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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2 Samuel 11

 

 

Verse 1

SIEGE OF RABBAH, 2 Samuel 11:1.

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1. The time when kings go forth — That season of the year when it was customary for kings or generals to enter upon their military campaigns. This was probably in April, at the close of the cold, rainy season. So Josephus. It is also likely that the intense heat of the summer sometimes caused a temporary cessation of military operations. But Harmer, in his Observations, on this passage shows that the Crusaders carried on war every month in the year.

All Israel — The entire military force, which with its commander had returned to Jerusalem at the close of the previous campaign against Ammon. 2 Samuel 10:14.

Destroyed the children of Ammon — The text of 1 Chronicles 20:1, reads, wasted the country of the children of Ammon, and this was probably the original reading here; for if Joab had destroyed the Ammonites why should he besiege their city?

This siege continued long, and its result is given, 2 Samuel 12:26-30.

Rabbah was the great city of the Ammonites, situated twenty-two miles east of the Jordan, and fourteen northeast of Heshbon. It lies near the head waters of the ancient Jabbok, (wady Zerka,) or one of its branches, at a point where the narrow valley opens out into a small plain surrounded on every side by hills. Through the valley runs a copious stream, that receives occasional affluents in its course, and gave to the lower part of ancient Rabbah the name of “City of Waters.” 2 Samuel 12:27. Its modern name is Amman, but the principal ruins, which are very extensive and magnificent, consisting of prostrate marbles and ruined churches, temples, and theatre, are not properly the relics of the ancient capital of Ammon, but of the later Graeco-Roman city Philadelphia, which grew up upon its ruins. See Map, page 234, and cut on page 503.


Verse 2

2. In an evening-tide — That is, towards evening, after having taken his mid-day rest.

Upon the roof — “The roofs of these houses afford such a delightful promenade, and the prospect is so beautiful, that I can scarcely keep away from them day or night. During a large part of the year the roof is the most agreeable place about the establishment, especially in the morning and evening.” — Thomson.


Verses 2-5

DAVID’S ADULTERY, 2 Samuel 11:2-5.

The foul crime here recorded was the turning point in David’s life and reign. He had now reached the acme of his power and glory; the borders of his kingdom had become greatly enlarged, and most of the surrounding nations were tributary to his throne. The Ammonites yet hold out, but we shall soon see them utterly subdued. The coming wars and troubles of David are to be among his own people and in his own house, and these a punishment of sin. When we contemplate the splendid character of David, and the glory of his many triumphs; when we survey at a glance his exaltation from a humble shepherd-boy to the widely-honoured king of Jehovah’s people, and think of his many unrivalled excellences of mind and heart, we are ready to wish that his life had closed before these crimes of adultery and blood-guiltiness had polluted his mighty soul and darkened his life-history with an ineffaceable stain. It was probably this feeling that led the writer of Chronicles to pass over this whole section of David’s history, as if he would fain leave it in eternal silence.


Verse 3

3. A woman washing herself — For the sake of healthfulness and refreshment after the heats of a summer day. But her washing in such an exposed place was imprudent and immodest, and has justly subjected her to the charge of a desire to be seen.


Verse 4

4. David sent messengers — So the king’s great sin could not have been altogether secret. These messengers knew of it, and very possibly rumours of it reached Uriah’s ears.

She came in unto him — She seems to have yielded herself willingly to his desires.

For she was purified — The word for is here unauthorized and incorrect. The margin gives the proper rendering: And she purified herself from her uncleanness, and returned, etc. This purification was that required by the law after carnal intercourse. Leviticus 15:18. Bathsheba was like many who are scrupulously careful about ceremonies, while they plunge without reserve into darkest crimes.


Verse 5

5. Sent and told David — The law required the death of both parties in the crime of adultery, (Leviticus 20:10,) and so, says Josephus, she admonished the king that he should contrive some way of concealing their guilt. This he at once set himself to do.


Verse 8

DAVID’S ARTIFICES TO CONCEAL HIS SIN AND TO KILL URIAH, 2 Samuel 11:6-27.

8. Go down to thy house and wash thy feet — David’s ostensible object in sending for Uriah was to learn how the war prospered; and, being apparently pleased with his report of affairs, he directs him to go home and rest himself before returning to the scenes of war. Washing the feet was customary after a journey and before retiring to sleep. Genesis 18:4; Genesis 19:2. But the king’s real design was to have Uriah pass the night with his wife, that the child already conceived by her might not be regarded as the fruit of their adultery.

There followed him a mess — As a royal present to convince him of the king’s affection for him. Very likely David feared that his sin was known or suspected, for the guilty soul is ever clouded with such suspicions.


Verse 11

11. The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents — That is, the houses like those occupied by David and Uriah, and other chief men, were comparatively few; most of the families of Israel yet dwelt in tents, and even the ark of the covenant yet dwelt in curtains. 2 Samuel 7:2. Most interpreters have erroneously supposed that the Israel and Judah here referred to were the warriors now besieging Rabbah, and that the ark had also been taken with them to battle. But the next sentence shows that the army besieging Rabbah were not in tents at all, but in the open fields. Uriah, in the spirit of an enthusiastic soldier, refuses at that period of the war to subject himself to the delights and comforts of his superior home, lest he become effeminate, and lose interest in the struggles for national honour. It is probable that Uriah had, upon his arrival at Jerusalem, received some hint or information of what had been going on in his absence, for David’s sin had not been altogether secret. See note on, 2 Samuel 11:4.


Verse 12

12. Tarry here to-day, also, and to-morrow — He hopes yet to contrive some artifice to overreach him.


Verse 13

13. He made him drunk — Hoping thus to unman him, that he might forget or neglect his resolution to stay away from home.

But went not down to his house — “The providence of God is here manifest,” says Bishop Hervey, “defeating David’s base contrivances, and bringing his sin to the open light. It is no less clear how mercy was at the bottom of this severity, which issued in David’s deep repentance, and has also given to the Church one of the most solemn and searching warnings as to the evil of sin which is contained in the whole Bible.”


Verse 14

14. David wrote a letter — Having been frustrated in his efforts thus far, his fallen soul conceives another dark and deadly crime. He knows that if Uriah lives, his own sin and Bathsheba’s unfaithfulness and disgrace will be blazed before the nation’s eye. He therefore deliberately seeks, and successfully accomplishes, Uriah’s death. Grotius and others compare Uriah with Bellerophon, of classic fable.


Verse 15

15. That he may be smitten — By a similar device Saul had once sought the bringing about of David’s death. Comp. 1 Samuel 18:17; 1 Samuel 18:25.


Verse 16

16. Observed the city — Laid out his plans for besieging it.


Verse 17

17. There fell some of the people of… David — More, probably, than was designed or desired, so that David’s army sustained considerable loss.


Verse 20

20. If… the king’s wrath arise — Joab had apprehensions that the king might regard the loss as greater than necessary.


Verse 21

21. Son of Jerubbesheth — Rather, of Jerubbaal. See Judges 9.


Verse 24

24. Uriah the Hittite is dead also — The messenger did not wait, as Joab directed, to announce Uriah’s death separately. His message was, like several other messages we have noticed, (2 Samuel 1:4; 1 Samuel 4:17,) climacteric, and Uriah’s death, as the most signal loss, is announced last. This messenger must have understood, however, that Uriah’s death was not afflictive to the king.


Verse 25

25. Thus shalt thou say unto Joab — This message was dictated by an abominable hypocrisy. He would thus affect sorrow for the fall of the noble Uriah, and seek to cover his own guilt in the matter.


Verse 26

26. She mourned for her husband — Probably seven days. Compare Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel 31:13. David would seek to take her to wife as long as possible before childbirth, in order to hide his sin, and there appears to have been no reluctance on her part. “The whole of her conduct indicates that she observed the form without feeling the power of sorrow. She lost a captain and got a king for her spouse; and therefore ‘she shed reluctant tears, and forced out groans from a joyful heart.’” — Clarke.


Verse 27

27. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord — “To our mind there is nothing in all that man has written so terribly emphatic as the quiet sentence which the historian inserts at the end of his account of these sad transactions.” — Kitto.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-11.html. 1874-1909.

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