The Saga of King David’s Fatherhood

I Chronicles 3 records that David had at least 16 children by multiple wives. The first six sons were born while he reigned at Hebron. This was during what must have been the very busy first seven years of his rule as king. These were: Amnon, Daniel, Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah, and Ithream each by a different wife. Hence, Ammon and Absalom could have been about the same age. The only daughter mentioned by name is Tamar, the sister of Absalom, who was also likely born at Hebron. The remaining children by his wives were born in Jerusalem. He also had an unrecorded number of sons born to concubines.

We learn some important lessons from David’s ineptness as a father. The first factor is recorded in I Kings 1:6 regarding his role as a father to Adonijah, who exalted himself as king while David lay near death knowing that his father had indicated that Solomon was to reign after him. Here is the record: “And his father had never rebuked him at any time by asking ‘Why have you done so?’” [i] This takes us back to his rearing (and is a window in to David’s fatherhood). David did not spend any time disciplining and instructing him.

In II Samuel 13 is recorded the lust of Amnon for his sister Tamar and his deceitful ploy to entrap her in a situation that would allow him to rape her. David’s response is anger (v.31) but he did not discipline him. This was followed by Absalom’s deceitfulness that created an opportunity for him to kill Amnon to revenge his sister. Again, David does not cause him “trouble”.  Absalom flees for two years. David pines for him. Absalom manipulates the situation and David allows him to return to Jerusalem. However, he does not address the issue (14:24).

Eventually Absalom is once again deceitful and sets in motion a plan to usurp the throne of David. David flees. Joab, David’s general, routs the rebellion and kills Absalom. David not only grieves the death of his son, but is dissatisfied with Joab.

When David is dying, his fourth son, Adonijah, as noted above, mounts a revolt. This is the son of whom it is specifically said that David did not ever trouble him. As we can see, that did not work out very well.

However, it appears that David became aware of Deuteronomy 6:1-10 after Solomon was born. In Proverbs 4:3-6 we read, “When I was a son of my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, then he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words {and] keep my commandments and live. Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her (wisdom)and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.”

Actually the first ten chapters of Proverbs reflect David’s instructions to Solomon. They are a great tool for teaching our sons today. But, note, it is important that our lives model what we teach. Though David did well to teach Solomon, he failed to model other important truths that the Scriptures taught. Deuteronomy 17:16-19 taught that kings in Israel should not amass wives, horses or gold.

16 Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you:’Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.’17 Neither shall he multiply wives to    himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. 18 And it shall be, when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statures, todo them.

David practiced all three of these prohibitions and Solomon out did him on every front. These very things became Solomon’s downfall.

So what are our lessons from the saga of David’s fatherhood? First, be involved with our children. It takes time, effort and sacrifice. Sometimes it means not accomplishing in our careers what we would desire. A young man I know was recently offered the full support of a senator in Georgia to run for his seat in the state legislature. After careful consideration, he turned down the opportunity. He told his mentor, “I cannot sacrifice my boys on the altar of career. Come back in five years and I will be ready to serve.”

Second, we must take the time to practice the injunctions of Deuteronomy 6:1-10. This takes thinking, planning and wisdom. As fathers we need to be praying for these casual opportunities and the wisdom to intentionally capitalize them.

Third, we must model what we teach. None of us live perfect lives. All of us (if we are honest) have skeletons. Admit them and don’t glorify them. Express humble repentance and sorrow for your past sin. Let you children know that you wish you had not followed those pathways and tell them that you are praying that they will avoid them.

God forgives and God will help us coach our children past our sin and their sin. But, we must be humble (I Pet 5:6) and seek to follow Jesus. And, we must engage in obedience both in our lives and in our roles as fathers.

[i] The Hebrew is translated variously as troubled, rebuked, crossed, disciplined or displeased. It obviously indicates the lack of discipline.

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