Did David Commit Adultery?
Well, after today’s reading one might think that the answer to the question ‘Did David commit adultery?’ is yes. However the Bible never used this word relating to this incident, not below nor anywhere else. So did David commit adultery? Judge for yourself.
2. Sam. 12: 7 to 13:  And Nathan said to David, Thou [art] the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul;  And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if [that had been] too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things.  Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his woman (there is not word for wife in Hebrew) [to be] thy woman, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.  Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the woman of Uriah the Hittite to be thy woman.  Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give [them] unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun.  For thou didst [it] secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.  And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.
So did David commit adultery? Well, he had taken the woman of Uriah, the Hittite, to be his woman. Doesn’t that mean the answer to the question ‘Did David commit adultery?’ is yes? Well, what exactly is adultery?
Adultery is a Latin word introduced into the Bible Translation by St. Jerome. He translated the Hebrew and Greek texts into Latin, which was the most wide spread language at the time. St. Jerome himself was from Dalmatia, a part of today’s Croatia, so Latin was not his mother tongue either. In those days there were so many local languages so that the Church decided to use the language common to all: Latin. The situation was quite similar as in present day India. There are so many different languages in India that the language for communication on a countrywide scale is English. Did it bother the common people when they heard the mess read in Latin that they could not understand it? Probably not. The fact that they could not understand it might actually have added to the mystery and to the belief that this must be something higher. Similarly the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were most popular with working class people at the beginning. That means in non – English speaking countries, those who could not speak or understand English liked them most!
The Latin word adulterare means to falsify or to forge something. So in the sexual sense it means to put your own child into the woman of another man who then takes your child to be his own. That is the literal meaning of the Latin word. So the answer to the question ‘Did David commit adultery?’ in this sense is yes. He made Bathsheba, the woman of Uriah the Hittite, pregnant with a child of his own. This story is told in the previous chapter 2. Sam. 11.
However, the Hebrew word na’aph, which is commonly translated as adultery, does not really mean that. One indication is exactly this incident which clearly would be labelled in modern language as adultery. The Bible does not label it as such anywhere. Most of the time the word na’aph refers to the worship of other gods. It refers to sacrifice, as, for example, in Prov. 30: 20, ‘Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.’ No mention of sex!
It may even refer to child sacrifice! Eze. 23: 37 reads,’That they have committed adultery, and blood [is] in their hands, and with their idols have they committed adultery, and have also caused their sons, whom they bare unto me, to pass for them through [the fire], to devour them.’ So na’aph may refer to child sacrifice. There is no woman mentioned here! If there was sex, the sex with the woman was secondary, if it occurred at all. In this example na’aph is committed with idols, not with women!
In any case na’aph was an offence against God, not against a woman, as it is seen today as ‘cheating on your wife’. Women in those days certainly did not have the right to restrict their owner’s sex life. The word Baal has often been translated as husband, but it can also mean the owner of an ox (Ex. 21: 29)! Further the last commandment, Ex. 20: 17, ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s woman, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that [is] thy neighbour’s,’ deals with the neighbour’s woman. Therefore na’aph does not! ‘Cheating’ on your wife is not forbidden in the Bible and therefore it is not cheating! Only an owned woman you should not covet to possess, but maybe you could have a lend?
So in this sense the answer to the question ‘Did David commit adultery?’ is no. That’s why it is not called na’aph anywhere in the Bible!
If you are further interested in the question ‘Did David commit adultery?’ or in questions regarding adultery in general, here is a link to an essay on the topic ‘Thou shalt not Commit Adultery’ Also there is a chapter in Greetings from Paradise with this heading which investigates the Hebrew concept of na’aph in detail.
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.