“As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this deserves to die! Because he committed this cold-hearted crime, he must pay for the lamb four times over!” (2 Samuel 12:5-6 NET). So said King David when Nathan told the story to convict David of his sin with Bathsheba. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is exactly the price David paid: he lost four of his children.
The first child to die was the one who had been conceived the night he spent with Bathsheba. God struck him with an illness and a week later the child died (2 Samuel 12:15-18).
The second child was his son Amnon. Amnon was the eldest of David’s sons, and as such should have been the next in line to the throne (the Septuagint, Vulgate and Josephus all add in 2 Samuel 13 that Amnon was David’s first-born). Amnon desired his half-sister Tamar and ended up raping her. David did nothing about this, possibly because he was the first-born.
David’s son Absalom was Tamar’s full-brother. He told her not to worry, that he would deal with it. He waited for two years and then killed his half-brother, Amnon (you can read about this in 2 Samuel 13). Two sons of David had now died.
The third son that died was Absalom himself. David banished Absalom for killing Amnon, but he was a favorite of the people. After David allowed him to return to Jerusalem he began to win the hearts of the people. Eventually, he staged a coup and David had to flee for his life, leading to hostilities between the two men and their armies.
David’s men would not allow him to personally lead the army. “So the king stayed beside the city gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. The king gave this order to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: ‘For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom.’ Now the entire army was listening when the king gave all the leaders this order concerning Absalom” (2 Samuel 18:4-5).
During the battle that ensued, David’s men defeated the army of Israel which had backed Absalom – 20,000 died.
“Then Absalom happened to come across David’s men. Now as Absalom was riding on his mule, it went under the branches of a large oak tree. His head got caught in the oak and he was suspended in midair, while the mule he had been riding kept going” (2 Samuel 18:9).
We often hear of Absalom’s long hair getting caught in the tree (see NIV), although the Hebrew word is specific that it was his head. He was hanging by his head in the tree. David’s men reported it and Joab, the commander of David’s men, wanted him executed on the spot, despite David’s instructions. When the men refused, Joab did it himself.
“He took three spears in his hand and thrust them into the middle of Absalom while he was still alive in the middle of the oak tree. Then ten soldiers who were Joab’s armor bearers struck Absalom and finished him off” (2 Samuel 18:14-15).
Sin has consequences. The consequences of David’s sin with Bathsheba were immense. Their first child died. Amnon was killed. And now Absalom was killed. There will be one more son killed later.
It is sad that David, a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22), was a man who could not control his own household. How often do we see godly men who have children that are not under control? As parents, we have a responsibility to bring up our children to follow and serve God.
“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Readings for next week:
22 October – 2 Samuel 17; Psalm 39
23 October – 2 Samuel 18; Psalm 41
24 October – 2 Samuel 19
25 October – 2 Samuel 20; Psalm 40
26 October – 2 Samuel 21