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. 14Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. 15And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah's wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.


And it came to pass on the seventh day, that the child died. — 2 Samuel 12:13-15, 18a

I understand that it was a convention in Hebrew literature to say that God did things that He did not literally or at least directly do. Although I do not remember all of the exact data that I used to use in order to support this, it can be seen in Psalm 88, for example, where, in the first part of it, a man is praying that God relieve him of his illness, and, in the second part of it, says that God gave him the illness. It's also seen in Ezekiel 20, where God says that He is the one that caused the Israelites to practice paganism and their other sins (which the entire book of Ezekiel, and much of the rest of the Old Testament is dedicated to condemning them for), and then just after tells the Israelites to repent of that sin.

While I do not know exactly why this convention is used in Hebrew literature, I believe that it may be used in order to cause a person to remember God, and thus their sin, when they see or experience the consequence of their sin. Alternatively, it may simply be that this was how the Hebrews thought, and therefore God used this convention when He spoke to the Hebrews.

It is because of Ezekiel 20 that I myself can say that, when God said in 2 Samuel 12:10-11 that He would cause someone from David's house to have sex with his wives, he wasn't speaking literally. This is necessary to believe, because James 1:13-14 say that God does not cause anyone to commit evil; this is besides the fact that this idea is morally repugnant.

Could it be that, when the Scripture says that God struck David's son with an illness, this same convention is being used by the Hebrew author? Is it possible that the text does not mean that God literally killed David's child, but only says this to make a theological point? Is there anything in the text that may suggest this?

Also consider Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20.

The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin. — Deuteronomy 24:16 ...

The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. — Ezekiel 18:20

The latter verse teaches that a son cannot bear his father's iniquity, going further than simply saying that he cannot be punished for it. If God killed David's son to punish David, would that not be in violation of this rule?

Thank you.

  • One day a Rabbi was pondering Isaiah 64:8 and how the Jews are God's clay and he makes of them what he will when suddenly he tripped and fell into a mud puddle. He got up, brushed off what he could of the mud and said "Well I'm glad that's over with"!
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 14:18

5 Answers 5


From Scripture it is understood that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Death doesn't just mean physical but also spiritual. Through Christ we gain eternal life in the spiritual realm with our spiritual bodies. However, as a consequence our physical bodies still deteriorate and cease to exist, but our spirit will live forever.

That being said, the argument could be made that David caused his own son to die because of his transgressions. Being king, he knew what God's law was and yet did it anyway. God has put laws in order and there are consequences to such, i.e. stoning to death adulterers and immediate death to non-Levites who touch the Ark of the Covenant.

While yes, semantically it is written AND read that God killed people because of sin, we often forget the perspective that transgression of the law leads to consequences.

Vis-a-viz modern law, it would be like saying the government jailed a child molester for his/her crimes. But if you study it further justice was being administered. It was the child molester's offense that caused the laws in existence to respond according to his/her actions. The child molester caused himself to be incarcerated because he/she went against the law.

Same perspective applies to David. Sure, God enacted justice towards David's family for his sins. But if you really evaluate David's life - even as one who was after God's own heart (because he would immediately repent) and knew God's laws - he really brought the troubles of his latter years upon himself.

God was just being God, just as - ideally - the justice system is the justice system when it comes to criminals.

  • One cannot cause a son to suffer for their father's sins, as Exodus 18:20 says. Note that it does not say that a son cannot be punished for his father's sins, but makes it clear that the son cannot "bear the iniquity of the father", which prevents a person from saying that, although the son may have been killed, as in this case, because of his father's sin, he was not "punished" for it. It is, therefore, impossible to say that God punished David by killing his son. If God did killed David's son for his sin, then He was breaking His own law. I should have put this in the question itself.
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 11:25
  • Ezekiel 18 says the same thing. This makes it, in fact, necessary that God is speaking figuratively here, I believe. What is your opinion on this?
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 12:32
  • I meant Ezekiel 18:20, not Exodus 18:20.
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 12:49
  • That's a really great question, CMK. Looking at the context of Ezekiel 18 lightly (I haven't done any deep study of it yet), what I understand there is that the child is out of the womb and of age to make the choice between righteousness and evil. However, since God's consequence was that the child would die soon after his birth, this does not fit the description or context of Ezekiel 18. We're looking at 2 different books of the Bible with different contexts and circumstances, so there's that. A closer analysis of each is necessary. Hope that answers your query. :D
    – Philip
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 17:44
  • Thank you for responding. Although this explanation would make sense if that principle was only found in Ezekiel 18, the same thing is said in Deuteronomy 24:16; I meant to add that to my comment. It's said in two different places, and it seems that Ezekiel 18 is meant to confirm Deuteronomy 24:16, because it was said in response to Israelites, who were saying that God did not follow this principle. Moreover, it seems that God used examples of righteous and sinful men in the chapter just to make it clear that one was guilty, ans the other was not. What is your opinion on this?
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 18:14

In the scriptural view everything that happens is under God's control. David's child did not die in any process independent of God's plans:

[Mat 10:29 KJV] 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.

This does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that what occurs does not likewise have a natural explanation as well. People may devise evil plans which God allows to proceed for His own purposes.

And God's "negative" providence need not indicate that an evil that follows flowed from the severity of the crime:

[Luk 13:1-2, 4-5 KJV] 1 There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? ... 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

Likewise the wicked often prosper in their devices while the righteous suffer.

So the bottom line is that the providence of God is a profound mystery. The saint, however can be assured that while God left the new creation subject to futility and seemingly gratuitous trouble, every "negative" providence is being carefully coordinated to produce the character of Christ in the life of the believer. See Romans 8:28ff.

  • Thank you for your answer, but how does this relate to the killing of David's child specifically?
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 15:16
  • When bad things happen we should think "providence" not "judgment" because "judgment" occurs after death, not in this life. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Well, except at that time Israel was about to be visited with judgment. The Roman tower was about to fall on all the unrepentant Jews!
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 15:18
  • I understand what you mean; but are you then saying that God's providence was responsible for the child's death? Was this a "general providence" or a "special providence", or do you not make a distinction?
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 16:39
  • I would say that that distinction isn't necessarily a reality. God is constantly at work in and through everything. Nothing whatsoever "just happens". Not even a sparrow falling to the ground. Every person dies on God's timetable, not their own.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 17:35
  • So, to clarify, you believe that God causes everything which takes place?
    – CMK
    Commented Dec 21, 2018 at 17:58

I believe that Mtt 10:29 means that even though a sparrow is not worth much to anyone, God still notices them and sees them fall. They may be unimportant to a human because they are not "worth" much, but they are still important to Him. As for God being in control of everything, for instance Joyce Meyer preaching that He knows what you are going to do before you do it --like you're a puppet--that is ridiculous. He set things in motion and gave the Earth to humans and they have destroyed it. If He knew what would happen, why would he worry about Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Life? "Lest they eat also from the Tree of Life, and live forever..." Why would He need the flood? Why would He confuse their languages to slow them down? And Jesus made it clear that Satan is the ruler of this world. He has been given control. How else could Satan offer Jesus what he did? If the kingdoms he offered were God's, Jesus would already rule them.


I'm pretty sure God, Who is omnipotent and all-knowing (omniscient), does NOT "worry". He does know what is going to happen. He has a plan that will come to pass, ultimately, that cannot be wrecked by what humans do or Satan does. The flood happened because of the wickedness of men, but also, do you see the symbolism of the Ark and how it protected God's people (Noah and his family) who were "in" it in like manner to how being "in Christ" protects God's people from destruction and saves from sin? That's foreshadowing...and shows the beauty and knowledge of God working through all that comes to pass to His ultimate end. Sure, Satan is temporarily wreaking havoc on this fallen world, but NOTHING surprises God! Satan and every living being, good or evil, will ultimately surrender to Jesus on bended knee (EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD).


With regard to the first son that was born to David and Bathsheba, I have wondered why he had to die, an innocent babe, in seeming consequence to the sin of his parents. God is always just and loving, for He is Love. He loves babies. The explanation that the child may have been sick and weak after birth due to natural causes, but attributed to God's will, due to Hebrew customs of attributing everything that happens to God's direct intervention, is certainly a possibility. God knew ahead of time that the child would die, and Nathan prophesied it when he was with David. I think another possibility is that God had a perfect plan in place to bring our Savior Jesus Christ through the line of David, and that David's sin with Bathsheba during the time she was married to Uriah could have caused some issues of confusion over the resulting child's lineage--David was clearly the biological father, but since the child was conceived while Bathsheba was still Uriah's wife, this would have muddied the waters and maybe caused some to question whether Uriah was the rightful father. Any child conceived during her marriage to Uriah would have been assumed to be Uriah's son...and David was the one God had planned to have the honor of being in the direct (DIRECT) line of earthly ancestors for Yeshua, the Messiah. SO...God may have allowed the child to die of illness and not intervened due to His ultimate plan (Solomon was born to David and Bathsheba afterward, and was in the line of Christ). God may have seen what was to happen in future which we humans do not see, and mercifully prevented it (and the child went to God, as we know from David's statement to comfort himself after the child died). This is a mystery that we cannot know for sure, but we CAN know that God's ways are "above our ways" and His love is unfailing! I trust that He had a GOOD and LOVING purpose for the sad outcome of the baby, because He is wiser than I. I am also sure that the child's passing grieved the LORD's heart, as does the consequence of any sin.

  • Thanks for your answer and welcome to BHSE. Have you taken the tour to see how this site works? If you edited your answer putting in several pararaphs it would be easier to read I think. [Press arrow twice].
    – C. Stroud
    Commented Mar 31, 2023 at 9:52

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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