Understanding Difficult Texts

Understanding Difficult Texts - David’s wives

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David’s wives:

Through Moses God gave a specific command to the kings of Israel seeing the danger of them following the customs of the neighboring nations. He said:

But he shall not multiply horses to himself…Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.
(Deuteronomy 17:16-20)

Now let us look at what king David did:

And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David. (2 Samuel 5:13)

Was David following the command of God as given through Moses? Does God need to repeat that it was wrong to multiply wives?

BUT ONE MIGHT SAY: Why did not God punish David if it was wrong? But I ask you - Aren’t we too doing so many wrong things even today though we know it is disobedience to the Word of God? And because God does not punish us immediately does that mean God is pleased with our actions? Let us remember that “God is love”, and the first virtue that Paul mentions about love is, patience.

Charity suffereth long. (1 Corinthians 13:4)

God waits long. None can be patient like our God is! He still showers His blessings hoping that we see His goodness and repent of our wrong deeds. Paul wrote exactly that:

Despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)

Solomon, who experienced the patience of God in his own life, wrote later:

Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. (Ecclesiastes 8:11-13)

The amazing character of God is seen in His dealings with sinful men. When Adam and Eve sinned He drove them out of the Garden, but made coats of skin to shield them from the fluctuating climate outside. (Of course it was a symbol of how He is going to save too). See Genesis 3:21. When the children of Israel asked for a king to rule over them, they hurt God terribly. See 1 Samuel 8:7-9. God was rejected as King. Yet God, in His tender love, still works to bless them and provide them their needs! Who can be like this, but God alone!

In a similar way when David and many other men of God directly disregarded the command of multiplying wives unto themselves, God did not cut them off. He hoped that they would realize their sins and repent, and finally be saved in His eternal kingdom.

David had to face the sure consequence of extending his family in this earthly manner. He saw the hatred, jealousy and bloodshed in his house. Let us read this sad story as recorded in See 2 Samuel 13

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man. And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister. And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand. So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand. Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat. So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes. And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her. Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her. And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying. And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house. But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth. And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar. And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king's sons. And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant. And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him. Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee? But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him. Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled. And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left. Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent. And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king's sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar. Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king's sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead. But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him. And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king's sons come: as thy servant said, so it is. And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king's sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore. But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.


David finally became so bold that it was not tough for him to commit adultery with Bathsheba and murder Uraih, her husband. This tragic story is recorded in see 2 Samuel 11.

And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king's house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king's house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, And if so be that the king's wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king's servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.

When things go beyond the limit and patience of divine forbearance, God immediately acts. He gives all a long rope, hoping that we make a comeback. When we continue going away, he strikes, not willing that we perish forever. That is exactly what God did to David.

Some take the text recorded in Kings and reason out that David sinned only when he took Bathsheba, and not when he multiplied wives. Let up examine the passage:

David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.
(1 Kings 15:5)

The adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah was the most evil thing David did. The above text does not mean that David did no other sin or wrong. Didn’t David do another big blunder that invited the instant wrath of God, by numbering Israel? The writer of Chronicles records it:

And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it…And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he smote Israel. And David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, do away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly. (
1 Chronicles 21:1, 2, 7, 8)

The punishment for this faithlessness of David was the slaughter of seventy thousand of his countrymen by pestilence! So the text of 1 Kings 15:5 does not mean that David did no other wrong. The context of it has to be noted. It was talking about king Abijam who did evil after evil all the days of his life. He was always at the height of evil doing. But David, in contrast, was not so. The high point of his sin was that one act. And David repented.

ONE MIGHT SAY: Doesn’t the Bible say that God gave David many wives according to 2 Samuel 12:8? Let us read the passage:

And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. (2 Samuel 12:8)

Yes, God gave David his master’s wives (King Saul’s wives). But what does it mean? Does that mean God gave David the wives of Saul to be his wives now? No, it doesn’t say that.

Let us get the background of the text. David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and murdered Uriah, her husband. He tries to hide from the people, but the all-seeing God catches up with him at last. God sends Nathan the prophet with a parable. David does not realize that it is about him. He pronounces his own curse. The parable is about a poor man and a rich man.

And the LORD sent Nathan unto David. And he came unto him, and said unto him, There were two men in one city; the one rich, and the other poor. The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man; and he said to Nathan, As the LORD liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: And he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. (2 Samuel 12:1-7)

The ewe lamb “lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter”. To lay in his bosom means it was precious to him. In another parable, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, (again we have a rich man and a poor man here), Lazarus was “carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom” (Luke 16:22). That means Lazarus was cared for and loved by Abraham. Isn’t Jesus too pictured as being in the “bosom” of the heavenly Father? John records:

The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father. (John 1:18)

The Father loved and cared for His Son, and vice versa.

What did God tell David?

And I gave thee…thy master's wives into thy bosom. (2 Samuel 12:8)

It doesn’t say I gave thy master’s wives to be thy wives, but I gave them into “thy bosom”. David was to take care of them and love them and provide for them.

“Into thy bosom” does not mean he had a husband-wife relationship with them. The ewe lamb, Lazarus and Jesus too were at the bosom of someone. King Saul being dead, David his successor had the moral responsibility to take care of the welfare of Saul’s wives. This was a God given responsibility.

BUT ONE MIGHT SAY: The context and the verse clearly suggests that God was telling David – “Why did you take Uriah’s wife when you could have satisfied yourself with Saul’s wives which I gave you?” Well, that is surely not what God was saying in the text.

We need to know that David had many of his own wives already - Michal, Abigail, Ahinoam, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah, etc. (2 Samuel 3:1-6, 1 Samuel 18:27). So why should God talk only about Saul’s wives at this time? Why didn’t God remind him of his own wives that he had?

By the way, apart from God being upset with David for the adultery with Uriah’s wife and the murder of Uriah, God was upset with him even for taking her as his wife. The prophet said:

Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife. (2 Samuel 12:9)

If God gave Saul’s wives, after the death of Saul, to be David’s wives, why was God upset with David taking Uriah’s wife to be his wife, after Uriah’s death?

Well, let us analyze the text again to see the context and the verse in its true setting. In the parable king David was the “rich man”. And what were his riches? Nathan the prophet reveals it. He said:

Thou art the man. Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel.
(2 Samuel 12:7)

He was the “rich man”. He was the Lord’s “anointed”; he was the “king over Israel”. And who made him king? It was God who picked him from the shepherd’s tent! And when his life was in danger in the presence of Saul, God said:

I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul. (2 Samuel 12:7)

God also gave him the entire kingdom of Saul to be his kingdom. He was the custodian of everything – the riches, the people, the place, etc. God said:

And I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah. (2 Samuel 12:8)

And God gave this ordinary shepherd boy all things freely. God even wanted to exalt him more by extending his boundaries and the domain of his rule. God said:

And gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. (2 Samuel 12:8)

God dethroned Saul because of the grave sins he had committed, and now David is departing for the path of righteousness, and God punishes him too.

God was upset with him and his crime. He, being the Lord’s anointed king, was not expected to step so low!

Consider this illustration: A man has a mother and many sisters. And he takes care of them in the place of the father who is dead. One day he commits adultery with a stranger. And everyone in town now knows about it. What will the society say about this man who was taking care of the female members of his family? “Look at this man! He has a mother and many sisters, and he had no shame to spoil another woman’s life!” What were the people of the society actually saying? Were they suggesting that he should have committed that crime with one of the members of his family? Not at all! They were simply saying - How could a man, who is the custodian of female members in the family, commit this act?

That is exactly what God told David. He being the successor of king Saul, who was dead, was given the responsibility to take care of them. And what trust would God have on him, and what trust would Saul’s wives have on him after this heinous crime, of committing adultery, murder, and adding another wife?



Pastor Michael Pedrin Preaching