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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CFBA Tour – Raising Rain

Raising Rain (Moody Press) is the perfect title for Debbie Fuller Thomas’s second novel, one of the tour features of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.

I was happy to sign up for this book because Debbie is one of the authors I know personally. We first met at a Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference back in 2005, I believe. I think it was at the 2007 conference that I learned Debbie had a contract. As it turned out, Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon became a Christy Award finalist.

The Story. Raising Rain, released in September, may duplicate that accomplishment. This is a splendid story, exploring deeper themes by looking at the lives of five women who came out of America’s cultural revolution during the late 1960s and early 70s. Four of these women were young adults just starting college in one of the hotbeds of cultural change—Northern California—during the turbulent times of the Vietnam War era.

If I gave you a thumbnail sketch of the plot, you might be scratching your head thinking, where’s the story? This book might be considered “character driven,” but Debbie skillfully moves the plot forward by giving timely looks back—flashback scenes that show the reader what life was like for the four roommates and the little girl named Rain that they helped raise.

In addition, Debbie creates curiosity and suspense. What happened between protagonist Bebe and her family? Why did the roommates stay friends with the abusive Jude? What will Rain do about the greatest desire of her heart? And what will the Celebrate Life weekend produce?

Those questions and more had me turning pages late into the night—or should I say, wee hours of the morning.

Strengths. Above all else, I think Raising Rain mines one of the least understood eras, and perhaps most influential upon contemporary culture, of American history, but it does so through five characters that epitomize those most immediately affected by the societal upheaval. It’s a powerful look at the effects of the dramatic changes that took place.

The power of this book only works because Debbie Thomas created such believable characters. Their hurts, foibles, successes, fears, passions, and all come alive through the pages of Raising Rain.

Equally important, the themes of the book transcend the time. These are not Vietnam-era problems; they are human problems, women’s issues, family matters.

Weaknesses. A story about five women has an immediate pitfall—introducing the reader to all the characters without being confusing. I’ll admit, for a few chapters, I was mired in the bunker of confusion, especially as I tried to sort out the various relationships.

A second problem that niggled at me had to do with an unresolved hurt that separated one of the key characters and those she cared about. When the “reveal” came about and I understood what had caused the rift, I felt a little let down. I didn’t think the issue seemed like it would have created such significant distance.

Another interesting thing may or may not be a weakness. Much of this story is delivered through narrative rather than through scene. Here’s a sample I pulled out randomly:

They checked into the hotel and noticed that a majority of cars in the parking lot boasted USMC stickers. They found a place to eat and turned in early … Like a kid on Christmas Eve, Bebe had difficulty seeping. Not only was she excited to see Scott, but she also harbored worry about Bobby in her mind.

The effect this had on me was to distance me from the emotions of the characters. I understood, for example, that Bebe was excited and anxious, but I didn’t feel those things with her. Consequently, places that may have been tearjerker scenes didn’t affect me that way.

Is that a weakness? Well, I didn’t want to read a tearjerker, so I didn’t really mind. But as a writer, I think, Hmmm, maybe pulling a few tears out of a reader would be good. 😉

Recommendation. Here’s the strongest indication of what I thought about the book. I woke up the morning after finishing it sad that I wouldn’t be able to attend a key event the book referred to at the end. In other words, the characters felt that real, and I felt that invested in their lives.

For readers who enjoy women’s fiction, this is a must read.

Published in: on December 4, 2009 at 2:49 pm  Comments (2)  
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