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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

2 Samuel 11

 

 

Verses 1-27

SECOND SECTION

The beglooming of David’s royal rule by the sins of himself and his house, and the thence resulting misfortunes

2 Samuel 11-18

I. Internal shattering of David’s rule by the grievous sins of himself and his house

2 Samuel 11-14

1. David’s deep fall during the war against Rabbath-Ammon. 2 Samuel 11:1-27

1And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings[FN1] go forth to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But [And] David tarried still at [abode in] Jerusalem 2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed and walked upon the roof of the king’s house; and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful to look upon 3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 4And David sent messengers and took her, and she came in unto him, and he lay with her;[FN2] for [and] she was purified from her uncleanness, and she returned unto her house 5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

6And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah[FN3] to David 7 And when Uriah was come [And Uriah came] unto him,[FN4] [ins. and] David demanded [asked] of him [om. of him] how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered 8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed [went] out of the king’s house, 9and there followed him a mess[FN5] of meat [food] from the king. But [And] Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all[FN6] the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house 10 And when they had told [And they told] David, saying, Uriah went not down to his house, [ins. and] David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? [Art thou not come from a journey?] why then [om. then] didst thou not go down unto thine house? 11And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah abide in tents [booths]; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are encamped in the open fields [field]; shall I then [and shall I] go into mine house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? as thou livest[FN7] and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing 12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to-day also, and to-morrow I will let thee depart. So [And] Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day and the morrow 13 And when David had [And David] called him [ins. and] he did eat and drink before him, and he made him drunk; and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but [and] went not down to his house.

14And it came to pass in the morning that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah 15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set[FN8] ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten and die 16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were 17 And the men of the city went out and fought with Joab; and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; 18and Uriah the Hittite died also. Then [And] Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; 19And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of [all the things concerning] the war unto 20 the king, And[FN9] if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight [to fight]? Knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? 21Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth[FN10]? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

22So [And] the messenger went, and came and showed David all that Joab had sent him for 23 And the messenger said unto David, Surely [om. surely] the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even [om. even] unto the entering [doorway] of the gate 24 And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead [died], 25and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Then [And] David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another; make thy battle more [om. more] strong 26 against the city and overthrow it. And encourage thou him. And when [om. when] the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, [ins. and] she 27 mourned for her husband. And when [om. when] the mourning was past [over], [ins. and] David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But [And] the thing that David had done displeased the Lord [Jehovah].

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

[Our text, as the harder, is to be preferred; Chron. has introduced a natural explanation.—Tr.] And they besieged Rabbah = “Rabbath of the children of Ammon,”—that Isaiah, the great city of the Ammonites. See Joshua 13:25; Deuteronomy 3:11; the present ruins of Rabbat-Amman on the Nahr-Amman (the upper Jabbok), perfectly desert and uninhabited. Polybius: Rabbathamana. But David remained in Jerusalem [the impending war with the Ammonites alone not being of sufficient importance to require his presence—Tr.]—explanatory transition to the episode of David’s adultery.

2 Samuel 11:2-5. David’s adultery with Bathsheba.—This section and the following one are wanting in Chronicles. Towards the evening [Heb.: in the evening—Tr.]—when the noon-rest was over, and the cooler part of the day had come. [In later times the evening (עֶרֶב) began at three o’clock in the afternoon; it was the time when it was getting darker, when the sun was declining, and after sunset till dark.—Tr.] David was walking (for pleasure) on the roof of the king’s house, which was built on the edge of Mount Zion, so that one could thence look immediately down into the courts of the Lower City, where Uriah’s house was,[FN12] comp. 2 Samuel 11:8. The woman that David saw was in the act of bathing (the Heb. uses the participle) in the uncovered court of her house, where, in accordance with general Eastern custom, there was a well. [Or, in her chamber, the casements being open (Patrick). In either case, the place was private, visible only from a neighboring roof; and in the East people refrain from looking down from a roof into neighbors’ courts (Philippson); so that it is on this ground an unfounded suggestion that Bathsheba was purposely bathing in an exposed place in order to attract the king’s gaze.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:3. Inflamed with sensual desire, David makes inquiry about the woman whose beauty had attracted him. “And one said (Vulg.: nuntiatum ei est), Is it not, etc.?” That Isaiah, “It Isaiah, etc.” (the negative question is often used in lively discourse). This form of expression supposes that the object or person mentioned was somehow already otherwise known.—Instead of “Bathsheba, daughter of Eliam,” 1 Chronicles 3:5 has “Bathsheba, daughter of Ammiel.” The form Bathsheba (= “daughter of the oath,” not “daughter of Sheba”) Isaiah, according to 1 Kings 1:11; 1 Kings 1:15 and other places, to be regarded as the usual, and so as the original and correct, one. The difficulty of explaining it makes it impossible to adduce the meaning in favor of the originality and correctness of the form Bathshua (Thenius), which may easily have come from the other by a copyist’s change of a single letter (ב into ו). According to Ewald (§ 273 d), Eliam and Ammiel are different forms of the same name by an arbitrary inversion of the component parts[FN13]. [From 2 Samuel 23:34, where Eliam is called the son of Ahithophel, it is supposed by some that Bathsheba was the grand-daughter of Ahithophel, and that this explains the latter’s adherence to Absalom. So Jerome, Chandler, p407, Note, and Blunt, Undesigned Coincidences, p 143 sq. (Am. ed.). The supposition seems not improbable.—Tr.] Uriah was a Hittite. He belonged ( 2 Samuel 23:39) to David’s Gibborim [Heroes]. The Hittites already in Palestine in Abraham’s time ( Genesis 15:20) dwelt near Hebron ( Genesis 23:7 sqq.), afterwards near Bethel ( Judges 1:24 sqq.); Solomon reduced the remnant of them to servitude ( 1 Kings 9:20).

2 Samuel 11:4. Short but very vivid narrative of the sinful deed committed by David in spite of his learning that Bathsheba was a married woman. That David used force or artifice to get possession of the “innocent” woman (Mich.) is not indicated in the expression: “and he took her.” The narrative leads us to infer that Bathsheba came and submitted herself to David without opposition. This undoubtedly proves her participation in the guilt, though we are not to assume that her bathing there was “purposed,” in order to be seen (Thenius). She was moved doubtless by vanity and ambition in not venturing to refuse the demand of David the king. Her purification (which was according to the Law, Leviticus 15:18) was performed while she was yet in the king’s palace. [Eng. A. V, Philippson and others not so well make the purification precede her coming to the palace, putting a full stop after the word “uncleanness.”—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:5. Adultery was, according to Leviticus 20:10, punishable with death. Her message to David had in view the avoidance of the consequences of this sin (Keil).

2 Samuel 11:6-13. David’s efforts to conceal the adultery frustrated by Uriah.

2 Samuel 11:6. There is no evidence that Uriah was the armor-bearer of Joab (Josephus). He had a command in the army, as is clear from what follows, especially from the questions in 2 Samuel 11:7, which could be answered only by one whose position gave him a wide and exact knowledge of the condition of the war. David brought him to Jerusalem in order that, as Bathsheba’s husband, he might hereafter pass for the father of the child begotten in adultery. The questions addressed to him were intended to conceal from him as far as possible the purpose for which he was called, and to make the impression that he was summoned to render a military report. Washing the feet is the symbol at the same time of rest and refreshment. After David has dismissed him to his home, he sends him literally “something taken up,” what the man of rank sets before his guest from his own table ( Genesis 43:34), and then any present ( Amos 5:11; Esther 2:18). Here it was probably a dish of honor, which Uriah was to enjoy at home.

2 Samuel 11:9. Uriah, however, did not act according to David’s will and expectation, but remained in the king’s palace “at or in the door,” and spent the night there, in the guard-room ( 1 Kings 14:27-28), with the royal court-officials or the body-guard. It is possible that he did this merely out of zeal of service (comp. 2 Samuel 11:11); but also his suspicions may have been already aroused, and he may have heard something of the affair with Bathsheba.

2 Samuel 11:10 sq. [Perhaps David had sent to find out whether Uriah went home, or the servants that carried the present may have informed him.—Tr.] There is a certain tone of displeasure in David’s words already, though his question was a natural one, since Uriah’s conduct (as indicated in the question) must have been strange. Uriah’s answer [ 2 Samuel 11:11] is an explanation and justification of his not going home, together with a solemn asseveration; whereby he conceals his real ground of action, his unwillingness to meet the king’s wish. According to his statement, the Ark had been carried along into the field,[FN14]—for the war was a war of the Lord. When it, the sign of God’s presence, and all Israel, God’s host, were in tents, and Joab and the king’s officers were lying on the bare ground, how could he take his pleasure in his house? By thy life and by the life of thy soul is not a tautology, but a strengthening of the oath by repetition of the thought, the expression combining the general and the special. [See the text examined in “Text. and Gram.” The phrase “Israel and Judah” probably indicates an authorship for our Book after the division of the kingdom; yet not certainly, since there was foundation for the distinction of the two parts in the fact that Judah alone at first adhered to David. See Erdmann’s Introduction, § 6.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:12 sqq. This attempt failing, David tries to gain his end by keeping Uriah a day longer. He invited him to his table, and made him drunk, in order thus more certainly to secure his passing the following night with his wife. That night, however, Uriah again slept at the palace-door. A factual irony! David sees his plan wholly frustrated, and is now driven by his sin-entangled, sin-darkened heart to add murder to adultery. [A chronological difficulty is made here unnecessarily by some critics: it is said that the invitation of 2 Samuel 11:13 was given on the “morrow,” and this last word is joined to 2 Samuel 11:13 so as to read: “Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day. And on the morrow David called him,” etc. In that case Uriah did not depart on the morrow, as David promised ( 2 Samuel 11:12), since he slept in Jerusalem that night ( 2 Samuel 11:13), but the day after the morrow ( 2 Samuel 11:14). The difficulty is removed by supposing (as is quite possible) the invitation of 2 Samuel 11:13 to have been given on the “that day” of 2 Samuel 11:12; then the “morrow” of 2 Samuel 11:12 will be identical with the “morning” of 2 Samuel 11:14. The “calling” in 2 Samuel 11:13 does not necessarily require a more definite statement of time than is suggested in 2 Samuel 11:12.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:14-27. The letter concerning Uriah. Uriah’s death. Bathsheba David’s wife.

2 Samuel 11:14 sqq. Uriah himself must bear the letter that decrees his death. A new artifice of David’s that makes murder its minister. Uriah was to be placed in the hottest, most dangerous part of the battle, where a retreat would not be strange, and Hebrews, David well knew, as a brave soldier (one of the Gibborim or Heroes) would not so easily retreat. No reason is assigned [in the letter] for this command, which Joab could not misunderstand. He had simply to carry out the royal instructions, and so he did ( 2 Samuel 11:16 sqq.). And it came to pass when Joab watched the city (such is the literal rendering of the Heb. שְמוֹר). “We must understand by this a procedure different from the usual siege, a nearer approach, which challenged the warriors in the city to a sally” (Bunsen) [comp. Judges 1:24, where the participle of the same Hebrew verb is rendered “spies” in Eng. A. V, properly “the observing (i. e., besieging) force.”—Tr.]. Joab knew the place where the enemy’s best warriors would fight in the sally. There he put Uriah, whose bravery he knew, without needing to say to the soldiers: “leave him in the lurch” (Michaelis, Bunsen), since he could foresee that this would happen from the dangerousness of the post. In becoming the instrument of David’s murderous artifice, Joab needed not to know the ground of the order. As obedient servant of the king he carried it out the more unhesitatingly, inasmuch as it was an order of the commander of the army in relation to a soldier, who might have committed some grave offence against him, and whose seemingly accidental death might be desired by him for special reasons.

[Bible Commentary here remarks that “this reference to Judges 9:53 indicates the existence in David’s time of the national annals of that period in an accessible form, and the king’s habit of reading or having read to him the history of his country.” But Joab’s reference to Abimelech shows merely that the facts were known (possibly by tradition), not certainly that national annals existed (though it is not improbable that there were written accounts of such events). It is hardly probable that our Book of Judges existed at this time.—Tr.]—Say, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.—This the messenger was in any case to say last, as an appendix to his report, “as if Uriah, of his own accord, or even against Joab’s will, had pressed forward with his men, and so was chargeable with his own death and that of the others that had fallen” (Keil). Joab is evidently concerned to conceal the wicked deed from the messenger, and at the same time to let David know that it is accomplished.

2 Samuel 11:22 sq. David’s reception of the messenger.—The message is delivered exactly in accordance with Joab’s instructions[FN16].Text Between 2 Samuel 11:22-23 the Sept. has an insertion [Sept. reads: and David’s anger was kindled against Joab, and he said to the messenger, Why did ye approach to the city, etc., inserting nearly through 2 Samuel 11:21.—Tr.] This Thenius adopts on the ground that neither David’s presumed displeasure, nor any expression of it on the report of the messenger is mentioned. But this is unnecessary. Either the “kindling” of David’s anger, supposed possible by Joab, did not take place—or, if it did, there was no need to relate it at length; it was taken for granted, and the narration gives only the words of the messenger in reply to David’s comment on the rash affair, in order to explain and justify it. [The text here is discussed in “Text. and Gramm.” and the present Heb. reading defended—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:23.[FN17] The enemy supposed that with their superiority of numbers here they could make a successful sally. This sally led to a hot fight, wherein the Israelites pressed near to the wall within shot of the archers, and thus many were killed. The messenger therefore reports a sally of the besieged, which occasioned this dangerous approach to the wall.[FN18]

2 Samuel 11:25. David’s answer Isaiah, as it were, an extenuation of the matter, and of such nature that the messenger cannot suppose a reference to any thing more than this bloody military affair. Let not this thing be evil in thy eyes; so and so devours the sword.[FN19]—David’s words seemingly express the quiet and equanimity of a commander who does not permit himself to be disturbed by such bad news. Thus he conceals his excitement over the success of his plot. He orders the siege of Rabbah to be pressed and the city to be destroyed. The messenger is dismissed with this answer to Joab, with the further instruction: strengthen him, encourage him. Neither the isolated position of these words, nor David’s encouraging the field-commander by a messenger, makes this expression a strange one (Thenius); for we need not suppose the “messenger” so far below “his general” in rank as to make such an exhortation in the king’s message necessarily unbecoming. The “messenger” was certainly not a common soldier, but doubtless a high officer who, as his words show, had knowledge of the whole conduct of the war before Rabbah. The Sept, Syriac and Arabic translate: get possession of it, namely, the city, comp. 1 Kings 16:22. These words would then form the conclusion of the message. [Comp. also Jeremiah 20:7. But this sense of the verb cannot be established from the biblical usage. It means to press on one ( Jeremiah 20:7), to prevail against (of persons, 1 Kings 16:22), but apparently not to conquer a city. Another objection to this rendering is that it would introduce an anti-climax: “destroy it and prevail against it.” On the other hand, the signification encourage is well established, Deuteronomy 1:38; Isaiah 41:7.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:26-27. Bathsheba David’s wife. The usual mourning lasted seven days (comp. 1 Samuel 31:13). Bathsheba was probably taken to wife by David immediately after the expiration of this time of mourning. If the mourning-time of widows was no longer than the ordinary mourning, then the interval between the adultery and the marriage was doubtless short enough to allow Bathsheba’s child (begotten in that adultery) to appear to be begotten in wedlock. The concluding words of the narration: But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord[FN20] contain the moral decision from the theocratical point of view, and are, as it were, the superscription to the following history of the divine judgments that fell on David and his house on account of this sin.

[For mention of other times of mourning, see Genesis 50:10; Deuteronomy 34:8; 1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 14:2. In particular cases special feeling would lead to an extension of the ordinary mourning-period.—Tr.]

HISTORICAL AND THEOLOGICAL

1. The history of David’s fall from the height of his communion with God as “a man after God’s own heart” into the deepest depth of sin and crime contains a serious and warning lesson concerning the power of sin even over those who are under the guidance of God’s will and word, when they give place in a single point of their inner life to the yet unoccupied sinful lust therein hidden, and fail in faithfulness in the struggle against their own evil hearts, and in self-denial. [It is obvious, and yet often overlooked by assailants of the morality of the Old Testament, that the history, in chronicling this sin of the “man after God’s own heart,” does not endorse, but distinctly condemns it. It admits that such a man could commit such a sin, and afterwards enjoy the favor of God; but only on the condition that the real bent of his soul, turned aside for a while under temptation, was towards God and holiness.—Tr.]

2. The inscrutable development of many individual sins from one hidden root proceeds according to an inner natural law: the human will, by detaching the heart from the living God, surrenders itself to the power of sinful lust, and the latter through the removal of the moral forces that had hitherto held it down and controlled the outer and inner life, gets unrestrained dominion. When the life is at the highest point of communion with the living God, pride slips in and leads to an all the deeper fall. The enjoyment of experiences of divine favor and of the fruits of struggle for the kingdom of God, leaves the door of the heart open to fleshly security. Temporary rest from work and fight, though not in itself insidious, leads to moral indolence, to spiritual sloth, to carelessness and unfaithfulness in office and calling. Wicked lust, excited from without at a hidden point of the inner life, no longer finds limitations in thoughts on the solemn divine command and prohibition: Thou shalt and thou shalt not, in the warning and exhorting voice of conscience, in the restraints and hindrances of divine providence, in faithful performance of duty and labor in one’s calling, whereby the kindled fire might again be smothered. The “evil conscience” that follows the satisfaction of evil lust leads on the beaten, slippery and precipitous path to lying and deception, in order to conceal the sin from men. From the soil of the heart poisoned by one sin, from perversion from God of feeling and will in one hidden point of the heart, comes one sin after another; and not only does the fruitfulness and frightfulness of sinful lust show itself in its production of an unbroken series of wicked thoughts and desires, but “the curse of the evil deed” is made complete in that “it must continue to produce evil.”

3. It is a sign of the irresistible power of conscience, and an involuntary self-condemnation, when a man seeks in every way to conceal his sin from men, but to extenuate and justify it before God; and on the other hand unwillingness to make confession has its deepest ground in the pride of the human heart, which increases in proportion as the man becomes involved in sin, and the evil in him develops itself from the slightest beginnings into a power that exercises dominion over the whole inner life. “Whosoever commits sin, he is the servant of sin” [ John 8:14, comp. Romans 6.—Tr.]

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

[Hall: With what unwillingness, with what fear, do I still look upon the miscarriage of the man after God’s own heart! O holy prophet, who can promise himself always to stand, when he sees thee fallen, and maimed with the fall! Let profane eyes behold thee contentedly, as a pattern, as an excuse for sinning; I shall never look upon thee but through tears, as a woful spectacle of human infirmity.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:1. Schlier: If God has granted us some special good fortune we will never be puffed up, but will rather become little and lowly, and the higher we rise the more will we humble ourselves. An humble man always finds grace and blessing, but pride always goes before a fall.

2 Samuel 11:2. Disselhoff: Idle hours bring forth idle thoughts, and idle thoughts are nothing but dry kindling wood, that waits only for a spark to be suddenly ablaze.—All have had the painful experience that our sins often have their roots in indolence and unfaithfulness in our calling. As long as we walk and work in our office, we are encompassed with a wall. As soon as we fall out of our office, we fall away from our fortunes and become a prey to the enemy.—[Hall: There can be no safety to that soul, where the senses are let loose. He can never keep his covenant with God, that makes not a covenant with his eyes. It is an idle presumption to think the outward man may be free, while the inward is safe.—Taylor: Here, then, in the moral weakness which constant prosperity had created, in the opportunity which idleness afforded to temptation, and in the blunted sensibility which polygamy had superinduced, we see how David was so easily overcome.—Chrysostom: Youth is sometimes wiser and better than age. David the youth smote down the barbarian, and showed all philosophy (wisdom and piety), and when he grew older, then he sinned.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:2-4. Schlier: Let us watch and pray; we may well need it. What shall become of us if a feeling of security arises in us? How shall we get through with a pure body and heart if we are filled with self-conceit? Let us also carefully avoid idleness; labor is a medicine against sin.—J. Lange: One sin brings forth another, and one act of unfaithfulness to conscience draws another after it. James 1:15.—Starke: Loneliness affords the most convenient time for the temptations of Satan ( Matthew 4:1 sq.).—S. Schmid: The quieter and securer men are in things bodily, the more perilous is it for them in things spiritual.—Disselhoff: If the not fully slain ungodly impulses in the man after God’s own heart grew up so quickly and to such strength when he deviated a finger’s breadth from the way of the Lord—and the Lord allowed him to go—how will it be with the untamed lusts in our hearts? If such a story does not give one a view of the unfathomable depths of sin and of its power, he will never learn what sin is.—Starke: Rulers sin in leading their subjects into sin, for they are not lords over God’s command ( Acts 5:29; Matthew 22:21).—[Hall: Had Bathsheba been mindful of her matrimonial fidelity, perhaps David had been soon checked in his inordinate desire; her facility furthers the sin. It is no excuse to say, I was tempted, though by the great, though by the holy and learned. Let the mover be never so glorious, if he stir us to evil, he must be entertained with defiance.—Tr.]—Schlier: Human customs are carefully observed, and God’s command is trodden under foot. People attend to outward forms and usages, and live on consoled thereby in their sins.—[Henry: The aggravations of David’s sin. (1) His age, at least fifty years. (2) He had many wives and concubines—this is insisted on, 2 Samuel 12:8. (3) Uriah was one of his “worthies,” a man of honor and virtue, now jeoparding life in his service. (4) David was a king, whom God had intrusted with the sword of justice, and he made himself a pattern, when he should have been a terror, to evil-doers.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 11:6-9. Cramer: When sin has once lodged itself it becomes fruitful, and bears other sins ( James 2:10).—[Hall: It is rare and hard to commit a single sin.—Tr.]—Seb. Schmid: The most cunning devices are often, through the special Providence of God, made a laughing-stock by the simplest simplicity.—Osiander: Although the ungodly seek out all manner of cunning inventions to cloak their sins, yet it does not succeed; for God knows how, in a wonderful manner, to bring even secret sins to light ( Matthew 10:26).—Schlier: When we have sinned, how often we trouble ourselves to hide our sins from the world, but how little do we think of God’s eye and God’s judgment! How contented we are if only we stand free from censure before men, and can throw the blame upon others!

2 Samuel 11:14 sqq. Osiander: So great is the devil’s cunning and wickedness that when once he has brought a man to fall, he drives him on to more and greater sins.—Disselhoff: As the poisonous seed, laid in the bosom of the earth, comes up and brings fruit a hundredfold, as one root branches into a hundred new ones, spreads with rapid growth through the whole field and sends up everywhere the wild shoots, not otherwise is it with the sin which a man hides in his heart. Inwardly it strikes its roots deeper, broader, mightier; outwardly it brings superabundant fruit. It blinds the eyes, stops the ears, petrifies the feeling, deadens the conscience. It bursts all tender bonds, it dulls and benumbs to all else that one held dear and holy on earth. Holy fear vanishes, the reins are cast off from the heart, and mean, hateful, foul traits of character, which one had reckoned impossible, reveal themselves in mournful nakedness.—Schlier: Sin takes a man captive, so that from one he hurls himself into another, so that sin becomes wantonness and crime, yea, even abomination. He who consents to sin, knows where the corruption begins, but who will undertake to say where it ends? And what is most fearful is the blindness into which sin casts the Prayer of Manasseh, so that his eyes are holden, that he no longer knows what he is doing, no longer sees through the simplest things that were once known and familiar to him, but with eyes open rushes into ruin.

[Taylor: It may be asked, how can you account for such enormous iniquity in such a man as we have seen that David was?. … .There are some men in whom everything is on a large scale. When their good nature is uppermost, they overtop all others in holiness; but if, unhappily, they should be thrown off their guard, and the old man should gain the mastery, some dreadful wickedness may be expected. This is all the more likely to be the case if the quality of intensity be added to their greatness; for a man with such a temperament is never anything by half. … .A man of David’s nature ought to be more peculiarly on his guard than other men: The express train, dashing along at furious speed, will do more mischief if it runs off than the slow-going horse-car in the city streets. Every one understands that; but every one demands, in consequence, that the driver of the one shall be proportionately more watchful than that of the other. With such a nature as David had, and knew that he had, he ought to have been supremely on his guard, while again the privileges which he had received from God rendered it both easy and practicable for him to be vigilant.—Kingsley: Such terrible crimes are not committed by men in a right state of mind. Nemo repente fuit turpissimus. He who commits adultery, treachery and murder, must have been long tampering, at least in heart, with all these. Had not David been playing upon the edge of sin, into sin he would not have fallen. He may have been quite unconscious of bad habits of mind; but they must have been there, growing in secret. The tyrannous self-will, which is too often developed by long success and command; the unscrupulous craft, which is too often developed by long adversity, and the necessity of sustaining one’s self in a difficult position,. … and that fearful moral weakness which comes from long indulgence of the passions. … On David’s own theory, that he was an utterly weak person without the help of God, the act is perfectly like David. It is what David would natuturally do, when he had left hold of God. Had he left hold of God in the wilderness, he would have become a mere robber-chieftain. he does leave hold of God in his palace on Zion, and he becomes a mere Eastern despot.—Tr.]

J. Disselhoff: The fall of the man after God’s own heart: 1) What brought the beloved of God to so deep a fall? 2) He who once gives himself up to sin becomes its slave, and is driven ever deeper and deeper by its might.

[Hall: O God, Thou hadst never suffered so dear a favorite of Thine to fall so fearfully, if Thou hadst not meant to make him a universal example to mankind, of not presuming, of not despairing. How can we presume of not sinning, or despair for sinning, when we find so great a saint thus fallen, thus risen!—Tr.]

[ 2 Samuel 11:1. This entire campaign, with the siege of a capital and slaying of thousands, interests us now only as the occasion of David’s series of great sins. And in truth the striking excellencies or faults of one great and good Prayer of Manasseh, when permanently recorded and widely read, become more important to the welfare of the human race than the overthrow of cities or kingdoms.

2 Samuel 11:2 sqq. What a series! A lascivious look ( Matthew 5:28), actual adultery, pitiful and then base attempts at concealment, and finally a treacherous murder. How little David imagined, in the moment of lustful looking, that he was taking the first step in such a course of frightful wickedness!

2 Samuel 11:14-15. Here is the darkest moment of this terrible story. Few scenes in all the sad history of our race are so disgraceful to human nature and so utterly disheartening to the beholder, as when David, the Psalmist and King, with such a history, such experiences, such promises, sat writing this letter.

2 Samuel 11:16. It is often hard to find helpers to virtue, but always easy to find helpers in vice and crime.

2 Samuel 11:17. Uriah the Hittite—immortal by his wrongs!

2 Samuel 11:25. Alas! often do men hide wicked designs, and satisfaction at successful plotting, under the common-places of resignation to the inevitable, of submission to the conditions of existence.

2 Samuel 11:27. So he seemed to have compassed his ends and effectually concealed his crime by a still baser crime. But his conscience slept uneasily its poisoned sleep, and Jehovah was displeased!—Tr.]

[ 2 Samuel 11:2-27. David’s frightful fall. 1) The inspired writings (unlike most biographies) narrate without reserve the faults of good men2) This story serves as an encouragement to sin, or as a solemn warning against sin, according to the spirit of him that reads it. We should discipline ourselves to take a right and wholesome view of other men’s faults3) One sin leads to another; and attempts at concealment often involve one in greater difficulty, and tempt him to additional wrong. When a good man has been betrayed into crime, let him humbly confess it, and cut short the series4) If David fell, let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall ( 1 Corinthians 10:12). Chrysostom: The narrow way has precipices on both sides. Let us walk it awake and watchful. For we are not more exact than David, who by a moment’s neglect was precipitated into the very gulf of sin.—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - 2 Samuel 11:1. So the Qeri (margin). Böttcher and Hitzig retain the Kethib “messengers,” the former understanding it of ambassadors, the latter of watchers to observe the new moon (comp. Jeremiah 31:6); but these views are not probable; it is not likely that a time of the year would be defined by an act that was performed twelve times a year, and it is unlikely that ambassadors were sent out at a special time of the year. Though the Kethibh (מלאכים) may be the harder, and so far the preferable form, general considerations strongly favor the Qeri.—Böttcher’s theory is that there existed two recensions of the history, one made by priests (which he marks PR.), the other by laymen (LR), of which the former is here followed by “Chronicles” (making Joab act independently, and softening the “Ammonites” into the “land of Ammon”), and the latter by “Samuel” (emphasizing the king’s activity, etc.). Rather we should say that the author of “Samuel” selected his material from a prophetical point of view, the author of “Chronicles” from a Levitical point of view.—Tr.]

FN#2 - 2 Samuel 11:4. Wellhausen rightly observes that the Athnach should be under עִמָּה, and the purification will then be subsequent and not previous (as in the following “for” of Eng. A. V.) to the time of וַיִּשְׁכַּב.—Tr.]

FN#3 - 2 Samuel 11:6. After “Uriah” one MS. of De Rossi, Syr, Chald, insert “the Hittite,” an instance of the tendency to assimilation.—The omission of the לֵאמרֹ (“saying”) makes no difficulty here (so also in 2 Samuel 19:15); it is easily supplied in thought, and is inserted by Sept, Vulg, Arab. (as in Eng. A. V.). Böttcher thinks that the omission belongs to the curt priest-text, the insertion to the lay-text.—Tr.]

FN#4 - 2 Samuel 11:7. Some MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi, and Syr, Arab, Vulg, read “to David,” an illustration of the disposition of copyists and translators to make the text clearer by stating the person or thing explicitly rather than trust to the frequently indefinite Pronoun. In general, the preference is in such cases to be given to the less explicit.—Tr.]

FN#5 - 2 Samuel 11:8. “Or, a portion, gift,” literally “something lifted up” (Sept. ἄρσις). Vulg. and Chald. render food and meal, Syr. and Arab. gift. Some anonymous Greek VSS. (in Montfaucon’s Hex.) have a strange rendering: ὀπίσω ἀυτῶν παρεστηκότων τῶ βασιλεῖ “after those that stood by the king” (reading τῶν for ἀυτῶν), as if Uriah were preceded by royal officers, from whom David may have learned ( 2 Samuel 11:10) that Uriah did not go home. Schleusner suggests that they read מְשָׁרֵת (minister) instead of מַשְׂאֵת.—Tr.]

FN#6 - 2 Samuel 11:9. The omission of the word “all” in Sept. and Arab. (Vulg. has cum aliis servis) has simplicity in its favor; it would be natural to insert here a descriptive word.—Tr.]

FN#7 - 2 Samuel 11:11. The Heb. text is here supported by all the versions except Sept, which has: πῶς; ζὴ ψυχή σου, “how? as thy soul liveth,” that Isaiah, it read הֵיךְ “how?” (see Daniel 10:17) instead of חַיֶּךָ. On account of the seeming tautology of the Hebrews, Thenius and Böttcher adopt the reading of the Sept. (in which, however, the how? is intolerable, while Wellhausen would read חי יהוה “by the life of Jahveh,” or strike out the second clause: “by the life of thy soul.” But this double asseveration may easily be understood as the repetition of an excited soldier.—Tr.]

FN#8 - 2 Samuel 11:15. הָבוּ; Sept. ἐισάγαγε “bring in” = הָבֵא, but the Sing. here does not agree with the following Plu. שַׁבְתֶּם (so Wellhausen).—Tr.]

FN#9 - 2 Samuel 11:20. The Sept. repeats in 2 Samuel 11:22 the whole of the speech (with one or two verbal alterations) that Joab puts into David’s mouth in 2 Samuel 11:20-21. On the other hand the Heb. text says nothing of David’s anger, nor of any such speech, when the messenger reports to him ( 2 Samuel 11:23 sq.). Böttcher, therefore, rejecting the “monstrous repetition” of the Sept, holds that the speech in question belongs (with an introductory “and David was wroth with Joab”) at the end of 2 Samuel 11:22, that it was afterwards inserted after 2 Samuel 11:19, because it seemed necessary there, the Sept. translating from a text that contained the repetition, while the masoretic text dropped the second speech as cumbersome. So also (as to the form of the text) substantially Thenius, who omits 2 Samuel 11:21 as far as the second “wall.” The latter, however, thinks the alleged omission in the Heb. (at the end of 2 Samuel 11:22) to have been purposely made by the transcriber, in order to conceal his recognized error of insertion in 2 Samuel 11:21-22 : Wellh, on the contrary, holds that the omission was for brevity’s sake simply.—Joab’s speech, as it stands in the Hebrews, certainly shows a very lively anticipation of David’s view of the case; but Böttcher is wrong in saying that such anticipation is impossible, for Joab of course puts it only as a supposition, and Abimelech’s case would naturally occur to him. There is no need on this account merely to suppose that David actually got angry, or cited Abimelech’s history; Joab’s lively anticipation does not logically involve David’s conformity to it. But, if David did show anger, there is still no necessity for supposing that he mentioned Abimelech, and his objection to approaching the wall might easily have been taken for granted and omitted.—Then, it is after all more probable that the Sept. should make so natural an insertion than that the Heb. text should omit it. We, therefore, with Erdmann, retain the masoretic text.—Tr.]

FN#10 - 2 Samuel 11:21. Sept. Jerubbaal, the original form of the name; but probably Jerubbesheth (so Böttcher) is the correct text-reading here, this form having become common in the time of the author of our Book. The Sept-translator went back to the original form. This does not offer support to Böttcher’s hypothesis of the two recensions of our text (priestly and laic).—The Sept. also calls Jerubbaal the son of Ner, which Thenius thinks is for Zer, the last syllable of Abiezer (see Judges 6:11). It may, however, be worthy of notice that the Syriac has “Abimelech the son of Nedubbeel” (for Nerubbeel), substituting the Syr. n of the 3 sing-masc. Impf. for the Heb. Yod; and there may be some connection between this and the Sept-form.—Tr.]

FN#11 - Some interpret: “when the summer set in.” Abarbanel: “when the sun returned to the same point.” Perhaps the phrase is a general one: “when the year had rolled round, and the time came for kings to go forth.”—Tr.]

FN#12 - It is not necessary to suppose that David’s siesta and evening-walk show that he had become inert and luxurious. It was the habit of the times, and he seems to have begun his walk with no evil design.—Tr.]

FN#13 - That Isaiah, the names are composed of am = people, and el = God. Eliam = God of the people; Ammiel = people of God. For other views see the lexicons of Gesenius and Fürst.—Tr.]

FN#14 - Comp. 1 Samuel 4:4. The ark was taken along as an encouraging sign of the divine presence and favor—probably not to inquire of God (against Patrick and Bible Comm.). Such inquiry was made through the high-priest’s ephod. In Joshua 7:6 (the only case of inquiry at the ark mentioned) Joshua had a special divine Revelation, as Moses used to have. On 1 Samuel 14:18 see the discussion of the text in loco. On a rabbinical view that there were two arks, one containing the ephod, see Philippson in loco.—Tr.]

FN#15 - There written Jerubbaal. On the change of name see on 2 Samuel 2:8; 2 Samuel 9:6—and on the Sept. reading see “Text. and Gramm.” on this verse.—Tr.]

FN#16 - שָׁלַח with two Accus.; to send a person with a thing—commission him, 1 Kings 14:6; Isaiah 55:11.

FN#17 - Or = ὄτι, that, introducing substantive clause (as frequently in N. T.). Thenius unnecessarily objects to this כִּי as “referring to nothing.”—Tr.]

FN#18 - The א in יֹראוּ and מוֹראים [ 2 Samuel 11:24] is an Aramaic form.

FN#19 - The intrans. יֵרַע with the sign of the Acc. אֵת (as elsewhere the Pass. Verb is found with the Acc.) according to the sense, the active meaning coming forward against the intrans. and pass. Ew. § 277 d. [The אֵת here introduces the Acc. of general limitation.—Tr.] The sense is: Look not evilly on this thing. Comp. 1 Samuel 20:13; Joshua 22:17; Nehemiah 9:32. On בָּזֹה וְבָזֶה see Ew. § 105 b. The first time o is put for e, a. slight phonetic change easily occurring in such correlative phrases ( Judges 18:4; 1 Kings 14:5).

FN#20 -

[A. Clarke refers to the similar incident in Bellerophon’s life:

πόρεν δ ̓ ὅγε σήματα λυγρά,

Γράψας ἐν πίνακι πτυκτῷ θυμοφθόρα πολλά.

(Il. VI:168, 169).—Tr.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/2-samuel-11.html. 1857-84.

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