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