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.
[2 Samuel 12:13 KJV]
How, and when, did the Lord 'put away' David's sin?
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The answer can be gleaned from other places in the Bible where King David and his sin is spoken of. Paul writes in Romans 4:5-8: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, ‘Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin’.”
That latter quote in verse 8 was from the pen of King David in Psalm 32 vss 1-2. The rest of that Psalm relates the inward ‘roaring’ that he endured after a year of keeping silent about his sin. But in verse 5 he states what the turning point was:
“I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.”
Then there is the confirmatory Psalm 51, after Nathan the prophet confronted him, through the parable of the poor man with only one lamb, regarding his sin with Bathsheeba:
“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin, for I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned and done evil in thy sight…” and so forth.
Yes, David admitted his sin with Bathsheeba to Nathan when confronted by Nathan nearly a year after his adultery. But that’s not what caused God to put away David’s sin. It was David confessing to God that mattered, not confessing to any man. And it was at the very point of David’s confession to God that David knew that Nathan’s declaration was true. David had faith that God had put away his sin, and that he would not die.
Consider Romans 4:7 and note that the deeds that are covered there are not the same as the sins that will not be imputed as sinful by God. The same meticulous care of word choice is shown by David in the Hebrew language in Psalm 40. First come the deeds, and then the sin itself. Between the blessed person and the deeds is (the Greek) word ‘aphesis’. That word is translated as ‘forgiveness’ but ‘containment’ might give a more exact view of what God is doing here. The sinner confesses to God directly, unburdening himself, and knows God has lifted up and away that burden. God, having dismissed the matter is silent about it. The sinner may remind himself of that sin, as David did (‘My sin is ever before me’) but faith convinces the one who confessed that there is now a barrier of silence between him and God. The Lord is silent because he has dismissed the matter, having lifted up the burden. Complete unburdening results in complete dismissal on God’s part.
If unbelief causes the person to bring them up again, there will only be deafening silence from him who bore both the deeds and the consequences within himself, in his body, on darkened Golgotha’s hill. And he waits patiently for the soul to return to its proper rest: “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee” (Isaiah 44:22).
When were the sinful deeds committed by David with regard to Bathsheeba put away by the Lord? At the very point of David’s sincere confession to God. How was his sin ‘put away’? By God coming between him and the sin – by redeeming David from the pit he was sliding down into; having lifted the sin off his shoulders, so to speak, it was now blotted out forever, and faith enabled David to grasp the enormity of what God had done, undeservedly so. Between the blessed man and the sin of the blessed man stands the Lord himself.
Yes, this is forgiveness, but there’s something else going on here, where faith grasps the enormity of what is entailed when God forgives – blotting out is going on – unmerited grace is going on – blessedness is going on – redemption is going on. And all of that is all of God. Faith sees that.
God sent Nathan to David to expose his sin and pronounce God’s judgment upon him:
“Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. 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” (2 Samuel 12:10-12).
After David confessed that he had sinned against the LORD, Nathan pronounced that because God had “put away his sin”, David would not die (verse 13). David’s life would be spared. God would not exact the punishment due. At the moment of repentance, after David acknowledged the great sin he had committed, God spared his life. God had plans for David and for his descendants.
We have corroborating evidence that David truly repented before God, and that is why he did not die. Psalm 51: A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba:
“1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight... 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.”
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Hebrew word translated “blot out” in Psalm 51 means “to abolish, destroy, erase, or utterly wipe away.” This is how God “put away” the sin of David.
Genuine repentance leads to restoration as David experienced. Psalm 103: A Psalm of David:
“2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: 3 Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases... 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.”
Actions have consequences. Because David’s sin had given occasion for God’s enemies to blaspheme, the child born to Bathsheba would die. Later in life, David experienced the fulfilment of God’s judgments in verses 10 and 12. However, God ‘put away’ the sin of David – he ‘blotted it out’ – after David confessed and repented.
In my view Anne and Lesley have given strong answers. I would like to mention a few verses which fit in with them: ESV only-
Hebrews 9:13 David sinned at a time when "the blood of goats and bulls...sanctify for the purification of the flesh". Not a complete putting away.
Hebrews 9:15 But "a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant".
Romans 3:25 "in his forbearance he had passed over former sins".
[A sort of putting them on back burner, not obliterated, but put on hold].
Acts 17:30 "The times of ignorance [of the cross?] God overlooked". But only for a time as-
Acts 17:31 "he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world...".
All sin will be judged including those of people who have been
Hebrews 9:28 "eagerly waiting for him".
Trench " Synonyms of the N.T." helped me with this.
Of course, God put away David's sin by virtue of the gift of faith in the sacrifice of Christ to come. All believers have their sin put away at the cross.(2 Colossians 12:12-15) Yes...David had enough awareness of that reality through the Scripture and the Prophets. Even Abraham saw Jesus day and rejoiced. (John 8:56) It is interesting to note that God inaugurated his royal covenant with David (2 Samuel Chapter 7) probably 2 to 7 years before David's disastrous fall in his summoning of Bathsheba. God knew full well David would sin so grievously yet...never the less, he made the covenant with him that David's throne would be eternal and a son of his body would sit upon it (Christ). (2 Sam 12:12-17) What forbearance on God's part. What grace. Yet, David's confession, repentance even God's removal of his sin would not be enough to put off the required death sentence. Even Achan confessed when he was confronted by Joshua ( Joshua 7) but he was not spared the requirements of the capital offense. Achan, a mere Israelite plundered booty and suffered death along with his family. David, King of Israel, plundered souls and lived. What gives? I will say it was the royal covenant and God's grace in His overarching purposes in the plan of redemption in preserving The Seed, Christ Jesus (Son of David 2 Sam 7:12-16) Romans 1:13) that permitted David to live. (See Gen 3:15 and Romans 3:21-26). Open to correction.Thank you!
The supposition, that David is forgiven here, defies all logic as the litany of punishments is not even over yet. This misconception is rooted in the short sentence that seems to end it: "thou shalt not die", which is misconstrued as a consoling conclusion of the preceding. In my opinion that sentence is instead part of the final proclamation of imminent punishment that follows.
I would propose to read the whole as:
Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.”
“The LORD has enough of your sin,” Nathan replied, “Yóu will not die, on the contrary, because by this deed you have shown utter contempt for the word of the LORD, the son born to you will die the death.”
The crime perpetrated by David is the watershed moment of his career and from now on the fulfilment of all the punishing prophesies will commence for his whole house, starting with the death of this son of sin. My guess, purely on personal title, is that David being allowed to live on to witness everything that follows is part of the punishment.