2 Samuel 12 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 2 Samuel 12)

Verse 1

[1] And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor.

The Lord sent — When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God takes an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful God pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken God.

He said — He prudently ushers in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations, that so he might surprize David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself.

Verse 2

[2] The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds:

Many flocks — Noting David's many wives and concubines.

Verse 3

[3] But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.

Bought — As men then used to buy their wives: or, had procured.

Verse 5

[5] And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:

Is worthy to die — This seems to be more than the fact deserved, or than he had commission to inflict for it, Exodus 22:1. But it is observable, that David now when he was most indulgent to himself, and to his own sin, was most severe and even unjust to others; as appears by this passage, and the following relation, verse 31, which was done in the time of David's impenitent continuance in his sin.

Verse 7

[7] And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;

Thus saith the Lord God — Nathan now speaks, not as a petitioner for a poor man, but as an ambassador from the great God.

Verse 9

[9] Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.

To be thy wife — To marry her whom he had defiled, and whose husband he had slain, was an affront upon the ordinance of marriage, making that not only to palliate, but in a manner to consecrate such villainies. In all this he despised the word of the Lord; (so it is in the Hebrew.) Not only his commandment in general, but the particular word of promise, which God had before sent him by Nathan, that he would build him an house: which sacred promise if he had had a due value for, he would not have polluted his house with lust and blood.

Verse 10

[10] Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.

Never depart — During the residue of thy life.

Verse 11

[11] Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.

Own house — From thy own children and family.

Thine eyes — Openly, so that thou shalt know it as certainly as if thou didst see it, and yet not be able to hinder it.

And give them — I shall by my providence, give him power over them.

Neighbor — To one who is very near thee. But God expresseth this darkly, that the accomplishment of it might not be hindered.

Verse 13

[13] And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.

I have sinned — How serious this confession was, we may see, Psalms 51:1-19.

Put away thy sin — That is, so far as concerns thy own life.

Not die — As by thy own sentence, verse 5, thou dost deserve, and may expect to be done by my immediate stroke.

Verse 16

[16] David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth.

Besought — Supposing the threatening might be conditional, and so the execution of it prevented by prayer.

Went — Into his closet.

Verse 17

[17] And the elders of his house arose, and went to him, to raise him up from the earth: but he would not, neither did he eat bread with them.

Elders — The chief officers of his kingdom and household.

He would not — This excessive mourning did not proceed simply from the fear of the loss of the child; but from a deep sense of his sin, and the divine displeasure manifested herein.

Verse 18

[18] And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. And the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead: for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice: how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead?

Seventh day — From the beginning of the distemper.

Verse 20

[20] Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.

And came — That is, to the tabernacle, to confess his sin before the Lord, to own his justice in this stroke, to deprecate his just displeasure, to acknowledge God's rich mercy, in sparing his own life; and to offer such sacrifices as were required in such cases.

Verse 23

[23] But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

I fast — Seeing fasting and prayer cannot now prevail with God for his life.

I shall go to him — Into the state of the dead in which he is, and into heaven, where I doubt not I shall find him.

Verse 24

[24] And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him.

His wife — Who was now much dejected, both for her former sin, and for the loss of the child.

Loved him — That is, the Lord declared to David, that he loved his son, notwithstanding the just cause David had given to God to alienate his affections from him.

Verse 25

[25] And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD.

Jedidiah — That is, beloved of the Lord.

Because — Either, because of the Lord's love to him, or because the Lord commanded him to do so.

Verse 26

[26] And Joab fought against Rabbah of the children of Ammon, and took the royal city.

Royal city — That is, that part of the city where was the king's palace; though now it seems he was retired to a strong fort.

Verse 27

[27] And Joab sent messengers to David, and said, I have fought against Rabbah, and have taken the city of waters.

Of waters — Rabbah was so called because it was encompassed with water.

Verse 28

[28] Now therefore gather the rest of the people together, and encamp against the city, and take it: lest I take the city, and it be called after my name.

Take it — For having taken one part of the city, he concluded the remaining part of it could not long stand out.

Lest — Lest I have the honour of taking it.

Verse 30

[30] And he took their king's crown from off his head, the weight whereof was a talent of gold with the precious stones: and it was set on David's head. And he brought forth the spoil of the city in great abundance.

The weight — Or rather, the price whereof, etc. For the same words both in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, are used, to signify either weight, or price. And the addition of precious stones, which are never valued by the weight of gold, makes this signification most probable. Moreover, the weight might seem too great either for the king of Ammon, or for David to wear it upon his head.

Verse 31

[31] And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

The people — The words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people; but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors of that villainous action against David's ambassadors, and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which, they deserved severe punishments. Altho' indeed there seems to have been too much rigour used; especially, because these deaths were inflicted not only upon those counsellors, who were the only authors of that vile usage of the ambassadors; but upon some number of the people. And therefore it is probable, David exercised this cruelty whilst his heart was hardened, and impenitent; and when he was bereaved of that good spirit of God, which would have taught him more mercy.

Saws — He sawed them to death of which punishment, we have examples both in scripture, and in other authors.

Brick-kiln — Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen: that is, of Moloch; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they had inflicted upon their own children.