The Pull of Temptation
In 2 Samuel 11 is one of the saddest chapters of the Old Testament. In it we see the great fall of David as one of God’s most faithful people to an adulterer and murderer.
Although we know David was not sinless, the Bible does not record any significant sin to this point in David’s life. What led him to fall seemingly so quickly? Trying to understand what led David into such deep sin can be helpful. If we can see what made David more susceptible to the pull of temptation, then we can use that knowledge to help us see when we start heading in the same direction in our lives so that we can turn away.
The Bible does not give us any clear indication of any major event that may have changed in David’s life or if there were any previous interactions between David and Bathsheba prior to chapter 11. Any attempt we make to try and fill in what the Bible intentionally leaves out is speculation and is not a proper way to study God’s Word. Instead, what we can do is look at the events that are recorded in the Bible before this event.
If we look back to chapter 10, there does not appear to be anything different about David’s actions. The chapter records two decisive military victories of Israel and their enemies. But if we look a bit deeper, we can see some warning signs that made David more susceptible to temptation. To see it clearly, we must go back to chapter 7.
Chapter 7 can be seen as the high mark in David’s life. The first half of the chapter records God’s covenant with David where God promises to David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16).” The second half of the chapter is David’s prayerful response of thanksgiving to God for what He has just promised to David. He begins his prayer in humility: “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord GOD (2 Samuel 7:18-19).” There is no way that David could have been closer to God while he was still alive.
Chapter 8 tells of more military victories David led. The key in this chapter is the repeated message, “And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went (2 Samuel 8:6, 8:14).” Because of this repeated message, it is clear the military campaigns that David had won were won by God. David understood this to be true because 2 Samuel 8:11 mentions that David dedicated all the spoil of gold, silver, and bronze to God. We see again in this chapter that David was walking closely with God and was fulfilling his purpose as the king by leading the army.
Next, in chapter 9 we see David’s kindness to Mephibosheth. He was Jonathan’s son, the grandson of Saul the previous king of Israel. It was customary at that time when a king from a different family than the prior king came to power, the new king would kill all the remaining family members of the old king to ensure no retaliation from the old royal family. But instead of killing Mephibosheth, David goes out of his way to bring him to the royal dining table and ensures that all his needs are taken care of (2 Samuel 9:7). This shows David’s faithfulness to the covenant he made with Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:15-16. This action from David again illustrates how closely he was walking with God and displays humble leadership by inviting Mephibosheth to dine with him.
Revisiting chapter 10, we can see something has changed with David’s relationship with God. In this chapter, the Ammonites hired 33,000 men to go to battle against Israel. But instead of leading the army himself, we read, “David … sent Joab and all the host of the mighty men (2 Samuel 10:7).” This is the first time we see David not leading his army himself. It is not until later in the chapter when a second attack came against Israel that David got involved himself (2 Samuel 10:17). There is no mention of David being led by God in this chapter. And while David eventually did walk in his calling as king, he did not immediately do so as he always had in the past.
Seeing David’s gradual shift away from God recorded in chapter 10, the beginning of chapter 11 stands out more:
“In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.”
David was not fulfilling his call as faithfully as he had in the past and his failure to do so put him in a position to be tempted in a way he almost certainly would not have been if he was leading his men in battle. It was not a sudden and immediate change. His behavior started changing slowly before the events recorded in chapter 10.
It is important to remember that we are not trying to retrace David’s steps so that we can point the finger at him and say, “if he had only done this…”. Even with this horrible sin, God considered him a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). Looking back at what led to David’s sin serves as a warning for us that we are just as susceptible to giving into the pull of temptation as David.
We should always take a serious look at our walk with God. Are we relying on God’s wisdom (Proverbs 3:5)? Are we staying in constant prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17)? Are we keeping fellowship with other believers who can identify our weaknesses in our lives (Ecclesiastes 4:12)? Are we acknowledging that we are weak and are susceptible to fall into temptation (1 Corinthians 10:12)? These are just a few of the components of a walk with God that weaken the pull of temptation. Let us learn how to see when we are in danger of falling into temptation and be thankful for God’s grace and that He gives us these means to help us resist temptations pull (Jude 24).