Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Repentance of David

Although the wars with the enemies of Israel were not yet entirely ended, David left the army to the care of Joab, and came back to his capital, Jerusalem. It was while looking out of his palace window one day, that he saw a beautiful woman at her toilet, and fell deeply in love with her.

He now asked who she was, and soon found out that her name was Bathsheba, and that she was the wife of Uriah one of his soldiers. As David wanted to have this beautiful woman for his own wife, he began to plot how he could get rid of her husband, Uriah; for he knew very well that he could marry her only after she was a widow.

After much thought, David decided on a plan. He sent word to the captain of his army to place Uriah in such an exposed spot, when the next battle took place, that he would surely be killed. The captain obeyed, Uriah fell, and David soon married Bathsheba, the widow, whom he had thus won by the greatest crime of his life.

Of course so wicked a deed as this greatly displeased the Lord, and he sent Nathan, one of his prophets, to reprove the king. Nathan came before David, and, to make sure that he would listen, began to tell this parable:

There was once upon a time a poor man, who had only one ewe lamb. He fed this little creature out of his hand, and cared for it very tenderly both night and day. Near this poor man there dwelt a rich farmer, who had great flocks, and more lambs than he could count.

One day a stranger came to visit the rich man, and the latter gave orders that a feast should be made ready for his guest. As there was no meat in the house, he bade his servant go catch the poor manís pet lamb and kill it, so that they might have enough to eat.

David listened attentively to this story, and was very angry when he heard that the rich man, instead of killing one of his own lambs, had taken the poor manís pet. He said that such a thing was mean, unjust, and cruel, and vowed that the rich man should be severely punished.

But when he sternly asked Nathan: "Who is the man?" he was astonished and ashamed to hear the answer: "Thou art the man." The prophet then went on to explain that, while the kingís heart had been filled with pity for the poor man who had lost a pet lamb, he had felt no such feelings for Uriah, whom he had killed, and whose wife he had married.

David now understood how deeply he had sinned, and he repented greatly. He prayed to God to forgive him, and, as he was a poet, he composed a number of psalms, or hymns, which he used to sing, accompanying himself on his harp. In these poems he expressed his sorrow and deep repentance; hence they are called the "penitential psalms."

But in spite of his repentance David could not escape all punishment, and the first child which Bathsheba bore him fell very sick. The king loved this child dearly; so he fasted and prayed, and was so anxious that when it breathed its last the courtiers did not at first dare tell him that it was dead.

But when David heard that the child had ceased to live and suffer, he became very calm, and left off weeping and fasting. His courtiers, who had expected a great outburst of grief, were amazed at his calmness. Finally they ventured to ask him how he could be so composed, now that the child was dead, when the mere knowledge of its danger had made him spend all his time in fasting and prayer.

David then sadly told them that as long as the little one lived, he had hoped by prayers and tears to make God forgive his sin, and leave him the child. But when he heard that it was dead, he knew that tears were useless, and added softly: "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."