23: The Judgments involving King David
David Sets the Standard
David's First Failure and its Judgments
An Aside: Resolving Past Issues
A Second Judgment in Respect of David
we move on from 1 Samuel into 2 Samuel it might seem strange to the
new believer that the man, David, who is described in respect of God
as “a man after his own heart” (1 Sam 13:14 / Acts 13:22), should
become the subject of judgments, but the truth is that just like the
rest of us, he was a man with flaws, a man who didn't always get it
right and so what we now have to do is consider those times when this
shepherd boy who became king over all Israel didn't get it right and
incurred the displeasure and discipline of God.
is right that we do this, if for no other reason than to investigate
these limited number of God's judgments in respect of David, but before
we do we should paint the bigger picture of how David became a standard
against which the Lord measured subsequent kings.
David Sets the Standard
verses below refer to Abijah the second king of the southern two tribes
after the kingdom was divided following Solomon's reign. We have started
with it because it so comprehensively refers to David.
Kings 15:3-5 He committed
all the sins his father had done before him; his heart was
not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart
of David his forefather had been . Nevertheless, for David's
sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem by raising
up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong. For David
had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not
failed to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except
in the case of Uriah the Hittite.
first of Abijah his, “heart was not
fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his
forefather had been.” (v.3)
David, the record says was “fully
devoted to the Lord.” Moreover, “David
had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD.” and
then it adds, “and had not failed
to keep any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life.”
then comes a rider: “except in the
case of Uriah the Hittite . ”
was the one time that David had failed to keep all the Lord's commands
But that was the only thing! There was a time when pride had settled
in David's heart and he numbered his men (2 Sam 24 / 1 Chron 21) and
he paid for both failures, but otherwise what a testimony!
David's testimony had long lasting impact for he had clearly moved
the Lord's heart as we shall see again and again.
Abijah had got it wrong but we find, “Nevertheless,
for David's sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem
by raising up a son to succeed him and by making Jerusalem strong.”
other words, because of David, the Lord now allowed the royal line
to continue from this man to his son. That is amazing. Note how it
started with David's son, Solomon:
a measuring stick
Kings 3:3 “Solomon showed
his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his
father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned
incense on the high places.”
that David had been both an example to his son and a measuring rod
against which the Lord would measure Solomon.
nearly lived up to his father's testimony, but not quite.
the Lord made that the condition for blessing him:
Kings 3:14,15 “And if
you walk in my ways and obey my statutes and commands as David
your father did , I will give you a long life."
was the standard set- it IS possible to live like this!
later, the Lord speaks to Solomon explaining how things would work
Kings 9:4,5 “As for you,
if you walk before me in integrity of heart and uprightness,
as David your father did , and do all I command and observe
my decrees and laws, I will establish your royal throne over Israel
forever, as I promised David your father when I said, `You
shall never fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.'”
was the promise to David reiterated. All it needed – because it was
conditional - was for Solomon to walk as his father had done.
then follows a severe warning, the other side of the coin, if you
like. See 1 Kings 9:4-9
References to David (and his name is mentioned over a thousand times
in Scripture) continued right into the prophetic books.
For instance in Jeremiah, who prophesied in the last years before
Jerusalem 's destruction, speaking prophetically of the coming of
Jesus, Jeremiah declared:
33:15 “In those days and
at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David's
line ; he will do what is just and right in the land,”
was then followed by a reference to God's promise to David:
33:16,17 “In those days
Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the
name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.' For
this is what the LORD says: David will never fail to have
a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel .”
then comes a most remarkable prophecy:
33:18-22 “The word of the
LORD came to Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: ` If
you can break my covenant with the day and my covenant with
the night, so that day and night no longer come at their appointed
time, then my covenant with David my servant--and
my covenant with the Levites who are priests ministering before me--can
be broken and David will no longer have a descendant to reign on his
throne. I will make the descendants of David my servant and the Levites
who minister before me as countless as the stars of the sky and as
measureless as the sand on the seashore.”
i.e. If I stop making night and day then, and then only, will my promise
to David be annulled.
As it is David's descendants will be many. Of course we now know of
Jesus as the “son of David”
(e.g. Mt 1:20, 9:27, 15:22 etc) and “David's descendants” are all
the believers that make up to Church.
What an impact David had on the Lord, a man after the Lord's own heart
(Acts 13:22, 1 Sam 13;14)
How incredible that a human being can so move the Lord!
What David's failure(s) teach us is that you can have a heart
given over to God and yet still be sandbagged by temptation and sin.
The consequences of that sin would be very great. All we can suggest
is that the greater the responsibility, the greater the discipline
when failure comes (Remember Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised
Land because of one failure to properly represent the Lord).
David's First Failure and its Judgments
failure – i.e. his sin
the stages of what happened in Chapter 11 :
At this particular time, Spring, David sent his army out to deal with
enemies but remained in Jerusalem (2 Sam 11:1) (Mistake – he should
have been out leading his men)
One evening he is walking on the roof of the palace and was able to
see into a nearby building where a beautiful woman was bathing. (v.2)
(These things happen – turn away)
He finds out her name is Bathsheba, she is the wife of Uriah (v.3)
i.e. she is married. (Mistake – he enquired after her. Indicates
desire – a danger area)
He sends for her and slept with her (v.4) and she becomes pregnant.
(Mistake – adultery)
Uriah is away at battle and despite David's attempts to get Uriah
to come home to sleep with his wife and so cover up the fact she has
become pregnant by another, he refuses (v.6-11). (Mistake – scheming
to cover sin.)
He instructs his army commander to put Uriah in a vulnerable position
where he will be killed. He is. (Mistake – plotting murder)
With Uriah out the way he takes Bathsheba and marries her (Mistake
– his is already married and although polygamy was not expressly forbidden
it usually had negative consequences)
The Lord is displeased with what David has done (2 Sam 11:27) and
sends Nathan the prophet to confront David in Chapter 12 (2
He makes David fully realise his sin (v.1-9)
is vital that we note the reality of David's repentance.
reference is surprisingly short and simple: “Then
David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD."
(2 Sam 12:13)
heading over Psa 51 is, “A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan
came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.”
it's content and depth of anguish:
mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to
your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my
iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have
I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you
are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely
I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in
the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash
me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
and so it goes on.
won't go through it verse by verse but it stands out among al the
other psalms The psalm of penitence.
we must suggest that it is only the depth of David's repentance that
opens the way for the Lord to continue to bless his family.
Judgment of David – Part 1
After this Nathan spells out what the Lord will do
First of all he declares that violence will always be a part of David's
family life (12:10a)
Second, the Lord will bring family division right out in public for
David acknowledges his sin and so the Lord forgives him but says the
illegitimate son will die (v.13,14)
This happens (v.15-23)
Subsequently Bathsheba gives birth to Solomon – who the Lord loves!
The first part of the judgment has been fulfilled – David has been
disciplined and the child taken (?to heaven) and yet the Lord's grace
is still there to bring good out of what had previously been a bad
Beware! We are often harder than the Lord on sin and fail to see that
after repentance and discipline, the Lord's grace wants to redeem
the situation and still bring good out of it.
will consider this more in the next chapter.
Judgment of David – Part 2
The judgment had declared family division by way of disciplining David.
Part of it, we will see, is brought about by David's own inability
to discipline and order his family.
Chapter 13 presents the story of Amnon and Tamar
in which David simply does not do what a wise father would do:
He gullibly accepts Amnon's request and makes the way open for
Amnon to end up raping Tamar. (v.6,7)
Although angry about it David took no other action.
When Absalom killed Amnon, David's heart was half with Absalom
but took no action to deal with the situation (v.37-39)
Chapter 14 sees the restoration of Absalom to Jerusalem
and his pressure on those around him to restore him properly (14:1-33)
Ultimately David should have been paying more attention to what Absalom
was doing and should have prevented the rebellion.
Chapter 15 sees Absalom building himself up in the
eyes of the people (15:1-6) and then bringing about a rebellion against
David (15:7-12) so that David and his household and followers had
to flee from Jerusalem (15:13-37)
The ensuing chapters reveal how this all unfolds – including an exact
fulfilment of of Nathan's prophecy against David – see 16:22, until
in Chapter 18 Absalom is killed to David's grief.
Chapter 19 sees David restored but there is an uneasy
feeling in the nation.
Chapter 20 sees the start of the other aspect of
the prophecy about violence in David's house, in that a troublemaker
named Sheba sought to stir up ferment and rebellion against David
Also Amasa, who had been Absalom's commander but had subsequently
made David's commander in place of Joab, is murdered by Joab (20:8-10)
and goes on to ensure Sheba is dealt with and then returns as David's
army commander. We are not told what David felt.
Later in Chapter 21 we see there is ongoing fighting
again with conflict with the Philistines. David is still paying for
his deed in respect of Uriah and Bathsheba.
An Aside: Resolving Past ‘Issues'
call this an aside because it is not strictly a judgments as such
– but it is; it is a judicial decision by the Lord. There was something
from the past that needed resolving and so the Lord stepped in an
brought about a famine which then caught David's attention (2 Sam
David enquired of the Lord he was told that there was a guilt issue
hanging over Israel because of something Saul did during his reign.
during the talking of the Land, the Gibeonites had come and become
part of Israel (we saw that in Chapter 20.6) in Joshua 9. However
apparently, and it is not recorded elsewhere, Saul in his nationalistic
human-wisdom zeal had at some time tried to get rid of the Gibeonites
from the Land by wiping them out. The prior oath to protect the Gibeonites
was thus binding on successive generations but Saul had apparently
ignored that oath. There was guilt that had never been resolved.
speaks to the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:20-) and asks how he may right
this wrong which the Lord has drawn to his attention. The Gibeonites
had been ‘decimated' (see v.5) and had had their land taken by Saul.
In a measured response, the Gibeonite survivors suggest that seven
of Saul's survivors be executed which is what happened.
from this, mistreating an alien living as part of Israel was strictly
against the Law of Moses (see Ex 22:21; Lev 19:34; 24:22; Deut 1:16-17;
within the Law was found the following:
35:33 “Do not pollute the
land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot
be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood
of the one who shed it.”
This would not have applied to warfare over the Land but would certainly
apply to inhabitants of Israel , of which the Gibeonites were now
Life for life was the punishment for murder, and Saul had certainly
murdered a large number of the Gibeonites.
Their suggestion of only seven a) recognized the Law but b)
was a very restrained response in the circumstances, a token response
we might say.
is an addendum to this story which is touching and which obviously
Rizpah had been the wife of Saul and her two sons were part of the
seven taken for execution. (v.8)
The execution had involved the sons being killed and their bodies
presumably pegged out on the hillside for all to see that justice
had been done and the blood-guilt paid for. (v.9)
Rizpah basically camps out on the hillside and prevents any birds
attacking the dead bodies (v.10); she honours her sons and the others
who were executed. She clearly accepts the Law and there is nothing
negative in her actions. She carries on doing this until the rains
come – it was likely that the famine had been caused by lack of rain
but as the matter had been properly dealt with, the rain came.
When David hears about her behaviour he is so moved that he
decides to honour Saul and Jonathan's memory by going to where their
bodies had been hastily buried after the battle (see end of 1 Sam)
and brought their bones – together with the bones of those who had
been executed – and had them put in the family tomb. (v.12-14)
In this way he shows that what has been done has been a necessary
evil and he respects these men as well as Saul and Jonathan and gives
them a formal burial. In no way does this detract from the legal aspects
of these executions, and the Lord indicates that He is pleased with
the way David has handled it.
may consider this harsh on the seven who were executed, and from our
perspective it is, but the end result
Acknowledges the need for justice and punishment
Respects life and the taking of life in an honourable way
Respects the Law and the requirements for right behaviour in the
Puts all those things before personal preference.
A Second Judgment in Respect of David
circumstances of what we are about to consider require more than a
casual glance to understands what is going on and what happens as
an outcome. We start with two different accounts of the start of it:
Sam 24:1 Again the anger
of the LORD burned against Israel , and he incited David against them,
saying, "Go and take a census of Israel and Judah ."
Chron 21:1 Satan rose up
against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel .
The difference may be resolved by thinking of what we find in Job
1 & 2 where the Lord uses Satan to act on the earth.
1 Chron reveals it as a Satanic attack but 2 Samuel reveals there
is a cause behind his attack – the Lord's anger.
Now we know that the Lord is only angry with sin and so somehow Israel
have fallen into Sin which warrants the Lord moving against them.
David is the king of Israel and thus responsible for all that goes
on in Israel . It is an important principle to be considered when
looking at other kings of both Judah and Israel when they are divided.
Sometimes a bad king presents a bad example for the nation to follow
– and they do, while at other times the king is good but the nation
is drifting from the Lord. In the latter case the Lord still holds
the king accountable.
It is for this reason that the Lord draws David into the judgment.
David is going to have to learn through what takes place.
The idea is put into David's mind that it would be a good idea to
number Israel to find out just how big Israel is. Even often-unrighteous
Joab recognises that this is not a good thing, taking the glory of
Israel that belongs to the Lord and attributing it to the king.
Nevertheless David overrules him and the census is taken and as soon
as it is done, David is heart smitten and declares he has sinned against
cause of this event is a mystery. What was it that caused God to be
angry with Israel ? We can only conclude that the spiritual state
of the nation had declined and maybe Israel had resorted to idol worship
again. The magnitude of the deaths that follow (70,000), if the interpretation
is right, suggests a serious falling away and therefore a serious
dealings with David
may remember earlier in the chapter:
Kings 15:5 David had done
what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep
any of the LORD's commands all the days of his life--except in the
case of Uriah the Hittite.
i.e. this particular episode did not constitute breaking the Lord's
Yes, there was a temporary lapse into pride but David had not broken
any of the commands in the Law of Moses – Israel clearly had, but
David had not.
Nevertheless the Lord did hold David accountable for the nation and
thus led him into a place of failure where he would feel guilty and
willing to enter into the circumstances of dealing with the nation.
The word of God had come through Gad the prophet:
Sam 24:13 So Gad went to
David and said to him, "Shall there come upon you three years
of famine in your land? Or three months of fleeing
from your enemies while they pursue you? Or three
days of plague in your land? Now then, think it over and decide how
I should answer the one who sent me."
The Lord knew that David's heart would be rent by having to
make this decision, yet he was there king and would have to take that
Sam 24:14 David said to
Gad, "I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the
LORD, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into the hands
What a response – deep distress! He doesn't dispute the need of the
judgment but the responsibility of what to inflict on his people is
almost too much.
the plague comes and people start dying, the two main players in this
Sam 24:16 When the angel
stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD was grieved
because of the calamity and said to the angel who was afflicting the
people, "Enough! Withdraw your hand." The angel of the LORD
was then at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.
The Lord is grieved – the judgment was just
but the Judge anguishes for the affliction that comes as the judgment.
Note where the judgments gets to when the Lord calls halt.
Sam 24:17 When David saw
the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the LORD, "I
am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What
have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family."
As David sees the people fall to the plague, he
knows he has been the specific cause of their deaths
He cries on their behalf that he alone is guilty and he alone
should take punishment
In reality he faces his own failure but in so doing forgets or is
unaware that there is sin in Israel that has caused the Lord to move
against them in judgment.
Sam 24:18,19 On that day
Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar
to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite."
So David went up, as the LORD had commanded through Gad.
The Law provided for ways for sins to be dealt with through the sacrificial
Which explains the instructions that come
David goes to Araunah and asks to buy the threshing floor and insists
on paying for it: “ I will not sacrifice
to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing."
Thus he makes the sacrifice and we find:
Sam 24:25 David
built an altar to the LORD there and sacrificed burnt offerings and
fellowship offerings. Then the LORD answered prayer in behalf of the
land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.
should things have happened in this order, we may ask. We suggest
Israel were called to be a holy nation.
When they fell into sin the Law clearly showed the way back: repentance
followed by a sacrifice.
The sacrifice was simply a way laid down in the Law of Moses,
of a) tangibly showing repentance and b) showing an obedient, submissive
heart, and c) providing a means for the conscience of the repenting
sinner(s) to be appeased (it has been dealt with by God's
We only later know that it was a way that would point to the ultimate
sacrifice of the Son of God on the Cross at Calvary, taking all the
sins of mankind, our punishment. Although in time-space history their
sins and offerings were before Jesus' death, heaven looking from outside
of time, saw the offering as an out-of-time indicator that the person
offering the sacrifice was relying upon the Lord's means of dealing
with their sins. That was all they could do. It was enough. God had
done the rest through Jesus.
Israel had obviously sinned – and with the coming of the judgment,
The Lord had seen this and, grieved over what had had to happen, calls
a halt as the plague reaches this particular threshing floor.
Yet, to ensure that Israel do not just think He has shrugged His shoulders
at their sin, David is required, as their king, to make an offering
for the nation at that place to link the pause with the offering,
thus reinforcing the sacrificial system in their minds and reminding
the Israelites that it was there and it worked!
Everything that takes place here is to reinforce the Law that had
been given to Israel:
Sin brings guilt.
Guilt requires repentance
Repentance is seen by a sacrifice being offered
All of this hinges on the work of Christ on the Cross (only later
realised, although there for all of time-space history).
have considered in this chapter the following events
His sin in respect of Bathsheba and Uriah.
His acting to resolve Saul's past guilt in respect of the Gibeonites
His role as head of the nation – being incited to number them and
perhaps identifying with their sin of pride – to deal with the sin
of Israel at the time.
respect of these three events we have observed the following judgments
involving David (and our suggestions):
The death of his child
to draw a line to cut off that past sin
Rebellion from within his household (Absalom)
to show a public punishment
to provide ongoing discipline and reminder
Seven of Saul's family executed
- as a token acknowledgment of the
guilt and need for justice
Choice of punishment for sin – plague,
- halted by repentance and sacrifice.
respect of these three judgments we have learned the following lessons
in respect of what happened with David:
1. Power and authority does not reduce or cover up guilt
guilt carries with it repercussions
guilt requires repentance
repentance opens the way for forgiveness but discipline may also
come a) as a one-off act and b) as ongoing reminder.
The Past does not mean that unresolved issues reduce guilt
guilt still needs dealing with appropriately
Sometimes sin needs revealing
here by a famine and later by David's own pride
it still brings guilt and needs repentance
it is only dealt with by God's method – the death of His
Son on the Cross.
are profound and very basic lessons which the unbeliever will balk
at, but which still apply, and may be summarised in the following
Ultimately Sin is a propensity to self-centred godlessness resulting
in individual sins which God wants dealt with here and now on this
earth, and the means of dealing with both the attitude and outworkings
is by accepting Jesus Christ as both Lord and Saviour, giving over
the sovereignty of your life to his leading, and receiving forgiveness
and cleansing on the basis of what he achieved for you on the Cross.
Failure to do that while on this earth means that at death we face
God and receive His ultimate judgment which is separation from Him
with all these things, the choice is always ours.
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