AFTER committing adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, King David tried to cover up his sin. His first thought was to send for her husband. When Uriah arrived, David chatted with him about the progress of the war in the land of Ammon. "Thank you for being so observant and informative," David finally said to Uriah. "You have earned a short furlough. I would like to talk to you later, but for now go to your home and your wife." (II Samuel 11:1-8)
David's Scheme Backfires
The king sighed with relief as he watched Uriah stride out the door. The questioning was only an act to disguise the real reason for the Hittite's being returned to Jerusalem. David despised himself for such petty deception. Added to that was the gnawing feeling of guilt, especially strong in the presence of the heroic and unswervingly faithful officer he had wronged. To try to lessen the uncomfortable feeling, David instructed servants to deliver a special dinner for two to the home of Uriah and Bathsheba. After an almost sleepless night, David was greeted with an unpleasant surprise. He was informed that Uriah hadn't gone home. Instead, he had spent the time sleeping on a bench in the servants' quarters of the king's house. "Send him to me at once," was David's gloomy request. "Why didn't you spend last night at your home with your wife?" the king asked with a weak smile when Uriah was brought before him. "Weren't you anxious to see her after having been away from her for so long?" (II Samuel 11:9-10.) "I wanted very much to be with my wife." Uriah explained, "but I felt that while my commander and fellow soldiers were having to sleep on the ground and the rocks, I shouldn't be taking advantage of anything better than a bench. I don't deserve better, and I don't prefer to accept the comforts and pleasures of my home until my fellow soldiers can also come back to their homes." "So be it," David commented in unhappy resignation, though he tried not to look unhappy. "I'll send you back tomorrow to rejoin the army. Meanwhile, I think it would be wise for you to drop in to see your wife for at least a few minutes." All that day Uriah paced nervously about. Several times he peered out between some columns at his home, only yards away, hopeful of getting a glimpse of Bathsheba. David was watching him part of the time, and was hopeful that Uriah would see his wife, and be sufficiently moved by her appearance to toss away his resolutions and go home. It didn't turn out that way. (II Samuel 11:11-12.) That evening David invited Uriah to eat with him. Uriah readily accepted. He couldn't very well point out that his fellow soldiers weren't eating, and that therefore he shouldn't eat. According to the king's instructions, the waiters saw to it that the guest's wine glass was continually filled. By the time the long meal was over, the soldier had difficulty getting to his feet under his own power. "Go to your home and rest," David whispered to him as he guided him gently but firmly toward the door. "Follow him and lead him carefully to his house," David murmured to a servant. "Report to me if you don't succeed." Believing that matters would go his way, David retired to his private quarters. A half-hour passed, and his servant hadn't returned. Now there was reason to feel that Uriah had staggered home, with some help, and that when Bathsheba's child was born, Uriah would naturally be considered its father. Another half-hour passed. The king was beginning to relax a little for the first time in several days. Then came the particular knock used only by certain servants. At David's permission a servant entered. "You told me to report to you if I couldn't succeed in getting your guest back to his home," he told David. "I would have come to you sooner, but I and other servants have been trying for an hour to get the man to his house." "Well?" David snapped loudly. "Where is he now?" "We couldn't even herd him off your back porch," was the answer. "He's asleep on a bench in the servants' quarters!" (II Samuel 11:13.) David stared in dismal disappointment. For a moment it appeared that the king was about to strike his servant. The droll situation suddenly caused him to become very angry, but then he controlled himself and began pacing the floor and wondering what he should do next.
Causing Uriah to become drunk had been a waste of effort. Even in that condition the resolute-willed Uriah resisted visiting his wife, who was so close at hand. He felt that he shouldn't enjoy any part of home life while his fellow soldiers were enduring hardships in the campaign against the Ammonites. David was very worried at the thought of what would happen if the public should learn that he was to be the father of a child by another man's wife. In a frantic attempt to escape from the situation, David decided to do a terrible thing. He sent a sealed letter to Joab, commander of his army, and gave it to Uriah to be the bearer. Uriah hurriedly returned, just as he wished, to where the Israelite forces were encamped northeast of the Dead Sea. On opening the letter, even the callous Joab was a little moved. He was instructed to place the incorruptibly patriotic Uriah in the foremost ranks in the battle with the Ammonites. Then he was to suddenly withdraw his soldiers and not let them rescue or help Uriah in any way. This loyal soldier had been given his own death warrant by David, and had unknowingly delivered it to the man who had the power to carry out the vicious order. (II Samuel 11:14-15.) Uriah returned to the Israelite camp just before the Ammonites, who had been bottled up in their city of Rabbah, decided to come out in a surprise foray against their besiegers. Joab assigned Uriah to the most dangerous spot. The gates of the city burst open and yelling soldiers streamed out toward the Israelites. "Close in on them!" Joab commanded his officers. "Don't let them get around us!" The Israelites rushed to meet the attackers, but before they could get within the archers' range of them, the Ammonites wheeled about and raced back into the city. The heavy gates slammed shut to keep out the Israelites as they ran up to the walls. Joab, meanwhile, had secretly told the other leaders near Uriah to fall back as soon as danger threatened him. They fell back, but too late to save some of them from the hissing cloud of arrows, spears and stones that came down from hundreds of soldiers who appeared at just the right moment on top of the wall. Uriah was among those who were first to reach the walls of Rabbah. He was also among those who were killed. Some Ammonite had shot the arrow or hurled the spear or stone that took Uriah's life, but it was David who was responsible for the Hittite's death. (II Samuel 11:16-17.) As far as the crafty Joab was concerned, this episode provided him with secret knowledge that could be used to his advantage if he ever needed a very special favor from the king. He didn't delay in sending news to David. "Tell the king exactly what has happened lately," Joab instructed the messenger. "When he hears about how the Ammonites tricked us, he'll probably be angry, and stare coldly at you as though you could be personally to blame because our soldiers moved so close to the walls of Rabbah. He is likely to remind you of a battle that took place almost two centuries ago, during which Abimelech, one of Gideon's sons, was killed by a piece of a millstone tossed down by a woman from the wall at the city of Thebez. If he demands to know why the Israelite soldiers or their commander haven't learned from Abimelech's mistake, avoid answering and quickly mention that I, Joab, regret that some of our men lost their lives in this action. Give the names and ranks of these men, starting with Uriah the Hittite." (II Samuel 11:18-21.) Joab felt certain that David would appear angry when he heard about his soldiers being lured so close to Rabbah's walls, but he was equally as certain that the king would forget his anger as soon as he heard that Uriah was dead. Later, when the messenger reached Jerusalem to relate to David what had happened to the army in recent days, the king became very upset. As he was instructed, the messenger tactfully forestalled an outburst from David by naming the casualties. When Uriah was mentioned as having been killed, David's frown faded away. He held up a hand as though he wished to hear no more. "I know that Joab must be troubled because of how the Ammonites tricked him," he remarked to the messenger. "When you return, tell him not be overly concerned. Remind him for me that certain ones have to die in battle. Tell him that it's my desire that he forget past incidents and put his mind to taking the city of Rabbah, even though months are required to do it." (II Samuel 11:22-25.)
A Stolen Wife
His anxiety somewhat abated, David immediately made it known to Uriah's wife that her husband was dead. After the widow had gone through the usual period of mourning, David had her brought to his home. "Become my wife now, and we won't have to be concerned about your unborn child," David told her. Under these adverse circumstances David added another wife, and eventually another son. Life with his other wives was less happy thereafter. It was part of the price that had to be paid for having to divide affections among several wives. If God had been asleep, David might have lived through this disastrous episode without his people learning of his disgraceful desires, scandalous schemes and infamous deeds. Truth can be withheld from whole nations as well as from individuals. But God doesn't sleep. He can't be deceived. And God was displeased by what David had done. Even the king of Israel, like anyone else, was certain to run into calamity because of breaking some of the Eternal's commandments (II Samuel 11:26-27.) Those same laws are still in full effect today, just as is the law of gravity. Nevertheless, thousands of "Christian" leaders keep telling our people that observance of the commandments is unnecessary, impossible, a waste of effort and even improper. Unless they come to realize how much harm they are doing, and wholeheartedly repent, as David later did, they will eventually be burned to ashes in a tremendous heat referred to in the Bible as the lake of fire. (Malachi 4:1, 3.)
Secret Sins Exposed
God began David's punishment by instructing Nathan, one of God's prophets, in what he should say to the king. Nathan asked for a private talk with David, and was escorted into a room where even the servants couldn't overhear the conversation. "I want to report a matter to you that should come to your attention," Nathan said to David. "I have known you to be a man of fair judgment, and I trust you will see fit to do something about this case." "Tell me about it," David said, giving Nathan his full attention. Nathan told about two men who were neighbors. One was wealthy and the other was poor. The wealthy one had many flocks of sheep and herds of cattle. The poor man's stock consisted of only one lamb that had been raised in his household. It had been a close pet for the children, and was almost like one of the family. "What was the problem?" David interrupted. "The trouble came when a friend came to visit the wealthy man," Nathan continued. "Instead of telling his servants to slaughter one of his own animals for food for his guest, he went to the home of his poor neighbor and took and then slaughtered his only animal, his pet lamb. The lamb was served to the wealthy man's guest. Do you feel that this kind of conduct calls for punishment?" (II Samuel 12:1-4.) "By all means!" David angrily exclaimed. "That man should restore to his neighbor four lambs to replace the one that he took. Furthermore, because he was so miserably selfish and had no compassion for his poor neighbor, he deserves to die. Tell me who this man is and where he lives. I'll see that justice is carried out." (II Samuel 12:5-6.) "You don't need to go outside your home to find the man who has been so inconsiderate and heartless," Nathan said. "You mean that this evil man is in my house right now?" David scowled. "Absolutely!" Nathan replied. "A man very much like him is here, except that the one here has lately performed even baser deeds. You are the man!" "What are you saying?" David demanded, getting to his feet. "You have angered God by your vile conduct of late. He protected you many times from Saul and his soldiers. He made it possible for you to have power in Israel, the home and wealth you enjoy and the several wives you have chosen. If there had been need for anything else, God would have given it to you. Considering the wonderful things your Creator has done for you, why have you flouted His commandments You planned the death of the loyal and trusting man with whose wife you committed adultery! Uriah the Hittite died by your hand through your enemies, the Ammonites. Then you took Uriah's widow to be your wife lest your adultery be discovered." (II Samuel 12:7-9.) David, by this time, realized God had truly spoken to Nathan about him. Otherwise the prophet couldn't have known about the things David hoped to keep secret. Suddenly he felt very sick within.