After David had an affair with Bathsheba and subsequently had her husband Uriah murdered to cover his tracks the prophet Nathan came and rebuked David for his sins in 2 Samuel 12. Nathan tells David a story about a man who only had one little lamb that he treated as his own child. He cared for it. He ate with the lamb, drank with the lamb and even let it sleep in his own bed (interestingly enough the same three verbs Uriah refuses to go home and do with his wife (2 Sam 11:11). A rich man in town had many lambs and when company came into town the rich man took the lamb, the only lamb, from the first man and used it to feed his guests.
Now, it wasn’t unusual for a prophet like Nathan to come to the king with a judicial decision. That was part of the king’s job, to ensure the people in his kingdom receive justice. David condemns this rich man for his actions, little realizing he was condemning himself. In reading the story and the surrounding details carefully, I am beginning to wonder if it is possible that David actually prophesied against himself. More on that in a moment.
Here is David’s response,
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” (1 Sam 12:5-6)
David made this ruling from the Torah. The Torah typically penalized someone for taking somethings things with double repayment but there was a situation that warranted a four fold repayment. That is found in Exodus 22:1,
Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
David’s ruling was in line with scripture. What David didn’t know was this wasn’t about sheep at all but about people. What David also didn’t know was that his ruling wasn’t just about people it was about himself. David said two things about this man: 1) he must die and 2) he will repay four times the amount.
David obviously does die sometime later and in the meantime the words of Nathan in response to David play out ever so bitterly,
“You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. 9 Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.’
11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.” (2 Sam 12:7-14)
If you follow the rest of the story it isn’t just this son who dies. In addition to that 12:11 also comes true, “before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.” – Absalom, one of David’s sons, does this in 16:22. What is more this child conceived in Bathsheba is not the only one who dies. Shortly thereafter Absalom kills his half-brother Amnon (David’s son). Amnon was the one in line for the throne. Remember, this child conceived with Bathsheba would not have been David’s first child. Absalom is killed in chapter 18. That brings us up to three.
Is there a fourth? This cannot be said with certainty but we do know David had a son who was between Amnon and Absalom and that was Chileab (2 Sam 3:2-5 also called Daniel – 1 Chron. 3:1). His name meant “everything of the Father” and was David’s second son with Abigail. His full brother was Amnon and his half brother would have been Absalom. He is never brought up in this story or in the line of succession at this point so it is presumed that he died. Whether he died before or after David’s judgment upon himself we just don’t know but I do find it interesting that it is possible David’s words were more prophetic than he knew.
David is a picture of us and how we can deny the things we are doing as sin, but become enraged when those around us do that sin. Except, since David was a man after God’s own heart, he saw the mistake when he was shown it. How often do we not see the mistake of our own? How often do we not own up?