After David sinned with Bethsheba the prophet Nathan was sent to him by God, in order that his sin might be exposed unto him. He did so by telling him the parable which we read in 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

Later Nathan tells David, that he (David) is the rich man from the parable. That's how we conclude that the poor man is Uriah the Hittite and the lamb is his wife Bethsheba.

Now my question is whether someone has thought on who the traveler / guest, referred to in the parable, is?

2 Samuel 12:4 (ESV)

Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”


In a sense, the identity of this "traveller/guest" in the parable in 2 Samuel 12 is the same as that in Jesus' parable of the "friend at night":

‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me,...’ (Luke 11:5b-6a).

That is, this is simply a character recounted in the story: there is no identity beyond that.

This is very much part of the "parable" genre.1 It is very odd for there to be any semblance of "real" character in them -- which is why the parable of "Lazarus and Dives" is somewhat unusual: it's the only biblical parable in OT or NT that uses named characters (that I'm aware of! corrections welcome).

It should be clear, too, then, that David is not "the rich man" in the parable, nor is the "poor man" Uriah, nor the "ewe lamb" Bathsheba (she certainly didn't end up in the stew!). Rather, the story elicits a judgment from David that implicates his own behaviour as guilty.

That's how parables work.


  1. There is a bit more general information on interpretation of parables in a previous Q&A. This popular guide to parable interpretation from Bible.org is also helpful.
  • Yes, it is a parable indeed, thanks for pointing that out, I made a mistake with the naming. And I appreciate the lack of concrete characters in the "parable" genre in the Scriptures, and especially the ones that Jesus said. However this one is quite different from what I can see, even though it speaks in a symbolic language (Bethsheba is not a lamb), that it refers to specific characters from the event at hand, after all Nathan says: "you are that man". I was thinking as to whether we can consider the guest as temptation or something else, and if such a conclusion could be valid..? Oct 13 '14 at 15:21
  • What makes you think it "is quite different"? AFAIK, 2 Sam 12 is thought to be almost an archetypal parable of the type Jesus also told. And I wouldn't think Nathan's evocative scenario is precisely "the event at hand" (David's adultery + murder) which Nathan so skillfully exposes. In fact, the lack of identity is what prompts David to make the judgement he does. To look for some further "identity" for the traveller/guest over-complicates, and runs against the normal mode in which a "parable" functions.
    – Dɑvïd
    Oct 13 '14 at 15:27
  • I am prompt to think that way, as Jesus told parables to the masses,the lack of exact characters is done, that the hearer might see himself (or others) in the parable told, and that he might take it to heart. In the case with David, he was told the parable with a very specific quest - exposing his sin. If Nathan had used names, that could have prevented an honest and unbiased judgement by David. Of course the parable is true in general of anyone, not only for that occasion. As with everything in the Scriptures it could have a deeper meaning than the obvious, so I ask if anyone has pondered on. Oct 13 '14 at 15:39
  • ...the lack of exact characters is done, that the hearer might see himself (or others) in the parable told... - which is precisely the case in 2 Sam 12! | ...with a very specific quest - exposing his sin... - you'll find that something like that could also be said of the NT parables; the dynamic is "the same", not "quite different", even though one situation is "targetted", the other not. Compare, e.g., the famous Luke 10:24-37 told directly to the "lawyer" - not so very different after all! (And no names....)
    – Dɑvïd
    Oct 13 '14 at 16:32

Could have been the son who died. Like a wayfarer he was not there very long. -- Could be Bathsheba who needed David's protection against a charge of adultery. Similarly, a wayfarer needs protection. -- Could be both. The parable achieves its objective by giving David a framework with which to work out his own sin. He probably looked carefully at all roles and their possibilities.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other SEs. Our community looks for answers to reflect a good degree of research and references, so "showing your work" is recommended. You may wish to refine your answer by expanding on the framework you referenced and by showing definitively if the guest is a wayfarer, the son or both - we usually like answers that are a bit more definitive. Jun 18 '16 at 4:31

I am more inclined to think the Traveller is a demonic spirit of lust (the Spirit of Immorality?) that had come to put temptation and sexual urge into David's heart. The purpose is to cause him to sin and fall. The Traveller comes to tempt and does not stay but goes away again after his (spirit's) lust is fulfulled and his target has fallen. David could have released his urge by going to one of his own wives or concubines, (easing the temptation without sinning) but instead, he chose to appease the spirit of lust by releasing this lust on Bethsheba, the wife of his loyal subject Uriah.

  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Jun 24 at 20:34
  • @YS Lee. Welcome to BH! The guest in the parable is just a fictitious person for the story.
    – Sam
    Jun 27 at 20:04

As a man of God I believe, a traveller (Strong's Concordance #1982 Hebrew-'helek' a flowing, dropped, a visitor ) in context- came to the rich man. i.e. the traveller was a spirit of knowledge of knowing/flowing of understanding/knowledge dropped from the heavenliest and processed by David's mind/right brain in this case. David received a revelation of the fact he harmed another there-by committing a sin. David was put on the spot by the wayfarer (Nathan also a traveller/wayfarer albeit a man in this instance and not the Holy Spirit perse) after committing the sin of taking the family pet/lamb often regarded as part of the family from the poor man while David himself had plenty. (a simple example of greed and exploitation) The traveller was the 'spirit of conviction' as David realised conscientiously (by spiritual activation of the righteous mind and not the carnal) what he had done, he could no longer hide from, or the judgement of doing such a thing. David's son died as Nathan stated would happen because David had no concern for the poor man.(note; references to David killing with the sword was not in the same context as Nathan used when speaking the Word/sword of God to David) The same Word that brings life to those faithful will smite those who practice injustice. All one need do is speak the Word of God and the spirit fights the battle on our behalf cutting through even bone and marrow. Oh the irony! David's position of authority granted by YHWH was abused by David there-for bringing about his judgement. The death of his own son!(equating to tit for tat) Question; Did God allow David's son to die or did David simply fail to repent before God?

Note: the brain processes thought, it does not create the thought. (something for people to ponder)The left lobe is regarded as the carnal mind and the right lobe as the righteous mind. The world trains/brainwashes the carnal processes (left lobe function to act first) while the Holy Spirit nurtures activation of the righteous processes (the right lobe) Nathan was obviously a righteous spirit filled man of God/YHWH while David had backslidden at that time and neglected his responsibility to all the people of his kingdom! Could write a book on this subject alone. If I am mistaken it is not my intention and any truthful correction will be graciously accepted.

  • Brian - thank you for your comment. Can you help us to correlate what you said with passages from the Biblical Text? For example, you mention the two lobes of the brain and how the relate to our experience. Can you provide us Biblical references? This approach forces us to ask questions of ourselves as to why we believe what we believe in the Bible. If you can articulate and show how you arrived at your conclusions, then you will help us to understand. Otherwise if you do not, then we do not know where or how you came to your views. Thanks!
    – Joseph
    Oct 13 '14 at 14:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.