David and Bathsheba:
Sin, Cover-up, Condemnation, and Restoration
A four-part Biblical story of grace and healing
To some, it is a story of judgment and condemnation. Others see it as a story of grace, restoration, and hope. For those willing to admit their sin and accept God’s judgment, grace, and restoration, it is both.
For those of us who have experienced moral failure, divorce, or other such life experience, it is a message of hope, healing, and restoration that reminds us that God’s agenda is not to crush sinners under his feet, but to heal them and restore their relationship with Him.
In Part 1, The Sin, we will examine how David and Bathsheba got into this mess in the first place.
Part 2, The Cover-up, looks at the frantic efforts of David to hide his sin.
Part 3, The Condemnation, is a look at God’s efforts to straighten out His servant.
Part 4, The Restoration, studies God’s grace and restoration in the lives of both partners.
The realization that God’s agenda is one of healing and restoration will change your perspective on everything. It is my prayer that this study will have as much impact in your life as it has had in mine.
The story begins in 2 Samuel 11:1:
1 Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons
of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
At the very root of David’s problems, we find a king who wasn’t where he belonged. If David had been out in the battlefield, where the king was supposed to be, instead
of hanging around the palace looking at naked women, this whole incident would have never happened. Some have suggested that David may have been battling depression, or
having a “mid-life crisis.” In either event, he wasn’t where he belonged — which, at least in my life, is often the first step of a downhill slide.
2 Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very
beautiful in appearance.
3 So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4 David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.
I should point out here that, when viewed through the eyes of modern western civilization, it’s all too easy to conclude that Bathsheba shares in David’s guilt as a
willing participant, or if nothing else, an immodest woman who had no business bathing where the King could see her. To be honest, I’ve even taught that perspective in
the past, but I’ve also been gently but firmly corrected for my error. In that society’s governmental system, the King was the absolute authority. If Bathsheba was
summoned to the King’s palace, then she came to the palace or risked execution for defying the King. Bathsheba’s bathing was not in a public place, but probably behind
the walls of an enclosed courtyard. She had no expectation that she would be seen, since the King was, after all, supposed to be out in the battlefield with her husband.
Clearly, this is a case of one man abusing his power to satisfy his own lustful desires.
David didn’t set out to commit an insidious sin. People seldom do. At first inquiry, he didn’t know this woman’s identity or her marital status. Had she been unmarried,
he would have been quite proper in pursuing her as a wife, and his inquiry would not have been improper. By the time he learned that she was married, David had already
let lust get its nasty little hooks into his heart, and his lustful desire outweighed his good sense and integrity. Unbridled lust can do that to a person — yes, even
you, if you allow it to smolder long enough.
By this point, it’s apparent that David’s intentions have shifted from an interest in taking Bathsheba as a wife, to just plain taking Bathsheba. David had no plans on a
long-term affair — just a one-night sexual romp with a good-looking woman.
As usual, sin had its consequences:
5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am pregnant.”
David hadn’t planned on that possibility.
David had sinned, and as usual, sin had its consequences:
5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am pregnant.”
David, demonstrating that he was just like the rest of us, went with his first instinct; he tried to cover up his sin and shift the responsibility to someone
6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 When Uriah came to him, David asked concerning the welfare of Joab and the people and the state of the war.
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
10 Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field.
Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”
12 Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you go.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.
13 Now David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he
did not go down to his house.
Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was a faithful warrior who was out on the battlefield — the same battlefield where David should have been. David called Uriah in from
the battle, probably under the guise of a special project or task (not really a “lie” in legalese thinking — it was a special project for the king, in a warped
sort of way). After a few pleasantries and war stories, he told Uriah to go down to his house, assuming of course that Uriah would have marital relations with Bathsheba
while he was home, which would allow him to think that the baby was his, effectively covering up the incident.
The one thing that they didn’t consider in the plan was Uriah’s sense of honor and loyalty. He would not go and enjoy the pleasures of home when his fellow-soldiers were
camping in the battlefield. David even tried getting him drunk, but Uriah’s sense of duty and honor was strong enough to overcome all of David’s tactics.
Finally, David gets desperate, and like most desperate men, did something stupid:
14 Now in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
15 He had written in the letter, saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
David sent word back to Joab, the leader of the king’s army, to put Uriah in a place where he would be killed. Although he did not know why the king had ordered Uriah’s
death, Joab obeyed his king’s command, probably under the assumption that the king had good reason, and that perhaps Uriah had somehow been disloyal to the kingdom:
16 So it was as Joab kept watch on the city, that he put Uriah at the place where he knew there were valiant men.
17 The men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David’s servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died.
It appears that the only way that Joab could arrange for the death of a seasoned warrior such as Uriah was to use some unwise battle tactics, which caused several good
men to die with him. Cover-ups are often like that — a lot of innocent people get hurt while we are trying to hide the truth. Joab was so sure that David would
react poorly to the battle strategy that led to Uriah’s death that, when the messenger went to update David on the war, Joab gave him specific instructions that would
tell David that the deed had been done:
18 Then Joab sent and reported to David all the events of the war.
19 He charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling all the events of the war to the king,
20 and if it happens that the king’s wrath rises and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the
21 ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so
near the wall?’–then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.’”
22 So the messenger departed and came and reported to David all that Joab had sent him to tell.
23 The messenger said to David, “The men prevailed against us and came out against us in the field, but we pressed them as far as the entrance of the gate.
24 “Moreover, the archers shot at your servants from the wall; so some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.”
25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your
battle against the city stronger and overthrow it’; and so encourage him.”
It’s interesting that Joab knew David well enough to anticipate his reaction to the strategic error, but there is no evidence that David even flinched at the news.
David’s focus was on one thing, and only one thing — hiding his sin, at any cost. Matters of state and ethical issues had been pushed down on David’s priority list.
Now, with Uriah out of the way, David could make the Cover-up complete:
26 Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
27 When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done
was evil in the sight of the LORD.
Bathsheba mourned for her husband, as was proper. Then, as a gesture of supposed nobility, the king took the poor widow in and made her one of his wives. My, what
a noble gesture — in today’s world, the king’s press agent would have made it a photo-op, and gotten it on the front page of every newspaper in the land.
David thought the whole incident was covered. The only living person who knew the entire truth and could testify against him was Bathsheba, and and her silence
was probably motivated by fear for her own life. There also were some men who served the king, who had partial knowledge, but they remained loyal to the king — even
when he was wrong — and were probably compensated for their silence. All of his bases were covered — or so he thought. He only overlooked one small detail: you
can’t hide your heart from God.
Condemnation and Repentance
David had sinned, and thought that he had managed to build an effective cover-up plan. He only overlooked one small detail: you can’t hide your heart from
12:1 Then the LORD sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor.
2 “The rich man had a great many flocks and herds.
3 “But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb Which he bought and nourished; And it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his
bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, And was like a daughter to him.
4 “Now a traveler came to the rich man, And he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, To prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; Rather he
took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”
5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die.
6 “He must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”
Nathan’s parable was a close parallel to what David had done, and had covered up so skillfully. This should remind us that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t hide
from God. We’re much better off if we’re just honest with Him up front — it’s not like He doesn’t already know.
Nathan set David up, and David took the bait. David still had a moral compass — even though he had ignored it in his own situation — and that moral compass screamed
for justice. David, as king, had authority to pronounce judgement on such criminals, and that’s exactly what he did — not realizing that he was pronouncing his own
judgement: the death penalty.
It was then, in verse 7, that Nathan “dropped the bomb.”
7 Nathan then said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘It is I who anointed you king over Israel and it is I who delivered you from the
hand of Saul.
8 ‘I also gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your care, and I gave you the house of Israel and Judah; and if that had been too little, I would
have added to you many more things like these!
9 ‘Why have you despised the word of the LORD by doing evil in His sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, have taken his wife to be your wife,
and have killed him with the sword of the sons of Ammon.
10 ‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’
11 “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you from your own household; I will even take your wives before your eyes and give them to your
companion, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight.
12 ‘Indeed you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, and under the sun.’”
David was reminded, as I often need to be, that God is bigger and smarter than we are. Nathan, who hadn’t been a party to any of this incident, recited back to
David EXACTLY what he had done, in painful detail, and pronounced God’s judgement on the king. On top of that, David had already pronounced his own death sentence
— he was backed into an uncomfortable corner.
It’s important to understand the dynamic of this situation. Nathan literally risked his life bringing this accusation before the king. The king was the sole
power-broker of government; he could have told one of the guards to kill Nathan on the spot. He could have denied his sin, and argued with Nathan (and with God). He
could have defied them and continued in his denial. The choice was David’s to make. Nathan understood the risk, yet also understood that obedience to God, even to the
point of death, is better than long life of rebellion and disobedience.
I recently heard Robert Lewis teaching about this moment of decision in David’s life. Lewis pointed out that David could have continued in denial, with words such as
“I did NOT have sex with that woman.” Instead, the element of David’s being that made him “a man after God’s own heart” rose up within him — what Lewis calls
“the face of the king” — and David, face-to-face with himself, made the most noble statement of his life:
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Samuel 12:13a)
There were none of the blame-shifting “but” phrases that typified Saul, his predecessor to the throne. There were no excuses, no spin, no double-talk or legalese
waffling. David saw his situation clearly, and dealt with it boldly. With his admission of guilt, it would have been fully justified if God had carried out the
sentence pronounced upon him by his own judgement and struck him dead on the spot. David confessed his sin, and expected to die for it.
It is when we are truly honest with God that we find His mercy and grace:
And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13b)
This was an important defining moment in David’s life. He confessed his sin, and was prepared to accept his punishment of death. Instead, God showed His grace by
forgiving David, and allowing him to live. For the rest of his days, when David opened his eyes in the morning, he knew that he was alive for one reason and one reason
only: the sheer grace of God. That turning point changed the direction of David’s life, and deepened his relationship with God to a level he had never known
before. Understanding God’s grace will have the same effect on you and me.
Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. It illustrates that David’s repentance was not just a “sorry, I’ll try to do better” sort of thing, but a deep, heartfelt plea
to God for forgiveness, healing and restoration:
1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, And my sin is ever before me.
David didn’t try to shift the blame for his sin. This Psalm doesn’t contain one single word of self-justification. David didn’t try to blame Bathsheba for his downfall,
or talk about the enormous stresses and responsibilities in the life of a great leader. He faced his sin head-on, and called it what it was: his sin.
4 Against You, You only, I have sinned And done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak And blameless when You judge.
David understood that, while he had indeed sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, any sin is first and foremost a sin against God, and his first step of repentance is
confession before God.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
David acknowledged the basic depravity of mankind, himself included. He finally came to the point of “truth in the inmost being,” and was honest with himself about his
7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Hyssop was used under Old Testament law for two rituals of purification. It was part of the purification of one healed of leprosy, and of those who had contact with a
dead body. David saw his sin for what it really was: a deadly disease that could be cured only by God himself. Only the Grace of God can purify us and forgive our sins.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation And sustain me with a willing spirit.
David “prayed through” to the outcome of genuine repentance before God: that which was broken begins to heal, as God blots out our sin and creates a clean heart within
us. David’s reference to being “cast away from Your presence” in verse 11 refers back to his predecessor to the throne, King Saul, who failed to honestly repent of his
sin of disobedience. As a result, God withdrew his Spirit from Saul, who lived out his days in misery and torment. David witnessed this chapter in Saul’s life, and asked
not only for forgiveness, but for a renewed relationship, and deliverance from the fate of Saul.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners will be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, That my mouth may declare Your praise.
16 For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
18 By Your favor do good to Zion; Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will delight in righteous sacrifices, In burnt offering and whole burnt offering; Then young bulls will be offered on Your altar.
Genuine repentance brings forgiveness, restoration and healing, and the end result of that cycle is action. David committed himself to serving God with his restored
life, and leading other needy people to Him. It is not the “sacrifice” of labor that produces favor with God; it is favor with God, through honest repentance, that
produces a willing servant.
Now, there are many who want the story to end with 2 Samuel 12:13, but don’t stop reading — God’s not finished yet! In fact, He’s just getting started!
Healing and Restoration
So far, David has committed adultery, then ordered the murder of several innocent men, trying to cover up his sin. God has sent Nathan the Prophet to confront David,
and David has sought God’s forgiveness and expressed an attitude of genuine repentance.
Now, there are many who want the story to end here, with 2 Samuel 12:13:
13 Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”
We love stories with perfect, happy endings, and we want sin forgiven without consequence. In reality, we can be forgiven for breaking the window, but we still have
to sweep up the broken glass and repair the window. There are consequences to our actions, and like it or not, we must coexist with those consequences, just as David
2 Samuel 12:14 “However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”
15 So Nathan went to his house. Then the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s widow bore to David, so that he was very sick.
16 David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground.
17 The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them.
18 Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while
the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!”
19 But when David saw that his servants were whispering together, David perceived that the child was dead; so David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?” And
they said, “He is dead.”
20 So David arose from the ground, washed, anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he came into the house of the LORD and worshiped. Then he came to his own
house, and when he requested, they set food before him and he ate.
21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate
22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’
23 “But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:14-23).
The death of David’s newborn son seems, at first look, to be a cruel and unfair punishment of an innocent child. There are many commentaries that see this from other
perspectives, including that the child would have lived a painful and disgraceful life, as an illegitimate son, and his death as an infant was merciful. Others have
commented on the possible ramifications of this illegitimate child becoming king. Still others see the example of atonement, an innocent life being given to redeem the
life of the guilty. Frankly, I don’t have a definitive answer. The child’s death does, however, underscore an important truth; our sin affects not only ourselves, but
also those around us. The long-reaching effect of a moment of sinful self-indulgence can be disastrous. We seldom pause to consider that factor in a moment of
temptation. If we could see the results of our actions clearly, we’d say “no” more often.
There were other consequences, too. The judgement proclaimed in verses 11 and 12 came to pass, when in 2 Samuel 16:20-22 David’s rebellious son Absalom publicly went in
to his father’s wives and concubines to demonstrate his rebellion to the nation. In verse 12, Nathan told David that what he tried to keep as a secret affair would be
made public, and he would face public disgrace and humiliation. Bathsheba, though a part of the king’s household, had to live with humiliation and disgrace in the midst
of the king’s other wives and concubines. In the terms of their society, the loss of a son was a sign of God’s judgement upon them that was a matter of deep, scarring
The best news of all is that the story does not end with the consequences of sin. Where there is sin, there are consequences, but where there is grace, there is
restoration and healing:
24 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and went in to her and lay with her; and she gave birth to a son, and he named him Solomon. Now the LORD loved him
25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet, and he named him Jedidiah for the LORD’S sake.
I would have expected the embarrassed and disgraced Bathsheba to tell David that he could just stay on his side of the palace, and that she never wanted to lay eyes
on him again. Perhaps she even did. Scripture does not record Bathsheba’s journey of healing as it does David’s, but there is sound evidence that she did, indeed,
make the trip.
Who would think that a relationship with such a sin-drenched foundation could even survive, much less prosper. God demonstrated His grace in the sanctification of a
relationship that had once brought the condemnation of death. This is not a “healed but always deficient” relationship, but a “healed and holy household,” a union that
brought forth Solomon, a child regarded by both sacred and secular authority as one of the wisest men ever born. He succeeded his father as King, and his name appears in
the direct bloodline of Christ in the New Testament genealogies.
The restored, healed, sanctified marriage of David and Bathsheba bears both God’s hand and His blessing. It is purely poetic that the same prophet chosen to bring God’s
condemnation of sin was also chosen to deliver God’s blessing on the fruits of this healed, holy relationship. The LORD sent word through Nathan that He had a special
name for this special child: Jedidiah — which means “beloved of God.” It is important to note that the healing and reconstruction of this relationship did not happen
immediately. Based on historical accounts and comparative scriptural studies, it is apparent that several years passed between the death of the first son and the birth
of Solomon. It is also apparent that, although David had many wives, Bathsheba became his favorite. A marriage built on the healing grace of God always produces very
special, intimate, bonded relationships.
God never brings us condemnation without offering us grace and healing. This is a recurring theme throughout the Bible — God wants to have an intimate
relationship with each of us, and goes out of His way to invite us into that relationship. The whole point of Nathan’s charge against David was not to punish him,
but to restore him.
There have been many parallels between this chapter of David’s life and the lives of men who have fallen into sin. Whether the man is a well-known figure like Jim Bakker
or Bill Clinton, or a common “man in the street,” we all stand on level ground at the foot of the cross. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, or where you’ve been –
God’s healing, restoring grace is available for you, just like it was for David. All you have to do is be willing to face God — and yourself — with the same painful
honesty that was David’s first step toward rebuilding his life.
Are you ready for a fresh start? Your life can be healed, restored, and rebuilt, just like David’s was. I can tell you from experience that it will not be an easy
journey, but it will be the most worthwhile venture of your entire lifetime.
Like David, you will have to be honest with God, and with yourself.
- Stop trying to hide your sin behind cheap excuses and lies
- Be willing to deal with and accept the consequences of your sin
- Totally surrender yourself to God
- Allow Jesus to come into your heart and forgive your sin
- Having accepted His free gift of salvation, let Him start the process of rebuilding your life on His firm, eternal foundation.
God is not only willing to help you rebuild, He wants you whole even more than you do!
Why hesitate? He’s waiting for your call!