Why does the bible say that David kept all the commands of the Lord when he so clearly didn't?

1 Kings 15:5 NIV - For David had done what was right in the eyes of the Lord and had not failed to keep any of the Lord’s commands all the days of his life—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.

Yes, there was the episode with Uriah the Hittite. But there was also the matter of David taking a census of the fighting men of Israel:

2 Samuel 24:10 NIV - David was conscience-stricken after he had counted the fighting men, and he said to the Lord, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.”

And that's just what's written down. Other biblical figures like Isaiah, Jesus, Paul, and even David himself says there is no one who is good, so certainly David would have been guilty of other sins.

  • 1
    Was it a commandment of the Lord that the people should not be counted ? Where is this commandment stated ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 15:41
  • @Nigel see this question
    – Tim
    Commented May 22, 2018 at 21:13
  • Already, it's a qualified, relative goodness, explicit in the text, but implied anyway. Similiar to Lk1:6; cf. Mt 12:25. I.e. even when Jesus says there is no one good, He doesn't mean there is no sense in which there is no 'good man,' and He clearly expects His followers to keep the commandments, for example. Commented May 22, 2018 at 23:32
  • @Tim I had a look but there seems to be no conclusion reached.
    – Nigel J
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 0:31
  • @Nigel: Agree, but that gives an answer to your question. We can’t point to a particular command, but there are conjectures of how it might have violated some commands.
    – Tim
    Commented May 23, 2018 at 2:18

2 Answers 2


This is one place where the NIV translation falls short. The quoted passage says “[David did not fail] to keep any of the LORD’s commands.” However the Hebrew word used here is soor, which means to turn aside. Note that the NIV cross-references Deut. 5:32 and 1Ki 9:4, which both talk about turning away from God’s commands. This is one passage where other translations give a better picture:

because David did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite. (1Ki 15:5, NASB)


because David did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. (1Ki 15:5, ESV)

So, where the NIV’s talks about keeping the commands, these other translations talk more about a lifestyle. David knew of God’s mercies that bring forgiveness for his sins (Ps 25:6-7). The sacrificial system of the OT provided a means for sinners to come into communion with God (though not as perfectly as the sacrifice of Christ). From this passage we see that David’s lifestyle, similar to many Christians today, was one where he would sometimes mess up, but he always saw his mistake right away and he came right back to God.

The exception of Uriah was a sin that David did not repent of right away. First, we know he hid it until at least after Bathsheba announced her pregnancy. Apparently he had relations right after her period (2Sam 11:4) and if we assume she knew about the pregnancy when her next period was due, that was about one month in between. Then add the time to kill Uriah, and we have easily have weeks to months of him living in this sin before he repents (2Sam 12:13, Ps 51). So, while he did eventually repent, this was one point where David was clearly walking outside of God’s laws, vice a quick fall and get back up.


The Talmud related that when the Israelites went out to war they gave their wives bills of divorce to prevent their wives from becoming an agunah "chained wife" so technically Uriah and Bath Sheva were Divorced when David took her as a wife.

Hittites were prohibited from entering into the Congregation of Israel so his marriage to Bath Sheva was a transgression of the Torah and a justification for his being slain as it would have been an idolatrous marriage.

I don't see where taking a census was a violation of the Torah unless it was taken directly without a half-shekel census being done in order that the half shekel atone for their soul. Shmoth (Exodus) 30.15

As I understand both of these cases, David repented of his sin and was forgiven but the only mention of imperfection in David was according the the Jewish Bible (Tanach) "the matter of Uriah the Hittite!"

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