David, Bathsheba and all sorts of ugly family drama

A precious friend of mine explores faith and life and desperately seeks peace. In her pursuit, she asks lots of hard questions. I love it. I just can’t always answer them. This week’s Bible study offers plenty of fodder for those hard questions.

  • If God loves us, why is life so hard?
  • If God is all-powerful, then why are innocents victimized?
  • If God really cares and is a GOOD Father, then why doesn’t He stop the terrible things from happening? Why doesn’t He alleviate the needless pain?

David makes a really rotten choice. He gives in to his lust and ends up ruining the lives of many, many people. Bathsheba comes to mind first, but also her husband Uriah (who was among David’s thirty most-trusted warriors and close confidants), her grandfather Ahithophel (who was David’s greatest adviser, one whose wisdom was counted as akin to direct revelation from God), and the infant child, a perfect innocent in this whole drama, is killed as punishment. Oh, and let’s not forget the whole of Israel! Unknown soldiers were killed in the battle when Joab followed David’s orders to execute Uriah. Their families were surely affected as were the generations that followed.

As the chapters progress, we see that David’s family continued in a downward spiral of immorality (led by their father’s very public example), deceit and selfishness. We are reminded again of the theme of Judges: “everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

If you’ve not yet done the homework for these chapters, click HERE to download the free worksheets.

Much of our discussion this week centered on David and Bathsheba and the consequences of their actions. You can read all of that in previously published posts, each linked on the Big Word page (scroll to the bottom to find the links). I won’t reiterate that here. There are a few additional points, though.

Why the wait?

One of the ladies on Wednesday suggested that it was  so that David could see tangible impact of his sin. If he had been punished before the baby was born, the influence of his choices might not have been as acute. As it was, he has met the child, loved the child, and grieved the child, all the while knowing it was his fault that the child died.On “Day Three” of the homework I asked why Nathan’s confrontation came so late after the offending incident.

Another explanation is that this child was the last connection to that sin. Removing it was sort of like giving a clean slate for David and Bathsheba. This argument gains credence by the given descriptors of Bathsheba. Before the child’s death, even after David took her into the palace and married her, she is consistently called “the wife of Uriah.” It is not until after the child’s death that Scripture calls her “David’s wife.”

A third opinion is that the delay was a form of grace. God waited so as to provide David time to self-correct. He could have confessed his sins, asked forgiveness, tried to make things right. Instead, he persisted in covering up the whole mess and making things look right. He never got to the heart of the matter on his own, and God stopped waiting for him to do so.

Proverbs 25:26 describes a fallen righteous man as a muddied spring or a polluted well. This supplies a vivid picture of David’s family.

Tamar, Amnon and Absalom

The rest of this section (chapters 13-14) and much of the rest of Second Samuel exhibit the deteriorating honor of David’s family, specifically the delinquency of his sons. The first big blow came in the form of deceit (no shocker there) that led to the rape of Tamar by her half-brother Amnon. The surprise isn’t so much in that this happened (while that alone is definitely appalling), but rather in the reactions that followed. David did … nothing. Tamar’s brothers did … nothing. In fact, Absalom basically told her to keep her mouth shut and stop causing problems. What gives?!

I don’t think they didn’t knew what to do.
According to Leviticus 18:9, siblings were not allowed to marry, even if they were only related through one biological parent. It was against the Law.We know from Deuteronomy 22:28-29 that the Law required certain things from a man who raped a woman. Specifically, he was required to pay the bride price to her father, then he must marry the woman and would never be permitted to divorce her. This kinda sucks for the woman. First she gets raped, then she gets sold to her rapist for life. It’s hardly benevolent treatment of the victim. Regardless, if Amnon had been any old Joe Shmoe, the legal response would have been obvious. But he wasn’t any old Joe Schmoe; he was her half-brother, which complicates things.


So, what should David have done? He couldn’t force Amnon to marry his sister because that was against the Law. And Amnon couldn’t really pay the price because everything he owned already belonged to his father, the father of the one whom he had raped. The bride price would mean nothing. Tamar was left with nothing. She couldn’t even marry another because now she was no longer a virgin.

The only options were to do nothing … OR to make matters worse. Which is exactly what Absalom chose to do.

Lingering Questions

The remainder of our discussion time revolved around two main topics:

  1. Why do parents struggle to respond well to their children’s sins? And how can those of us who are parents do better?
  2. What does reconciliation require?

There is a difference between reconciliation and restoration. Forgiveness does not require forgetting.

Your Turn: What are your thoughts on all this?

Talk to me!

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