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.