KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” (2 Samuel 12:13)
The text for today’s lesson finds David involved in yet another battle. Unlike many others, this one was not initiated by David, but was in response to the indignities his servants suffered at the hands of Hanun, the new king of Ammon. Mistaking David’s offer of condolences for the recent loss of their king as nothing more than a ploy to spy out their city, the Ammonites proceeded to send David a message by mistreating his servants.
Inexperienced and vulnerable, Hanun hired mercenaries from the area north of Israel to fight for him. Their strategy was to hit Israel’s army from the rear while Israel was engaged in battle with the soldiers of Rabbath-Ammon — modern day Amman, Jordan. Joab, David’s trusted captain of the guard quickly realized what was happening and split their much smaller army with his brother, Abishai. While Joab and “all the choice men of Israel” fought the mercenaries, Abishai led the rest of the army in their attack against the Ammonite city. Joab and Abishai agreed that if either of them saw the other in need during the battle, they would join forces.
The phrase in the first verse of chapter 11, “at the time when kings go forth to battle,” refers to the specific time of year when armies went to war. In Biblical times, the large armies, often numbering in the hundreds of thousands, needed large quantities of food and water to simply sustain the soldiers. It was impractical or even impossible for armies to bring along enough to feed everyone. Instead of trying to bring provisions from the homeland, armies would wait until crops were ready to harvest in the territory where the conflict would be. In the ancient Near East, barley, the grain that ripened first, was ready for harvest in the spring. Spring also meant the end of the rainy season, thus making travel by foot much easier and faster.
Unlike current day battles, these men fought hand-to-hand. They typically fought during the day, and the battle lines moved depending on which side prevailed. On this occasion, the battle occurred outside the city walls of Rabbath-Ammon. Following their initial defeat by Joab, the mercenaries regrouped and met David’s forces in a place called Helam. This area was located several miles northeast of Jerusalem, a few miles east of the Sea of Galilee.
Chapter 12 records the prophet Nathan’s confrontation of David. Despite David’s steps at covering up his sin with Bathsheba, Nathan had a message from God to deliver to him. Nathan devised an allegory to show the king the error of his ways, and David passed judgment without realizing he was condemning himself. Nathan saw that the king, although angry, was also vulnerable at this point. With one direct statement, “You are the man!” David’s heart was pierced with the words of the Lord. David knew that he was guilty, so without argument, he acknowledged his sin and repented sincerely.
The consequences of sin often have their fulfillment after an individual is reconciled to God, as was the case with David. The pronouncement found in chapter 12 verse 10, “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me,” followed David for the rest of his life.
Chapter 12 concludes with David going out to battle with his men. Joab had besieged the Ammonite city Rabbah, where Uriah had been slain, but sent word to the king requesting him to be there when they took the city so the credit would go to David and not to Joab. David went to Rabbah and led his men in the final attack that brought the city to its knees.
Living a godly life involves more than living clean while in public. God sees us wherever we are, and we place our integrity on the line when we choose to do in secret what we would not do in public. If at any point we realize we have made such an error, we can do as David did and sincerely repent. God will never turn any honest seeker away.