David and Bathsheba:
Sin, Cover-up, Condemnation, and Restoration
A four-part Biblical study of grace and healing
Part 2: The Cover-up
David had sinned, and as usual, sin had its consequences:
5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, and said, “I am pregnant.”
David, demonstrating that he was just like the rest of us, went with his first instinct; he tried to cover up his sin and shift the responsibility to someone
6 Then David sent to Joab, saying, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” So Joab sent Uriah to David.
7 When Uriah came to him, David asked concerning the welfare of Joab and the people and the state of the war.
8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and a present from the king was sent out after him.
9 But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.
10 Now when they told David, saying, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “Have you not come from a journey? Why did you not go down to your
11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in temporary shelters, and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field.
Shall I then go to my house to eat and to drink and to lie with my wife? By your life and the life of your soul, I will not do this thing.”
12 Then David said to Uriah, “Stay here today also, and tomorrow I will let you go.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day and the next.
13 Now David called him, and he ate and drank before him, and he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his bed with his lord’s servants, but he
did not go down to his house.
Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband, was a faithful warrior who was out on the battlefield — the same battlefield where David should have been. David called Uriah in from
the battle, probably under the guise of a special project or task (not really a “lie” in legalese thinking — it was a special project for the king, in a warped
sort of way). After a few pleasantries and war stories, he told Uriah to go down to his house, assuming of course that Uriah would have marital relations with Bathsheba
while he was home, which would allow him to think that the baby was his, effectively covering up the incident.
The one thing that they didn’t consider in the plan was Uriah’s sense of honor and loyalty. He would not go and enjoy the pleasures of home when his fellow-soldiers were
camping in the battlefield. David even tried getting him drunk, but Uriah’s sense of duty and honor was strong enough to overcome all of David’s tactics.
Finally, David gets desperate, and like most desperate men, did something stupid:
14 Now in the morning David wrote a letter to Joab and sent it by the hand of Uriah.
15 He had written in the letter, saying, “Place Uriah in the front line of the fiercest battle and withdraw from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”
David sent word back to Joab, the leader of the king’s army, to put Uriah in a place where he would be killed. Although he did not know why the king had ordered Uriah’s
death, Joab obeyed his king’s command, probably under the assumption that the king had good reason, and that perhaps Uriah had somehow been disloyal to the kingdom:
16 So it was as Joab kept watch on the city, that he put Uriah at the place where he knew there were valiant men.
17 The men of the city went out and fought against Joab, and some of the people among David’s servants fell; and Uriah the Hittite also died.
It appears that the only way that Joab could arrange for the death of a seasoned warrior such as Uriah was to use some unwise battle tactics, which caused several good
men to die with him. Cover-ups are often like that — a lot of innocent people get hurt while we are trying to hide the truth. Joab was so sure that David would
react poorly to the battle strategy that led to Uriah’s death that, when the messenger went to update David on the war, Joab gave him specific instructions that would
tell David that the deed had been done:
18 Then Joab sent and reported to David all the events of the war.
19 He charged the messenger, saying, “When you have finished telling all the events of the war to the king,
20 and if it happens that the king’s wrath rises and he says to you, ‘Why did you go so near to the city to fight? Did you not know that they would shoot from the
21 ‘Who struck down Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? Did not a woman throw an upper millstone on him from the wall so that he died at Thebez? Why did you go so
near the wall?’–then you shall say, ‘Your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.'”
22 So the messenger departed and came and reported to David all that Joab had sent him to tell.
23 The messenger said to David, “The men prevailed against us and came out against us in the field, but we pressed them as far as the entrance of the gate.
24 “Moreover, the archers shot at your servants from the wall; so some of the king’s servants are dead, and your servant Uriah the Hittite is also dead.”
25 Then David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this thing displease you, for the sword devours one as well as another; make your
battle against the city stronger and overthrow it’; and so encourage him.”
It’s interesting that Joab knew David well enough to anticipate his reaction to the strategic error, but there is no evidence that David even flinched at the news.
David’s focus was on one thing, and only one thing — hiding his sin, at any cost. Matters of state and ethical issues had been pushed down on David’s priority list.
Now, with Uriah out of the way, David could make the Cover-up complete:
26 Now when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband.
27 When the time of mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house and she became his wife; then she bore him a son. But the thing that David had done
was evil in the sight of the LORD.
Bathsheba mourned for her husband, as was proper. Then, as a gesture of supposed nobility, the king took the poor widow in and made her one of his wives. My, what
a noble gesture — in today’s world, the king’s press agent would have made it a photo-op, and gotten it on the front page of every newspaper in the land.
David thought the whole incident was covered. The only living person who knew the entire truth and could testify against him was Bathsheba, and and her silence
was probably motivated by fear for her own life. There also were some men who served the king, who had partial knowledge, but they remained loyal to the king — even
when he was wrong — and were probably compensated for their silence. All of his bases were covered — or so he thought. He only overlooked one small detail: you
can’t hide your heart from God.