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2 Samuel 11:26-12:15 – Nathan’s Rebuke: “You Are the Man!”


Confronted with the despicable nature of his sin in a subtle retelling of the story by the prophet Nathan, David repents.


"The LORD sent Nathan to David" (v. 1, emphasis added). This verb (shalakh) figured prominently in the preceding story where David excelled in "sending" (11:1, 3, 6, 14, 27). Now it is God's turn to "send" Nathan the prophet. The first time Nathan came to David was to announce God's promise of an eternal dynasty (2 Samuel 7). This time he will announce God's judgment in a clever parable that figures in the three aspects of this text:

  • First, the parable is presented (vv. 1-4). We see Nathan's parable of the pet lamb mercilessly snatched from the poor man's embrace by the rich as a trap. David sees it as an outrage (his vision was better on the rooftop!), demanding death and a fourfold restitution, an exorbitant punishment (vv. 5-6).
  • Second, the parable is applied (vv. 7-9). Following his dramatic "You are the man!" in which the trap is sprung, Nathan, after delivering a prophetic oracle complete with the messenger formula, "Thus says the LORD," asks why David has "despised" all that God has done for him.
  • Finally, the parable has its intended effect (vv. 10-13). After a reiteration of the messenger formula, Nathan announces punishments that correspond to David's sins and set the narrative agenda for the rest of 2 Samuel: putting Uriah to the sword means the sword will not leave his house (that is, David's unborn son, as well as Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah will all die, v. 10); taking Uriah's wife means his own wives will be taken (by Absalom, 2 Samuel 16:21-22; vv. 11-12).

Through these dire announcements the parable has its intended effect: David repents, "I have sinned against the LORD" (v. 13a).

This repentance, this admission of guilt, is what separates David from Saul, whose several transgressions were certainly of a lesser magnitude than David's smashing of the second tablet of the Decalogue. There will be punishment, there will be heartache, but there is also hope where there is confession.

2 Samuel 11:26-12:15

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

Nathan Condemns David

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord, 121and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, ‘There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 2The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meagre fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4Now there came a traveller to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.’ 5Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, ‘As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.’

Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11Thus says the Lord: 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 neighbour, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.’ 13David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ Nathan said to David, ‘Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,* the child that is born to you shall die.’ 15Then Nathan went to his house.

Bathsheba’s Child Dies

The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became very ill.

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