David and Absalom – Train up a child

September 14, 2016


We all know the story of David and Bathsheba, but what happened afterwards? Did David use his own moral failure as a teaching moment for his own sons and daughters, or was this a case of “sour grapes, setting his own children’s teeth on edge?” Here is Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of that saying:

God’s Message to me: “What do you people mean by going around the country repeating the saying,

The parents ate green apples,

The children got the stomachache?

“As sure as I’m the living God, you’re not going to repeat this saying in Israel any longer. Every soul—man, woman, child—belongs to me, parent and child alike. You die for your own sin, not another’s. Ezekiel 18:1-4 The Message

Here are some Bible notes on the story of Amnon and Tamar:

13.1 Tamar was Absalom’s full sister, Amnon’s half-sister. Amnon was David’s oldest son and the crown prince. The next oldest had apparently died (perhaps as a child), leaving Absalom as second in line of succession to the throne.

13.12 “Such a thing” may refer to incest or rape or both.

13.13 “He will not withhold me from you,” Tamar suggests that David would allow their marriage despite its incestuous nature. Perhaps she is just trying to buy time.

13:16 Ex. 22:16 and Deut. 22:28-29 required marriage in such cases. Tamar may have such laws in mind when she says that in sending her away Amnon is committing a greater wrong that the rape itself.

13:17 “This woman,” a contemptuous reference. The word “woman” is not in the Hebrew, so that it might be translated “this thing.” Having robbed Tamar of her virginity, Amnon takes her identity as well.

13:18 “A long robe with sleeves,” used also for Joseph’s garment in Gen. 37:3. (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, pages 462-463)

In the King James Version, Tamar is wearing a “garment of divers colours” as the king’s daughter, which of course made me think of Joseph’s coat of many colors from his father.

Should David have trained up his son to express morality to women, especially since David had experienced that lesson himself?  And after the rape of Tamar occurred, why didn’t David at least follow the Old Testament rules and discipline his son Amnon?

In the story of David and Bathsheba, Nathan tells David a story to uncover his sin; and in today’s readings, Joab uses a widow to tell David a story about a blood feud which started when one of her sons killed his brother. David knew it was Joab’s words, perhaps because Joab had learned this revenge lesson himself when he killed Abner for killing his brother (last week’s readings).

The Bible readings end with a psalm written by David when he fled from his son Absalom for stealing the kingdom. David sang:

Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.

Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. (Psalm 3:7,8)

In other words, “God striking the enemies on the mouth for their words is poetic justice, punishment fitting the crime. The psalmist, however, leaves the actual punishment to God.” (The New Oxford Annotated Bible, page 777)

The third tenet is so helpful in understanding that this “belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts.” (Science and Health, page 497)