Was David an Adulterer?
The Bible clearly states that all adulterers are unregenerate:
"Or do you not know that unjust ones will not inherit [the] kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous ones, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor plunderers shall inherit [the] kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).
"Marriage [is] honorable in all, and the bed undefiled; but God will judge fornicators and adulterers" (Hebrews 13:4).
The Bible clearly states that all those who practice adultery are unregenerate:
"Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fightings, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit [the] kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
The Bible clearly states that all who are regenerate do not live in sin and do not serve sin:
"What then shall we say? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be! We who died to sin, how shall we still live in it? ... For if we have been joined together in the likeness of His death, so also shall we be in the resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with [Him], that the body of sin might be nullified, so that we no longer serve sin" (Romans 6:1-2,5-6).
The Bible clearly states that all who are regenerate do not walk according to flesh but walk according to Spirit and do not mind the things of the flesh but mind the things of the Spirit:
"[There is] therefore now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus set me free from the law of sin and of death. For the Law [being] powerless, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and concerning sin, condemned sin in the flesh, so that the righteous demand of the Law might be fulfilled in us, those not walking according to flesh, but according to Spirit. For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit [mind] the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh [is] death, but the mind of the Spirit [is] life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it [be]. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God. But you are not in flesh, but in Spirit, since [the] Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not [the] Spirit of Christ, this one is not His." (Romans 8:1-9)
All adulterers are those who practice adultery and who live in adultery. They live in sin, serve sin, walk according to flesh, and mind the things of the flesh. God says that all of them without exception are unregenerate.
A common set of questions come when this truth is put forth: What about David and Bathsheba? What about David's (and many Old Testament saints') multiple wives? Was David an adulterer?
If one believes that David was an adulterer, then one must hold to one of the following two conclusions:
(1) Not all adulterers are unregenerate
(2) David was unregenerate when he was an adulterer.
Neither of these conclusions is biblical. The first conclusion has already been refuted by the Scripture passages above. The second conclusion is not biblical because the Bible clearly states that David was a regenerate man before he took multiple wives, while he was married to multiple wives, and before he saw Bathsheba:
"And David said to the Philistine, You are coming to me with sword, and with spear, and with javelin. But I am coming to you in the name of Jehovah of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, which you have reproached. Today Jehovah shall shut you up into my hand, and I shall strike you, and take off your head from you and give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the heavens and to the beasts of the earth today. And all the earth shall know that there is a God for Israel. And all this company shall know that Jehovah does not save by sword and by spear, [but] that the battle [belongs] to Jehovah, and He has given you into our hand" (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
"And David went on and became great. And Jehovah the God of Hosts [was] with him. ... And David knew that Jehovah had established him for king over Israel, and that He had lifted up his kingdom because of His people Israel" (2 Samuel 5:10,12)
"And Nathan said to the king, All that [is] in your heart, go, do. For Jehovah [shall be] with you. And it happened in that night, the Word of Jehovah was to Nathan, saying, Go, and you shall say to My servant, to David, So says Jehovah, Will you build a house for Me, for My dwelling? For I have not dwelt in a house even from the day of My bringing the sons of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day; but I have been moving about in a tent, even in a tabernacle. In all [places] in which I have gone with all Israel's sons, have I spoken a word with one of the tribes of Israel, [those] I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, Why have you not built for me a house of cedars? And now, so you shall say to My servant, to David, So says Jehovah of Hosts, I have taken you from the resting place, from following the flock, to be ruler over My people, over Israel. And I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you and have made you a great name, like the name of the great men who are on the earth. And I will designate a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place and not be made to tremble any more. Nor shall the sons of evil afflict them again, as at the first, even from the day I commanded judges to be over My people Israel. And I will cause you to rest from all your enemies. And Jehovah declares to you that Jehovah will make you a house. When your days [are] fulfilled, and you lie with your fathers, then I shall raise up your seed after you, who shall come out from your bowels, and I shall establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My Name, and I shall establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I shall be a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me. When he sins, then I will chasten him with a rod of men, and with strokes of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not be taken from him, as I took [it] from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house shall be established, and your kingdom before you forever. Your throne [shall be] established forever. According to all these words, and according to all this vision, so Nathan spoke to David. And King David came in and sat before Jehovah, and said: Who [am] I, O Lord Jehovah, and what is my house, that you have brought me here? And this was yet but little in Your eyes, O Lord Jehovah. But You have spoken also of Your servant's house for a time afar off. And [is] this the law of men, O Lord Jehovah? And what more can David say to You? And You know Your servant, O Lord Jehovah. Because of Your Word, and according to Your heart, You have done all this greatness to make Your servant know. For this reason, O Jehovah God, You are great; for there is none like You; and there is no God except You, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation in the earth that God went out to redeem to be a people for Himself, and to make Himself a name, and to do for You great and fearful things for Your land, before Your people which You redeemed to Yourself from Egypt, [from] nations and their gods? Yea, You have established Your people Israel to Yourself, to You for a people forever. And You, O Jehovah have become their God. And now, O Jehovah God, establish the Word which You have spoken concerning Your servant, and concerning his house, forever. And do as You have spoken. And Your name shall be great forever, saying, Jehovah of Hosts [is] God over Israel, and the house of Your servant David is established before You. For You, O Jehovah of Hosts, the God of Israel, You have uncovered the ear of Your servant, saying, I will build a house for you. On account of this Your servant has found his heart to pray to You this prayer. And now, O Lord Jehovah, You are God, and Your Words are truth, and You speak this goodness to Your servant. And now, let it please You to bless the house of Your servant, to be forever before You. For You, O Lord Jehovah, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever" (2 Samuel 7:3-29).
"And David reigned over all Israel, and David executed justice and righteousness to all his people" (2 Samuel 8:15).
In addition, there are the Psalms that David wrote while he was married to multiple wives and before he saw Bathsheba.
What, then, must we say about David? We can come to logical conclusions using syllogisms. Note that "M" stands for the middle term, "P" stands for the major term, and "S" stands for the minor term. The structure of a syllogism is as follows: M-P : S-M : Thus S-P.
Let us first take the issue of polygamy - specifically polygyny, which is when a man has multiple wives.
P1: All polygynists (M) are men who have multiple wives (P). (by definition)
P2: David (S) was a polygynist (M). (2 Samuel 5:13)
C1: Thus, David (S) was a man who had multiple wives (P).
P3: All regenerate men (M) are men who do not live in sin (P). (Romans 6:2)
P4: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (2 Samuel 7)
C2: Thus, David (S) did not live in sin (P).
P5: All adulterers (M) are unregenerate men (P). (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
P6: All men who live in adultery (S) are adulterers (M). (Galatians 5:19-21)
C3: Thus, all men who live in adultery (S) are unregenerate men (P).
P7: No regenerate men (M) are men who live in adultery (P) (from C3)
P8: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (from P4)
C4: Thus, David (S) was not a man who lived in adultery (P).
P9: No regenerate men (M) are adulterers (P). (from P5)
P10: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (from P4)
C5: Thus, David (S) was not an adulterer (P).
This has implications for any of the polygynous Old Testament saints:
P11: David (M) was not a man who lived in adultery (P). (from C4)
P12: A man who had multiple wives (S) was David (M). (from C1)
C6: Thus, not all men who had multiple wives (S) were men who lived in adultery (P).
P13: All men who live in adultery (M) are adulterers (P). (from P6)
P14: Not all men who had multiple wives (S) were men who lived in adultery (M). (from C5)
C7: Thus, not all men who had multiple wives (S) were adulterers (P).
David, who was a regenerate man, had multiple wives. No regenerate man lives in adultery. No regenerate man is an adulterer. Thus, David, a regenerate man who had multiple wives, was not living in adultery and was not an adulterer. Neither were any of the Old Testament saints who had multiple wives.
Now let us look at David and Bathsheba. First, was David committing adultery when he had sexual intercourse with Bathsheba while Bathsheba's husband was alive? Yes, by the very definition of adultery, which is sexual intercourse with someone else's spouse. Note how this connects with the issue of David's having multiple wives. Why was sexual intercourse with Bathsheba adultery when David was already having sexual intercourse with multiple wives? It was because David's having sexual intercourse with Bathsheba was sexual intercourse with someone else's spouse. David's wives were his own spouses, and thus sexual intercourse with them was not adultery. Note what God said to David after David committed adultery with Bathsheba:
"And I gave you the house of your master, and your master's wives into your bosom. And I gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if [that were] too little, then I would have added to you these and those [things]" (2 Samuel 12:8).
God said that He gave David his multiple wives. And He didn't stop there. He said that if that weren't enough, He would have given more. God said that David should not have taken Bathsheba, because if David wanted more wives, God would have given David more wives. This reinforces the truth that polygyny was not sin.
Did David's adultery with Bathsheba show that David was an adulterer? Consider the following syllogisms:
P1: All regenerate men (M) are men who do not live in sin (P). (Romans 6:2)
P2: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (2 Samuel 7)
C1: Thus, David (S) did not live in sin (P).
P3: All adulterers (M) are unregenerate men (P). (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
P4: All men who live in adultery (S) are adulterers (M). (Galatians 5:19-21)
C2: Thus, all men who live in adultery (S) are unregenerate men (P).
P5: No regenerate men (M) are men who live in adultery (P) (from C2)
P6: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (from P2)
C3: Thus, David (S) was not a man who lived in adultery (P).
P9: No regenerate men (M) are adulterers (P). (from P3)
P10: David (S) was a regenerate man (M). (from P2)
C5: Thus, David (S) was not an adulterer (P).
Did David commit adultery? Yes. Was David an adulterer? No. There is a difference. An adulterer is a person who lives in adultery and whose life is characterized by adultery. David did not live in adultery, and his life was not characterized by adultery. He fell into a heinous sin and hated it and repented of it. Was his ongoing marital relationship with Bathsheba an adulterous one? No, because Bathsheba's first husband was dead, and she became David's lawful wife.