For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Matt. 16:26)
What win I, if I gain the thing I seek?
A dream, a breath, a froth of fleeting joy.
Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a week?
Or sells eternity to get a toy?
For one sweet grape who will the vine destroy?
("Lucrece," Act 1, lines 211-15. See Ensign Aug. 1995, 22)
Thomas S. Monson
In life, as in business, there has always been a need for those persons who could be called finishers... From the very beginning to the present time, a fundamental question remains to be answered by each who runs the race of life. Shall I falter, or shall I finish? On the answer await the blessings of joy and happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come...
In the first flush of his incredible triumphs, David rode the crest of popularity. As he achieved fresh victories, in adoration the people exclaimed: "Behold, we are thy bone and flesh." (2 Sam. 5:1.) Power he won, but peace he lost.
It happened late one afternoon when David was walking on the rooftop patio of the king's house that he saw a woman bathing. "And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, ... the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" So "David sent messengers, and took her." (2 Sam. 11:3-4.)
The gross sin of adultery was followed by yet another. Commanded David: "Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die." (2 Sam. 11:15.) Lust and power had triumphed.
David's rebuke came from the Lord God of Israel: "Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife. ...
"Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house." (2 Sam. 12:9-10.)
David commenced well the race, then faltered and failed to finish his course. ("Finishers Wanted," Ensign, June 1989, 2-3)
2 Samuel 11:2 David... saw a woman washing herself
"There is no reason to think Bathsheba was indiscreet in her bathing habits or that she deliberately enticed the king. She came from a God-fearing family and was the wife of a God-fearing man. Indeed, throughout the narrative she maintains the friendship and good graces of Nathan, God's prophet. She was the little ewe with no choice, according to the parable Nathan told David when he exposed the king's guilt. She was simply bathing, performing the ritual ablutions following menstruation, when somehow, unknown to her, she was seen by the king and his passions were excited." (Jerrie W. Hurd, Our Sisters in the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 76)
2 Samuel 11:2 the woman was very beautiful to look upon
L. Whitney Clayton
Do you see how David got caught in this trap? He was on a rooftop courtyard of his palace, and looking below in a neighboring yard, he saw something he never should have seen. That was the adversary's bait. Modesty, chastity, and good judgment required that David turn away immediately and not watch, but he didn't do either thing. Instead, he allowed his mind to turn to forbidden fantasies, those thoughts led to actions, and things quickly spiraled downward from bad to worse to fatal. David was trapped, and for him the consequences were eternal.
There's a spiritual snare today called pornography, and many, allured by its provocative messages, enter this deadly trap. Like any trap, it is easy to enter but difficult to escape. Some rationalize that they can casually view pornography without suffering its adverse effects. They say initially, "This isn't so bad," or, "Who cares? It won't make any difference," or, "I'm just curious." But they are mistaken. The Lord has warned, "And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out" (D&C 42:23). That's exactly what happened to David: he looked at Bathsheba, lusted after her, and lost the Spirit. How different the rest of David's life might have been if he had just looked away.
Along with losing the Spirit, pornography users also lose perspective and proportion. Like King David, they try to conceal their sin, forgetting that nothing is hidden from the Lord (see 2 Nephi 27:27). Real consequences start to accumulate as self-respect ebbs away, sweet relationships sour, marriages wither, and innocent victims begin to pile up. Finding that what they have been viewing no longer satisfies, they experiment with more extreme images. They slowly grow addicted even if they don't know it or they deny it, and like David's, their behavior deteriorates as their moral standards disintegrate. ("Blessed Are All the Pure in Heart," Ensign, Nov 2007, 51-53)
David E. Sorenson
In the summertime one of our responsibilities was to haul hay from the fields into the barn for winter storage. My dad would pitch the hay onto a flatbed wagon. I would then tromp down the hay to get as much as possible on the wagon. One day, in one of the loose bundles pitched onto the wagon was a rattlesnake! When I looked at it, I was concerned, excited, and afraid. The snake was lying in the nice, cool hay. The sun was glistening on its diamond back. After a few moments the snake stopped rattling, became still, and I became very curious. I started to get closer and leaned over for a better look, when suddenly I heard a call from my father: "David, my boy, you can't pet a rattlesnake!"
Tonight I would like to talk to you about the dangers of petting poisonous snakes. The ones I refer to do not have long, slithering bodies but come in many other forms. Often the world makes these dangers look harmless-even exciting and interesting. But petting such snakes fills the mind with poison-poison that drives away the Holy Spirit.
Brethren, today's popular entertainment often makes what is evil and wrong look enjoyable and right. Let us remember the Lord's counsel: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil."
Pornography, though billed by Satan as entertainment, is a deeply poisonous, deceptive snake that lies coiled up in magazines, the Internet, and the television. Pornography destroys self-esteem and weakens self-discipline. It is far more deadly to the spirit than the rattlesnake my father warned me not to pet. The Bible records that King David was gifted spiritually, but he stood where he should not have stood. He watched what he should not have watched. Those obsessions became his downfall. ("You Can't Pet a Rattlesnake," Ensign, May 2001, 41)
(Ryan's note) King David's first mistake was not failing to turn away once he saw Bathsheba. Rather, it was in being in the wrong place to begin with. In verse 1 of chapter 11, and through many historical, non-biblical documents, we see that the king was supposed to be leading the battle waged elsewhere. David should have been with his soldiers, not at home. Had he been where he should have been, he would never have seen Bathsheba, and that temptation which proved to much for him would have been avoided. Many a teenager can testify that if they too had been in the right place, they too could have avoided temptations which proved to be too much for them.
2 Samuel 11:3 David sent and enquired after the woman
Bruce C. Hafen
Develop the power of self-discipline and self-restraint. Be like Joseph, not like David. When Potiphar's wife tried with all her cunning to seduce young Joseph, who lived in her house as her husband's servant, the record simply says that Joseph "fled, and got him out." (Gen. 39:12.) Joseph knew that it is wiser to avoid temptation than to resist it.
King David, by contrast, despite his years of faithful devotion to God, somehow developed too much confidence in his own ability to handle temptation. He was tragically willing to flirt with evil, and it ultimately destroyed him. We read that as David walked upon the roof of his house, he saw not far off a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. But David did not flee and get himself out. Rather, he sent and enquired after her, and she came in unto him. For this greatest of the kings of Israel, it was the beginning of the end. ("The Gospel and Romantic Love," Ensign, Oct. 1982, 67)
2 Samuel 11:4 David sent messengers, and took her... and he lay with her
Joseph B. Wirthlin
We must be cautious of seemingly small thoughts and actions that can lead to large consequences... a few unclean thoughts, or a little pornography; one experiment with drugs; a few lies, a little fraud; or a feeling of hate can lead us into the camp of the adversary. Giving just an inch here and there can put us close enough to the line that one slip will take us right over it. Young people who decide to experiment with only one cigarette, one dose of drugs, or one drink of alcohol-only one-often find themselves led into additional use, and in time they become addicted to a substance that controls them and that they can break only with great difficulty.
Men and women who decide to flirt with adultery just once can become enmeshed in misery and unhappiness for themselves and their precious families. Few are able to get back on the Lord's side immediately. Too many lose a loving companion, face separation from their children, develop bitterness, lose their economic stability, and lose their eternal blessings unless they repent. The Church has only one acceptable standard of sexual morality, and that is complete chastity for both sexes. I urge you to avoid situations that permit physical feelings to take control of behavior. (Ensign, Mar. 1993, 71)
2 Samuel 11:4-5 for she was purified from her uncleanness
Part of the Levitical cleanliness rites associated with the Law of Moses included a woman's menstrual cycle. Any issue of fluid from the human body, male or female, was considered unclean. Leviticus 15:19-28 describes that a woman was unclean for seven days at the start of her cycle. If the cycle had resolved during that week, as it would be for most women, then she was to be unclean for seven more days after that.
The result was that a woman was unclean until the fourteenth day of her cycle-the exact time of ovulation. Bathsheba had completed her monthly purification and was fertile at the time David lay with her.
2 Samuel 11:11 Uriah said... The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents... shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife?
"Uriah was a Hittite, a foreigner dwelling among the Israelites, David should have been especially careful not to abuse or afflict him. The Lord's commandment to Israel was, 'Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt' (Exodus 22:21), and 'The stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself.' (Leviticus 19:34.) And Uriah was an especially deserving stranger. The way he shows reverence for 'the ark' in verse 11 and the fact that he was fighting in Israel's army suggest that he was a convert to the Lord and probably strong in the faith, as was the convert Ruth, the Moabitess. 'Uriah' means, as we learn from the LDS edition of the Bible, 'Jehovah is my light.' We also know that Uriah was a man of estimation in Israel. His house was close to the King's, and he is listed as one of thirty honorable men in Israel. (2 Samuel 23:39.) (Dennis and Sandra Packard, Feasting upon the Word [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1981], 110)
2 Samuel 11:13 he made him drunk
David's behavior spirals out of control. There seems to be no end to the scheme, no end to the cover-up. How is he going to keep this under wraps? Let's look at how adultery leads to deceit and lies.
- He lusted over Bathsheba, but he didn't stop there.
- He asked about her identity, but he didn't stop there.
- He sent messengers to bring her to him, but he didn't stop there.
- He lay with her, but he didn't stop there.
- He conspired to cover up his sin by bringing Uriah home, but that didn't work
- He commanded him to stay an extra night, getting him drunk to get him to go home and sleep with his wife, but that didn't work either.
- He commanded Joab to abandon him in the heat of the battle, but he didn't stop there.
- He had faithful and honorable Uriah carry the order of his own death sentence to Joab, but he didn't stop there.
- He concealed the entire thing, covering his sin as if the Lord could not see or did not know!
The chapter ends with one of the Bible's greatest understatements, "the thing that David had done displeased the Lord."
2 Samuel 12:7 Nathan said to David, Thou art the man
"How the prophet's brief, sharp rejoinder: 'Thou art the man' must have struck to his heart! There was no disguise now; no attempt at excuse or palliation. Stroke by stroke came down the hammer-each blow harder and more crushing than the other. What God had done for David; how David had acted towards Uriah and towards his wife-and how God would avenge what really was a despising of Himself: such was the burden of Nathan's brief-worded message. Had David slain Uriah with the sword of the Ammonites? Never, so long as he lived, would the sword depart from the house of David. Had he in secret possessed himself adulterously of Uriah's wife? Similar and far sorer evil would be brought upon him, and that not secretly but publicly. And we know how the one sentence came true from the murder of Amnon (2 Sam. 13:29) to the slaughter of Absalom (18:14), and even the execution of Adonijah after David's death (1 Kings 2:24, 25); and also how terribly the other prediction was fulfilled through the guilt of his own son (2 Sam. 16:21, 22)." (Alfred Edersheim, Old Testament Bible History, [Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995] 541)
2 Samuel 12:9 Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword... of the children of Ammon
Mark E. Petersen
David, the beloved of the Lord; David, the man after God's own heart; David, who offended the Lord in only one frightful instance, "hath fallen from his exaltation, and received his portion."
What a tragedy! Its extent is beyond our mortal comprehension. When we consider for a moment what exaltation means, that through it we may become like God himself, and then think of losing that mighty blessing, we come to some understanding of the necessity of obeying the laws of God in complete detail.
Throughout David's career the Lord helped and prospered him, and he was able to accomplish the mission to which he was assigned. He conquered the enemies of the people of God, completing the work originally started by Joshua. He extended the kingdom and became Israel's greatest warrior-king. He made ready for the building of the temple of the Lord. He wrote scores of inspiring psalms. "And in none of these things did he sin."
But then there was the case of Uriah and his wife. That made the whole tragic difference. That turned day into night, and reversed the king's ascent toward exaltation.
The Lord is just and he is merciful, but he does not allow mercy to rob justice. Where there is proper repentance, he forgives all but two sins: murder, wherein innocent blood is shed, and sin against the Holy Ghost. It was here that David's bark struck the deadly shoals. Even with David, beloved as he was, the Lord was no respecter of persons. (Three Kings of Israel [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 99)
Mark E. Petersen
On Mount Sinai God proclaimed the moral code for Israel. It included these three commandments:
Thou shalt not kill.
Thou shalt not commit adultery.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife.
David violated all three. He knew the law well. He administered it for forty years. But for a fleeting moment he allowed lust to enter his heart, overcoming his better judgment. In yielding, he lost his place in the presence of the Lord even though he loved him so dearly. (Three Kings of Israel [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1980], 100)
2 Samuel 12:11 I will take thy wives, and give them unto thy neighbor
Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father's concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.
So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel. (2 Sam. 16:21-22)
2 Samuel 12:23 now he is dead, wherefore should I fast
David's fasting and prayers for this son can't possibly be genuine. Having committed a heinous sin, his mourning seems to be an overcompensation. Having tried so hard to conceal his illicit affair, why would he want this child to live as a permanent reminder of his indiscretion? David put on a good show, but in his heart, he was glad this child died. His flippant answer, "wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again?" has the same insincerity as his comment about Uriah's death in battle, "the sword devoureth one as well as the other" (2 Sam. 11:25).
In contrast, we see David legitimately mourning his son Absalom in the next chapter (see 2 Sam. 13).