Just about every king seems to have had a prophet to help keep him honest. Saul had Samuel, Ahab had Elijah, Hezekiah had Isaiah, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah seem to have shared Jeremiah, and so on. King David was the one who had Nathan. There is nothing of Nathan's in writing so it's impossible to grade him on literary skill, but when it comes to the ability to be a thorn in the king's flesh, he gets a straight A. The best example is, of course, the most famous.
David had successfully gotten rid of Uriah the Hittite by assigning him to frontline duty, where he was soon picked off by enemy snipers. After a suitable period of mourning, David then proceeded to marry Uriah's gorgeous young widow, Bathsheba. The honeymoon had hardly started rolling before Nathan came around to describe a hardship case he thought David might want to do something about.
There were these two men, Nathan said, one of them a big-time rancher with flocks and herds of just about everything that has four legs and a tail and the other the owner of just one lamb he was too soft-hearted even to think about in terms of chops and mint jelly. He had it living at home with himself and the family, and he got to the point where he even let it lap milk out of his own bowl and sleep at the foot of his bed. Then one day the rancher had a friend drop in unexpectedly for a meal and, instead of taking something out of his own overstuffed freezer, he got somebody to go over and commandeer the poor man's lamb, which he and his friend consumed with a garnish of roast potatoes and new peas.
When Nathan finished, David hit the roof. He said anybody who'd pull a stunt like that ought to be taken out and shot. At the very least he ought to be made to give back four times what the lamb was worth. And who was the greedy, thieving slob anyway, he wanted to know.
"Take a look in the mirror the next time you're near one," Nathan said. It was only the opening thrust. By the time Nathan was through, it was all David could do just to pick up the receiver and tell room service to get a stiff drink up to the bridal suite.
2 Samuel 12:1-15
~originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words