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.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived, and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”
So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing and how the people were doing and how the war was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your house?” Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field. Shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.” Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next. And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk. And in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house. – 2 Samuel 11:1-13 ESV
There is a saying found in the book of Proverbs that reads: “Stolen bread tastes sweet, but it turns to gravel in the mouth” (Proverbs 20:17 NLT). This little proverb is very applicable to the story found in chapter 11 of 2 Samuel, and what makes it even more interesting is that the book of Proverbs, in which it is found, was compiled by Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba. It’s a simple proverbs, but carries profound weight. What is forbidden often has a strong appeal to us and, when we get what we desire, it can provide a short-lived sense of gratification. But the proverb goes on to warn that the forbidden, once consumed, quickly loses its appeal and can have serious consequences. Stolen bread that turns to gravel in the mouth would not only leave a disappointingly bad taste in your mouth, but a face full of broken teeth as well.
The story of David and Bathsheba is probably one of the most well-known stories in the Bible. How would you like it if one of the worst sins you have ever committed was chronicles in a book for everyone to read? One of the things about the Bible is its brutal honesty. It gives us the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding men. It doesn’t attempt to paint a rosy picture about mankind, but goes out of its way to reveal the presence of sin in the lives of even the most faithful characters. All you have to do is look at the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Noah, Peter and a host of other biblical characters to realize that sin is an ever-present problem even for the most godly individuals. And David was no exception. As has been pointed out before, David had an inordinate love affair with women. His attraction to women was his Achilles Heel, his weak spot. He had already amassed for himself a collection of wives who had fathered him a number of children. And this had been in direct disobedience to the command of God. And it’s interesting to note that David’s growing collection of wives never seemed to scratch the itch he had. His lust was never satisfied. He never seemed to reach the point where enough was enough. He had more than enough wives to satisfy his sexual needs, yet there seemed to be in David a desire for the forbidden, an overwhelming drive for “stolen bread”. He wanted what he could not have.
In the case of Bathsheba, David was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. The passage makes it painfully clear that it was spring, “the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Samuel 11:1 ESV). But David had chosen to remain in Jerusalem while his troops went off the war. He was the warrior-king. It was his responsibility to lead his troops into battle. He was to be the protector of the kingdom. He had a God-appointed role to fulfill, but he had delegated it to Joab. And this was the first step in David feeding the monster within. David knew he had a problem. He was well aware of the lust that lurked within himself. And by staying home in Jerusalem, David set himself up for failure. He created the ideal opportunity in which to allow his lust to get the better of him. He was not doing what he was supposed to be doing. He was not where he was supposed to be. And Satan, the enemy, took advantage of the situation, knowing David’s weakness and casting the perfect bait to lure David into sin. The apostle James reminds us:
“…remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” – James 1:13-15 NLT
Full fish don’t usually take the bait. Well-fed fish are not as susceptible to the lure. And David’s lust for women had yet to be satisfied because he had a heart problem. He had an insatiable desire for women. And no amount of wives was going to satisfy what was, in actuality, a spiritual problem. By staying in Jerusalem and refusing to go to war, David set himself up for failure. He found himself with idle time and an overactive libido. And it just so happened that, as he woke in the afternoon from a nap, he went onto the roof of his palace and spied a woman bathing. And his desires enticed him and drug him away. He saw and he had to have. He lusted and he had to satisfy that lust. Even though he was clearly told that Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, who happened to be one of David’s warriors. She was married, but that little fact carried no weight with David. David’s lust led him to commit adultery. And before he could realize it, the sweetness of the stolen bread turned to gravel in his mouth. Bathsheba broke the news to David that she was pregnant. The text had pointed out that Bathsheba, having just finished the cleansing for her menstrual cycle as prescribed by the law, was ready to conceive. And she did.
This surprising bit of news threw David into overdrive. He immediately attempted to do damage control, trying to come up with a way to cover up his sin. He called Uriah home from the battle front. David naturally assumed that Uriah would make a beeline to his home, have sexual relations with his wife, and the problem would be solved. But what David didn’t take into account was Uriah’s dedication to the king and allegiance to his fellow soldiers. He wasn’t going to allow himself the pleasure of his wife’s company while his brothers were still at war. So he slept with the servants of the king. And even when David got Uriah drunk, this faithful servant refused to go home. What a contrast we see between Uriah’s behavior and that of David, the king. It’s interesting to note that Uriah was a Hittite, a non-Jew, yet he proved to more faithful than the man after God’s own heart. His response to David’s enticement to go home and be with his wife reveals a great deal about Uriah’s integrity.
“The Ark and the armies of Israel and Judah are living in tents, and Joab and my master’s men are camping in the open fields. How could I go home to wine and dine and sleep with my wife? I swear that I would never do such a thing.” – 2 Samuel 11:11 NLT
David’s attempt at a cover up was blowing up in his face. His little deception was falling apart right before his eyes. And David was growing desperate. He had committed adultery. Now he was attempting to cover it up. He was also trying to get another man to sin against his own conscience. All in an attempt to cover up his own sin. David had made the mistake of feeding the monster within and now he was being devoured by it. His life was being consumed by his own sin nature.
The apostle Paul gives us a less-than-attractive list of the “fruit” that come as a result of giving our sin nature free reign in our lives:
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these.– Galatians 5:19-21 NLT
It all had begun with David not being where he was supposed to be. Staying home in Jerusalem wasn’t necessarily a sin, but it proved to be unwise. Had David gone off to war like he was supposed to do, he wouldn’t have been on his rooftop that day. He wouldn’t have seen Bathsheba bathing. He wouldn’t have lusted. He wouldn’t have committed adultery. And there would have been no sin to cover up. Take a look again at the passage in James: “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” Do you see the pattern?
Temptation – desires – enticement – sinful action – increased sin – death
The key to defeating the monster within is to starve it. Paul reminds us, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves” (Galatians 5:16 NLT). As long as David fed the monster within, he was going to find himself devoured from within. But if he had chosen to listen to the Spirit of God, and do what God had called him to do, this whole affair could have been avoided.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.