2 Samuel 12

CHAPTER XII

The Lord sends Nathan the prophet to reprove David; which he

does by means of a curious parable, 1-4.

David is led, unknowingly, to pronounce his on condemnation,

5, 6.

Nathan charges the guilt home on his conscience; and predicts

a long train of calamities which should fall on him and his

family, 7-12.

David confesses his sin; and Nathan gives him hope of God's

mercy, and foretells the death of the child born in adultery,

13, 14.

The child is taken ill; David fasts and prays for its

restoration, 15-17.

On the seventh day the child dies, and David is comforted,

18-24.

Solomon is born of Bath-sheba, 25, 26.

Joab besieges Rabbah of the Ammonites, takes the city of waters,

and sends for David to take Rabbah, 27, 28.

He comes, takes it, gets much spoil, and puts the inhabitants to

hard labor, 29-31.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII

Verse 1. There were two men in one city] See a discourse on

fables at the end of Jud 9:56, and a discourse on parabolic

writing at the end of the thirteenth chapter of Matthew.

There is nothing in this parable that requires illustration; its

bent is evident; and it was construed to make David, unwittingly,

pass sentence on himself. It was in David's hand, what his own

letters were in the hands of the brave but unfortunate Uriah.

Verse 3. And lay in his bosom] This can only mean that this lamb

was what we call a pet or favourite in the family, else the

circumstance would be very unnatural, and most likely would have

prevented David from making the application which he did, as

otherwise it would have appeared absurd. It is the only part of

this parable which is at variance with nature and fact.

Verse 5. The man-shall surely die] Literally ben maveth,

"he is a son of death," a very bad man, and one who deserves to

die. But the law did not sentence a sheep-stealer to death; let us

hear it: If a man steal an ox or a sheep, he shall restore FIVE

OXEN for an ox, and FOUR SHEEP for a sheep, Ex 22:1; and hence

David immediately says, He shall restore the lamb FOURFOLD.

Verse 7. Thou art the man.] What a terrible word! And by it

David appears to have been transfixed, and brought into the dust

before the messenger of God.

THOU ART this son of death, and thou shalt restore this lamb

FOURFOLD. It is indulging fancy too much to say David was called,

in the course of a just Providence to pay this fourfold debt? to

lose four sons by untimely deaths, viz., this son of Bath-sheba,

on whom David had set his heart, was slain by the Lord; Amnon,

murdered by his brother Absalom; Absalom, slain in the oak by

Joab; and Adonijah, slain by the order of his brother Solomon,

even at the altar of the Lord! The sword and calamity did not

depart from his house, from the murder of wretched Amnon by his

brother to the slaughter of the sons of Zedekiah, before their

father's eyes, by the king of Babylon. His daughter was

dishonoured by her own brother, and his wives contaminated

publicly by his own son! How dreadfully, then, was David punished

for his sin! Who would repeat his transgression to share in its

penalty? Can his conduct ever be an inducement to, or an

encouragement in, sin? Surely, No. It must ever fill the reader

and the hearer with horror. Behold the goodness and severity of

God! Reader, lay all these solemn things to heart.

Verse 8. Thy master's wives into thy bosom] Perhaps this means

no more than that he had given him absolute power over every thing

possessed by Saul; and as it was the custom for the new king to

succeed even to the wives and concubines, the whole harem of the

deceased king, so it was in this case; and the possession of the

wives was a sure proof that he had got all regal rights. But could

David, as the son-in-law of Saul, take the wives of his

father-in-law? However, we find delicacy was seldom consulted in

these cases; and Absalom lay with his own father's wives in the

most public manner, to show that he had seized on the kingdom,

because the wives of the preceding belonged to the succeeding

king, and to none other.

Verse 9. Thou hast killed Uriah] THOU art the MURDERER, as

having planned his death; the sword of the Ammonites was THY

instrument only.

Verse 11. I will take thy wives] That is, In the course of my

providence I will permit all this to be done. Had David been

faithful, God, by his providence, would have turned all this

aside; but now, by his sin, he has made that providence his enemy

which before was his friend.

Verse 13. The Lord-hath put away thy sin] Many have supposed

that David's sin was now actually pardoned, but this is perfectly

erroneous; David, as an adulterer, was condemned to death by the

law of God; and he had according to that law passed sentence of

death upon himself. God alone, whose law that was could revoke

that sentence, or dispense with its execution; therefore Nathan,

who had charged the guilt home upon his conscience, is authorized

to give him the assurance that he should not die a temporal death

for it: The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. This

is all that is contained in the assurance given by Nathan: Thou

shalt not die that temporal death; thou shalt be preserved alive,

that thou mayest have time to repent, turn to God, and find mercy.

If the fifty-first Psalm, as is generally supposed, was written on

this occasion, then it is evident (as the Psalm must have been

written after this interview) that David had not received pardon

for his sin from God at the time he composed it; for in it he

confesses the crime in order to find mercy.

There is something very remarkable in the words of Nathan: The

Lord also hath PUT AWAY thy sin; thou shalt not die;

gam Yehovah heebir chattathecha lo thamuth, Also

Jehovah HATH CAUSED thy sin TO PASS OVER, or transferred thy sin;

THOU shalt not die. God has transferred the legal punishment of

this sin to the child; HE shall die, THOU shalt not die; and this

is the very point on which the prophet gives him the most direct

information: The child that is born unto thee shall SURELY die;

moth yamuth, dying he shall die-he shall be in a dying

state seven days, and then he shall die. So God immediately struck

the child, and it was very sick.

Verse 16. David-besought God for the child] How could he do so,

after the solemn assurance that he had from God that the child

should die? The justice of God absolutely required that the

penalty of the law should be exacted; either the father or the son

shall die. This could not be reversed.

Verse 20. David arose from the earth, and washed] Bathing,

anointing the body, and changing the apparel, are the first

outward signs among the Hindoos of coming out of a state of

mourning or sickness.

Verse 22. Who can tell] David, and indeed all others under the

Mosaic dispensation, were so satisfied that all God's threatenings

and promises were conditional, that even in the most positive

assertions relative to judgments, &c., they sought for a change of

purpose. And notwithstanding the positive declaration of Nathan,

relative to the death of the child, David sought for its life, not

knowing but that might depend on some unexpressed condition, such

as earnest prayer, fasting, humiliation, &c., and in these he

continued while there was hope. When the child died, he ceased to

grieve, as he now saw that this must be fruitless. This appears to

be the sole reason of David's importunity.

Verse 23. I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.] It

is not clear whether David by this expressed his faith in the

immortality of the soul; going to him may only mean, I also

shall die, and be gathered to my fathers, as he is. But whether

David expressed this or not, we know that the thing is true; and

it is one of the most solid grounds of consolation to surviving

friends that they shall by and by be joined to them in a state of

conscious existence. This doctrine has a very powerful tendency to

alleviate the miseries of human life and reconcile us to the death

of most beloved friends. And were we to admit the contrary, grief,

in many cases, would wear out its subject before it wore out

itself. Even the heathens derived consolation from the reflection

that they should meet their friends in a state of conscious

existence. And a saying in Cicero De Senectute, which he puts in

the mouth of Cato of Utica, has been often quoted, and is

universally admired:-

O praelarum diem, cum ad illud divinum animorum concilium

coetumque proficiscar, cumque ex hac turba et colluvione discedam!

Proficiscar enim non ad eos solum viros de quibus ante dixi; sed

etiam ad Catonem meum quo nemo vir melior natus est, nemo pietate

praestantior: cujus a me corpus crematum est; quod contra decuit

ab illo meum. Animus vero non me deserens, sed respectans, in ea

profecto loca discessit, quo mihi ipsi cernebat esse veniendum:

quem ego meum catum fortiter ferre visus sum: non quod aequo animo

ferrem: sed me ipse consolabar, existimans, non longinquum inter

nos digressum et discessum fore.

CATO MAJOR, De Senectute, in fin.

"O happy day, (says he,) when I shall quit this impure and

corrupt multitude, and join myself to that divine company and

council of souls who have quitted the earth before me! There I

shall find, not only those illustrious personages to whom I have

spoken, but also my Cato, who I can say was one of the best men

ever born, and whom none ever excelled in virtue and piety. I have

placed his body on that funeral pyre whereon he ought to have laid

mine. But his soul has not left me; and, without losing sight of

me, he has only gone before into a country where he saw I should

soon rejoin him. This my lot I seem to bear courageously; not

indeed that I do bear it with resignation, but I shall comfort

myself with the persuasion that the interval between his departure

and mine will not be long."

And we well know who has taught us not to sorrow as those

without hope for departed friends.

Verse 24. David comforted Bath-sheba] His extraordinary

attachment to this beautiful woman was the cause of all his

misfortunes.

He called his name Solomon] This name seems to have been given

prophetically, for sholomah signifies peaceable, and there

was almost uninterrupted peace during his reign.

Verse 25. Called-Jedidiah] , literally, the beloved of the

Lord. This is the first instance I remember of a minister of God

being employed to give a name to the child of one of his servants.

But it is strange that the name given by the father was that alone

which prevailed.

Verse 26. And took the royal city.] How can this be, when Joab

sent to David to come to take the city, in consequence of which

David did come and take that city? The explanation seems to be

this: Rabbah was composed of a city and citadel; the former, in

which was the king's residence, Joab had taken, and supposed he

could soon render himself master of the latter, and therefore

sends to David to come and take it, lest, he taking the whole, the

city should be called after his name.

Verse 27. And have taken the city of waters.] The city where the

tank or reservoir was that supplied the city and suburbs with

water. Some think that the original, lachadti

eth ir hammayim, should be translated I have intercepted, or cut

off, the waters of the city: and Houbigant translates the place,

et aquas ab urbe jam derivavi; "And I have already drawn off the

waters from the city." This perfectly agrees with the account in

Josephus, who says τωντευδατωναυτουςαποτεμνομενος, having

cut off their waters, Antiq., lib. vii., cap. 7. This was the

reason why David should come speedily, as the citadel, deprived of

water, could not long hold out.

Verse 30. The weight whereof was a talent of gold] If this

talent was only seven pounds, as Whiston says, David might have

carried it on his head with little difficulty; but this weight,

according to common computation, would amount to more than one

hundred pounds!

If, however, mishkalah be taken for the value, not the

weight then all is plain as the worth of the crown will be about

5075 15s. 7d. sterling. Now this seems to be the true sense,

because of the added words with the precious stones; i.e., the

gold of the crown, and the jewels with which it was adorned,

were equal in value to a talent of gold.

Verse 31. He brought forth the people] And put them under saws.

From this representation a great cry has been raised against

"David's unparalleled, if not diabolic, cruelty." I believe this

interpretation was chiefly taken from the parallel place,

1Ch 20:3, where it is said,

he cut them with saws, and with axes, &c. Instead of

vaiyasar, he sawed, we have here (in Samuel) vaiyasem, he

put them; and these two words differ from each other only in a

part of a single letter, resh for mem. And it is

worthy of remark, that instead of vaiyasar, he sawed, in

1Ch 20:3, six or seven MSS. collated by Dr. Kennicott have

vaiyasem, he put them; nor is there found any various reading in

all the MSS. yet collated for the text in this chapter, that

favours the common reading in Chronicles. The meaning therefore

is, He made the people slaves, and employed them in sawing, making

iron harrows, or mining, (for the word means both,) and in hewing

of wood, and making of brick. Sawing asunder, hacking, chopping,

and hewing human beings, have no place in this text, no more than

they had in David's conduct towards the Ammonites.

It is surprising, and a thing to be deplored, that in this and

similar cases our translators had not been more careful to sift

the sense of the original words by which they would have avoided a

profusion of exceptionable meanings with which they have clothed

many passages of the sacred writings. Though I believe our

translation to be by far the best in any language, ancient or

modern, yet I am satisfied it stands much in need of revision.

Most of the advantages which our unbelievers have appeared to have

over certain passages of Scripture, have arisen from an inaccurate

or false translation of the terms in the original; and an appeal

to this has generally silenced the gainsayers. But in the time in

which our translation was made, Biblical criticism was in its

infancy, if indeed it did exist; and we may rather wonder that we

find things so well, than be surprised that they are no better.

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