Why Were the Kings Such Bad Parents?

Recently I finished reading I and II Kings, right about the time I finished reading Debbie Thomas‘s Raising Rain. Something I didn’t mention in my Friday review of the novel is that one of its theme deals with parenting. Maybe that’s why I started thinking about what bad parents the Israelite kings were.

Even the good kings were bad fathers. Take David for instance. He was filled with the Holy Spirit (see I Samuel 16:13), was known as a man after God’s own heart, wrote Scripture, but look at his sons. One raped his sister. Another murdered his brother and later organized a coup against his father. A third tried to take the throne before Solomon could.

Where was David when all this was going on ? Well, he got mad at the rapist … but did nothing else. He exiled the murderer … for a time, but eventually brought him back to Jerusalem and even back to the court. And the one who schemed to supplant Solomon? David left the problem for the new king.

What’s more, he openly favored Absalom, the son who engineered the coup. Despite his murderous intent, when David’s followers engaged Absalom’s in battle, Davide ordered his commanders to preserve Absalom’s life. When he was killed instead, David mourned and mourned—to the point that one of his commanders (his nephew) said, “I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased” (2 Samuel 19:6b).

But David wasn’t the only bad father. Time and again, Godly kings were followed on the throne by their sons who undermined everything they’d done to turn the nation back to following God.

Hezekiah, for instance, was one of the best kings, but his son, Manasseh was possibly the worst, going so far as to institute child sacrifice to one of the false gods of a neighboring country. How was it that Hezekiah could tear down the idol temples, destroy the high places, repair the temple, experience God’s healing in response to his prayer, and not teach his son to love God and worship Him?

Josiah, too. What an inspiring young man. When he heard the word of God read, he knew at once that his nation had incurred God’s wrath because of their waywardness. He sought God and went about educating his people. He purged Judah of idolatrous priests, removed the mediums and spiritists and, re-instituted the Passover. Scripture says of him, “Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses” (2 Kings 23:25a). But he ended up having three of his sons sit on the throne and in every instance Scripture records that they did evil in the sight of the Lord.

So what happened?

Were the kings too busy to pay attention to their sons? Did they have too many kids to even know them? Did they leave the rearing up to their mothers or to some other caregiver? (One boy’s grandmother tried to kill all the heirs, and his aunt saved him. Perhaps she was in place to do so because he was in her care).

Solomon is the one that mystifies me most. He who wrote such passages as “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” didn’t seem to do a very good job of training up his own son.

I suppose some of these wayward boys chose to go astray despite good training. That would seem to be the case of Joash, the boy king rescued from his grandmother. As long as his uncle was alive giving him counsel, he conducted himself as a Godly king, but once his uncle died, he did an about-face.

So the dads, and the moms, aren’t to blame for the results. But you’d think, in that whole line of kings there would have been one who wholeheartedly walked with God and whose son did likewise.

Published in: on December 7, 2009 at 5:59 pm  Comments (6)  
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  1. 1) Ussizh’s son King Jotham was a godly fellow.

    2) The king’s children were not, for the most part, reared by their parents. They had “nannies.” That might answer some of your questions.


    In S.S. I used your blog for an illustration, and some of the ladies wanted your “address.” I gave it to them. Hope that’s okay.


  2. This is what puts the fear of God into me raising my three boys (and now our girl). My mother-in-law noted in prayer a long time ago how the boys watch me. I didn’t even have my dad growing up, so I know I mess up a lot, but I know that God is my Father now, and that brings a lot of peace.


  3. A friend of mine once did a study of parenting in the Bible. She wanted to compile a booklet of insipring stories of good bibilical parents passing on good behaviour. At the end of her study she had concluded that all the heroes of the faith were betrayed by the behaviour of their children. It’s not just the historical books.

    Adam and Eve didn’t really start it all off with a good example, did they.


  4. Carolyn, what a pleasant surprise to find you here! Of course I don’t mind you passing my blog address along to others. The more, the merrier, I say (though I didn’t say it first 🙂 )

    As to the example of Uzziah and his son Jotham, that’s a little iffy because Uzziah was a good king at the beginning of his reign, but as you know, became prideful to the point that God struck him with leprosy and he lived apart from others the rest of his days.

    However, since it was Jotham who ruled during Uzziah’s isolation, I have to think his dad influenced him (if at all) while he was walking with God.

    I do suspect, as you said, that the parents farming the kids out to caregivers is the answer. Besides the example I gave in my post there’s the story about the city given the job of raising the 70 sons of Israel’s king (I think it was), only to kill them when a new king seized the throne. That was Jehu, as I recall, and the sons were Ahab’s, though I might have the wrong names here.

    Anyway, I hope you stop by as often as possible. You (and your Sunday school class) are always welcome!



  5. Jason, I think being a parent is daunting, but here’s what I think Scripture shows us. Holy and righteous men communed with God and obeyed Him. Their sons often obeyed Him. Their grandsons rebelled against Him.

    Actually I heard a message about this one time. Think of kings David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. David was a man after God’s own heart. Solomon started strong but married wives who led him into idol worship. Rehoboam refused wise counsel and led Israel into a civil war that ripped them in two.

    The point the speaker made is this. We all want to know how we can keep our kids or grandkids from being like Solomon and Rehoboam. What we need to do is pay attention to whether or not we are people after God’s heart as David was.

    I’d add, we can pass along that aspiration to our kids by example and prayer.

    But it ain’t easy! Maybe impossible is closer. Thank God He’s the best at Impossible. 😉



  6. Ken, you’ve nailed it. This whole issue stems from our sin problem, so the only recourse we have is to go to the throne of grace where we can find help in time of need. For a parent, I think that’s 24/7.



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