There is a psalm imbedded in part of Israel’s history, which begins with the major theme. We must keep this theme in mind to see the power of it. “I will call on the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies” (2 Sam. 22:4).
And when he (the Lord) had removed him (Saul), he raised up unto them David to be their king; to whom also he gave testimony, and said, I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will (Acts 13:22). See also: 1 Sam. 13:14; 2 Sam. 2:4; 1 Kings 15:5.
What is the history of David and Bathsheba? For a moment, consider some of the background of their situation. We read in 2 Samuel 3 and 2 Samuel 4 that Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, who began to reign over Israel after Saul’s death, has been murdered by two captains of his own guard. In 2 Samuel 5:1-3, David is crowned king over Israel, and by this time he is in the prime of his life, only 37 or so years old (2 Sam. 5:3-5). After battle with the Philistines (2 Sam. 5: 17-25), David was able to recover the Ark Of The Covenant which had been captured when Samuel was young, and to bring it back to Jerusalem with great rejoicing (1 Sam. 4:11; 2 Sam. 6:6-7; 2 Sam. 6:12-17). He loved the Lord enough to desire to build a house for Him, but was told that his son would build it instead (2 Sam. 7:12-13; 1 Chron. 28:6). The Lord was with him to secure his throne and give him victory over all his enemies (2 Sam. 8:1-18). (See verses 14-18, and also chapter 10). These are long readings, but vital for understanding King David’s temptation.
Then read 2 Sam. 11:2-27. David’s is the sad account of a temptation during an era when God’s people had not been guaranteed a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). We are not told why King David did not go to battle with his army, but we know he did not (2 Sam. 11:1). After running from Saul for approximately ten years, he may have been weary and felt the need of a rest. We can only glean bits and pieces of the rough introduction to his new position as king over both Judah and Israel. Some had not learned to trust him yet, so his kindnesses to them had been spurned (2 Sam. 10). The fact remains: David was at home, rose from his bed and walked on his roof-top during the evening. He was now king of the whole nation of Israel and his power and authority established, but he fell into a great temptation.
Consider that David had already inherited or was given his wives (2 Sam. 12:7-8), but seeing Bathsheba brought a new temptation to call a very beautiful woman to himself. He coveted her and sent for her. As the king, he had every right to choose who would serve him in any capacity, but Bathsheba belonged to a warrior in David’s army (2 Sam. 11:3-4). When David called her, it was approximately seven days after her “flowers” had passed and she had been purified according to the Law (Lev. 12:2-5; Lev. 15:19-28; Lev. 15:30-33). Conception took place immediately. We are not told why David did not confess his sin, or why he determined to conceal it with a murder which could look like a normal battle event, but he did.
As we have seen, 2 Samuel 11 gives the details. We are left to wonder how and why such an egregious sin could tempt a man who had overcome so many other temptations (1 Kings 15:5). Even when he almost took vengeance against Nabal, the Lord saved him by the counsel of Abigail and he was spared (1 Sam. 25).
Use the following questions to help understand more; let the scriptures do the teaching.
- Under the Old Testament what was the command concerning taking another man’s wife [adultery] (Exo. 20:14, 17; Lev. 20:10)?
- King David had a right to make any woman in Israel his wife, but when his messengers told him who Bathsheba belonged to, what should he have remembered that would help him to overcome the temptation (Exo. 20:17; Pro. 5:15-21)?
- Why did he determine to kill Uriah after Uriah refused to go home (Pro. 6:30-34)?
- According to Romans 13:9-10 what consideration should King David have given to Uriah?
- What spirit did David have when he was confronted with his sin (Psa. 34:18; 51:17)?
- Was King David forgiven when he confessed (2 Sam. 12:13)?
- What principle did David follow that caused God to forgive his sin (Pro. 28:13)?
- Was forgiveness the end of the matter (Psa. 99:8)?
- Even though David was forgiven, what three things did God promise as a punishment for his sin (2 Sam. 12:7-14)?
- When and how were those promises fulfilled? Cite scripture references.
- David didn’t have the New Testament command in Hebrews 13:5-6, but if he had considered that principle, would he have been better equipped to resist the temptation to take another man’s wife? He probably did have that knowledge and understanding, but it wasn’t on his mind at the time.
- Was King David tempted in a way that was not common to men? Was his temptation any different than the ones we face (1 Cor. 10:11-13)?
- What does the New Testament tell us about the same sins (Rom. 13:9)?
- Are all temptations of the same degree, or are some temptations more severe than others (Luke 22:31)?
- We have a choice when we are tempted to do wrong: We can get as close to it as possible without actually doing wrong, or we can get as far away from it as possible and put it out of our thoughts. Which does God say a prudent person will do? When David caught sight of a woman washing herself, what should he have done that could have avoided Satan’s trap (Pro. 22:3-5; Rom. 13:14; Job 31:1)?
- Is it possible for a thought to be sinful (Matt. 5:27-28)?
- Can we meddle with evil things or even think about wrong things (like reading inappropriate books or watching questionable movies) and then expect to come away without any damage to our hearts (Pro. 6:27-28; Pro. 4:23-27)?
- Can I do something wrong, hide it, and expect not to suffer any consequences for it or any punishment (Eccl. 8:11-13; Psa. 10:11-14; Matt. 10:26; 2 Cor. 5:9-11; Pro. 28:13-14)?
- According to 2 Timothy 2:22 and 1 Corinthians 6:18, what should we do when temptation presents itself to us?
- From where does all sin come (Mark 7:21-23)?
- What could make the temptation to commit fornication or adultery stronger for the unmarried (1 Cor. 7:1-5)?
- What is the conclusion to the whole matter for all of us (Ecc. 12:13-14)?
“But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Sam. 15:9).
Saul is one of the most tragic figures in the Old Testament. Head and shoulders above all the other men in Israel, he began his reign with great promise but ended it in shame.
“And he (Kish) had a son, whose name was Saul, a choice young man, and a goodly: and there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:2).
As Israel’s first king, Saul had the opportunity to be an example for all future rulers, but his covetousness for the praise of men and for power over them, was his downfall.
Saul had other admirable physical qualities that made him fit to be received by Israel during the period immediately after the last judge. Because of his stature, he was quickly accepted by the people. Furthermore, the Lord used him as a good military leader, as shown by his victories early in his reign. Here we have a king who was not only is a warrior himself, but a man whose sons were also warriors. Note that his son Jonathan’s victory over the Philistines comes the first year after King Saul was anointed (1 Sam. 14:6-16).
One of Saul’s first sins was his failure to wait for Samuel at Gilgal (1 Sam. 13:8-9). The Philistines had gathered together against Israel with a large army and the Israelites had fled to hide themselves. Saul had to know if God wanted him to go to battle or not, and in order to approach God, he had to offer a sacrifice. There he assumed the role of a priest by making a sacrifice to ask for God’s blessing and to seek God’s counsel. His excuse for acting as a priest was totally unacceptable:
And Samuel said, What hast thou done? And Saul said, Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; 12 Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the LORD: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering” (1 Sam. 13:11-12).
He was willing to force himself to disobey God so he could win the people’s favor. Strangely, he determined to disobey God in order to persuade God to help him. Saul knew he had done wrong, but he justified his sin instead of following the law exactly (Lev. 3:5 and Lev. 6:9-13). There is no doubt in this incident that he knew that only the priests of God (descendants of Aaron) were to offer a sacrifice, and he knew Samuel’s purpose and promise was to do just that. So why is he so faithless in following a command of God he knows to do? He feared losing the people! He coveted their allegiance.
Another sin followed soon afterward. After defeating Moab, Ammon, and Edom, Saul was told by Samuel to go to war against the Amalekites and to “…slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1 Sam. 15:3). Saul carried out his instructions well except for two things: he spared the life of Agag, the king, and saved the best of the animals. When he returned from the battle, he lied to himself and to Samuel and told Samuel that he had “performed the commandment of the Lord.” He imagined that disobedience to some of God’s commands was acceptable. Samuel approached Saul that day with a heavy burden on his heart. King Saul’s problem was that he had turned back from following God. During the night of the battle, God had spoken to Samuel and said, “It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments” (1 Sam. 15:11).
At the end of verse 15 we see that Samuel was grieved and cried all night to the Lord—interceding for Saul that he might remain Israel’s king. Saul was a mighty man of valor and a great military leader, but his covetousness of the people’s praise and allegiance had overtaken him, causing him to sin greatly. Was being a military leader enough? Was having a handsome well-liked king the plan God had in mind for Israel? No, God was seeking a man who would obey all His commands—a spiritual leader whose thought was not for himself, but for serving God by training the people in righteousness. King Saul had not remembered the one who had set him up as king, given him his power nor why. God had called King Saul to do His (God’s) work, not his own. King Saul’s first and foremost thought should have been, “What shall I render unto the LORD for all his benefits toward me? I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people (Psa. 116:12-14).
From that time forward, Saul exhausted his total strength and power to pursue one whom he perceived to be his enemy, when his greatest enemy was actually himself. He wasted all his time and energy in fruitless attempts on David’s life because he could not accept that God had removed him from being King over Israel.
- Was it natural for King Saul to be afraid of the Philistine’s great and strong army and to seek God’s help?
- Did King Saul try to do what was right in God’s sight by asking God if he should go against the Philistines?
- Who were the only ones that God allowed to offer sacrifices to him? (Lev. 1:7-9; Lev. 3:5 and Lev. 6:9-13)?
- Was King Saul a descendent of Levi or Aaron? Give specific BCV here.
- Why was King Saul wrong to offer the sacrifice?
- Was King Saul justified in doing evil that good may come (Rom 3:8)?
- Even though King Saul had the right desire to draw near to God, did he approach God according to God’s law?
- What does God say must happen when someone draws near to him (Lev. 10:1-3)?
- Had King Saul turned back from following God (1 Sam 15:11)?
- If King Saul was not fighting Israel’s battles for the Lord, for whom was he fighting them (1 Sam 15:24)?
- Whose voice did King Saul obey: God’s or the people’s (1 Sam 15:24-26)?
- How many of God’s commands did King Saul obey when he killed all the Amalekites?
- How many commands did King Saul disobey (1 Sam. 15:8-9)?
- Whose will did King Saul do when he feared the people and obeyed their voice?
- How many commands did King Saul tell Samuel that he obeyed?
- Does God accept man’s obedience when they are not willing to obey all of his commands (James 2:9-10)?
- When God told Saul that He had rejected him from being king, did King Saul listen to God’s correction?
- When God told King Saul that he had appointed another man to be king over Israel, what should King Saul have done?
- When King Saul refused to obey God to give the kingdom to God’s chosen man, was he justified in seeking God to know if he should fight against the Philistines as king of Israel?
- What did King Saul spend most of his time doing, instead of obeying God?