Bible Commentaries

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 12

Verse 1

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 12

Nathan by a parable reproveth and threateneth David, 2 Samuel 12:1-12. He confesseth his sin, and is pardoned, but the child must die, 2 Samuel 12:13,14: David mourneth and prayeth for it whilst life was in it; after is satisfied and cheered: the reason, 2 Samuel 12:15-23. He goeth in to Bath-sheba: Solomon is born of her, and is called Jedidiah, 2 Samuel 12:24,25. David taketh Rabbah, and tortureth the people thereof, 2 Samuel 12:26-31.

Nathan, the prophet, 2 Samuel 7:2 1 Kings 1:8. When the ordinary means did not awaken David to repentance, God useth an extraordinary course. Thus the merciful God pities and prevents him who had so horribly forsaken and forgotten God.

Nathan prudently ushereth in his reproof with a parable, after the manner of the eastern nations and ancient times, that so he might surprise David, and cause him unawares to give sentence against himself. He manageth his relation as if it had been a real thing; and demands the king’s justice in the case. Though the application of this parable to David be easy and obvious, yet it matters not if some circumstances be not so applicable; because it was fit to put in some such clauses, either for the decency of the parable, or that David might not too early discover his designs.

Verse 2

Noting David’s many wives and concubines.

Verse 3

The poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb; designing Uriah, with his own and only wife. Which he had bought; as men then used to buy their wives; or, had procured. Lay in his bosom; which David might take for hyperbolical expressions of his tender care of and affection to it; although there want not instances of some who have treated such brute creatures in this manner.

Verse 4

A traveller: this some make to be the devil, whom David gratified by his sin; but it rather seems added for the decency of the parable.

Verse 5

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 to others; as appears by this passage and the following relation, 2 Samuel 12:31, which was done in the time of David’s impenitent continuance in his sin.

Verse 7

Thou art the man; thou hast committed this crime with great aggravations; and out of thine own mouth thy sentence hath proceeded, and thou art worthy of death.

Verse 8

Thy master’s wives, or, women, as that word is elsewhere used; as Numbers 31:18. And though we read not a word of God’s giving, or of David’s taking, any of Saul’s wives into his bosom; or, which is all one, into his bed; yet (which I think to be aimed at here) it might be according to the manner of that time, that the wives and concubines of the precedent king belonged to the successor, to be at least at his dispose. And to pretend to them, was interpreted little less than pretending to the crown; which made it fatal to Adonijah to ask Abishag, 1 Kings 2:23; and to Abner to be suspected for Rizpah, 2 Samuel 3:8. And Absalom, usurping the crown, usurped the concubines also; which is looked on as a crime unpardonable, 2 Samuel 16:21. Nor would this have been reckoned amongst the mercies and blessings which God here is said to give him, and which are opposed to that which he sinfully took. But we do read, that Merab, Saul’s daughter, was given to him for his wife by Saul’s promise, and consequently by God’s grant; though afterwards Saul perfidiously gave her to another man; and that Michal, the other daughter, was actually given to him, 1Sa 18. And it is very possible that some other of David’s wives were nearly related to the house of Saul; whereby David might design to enlarge and strengthen his interest in the kingdom; although there is no absolute necessity of restraining this to Saul, seeing the word is plural, masters, and may belong to others also, who sometimes were owned by David as his masters, lords, or superiors, such as Nabal was, and some others not elsewhere named might be, whose houses and wives, or, at least, women, God might give to David. Such and such things; such other things as thou hadst wanted, or in reason desired.

Verse 9

The commandment of the Lord, i. e. those laws of God which forbade thee to do this thing, by not giving them that respect and observance which they deserved.

Uriah the Hittite; that valiant, and generous, and noble person.

Hast taken his wife to be thy wife: this he mentions amongst his other sins; partly because he had rewarded her, who by God’s law should have been severely punished; partly because he compassed this marriage by wicked practices, even by Uriah’s murder, and for sinful ends, even for the gratification of his inordinate and sensual lusts, and for the concealment of that sin which he was obliged to confess and lament.

Hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon; those cursed enemies of God, and of his people, whom thou hast encouraged and hardened in their idolatry, by giving up him and others of God’s people into their hands. And note here, that although David did not kill Uriah himself, nor command any to do it; but only that he should be put upon dangerous service (which a general of an army oft doth to soldiers under him, on justifiable accounts, without being therefore legally chargeable with murder, though the person so employed die in the service); yet in God’s account, who judged of David’s design therein, it is justly so reputed. And therefore, though the Ammonites slew Uriah, yet David is said to have killed him with their sword.

Verse 10

Shall never depart from thine house, during the residue of thy life; as appears from the following history.

Verse 11

I will raise up evil, to wit, the evil of punishment.

Out of thine own house; from thy own children and family.

Before thine eyes, i. e. openly, so as thou shalt know it as certainly as if thou didst see it, and yet not be able to hinder it.

Give them, i.e. I shall by my providence give him power over them, which I know he will abuse; and I shall not restrain him from so doing, either by my grace or providence.

Unto thy neighbour; to one who is very near to thee, even thy beloved son Absalom. But God expresseth this here darkly and doubtfully, that the accomplishment of it might not be hindered.

In the sight of the sun; in the open day, and in a public place. The accomplishment hereof, see 2 Samuel 16:22.

Verse 12

I will do this thing, i.e. I will execute this judgment. This God did by inclining David’s heart to leave his concubines to keep his house, and so to come into Absalom’s power; by giving up Ahithophel to his own carnal policy, which readily suggested to him that wicked and desperate counsel; and by exposing Absalom to these temptations, and leaving him to his own vicious inclinations, which God certainly knew would in such circumstances produce that effect. So the sin was wholly from men, but the ordering and overruling their mistakes and miscarriages to this end was from God.

Verse 13

I have sinned against the Lord; I now freely confess that sin which I have hitherto so wickedly smothered; and I have deserved all these and far heavier judgments for it; and I am more troubled for my sin against my sovereign Lord and gracious God, than for the shame and punishment that follow it. How serious and pathetical this confession was, we may see, Psa 51.

The Lord also hath put away thy sin, i.e. so far as concerns thy own life and eternal salvation; both which were forfeited by this sin.

Thou shalt not die, as by thy own sentence, 2 Samuel 12:5, thou didst deserve, and as thou mightest expect to do by my immediate stroke; though possibly thou mightest elude the law before a human judicature, or there be no superior to execute the law upon thee.

Verse 14

To blaspheme, i. e. to reproach both God and his people, and the true religion. For though these were not concerned in David’s sin, the blame and shame of which should have been appropriated to him; yet heathens and wicked men would, according to their own evil minds and malicious hearts, fasten the reproach of this upon God and religion; as if God were unholy, because the man after God’s own heart was so; and partial, in conniving at so great a crime, when Saul was cast off for a far less sin; and negligent in the government of the world, and of his church, in suffering such a wickedness as even heathens have abhorred to go unpunished; and as if all religion were but hypocrisy and imposture, and a pretence for villainies. Besides, the Ammonites, upon their success against Uriah and his party, did doubtless magnify and praise their idols, and blaspheme the God of Israel.

The child shall surely die; which, considering his affection to it, and the punishment threatened to the poor innocent infant for his sake, must needs be grievous to him.

Verse 15

The Lord struck the child with some sudden and dangerous distemper.

Verse 16

David besought God for the child; supposing the threatening might be conditional, and so the execution of it prevented by prayer.

Went in, to wit, into his closet, as Matthew 6:6, to pray solitarily and earnestly, as he had done with others. Or this word may only note his progress and continuance in the actions here expressed.

Verse 17

The elders of his house; the chief officers of his kingdom and household who were there present.

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 from the Divine displeasure manifested herein; and particularly from a just apprehension of the injury which he had done to the child by his sin, which justice obliged him to do his utmost to repair by prayer or other means.

Verse 18

On the seventh day; either,

1. From the beginning of the distemper. Or rather,

2. From the day of his birth, which is the most usual way of computation of men’s days or years; for it is apparent that this happened during the time of David’s fasting and lying upon the earth, 2 Samuel 12:20, which it is not probable that it lasted for seven days.

They said, whispering among themselves, 2 Samuel 12:19.

Verse 20

Into the house of the Lord, i. e. to the tabernacle, to confess his sin before the Lord, and to own his justice in this stroke and the other threatenings, and to deprecate his great and just displeasure, and to acknowledge God’s rich mercy in sparing his own life, and to offer such sacrifices as were proper and required in such cases. Nor did David transgress that law, Numbers 19:14, in going thither before the seven days were expired. For neither is there the same reason of a tent, and of a dwelling-house, where the several rooms of the house are as distinct as several tents; nor is it here said, that David was in the same room, or in the same house, where the child died.

Verse 22

For God’s threatening of the child’s death might be conditional, as that was of Nineveh’s destruction, Jonah 3:4.

Verse 23

Wherefore should 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

David comforted Bathsheba; who was now much dejected, both for her former sin, which she truly repented of, as may be gathered from Proverbs 31:1-3, &c., and for the loss of that child which was very dear to her, and which might seem to be the only tie of David’s affection to her; which being now dead, she might think that David would utterly cast her off, and leave her to that shame and punishment which she had deserved. Went in unto her, to wit, into her chamber or bed. The Lord loved him, i.e. the Lord declared to David that he loved his son, notwithstanding the just cause which David had given to God to alienate his affections from him.

Verse 25

Either because of the Lord’s love to him, as the name signifies; or because the Lord commanded him to do so.

Verse 26

i.e. That part of the city where was the king’s palace, where he ordinarily resided; though now it seems he was retired to a strong fort.

Verse 27

The same royal city so called, because it either stood beside the river, or was encompassed with water, both for defence and delight. Although the words are by some learned men rendered thus,

I have taken, or intercepted, or cut off water from the city; which well agrees, both with the words, eth being here put for meeth, which is frequent; as Genesis 4:1 44:4 Exodus 9:29, &c.; and with the relation of Josephus the Jew, who saith, The conduits of water were cut off, and so the city was taken; and with a relation of Polybius concerning the same city, which was taken afterwards by Antiochus in the same manner, by cutting off water from the city.

Verse 28

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

Lest it be called after my name; lest I have the honour of taking it. Thus he seeks to ingratiate himself with the king, by pretending great care for his honour and interest.

Verse 29

David, gathered all the people together; either because Joab needed more help for the storming of the city; or, at least, for the prosecution of the victory, and execution of justice upon the whole land; or because he would have them all to partake of the spoil of the city, which was there in great abundances, 2 Samuel 12:30; the rather because they were all exposed to the hazard of utter ruin, in case the Ammonites had prevailed against them.

Verse 30

The weight whereof was a talent of gold, or rather, the price whereof, &c. For as the Hebrew shekel signifies both a weight, and a piece of money of a certain price; so also may mishkal, as proceeding from the same root. And, in general, the same words both in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin are promiscuously used, to signify either weight or price, as is well known to the learned. And the addition of

precious stones, which are never valued by the weight of gold, makes this signification here most proper and probable. Moreover, the weight might seem too great, either for the king of Ammon or for David, to wear it upon his head. Although, if this were meant of the weight, it might be said that this was not a crown to be worn ordinarily, but merely to be put on upon the king’s head at his coronation, or upon solemn occasions, as here where this was done, in token of the translation of this kingdom to David; and, it may be, it was held up or supported by two officers of state, that it might not be too burdensome to him, and after a little while taken off.

Verse 31

The people that were therein: the words are indefinite, and therefore not necessarily to be understood of all the people; for it had been barbarous to use women and children thus; but of the men of war, and especially of those who had been the chief actors or abettors of that villainous action against David’s ambassadors, (which was contrary to the law of nature, and of nations, and of all humanity,) and of the dreadful war ensuing upon it; for which they might seem to deserve the severest punishments. Although indeed there seems to have been too much rigour used; especially, because these dreadful deaths were inflicted not only upon those great counsellors, who were the only authors of that vile usage of the ambassadors; but upon a great number of the people, who were innocent from that crime. And therefore it is probably conceived that David exercised this cruelty whilst his heart was hardened and impenitent, and when he was bereaved of that free and good Spirit of God which would have taught him more mercy and moderation.

Put them under saws: he sawed them to death; of which punishment we have examples, both in Scripture, Hebrews 11:37, and in other authors. Under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron; he caused them to be laid down upon the ground, and torn by sharp iron harrows drawn over them, and hewed in pieces by keen axes. Made them pass through the brick-kiln, i.e. to be burnt in brickkilns. Or, made them to pass through the furnace of Malchen, i.e. of Moloch, called also Milchom, and here Malchen; punishing them with their own sin, and with the same kind of punishment which they inflicted upon their own children: see 2 Kings 16:3 23:10 Leviticus 18:21 20:2 Deuteronomy 18:10.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/2-samuel-12.html. 1685.