The Consequences of Adultery
- Joe Beam President, Marriage Helper
- 2011 20 Sep
“God will bless us if we divorce our mates and marry each other. It’s right there in the Bible.”
“Really?” I replied. “Please enlighten me.”
He was entangled with a woman at his church. Each was married to someone else, but now both professed undying love and devotion to the other. Each complained bitterly about their current marriages and praised God for bringing them together.
“David and Bathsheba” he said. “They committed adultery, which was wrong, but God saw their great love for each other and gave her to David as his wife. He blessed David’s life after that. He even lists Bathsheba in Matthew as one of Jesus’ ancestors. So while God is not FOR adultery, when He sees the great love a couple has for each other, He will allow them to be together and will bless their union. God will bless us just as he did them.”
He did not say it smugly, just simply. The truth as far as he was concerned was so clear that there was no need for smugness.
That is when I walked him through that Bible story from first to last.
The Story, Part 1 – 2 Samuel 11
David sent Joab to lead Israel’s army in battle while he remained in Jerusalem. Unable to sleep, he walked on his flat roof and saw a gorgeous woman bathing in the moonlight. He sent for her. She came. They committed adultery.
When David realized that the child was his, he tried to conceal his adultery by arranging for Uriah to come give a field report. The hope was that he would spend the night with his wife and later believe the child to be his own. However, Uriah refused to go home because, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!” (verse 11)
Did Uriah’s words about not enjoying the pleasure of his home because of his sense of duty and loyalty break the king’s heart? After all, David had enjoyed the pleasure of Uriah’s home. How did the mighty warrior of God react to this loyal man’s faithfulness? David had him killed.
This was not a love story that started badly and ended well. It is a sin story that starts badly and ends worse.
First, there is no indication that David and Bathsheba loved each other. A one-night-stand may possibly lead to a deeply felt relationship, but that rarely happens (ask the millions who have done it). The only mention of what Bathsheba felt is in reference to hearing that her husband was dead; the Bible says she mourned for him. (verse 26) If she was similar to the people I work with, the guilt of being pregnant by another paled in comparison to her fear that God killed her husband because of her sin (there is no indication she knew that David had Uriah murdered). If she had been praying that she would not be caught and punished, feeling guilt over Uriah’s death would be nearly automatic.
Also, there is no indication that she and Uriah had a bad marriage or that she was not happy being his wife. The fact that she slept with David in a singular event (no other relationship is mentioned or implied whatsoever) certainly indicates a problem, but it may well have been with herself rather than with her marriage. Nothing in the story hints that she pursued a relationship with David, or he with her.
Think about it: David focused on keeping his adultery a secret rather than on gaining her as his wife. If he had been longing for her, the first move would have been to have Uriah killed rather than trying to deceive him into thinking he had impregnated his wife. By attempting that ruse, David showed he did not intend to marry Bathsheba, but had every intention of her remaining married to her husband. David did not kill him to get his wife; he killed him to hide his sin.
That is not the motivation of a man madly in love; it is the drive of a man terrified of reaping what he sowed.
Moreover, David’s taking her as a wife is better explained by a sense of obligation rather than being blessed by God to have a woman he longed for. He impregnated her. It was his fault that she had no husband to be her companion in raising that child.
The Story, Part 2 – 2 Samuel 12, 13, 18
When Nathan the prophet confronted David, he made his point using a story about a man stealing his neighbor’s lamb. Typical of those overwhelmed with their own guilt, David lashed out at the transgression of another. “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.” (12:5-6)
David overreacted on that point because of his own guilt. However, calling for a fourfold repayment met the criteria of the Old Testament law. Just as David decided the punishment of the imaginary lamb thief, God brought a fourfold punishment on David for what he had done.
1. The baby he had with Bathsheba died. (12:19)
2. David’s son Amnon raped his half-sister (David’s daughter) Tamar. (13:14)
3. Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, killed Amnon for raping his sister. (13:32)
4. Absalom started a civil war to overthrow David and take over the kingdom. Absalom died in the battle. (18:15)
What could David say to Amnon about the heinous rape? “Son! You don’t take a woman just because you want her!”
Amnon could have replied, “Yeah, Dad, just like you.”
What could he have said to Absalom about the murder of his brother? “Son! You don’t kill a man to solve your problems!”
Absalom could have replied, “Yeah, Dad, just like you.”
His sins – illicit sex, murder – replicated in the lives of his children. It still happens, all too often.
Do You Wish to be David in This Story?
How did David feel about the consequences of his sin? “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!’” (18:33)
When I was younger, I thought that David was saying he wished he had died in battle rather than Absalom. As I matured, I came to understand that David knew that Absalom would have been a terrible king and Israel would have suffered. He was not wishing he had died in battle so that his son could have lived; he was saying he wished he had faced the consequence of his adultery with Bathsheba at the time it occurred. The law called for adulterers to be stoned. If David had faced his actions then and confessed his adultery, he could have been executed. If he had, the fourfold consequences in the lives of his children would have been avoided.
I said to the man, “Are you willing to face consequences like David faced?" Of course, this man's consequences will look different than David's, but the pain will be there nonetheless.
"How much are you willing to have people you love pay so that you can have this woman? Are you really that selfish? That unconcerned about the lives of people who will be affected by what you do?”
I continued, “It will not just be people you love who will suffer. Your sin will affect others, even if you do not realize it now. Have you heard of Ahithophel?”
Ahithophel, David’s trusted advisor fathered Eliam, who fathered Bathsheba. (1 Chronicles 27:33, 2 Samuel 23:34) When David committed adultery with her, he knew that Bathsheba was Ahithophel’s granddaughter (2 Samuel 11:3).
Ahithophel turned against David, as one might expect. He convinced Absalom to rape his father’s concubines in view of all Israel. (2 Samuel 16: 21, 22) Later, Ahithophel counseled Absalom on how to win the war against David. When Absalom would not listen, Ahithophel knew how it would end, and hanged himself. (2 Samuel 17:23)
David did not hurt only those who were his blood; he hurt those who had served the kingdom faithfully. Many people paid dearly for what David had done.
The End of the Story
Did David hurt? Was he sorry?
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…I sinned and [have] done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.” (Psalm 51:3, 4)
“My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,” (Psalm 51:17)
If we interviewed David to ask if the pain was less because God forgave him and blessed him in the remainder of his life, what would he say? We know the answer to that, do we not?
God rescues. God forgives. However, God, as a wise father, allows us to reap what we sow. (Galatians 6:7, 8)
The question should never be, “How can I find a way to have God bless me in spite of my sin?” It should always be, “What does Goes want me to do?”
With David, the answer was simple, “The thing David had done displeased the LORD.” God wanted him to be pure.
My final words to the man who compared himself to David were, “Stop your sin. Face the consequences as they now are rather than what they will progress to be. Do it for your own sake. Do it for the sake of those you love. Do not trade those you love, or anyone else, for your desire.
Joe Beam founded Marriage Helper, an organization that provides marriage help to hurting couples. For more information on getting help for your marriage, click here.