July 6, 2012

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical readings: King David’s troubled reign

John F. FinkNext week, the biblical readings in the Office of Readings tell us more about the reign of King David, and then quickly tell us something about King Solomon. They include readings from the Second Book of Samuel, the First Book of Kings, the First Book of Chronicles and the Book of Sirach. Obviously, much in those books is omitted.

The readings pick up the story in Chapter 12 of the Second Book of Samuel after Bathsheba gives birth to David’s son. David had sinned with his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, and then compounded his sin by arranging for her husband to be killed then taking her for his wife.

David repented and God forgave him, but he punished David with the death of his son. David tried to avert his son’s death by fasting and praying, but the sentence remained. Then David and Bathsheba had another son, Solomon.

The readings next week pass over the seamier chapters, but the author wanted to show how the violation of God’s commandments resulted in the wreckage of David’s family.

First, David’s oldest son, Amnon, raped his half-sister, Tamar. Then David’s second son, Absalom, revenged the rape by killing Amnon.

Then Absalom rebelled against his father David. David fled from Jerusalem, which seems to have been unnecessary.

This gave us the story of a man named Shimei, from Saul’s clan, cursing David and throwing stones at him and his soldiers. David refused the suggestion that a soldier “lop off his head,” saying, “Suppose the Lord has told him to curse David” (2 Sm10).

Eventually, there was a battle against Absalom’s forces. Although David ordered that Absalom’s life be spared, Joab, David’s commander, killed him. When he learned of Absalom’s death, David mourned. It is a touching scene.

The readings then jump from Chapter 18 to 24, where David decides to take up a census. This was considered wrong because a census was usually taken in order to determine the size of the army and implied a lack of faith in God. Again, David repented and again God forgave him, but again punished him by sending a pestilence over Israel. It is interesting the way God punishes David by taking it out on others.

The readings then move to Chapter 22 of the First Book of Chronicles. This tells how David made preparations for his son, Solomon, to build a house for the Lord, the Temple, to house the Ark of the Covenant.

However, Solomon almost didn’t become king. The beginning of the First Book of Kings tells us that David’s son, Adonijah, wanted to be king and secured the support of some of the court officials. But Nathan and Bathsheba went to David, now elderly. David called his officials and ordered them to anoint Solomon. Thus, Solomon became king.

The final reading next week is from the Book of Sirach (Sir 47:12-25). It tells us, quite briefly, of Solomon’s reign. He reigned during an era of peace and built the Temple, but he also abandoned himself to women. The kingdom was split after his death into the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. †

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