What happened to Nathan when he said the Lord accepted David’s idea to build a temple?


I have heard a preacher use II Samuel 7:1-17 to try and establish the fact that if God did not ask for something, then He didn't want it.  I've even followed their example and used it in one of my own sermons on Bible authority.  But I'm having some issues with it now.  We don't hear God rebuking Nathan for telling David to build the temple.  And it does seem to me that Nathan did not consult God when answering David because afterward, Nathan has to go tell him that he is not to build the temple, but rather his son would. But it seems God is well pleased with David's generous heart.  I'm just having issues with what exactly happened with Nathan.

So I guess my question is: Did Nathan sin?  Or am I missing something?


David did desire to honor God by building Him a permanent place of worship (II Samuel 7:2). God was pleased that David was concerned (Acts 7:45-47), but it did not fall within the plans God had (II Samuel 7:12-13). Since this was the first time it was brought up, for all we know God already had plans for Solomon to build a temple. David did what was right by first asking God's prophet about his idea before launching into it.

Nathan made a mistake. He heard what David said, agreed with it, but then said that God would approve of it without first asking God Himself. God had Nathan go and recant what he had just said (II Samuel 7:4-5).

One point we learn is that just because a person is a prophet, it does not follow that every word he spoke came from God. He was required to speak God's words when told, but the prophet was his own person most of the time. We see other prophets making similar mistakes -- sometimes accidentally, sometimes intentionally:

  • "So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the LORD does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart" " (I Samuel 16:6-7).
  • "He said to him, "I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the LORD, saying, 'Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.'" (He was lying to him)" (I Kings 13:18; see I Kings 13:1-32).

Beyond having to recant his words, we don't know what other punishment, if any, God imposed on Nathan. It wasn't important to the point of the record, since the focus is on David and his life. But it should be noted that Nathan did not hesitate to correct what he had misspoken earlier.

Another point that can be drawn from the story is that just because people think they have a good idea, it doesn't mean it fits with God's purpose.

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