Biblical Fathers: David

It's Father's Day on Sunday, and this week Bible Society is focusing on some biblical fathers. Some of them get it right, some don't – but they all tell us something about the challenges of fatherhood today.

4. David 

David was the greatest of all the kings of Israel. His story is sometimes horrifying and sometimes inspirational – and sometimes very sad. 

One of the sad parts is his relationship with his children, who caused him great grief. Amnon, his son, raped his half-sister (2 Samuel 13). Absalom, her full brother and Amnon's half-brother, had him murdered and ran for his life; David, after grieving for him for several years, restored him to favour (14.33). But Absalom turned on his father and mounted a dangerous rebellion against him. David's general Joab, contrary to his wishes, killed Absalom (18.14), plunging the king into grief: 'O my son! My son Absalom! Absalom, my son! If only I had died in your place, my son! Absalom, my son!' (18.33)

Children sometimes do disappoint and even turn on their parents. There's no way of knowing how the child we love is going to turn out, and this is the risk we run when we bring a new person into the world. Everyone is responsible for their own actions, and stands before God on their own (Ezekiel 18). Even the wisest and most loving parent can't guarantee the character of their child. But perhaps there are hints in the story that David – while he felt deeply for his children – was unwilling to confront them. When David heard about Amnon's sin, he was 'furious' (13.21), but he did not punish him. Much of what followed seems to have stemmed from that. 

Loving parenthood – fatherhood, in this case – involves discipline as well as feelings. David might have thought he was being loving, but he did his children no favours by failing to correct them.

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