The Story Behind Psalm 51
2 Samuel 11-12
David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba
In the spring of the year, at the time when kings normally conduct wars, David sent out Joab with his officers and the entire Israelite army. They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive. So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
David sent some messengers to get her. She came to him and he had sexual relations with her. (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.) Then she returned to her home. The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.”
So David sent a message to Joab that said, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going. Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.” When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him. But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house.
So they informed David, “Uriah has not gone down to his house.” So David said to Uriah, “Haven’t you just arrived from a journey? Why haven’t you gone down to your house?” Uriah replied to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah reside in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and my lord’s soldiers are camping in the open field. Should I go to my house to eat and drink and have marital relations with my wife? As surely as you are alive, I will not do this thing!” So David said to Uriah, “Stay here another day. Tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah stayed in Jerusalem both that day and the following one. Then David summoned him. He ate and drank with him, and got him drunk. But in the evening he went out to sleep on his bed with the servants of his lord; he did not go down to his own house.
In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed.”
So as Joab kept watch on the city, he stationed Uriah at the place where he knew the best enemy soldiers were. When the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, some of David’s soldiers fell in battle. Uriah the Hittite also died.
Then Joab sent a full battle report to David. He instructed the messenger as follows: “When you finish giving the battle report to the king, if the king becomes angry and asks you, ‘Why did you go so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you realize they would shoot from the wall? Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone down on him from the wall so that he died in Thebez? Why did you go so close to the wall?’ just say to him, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.’”
So the messenger departed. When he arrived, he informed David of all the news that Joab had sent with him. The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and attacked us in the field. But we forced them to retreat all the way to the door of the city gate. Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall and some of the king’s soldiers died. Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” David said to the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this thing upset you. There is no way to anticipate whom the sword will cut down. Press the battle against the city and conquer it.’ Encourage him with these words.”
When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for him. When the time of mourning passed, David had her brought to his palace. She became his wife and she bore him a son. But what David had done upset the Lord.
Nathan the Prophet Confronts David
So the Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to David, Nathan said, “There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. But the poor man had nothing except for a little lamb he had acquired. He raised it, and it grew up alongside him and his children. It used to eat his food drink from his cup, and sleep in his arms. It was just like a daughter to him.
“When a traveler arrived at the rich man’s home, he did not want to use one of his own sheep or cattle to feed the traveler who had come to visit him. Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked it for the man who had come to visit him.”
Then David became very angry at this man. He said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Because he committed this cold-hearted crime, he must pay for the lamb four times over!”
Nathan said to David, “You are that man! This is what the Lord God of Israel says: ‘I chose you to be king over Israel and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives into your arms. I also gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all that somehow seems insignificant, I would have given you so much more as well! Why have you shown contempt for the word of the Lord by doing evil in my1 sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you have taken his wife as your own! You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. So now the sword will never depart from your house. For you have despised me by taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite as your own!’ This is what the Lord says: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you from inside your own household! Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion. He will have sexual relations with your wives in broad daylight! Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.’”
Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes and the Lord has forgiven your sin. You are not going to die. Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt in this matter, the son who has been born to you will certainly die.”
Then Nathan went to his home. The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and the child became very ill. Then David prayed to God for the child and fasted. He would even go and spend the night lying on the ground. The elders of his house stood over him and tried to lift him from the ground, but he was unwilling, and refused to eat food with them.
On the seventh day the child died. But the servants of David were afraid to inform him that the child had died, for they said, “While the child was still alive he would not listen to us when we spoke to him. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He will do himself harm!”
When David saw that his servants were whispering to one another, he realized that the child was dead. So David asked his servants, “Is the child dead?” They replied, “Yes, he’s dead.” So David got up from the ground, bathed, put on oil, and changed his clothes. He went to the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then, when he entered his palace, he requested that food be brought to him, and he ate.
His servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? While the child was still alive, you fasted and wept. Once the child was dead you got up and ate food!” He replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought, ‘Perhaps the Lord will show pity and the child will live. But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!’”
So David comforted his wife Bathsheba. He went to her and had marital relations with her. She gave birth to a son, and David named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved the child and sent word through Nathan the prophet that he should be named Jedidiah for the Lord’s sake.
Giving the response as follows, “Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” King David’s spiritual being was seeded with a kernel that would soon germinate blossoming into Psalm 51.
In the first twelve verses, of the psalm, King David expressing his deprecation for his sin declares his guilt and petition for pardon.
King David believing the word of the Lord, assured to him through God’s Prophet Nathan, “…the Lord has forgiven your sin…” deposited his faith into writing the last seven verses of the psalm in sincere authentic gratefulness, for anticipating God’s forgiveness following his genuine confession, along with expressing the way he was resolute to show God’s forgiveness in the future way of life.