2 Samuel 11–12: David's Tragic Mistakes

Old Testament Seminary Student Study Guide, (2002), 101–102

Sometimes we don’t recognize the importance of some of the “little” decisions we make in our lives. Elder Gordon B. Hinckley gave an example of the importance of little decisions when he told about an experience he had working for a railroad company. He said he received a call from New Jersey that a passenger train arrived without the baggage car.“We discovered that the train had been properly made up in Oakland, California, and properly delivered to St Louis. … But in the St. Louis yards, a thoughtless switchman had moved a piece of steel just three inches.“That piece of steel was a switch point, and the car that should have been in Newark, New Jersey, was in New Orleans, Louisiana, thirteen hundred miles away” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 106; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 91).When you first read about David, he appeared to be the model for a king in Israel. Chapters 1–10 of 2 Samuel record the great success he had as the leader of the country. As you read 2 Samuel 11–12, look for “switch points” in David’s life that put him on a different “track” than the one he started on in his younger years.
Gordon B. Hinckley

Understanding the Scriptures

2 Samuel 11

Expired (v. 1)Ended 
Besieged (v. 1)Attacked 
Purified from her uncleanness (v. 4)Ceremonially clean according to the part of the law of Moses having to do with menstrual cycles and pregnancy 
Conceived (v. 5)Became pregnant 
Retire (v. 15)Retreat, don’t support 
Charged (v. 19)Commanded 

2 Samuel 12

Lay in his bosom (v. 3)Lay down to sleep right next to him 
Dress, dressed (vv. 4–5)Prepare, prepared 
Wayfaring (v. 4)Traveling 
Despised (vv. 9–10)Taken lightly 
Blaspheme (v. 14)Express great disrespect of the Lord and his religion 
Vex (v. 18)Be upset 
Under (v. 31)To work with 

2 Samuel 12:1—“The Lord Sent Nathan unto David”

When repentance is true and sincere, the sinner confesses to God, to those he or she has offended, and to his or her priesthood leader when the sin is as serious as David’s was (see D&C 58:42–43). David’s discussion with Nathan, however, happened after the birth of the baby David fathered with Bathsheba. Therefore, the discussion must have been at least nine months after David’s first transgression. Furthermore, the Lord had to send Nathan to David instead of David going to Nathan to confess. What do you learn about David’s remorse and repentance if, after such a long time, Nathan had to come to David to confront him about his sin?

Studying the Scriptures

Do two of the following activities (A–E) as you study 2 Samuel 11–12.

Activity A iconSwitch Points

Make the following chart in your notebook, and then fill in the blanks with information you learn from 2 Samuel 11 as well as with your own thoughts. There may be more than one item in the middle column.

Decisions That Changed David’s Life


What David did

What David should have done





6–8, 14–17


Activity B iconSwitch Points Today

You probably noticed that each “switch point” brought David closer and closer to sin. Write a short letter as if you were writing to someone your age and warn him or her about “switch points” you believe will be faced that could lead to immoral actions. A For the Strength of Youth booklet (36550) may provide some suggestions. Also use David’s story to help this person see the consequences of such choices.

Activity C iconInterpret the Parable

Explain Nathan’s parable in 2 Samuel 12:1–4 as it applied to David. Tell what each specific part of the parable represents.

Activity D iconFeelings of Remorse

Sometime after his discussion with Nathan, David wrote Psalm 51. Read Psalm 51 and write what you think David would say to someone who believes that sin is nothing to worry about because you can always repent (see also D&C 132:38–39).

Activity E iconA Big Change

Compare the kind of man David was when he fought Goliath to the kind of man he was in 2 Samuel 11–12 when he committed serious sins. Why do you think there is such a difference? How can people change so drastically?