In my previous post I discussed the affair between David and Bathsheba and the drastic consequences of that affair. My conclusion was that David forced himself onto Bathsheba and when she got pregnant, he tried to keep his action a secret by killing Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband.
The focus of these posts on the death of Bathsheba’s child is to deal with the moral implications of the child’s death and to answer the following question: “why did God forgive David and kill the child?” In order to understand what happened to David after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, it is important to have a good understanding of the nature and the consequences of sin in the Bible.
The Bible teaches that sin is a conscious decision of an individual to rebel against the unconditional authority of God. By being independent from God, that individual then will decide what is right and what is wrong. Sin has consequences. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God punishes people when people sin. Paul wrote that, when it comes to sexual sins, “the Lord will punish all men for such sins” (1 Thessalonians 4:6).
It is also imperative that we have an idea of the nature of God. One aspect that distinguishes the God of the Bible is his holiness. Holiness is the most important characteristic of God. He is known as the “Holy One” (1 Samuel 2:2). Holiness implies separation: “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).
Though God loves every person, his holiness and justice do not allow God to live with evil: “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong” (Habakkuk 1:13). The holiness of God leaves the sinner no possibility of escape. This is the reason sinful man is given restrictions and prohibitions in order to provide means by which one who is a sinner can approach one who is holy.
Another characteristic of the God of the Bible is his grace. The God of the Bible is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin” (Exodus 34:6-7).
This is what makes the God of the Bible so special. His steadfast love (his hesed) is what prompts God to forgive “iniquity and transgressions and sin.” Yet, the same God who forgives iniquity, transgressions, and sin is the same God who said: “yet by no means clearing the guilty, but visiting the iniquity of the parents upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).
God forgives iniquities, transgressions, and sins but he does not clear the guilty person from his sins. The sinner is still responsible for his sins and he must give an account to his creator for his actions.
Unless we understand that sin is a great offense against God and unless we recognize that God is a righteous judge who brings justice to nations and to individuals when they violate divine laws, we will never be able to understand what happened to David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba.
The people of Israel believed that a motive for divine anger was some kind of human transgression. In addition, because God’s purpose for Israel was summarized in the Ten Commandments, the people’s experience of God’s wrath was associated with the violation against the commandments. Thus, in the biblical perspective, God’s wrath came as a result of a sin committed by an individual in violation of one of the laws associated with the promulgation of the covenant.
Take the case of David. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, David violated several of the commandments God had given to Israel:
He broke the sixth commandment: “You shall not commit adultery.”
He broke the fifth commandment: “You shall not kill.”
He broke the seventh commandment: “You shall not steal.”
He broke the eighth commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
He broke the tenth commandment: “You shall not covet.”
Thus, the severity of God’s judgment upon David demonstrates that David had contempt not only for Uriah’s marriage but also for God himself. As God’s representative, David was to be a just king, a king who would deal with God’s people in righteousness. By committing adultery with the wife of another man and by killing her husband, David violated the trust placed upon him as the anointed one of God.
This brings us to the death of the child. Read again God’s judgment against David: “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house. . . . I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. . . . The child that is born to you shall die” (2 Samuel 12:10-14).
David’s sin affected not only himself, but his family also. His child with Bathsheba would die. His daughter Tamar would be raped (2 Samuel 13:1-22). His sons would be killed (2 Samuel 13:28-29; 18:14-15). His wives would be shamed and be given to others (2 Samuel 16:21-22). David’s violation of the covenant brought upon him covenant retribution.
But, how about the child? How can we explain the death of an innocent child to pay for the sin of a guilty person? There are several ways of explaining why the child died. The third and last post on the death of Bathsheba’s child will attempt to provide an explanation of why David was forgiven and why the child died.
Posts on David and Bathsheba
NOTE: For other studies on Bathsheba, read my post Bathsheba, The Wife of Uriah.
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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