The Sin of the Second Look
2 Samuel 11:1-5
Dr. Jim Denison
There’s an old fable about a frog preparing to swim across a river. A venomous snake slithered up to him and asked for a ride across the swollen stream. The frog said, “If I pick you up, you will bite me and I will die.” The snake promised he would do no such thing, that all he wanted was a way across the river.
Against his better judgment, the frog picked up the snake, placed him on his back, and began to swim across the river. Just s they reached the opposite shore, the snake bit the frog on his neck. The frog gasped, “Why did you bite me?” The snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”
Last week we watched David’s greatest triumph. This week, we’ll explore his greatest failure. As we consider our relationships in biblical perspective, let’s remember the story of David and Bathsheba. And learn how not to make it our own.
Remember the tragedy
The tragedy begins “in the spring, at the time when kings go off to war” (v. 1a).
David has been established in Jerusalem about 10 years, and has been King of Israel about 17 years. He is probably in his late 30’s.
The “spring” is after the grain harvest in April and May, about this time of year. Ancient armies did not typically go to war during the winter months, due to the cold and rainy conditions; or during the harvest, lest the crops be ruined and the people starve.
So “David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army” (v. 1b). Leading his troops into battle was the primary responsibility of ancient Near Eastern rulers. If David had gone with his armies he would not have been home to sin with Bathsheba. But he would have come home some day. We must learn to defeat the enemies of the soul, for we cannot avoid the battle forever.
From the roof of his palace “he saw a woman bathing” (v. 2).
This should have been as far as it went, his first red light. Luther often said, “We cannot keep the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from nesting in our hair.” We cannot prevent the first look, but we can prevent the second look. David did not.
To the contrary, he acted on his lust: “David sent someone to find out about her” (v. 3). He learned that she was the daughter of Eliam, one of the thirty members of his own royal bodyguard (2 Samuel 23:34), son of his personal counselor Ahithopel. She was the daughter of a close and trusted friend. This should have been his second red light.
And he learned that she was married to Uriah the Hittite. This should have been his third red light. She was married, as was he. And to a member of his personal bodyguard like his father-in-law (2 Samuel 23:39), one of his most loyal and faithful soldiers. What he contemplated would hurt his wife, her husband, her father, and their families.
But instead he sent for her, “she came to him, and he slept with her” (v. 4).
Perhaps she had no choice; but given the freedom David granted the citizens of his kingdom, most interpreters believe Bathsheba to have been a willing participant in this sin. Perhaps she was flattered to have been noticed by the king. Perhaps her bathing out in the open tells us something about her own moral condition. Or perhaps not.
Whatever her motives, the law was clear: “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die. You must purge the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22.22). And they both knew it.
After their affair, “the woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, ‘I am pregnant'” (v. 5). The law of unintended consequences came to life. The old adage is true once again: sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. Always.
Now one sin leads to others, as is inevitable.
David recalls her husband Uriah from the war and sends him home, assuming he will sleep with her wife and believe the child to be his. But Uriah, unlike his king, has too much honor and character to sleep at home while the armies are on the battlefield.
So David arranges for Uriah’s death in battle. He takes Bathsheba, now a widow, into his palace. To the unsuspecting world he is doing a great kindness, helping a bereaved and helpless woman. When her pregnancy becomes known, none will know that it occurred as it did.
But, “the thing David had done displeased the Lord” (v. 27). He knows our secret thoughts and sins, even if we think no one else does. The God of the universe “searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts” (1 Chronicles 28:9). He asks, “Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?” (Jeremiah 23:24).
He sent his prophet Nathan to the king. Taking his life in his hands, Nathan boldly proclaims, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). He rebukes the monarch for his multiple sins. And the king responds, “I have sinned against the Lord” (v. 13).
What’s wrong with lust?
Let’s total the score. David coveted another man’s wife and stole her for himself, breaking the eighth and tenth commandments. He lusted after Bathsheba and committed adultery with her, breaking the seventh commandment. He then lied about his sin, breaking the ninth commandment. To cover up his sin he had Uriah killed, breaking the sixth commandment. His sin dishonored his parents, breaking the fifth commandment. He made Bathsheba an idol, breaking the second commandment, and dishonored the Lord his God, breaking the first and third commandments. The only commandment he left untouched was the fourth, requiring the Sabbath. This one act led to King David’s shattering of nine of the ten commandments. That’s the tragedy of sexual sin.