Nathan, having delivered his message, staid not at court, but went home, probably to pray for David, to whom he had been preaching. God, in making use of him as an instrument to bring David to repentance, and as the herald both of mercy and judgment, put an honour upon the ministry, and magnified his word above all his name. David named one of his sons by Bath-sheba Nathan, in honour of this prophet (1 Chron. 3:5), and it was that son of whom Christ, the great prophet, lineally descended, Luke 3:31. When Nathan retired, David, it is probable, retired likewise, and penned the Ps. 51:1-19, in which (though he had been assured that his sin was pardoned) he prays earnestly for pardon, and greatly laments his sin; for then will true penitents be ashamed of what they have done when God is pacified towards them, Ezek. 16:63.
Here is, I. The child’s illness: The Lord struck it, and it was very sick, perhaps with convulsions, or some other dreadful distemper, 2 Sam. 12:15. The diseases and death of infants that have not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, especially as they are sometimes sadly circumstanced, are sensible proofs of the original sin in which they are conceived.
II. David’s humiliation under this token of God’s displeasure, and the intercession he made with God for the life of the child (2 Sam. 12:16, 17): He fasted, and lay all night upon the earth, and would not suffer any of his attendants either to feed him or help him up. This was an evidence of the truth of his repentance. For, 1. Hereby it appeared that he was willing to bear the shame of his sin, to have it ever before him, and to be continually upbraided with it; for this child would be a continual memorandum of it, both to himself and others, if he lived: and therefore he was so far from desiring its death, as most in such circumstances do, that he prayed earnestly for its life. True penitents patiently bear the reproach of their youth, and of their youthful lusts, Jer. 31:19. 3c82 2. A very tender compassionate spirit appeared in this, and great humanity, above what is commonly found in men, especially men of war, towards little children, even their own; and this was another sign of a broken contrite spirit. Those that are penitent will be pitiful. 3. He discovered, in this, a great concern for another world, which is an evidence of repentance. Nathan had told him that certainly the child should die; yet, while it is in the reach of prayer, he earnestly intercedes with God for it, chiefly (as we may suppose) that its soul might be safe and happy in another world, and that his sin might not come against the child, and that it might not fare the worse for that in the future state. 4. He discovered, in this, a holy dread of God and of his displeasure. He deprecated the death of the child chiefly as it was a token of God’s anger against him and his house, and was inflicted in performance of a threatening; therefore he prayed thus earnestly that, if it were the will of God, the child might live, because that would be to him a token of God’s being reconciled to him. Lord, chasten me not in thy hot displeasure. Ps. 6:1.
III. The death of the child: It died on the seventh day (2 Sam. 12:18), when it was seven days old, and therefore not circumcised, which David might perhaps interpret as a further token of God’s displeasure, that it died before it was brought under the seal of the covenant; yet he does not therefore doubt of its being happy for the benefits of the covenant do not depend upon the seals. David’s servants, judging of him by themselves, were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, concluding that then he would disquiet himself most of all; so that he knew not till he asked, 2 Sam. 12:19.
IV. David’s wonderful calmness and composure of mind when he understood the child was dead. Observe,
1. What he did. (1.) He laid aside the expressions of his sorrow, washed and anointed himself, and called for clean linen, that he might decently appear before God in his house. (2.) He went up to the tabernacle and worshipped, like Job when he heard of the death of his children. He went to acknowledge the hand of God in the affliction, and to humble himself under it, and to submit to his holy will in it, to thank God that he himself was spared and his sin pardoned, and to pray that God would not proceed in his controversy with him, nor stir up all his wrath. Isa. any afflicted? Let him pray. Weeping must never hinder worshipping. (3.) Then he went to his own house and refreshed himself, as one who found benefit by his religion in the day of his affliction; for, having worshipped, he did eat, and his countenance was no more sad.
2. The reason he gave for what he did. His servants thought it strange that he should afflict himself so for the sickness of the child and yet take the death of it so easily, and asked him the reason of it (2 Sam. 12:21), in answer to which he gives this plain account of his conduct, (1.) That while the child was alive he thought it his duty to importune the divine favour towards it, 2 Sam. 12:22. Nathan had indeed said the child should die, but, for aught that he knew, the threatening might be conditional, as that concerning Hezekiah: upon his great humiliation and earnest prayer, he that had so often heard the voice of his weeping might be pleased to reverse the sentence, and spare the child: Who can tell whether God will yet be gracious to me? God gives us leave to be earnest with him in prayer for particular blessings, from a confidence in his power and general mercy, though we have no particular promise to build upon: we cannot be sure, yet let us pray, for who can tell but God will be gracious to us, in this or that particular? When our relations and friends have fallen sick, the prayer of faith has prevailed much; while there is life there is hope, and, while there is hope, there is room for prayer. (2.) That now the child was dead he thought it as much his duty to be satisfied in the divine disposal concerning it (2 Sam. 12:23): Now, wherefore should I fast? Two things checked his grief:—[1.] I cannot bring him back again; and again, He shall not return to me. Those that are dead are out of the reach of prayer; nor can our tears profit them. We can neither weep nor pray them back to this life. Wherefore then should we fast? To what purpose is this waste? Yet David fasted and wept for Jonathan when he was dead, in honour to him. [2.] I shall go to him. First, To him to the grave. Note, The consideration of our own death should moderate our sorrow at the death of our relations. It is the common lot; instead of mourning for their death, we should think of our own: and, whatever loss we have of them now, we shall die shortly, and go to them. Secondly, To him to heaven, to a state of blessedness, which even the Old Testament saints had some expectation of. Godly parents have great reason to hope concerning their children that die in infancy that it is well with their souls in the other world; for the promise is to us and to our seed, which shall be performed to those that do not put a bar in their own door, as infants do not. Favores sunt ampliandi—Favours received should produce the hope of more. God calls those his children that are born unto him; and, if they be his, he will save them. This may comfort us when our children are removed from us by death, they are better provided for, both in work and wealth, than they could have been in this world. We shall be with them shortly, to part no more.
V. The birth of Solomon. Though David’s marrying Bath-sheba had displeased the Lord, yet he was not therefore commanded to divorce her; so far from this that God gave him that son by her on whom the covenant of royalty should be entailed. Bath-sheba, no doubt, was greatly afflicted with the sense of her sin and the tokens of God’s displeasure. But, God having restored to David the joys of his salvation, he comforted her with the same comforts with which he himself was comforted of God (2 Sam. 12:24): He comforted Bath-sheba. And both he and she had reason to be comforted in the tokens of God’s reconciliation to them, 1. Inasmuch as, by his providence, he gave them a son, not as the former, who was given in anger and taken away in wrath, but a child graciously given, and written among the living in Jerusalem. They called him Solomon—peaceful, because his birth was a token of God’s being at peace with them, because of the prosperity which was entailed upon him, and because he was to be a type of Christ, the prince of peace. God had removed one son from them, but now gave them another instead of him, like Seth instead of Abel, Gen. 4:25. Thus God often balances the griefs of his people with comforts in the same thing wherein he hath afflicted them, setting the one over-against the other. David had very patiently submitted to the will of God in the death of the other child, and now God made up the loss of that, abundantly to his advantage, in the birth of this. The way to have our creature-comforts either continued or restored, or the loss of them made up some other way, is cheerfully to resign them to God. 2. Inasmuch as, by his grace, he particularly owned and favoured that son: The Lord loved him (2 Sam. 12:24, 25), ordered him, by the prophet Nathan, to be called Jedidiah—Beloved of the Lord: though a seed of evil-doers (for such David and Bath-sheba were), yet so well ordered was the covenant, and the crown entailed by it, that it took away all attainders and corruption of blood, signifying that those who were by nature children of wrath and disobedience should, by the covenant of grace, not only be reconciled, but made favourites. And, in this name, he typified Jesus Christ, that blessed Jedidiah, the son of God’s love, concerning whom God declared again and again, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.