David had a ‘woman’ problem.
Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, John Edwards. Lately these names have all become the cheapest cold cuts in our Subway sandwich conversations about men, sex and power.
But it’s an endless menu.
Jesse Jackson counseled Bill Clinton about his infidelity with Monica Lewinsky. Jackson later admitted to fathering a child outside of his marriage. While Newt Gingrich led Clinton’s impeachment he was being unfaithful to his second wife. Lyndon Johnson made sure there were no locks on his secretary’s bedroom door when he took his White House to Texas. John F. Kennedy characterized his many extra-marital events (let’s not even call them ‘affairs’) as medicinal therapy for his frequent headaches. Dwight Eisenhower had a long term affair with his war time secretary. Franklin Roosevelt died in the company of his mistress of over twenty years.
These are just the Presidential offerings since the last good war. Politics below the presidential level, entertainment, business and sports – together – open up an entirely new serving line for a buffet loaded with spicy fare. Eddie Long, Ted Haggard, Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart, and other religious figures, round out the menu with their decadent dalliance desserts.
As a culture we feast upon this stuff. Despite our protests about how unhealthy it is to ingest the sexual failures of others, we are gluttons for them. To change the metaphor a little, this kind of prurient ‘news’ is like catnip to a nation of alley cats. We glaze over with it. We are seemingly powerless before it.
I will not, pardon the image, put any of these events “on the couch” for my therapeutic inspection. If you want that kind of stuff, go elsewhere on the internet. Not going to find it here.
Looking at David
But David did have a ‘woman’ problem.
I’ve been reading through his life. He was God’s anointed. He was/is a type of the Christ to come. There are many points in David’s story where God’s redemptive purpose for His people sparkle with diamond clarity. In the first place, he was not Saul. Saul was the people’s choice and people always fail when choosing their own Savior. In the second place, Saul personified how a man’s attempt to be master of his own destiny will only end in tragedy. I could go on.
David entered the drama of God’s history from ‘off-stage’. He is first noticed by his absence. While the other sons of Jesse were paraded before Samuel, David was out tending the sheep. What an apt marker for the trajectory of David’s life. He was first a shepherd and, as King, David was always at his best when placing the welfare of the sheep (God’s people) above his own. He sunk to his worst when he did not.
David and his women
David is described as being “ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome.” (1 Sam.16.12) He was passionate, a poet-warrior, a musician, a man’s man and he made women swoon. They sang in the streets for him. He loved it. What man wouldn’t? He had charisma by the cart-load.
First, there was Michal the daughter of Saul. David was going to be wed to Michal’s older sister Adriel. But in a high-handed display of kingly arrogance Saul rescinded his offer to David and gave Adriel to another man. After risking his life for her hand Saul relented and finally gave Michal to David. She felt glad to have him.
But David did not stop with Michal. He developed a taste for his own press clippings when it came to his appeal to women. There was Abigail, the phenomenally sensible widow of idiot Nabal. David claimed her. He also claimed Ahinoam of Jezreel. David’s marriage to Michal was, for a time, a casualty of war with the house of Saul.
After Saul’s death and David’s ultimate ascension to rule over all Israel, we read this:
“And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David.” (2 Sam. 5.13)
Eventually David had eight wives.
Michal, daughter of Saul, 1 Samuel 18.27
Ahinoam, from Jezreel, 1 Samuel 25.43
Abigail, widow of Nabal, 1 Samuel 25.30
Maacah, daughter of the King of Geshur, 2 Samuel 3.3
Haggith, 2 Samuel 3.3
Abital, 2 Samuel 3.4
Eglah, 2 Samuel 3.5
Bathsheba, 2 Samuel 11.3
These are the named wives. We know the name of one of the younger women, Abishag, who attended David in his later years (1 Kings 1.3,4). We are expressly told their relationship was not sexual and this seems to have been because of his age. We are not told of the concubines, except that David seemed to have had plenty of them. It is also reasonable to assume Abishag was the exception of David’s abstinence among these women.
David had a ‘woman’ problem.
David’s ‘woman’ problem
His problem was not with the women. His problem was with himself. He couldn’t control himself. Better stated: David wouldn’t control himself. He was handsome. He was powerful. He was king. Women were available to him. No one would challenge him. Everyone thought it was normal, well within the norms of the day. Why not?
It led to his ruin and the eventual dissolution of his monarchy. His son Solomon became famous for his many women. He was just expanding upon the family tradition. Generations later what had begun as a prideful glint in King David’s eye resulted in the ruin of his people. David did not live to see the mature destruction that had first gibbered in his loins … when he just wouldn’t resist his opportunistic impulse to have that woman.
Yes, King David was forgiven his transgression. Yet he paid a huge price nonetheless. In his own life he proved himself an ineffective father. His moral leadership in his own home produced a pock-marked legacy among his heirs. More of them than not were unfaithful to God.
The lesson of King David’s ‘woman’ problem is baleful.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.
- Think about that the next time you tell yourself, “I deserve this.”
The smallest spark can be carried over the treetops of generations and set ablaze a raging fire of destruction. Beware.
- Your example might not be discovered … for a time. But it will leave its mark, have no doubt. Your children, and their grandchildren after them, will act out on the rooftops what you thought was kept safely hidden in your closet.
What is believed to be normal and unchallenged among men does not automatically translate as pleasing to God.
- It is of no value whatsoever to measure yourself by the lives of others, regardless of who they are or what they do. There is only one secure calibration for holiness – the glory of the living God.