King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 11

David’s adultery. (1-5) He tries to conceal his crime. (6-13) Uriah murdered. (14-27)

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David’s adultery

1 And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.

2 And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.

3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.

5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

He tries to conceal his crime

6 And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David.

7 And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered.

8 And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king.

9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house.

10 And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house?

11 And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing.

12 And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow.

13 And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house.

Uriah murdered

14 And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.

15 And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die.

16 And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were.

17 And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also.

18 Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war;

19 And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king,

20 And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall?

21 Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

22 So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for.

23 And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate.

24 And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.

25 Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him.

26 And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.

27 And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Year. Heb. “at the end of the year,” (Chal. Syr.) which may be explained either of the year after the preceding engagement, or at the end of the civil year, in the autumnal equinox, (C.) or of the sacred year, which begins in the spring, (H.) when kings more commonly go to battle, about the month of March. M. — In hot countries they make a campaign also in autumn. — Ammon. They had not been sufficiently chastised, as they had saved themselves within their strong cities. They had added to their other crimes, that of stirring up the Syrians against David. C. — Rabba, the capital of Ammon, which Polybius calls “Rabatamana.” See C. v. 8. H.

Ver. 2. Noon. He had been reposing, according to custom. C. iv. 7. C. — But the devil was not idle. He was meditating a temptation and crime, which involved a great part of the remainder of David’s life in misery. H. — He had reigned 18 years, and lived 48, almost without blame. Salien, A. 2998. — His house, as the Heb. explains it. The Vulg. might insinuate that the woman was upon “the roof of her house.” But she was probably in her garden, as the Jews have their baths in the open air. They are frequently obliged to purify themselves. C. — The house must have been very near David’s palace. Salien.

Ver. 3. Eliam. By a transposition of letters, he is called Ammiel, in 1 Par. iii. 5. Both words signify “my people is God’s.” This son of Achitophel (C. xxiii. 34,) was one of David’s valiant men, as well as Urias, who is styled the Hethite, being born at Eth; (S. Jer. Salien) or on account of his extraction, or because he or his ancestors (H.) had performed some great exploit against that nation; as Germanicus, Africanus, &c. received those titles among the Romans, for conquering the Germans, &c. C. — Eth was a place near Hebron. Adric. 128. M. — The name of Bethsabee is also different in Paral.; the last b in Heb. being changed into v. Both-shua, both-al-i-am; instead of Both-shoba, both-am-i-al. H. Kennic. — The grandfather of Bethsabee is supposed to have revolted against David, to revenge the wrong done to her. T. A. Lapide. “Let the weak tremble at the fall of the strong.” S. Aug. in Ps. l.

Ver. 4. Purified. Lit. “sanctified.” Heb. and Sept. “for she was, ” &c. H. — Hoc ideo additum ne miraremur illico eam concepisse. Grot. Arist. Anim. vii. 20. — Women were obliged to bathe after such actions. Lev. xv. 18.

Ver. 8. Feet. As they did not wear stockings, this practice was very common after a journey. David thus insinuated that Urias might take his rest, and go to his wife, that so he might suppose that the child was his own, and the crime of Bethsabee might be concealed. C. — King, as a mark of honour, but in reality that he might be more excited to indulge his pleasures. Abulensis. M.

Ver. 9. House, in the court, for the guards. See Athen. v. 2. &c.

Ver. 10. Journey, of thirty hours’ length. Adrichomius.

Ver. 11. Ark. Most people suppose that the ark and the priests were before Rabba, as they seem to have been present in all expeditions of consequence. M. C. — but, at any rate, the ark was covered with skins or veils, even in the tabernacle at Gabaon, or at Sion. H. — Thing. He binds himself by an oath not to gratify his natural inclinations, that the king might desist from pressing him any farther. Salien. — But David resolves to endeavour to make him forget his oath, during the moments of intoxication. The valour and temperance of Urias, and divine Providence, render all his craft useless; and a concatenation of crimes cannot hide the original offence. H.

Ver. 13. Couch. It seems he was one of the guards. Josephus says he was Joab’s armour-bearer, (Ant. vii. 7.) and one of David’s heroes. C. xxiii. 39.

Ver. 14. Morning of the fourth day, as Urias staid three nights at Jerusalem. It is not clear that he was intoxicated the last of them. On that night David permitted him to act as he should think proper; and finding that he obstinately persisted in the resolution of not going to sleep with his wife, he had recourse to the last and most barbarous expedient of making way for his own marriage with the woman, as he saw this was the only method left for him to save her honour. The utmost expedition was requisition, as many days must have elapsed before she perceived her situation; (H.) and if many more should pass over, it would be manifest to the world that she had been guilty of adultery, and must either be stoned, or, if David spared her, he must bear the blame. Salien. — Urias. The fable of Bellerophon being sent by Prœtus to Jobates, king of Syria, with a letter, desiring the king to put the bearer to death, seems to have been copied from this history. Their letters have become proverbial. Chry.

Aha Bellerophontem jam tuus me fecit filius,

Egomet tabellas detuli ut vincirer. Plaut. Bacchide.

Ver. 15. Die. We no longer behold the genius of that David who would not hurt his persecutor. What a change does a shameful passion introduce in the whole conduct of a man! and how does one false step conduct from one abyss to another! Proprium humani ingenii est odisse quem læseris. Tacit. — David could no longer bear the sight of a man whom he had injured so grievously. C.

Ver. 17. Also. Hence David prays with reason; Deliver me from blood (sanguinibus) of many slain. He was answerable for all Cajetan.

Ver. 21. Jerobaal? Hebrews write Jeroboseth, to avoid the mention of Baal, as they also do with respect to the name of Isboseth, who was probably called Isbaal. C. See Judg. ix. 57. — Joab supposed that David might probably adduce this instance, to shew the danger of approaching too near the wall, as it had proved destructive to part of his army, and had been fatal to Abimelech. But it seems the messenger did not allow him time to express any resentment, before he told him the agreeable news, which he desired so much to hear, v. 24. H.

Ver. 26. For him. We may apply to her tears those words of Lucan:

Lachrymas non sponte cadentes

Effudit, gemitusque expressit pectore læto.

“None affected more sorrow for the death of Germanicus, than those who rejoiced the most at that event.” Tacit. An. ii. — The mourning for the dead usually lasted seven days; (Eccli. xxii. 13.) and after that period, David seems to have married Bethsabee. Abulen. q. 21.

Ver. 27. Lord; not that David had married the woman, but on account of his former conduct towards her and her husband. M. — The canon law forbids the marriages of those who have been accomplices in the death of their former partner; and some have thought that this marriage of David was null. But this is inaccurate; and the fruits of it were (C.) all deeded legitimate. See 1 Par. iii. 5. H. — The Rabbins even pretend that David was guilty of no sin in marrying Bethsabee during the life-time of Urias; as the latter, they say, must have given her a bill of divorce when he went to war. Grotius. — But why should we excuse an action which was so severely condemned and punished by God? C. xii. 1. &c. Ps. l. C. — In David’s conduct, we here behold a complication of the basest passions of lust and cruelty; which make David neglect the sanctity of an oath, (v. 11) and attempt to ruin, by drunkenness, the soul of one to whom he was much indebted; and, afterwards, to expose him to an untimely death, perhaps without repentance; if indeed Urias exceeded the bounds of moderation. This however is not certain; as the word drunk is often used to denote a degree of blameless conviviality. Gen. xliii. 34. Yet the design of David was equally criminal. How soon may the man according to God’s own heart, fall from his elevated station into the depth of the abyss! Wherefore let him that thinketh himself to stand, take heed lest he fall. 1 Cor. x. 12. H.