DAVID, KING OF ISRAEL, had allowed himself to fall into a dangerous and miserable state of affairs. He had tried desperately to hide his sins. But David should have known that God would uncover them. He was astounded when Nathan the prophet told him that God had revealed matters to him, and that he, Nathan, was aware of the wicked things the king had done. (II Samuel 12:1-9.)
God Corrects David
"God further instructed me to tell you what will happen because you have slipped into such deep sin," Nathan went on. "From now on death will be hovering over your house. It will strike at unexpected times. Other evil things will take place in your house. A neighbor will take your wives from you. You did some base things in secret, but the one who takes you] wives will brazenly do the same things in the light of day and in full view of the public." By now David was on his knees. He was bent over, his hands covering his tear-streaked face. Nathan the prophet patiently waited. This was n time for him to step up to the king and pat him consolingly on the shoulder (II Samuel 12:10-12.) "I acknowledge my sin. I have acted in a depraved and heartless manner," David confessed after a short while. "I have carelessly done these things in God's sight without considering others. I deserve t die!" (Psalm 51 is David's prayer of repentance.) "Now that you realize how wrong you have been and have repented and made up your mind never to do such things again, God will forgive you, Nathan advised. "He will not take your life. However, because your action will provide God's enemies with reason to point you out as a favored playboy and a murderer, your and Bathsheba's child shall surely die." Leaving the shaken and miserable king kneeling on the floor, Nathan walked away to his quarters. David was alone for hours after that. He had, during this period, found relief in heartfelt repentance. But there was a time of greater suffering ahead. It started to take place shortly after his son was born to Bathsheba. The baby suddenly became very ill. In spite of Nathan's prediction that the infant would surely die, David frantically prayed that it would live. That night, instead of going to bed, he lay on the stone floor. (II Samuel 12:13-16.) When servants came to him in the morning, they found him still on the stone floor. They tried to talk him into going to bed, but he waved them away. He refused the food they brought. Days passed, during which his main communication with others was to ask about his baby son. Apparently he didn't intend to give up praying, fasting and lying on the floor until he could hear a good report. The baby died on the seventh day of his sickness. Servants feared to tell the king. They reasoned that his behavior had been so extreme while the baby was alive that he would do something very desperate if he were told that the baby was dead. When David noticed them whispering more than usual among themselves, he knew what had happened. "I can tell by the way you act that the baby is dead," he said, sitting up. "Isn't that so?" There was an awkward silence for a few moments. Then heads began to nod slowly. One of the servants spoke out, saying that David had supposed rightly. The king sat and stared at the floor for several seconds and motioned for everyone to leave. After they were gone he struggled weakly to his feet and staggered away to bathe, change his clothes and go to the house of God to worship. There he prayed for a while. His servants were surprised when he returned to his home in a mood that was almost normal. They were pleased to serve him food after his fast, but they were puzzled because he was in a better state of mind after his son had died than he had been in while he was alive. (II Samuel 12:17-20.) "How can you feel better, now that your child is dead?" someone asked. "I don't necessarily feel better," David explained. "But now that he is dead, there's no reason to continue fasting and praying for him. I hoped that he would live, but now that he is gone, there is nothing I can do to bring him back." After regaining his strength, David went to comfort Bathsheba because of the loss of their son. Bathsheba also realized that she had acted foolishly, and she was regretful. Later, another son was born to David and Bathsheba. Because they were now free to be married, God looked with favor on their marriage by giving them this second child. Nathan the prophet named him Jedidiah, which meant "Friend of God." David named him Solomon, which meant "Peaceable." (II Samuel 12:21-25.) We remember him today as King Solomon. Meanwhile, from the time that Uriah the Hittite had been killed till after David repented, Joab and the Israelite army had remained near the Ammonite city of Rabbah, waiting for the besieged natives to surrender. The Israelites took the lower city, which was watered by the Jabok River which ran through it. But the upper city was better fortified. Water was available from a reservoir inside the upper city until the Israelites managed to find the conduit through which the reservoir was fed. Rather than die of thirst, some of the Ammonites emerged to try to gain freedom by attacking the Israelites, who slaughtered part of them before they could get very far. Those near the gate managed to get to safety inside. Strong walls and sealed gates separated the lower city from the upper part, in which was situated the king's palace and other special buildings. Joab knew that it would be only a matter of days before this part of the city would have to surrender. Although the reservoir in the lower city was dry, Joab reasoned that a supply of water had undoubtedly been taken into the sealed-off section of Rabbah where the Ammonite king and perhaps the remainder of his army were trapped. Unless Joab successfully attacked at once, the unknown amount of water in the city would determine when the city would completely fall to Israel. Later, messengers from Joab came to Jerusalem to tell David what had happened, and to bring a suggestion from the commander that David should come to Rabbah with additional troops. "Joab thinks it would be wise for the king of Israel to hurry and take the capital of Ammon," they reported. "It would create a good impression among our people, and the nations around us would have even greater respect for you. Besides, if Joab receives full credit for taking Rabbah, the city might be named after him. He would prefer that you have that honor." (II Samuel 12:26-28.)
Ammonites Finally Subdued
David agreed, and went with several thousand soldiers to join Joab. Now greater in numbers, the Israelites closed in on the fortified sections of Rabbah from all sides. "We know that there are many thousands of soldiers inside," Joab told David. "We got the information out of several prisoners in return for our mercy. If we approach close enough to throw up wall hooks, the Ammonites will probably show up on the walls and send down a storm of anything they can throw, but it's a chance we'll have to take." On orders from David, volunteers climbed ropes to the top of the wall, as others protected them with a continuous volley of arrows aimed at the top of the wall. Then a few descended inside the second section of the city under protection from others who remained on the wall. They quickly unfastened the locking beams from the heavily barred gates. As soon as the gates were open, David and his men swarmed inside and spread out along the streets leading up to and around the palace and other buildings. As they swelled in, armed Ammonites, despite hunger and thirst, came at them from all sides, fiercely defending their capital city. Some of the Ammonites rushed toward Israel's king, fiercely struggling to get close enough to him to send some kind of weapon through his body. Guards swarmed around David, quickly choking off the assault. Some of the Israelites fell before the desperate, sword-swinging, spearthrusting Ammonites. But David's forces were greater in number. They met the attack with such power that the Ammonites were put out of action almost as fast as they came forward. It turned out to be a one-sided battle. Soon no more of the Ammonites remained in the battle. The streets were strewn with the bodies of those who had tried to defend Rabbah. David wasn't convinced that all of Ammon's soldiers had come out in the open. He sent troops to scour every part of the capital to find any more who might be concealed. Some were discovered who were unable to fight. The water supply had run out, and they were suffering from thirst. The long struggle with the Ammonites was finally finished. This had been a needless war. David had not yet learned that God is not pleased with war.
Prophesied Troubles Begin
The Bible doesn't say what happened to the Ammonite king. Probably he was captured or slain. There is a scriptural reference to David's taking the crown off the enemy king's head, but it doesn't mean that the king of Israel walked up to the king of Ammon and snatched off his crown. This would have been quite a feat for both rulers, inasmuch as the crown weighed more than a hundred pounds. It had many precious stones in it, and the gold alone was worth an enormous amount of money. Instead of the crown being worn, it was suspended as an emblem of authority above the throne of the Ammonite king. The crown was only a small part of the wealth taken by the Israelites from Rabbah. There were valuable jewels, objects of gold and silver, weapons of war, livestock, carpets, tapestries, clothing, ornate vases and pots, fur pelts and many other costly things. These were taken back to Jerusalem. Some of it was distributed among the soldiers, and part went into the royal treasury. The heavy crown was hung in David's throne room as a trophy of the victory over Ammon. As for the people captured in Rabbah, as well as most of the natives of Ammon, they became subject to the Israelites. Some were used as laborers in Canaan and their own country in mining, handling cultivating equipment, making bricks and cutting wood. Matters went fairly well for David during the next several months. Then an unpleasant event developed. As usual, it was because of breaking some of God's laws — and was part of the penalty Nathan had foretold. Amnon, one of David's sons, fell in love with Tamar, one of David's daughters, but by another mother. Tamar was therefore a half-sister to Amnon. It was a blood relationship that was so close that it was a sin for either one of them to consider marriage or any of its privileges. Nevertheless, Amnon had a great desire for his half-sister, and brooded about it so much that friends wondered what was troubling him. One of those friends was a crafty fellow by the name of Jonadab, a cousin of Amnon. When he found what was bothering Amnon, he suggested a scheme by which David's son could be alone with Tamar. "Go to your home and pretend to be ill," Jonadab whispered, grinning smugly. "When your father comes to visit YOU, he'll probably ask what he can do for you. Tell him that you would like to have Tamar bring some food and serve it to you. He'll undoubtedly ask Tamar to carry out your wish. What you do after that is up to you." (II Samuel 13:1-5.) Amnon's desire to be with Tamar was so great that he eagerly put Jonadab's suggestion into action. When David heard that his son was sick, he immediately went to see him. The king was distressed to see Amnon lying in bed so motionless, apparently weakened by his sickness. "Would you care to have Nathan the prophet come and pray for you?" David asked.
David is Deceived
"Don't bother him," Amnon muttered feebly. "I can pray for myself. There is something I would like to have you do, though. I haven't seen Tamar for quite a while. I think I would feel better if she would come here and prepare one of her special meals for me. Would you send her?" "I'll see that she comes shortly," David promised. Amnon was soon pleased to see Tamar arrive with the food he had requested. Despite his excitement, he managed to appear weak and ill. The girl talked to him while she prepared the special meal he had told his father about. When the food was done, she took it out of the baking pan and put it on a serving plate. But David's son refused the food. He grunted angrily. "I want Tamar to come in here and serve me! Everybody else get out of the house!" (II Samuel 13:6-9.) Perplexed by Amnon's rudeness, everyone left except Tamar, who hesitantly entered her half-brother's room with the food. As she placed the plate before him, Amnon jerked himself up to a sitting position and seized her by an arm. The plate clattered to the floor. Tamar's eyes widened in surprise. "You're not ill!" the girl exclaimed. "You've been pretending!" "Now don't get excited and raise your voice," Amnon warned. "It was just a little plan to see you alone." "Let me go!" Tamar murmured angrily. "You're acting like a fool. If you want me for your wife, speak to the king, and he'll arrange our marriage!" (II Samuel 13:10-13.) Tamar knew that David wouldn't do that. But it was the only thing she could think to say in those frenzied moments to try to persuade Amnon to release her. Like too many girls today, instead of screaming for help, Tamar continued to reason with Amnon — hoping to convince Amnon not to commit fornication. He raped her anyway. Amnon had hoped that Tamar would have as much ardor for him as he had for her. But when he found that she didn't, his sexual lust for her suddenly turned to hate. To add insult to injury, he demanded that she leave immediately. When Tamar hesitated, because she didn't want to run out of the house in an undignified manner, he yelled to a servant to get her out of the building and then lock the doors to make certain that she wouldn't return. Obviously Amnon was trying to give his servants the deceitful impression that Tamar had such an attraction to him that extreme measures should be taken to keep her away. To Tamar's great embarrassment, the servant came in and escorted her outside. God put this experience in the Bible as a lesson for every young person never to get involved in fornication. A short time later Absalom, Tamar's brother, looked out from his home to see his sister approaching. She was trying to hide her face with one hand. As she came to the doorway, he noticed that there were ashes on her head, and that she was crying. He leaped forward to put his arms around her. (II Samuel 13:14-20.) "What is the matter with you? " he asked. "Where have you been?"