2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51
The Coronation of David
Background: Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle against the Philistines. Their bodies, decapitated and desecrated by their enemies, are recovered and given a proper burial.
For the first time in decades, Israel is without a king. The heir apparent, Jonathan, is dead. There is a leadership vacuum, one Israel never experienced when Jehovah was their king.
With Saul and Jonathan dead, David's loyalty oaths to the royal lineage of Benjamin is ended. While Saul's one remaining son, Ishbosheth, is made king of most of Israel, the powerful tribe of Judah anointed David as king.
Civil war broke out between the two feudal lands and lasted for many years. Still, David and Judah continually gained ground, territory and power, while Ishbosheth's kingdom shrank.
Joab and Abner
Two powerful generals figure into the long and drawn out Civil War. Joab was chief captain of David's armies. He was a genius at strategy, but in personal matters often let his passions take precedence over his obedience to the king.
Abner was Ishbosheth's pragmatic, yet less strategic, general. During one intense battle, Israel was forced to flee from the battlefield. While Abner was in retreat, he was chased by Asahel, Joab's younger brother. Abner begged Asahel to chase someone else, but the young man envisioned the glory of killing Israel's general. Abner proved to be the better soldier and slew Asahel. Joab would not forget his brother's death.
Ishbosheth vs Abner
After years of several major defeats, King Ishbosheth insulted Abner by claiming he was distracted from the war by sleeping with one of his father's concubines. Incensed that an incompetent runt of a king would treat him so, Abner decided that a unified kingdom under David would be better for all of Israel.
David was ecstatic to have Abner's support. Preparations were made to have the tribal elders all give allegiance to David, abandoning Ishbosheth. However, Joab was incensed that David would embrace the ancient Robert E. Lee, whose efforts caused the war to last years. He also would not forget his brother's death by Abner's hand.
Joab's strategy was simple. Lure Abner back for a peace meeting, then kill him by stabbing him through the fifth rib, as Abner did to Asahel.
David Saves the Peace
With Abner dead by Joab's sword, the likelihood of winning the peace and tribal allegiance suddenly dimmed. David knew he only had one chance to win over the hearts of Israel's elders. He condemned Joab's action, though acknowledging his right of retribution under Mosaic Law. Still, David told Israel that the curse would be on Joab. Judah's king gave Abner a royal funeral, renting or tearing his clothing and fasting until sunset out of grief.
Israel was impressed with how David treated their war hero and favorite son. Israel gave its loyalty to David.
Assassination of Ishbosheth
2 Samuel 4
At this same time, two of Saul's former soldiers sneaked into Ishbosheth's room and assassinated him. Stabbing a person "under the fifth rib" was a choice strike zone for causing instant death. This is the same spot used by Abner to slay Asahel, and Joab to kill Abner. The soldiers brought Ishbosheth's head to David expecting a reward.
Instead, David reminded them of his response to Saul's murder, noting that Ishbosheth wasn't on the battlefield, but defenseless and asleep on his bed. The men were slain, while Ishbosheth's head was buried in Abner's sepulchre.
David, King of Judah & Israel
2 Samuel 5
With Ishbosheth dead and Abner buried with full honors, Israel knew its choices were limited. David showed them respect and they needed a king. Israel's elders came to David proclaiming, "we are thy bone and thy flesh" (2 Sam 5:1). They were ready to make David king of Israel.
It's important to note that David was king over two nations, not one. While David reached out to both Judah and Israel, their united front would remain fragile, virtually held together by charisma and duct tape. They were a united kingdom only as long as they had a worthy and righteous king that dealt fairly with everyone.
Jerusalem, City of David
To establish his kingdom further, David sought to move his chief city from the southern Judaean city of Hebron, to a city that did not belong to any tribe: Jerusalem. Jerusalem, then named Jebus, remained in the hands of the Jebusites, It was a fortress-city with high, thick stone walls that seemed impenetrable.
So impenetrable that when David invited them to join his kingdom, they scoffed at him.
David, however, found a way in. "Whoever getteth up to the gutter and smiteth the Jebusites" would be David's chief captain and main counsel (2 Sam 5:8). Archaeologists now believe the gutter to be a vertical water tunnel, now named Warren's Shaft after the explorer who discovered and climbed it in modern times.
Shall I Go Up to Battle?
The Philistines did not like the idea of Israel again having a king, so they invaded Israel's borders twice. Each time, David inquired of the Lord, "shall I go up?" The Lord gave David strategic counsel in sending him to war, guaranteeing the victory (2 Sam 5:22-25).
The Ark comes to Jerusalem
2 Samuel 6
With victories and security established, it was time for David to establish the Lord as Israel's God. He fetched the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, for it is the throne or mercy seat where God "sitteth between the cherubim" (6:2).
As the ark lumbered along the bumpy trail on a new cart, Uzzah set forth his hand to steady it. While his intentions were good, he was not authorized to touch the ark, or throne of God, and was smitten dead. David feared to move the ark to Jerusalem, thinking it could curse him as well. So he left it in the home and care of Obed-edom. For 3 months the ark rested there, blessing the home.
David returned to bring it to his city. This time it would be different. After the priests carried it 6 paces, David offered sacrifice. He danced before the ark the entire journey. Finally it arrived, where David placed it in a Tabernacle he had constructed for it. It was finally home.
A Temple for Jehovah?
2 Samuel 7
After years of war, David and Israel finally had peace. David desired to honor God by giving him and the ark of the covenant a permanent home. The Lord revealed to the prophet Nathan that the time was not right, nor was David the correct person to build it, as his life had been too violent. Instead, his son would build the temple during a period of peace.
In the meantime, Israel would have several locations for worshiping Jehovah: the original Tabernacle at Shiloh, the new Tabernacle with the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem, and a myriad of high places (Hebrew: bamoth) or altars established by Samuel and other judges and priests over the years as local outdoor temple/tabernacles to God.
David Obtains the Land of Promise
2 Samuel 8-10
The next few chapters focus on David’s military forays into the lands of the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Amalekites, Edomites (children of Ishmael), and others. Each became subjected to Israel, paying tribute to David and caused to pledge their loyalty to him and Israel. David built fortresses in many of these areas to ensure the people did not revolt. Still, we find that “David executed judgment and justice unto all his people” (2 Sam 8:15).
David discovered that Jonathan’s invalid son Mephibosheth still lived. He brought the young man into his own castle and cared for him. He also restored all of Saul’s personal lands to Mephibosheth.
King Nahash of Ammon had shown David much kindness in the years that David was on the run. Upon his death, David sent messengers to the funeral. However, David’s conquests were reknowned, and Nahash’s son Hanun suspected the messengers to be spies. He cut their beards half off, as well as their clothing, then sending them away in disgrace, especially since the Mosaic Law required the men to wear their beards and be modestly clothed.
David sent Joab and Abishai with their “mighty men” of war to fight Ammon. The Ammonites paid the Syrians to assist them, but David defeated both. The Syrians ended up paying tribute to David, and never assisted the Ammonites again.
David and Israel ruled the Promised Land.
David and Bathsheba
2 Samuel 11-12
(This is where the lesson in the Gospel Doctrine manual actually begins.)
David sent Joab out to war with his mighty men and they thrashed the Ammonites. But David neglected one thing. The king was expected to go out to war with the military. In previous times, when Israel was righteous, their king Jehovah went out with them to battle. The priests would carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle, showing that the true King of Israel was with the Israelites. Once human kings were set in place over Israel, it was expected that the mortal king wage the wars for Jehovah. Saul always went out to war as was expected of the king.
But David neglected his duty, and sent his mighty men of war out without him. Instead, he remained in Jerusalem and enjoyed his leisure. With his idle time came idle thoughts. He encountered Bathsheba bathing upon the roof of her house, which would easily be visible from the palace roof, which looked down one of the valleys of Jerusalem’s old city. This probably was not a one time glance, but he may likely have seen her atop her roof day after day, evening after evening. Regardless of the fact he had dozens of wives by this time, he allowed his mind to wander into dangerous territory.
He called for Bathsheba to see him. She obviously was aware of his watching her, because we do not see her put up any struggle when he called for her. They both thought they could have a quick fling and then go on their way, except for one problem: she became pregnant.
Uriah was a Hittite, a foreigner who had converted to Judaism. He was one of David’s “mighty men” of war, one of a select few out of the thousands of soldiers who was renowned for heroic efforts. He was like Hercules was to the Greeks, one who could do great things for the nation. Uriah, like David, was extremely devoted to God, Israel, and David. Uriah was also Bathsheba’s husband. During war time, the soldiers were expected to stay away from all women. To sleep with a woman would make the man unclean for a week, and unable to serve in war.
Uriah had not slept with Bathsheba due to being in battle. David sought to hide the adultery by inviting Uriah back from the war, where he could sleep with Bathsheba and would then think the child was his own. But Uriah would not make himself unclean, nor would he eat nor drink, while his soldiers were still in the field.
“The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing” (11:11).
Note that the ark of the covenant left Jerusalem to go out to battle, but David remained behind. Uriah swore by both David and his own life that he would not party while the army was in danger. David should have had such an attitude as well.
David sent Uriah back to the war. He gave Joab instructions to place Uriah in the most dangerous spot in the war, so that he would die in battle. David got his wish. Uriah died serving the king and Israel. After her period of mourning, Bathsheba was brought into David’s house and became his wife, bearing him a son.
David thought his actions were secret and would not be found out. Yet, the Lord sees in secret. Nathan the Prophet went to David to explain to him about a rich man who stole a poor man’s only and precious ewe.
David “said to Nathan, As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die:
“And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.
“And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;
“And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.
“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife” (12:5-10).
Nathan said that David was guilty of breaking several of the 10 Commandments, including killing, adultery, coveting, and bearing false witness (lying). God was willing to do many things for David, if he were just to ask. Instead, David took without permission. David would live, but his life would be filled with violence and trials, brought on by his own family. The trial began with Bathsheba’s newborn son dying.
Why Reject Saul but Accept David?
Why did God reject Saul, but only chastised David severely? Isn’t adultery and murder worse than Saul’s making sacrifice to Jehovah?
The Ten Commandments are set up in a specific order. The first 4 commandments are laws regarding man’s relationship with God. The last 6 regard man’s relationship with one another. Saul rebelled against God, while David rebelled against his fellow man. Saul was rejected because his sacrifices and other choices went against Saul’s relationship with God. If Saul sacrificed in disobedience to God, what else would he do in disobedience and open rebellion against the Lord?
David’s sins were crimes of passion against his fellow men. While today we consider murder and sexual sins to be the worst sins besides denying the Holy Ghost (Alma 39:5), we need to consider a few things. First, Alma 39:5 warns us about the “shedding of innocent blood” which can be construed in many ways from simple murder to only the killing of the most innocent (children or Christ). Next, in ancient Israel the rebellion against God was a greater sin than anything against other people. The Mosaic Law included stoning people to death for breaking the Sabbath Day. In modern times, we can understand the death penalty for murder, but for going out for food on the Sabbath Day? We can see that we view things very differently now than they did then.
Bathsheba would bear another son, Solomon. He would be one of many of David’s sons. These sons would fight among each other, and Absalom would later war against David for a time, before Joab would slay him (2 Samuel 13-18).
Create In Me a Clean Heart
The Psalms are songs that were prepared and sung primarily for holy worship in the Tabernacle/Temple. Many are believed to have been written by David, including this one, while others were written by priests in the Tabernacle, often under David’s direction.
David understood he was unclean. He was unable to enter the Tabernacle and offer sacrifice of any kind: including a sin or trespass offering. First, he had to become clean before the Lord. The Psalm goes as follows:
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Will David Burn in Hell Forever?
Thoughts on this and related Psalms. Some past LDS leaders and others have felt that David can never obtain more than the Telestial Kingdom because of his sins. However, I would note that he lived under the Mosaic Law, not the Celestial Law of Christ. He was chastised and punished severely for years for his sins, as God promised. But God also promised to accept David in the end. Verse 7 shows that David believed he could be purified of his sins, even through the trials and tribulations God placed him in, as long as he repented with a broken spirit and contrite heart (vs 17). David begs to not be cast away from God’s presence, meaning both his Tabernacle and His true glory.
What good is such a Psalm, if there is no hope for the sinner? Does Christ’s atonement atone for all those who truly repent, or just some? I cannot judge which kingdom David will end up in, but I truly hope that God and Christ’s power and grace is sufficient to save and exalt any and all of mankind on condition of repentance and obedience. David walked very circumspectly and obedient before God for the rest of his long life. He not only rent his clothes and laid in ashes, but he rent his heart and laid bare his soul to the Lord. I would hope that after all the chastising and great trials he went through, there is a better kingdom for David.
This is especially true since David is a symbol of the future and eternal King of Israel, Jesus Christ. That David could be Israel’s greatest mortal king and sin, only to be raised up and cleansed by the Eternal King of Israel will be a sight to see. For if David can be forgiven and saved after repenting of his sins, there is hope for all mankind if they but repent, and sacrifice a “broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.”
“For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.”(Psalms 16:10)
“For great is thy mercy toward me: and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell.” (Psalms 86:13)
These leave open to speculation just where David will end up. Personally, I believe we should leave such judgment to a Just and Merciful God who has power to save all as He chooses.