King David: Lousy Father

After David’s affair with Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet announces God’s judgment on him (2 Sam 12:10): “Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house.” It’s pretty depressing to read about the unfolding fulfillment of that word.

In 2 Samuel 13, David’s son Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. The king is “very angry” (13:21), but apparently takes no action. (Was he reluctant to condemn Amnon’s sin because of his own sexual failures?) Two years later, David’s son Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, takes matters into his own hands and has Amnon killed in retaliation.

Once again, David declines to respond to his son’s actions. Absalom flees to Geshur, and David neither punishes him nor allows him to return home for three years. David is finally persuaded to let Absalom return to Jerusalem (chapter 14), but still refuses to see him.

Absalom’s resulting bitterness pushes him to attempt to take David’s throne by force (chapter 15), bringing on a civil war that ends in Absalom’s death (15-18). His death leaves David grief-stricken, which is an insult to the soldiers who have risked their lives to save his kingdom; this means the people are slower to accept David’s return to power (19), and it weakens the monarchy, sowing the beginnings of the split that will come in the reign of David’s grandson (1 Kings 12).

If David had been leading his household well, he never would have taken Bathsheba or had her husband killed. He wouldn’t have failed to discipline the son who raped his half-sister, and likely Absalom wouldn’t have felt the need to avenge her. (What did Tamar think of her father’s failure to respond to her rape?) He wouldn’t have failed in his discipline of Absalom and thereby turned his son’s heart against him. He wouldn’t have had to grieve the loss of a son with whom he was never reconciled.

God, make me a man who’s unashamed to lead his family. Make me a husband who cleaves fast to his wife, and a father who’s not afraid to discipline his children for their good.  And in my many failures as a husband and father, remind me of David, the lousy husband and father who was counted righteous not because of his own works, but because of your great mercy.

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Comments

  1. There seems to be something in the air with the Amnon passage. I used it in my own blog on Monday, though from a different angle. Click on the link in my name to go to my post.

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