There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.
And sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; and the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron. – 2 Samuel 3:1-5 ESV
We already know that David was considered a man after God’s own heart. This was not a designation made by David or any other man. It was conferred upon him by the prophet of God under the divine inspiration of the Spirit of God. Years earlier, Samuel had broken the bad news to Saul. “But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the LORD’s command” (1 Samuel 13:14 NLT). Centuries later, the apostle Paul, while preaching to the Jews in the synagogue at Antioch, reconfirmed this divine designation of David as a man after His own heart.
“After that, God gave them judges to rule until the time of Samuel the prophet. Then the people begged for a king, and God gave them Saul son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, who reigned for forty years. But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.” – Acts 13:20-22 NLT
But as we have already see, this lofty-sounding description of David did not mean he was perfect or without sin. Like any other man, David struggled with his own sin nature. He could be prone to disobedience and doubt, just like anybody else. And he had his own unique set of sins with which he struggled. One, in particular, would prove to be a constant source of temptation and testing for him: Women.
In the opening lines of this chapter, we’re told “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.” But there was another battle brewing in the life of David. While he was growing stronger in his military position over Abner and the house of Saul, David was literally sowing the seeds of dissent and future discord that would rip his kingdom apart. It is important to note that God had made ample preparations for the arrival of a king on the scene. In fact, He had ordained that there would be a king over Israel. And He knew that the people would tend to want the wrong kind of king. So, He provided them with very clear commands:
“You are about to enter the land the Lord your God is giving you. When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’ If this happens, be sure to select as king the man the Lord your God chooses. You must appoint a fellow Israelite; he may not be a foreigner.
“The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.” – Deuteronomy 17:14-117 NLT
Somewhat hidden and overlooked in this divine command is God’s prohibition against polygamy. When it came to “the man the Lord your God chooses,” he must “not take many wives for himself.” And God was very clear as to His reason behind this command. “because they will turn his heart away from the Lord.” And yet, we read in these opening verses of chapter 3, “And sons were born to David at Hebron.” Nothing wrong with that statement, until you read the following verses and notice the various mothers listed: Ahinoam of Jezreel, Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel, Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, and Eglah. And not in this list is Michal, David’s first wife, the daughter of Saul. So effectively, at this early point in his reign, David had five wives. He would go on to have as many as eight.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to determine that David had an inordinate attraction to women. And he tended to act on it. Abigail is listed as one of his wives. She was the widow of Nabal, whom God destroyed. But David barely let Nabal’s body cool off before he took Abigail as his wife. David could be impulsive. And if we fast-forward to one of the most famous or infamous events in David’s life, we will see that his impulsiveness also led him to commit not only adultery, but murder. Glance over at 2 Samuel 11 and you will see the story of David and Bathsheba, a personal low point in David’s life that got permanently chronicled in the Scriptures. At a time when David, as king, should have been leading his troops in battle, he had determined to stay home. And one day, while walking about the roof of his palace, he saw Bathsheba bathing on the roof of her own home. There are some who speculate that this was not the first time David had spied Bathsheba bathing. It could have been the very reason he stayed home from battle. And his act of voyeurism resulted in him having Bathsheba brought to him. Their illicit liasson would result in an unexpected pregnancy. And since Bathsheba’s husband, a soldier in David’s own army was off at war, it was going to be hard to explain how his wife became pregnant. That’s when David launched an all-out effort to cover his sin. But his strategy failed and he ultimately resorted to having Bathsheba’s husband murdered by commanding that he be exposed to enemy fire on the front lines.
This is not a stellar moment in David’s life. But it provides a glimpse into a highly vulnerable area of his life. David’s love affair with women would prove to be problematic throughout his reign. In fact, if we look at the list of sons mentioned in these opening verses of chapter three, we see Amnon and Absalom. These two brothers born to different mothers would grow up to cause David much pain and suffering. In 2 Samuel 13, we have the sad story of Amnon’s rape of Tamar, his half-sister. Later on, in that very same chapter, we read of Absalom’s orchestration of Amnon’s murder, out of revenge for what he had done to Tamar, his sister. Absalom would be forced into exile for what he had done, but would later return, only to orchestrate the overthrow of his own father’s kingdom.
Verses 1-5 of chapter 3 seem innocent enough, but they foreshadow a future filled with brokenness, pain and suffering. And it began with David’s unwillingness to obey the command of God. And while David never seemed to allow his many wives to lead him away from his love and worship for God, his son, Solomon would. Solomon would follow in his father’s footsteps, suffering from the same addictive tendencies. In fact, Solomon would outdo his father in a major way, eventually amassing for himself a staggering 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:1-3). And just as God had warned, these women, many of whom were from foreign nations and worshiped pagan gods, would eventually cause Solomon to erect their idols throughout his own kingdom. The book of 1 Kings paints a very bleak picture of the closing days of Solomon’s reign.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. 3 He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem. And so he did for all his foreign wives, who made offerings and sacrificed to their gods. – 1 Kings 11:1-8 ESV
And it all began with David. A little compromise. A giving in to the desires of the flesh. A refusal to obey God fully and heed His warning. The long-term ramifications for sin can be devastating. Yes, David would be forgiven by God when he repented of his sin with Bathsheba, but the child she bore would die as a result. There are consequences to disobedience. God blessed David’s kingdom, but his many wives would prove to be a constant source of trouble in his life. David’s battle with the house of Saul would be nothing compared to the spiritual war he would wage as a result of his own sin nature.
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.