the messenger was instructed to tell David of Uriah's death.

"Murder by proxy" seemed a lesser evil to David than having his mistake revealed. Though David did not actually take Uriah's life, his motives caused Uriah's death. Motives are more important than technicalities! Read Matthew 6:1-18 and note how important motives are to God.

Instead of being angered by the poor battle strategy, David declared soldiers knew the risk of war. He urged the messenger to encourage Joab by instructing him not to let the events discourage him.

David used an act of war in the conviction he could cover a murder. Uriah died needlessly because King David wanted him to die.

After Bathsheba appropriately mourned her husband's death, David took her to be his wife. Evidently this event was close enough to her time of conception that it would appear the child was conceived after she married the King. The author observed that this incident was evil in God's sight. David's ingratitude for his blessings resulted in adultery and murder.

For months prior to the child's birth, David was convinced he succeeded. The righteous easily can blind themselves to their own evil. God sees and knows what the righteous think is hidden. Never should the righteous allow themselves to think that they have fooled God. See Galatians 6:6-10.

John T. Willis observes in his commentary on 1 and 2 Samuel there are several obvious lessons to be learned from this incident. (1) Satan never stops pursuing the righteous. Belonging to God does not provide a person immunity to temptation. (2) Doing evil always embarrasses a righteous person who yields to temptation. Righteous people who sin typically think they can hide an evil act by covering it with other evil acts. (3) The righteous person who yields to evil will be exposed by God

Emphasize the lessons to be learned from David's mistake. God has not failed us when we submit to temptation; it is our choice, not God's. When we make mistakes, we need to accept responsibility rather the trying to hide the mistake. Never deceive yourself into believing you can hide your spiritual and moral failures.

In the following chapter, it is evident that (1) God forgives the person who (a) accepts responsibility for his/her evil and (b) is genuinely penitent. (2) Yet, often evil is so powerful that divine forgiveness does not eliminate the consequences of evil. (3) God uses even evil occurrences to produce good. (4) Even the most godly people must depend on God for mercy.

Note the force and objective of divine forgiveness for the responsible righteous. The fact that we repent of an evil act does not mean divine forgiveness will eliminate all consequences of the act. Though we suffer the consequences, God can use our mistakes to further His purposes. We all need divine mercy--always!

If you think you know all the details about (1) the workings of good and evil and (2) God's character, remember that (a) God allowed Bathsheba to remain as David's wife and (b) God allowed a son of David and Bathsheba to become Israel's next King and to build the first Jewish temple.

The point is simple: do not give your assumptions or human convictions the status of a full understanding of revelation. Do not permit yourself to make the mistake of the Pharisees in Matthew 12:1-8.

For Thought and Discussion:

  1. Relate the incident of David, Bathsheba, and Uriah.

    Simply tell the basic story of what happened. Reserve commentary on the "whys" and insights until class interaction--which can be now if you choose.

  2. Using King David as an example, what is a common progression of evil in a righteous person.

    See; inquire; send (make possible); indulge.

  3. What are some lessons to be learned from the David-Bathsheba-Uriah incident.

    (1) Satan never stops pursuing the righteous. (2) A righteous person is always embarrassed by his or her evil acts. He or she is easily deceived by the conviction that "I can hide what I have done." (3) The righteous person who commits evil always will be exposed by God.

Link to Student Guide Lesson 12

Copyright © 2005
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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