King David had an illicit interaction with Bathsheba, wife of a soldier under his authority. He tried unsuccessfully to conceal the affair through her husband, ordered him killed in desperation, and re-married his wife thereafter. Prophet Nathan confronted David about the affair, pronounced his punishment, but also announced he had been forgiven because he repented. However, the promise of punishment appeared fulfilled despite forgiveness. We discuss an understanding of David’s sin and punishment in the context of a difference between human and eternal consequences of sin.
The biblical account of David-Bathsheba relationship includes events that occurred before and after their marriage. We divide the relationship into two parts as pre-marriage and post-marriage to understand that David’s actions during the first part displeased God and brought him severe punishment. In contrast, his experience regarding the second part of the relationship provides an understanding that God’s promise of blessing can coexist with, but does not nullify, his promise of punishment. This bible study focuses on the first part.
David could not resist a beautiful woman that he saw from a lookout vantage of the king’s palace. He had the woman brought to him and shared an illicit interaction with her. The woman became pregnant as a result. David tried unsuccessfully to conceal the affair by tricking the woman’s husband, a soldier under his authority, but the man did not fall for the trick. In desperation, David ordered him killed by over-exposure in battle and married his wife after her mourning.
God sent Prophet Nathan to confront David regarding his interactions with Bathsheba. The prophet pronounced punishment on David: the child of the affair will die, a person close to David will sleep with his wives in broad daylight, and calamity will befall him from his household. In addition, Prophet Nathan responded to David’s expression of repentance by telling him as follows [2 Samuel 12:13–14]: “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for the Lord, the son born to you will die.”
The son of the illicit affair died soon after. Furthermore, the two other promises of punishment also apparently were fulfilled through the rebellion of Absalom. Therefore, David was not absolved in full from the consequences of his illicit premarital interactions with Bathsheba despite being forgiven of his sin as Prophet Nathan announced to him. To understand David’s punishment despite forgiveness, we examine his sin and punishment in the context of a possible difference between human and eternal consequences of sin.
We discuss Christ’s teaching on sin, repentance, and forgiveness. He admonishes us to refrain from causing others to sin and to forgive people that sin against us. He talked about sin in terms of things a person may do against other persons, thereby defining principles applicable to dispute resolution.
The teaching focused on individual responsibilities in avoiding sin, seeking forgiveness of a sin committed against another person, and accepting repentance and forgiving a person that has sinned against them [Luke 17:1–4]. The responsibilities include rebuking a person for committing sin against another person and forgiving them if they repent, irrespective of the frequency of occurrence. In this study, we discuss the meaning of causing others to sin (being a channel for temptation to others), rebuking a person that sins against another, seeking forgiveness, and forgiving others. Christ emphasized repentance as necessary for forgiveness. We recall a previous study on the life of Joseph (eleventh son of Jacob) that illustrates the benefits of repentance, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Any blessing earned by a person remains effective until fulfilled at its time. Also, any incurred punishment, unless forgiven, remains effective until fulfilled at its time. Earned blessing and incurred punishment are parallel promises. There is no trade-off of one against the other.
We learn this through this week’s bible study on interactions between David and Bathsheba. King David had an affair with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife, while Uriah was at the war front fighting for Israel. She became pregnant from the affair. David tried to cover up the affair, first by attempting to trick Uriah into sleeping with his wife. When he realized Uriah would not fall for the trick, David ordered that he be over-exposed at the war front so he would be killed by the enemy. The plot was successful. Uriah was killed in the battle. David married Bathsheba thereafter and she gave birth to a son from the affair. But God was not deceived.
David’s interactions with Abigail [1 Samuel 25:1–44] illustrate several principles applicable to present-day human relationships.
David Reacts to Nabal’s Contempt
David was angry with Nabal (Abigail’s husband) for rejecting with contempt his (David’s) request for food. David and his men had protected Nabal’s shepherds and flock in the field. So, David sent a few people to request food from Nabal during a sheep-shearing festival. Nabal not only refused but insulted David in the process. David set out with his men, intending to destroy Nabal and his belongings in a quest for revenge.
After David left Saul’s service, Saul went after him to hunt him down and kill him, because he saw David as a threat to continuation of his kingdom. David, with a team of about 400 men, moved frequently to evade Saul. Twice he had good opportunity to kill Saul but did not kill him because of his great respect for Saul as God’s anointed king of Israel.
Personal choices determine the fate of opportunities that God positions for each individual. Make the right choices and develop the opportunity and benefits. Make the wrong choices and you could abandon the opportunity as it is transferred to another person. Christ taught this through the Parable of Talents. Additionally, Joseph’s interactions with his brothers during “the great famine” provide us a real life example.
Forgiveness without repentance could result in an “eating with the devil” relationship, in which one would use a proverbial long spoon in readiness to run away at any appearance of provocation. God can see through your heart to know if you have repented. However, a fellow human being may need a physical manifestation of your repentance to truly forgive.
Joseph Seeks True Forgiveness
Joseph sought and found true forgiveness for his senior brothers. Recall that his brothers met him in Egypt approximately 20 years after they sold him to slavery. He was a powerful man, the administrative head of all Egypt. His brothers did not recognize him. He recognized them but did not reveal himself. Instead, he subjected them to several tests to verify their repentance.