David and his sons

Over the winter I have been taking a local men’s ministry through a short series on the relationships in the life of King David. We’ve looked at David and Jonathan, David and Saul and David and Bathsheba. In the final part, this week, we reflected on David and his relationships as a father.

He had quite a number of sons – over twenty, in fact. We don’t have narrative details about many of them, but four stand out:

  • Amnon
  • Absalom
  • Adonijah
  • Solomon

It’s Absalom and Solomon who stand out – and for very different reasons.

David also had a daughter whose life was tragically wrecked when she was raped by Amnon. We’re not told in the text, but David would have had to rue the day he sent her to bring food to Amnon.

Here are two observations about David’s relationships with his sons. They demonstrate two ways in which the Bible talks about family life. One of the family-related themes in Scripture is the principle that the family is intended to be a place for communicating the knowledge of God. Another is Scripture’s ‘warts and all’ portrayal of the families of a number of its heroes. Like David.

David’s acts of treachery and violence in taking Bathsheba for himself and having Uriah killed meant that he too would be a victim of violence. He would have to face Amnon’s rape of Tamar; then Absalom’s bloody revenge on Amnon; Absalom’s rebellion which only ended with Absalom’s own execution at the hand of Joab.

On several occasions David seems to be passive as a father. He does nothing about Amnon’s behaviour, although he is angry. We wonder about his reaction to Absalom. He leaves him in exile for a few years before half-restoring him to Jerusalem. Once they appear to finally be reconciled, it’s not long before Absalom was sowing the seeds of his rebellion. Did David not know what was happening? Could he not have addressed it? And then there is Adonijah who attempted a power grab with David in the twilight stages of his life. Tellingly Scripture notes that David had never held this young man to account.

On the positive side, there was Solomon. How gracious of God to name this son born to David and Bathsheba Jedidiah – ‘beloved of God’. Solomon would be a man of peace (shalom) and would be the man to build the temple that David had hoped to build.

David’s task was to prepare the way for him and encourage him in the leadership task that lay ahead.

The Lord be with you, so that you may succeed… may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding… be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed… Arise and work! The Lord be with you!

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