2 Samuel 11-12
New English Translation
David Commits Adultery with Bathsheba
11 In the spring of the year, at the time when kings[a] normally conduct wars,[b] David sent out Joab with his officers[c] and the entire Israelite army.[d] They defeated the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed behind in Jerusalem.[e] 2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of his palace.[f] From the roof he saw a woman bathing. Now this woman was very attractive.[g] 3 So David sent someone to inquire about the woman. The messenger[h] said, “Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”
4 David sent some messengers to get her.[i] She came to[j] him and he went to bed with her.[k] (Now at that time she was in the process of purifying herself from her menstrual uncleanness.)[l] Then she returned to her home. 5 The woman conceived and then sent word to David saying, “I’m pregnant.”
6 So David sent a message to Joab that said, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked about how Joab and the army were doing and how the campaign was going.[m] 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your home and relax.”[n] When Uriah left the palace, the king sent a gift to him.[o] 9 But Uriah stayed at the door of the palace with all[p] the servants of his lord. He did not go down to his house.
10 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?” 11 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 go to bed with[q] my wife? As surely as you are alive,[r] I will not do this thing!” 12 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.[s] 13 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.
14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it with Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote: “Station Uriah at the front in the thick of the battle and then withdraw from him so he will be cut down and killed.”
16 So as Joab kept watch on the city, he stationed Uriah at the place where he knew the best enemy soldiers[t] were. 17 When the men of the city came out and fought with Joab, some of David’s soldiers[u] fell in battle. Uriah the Hittite also died.
18 Then Joab sent a full battle report to David.[v] 19 He instructed the messenger as follows: “When you finish giving the battle report to the king, 20 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? 21 Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman throw an upper millstone[w] 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.’”
22 So the messenger departed. When he arrived, he informed David of all the news that Joab had sent with him. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men overpowered us and attacked us[x] in the field. But we forced them to retreat[y] all the way to the door of the city gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall and some of the king’s soldiers[z] died. Your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Tell Joab, ‘Don’t let this thing upset you.[aa] There is no way to anticipate whom the sword will cut down.[ab] Press the battle against the city and conquer[ac] it.’ Encourage him with these words.”[ad]
26 When Uriah’s wife heard that her husband Uriah was dead, she mourned for him.[ae] 27 When the time of mourning passed, David had her brought to his palace.[af] She became his wife and she bore him a son. But what David had done upset the Lord.[ag]
Nathan the Prophet Confronts David
12 So the Lord sent Nathan[ah] to David. When he came to David,[ai] Nathan[aj] said,[ak] “There were two men in a certain city, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3 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.[al] It used to[am] eat his food,[an] drink from his cup, and sleep in his arms.[ao] It was just like a daughter to him.
4 “When a traveler arrived at the rich man’s home,[ap] he did not want to use one of his own sheep or cattle to feed[aq] the traveler who had come to visit him.[ar] Instead, he took the poor man’s lamb and cooked[as] it for the man who had come to visit him.”
5 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![at] 6 Because he committed this cold-hearted crime, he must pay for the lamb four times over!”[au]
7 Nathan said to David, “You are that man! This is what the Lord God of Israel has said: ‘I chose[av] you to be king over Israel and I rescued you from the hand of Saul. 8 I gave you your master’s house, and put your master’s wives into your arms.[aw] 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! 9 Why have you shown contempt for the Lord’s decrees[ax] by doing evil in my[ay] sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and you have taken his wife to be your own wife! You have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 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!’ 11 This is what the Lord has said: ‘I am about to bring disaster on you[az] from inside your own household![ba] Right before your eyes I will take your wives and hand them over to your companion.[bb] He will go to bed with[bc] your wives in broad daylight![bd] 12 Although you have acted in secret, I will do this thing before all Israel, and in broad daylight.’”[be]
13 Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven[bf] your sin. You are not going to die. 14 Nonetheless, because you have treated the Lord with such contempt[bg] in this matter, the son who has been born to you will certainly die.”
15 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.[bh] 16 Then David prayed to[bi] God for the child and fasted.[bj] He would even[bk] go and spend the night lying on the ground. 17 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.
18 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[bl] when we spoke to him. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He will do himself harm!”[bm]
19 When David saw that his servants were whispering to one another, he[bn] realized that the child was dead. So David asked his servants, “Is the child dead?” They replied, “Yes, he’s dead.” 20 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.
21 His servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? While[bo] the child was still alive, you fasted and wept. Once the child was dead you got up and ate food!” 22 He replied, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept because I thought,[bp] ‘Perhaps[bq] the Lord will show pity and the child will live.’ 23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back at this point? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!”
24 So David comforted his wife Bathsheba. He came to her[br] and went to bed with her.[bs] Later she gave birth to a son, and David[bt] named him Solomon. Now the Lord loved the child[bu] 25 and sent word through Nathan the prophet that he should be named Jedidiah[bv] for the Lord’s sake.
David’s Forces Defeat the Ammonites
26 [bw] So Joab fought against Rabbah of the Ammonites and captured the royal city. 27 Joab then sent messengers to David, saying, “I have fought against Rabbah and have captured the water supply of the city.[bx] 28 So now assemble the rest of the army[by] and besiege the city and capture it. Otherwise I will capture the city and it will be named for me.”
29 So David assembled all the army and went to Rabbah and fought against it and captured it. 30 He took the crown of their king[bz] from his head—it was gold, weighed about seventy-five pounds,[ca] and held a precious stone—and it was placed on David’s head. He also took from the city a great deal of plunder. 31 He removed[cb] the people who were in it and made them labor with saws, iron picks, and iron axes, putting them to work[cc] at the brick kiln. This was his policy[cd] with all the Ammonite cities. Then David and all the army returned to Jerusalem.
- 2 Samuel 11:1 tc Codex Leningrad (B19A), on which BHS is based, has here “messengers” (הַמַּלְאָכִים, hammalʾakhim), probably as the result of contamination from the occurrence of that word in v. 4. The present translation follows most Hebrew mss and the ancient versions, which read “kings” (הַמֶּלָאכִים, hammelakhim).
- 2 Samuel 11:1 tn Heb “go out.”
- 2 Samuel 11:1 tn Heb “and his servants with him.”
- 2 Samuel 11:1 tn Heb “all Israel.”
- 2 Samuel 11:1 tn The disjunctive clause contrasts David’s inactivity with the army’s activity.
- 2 Samuel 11:2 tn Heb “on the roof of the house of the king.” So also in vv. 8, 9.
- 2 Samuel 11:2 tn The disjunctive clause highlights this observation and builds the tension of the story.
- 2 Samuel 11:3 tn Heb “he”; the referent (the messenger) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 2 Samuel 11:4 tn Heb “and David sent messengers and he took her.”
- 2 Samuel 11:4 tn The expression בּוֹא אֶל (boʾ ʾel) means “come to” or “approach,” but is also used as a euphemism for sexual relations, the implied purpose for approaching someone. Here it refers only to the stage of approaching while the next verb describes the result. That she is the subject of this verb (while David is the subject of the next verb) probably indicates that the act was consensual.
- 2 Samuel 11:4 tn Heb “he lay down with her.” The verb שָׁכַב (shakav) “to lie down” can be a euphemism for going to bed for sexual relations.
- 2 Samuel 11:4 tn The parenthetical disjunctive clause further heightens the tension by letting the reader know that Bathsheba, having just completed her menstrual cycle, is ripe for conception. See P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 286. Since she just had her period, it will also be obvious to those close to the scene that Uriah, who has been away fighting, cannot be the father of the child.
- 2 Samuel 11:7 tn Heb “concerning the peace of Joab and concerning the peace of the people and concerning the peace of the battle.”
- 2 Samuel 11:8 tn Heb “and wash your feet.”
- 2 Samuel 11:8 tn Heb “and there went out after him the gift of the king.”
- 2 Samuel 11:9 tc The Lucianic recension of the Old Greek translation lacks the word “all.”
- 2 Samuel 11:11 tn Heb “lie with.” The verb שָׁכַב (shakav) “to lie down” can be a euphemism for going to bed for sexual relations.
- 2 Samuel 11:11 tn Heb “as you live and as your soul lives.”
- 2 Samuel 11:12 tn On the chronology involved here see P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 287.
- 2 Samuel 11:16 tn Heb “the valiant men.” This refers in context to the strongest or most valiant defenders of the city Joab and the Israelite army were besieging, so the present translation uses “the best enemy soldiers” for clarity.
- 2 Samuel 11:17 tn Heb “some of the people from the servants of David.”
- 2 Samuel 11:18 tn Heb “Joab sent and related to David all the matters of the battle.”
- 2 Samuel 11:21 sn The upper millstone (Heb “millstone of riding”) refers to the heavy circular stone that was commonly rolled over a circular base in order to crush and grind such things as olives.
- 2 Samuel 11:23 tn Heb “and came out to us.”
- 2 Samuel 11:23 tn Heb “but we were on them.”
- 2 Samuel 11:24 tc The translation follows the Qere (“your servants”) rather than the Kethib (“your servant”).
- 2 Samuel 11:25 tn Heb “let not this matter be evil in your eyes.”
- 2 Samuel 11:25 tn Heb “according to this and according to this the sword devours.”
- 2 Samuel 11:25 tn Heb “overthrow.”
- 2 Samuel 11:25 tn The Hebrew text does not have “with these words.” They are supplied in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons.
- 2 Samuel 11:26 tn Heb “for her lord.”
- 2 Samuel 11:27 tn Heb “David sent and gathered her to his house.”
- 2 Samuel 11:27 tn Heb “and the thing which David had done was evil in the eyes of the Lord.” Note the verbal connection with v. 25. Though David did not regard the matter as evil, the Lord certainly did.
- 2 Samuel 12:1 tc A few medieval Hebrew mss, the LXX, and the Syriac Peshitta add “the prophet.” The words are included in a few modern English version (e.g., TEV, CEV, NLT).
- 2 Samuel 12:1 tn Heb “him”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 2 Samuel 12:1 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Nathan) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
- 2 Samuel 12:1 tn The Hebrew text repeats “to him.”
- 2 Samuel 12:3 tn Heb “his sons.”
- 2 Samuel 12:3 tn The three Hebrew imperfect verbal forms in this sentence have a customary nuance; they describe past actions that were repeated or typical.
- 2 Samuel 12:3 tn Heb “from his morsel.”
- 2 Samuel 12:3 tn Heb “and on his chest [or perhaps, “lap”] it would lie.”
- 2 Samuel 12:4 tn Heb “came to the rich man.” In the translation “arrived at the rich man’s home” has been used for stylistic reasons.
- 2 Samuel 12:4 tn Heb “and he refused to take from his flock and from his herd to prepare [a meal] for.”
- 2 Samuel 12:4 tn Heb “who had come to him” (also a second time later in this verse). The word “visit” has been supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons and for clarity.
- 2 Samuel 12:4 tn Heb “and prepared.”
- 2 Samuel 12:5 tn Heb “the man doing this [is] a son of death.” See 1 Sam 20:31 for another use of this expression, which must mean “he is as good as dead” or “he deserves to die,” as 1 Sam 20:32 makes clear.
- 2 Samuel 12:6 tc With the exception of the Lucianic recension, the Old Greek translation has here “sevenfold” rather than “fourfold,” a reading that S. R. Driver thought probably to be the original reading (S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 291). However, Exod 22:1 [21:37 HT] specifies fourfold repayment for a stolen sheep, which is consistent with 2 Sam 12:6. Some mss of the Targum and the Syriac Peshitta exaggerate the idea to “fortyfold.”tn Heb “the lamb he must repay fourfold because he did this thing and because he did not have compassion.”
- 2 Samuel 12:7 tn Heb “anointed.”
- 2 Samuel 12:8 tn Heb “and the wives of your lord into your chest [or “lap”].” The words “I put” are supplied in the translation for stylistic reasons and for clarification.
- 2 Samuel 12:9 tn Or “word, message.” The “word of the Lord” sometimes refers to a prophetic message from God and sometimes to his past revelation. Here it refers to the Lord’s laws which David has violated.
- 2 Samuel 12:9 tc So the Qere; the Kethib has “his.”
- 2 Samuel 12:11 tn Heb “raise up against you disaster.”
- 2 Samuel 12:11 tn Heb “house” (so NAB, NRSV); NCV, TEV, CEV “family.”
- 2 Samuel 12:11 tn Or “friend.”
- 2 Samuel 12:11 tn Heb “will lie down with.” The verb שָׁכַב (shakhav) “to lie down” can be a euphemism for going to bed for sexual relations.
- 2 Samuel 12:11 tn Heb “in the eyes of this sun.”
- 2 Samuel 12:12 tn Heb “and before the sun.”
- 2 Samuel 12:13 tn Heb “removed.”
- 2 Samuel 12:14 tc The MT has here “because you have caused the enemies of the Lord to treat the Lord with such contempt.” This is one of the so-called tiqqune sopherim, or “emendations of the scribes.” According to this ancient tradition, the scribes changed the text in order to soften somewhat the negative light in which David was presented. If that is the case, the MT reflects the altered text. The present translation departs from the MT here. Elsewhere the Piel stem of this verb means “treat with contempt,” but never “cause someone to treat with contempt.”
- 2 Samuel 12:15 tn Heb “and the Lord struck the child…and he was ill.” It is necessary to repeat “the child” in the translation to make clear who became ill, since “the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and he became very ill” could be understood to mean that David himself became ill.
- 2 Samuel 12:16 tn Heb “sought” or “searched for.”
- 2 Samuel 12:16 tn Heb “and David fasted.”
- 2 Samuel 12:16 tn The three Hebrew verbs that follow in this verse are perfects with prefixed vav. They may describe repeated past actions or actions which accompanied David’s praying and fasting.
- 2 Samuel 12:18 tn Heb “to our voice.”
- 2 Samuel 12:18 tn Heb “he will do harm.” The object is not stated in the Hebrew text. The statement may be intentionally vague, meaning that he might harm himself or them!
- 2 Samuel 12:19 tn Heb “David.” The name has been replaced in the translation by the pronoun (“he”) for stylistic reasons.
- 2 Samuel 12:21 tc For the MT בַּעֲבוּר (baʿavur, “for the sake of”) we should probably read בְּעוֹד (beʿod, “while”). See the Lucianic Greek recension, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Targum.
- 2 Samuel 12:22 tn Heb “said.”
- 2 Samuel 12:22 tn Heb “Who knows?”
- 2 Samuel 12:24 tn The combination of the verb בּוֹא (boʾ; “to come, enter”) and the preposition אֶל (ʾel; “to”) means “to approach, to come to” (HALOT 1:113). This common expression is also used as a euphemism for coming together for sexual relations. Although some take the phrase to be a graphic depiction of a man actions in sexual relations with a woman, certain factors clarify that it is a euphemism. First, the phrase also describes a woman approaching a man for sexual relations (2 Sam 11:4), a situation where this phrase cannot be explicitly descriptive. Second, the phrase is paired here with שָׁכַב (shakhav), “to lie down,” which only makes sense if the two are complementary (compare also Gen 19:33-34 which uses both verbs of Lot’s daughters, but without the preposition). The verb שָׁכַב can imply lying down for sleep or for sexual relations. When בּוֹא אֶל (boʾ ʾel) is used with שָׁכַב (shakhav), they state the natural progression of approaching and then lying with. Hebrew can use the two together, or either separately, as a euphemism for sexual relations. But if the phrase בּוֹא אֶל were already an explicit depiction of sex, then the latter phrase with שָׁכַב, “to lie with,” would be pointless. So 2 Sam 11:4 and 2 Sam 12:24 are important evidence for how this phrase really works, and it is appropriate to also use euphemisms in translation.
- 2 Samuel 12:24 tn Heb “and he lay with her.” The phrase is a euphemism for sexual relations.
- 2 Samuel 12:24 tc The Kethiv reads “he named” while the Qere reads “she named.”tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity. While some translations render the pronoun as third person plural (“they”), implying that both David and Bathsheba together named the child, it is likely that the name “Solomon,” which is related to the Hebrew word for “peace” (and may be derived from it) had special significance for David, who would have regarded the birth of a second child to Bathsheba as a confirming sign that God had forgiven his sin and was at peace with him.
- 2 Samuel 12:24 tn Heb “him,” referring to the child.
- 2 Samuel 12:25 sn The name Jedidiah means “loved by the Lord.”
- 2 Samuel 12:26 sn Here the narrative resumes the battle story that began in 11:1 (see 11:25). The author has interrupted that story to give the related account of David’s sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. He now returns to the earlier story and brings it to a conclusion.
- 2 Samuel 12:27 sn The expression translated the water supply of the city (Heb “the city of the waters”) apparently refers to that part of the fortified city that guarded the water supply of the entire city. Joab had already captured this part of the city, but he now defers to King David for the capture of the rest of the city. In this way the king will receive the credit for this achievement.
- 2 Samuel 12:28 tn Heb “people.” So also in vv. 29, 31.
- 2 Samuel 12:30 tn Part of the Greek tradition wrongly understands Hebrew מַלְכָּם (malkam, “their king”) as a proper name (“Milcom”). Some English versions follow the Greek here, rendering the phrase “the crown of Milcom” (so NRSV; cf. also NAB, CEV). TEV takes this as a reference not to the Ammonite king but to “the idol of the Ammonite god Molech.”
- 2 Samuel 12:30 tn Heb “and its weight [was] a talent of gold.” The weight of this ornamental crown was approximately 75 lbs (34 kg). See P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 313.
- 2 Samuel 12:31 tn Heb “brought out.”
- 2 Samuel 12:31 tnHeb “to pass through.”
- 2 Samuel 12:31 tn Heb “and so he would do.”