•  9 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Perhaps the first intimation that something was wrong in David’s family life was when he began to multiply wives. You will recall that he bought his first wife, Michal, Saul’s daughter with the lives of two hundred of the king’s enemies. But in 1 Sam. 25 we find that David took to wife both Abigail (formerly wife of Nabal the Carmelite, of the family of Caleb), and Ahinoam the Jezreelite.
Now God had distinctly warned the king that He should choose, that he should not “multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away.” (Deut. 17:15, 1715Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. (Deuteronomy 17:15)
17Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (Deuteronomy 17:17)
). David well knew that God had chosen him to be king. He had anointed him king when he was still a youth and ruddy. But in deliberate disobedience to the clear command of God, addressed especially to himself, David began to multiply wives.
Never can any of us ever lightly disobey the Word of God in any way, and expect not to reap a bitter harvest from our disobedience. How little did David realize that the evil of yielding to this particular lust of the flesh, would be so greedily followed by his illustrious son, until it became the cause of his ruin; and the loss and ruin of a large part of his kingdom. It is an evil thing and bitter to forsake the Lord, or any of His commands. (Jer. 2:1919Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee: know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts. (Jeremiah 2:19)). Another has pointed out that the very word “passions”, the lusts to which we so often yield, is an eloquent word that tells of the sufferings that are sure to follow: for one meaning of “passion” is suffering.
David’s third son was Absalom, meaning “Father of Peace”, which tells us the longing of David’s heart for peace, after the long weary years of war and wandering. But who was Absalom’s mother? Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. This was worse and worse. Not only did David multiply wives, but in order to find wives of royal birth, he turned to the heathen nations about him. This was also in express disobedience and defiance of God’s oft-repeated command that they were not to take wives from the heathen nations around them. How could David expect a blessing from the offspring of such a match? It was little use giving the son of this wife a name with such a beautiful meaning, when he was born of a marriage made in deliberate disobedience to the clear Word of God.
Nor did the trouble end there. Absalom was a peculiarly handsome man: “In all Israel, there was none to be so much praised for his beauty; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head, there was no blemish in him.” (2 Sam. 14:2525But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. (2 Samuel 14:25)). We can well understand such a handsome boy and young man being greatly spoiled by such praises.
In 1 Kings 1:66And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom. (1 Kings 1:6) we read of Adonijah, the son of Haggith, who was next in age to Absalom; and the divine record of his upbringing is peculiarly sad: “His father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why past thou done so?” What a solemn, and what a true, practical, demonstration of words written a little later by one of Adonijah’s half-brothers. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” How very different might have been the history of David and Solomon, and all that followed after, had David’s sons had a few good spankings when they were small.
Adonijah “also was a very goodly man, and his mother bore him after Absalom.” We perhaps are not wrong in supposing that Absalom’s upbringing was along the same lines as that of his younger brother; so that we have an unspeakably sad picture of these two handsome boys, much of an age, brought up without correction of any kind, but allowed to do their own will, and go their own way, a way that led each to an early and violent death. We call this method of upbringing “self-expression” in our day, and there are those who are fools enough to advocate it; but the practical result, as told forth by the Holy Spirit, should give to each of us such a warning that we may thankfully flee from this wicked and senseless method of bringing up children, to that laid down in God’s Word.
But we must follow David further. In 2 Sam. 11:11And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1) we read, “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah.” But David himself stayed at home in his palace. Why did King David stay at home when it was “the time that kings go forth to battle?” Was it indolence? So it would appear. Joab and his servants and all Israel are out fighting, and David the king is in his house idle! This is a different story to the early, or to the later years, of David’s life. “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do,” and we need not wonder that he provided a snare into which David only too easily fell.
“It came to pass in an evening tide that David rose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house.” It all tells of self-indulgence, idleness and indolence. And all this time Joab and his servants and all Israel were out fighting the King’s battles. The sad story continues: “And from the roof he saw a woman washing herself, and the woman was very beautiful.” Why, oh, why, did not David instantly turn his eyes away? The earlier indulgence of his lust had seared that tender conscience that is of such priceless value, and instead of turning away his eyes, he lusted after her, and was not satisfied until he had obtained the object of his lust.
Any of us might have easily done the same thing had we been in David’s place. Most of us have not been sufficiently careful to keep our own conscience entirely tender and unsullied, or quick enough to turn our eyes from sights that stir our passions, to be able to throw stones at David.
And the rest of the sad and humiliating story of lying and murder, might have been a record of writer or reader, had we been placed in the same circumstances, but for the grace of God. But even such a sin can be forgiven, and on the brokenhearted cry: “I have sinned against the Lord,” comes the instant rejoinder, “The Lord also path put away thy sin.”
But such sowing must bring a harvest, and we see it in wave after wave of trouble that swept over the king in his later years. The little babe, given through this wicked act, dies; and David bows to this stroke of discipline. But there is more. What David had done to Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife; now his eldest son, Amnon, does to Tamar, David’s fair daughter. Sad, sad record. Little wonder when king David heard of all these things he was very wrath (2 Sam. 13:2525And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him. (2 Samuel 13:25)). But did David realize that it was he himself, who had set the wicked example before his eldest son of the sin that now so angered and humiliated him?
Nor was this all. Tamar was full sister to Absalom, and Amnon’s evil deed so filled his heart with hatred of his brother, that he does not rest until he has murdered him. And then follows more sad reaping of bad seed sown years before. Absalom flees the country to find refuge, instead of punishment, with his heathen, maternal grandfather, Talmai king of Geshur. There he feels himself safe from the vengeance that should, according to the law of God, have fallen on him.
You know the sad story of temporary banishment, and then a return and even a kiss of forgiveness from his outraged father, without one single word of saying, “Father I have sinned against Heaven and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.”
Then follows the plotting and the stealing of the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Sam. 15:66And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel. (2 Samuel 15:6)). The conspiracy comes to a head, and Absalom sends for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor. (2 Sam. 15:1212And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom. (2 Samuel 15:12)). “And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God.” (2 Sam. 16:2323And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom. (2 Samuel 16:23).) How was it Absalom had the insolence to send for David’s trusted counselor? This was another bit of sorrowful reaping of former sin. Ahithophel appears to have been Bathsheba’s grandfather, and we can well understand that he had never forgiven David for his treatment of his granddaughter. (Compare 2 Sam. 11:33And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? (2 Samuel 11:3) and 23:34).
We follow the sad, dark picture; brightened it is true by glimpses of devotion by Ittai the Gittite; and others, old and young, Israelite and strangers, but all faithful followers of a rejected king. But the picture as a whole grows darker and sadder, until we watch the agonized grief of that noble king, as he hears of the death of his wicked son. It is one of the very saddest sights that God in His wisdom shows us in all His Book. I suppose there is hardly a sadder cry than the one which was wrung from that father’s broken heart: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son.” None but a parent can understand the awful depths of anguish contained in that bitter, bitter cry.
Very different was the death of the infant child of Bathsheba, as recorded in 2 Sam. 12. There David could say: “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Well did David know that the separation from his well-beloved son, Absalom, was an eternal one. Perhaps there is nothing so sad as death without hope. Death, the King of Terrors, and after death, the certain knowledge of judgment; with punishment, eternal, unending punishment, beyond. May no Christian parent know the heartbreaking grief of such a separation.
But even this is not the end of the sad story. When Nathan came to David after his terrible sin, and told him the story of the rich man who had taken his poor neighbor’s one little ewe lamb, David had, in righteous indignation, sentenced that rich man to restore him “four-fold.” (2 Sam. 12:66And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. (2 Samuel 12:6)). But the prophet had replied: “Thou art the man”; and God permitted David’s sentence to remain against himself. We have seen three of David’s “lambs” taken from him: but a fourth must go; and we read the sad story of Adonijah’s death in 1 Kings, chapters 1 and 2, especially 2:24, 25. In very truth “the rich man” restored “four-fold.”
Such was the unspeakably bitter fruit, whose beginning was one step in disobedience to the Word of God. Lord, keep us!