David is one of the Bible’s great heroes, and that being so, it confuses us when the Bible seems to approve of his behaving in a sinful way. Like, he spoiled his children rotten. Is that to be an example for us? No.
This week we are reading from the Second Book of Samuel. It helps to know how these stories were put together. After the death of David his Kingdom of Judea carried on for almost four hundred years. Without printing, and certainly without television, those people got their history and entertainment from storytellers. Those men, unable to read or write, chanted long epic poems about past kings. They didn’t dare openly criticize royal behavior, but they could relate the facts in such a way that the listeners could see where their kings had gone wrong.
David’s big sin was that he let his sons get away with murder. When his oldest, Annon, raped his half sister, David was very angry about it; but he did not want to alienate Annon by openly blaming him.
When his son Absalom raised a rebellion against him, David, the doting father went slinking away. When troops royal to the king put Absalom to death David mourned for him as though he were part of the rebellion.
Without openly speaking against King David the storytellers left it to our good sense to see David was wrong for letting his sons get away with murder.