I want to share a few thoughts on how we approach what happened to David following his adultery with Bathsheba and Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar.
The challenge is that we are dealing with narrative that describes what happens to David. We see the response of David and his evaluation of events. We also see the response of others and their evaluation. However, we seem to lack explicit divine evaluation. We might usually expect to find this from two sources.
1. We might expect the author himself to provide some evaluation on whether an action is godly or ungodly and how God is at work We only really get this in two places. In 17:14 it is revealed to us that God’s plan is to confuse the counsel available to Absalom because it us God’s plan to harm Absalom. Then in chapter 24 when we are told that the Lord was angry with David.
2. God’s revelation is reported as we hear him speak directly or through a prophet or the Urim and Thumin. We don’t get this until chapter 21 when God reveals why a famine has happened.
So, this requires careful exegesis and application.
I want to suggest three guides to help with our exegesis and application.
1. Whilst there is little assessment or evaluation in these chapters, that assessment and evaluation has already been given because what we are seeing is the fulfilment of prophecy and specifically of judgement on the house of David because of his sin with Bathsheba. David has been told that his family will live by the sword and his household will rebel aganst him by Nathan the prophet (2 Samuel 12: 7-12). Nathan particularly speaks of the shaming of David as his wives are publicly given to another man (2 Samuel 12:11).
2. The second means of assessment we have is the New Testament evaluation of the Old Testament. Remember how Jesus in Luke 24 shows how all Scripture points to him. We rightly treat David as a type pointing forward to Jesus. This is seen both in his limitations which contrast with Christ’s perfection but also with things he does and that happen to him which foreshadow Christ’s experience. So it is right to pick up on the imagery of David going into exile, even crossing the Kidron valley and going by way of the Mount of Olives. We see him mocked, shamed and under curse. He willingly accepts the curses that fall on him as just. Jesus also willingly accepts the shame, exile and curse of Calvary but he bears it unjustly as an innocent man but on behalf of us receiving the shame, exile and curse that we deserve.
3. Ethically, I think we can carefully trace out when people act rightly and wrongly. Whilst the author may not provide explicit evaluation, I think we can through a careful examination of the text identify who is acting justly and unjustly, who is acting righteously with reference to the Law and who is acting wisely. This means that additional evaluation may be provided both by the Torah and by the wisdom literature. We see this most explicitly when David himself provides evaluation in Psalm 51. We may also want to refer back to the observations we made when looking at Bathsheba and Tamar about how we see some people acting as perpetrators of godlessness, abusing others whilst others take the role of victims. In the midst of this we also meet faithful servants.
From this I would recommend that our application touches on
1. The reality of sin and judgement as seen in the consequences of David’s sin.
2. Helping people to see the big picture of Biblical theology. How is God keeping his promise to David to establish his throne despite David’s failings and how does David point to his greater son.
3. Ethically – how do we see people living (or not as God’s people).