Every parent has experienced heartache as they have watched their children make destructive choices. King David certainly experienced his share of heartache as a parent. His son Amnon had developed an unhealthy and inappropriate attraction toward his half sister, Tamar (David’s daughter from another wife). Amnon ultimately gave full vent to his reckless desires and raped Tamar (2 Sam. 13).
As tragic as the situation was, it was not surprising. David himself had resorted to violence to get what he wanted. He committed adultery with Bathsheba and then killed her husband Uriah to cover up the crime. As a result, David was told that the sword would never leave his house (2 Sam. 12:10). Amnon had learned his tactics from his father.
But what was surprising was David’s reaction to Amnon’s act of violence. He did nothing. The text says that when he heard these things he was furious (2 Sam. 13:21). But he took no action. He simply stood by and let his son get away with it. It could be that he felt guilty about his own sin and reasoned that he would be a hypocrite to punish his son for something he himself had done.
But the text hints at another reason. Some manuscripts include the following notation at this point in the text – “But he would not punish his son Amnon because he loved him, since he was his firstborn.” David had several sons through several different wives. But Amnon was his firstborn (2 Sam. 3:2). Amnon was the heir. He stood to inherit the throne. And so instead of doing what was right, David brushed it under the rug. Certainly it would just go away. Certainly Amnon would learn his lesson.
As we read on, it becomes clear that the situation did not simply go away. David paid a heavy price for his passivity and permissiveness. And we will also pay a heavy price if we do not discipline our children and bring them under authority. Do not be a willing party to your child’s death (Prov. 19:18).
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