David And His Children – Tragedy!
Children are a blessing from the Lord. A happy home with little ones filling it is a delight that is beyond description. Many childless couples would give all of their resources to have youngsters of their own.
It is a real joy to see our children grow and mature. With inward pride parents watch as their little ones go to school, perhaps excelling in studies, athletics, music or some other field. Oh, the excitement of Christian parents when their children trust Christ and begin to live for Him. The completion of high school, going on to further training, settling down in their chosen field, marrying a Christian mate, etc. make parents very pleased.
On the other hand, there are parents who do not have the privilege of seeing their children develop this well. ‘There are those sleepless nights of worry. There is the broken heart as that child chooses a path that will only lead him downward. Perhaps you have watched with a heavy heart as that one you bore got into drugs, illicit sex or even crime. Perhaps you have been grieved because he or she has chosen to live with someone of the opposite sex without the sanction of marriage. You may have watched as your dear one married someone whom you know will never make a lasting partner. Brokenhearted, you cried out to the Lord, for only He can help.
David was no exception to the above. He knew what marriage was and had experienced fatherhood quite often. What started out; so beautifully turned into a nightmare for the shepherd-singer and king of Israel. His own sin had brought on part of the tragedy that be fell him in his latter years. We can be certain that if he had his life to live over, he would not have done some of the things he did.
David had committed gross sin with Bathsheba. After he lusted for Uriah’s wife, he committed adultery with her. To cover up the sin, he had her husband Uriah killed and took Bathsheba to be a highly favored wife among many others.
For about a year or more David was able to hide that which was done in secret. Apparently, he had gotten away with it. “No one questioned the king. Life went on as usual. All seemed to be well.
NATHAN, THE PROPHET
Although the incident had been all but forgotten, God was not finished with David. He sent Nathan the prophet to him with a message. Nathan confronted the king with this tale:
There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had brought and nourished up; and it grew up together with him, and with his children. It did eat of his own food, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveler unto the rich man, and he was not willing to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to prepare it for the wayfaring man who was come unto him, but took of the poor man’s lamb, and prepared it for the man who was come to him (2 Sam. 12:1b-4).
Having heard the story, David was furious. Whoever did this dastardly deed had to die.
Furthermore, . . . he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity” (2 Sam. 12:6).
Nathan slowly turned to David and very quietly and simply said, “Thou art the man.” David’s sin was no longer a secret. He now had to face the consequences. He would be judged by God for his sin, and that judgment would bring agony and tragedy all the remaining days of his life (2 Sam. 12:7b-12).
As David had said that the lamb should be restored fourfold, it appears that the Lord allowed four major problems to develop in his life that would affect the lives of his children. Let’s look at this fourfold pattern of judgment.
The Child Born of the Union
The first of the four judgments against David fell shortly after Nathan spoke to David about his sin. There was not a lot of time-lapse between the promises and the judgment. The Lord had assured him that he had been forgiven, in answer to David’s anguished cries in Psalms 32 and 51.
But God was not finished “because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2 Sam. 12:14). The Lord hit David at a very vulnerable spot. No parent likes to see his child suffer, let alone die.
Very shortly after Nathan left David, the child born of the illicit relationship became gravely ill.
David pleaded with the Lord on its behalf. He fasted and fell on his face all night before the Lord. Seven days later, however, the child died. At this point, realizing that the will of the Lord had been done, he stopped his fasting, pleading and mourning. He ate food and worshipped the Lord. There was nothing more he could do. We can see through all of this David’s unwavering faith in the Lord, for he said, “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Sam. 12:23).
Judgment had fallen! The lamb had been restored once. But this was only the beginning.
Much more was yet to come.
The Sin of Ammon
Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Sam. 12:11a). It is bad enough when we sin, but oh, how it hurts when we see our children suffer because of our mistakes! David was soon to see this develop in several ways.
The first incident occurred between David’s son Amnon and his half sister Tamar, a very beautiful woman. Amnon, however, had some of the same weaknesses as his father David. As David lusted after Bathsheba, Amnon burned with passion toward Tamar. Though he desired her so much he was sick about it, he could not bring himself to touch his virgin sister.
His crafty friend Jonadab soon changed all this. Discovering the reason for his friend being so haggard, he came up with a plan. He convinced Ammon to feign sickness so that his father David came to visit him. His request was for Tamar to come and cook him a good meal. After the other men had been asked to leave, he tried to seduce her verbally, but it did not work. Finally, when she refused, he forced her, being much stronger than she. After the dreadful act had been committed, however, his desire for her was turned to hatred. He drove her away in his fury (2 Sam. 13:3-19).
She was now a forsaken woman. Absalom her brother saw her and, realizing what had happened, took her into his own home. David, learning what had happened, was outraged.
Absalom never said a word about the incident to his brother for two long years. It was a heavy load on his heart, even though he did nothing about it. He was biding his time, waiting to get even. The opportunity finally arrived. Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor that he needed to visit. He invited his brothers, as well as his father, to go with him, but David declined. He pressed for all the sons of David to go, especially Amnon.
Absalom had already instituted a plan. When Amnon had gotten a little drunk with wine, he commanded his men to smite Amnon, and it was soon done. Thus, Amnon died at the hand of his brother Absalom.
When David first got news of the incident, he thought all of his sons were dead. But his nephew soon let him know that the only one who had died was Amnon. Absalom had him killed for having forced his sister Tamar. Jonadab, who gave David the message, was the very one who had instituted the plan with Amnon in the first place (cf. 2 Sam. 13:3 with 13:32).
The end result was that Absalom had to flee. For three years, he lived in Geshur (2 Sam. 13:38). However, unknown to Absalom, David was comforted, and he longed to see his son Absalom again.
The promises of Nathan were now at least partially fulfilled. The baby had died. Amnon was dead. Absalom was a murderer. The sword had not departed from David s house. Oh, the agony and sorrow the king must have faced.
The Rebellion of Absalom
Joab sought by means of deceit to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem again (2 Sam. 14:21). The plan worked, and David allowed Absalom to return from exile. He was not allowed, however, in the king’s court (2 Sam. 14:24). For two long years, he lived in the same city as his father but was not allowed to see him. Joab was finally able to encourage the king to completely restore Absalom. He was given full court privileges once more. This apparent first step toward peace and reconciliation only laid the groundwork for a far greater tragedy that would soon befall David.
Absalom arose very early each morning and went to the gate of the city where legal business was conducted. He used these occasions to raise questions in the minds of the people concerning the king. He stated that if he were a judge, there would be real justice in the land. By so doing, Absalom gained a rather large following.
Later Absalom asked permission to return to Hebron to pay a vow. This was merely a guise to develop a much larger following so that he could conspire against his father David. Soon he was ready to depose David from his God-given rulership.
Apparently, David was totally unaware of the building rebellion. He was gathering materials for the Temple that would be built by the next generation on his throne. When he finally learned of the uprising, he felt that the forces of Absalom had become so strong that he took an entourage and fled his capital, Jerusalem. With a broken heart, bared feet and covered heads, David and his followers crept out of the city and up the Mount of Olives weeping great tears of sorrow in their flight. His was a long and humiliating journey (2 Sam. 15:30). David was a defeated king, exiled from his city by his own son who had now taken over.
God, though, was not yet finished with David. He had made a covenant with him in 2 Samuel 7. Providentially, the Lord took control of the situation through Hushai giving wrong advice to Absalom, which the vain young man followed instead of the correct counsel of Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:6-14). It gave David a chance to prepare for the coming battle.
Absalom was certain of victory and reorganized his armies under Amasa. When the battle came, it was a bloody one in which 20,000 men died. More tragic for David was the news of the death of Absalom who, while riding his mule, got his head caught in the fork of the branches of an oak tree. While suspended there, he was slain by Joab.
Brokenhearted over the death of his son, David mourned audibly,” O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son! (2 Sam. 18:33b).
Though David returned from battle victorious and was restored as king, he was a broken old man. The bitter sentiments of some of the people were slow to subside. Never would the king be the same, never would his kingdom be the same either.
There is yet another obscure passage of Scripture found in 2 Samuel 16 that needs to be brought out, even though chronologically it took place earlier. Ahlthophel advised the reprobate son of David, Absalom, to “Go in unto thy father’s concubines, whom he hath left to keep the house, and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father; then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong. So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Sam. 16:21-22).
How wicked can a person be? It was bad enough that his father committed adultery and murder, but this was open and before the eyes of all the people. It was brazen! It was defiant!
God knew what He was doing. Nathan had clearly prophesied, “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun” (2 Sam. 12:11-12).
The Death of Adonijah
The years of David’s life had swiftly passed. Old age was upon him. The time had come for someone to replace him as king. Who would it be? Adonijah said, “I will be king” (1 Ki. 1:5). After all, his father had never denied him anything. So, he began to take steps to achieve recognition as Israel’s next king. He was the oldest living son. Shouldn’t he succeed his father?
When Nathan learned of this course of events, he told Bathsheba, the mother of Solomon. He reminded her that David had sworn to her that Solomon would reign after him (1 Ki. 1:13). Bathsheba immediately went to David and reminded him of his promise. She asked David to name his successor immediately, which he did (1 Ki. 1:30). He called Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada to go and anoint Solomon as king, which they did. This was followed by a public proclamation to all Israel that Solomon was the new king.
Meanwhile Adonijah had organized a banquet which included important people who had supported him in his quest for the throne. During the celebration, shouts were heard outside the building. “Verily, our lord, King David, hath made Solomon king” (1 Ki. 1:43). Shortly thereafter the supporters of Adonijah left the banquet one by one. Adonijah realized he would not be king.
Solomon must not have considered Adonijah a serious threat to the throne. He granted him mercy, but Adonijah tried again to get royal recognition, this time by deceit. He asked Bathsheba to request Abishag, one of the king’s concubines, to be his wife. Solomon recognized Adonijah’s trickery, for the harem of a king was his property and a sign of royalty. He did this subtly to gain his objective. Realizing Adonijah’s plan, Solomon condemned him to death.
The latter years of David’s life were not the best. To say the least, they were tragic. He lived to see at least three of his children die, Amnon, Absalom and the child born to Bathsheba. Absalom had rebelled, forcing him to flee Jerusalem. The entire city had watched as Absalom committed open sin with the concubines of his father. Tamar had been forced by her own half brother Amnon. Shortly after the death of David, Adonijah was assassinated.
If David could only have lived that night in Jerusalem over again. A few moments of pleasure with Bathsheba wreaked havoc with David and his family the remainder of his life. “Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from thine house” (2 Sam. 12:10). “Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Sam. 12:11). Truly, the words of the Lord through His prophet Nathan were fulfilled in every detail.
Sometimes we see our own sin and weaknesses appear in our children. This is certainly a constant challenge for us as parents to live consistent Christian lives before God and our children.
In spite of all of David’s problems with his children, we can still see the faithfulness of God to him. The Lord never left him or forsook him. He provided the grace to live through every situation. David was great in his sin, but he was also great in his repentance. That same provision is still available today to every child of God, no matter what situation we are in.