Question: "What is the story of David and Nathan?"
Answer: David was a shepherd boy who became the second king of Israel, and Nathan served as a prophet in Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon. Scripture records three major occasions in which David and Nathan interacted.
First, David and Nathan meet in 2 Samuel 7 regarding David’s desire to build a temple for the Lord (cf. 1 Chronicles 17). In verse 3 David shares, “See now, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwells in a tent.” Nathan at first encouraged David to move forward with whatever plans he had. Yet that night the Lord spoke to Nathan, giving this message for David: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12–13). Nathan shared this with David. David put his plans for the temple on hold and responded to God’s guidance with a prayer of gratitude.
The second recorded meeting between David and Nathan is not so congenial. In 2 Samuel 12 Nathan confronts David regarding his relationship with Bathsheba and the cover-up of their affair. The Lord had commanded Nathan to share a story of a rich man who took and killed a poor man’s only lamb. David was justifiably angry at the injustice (verses 5–6). Nathan then answered, “You are the man!” (verse 7). David had blood on his hands. He was guilty of killing Bathsheba’s husband as well as committing adultery. God brought judgment upon David for his sin, including the death of his and Bathsheba’s child. However, David repented, was forgiven, and remained king.
The third meeting of the king and prophet occurs in 1 Kings 1, near the end of David’s life. David’s son Adonijah sought to take over the kingdom, setting himself up as king. Nathan, who was not part of the plot, came with Bathsheba to King David to discuss the situation. Upon hearing of Adonijah’s treachery, David appointed his son Solomon as king. Nathan and Zadok the priest then anointed Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:45), and Adonijah’s supporters disbanded (verse 49).
In addition to serving King David, Nathan also wrote what are called the records of Nathan the prophet (1 Chronicles 29:29; 2 Chronicles 9:29) that detailed the events of David’s and Solomon’s reigns. This lost writing was likely used as a resource in the writing of 1 and 2 Chronicles.
Nathan the prophet was a blessing to King David. He was a close, trusted friend. He spoke truth to David, even when that truth was difficult to hear. He was loyal in his service to the king and faithful to God and His Word. These are all important traits to possess in any friendship. It says something that David and Bathsheba later named one of their sons “Nathan” (1 Chronicles 3:5).