Memo 1063: It's Good to Be the King
As we read about David's continuing struggle to ascend to his throne and his war with the house of Saul, his biographer inserted a few verses to let the reader know about the growth of David's family during his seven years in Hebron:
Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5).
The writer made no comments about or evaluation of David's family growth, but simply reported the births in a matter-of-fact manner. Yet these sons were to become a source of pain for David and his kingdom, for they would go on to create problems that would lead to civil war and the death of many of David's subjects—including his sons. What are we to make of these few verses and the six sons born in Hebron?
In doing some research on this passage, commentators have written very little about these verses and sons. I couldn't find a single preached message on this passage or practice. It seems that everyone has assumed that this was the practice of the day and David went with the flow of the tradition and culture and took on multiple wives who bore him sons as all the other kings of the region were undoubtedly doing. What's more, it even seems like God was silent on the practice, for at no point does any prophet come to challenge David until he crossed the line in his relationship with Bathsheba. More on that story in future Memos.
In a popular comedy movie years ago, the line was repeated "It's good to be the king" whenever the royal characters in the movie enjoyed the benefit of something that was unavailable to the common folk. However, was this practice beneficial to David and his kingdom? Was it good to be the king and do whatever one wanted? We were told in verse one that "David grew stronger and stronger" and then we have the list of sons, so his six sons were obviously seen as part of David's kingdom growth in the eyes of the historian. What are we to make of this?
Since few others have chosen to address this fact of David, let me attempt to draw some lessons from these few verses in God's inspired history. If we look at it objectively, we can say that David was good at fathering children, but he wasn't good at raising them. None of the sons, except Solomon, distinguished themselves as servants of God and even Solomon took his father's practice of many wives to a new level when he entered into political marital alliances with hundreds of women.
As gifted and anointed as David was, he was far from perfect. His flaws, like those of any leader, had ramifications for many beyond his family and were part of Samuel's warning to the people when they wanted a king in the first place:
“This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day" (1 Samuel 8:11-18).
As special as David was, he was just a man and could only do so much and take the people so far. Yet one would come one day from the line of David who would be the matchless King and lead His people in grace and truth. Today, Israel has decided to be the people of David, putting their hope in him for their identity and image. Those who have put their faith in Jesus have made Him king, looking past culture and tradition to God's righteous Kingdom, which will have no end—and has a way of doing its business that is nothing like the kings of this world, even David.
Have you put your faith in leaders who will take the best of what you have and who you are and use them for their own ends? Or have you put your trust in the King of kings? Are you a servant of God who has taken on the cultural norms of your day, or are you a person who patterns yourself after the One who emptied Himself and took on the form of a servant? David is a man worth emulating in many ways, but he wasn't perfect. I opt to follow the One who is (perfect in every way) and allow Him to teach me how to be like David only if it is consistent with being like Jesus. We will not come into all God has for us if we only have the righteousness of David; we need the righteousness of Christ. Have a blessed week!