Nathan, in Hebrew meaning God has given, was a prophet of God who served King David and his son and successor King Solomon. He was a wise and steadfast servant of God, and of the Israelite monarchy, who was often consulted by the kings. He was also fearless; it was Nathan who rebuked David after the incident with Bathsheba, and it was Nathan who intervened during the attempted palace coup by Adonijah.
"A House For My Name"
It was through Nathan that The Lord decreed to David to make the preparations for the building of the original Temple (see Temples) in Jerusalem:
"But that same night the word of The Lord came to Nathan, "Go and tell My servant David, 'Thus says The Lord: Would you build Me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent for My dwelling. In all places where I have moved with all the people of Israel, did I speak a word with any of the judges of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd My people Israel, saying, "Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?"' ... When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth 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 for ever." (2 Samuel 7:4-7,12-13 RSV)
"You Are The Man!"
It was Nathan who The Lord sent to rebuke King David after his adultery with Bathsheba, and the arranged killing of her husband Uriah:
"And The Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, "There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his morsel, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him."
"Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man's lamb, and prepared it for the man who had come to him."
"Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, "As The Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity."
"Nathan said to David, "You are the man!" Thus says The Lord, the God of Israel, 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul; and I gave you your master's house, and your master's wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of The Lord, to do what is evil in His sight? You have smitten Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have slain him with the sword of the Ammonites." (2 Samuel 12:1-9 RSV)
Adonijah's Attempt To Take The Throne Thwarted
When David's son Adonijah attempted to succeed David as king in place of Solomon, it was Nathan who revealed the plot to the king and had it stopped:
"Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fatlings by the Serpent's Stone, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king's sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, but he did not invite Nathan the prophet or Benaiah or the mighty men or Solomon his brother."
"Then Nathan said to Bathsheba the mother of Solomon, "Have you not heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has become king and David our lord does not know it? Now therefore come, let me give you counsel, that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. Go in at once to King David, and say to him, 'Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your maidservant, saying, "Solomon your son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne"? Why then is Adonijah king?' Then while you are still speaking with the king, I also will come in after you and confirm your words." (1 Kings 1:9-14 RSV)
Fact Finder: Did Nathan write (now lost) records of the reigns of both King David and King Solomon?
1 Chronicles 29:29, 2 Chronicles 9:29