Middle School Sunday School

Jeroboam, Rehoboam, and a Divided Israel

It’s been a while since we’ve done one of our people of the Bible lessons, where we’re studying the lives of people in the Bible as a method to walk us through the Bible. Last we left off, Solomon—the son of David—was king of Israel. And for a long time he was a wise and good king, whose wisdom made him famous and whose kingdom was so prosperous that he was able to build an amazing Temple to God. However, when Solomon became an old man, he started letting his foreign wives—who worshipped other gods—influence him and he started also worshiping those gods.

As you know, “Have no other gods before God” is literally the first commandment, so needless to say God wasn’t happy with Solomon. God told Solomon that he would not punish Solomon during his life—out of respect to his father David—but after Solomon died, God would divide Israel, so that most of Israel went to another royal line, and only one tribe would be left to the child of Solomon to rule.

Today we’re going to pick up right after Solomon’s sin but right before Solomon dies. So please open your Bibles to 1 Kings 11:26-28.

26 Jeroboam son of Nebat, an Ephraimite of Zeredah, a servant of Solomon, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow, rebelled against the king. 27 The following was the reason he rebelled against the king. Solomon built the Millo, and closed up the gap in the wall[a] of the city of his father David. 28 The man Jeroboam was very able, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious he gave him charge over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.

Here we are introduced to Jeroboam. We’re told several things here at our introduction to him. He’s an Ephraimite, which means he is an Israelite of the house of Ephraim—one of the landed twelve tribes of Israel. Ephraim’s name may not be familiar to you from the list of the names of Jacob’s sons, and that’s because Ephraim was a son of Joseph. Because Joseph as so awesome, his two sons basically each have a tribe named after them. Which is why later it says he’s put in charge of the house of Joseph. Ephraim and Joseph, for our purposes here are the same thing. We’re also told right off the bat that he rebelled against Solomon, and the following verses are going to be the story of that rebellion. However, in contrast to that rebellion we’re told that he was a capable and industrious young man, which is why Solomon trusted him and put him in charge of things, and I imagine what put him in such a good place to rebel. It takes a good leader to get a nearly successful rebellion off the ground—as we saw with David.

Alright so let’s read Jeroboam’s story and see how he rebelled. Someone please read 1 Kings 11:29-40.

29 About that time, when Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Ahijah had clothed himself with a new garment. The two of them were alone in the open country 30 when Ahijah laid hold of the new garment he was wearing and tore it into twelve pieces. 31 He then said to Jeroboam: Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, “See, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon, and will give you ten tribes. 32 One tribe will remain his, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel. 33 This is because he has[a] forsaken me, worshiped Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of Moab, and Milcom the god of the Ammonites, and has[b] not walked in my ways, doing what is right in my sight and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, as his father David did. 34 Nevertheless I will not take the whole kingdom away from him but will make him ruler all the days of his life, for the sake of my servant David whom I chose and who did keep my commandments and my statutes; 35 but I will take the kingdom away from his son and give it to you—that is, the ten tribes. 36 Yet to his son I will give one tribe, so that my servant David may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I have chosen to put my name. 37 I will take you, and you shall reign over all that your soul desires; you shall be king over Israel. 38 If you will listen to all that I command you, walk in my ways, and do what is right in my sight by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you, and will build you an enduring house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you. 39 For this reason I will punish the descendants of David, but not forever.” 40 Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam promptly fled to Egypt, to King Shishak of Egypt, and remained in Egypt until the death of Solomon.

There is a lot in here and some of it is repetitive of what we already know, but let’s break it down. Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem one day—probably minding his own business—when a prophet of the Lord tracked him down. This prophet is named Ahijad. They’re in the middle of nowhere when Ahijad tears off a part of his robe and tears it into twelve pieces. He gives ten to Jeroboam. And then for clarity, he tells Jeroboam exactly why he’s doing this and what it means.

God is taking the kingdom out of Solomon’s family’s hands. He is giving ten tribes to Jeroboam and leaving Solomon one as punishment for Solomon’s sin. Now a couple of things here: why are only eleven tribes being accounted for here? Jeroboam gets ten and Solomon gets one doesn’t add up to twelve. That’s because the tribe of Levi is not a landed tribe that any king rules. They are a tribe of priests and the priests would continue to serve both sides. The second thing is…why is God leaving Solomon anything after such a great sin? Well Ahijad explains it—God made a promise to David, a promise that his house would rule forever. If he takes away all the tribes from Solomon literally one generation after David’s death that makes it sort of seem like God is backing out of his promise. So because God made this promise to David, Solomon’s line would continue but it would continue in a weakened and less powerful state—ruling only one tribe of Israel. This is for David’s benefit—not Solomon’s.

Jeroboam will be king of the rest of Israel. And if he walks with God, his house will endure—not necessarily forever, this isn’t the same level of promise God gave David, but it will succeed.

Though God also makes it clear that this punishment for the descendants of David is not forever, so there is hope that Israel could be reunited under an heir of David.

In this section the author is writing things in way that would make a close reader of the text remember David and how very similar David and Jeroboam are in these situations. David was the rebel against the established king Saul. Jeroboam is the rebel against the established king Solomon. And in both cases, the established king wants to kill the new king.

What I find interesting is that the beginning of the section called this a Rebellion, and we don’t actually see Jeroboam inciting any rebellion in this section. However, claiming to be a new king would be viewed as rebellious and it’s no wonder that Solomon—the current king would want to kill him.

So Jeroboam flees to Egypt, where he remains until Solomon dies.

As we know Solomon does die. So what happens next? His son would expect to be king of everything after him right? But we know God has made this promise to Jeroboam. So how are things going to fall out? Is Jeroboam going to wage war against Solomon’s son—whose name happens to be Rehoboam? Are we going to have another civil war on our hands? Well let’s see. Someone please read 1 Kings 12:1-5.

12 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from[a] Egypt. 3 And they sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, 4 “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke that he placed on us, and we will serve you.” 5 He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.

So Rehoboam is the son of Solomon and the person who should be king after Solomon. He goes to this city called Shechem to be made king, and like everyone from Israel comes there to see. Even Jeroboam, who had been living in Egypt up to this point, comes to Shechem. While this gathering is taking place, the people bring an issue to their new king. They say, “Hey, while Solomon was king, he put a lot of taxes on us. If you could lighten that, we would be so grateful and would serve you happily.”

This just goes to show that humans have been complaining about taxes for as long as their have been governments taxing people!

Anyway, Rehoboam is like, “Hmm, I need to think about this request. Can I have three days?”

And everyone is like, “That seems completely reasonable.” After all, it’s wise for a king to think on things before making a decision.

Now someone please read 1 Kings 12:6-11.

6 Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the older men who had attended his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” 7 They answered him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he disregarded the advice that the older men gave him, and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and now attended him. 9 He said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus you should say to this people who spoke to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you must lighten it for us’; thus you should say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11 Now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”

So Rehoboam goes back and asks two sets of advisors what he should. The first group he asks are some older men who advise his father, Solomon. They say to him that if he lightens the people’s taxes and burdens now, they will view him favorably and be loyal to him forever. Rehoboam then goes to a group of men his own age and asks and they’re like, “Dude, you’re king and they’re your subjects. They have to do what you say. You should be like, “You thought my father was tough! I’m tougher! I’m going to be the toughest guy you have ever known!”

Now a few things on this, as a king it is a good idea to get advise from multiple parties and take in many points of views. In a modern democracy, it’s good to get perspectives of all your constituents—old and young and way that make a decision, because everyone has equal rights under the law if you’re an adult—whether you’re 18 or 100. But as we’ve talked about before, the main difference between young people and older people is life experience and wisdom. These former advisors of Solomon had served under an incredibly wise king and had a lot of experience dealing with the Israelites. These new young advisors on the other hand were mostly concerned with seeming tough—for some reason that’s what they thought a king should be—tough.

Out of these two choices, which one do you think Rehoboam should have chosen? [Let them answer.]

Well let’s see what he picks. Someone please read 1 Kings 12:12-15.

12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had said, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 The king answered the people harshly. He disregarded the advice that the older men had given him 14 and spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, because it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat.

After three days everyone comes back to listen and hear what the king has decided. And Rehoboam decides to go with the advice of his young friends over the advice of the older and wiser advisors. Rehoboam tells the people he is going to be tougher and harder than his father before them.

And the writer of Kings foreshadows in the next section how the people are going to handle this—because he says that the reason Rehoboam chose poorly was so that God’s words could be fulfilled and Israel could be split so that Jeroboam could be king of ten tribes.

That seems to indicate things aren’t going to go well.

Someone please read 1 Kings 12:16-19.

16 When all Israel saw that the king would not listen to them, the people answered the king,

“What share do we have in David?
    We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
    Look now to your own house, O David.”

So Israel went away to their tents. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah. 18 When King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam then hurriedly mounted his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.

The people are distressed by Rehoboam’s refusal to listen to them. They feel like the house of David has betrayed them. So when Rehoboam sends out his tax collecter—well the people aren’t happen with him and they kill him.

A few things on this section—it says that Adoram was in charge of forced labor. Forced labor was one of the ways people paid taxes back then. Instead of paying money, you would have to come and work on basically national projects for a while. So if you were normally a carpenter who charged money for your work, every once in a while the king would come and basically say “You need to serve me for free for a while.”

This is basically how Solomon got the Temple and Palace built, which is why I imagine people thought things were really hard under him—because of all the work they had to do.

So when it came time for this guy Adoram to round the people up, the people said no, and they killed him by a method called stoning. Stoning is basically when you throw rocks at a person until they die. And I don’t mean little pebbles. I mean like big rocks. That was a pretty common communal method of killing someone back then.

Killing an agent of the king like this is basically full-on rebellion.

It’s a fine line kings and rulers walk, because sometimes you have to make people do things they don’t want to do for the common good, but if you push people too far they will fight back. We see this all over history. It’s one of the reasons why the French Revolution happened—common people were literally starving to death while the nobility were having lavish decadent parties. If a ruler pushes people to hard, they will revolt.

And that’s what happens to Rehoboam here.

Someone please read 1 Kings 12:20-24.

 20 When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was no one who followed the house of David, except the tribe of Judah alone.

21 When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, one hundred eighty thousand chosen troops to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 Say to King Rehoboam of Judah, son of Solomon, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 “Thus says the Lord, You shall not go up or fight against your kindred the people of Israel. Let everyone go home, for this thing is from me.” So they heeded the word of the Lord and went home again, according to the word of the Lord.

So all these people are really dissatisfied and unhappy with Rehoboam. And when they hear Jeroboam is back in town, they basically all just say “To heck with Rehoboam, Jeroboam is our king now.”

Rehoboam is not happy about this. He gathers all of the men of Judah and Benjamin to go fight against Jeroboam—which is literally like the rest of Israel—way more men. But then God sends a messenger to Rehoboam and is like, “No. You’re not going to war with this guy. This was my decision. Israel will be split now. And that’s just the way it’s going to be.”

And Rehoboam listens and there is no war between the two leaders of this new split Israel.

From now going forward in the Bible there are going to be two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom, often known as just Israel, and the Southern kingdom, often known as just Judah. Most of Israel is in the Northern Kingdom, and the Southern Kingdom is all of Judah and some of Benjamin. We will never see a united Israel, containing all of the tribes, that is self-ruled ever again.

Israel is split forever more, and the glory days of David and Solomon are gone. From this story forth these two kingdoms are separated, and at the mercy of some good kings and a lot of bad kings, and even further on we’ll see Israel wiped off the map by invaders, and the how Hebrew identity called into question as these people are exiled from the land they believe God promised them.

It’s a rough road ahead.

Solomon Makes Mistakes

Last week we began a discussion on Solomon. If you’ll remember Solomon was David’s son who became king after him. And when Solomon became king, God gave him a chance to ask for anything he wanted and Solomon asked for wisdom.

Word of Solomon’s wisdom spread everywhere, and Solomon became famous for his wisdom. Even a foreign queen came to see him and test his wisdom, and she left impressed.

But the purpose of Solomon’s wisdom wasn’t to make Solomon famous. It was to bring glory to God. And Solomon hadn’t lost sight of that. Let’s open our Bibles and flip to 2 Chronicles.

Someone please read 2 Chronicles 2:1-2.

2 [a] Solomon decided to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself. 2 [b] Solomon conscripted seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, with three thousand six hundred to oversee them.

Solomon decided to build a temple. If you’ll remember, at this point in the Bible, there is no temple for God. Instead there is the Tabernacle, which is basically like a tent version of the temple.

Now David had wanted to build a temple for God. But God told him no that he couldn’t. Instead his son would do so. And that’s exactly what is happening here. Solomon, David’s son, is building a temple to God.

Someone read 2 Chronicles 2:3-6.

3 Solomon sent word to King Huram of Tyre: “Once you dealt with my father David and sent him cedar to build himself a house to live in. 4 I am now about to build a house for the name of the Lord my God and dedicate it to him for offering fragrant incense before him, and for the regular offering of the rows of bread, and for burnt offerings morning and evening, on the sabbaths and the new moons and the appointed festivals of the Lord our God, as ordained forever for Israel. 5 The house that I am about to build will be great, for our God is greater than other gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

Solomon wants to build a temple for God not because it makes him great or Israel great but to show how great God is. You have to understand that back then, people built all sorts of buildings and temples to their gods. And here were the Hebrews, claiming their God was the best of all the gods, and yet…there God only had a tent? That sort of thing would definitely make people of other cultures question the awesomeness of the Hebrew God. Why would a God who is so awesome allow his people to worship him in a tent?

We know it’s because that is how God planned it, that the tent was so that the people had a place to worship while they wandered in the wilderness. But now that Israel is a secure solid nation, it was time for Solomon to build a permanent, not moving Temple in the promised land, a place where they can keep the Ark of the Covenant and offer sacrifices to God.

If the Hebrews are God’s chosen people, and Israel the land God gave them, it’s about time—in their minds—that God would have his own great house in Israel.

Solomon recognizes that anything they build on earth cannot compare to heaven and while it will be viewed as God’s house, it cannot actually contain God. He knows that he cannot built anything beautiful and wonderful enough to actually do justice to God. But he sure can try. So he hires all the best workers and artisans, the best carpenters and metal workers who are famous for their abilities and art. And they will help him make the Temple the most people place in the world.

Solomon put so much effort and care into building the temple that it takes him twenty-years to build it. Twenty-years! It was a massive construction effort and obviously they didn’t have all the technology we have to make it easy. They would have had to do everything by hand. Which is why it took so long.

Can someone please read 2 Chronicles 5:1-10?

5 Thus all the work that Solomon did for the house of the Lord was finished. Solomon brought in the things that his father David had dedicated, and stored the silver, the gold, and all the vessels in the treasuries of the house of God.

2 Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes, the leaders of the ancestral houses of the people of Israel, in Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of the city of David, which is Zion. 3 And all the Israelites assembled before the king at the festival that is in the seventh month. 4 And all the elders of Israel came, and the Levites carried the ark. 5 So they brought up the ark, the tent of meeting, and all the holy vessels that were in the tent; the priests and the Levites brought them up. 6 King Solomon and all the congregation of Israel, who had assembled before him, were before the ark, sacrificing so many sheep and oxen that they could not be numbered or counted. 7 Then the priests brought the ark of the covenant of the Lord to its place, in the inner sanctuary of the house, in the most holy place, underneath the wings of the cherubim. 8 For the cherubim spread out their wings over the place of the ark, so that the cherubim made a covering above the ark and its poles. 9 The poles were so long that the ends of the poles were seen from the holy place in front of the inner sanctuary; but they could not be seen from outside; they are there to this day. 10 There was nothing in the ark except the two tablets that Moses put there at Horeb, where the Lord made a covenant[a] with the people of Israel after they came out of Egypt.

So the temple is finally done and Solomon gathers all the leaders of Israel: the elders and the heads of the tribe to the city so that they can be there for the Ark of the Covenant to be brought into the Temple. This is a big deal. Because the Ark of the Covenant symbolizes God’s presence and the Temple is supposed to be God’s house, so it’s important that the thing that symbolizes God actually live in God’s house. But as we’ve already studied moving the Ark of the Covenant about is not an easy task. Only certain people can touch it or move it. So they sacrifice many animals as they do this movement. And finally the ark is placed in the heart of the temple, the area called the holy of holies, where no one can go except the high priests.

When the ark is inside, Solomon dedicates the temple by speaking to everyone gathered. Let’s see what Solomon says. Someone please read 2 Chronicles 6:1-11.

6 Then Solomon said, “The Lord has said that he would reside in thick darkness. 2 I have built you an exalted house, a place for you to reside in forever.”

3 Then the king turned around and blessed all the assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel stood. 4 And he said, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to my father David, saying, 5 ‘Since the day that I brought my people out of the land of Egypt, I have not chosen a city from any of the tribes of Israel in which to build a house, so that my name might be there, and I chose no one as ruler over my people Israel; 6 but I have chosen Jerusalem in order that my name may be there, and I have chosen David to be over my people Israel.’ 7 My father David had it in mind to build a house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 8 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘You did well to consider building a house for my name; 9 nevertheless you shall not build the house, but your son who shall be born to you shall build the house for my name.’ 10 Now the Lord has fulfilled his promise that he made; for I have succeeded my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised, and have built the house for the name of the Lord, the God of Israel. 11 There I have set the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord that he made with the people of Israel.”

Solomon praises God before all the people and reminds them of the history that has brought them here. That God chose David to rule them and chose Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And that David had been the one who wanted to build the house, but God said it would be David’s son who would do it.

The next thing Solomon does is pray before everyone, praising God for his awesomeness and his faithfulness to Israel. He points out that even when Israel hasn’t been faithful to God, God has been there for them. Someone please read 2 Chronicles 6:41-42.


“Now rise up, O Lord God, and go to your resting place,
    you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation,
    and let your faithful rejoice in your goodness.
42 O Lord God, do not reject your anointed one.
    Remember your steadfast love for your servant David.”

This is how Solomon ends his prayer, by basically invited God into the temple to live and to not reject them but rather remember his love for David and the promise he has made David.

And God it seems likes Solomon’s prayer because he appears to Solomon again! Someone read 2 Chronicles 7:12-22.

12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. 16 For now I have chosen and consecrated this house so that my name may be there forever; my eyes and my heart will be there for all time. 17 As for you, if you walk before me, as your father David walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my ordinances, 18 then I will establish your royal throne, as I made covenant with your father David saying, ‘You shall never lack a successor to rule over Israel.’ 19 “But if you[a] turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them, 20 then I will pluck you[b] up from the land that I have given you;[c] and this house, which I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples. 21 And regarding this house, now exalted, everyone passing by will be astonished, and say, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this land and to this house?’ 22 Then they will say, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord the God of their ancestors who brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods, and worshiped them and served them; therefore he has brought all this calamity upon them.’”

Basically God starts out by telling Solomon that he accepts the invitation to make the temple his. He also tells them that as long as the people of the land are faithful, as long as the people of Israel follow God and pray and seek him, he will hear and forgive them.

He also reminds Solomon that his faithfulness is also important. That if like David, he follows God, then Solomon need not worry about being dethroned. And he reminds him of the covenant he made with David, that Israel will always have a king of the line of David.

And God doesn’t just end there. He decides Solomon needs a more firm warning. He basically warns him that if Solomon turns away from God, if he worships other Gods, that he will punish Solomon and it will be seen by the temple, that people will only speak of the temple in whispers and warnings.

Remember 2 Chronicles was written after the exile and Solomon’s temple was destroyed, so this section is alluding to that. It’s basically alluding to the idea that if Israel and the temple are destroyed, people will be shocked and wonder why God allowed it. But the answer is God allowed it because they turned away from him and worshiped other gods.

And this issue of worshiping foreign gods, is actually going to be an issue soon. Because Solomon has a weakness, and that weakness is his wives.

Alright everyone let’s turn back to 1 Kings. Someone please read 1 Kings 11:1-4.

11 King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, 2 from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the Israelites, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you; for they will surely incline your heart to follow their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. 3 Among his wives were seven hundred princesses and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For when Solomon was old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David.

We talked about last week how Solomon married pharaoh’s daughter. And that wasn’t the only foreign woman he married.

Marrying foreign women is a problem not because the people group they come from, but because they don’t worship God—they would have their own religions. This law against marrying foreign women is actually in the Torah, the Law. Someone flip to Deuteronomy 7:3-5 and please read that verse.

3 Do not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for that would turn away your children from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. 5 But this is how you must deal with them: break down their altars, smash their pillars, hew down their sacred poles,[a] and burn their idols with fire.

This law forbids the Israelites from marrying foreigners, but we’ve already seen that that’s not always followed. Rahab and Ruth, both of these women were foreigners. But what this verse is particularly concerned about is not so much marrying foreign people but marrying people who serve different gods. Rahab and Ruth both recognized the authority of God and turned to God, essentially converting. The concern of this law is that the people of God would turn away from him because of the influence of spouses can have over each other. If your spouse worships a foreign god, you might be tempted to as well.

A quick aside here: as I’ve said the issue here isn’t really marrying foreign people, it’s marrying people who worship other gods. So here’s a question. Does this rule still apply to us today? As Christians? Should Christians marry non-Christians?

Well legally in America obviously you can. You can marry almost anyone you want legally. But what does the New Testament say about this? Turns out, Paul—who wrote many books of the New Testament—had an opinion on this very topic! So someone please read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

14 Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? 15 What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we[b] are the temple of the living God; as God said,

“I will live in them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore come out from them,
    and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
    then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be your father,
    and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”

 

“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers.” The more common way you may here this is “don’t be unequally yoked.” So what is Paul saying here. He’s saying that if you are a believer and follower of God and you marry someone who isn’t, you’re mismatched. Because you can’t and won’t be able to share everything with them.

A non-Christian won’t want to come to church with you. A non-Christian might think when you pray that it’s silly. A non-Christian won’t encourage you to follow God. And this makes a relationship hard. Marriage can be hard enough without adding in a religious mismatch in the mix!

But Paul also reminds us here that there is no temple like the one Solomon built anymore, now we—Christians—are the temple of God. And if we’re a temple of God, we should keep ourselves holy and that involves keeping ourselves separate.

That said, Paul does say in another section of the Bible that if you happen to be married, and your spouse is not a believer, that is not a reason to get divorced.

So if you marry outside the faith that is between you and God, but remember that when it comes to picking a future spouse it’s very important that you guys have similar values and beliefs.

Back to Solomon: Solomon marrying foreign wives is a good political move because it binds him more closely to his neighboring countries, makes them allies instead of enemies. However, it’s simultaneously a good political move and an iffy spiritual move. But since the intent of this law is that he not start worshiping other gods. So if Solomon married these women but continued to worship God unhindered it wouldn’t really be a problem.

And Solomon falls prey to this. As he ages and gets older, his heart starts turning away from God and towards these gods that his young cute wives worship.

I’d also like to point out it says he had 700 wives and 300 concubines. So as we’ve discussed before a concubine is just like a lower class wife. So in total, Solomon had 1000 women at his beck and call. That is a lot of wives. And while some of them I’m sure were only for political reasons, it shows that Solomon has a weakness for women and the fact that his heart starts turning away from God, shows he’s letting these women influence him in ways he shouldn’t.

Someone please read 1 Kings 11:5-8.

5 For Solomon followed Astarte the goddess of the Sidonians, and Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not completely follow the Lord, as his father David had done. 7 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. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who offered incense and sacrificed to their gods.

These verses point out the foreign gods Solomon starts worshiping. He even builds a few of these foreign gods their own little alters in the hills. It says he basically builds an alter for a god for each of his wives’ gods! That’s a lot of gods. So yes Solomon had built a Temple to God and that is a great and remarkable act, but he also started building alters for other gods! That goes directly against the first commandment, not to worship any other gods other than God.

Also a slight aside. You’ll notice it never says Solomon starts disbelieving in God while he’s also worshiping these other gods. Nowadays that’s kind of a crazy idea. Most people believe their gods are true and no one else’s are. But people didn’t believe that back then. Your average Israelite thought everyone else’s gods were real too. It was just that the Hebrew God was the greatest God there was, more powerful and awesome than all the other gods. This is called “monolatry” which means the worship of one god without the denial of the existence of other gods.

That idea is kind of foreign to us now. We believe our God is true and real, and that there are no other gods. But people didn’t have that concept back then. Which is why Solomon didn’t have a problem with worshiping these foreign gods. To him they were real.

The problem with it is that worshiping other gods is directly forbidden by the Hebrew God. That’s literally the first and probably most important commandment. Don’t worship any other gods! And here Solomon is breaking it. Do you guys think God will be happy about this?

Nope. Definitely not. Someone please read 1 Kings 11:9-13.

9 Then the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, 10 and had commanded him concerning this matter, that he should not follow other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord commanded. 11 Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and give it to your servant. 12 Yet for the sake of your father David I will not do it in your lifetime; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 I will not, however, tear away the entire kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.”

God is angry with Solomon for worshiping other gods. Solomon is failing to keep David’s covenant with God, that as long as David’s descendants worship God then things will be fine in Israel. And God isn’t quite about it. He tells Solomon that because his heart has turned away from God, Israel will be torn apart. He says the only reason why it won’t happen in Solomon’s lifetime is because of David. But after Solomon dies God will tear Israel apart, and Solomon’s son will only have one of the twelve tribes of Israel to rule over. The rest of the tribes will be left to their own devices. This is ominous, and we’re going to see that after Solomon dies the kingdom gets split into two: Judah and Israel. And Solomon’s son is the king of Judah but not Israel.

The mighty nation that Solomon was king of will be no more. Torn apart. Because of Solomon’s sin.

Alright someone please read 1 Kings 11:41-43.

41 Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did as well as his wisdom, are they not written in the Book of the Acts of Solomon? 42 The time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 Solomon slept with his ancestors and was buried in the city of his father David; and his son Rehoboam succeeded him.

Solomon rules for 40 years and then dies an old man. And that’s the end of the story of the Solomon. He was an extremely wise man, who compiled three books of the Bible, and made Israel wealthy and grand. But in his old age he turned from God, and so Solomon’s legacy will be mixed. A legacy of wisdom tainted by his sin that will tear Israel apart.

 

Solomon the Wise

Icebreaker question: If you could ask God for anything—anything!—and know he would grant it, what would it be?

When we last left off, David had died and Solomon, his son with Bathsheba was made King of Israel. When David became king it was a kingdom in turmoil, one that was coming fresh off a civil war. But David spent his entire time as king making a united Israel, and he succeeded! So when Solomon became king it was the king of an already united and prosperous Israel.

Today we’re going to study Solomon and the success and failure of his time as king. So go get your Bibles and open them up to 1 Kings.

Someone please read 1 Kings 3:1-2.

3 Solomon made a marriage alliance with Pharaoh king of Egypt; he took Pharaoh’s daughter and brought her into the city of David, until he had finished building his own house and the house of the Lord and the wall around Jerusalem. 2 The people were sacrificing at the high places, however, because no house had yet been built for the name of the Lord.

This seems like really random two verses to start off the story of Solomon as king, but these verses show how amazing Israel has become, Egypt was the superpower of the ancient world. What does that mean: superpower? Well that word was developed during the Cold War to explain the amount of power that the United States and the Soviet Union had. Basically, the United States and the Soviet Union were the two most influential countries in the world, and their influence stretched into almost every country in the world. That was Egypt back in this time period. A huge united nation whose influence extended to every nation or people group on the Mediterranean.

For the Pharaoh of Egypt to make a marriage alliance with Israel, basically means that Egypt was recognizing Israel—not as an equal but as a somebody. Whereas before Israel was a nobody, not worthy of recognition on the international scale. Now Israel was worthy of making alliances with. So this was basically a sign that Israel was a player—not a powerful player, but a moderate player in this ancient world.

For now someone please read 1 Kings 3:3-9.

3 Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. 4 The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” 6 And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. 7 And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. 8 And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. 9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

At this point, Solomon is definitely not falling prey to idolatry—that is the worship of other gods—and he loves God and worships him and wants to be a good and godly man like his father David. Solomon goes to a holy place to worship and sacrifice and while he’s there, God appears to him! And then God says that Solomon can ask for whatever he wants, anything, and God will give it to him.

Imagine that! I asked you guys this at the beginning of the class, if you could ask God anything what would you ask for. When faced with a question like this, some people ask for stuff—like money or a house or some item they’ve wanted their whole lives. Some people ask for status, like fame or power. Some people ask for things like happiness and contentment and even faithfulness.

Solomon could ask for anything: the security of Israel, his own personal happiness, health, wealth, anything. And what does he ask for?

An understanding mind that is able to discern between good and evil. In simpler terms, he asks for wisdom.

It can be confusing to understanding what exactly wisdom is. Solomon calls it an understanding mind with the ability to discern between good and evil. From that we can see that wisdom is more than just knowing stuff. It’s the ability to discern.

There’s a saying that you may have heard: “Knowledge is knotting that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.”

That’s what Solomon wants. He wants to make good choices, so he can be a better leader for his people. Frankly, the request for wisdom is an incredibly wise choice.

Someone please read 1 Kings 3:10-14.

10 It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. 11 God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. 14 If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.”

Solomon’s request for wisdom pleases God, because Solomon could have asked for any selfish thing he wanted—health, wealth, the death of his enemies, and instead he asks for something more esoteric—wisdom—but something that will help him both be a better king and a better follower of God. So God grants it to him.

Solomon’s wisdom is then almost immediately put to the test. Someone please read 1 Kings 3:16-22.

16 Later, two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Please, my lord, this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth while she was in the house. 18 Then on the third day after I gave birth, this woman also gave birth. We were together; there was no one else with us in the house, only the two of us were in the house. 19 Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 She got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant slept. She laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I rose in the morning to nurse my son, I saw that he was dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, clearly it was not the son I had borne.” 22 But the other woman said, “No, the living son is mine, and the dead son is yours.” The first said, “No, the dead son is yours, and the living son is mine.” So they argued before the king.

Two women come to the king for judgement. The Bible says they are prostitutes which is important to the situation for two reasons. (1) Their fight is over who should have custody of this baby. Since they are prostitutes, they have no husbands. So the baby is illegitimate and has no father to fight for the custody of the baby. But we’ve also talked about how women were not considered reliable witnesses during this time. So if one of them was a married woman with a husband making a claim against an unmarried woman? The married woman would probably just automatically win because her husband’s testimony would hold greater wait than the testimony of either woman. Which is terrible but the way it was back then. The second reason why this is important is because they were prostitutes working in the same house and gave birth at the same time. There were no hospitals back then. So if these women were part of standard families, they would have just given birth at home. This minimizes your switched at birth scenario, because you would probably be the only one giving birth in your home. Instead they gave birth in their home which also happens to be their place of work, where they both live and work.

So they both give birth on the same night. One woman’s child dies and the other lived. One woman claims her baby lived and the others died, but the other woman got up in the middle of the night and switched the living baby with the dead baby, essentially stealing the living baby.

The other woman says that didn’t happen, and the first woman is just suffering a delusion from her trauma of losing a baby.

This is a hard situation to figure it out. It’s not like they had genetic tests back then. And no one saw what happened. So how does this wise king decide which woman should get to keep this baby? Well let’s see, someone read 1 Kings 3:23-28.

23 Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; while the other says, ‘Not so! Your son is dead, and my son is the living one.’” 24 So the king said, “Bring me a sword,” and they brought a sword before the king. 25 The king said, “Divide the living boy in two; then give half to the one, and half to the other.” 26 But the woman whose son was alive said to the king—because compassion for her son burned within her—“Please, my lord, give her the living boy; certainly do not kill him!” The other said, “It shall be neither mine nor yours; divide it.” 27 Then the king responded: “Give the first woman the living boy; do not kill him. She is his mother.” 28 All Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered; and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him, to execute justice.

Basically Solomon is like “This is a she-said she-said situation!” With no extra witnesses there is no way to validate which woman is right. So he goes for a drastic method. He says he will cut the baby in two and give each woman half—basically killing the baby.

But the woman whose son it actually is doesn’t want her baby to die! So she says “No, give the other woman the baby, as long as he lives!” And the other woman is like “meh.” And Solomon says that it is obviously the woman who is willing to give up her son that he may live who is the mother, because she loved him so dearly she would give him up rather than he die. Whereas the other woman was like “whatever, just kill him.” Which seems really awful, but you have to remember this other woman already lost her baby. And she sees the first woman with a baby, a baby she wants, and she’s probably really upset and in a dark place and thinking awful thoughts like “Rather none of us have him than the other woman rub her happiness in my face.”

So Solomon wisely decides that the woman who offered to give up her baby is the true mother, and gives the baby to that woman.

And word of this decision spreads everywhere and people are amazed at the King’s ability to make these sort of really hard decisions.

Someone please read 1 Kings 4:20-28.

20 Judah and Israel were as numerous as the sand by the sea; they ate and drank and were happy. 21 Solomon was sovereign over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines, even to the border of Egypt; they brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

22 Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors of choice flour, and sixty cors of meal, 23 ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, one hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fatted fowl. 24 For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates; and he had peace on all sides. 25 During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel lived in safety, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all of them under their vines and fig trees. 26 Solomon also had forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen. 27 Those officials supplied provisions for King Solomon and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month; they let nothing be lacking. 28 They also brought to the required place barley and straw for the horses and swift steeds, each according to his charge.

The whole point of this section is that Israel is doing extremely well under Solomon. Their population is increasing because they have food and are happy and for once aren’t worrying about being attacked by the Philistines or the Egyptians or anyone. This is a first for Israel, it really is. To be this prosperous and to live without fear and to flourish! It’s remarkable.

Someone please read 1 Kings 4:29-34.

29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, children of Mahol; his fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed three thousand proverbs, and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in the Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish. 34 People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.

Solomon’s wisdom surpasses the wisdom of everyone else in the ancient world, and people come from far and wide to hear Solomon’s wisdom. In fact Solomon is so wise that tradition holds that Solomon either wrote or compiled the book of Proverbs, and the book of Ecclesiastes, and the book Song of Solomon. That’s at least three books of the Bible, which is really impressive.

Things are on the up and up for Solomon and Israel.

Now a little bit of a tangent, I’m about to need you guys to flip ahead away from Kings to 2 Chronicles. I want to have a little aside here about Samuel and Kings versus Chronicles.

1 and 2 Chronicles tells the same story as 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. Instead of covering it in four books of the Bible, it’s a little denser and covers it in two. But why? Do we really need a second set of books that describes Saul becoming King and then David and then Solomon and then all the chaos that follows? Why do we have these two different sequences that describe the same sequence of events?

Well, these books of the Bible were not written at the same time. Samuel and Kings were written a lot closer to the actual events that they’re describing. Chronicles was written much later. In fact, while in the Christian ordering of the Bible Chronicles comes right after Kings, the Jewish Bible actually places 1 and 2 Chronicles as the last two books. And I actually prefer the Jewish order. When Christians read the Bible they’re like “ugh, I have to read everything that just happened all over again? Lame.” But that’s not what’s happening here.

We’ve talked about how God promised David that his line would sit on Israel’s throne forever. We’ve talked about how that didn’t happen, at least it didn’t manifest in the way they thought it would. When Samuel and Kings were written, the idea of a son of David getting on the throne of Israel was still a reasonable thing. Israel could still come back and be a nation again with a Davidic King.

When Chronicles was written it was after the exile, a people who had no king anymore. A people who had been exiled and felt like God had left them.

Samuel/Kings and Chronicles are written from vastly different perspectives. And because they have different perspectives they emphasize different things.

It’s amazing how you can change a story’s meaning by emphasizing different things, by leaving some things out and stressing a particular section. You guys may have heard of “bad descriptions of movies.” This is a perfect example.

What movie am I describing? “A girl travels to a strange land, kills the first person she encounters and then gangs up with three strangers to kill her first victim’s sister.”

[Let them answer.]

The Wizard of Oz.

Nothing I said was untrue. Dorothy travels to a strange land, her house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her, and then she makes friends with the cowardly lion, the scarecrow, and the tin man. And then in the end she kills the Wicked Witch of the West. I described the same sequence of events, but with my word choice I made it more sinister.

For a more historical example, you can take the example of the American Revolution and the Founding fathers. There are a ridiculous amount of books and documentaries about the Founding Fathers, all based on the same facts. But depending on which one you read, you get a very different perspective. In the HBO documentary about John Adams, Alexander Hamilton is viewed as so unimportant he’s only ever shown as writing in the background at Washington’s secretary desk. Other than that he’s never addressed, because from John Adams perspective Hamilton was a pretender and didn’t deserve a single ounce of credit.

From the perspective of the musical Hamilton—and the biography it’s based on—Alexander Hamilton might as well have singlehandedly founded America.

These are the same sequence events. These are the same story. But told from different perspectives and emphasizing different aspects of it.

Chronicles was written for a different audience and a different purpose than Samuel and Kings. Samuel and Kings is talking about recent history to people who remember or know this recent history. Samuel and Kings are trying to explain why God’s people—after generations of ruling themselves and having kings, went into exile. Chronicles is trying to explain that there is still hope, that God hasn’t abandoned them, even though it seems like they will never go back to a Davidic kingdom ever again.

That’s actually why I think ending on Chronicles would be so powerful for Christians, instead of reading them right in order. Because then we are reminded right before we might Jesus of the promise God made David, and then we see immediately how God fulfills that promise through Jesus!

But for whatever reason the people who decided how to order the Bible decided they wanted all the histories right in a row, and putting Chronicles last didn’t fit with that.

But back to Solomon and his super duper impressive wisdom. Someone flip to 2 Chronicles 9:1-9.

9 When the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions, having a very great retinue and camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. When she came to Solomon, she discussed with him all that was on her mind. 2 Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from Solomon that he could not explain to her. 3 When the queen of Sheba had observed the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, 4 the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, and their clothing, his valets, and their clothing, and his burnt offerings[a] that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more spirit left in her.

 So she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your accomplishments and of your wisdom, 6 but I did not believe the[b] reports until I came and my own eyes saw it. Not even half of the greatness of your wisdom had been told to me; you far surpass the report that I had heard. 7 Happy are your people! Happy are these your servants, who continually attend you and hear your wisdom! 8 Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the Lord your God. Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 9 Then she gave the king one hundred twenty talents of gold, a very great quantity of spices, and precious stones: there were no spices such as those that the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.

Solomon is so famous for his wisdom that a foreign Queen comes to see him and test him with really hard questions. When she comes, Solomon is able to answer every question she has. And she is crazy impressed. She is so impressed that she gives him expensive gifts of gold, spices, and jewels.

But more than that she credits his wisdom to his God, and is basically like “your God must be amazing for you to be so amazing.”

So Solomon’s amazing wisdom is not just about magnifying himself and Israel, it’s about magnifying God.

Next week we’re going to continue discussing Solomon. We’re going to see how he further magnifies God by building him a temple, but also how Solomon lets his weaknesses get the best of him.

David and Solomon

We have been talking about David for a really long time in this class. In fact, we started the book of Samuel in September! Other than a short break in December for Advent, that’s a long time to be talking about Samuel, Saul, and David. Well today is the last story of David we’re going to study!

Last we saw David he was having some issues handling his kids. Amnon attacked his sister. Absolom killed Amnon and then tried to overthrow David and then in the end Absolom too died. That means David’s two oldest heirs, who should have been king are both dead.

So who is going to be king after David? That is the question. Please go get your Bibles and open to 1 Kings!

Someone please read 1 Kings 1:5-10.

(Note: Adonijah is pronounce ADD-eh-KNEE-jah)

5 Now Adonijah son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, “I will be king”; he prepared for himself chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 6 His father had never at any time displeased him by asking, “Why have you done thus and so?” He was also a very handsome man, and he was born next after Absalom. 7 He conferred with Joab son of Zeruiah and with the priest Abiathar, and they supported Adonijah. 8 But the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the prophet Nathan, and Shimei, and Rei, and David’s own warriors did not side with Adonijah.

9 Adonijah sacrificed sheep, oxen, and fatted cattle by the stone Zoheleth, which is beside En-rogel, and he invited all his brothers, the king’s sons, and all the royal officials of Judah, 10 but he did not invite the prophet Nathan or Benaiah or the warriors or his brother Solomon.

Adonijah is David’s fourth son. We’ve already talked about how Amnon was oldest and Absolom was third, and we don’t know what happened to David’s second son. For whatever reason, the second son is never discussed or considered in the running for the throne. So that means Adonijah, as the fourth son, is now the heir apparent for the throne of Israel.

So Adonijah starts acting like he’s going to be king, he starts acting like king already. He starts talking with generals and priests and basically preparing to be king someday. But not everyone supports Adonijah as the next king, and one of the people who doesn’t support him is Nathan—the current prophet of God. And Adonijah knows it, so when he goes to have  a party to basically celebrate how he’s going to be king someday, he invites everyone—except the people who don’t support his claim to be king, like the prophet Nathan or his brother Solomon.

Can someone please read 1 Kings 1:11-14.

11 Then Nathan said to Bathsheba, Solomon’s mother, “Have you not heard that Adonijah son of Haggith has become king and our lord David does not know it? 12 Now therefore come, let me give you advice, so that you may save your own life and the life of your son Solomon. 13 Go in at once to King David, and say to him, ‘Did you not, my lord the king, swear to your servant, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne? Why then is Adonijah king?’ 14 Then while you are still there speaking with the king, I will come in after you and confirm your words.”

Nathan is not happy about this whole Adonijah situation. So he goes to Bathsheba to devise a plan to stop this from happening. If you’ll remember Bathsheba is one of David’s wife, but she became his wife after a really horrible situation where David abused his power. A lot of the drama happening in David’s life is a punishment for his horrible abuses of power. But Bathsheba did nothing wrong, she was the victim, and she became David’s wife and had a son named Solomon. Who is now an adult and is the son of David that Nathan wants to be king after David.

Nathan says at some point David promised Solomon would be king after him. Now I couldn’t find the verse where David actually promised that, but it seems that both Nathan and Bathsheba believed David had intended Solomon to be king.

So David goes to Bathsheba and tells her to go to David and basically ask why Adonijah is going to be king instead of Solomon.

Someone please read 1 Kings 1:15-21.

15 So Bathsheba went to the king in his room. The king was very old; Abishag the Shunammite was attending the king. 16 Bathsheba bowed and did obeisance to the king, and the king said, “What do you wish?” 17 She said to him, “My lord, you swore to your servant by the Lord your God, saying: Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne. 18 But now suddenly Adonijah has become king, though you, my lord the king, do not know it. 19 He has sacrificed oxen, fatted cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the children of the king, the priest Abiathar, and Joab the commander of the army; but your servant Solomon he has not invited. 20 But you, my lord the king—the eyes of all Israel are on you to tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it will come to pass, when my lord the king sleeps with his ancestors, that my son Solomon and I will be counted offenders.”

Bathsheba goes to the king and bows before him and is basically like “hey, did you know Adonijah is going around pretending he’s going to be king? Didn’t you promise that your heir would be Solomon?” And then she basically calls David to task, saying it’s his job as king to stand up and proclaim who will be king after him. That everyone is waiting for David to do so.

She also points out that if Adonijah becomes King after David when many people knew that David had intended Solomon, Adonijah will probably kill Bathsheba and Solomon so that there is no counter claim to the throne—so that there can be no rebellion against him.

This is a pretty common practice back then, that when you become king you kill everyone else who has a claim to the throne. This is why Jonathan made David promise that he wouldn’t kill any of Jonathan’s family. Killing the other heirs family is super common. So it makes sense Bathsheba would be afraid for her and Solomon’s lives.

Alright someone please read 1 Kings 1:22-27.

22 While she was still speaking with the king, the prophet Nathan came in. 23 The king was told, “Here is the prophet Nathan.” When he came in before the king, he did obeisance to the king, with his face to the ground. 24 Nathan said, “My lord the king, have you said, ‘Adonijah shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne’? 25 For today he has gone down and has sacrificed oxen, fatted cattle, and sheep in abundance, and has invited all the king’s children, Joab the commander[a]of the army, and the priest Abiathar, who are now eating and drinking before him, and saying, ‘Long live King Adonijah!’ 26 But he did not invite me, your servant, and the priest Zadok, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and your servant Solomon. 27 Has this thing been brought about by my lord the king and you have not let your servants know who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?”

As planned, Nathan comes in while Bathsheba is talking to David. And Nathan basically underscores everything Bathsheba just said: that Adonijah is setting himself up to be king and that some of the king’s men are supporting Adonijah as king. Nathan also tells David that it is his job to declare the next king, and David is basically shirking its responsibility.

Now David of the past may just let it ride, and not actually do anything. After all the David who messed up with Amnon, Tamar, and Absolom didn’t like interfering with his children’s lives. So let’s see what David does now. Can someone read 1 Kings 1:28-31?

28 King David answered, “Summon Bathsheba to me.” So she came into the king’s presence, and stood before the king. 29 The king swore, saying, “As the Lord lives, who has saved my life from every adversity, 30 as I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘Your son Solomon shall succeed me as king, and he shall sit on my throne in my place,’ so will I do this day.” 31 Then Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground, and did obeisance to the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”

In the end however David actually listens. Before Bathsheba, Nathan, and God, he swears that Solomon shall succeeded him and be king after him. But it’s not enough for him to proclaim it to just Nathan and Bathsheba. David also needs to tell all the people. Can someone read 1 Kings 1:32-40?

32 King David said, “Summon to me the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada.” When they came before the king, 33 the king said to them, “Take with you the servants of your lord, and have my son Solomon ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon. 34 There let the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan anoint him king over Israel; then blow the trumpet, and say, ‘Long live King Solomon!’ 35 You shall go up following him. Let him enter and sit on my throne; he shall be king in my place; for I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah.” 36 Benaiah son of Jehoiada answered the king, “Amen! May the Lord, the God of my lord the king, so ordain. 37 As the Lord has been with my lord the king, so may he be with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord King David.”

38 So the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and led him to Gihon. 39 There the priest Zadok took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up following him, playing on pipes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth quaked at their noise.

David summons his men and makes a plan. He says they are to take Solomon out in the city, put him on a mule, blow a trumpet, and declare Solomon the king so that everyone knows that it is Solomon and not Adonijah will be king after David.

So these men do it, they take Solomon around on a mule and lead him around and then in the end they anoint Solomon as the next king and declare it. So now all of Israel knows that it is Solomon who has been chosen to be king.

But Adonijah hasn’t been told. How do you guys think he’s going to take this?

Well let’s see. Someone please read 1 Kings 1:41-48.

41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. When Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “Why is the city in an uproar?” 42 While he was still speaking, Jonathan son of the priest Abiathar arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and surely you bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king; 44 the king has sent with him the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they had him ride on the king’s mule; 45 the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan have anointed him king at Gihon; and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you heard. 46 Solomon now sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ The king bowed in worship on the bed 48 and went on to pray thus, ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who today has granted one of my offspring[a] to sit on my throne and permitted me to witness it.’”

This all happens while Adonijah is having his feast, but they hear the trumpets and celebrating in the city and they’re like “What is that?” A man arrives soon and tells them what happened—that David made Solomon king while Adonijah was out partying.

Someone please read 1 Kings 1:49-53.

49 Then all the guests of Adonijah got up trembling and went their own ways. 50 Adonijah, fearing Solomon, got up and went to grasp the horns of the altar. 51 Solomon was informed, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; see, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.’” 52 So Solomon responded, “If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance to King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go home.”

Adonijah and his people are terrified, because now that David has declared Solomon king before all the people, then Solomon might have Adonijah killed. Someone tells Solomon that Adonijah is afraid, but since Solomon is a good man like his father, he promises that as long as Adonijah is a good man he doesn’t have to fear anything. But if he continues in his desire to be king and works against Solomon, well then that will be a different story.

So Solomon calls Adonijah before him and tells him that and sends him home in peace.

Someone please read 1 Kings 2:1-4.

2 When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, 3 and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. 4 Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’

David is very old, so he brings Solomon before him to give him so last advice. He gives Solomon three charges: (1) Be strong. (2) Be courageous. And then finally the most important one (3) he tells Solomon to obey God. Because while God promised David’s throne to last forever, that is reliant on David’s heirs being faithful!

David also continues by advising Solomon on how to deal with the different people, so that Solomon will be set up well as king of Israel.

Now can someone read 1 Kings 2:10-12.

10 Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. 11 The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

In the end King David dies. The Bible says he ruled Israel for 40 years. And then Solomon becomes king. And unlike David, Solomon’s kingdom is not one started at war. It’s an established kingdom and all Solomon has to do is continue his father’s work and obey God and Israel will continue to flourish.

We’ll discuss next week Solomon as king, but for now I want to pause and discuss David’s legacy.

We’ve spent a lot of time on David, and that’s because Biblically he is extremely important. We’re going to see references to David over and over again. David is called over and over a “man after God’s own heart.” Despite all his sins and wrong doings, David was a man who loved God and sought him, and always asked for forgiveness when he did something wrong.

In the end we’re going to see that David’s throne doesn’t last forever. Israel is going to fall. It will be taken over by foreign nations and have no kings. But even during this time of exile, when the people of God weren’t living in their promised land and had no temple, God still promises that King David and his throne will come back. Can someone please read Ezekiel 34:23-24.

23 I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken.

This is a promise God is making to Israel, that he will set up a shepherd over them—his servant David. And David will take care of them and be their shepherd and God will be their God but David will be a prince to them.

This isn’t actually talking about God bringing David back from the dead to rule over us. When Christians read this passage, we read it God’s promise of a perfect shepherd, a perfect prince who will be brought to us, to care for us.

Not King David himself brought back from the dead, but an heir of David. And who is that? [Let them answer]

That’s right. It’s Jesus.

Someone read John 10:11. This is Jesus speaking.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 

Jesus says he’s the good shepherd, the shepherd promised to us by God.  Jesus is David’s heir, and unlike David he is perfect.

This is partly why when Jesus came people expected Jesus to be a warrior. Like King David, they expected him to be a mighty warrior who could throw out the Romans. But Jesus came to be the good shepherd who would take care of us.

And that’s why studying these old stories is so important. It gives us perspective on why people in Jesus’s time reacted to him like they did. And what promises God was meeting by sending Jesus to us.

And that’s it for this week. Next week we’ll pick it up and talk about Solomon as King of Israel, and we’ll see how well…or not…that goes.

Crash Course in Lent

Today we’re taking a break from our discussion of King David, because today we’re going to talk about the part of the church calendar that just started: Lent. Today we’re going to talk about what is Lent? What exactly do Christians do during Lent and how can you guys as youth celebrate Lent or not.

This is going to be a basic crash course in Lent. We will study all of this in far more detail when we study Jesus next year. But for now at a high level let’s talk about Lent.

At it’s most basic level Lent is very similar to Advent, in that Advent is how we count down to Christmas and Lent is how we countdown to Easter. However, other than they are both countdowns the two events are quite different. Advent is full of hopeful looking forward. Lent tends to be a little more serious.

As we studied at Christmas, the word “Advent” comes from Latin and basically means waiting for an arrival. So what does Lent mean?

Well it certainly doesn’t mean the same thing as dryer lint. In fact church lint is spelled differently, it’s L-E-N-T. Turns out lent is a shortened form of an Old English word, “Lencten” which means “springtime” or “spring.” Turns out there is also some connection to some old German words and Middle Dutch that are similar that also seem to refer to spring and the lengthening of days during spring. So Lent means Spring, which is also when Easter takes place. But it sure doesn’t make Lent seem like a special word, if it just means springtime.

Generally Lent takes place in very early spring, starting in February and ending in March or April. So you can imagine that early Christians were talking about springtime and this church event was always taking place in springtime so the two words over time just slowly became synonymous.

So why does the start of Lent and the date of Easter change every year? Does anyone know?

Well the date of Easter is dependent on the date of Passover. And Passover’s date is dictated by the Jewish calendar. In America and in a lot of world we used what is called “the Gregorian calendar.” That’s the calendar we use for every year that has the months we know, has leap ear, and all of that kind of stuff. But Judaism has its own calendar, the Hebrew calendar. Your average Jewish person is going to use the Gregorian calendar for their regular lives—work and school—but the Hebrew calendar dictates when the major Jewish holidays will be, including Passover.

Because the Hebrew calendar and Gregorian calendar don’t line up exactly, the date of Passover shifts within the Gregorian calendar.

But Christians didn’t like to be dependent on Jewish people for the date of Easter. They didn’t like to have to wait for Rabbi’s to declare when Easter is. So Christians dictated their own way of calculating when Easter should be. It’s all very complicated, and difficult to follow. It has to do with the first full moon after the equinox. If you’re really interested in it, you can google it and figure out all about calendars.

Generally, Easter is going to be the Sunday after Passover. At least that’s the generally accepted date for Western churches—like ours. “Orthodox” Churches, which is a different denomination of Christianity, have their own system for calculating when Easter is. Which makes everything more complicated because now there are two dates out there floating around for Easter.

Who’s right? It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what date we celebrate Easter. The point of Easter is to commemorate Jesus’s resurrection. And whatever day you do that on, what matters is remembering and commemorating that, not that we have the date perfectly right.

Okay so Lent means spring literally but that doesn’t tell us what it means in a church sense.

Lent is the lead-up to Easter. You’ll hear people talk about the “forty days” of Lent. 40 is a Biblically important number. During the story of Noah’s ark, the flood lasted forty days and night. The Israelites wandered in the desert for the forty years. The prophet Elijah walks for 40 days and 40 nights. The number 40 was chosen for Lent because of Jesus. Please get your Bibles and open to Matthew 4:1-11.

While you guys flip there, some context. This takes place right before Jesus starts his ministry. So for most of his life, Jesus lived like just a normal dude, a carpenter’s son in Galilee. But eventually Jesus needed to start his ministry—that is start preaching and reaching out to people and telling them who he was. To prepare for this, Jesus goes into the wilderness to fast. Now someone please read Matthew 4:1-2.

4 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished

Jesus goes into the desert and he fasts for forty days and forty nights. Then at the end of that time, he is tempted by the devil. And we’ll study that story in more detail when we eventually study Jesus. But for now, the important part for Lent, is that in order to prepare for his ministry, in order to prepare for starting everything, Jesus felt the need to go into the desert and fast.

What is fasting? Fasting is basically giving up food for a while and replacing it with prepare. It’s a pretty common practice in the Old Testament for leaders or people to fast as part of holiday or before making big decision. Sometimes fasting is just not eating food during daylight hours, but then you can eat at night. And sometimes fasting means not eating at all. The idea is that you would replace all that time you would normally spend eating with prayer, and focusing on God.

So Jesus prepared for his ministry for forty days and nights, forty days of fasting. And that’s kind of the basic idea of Lent, fasting like Jesus for forty days. Except the generally accepted practice of Lent doesn’t involve fasting from food. Forty days is a long time, and I don’t think any churches expect people to not eat during that time. Instead the general practice has become that people would abstain or fast from one particular food type or other thing.

[Direction to leader: Give example of a time when you gave up something for Lent] For me, in the past I’ve given up soft drinks, particularly Coke, for Lent. I love Coca Cola and soft drinks. And then every time I craved a soft drink during Lent, it would make me think “Oh I’m not supposed to be drinking this because of Lent.” And then it would make me think about God and Jesus and Easter. In the middle of my work day, when normally I’d be drinking a Coke, I was instead thinking about God.

And that’s the purpose of this. That’s the purpose of giving something up. It helps you focus on God.

We’re supposed to spend our time during Lent reflecting on God, and reflecting on the sacrifice of Black Friday and the joy of Easter.

Let's brainstorm some things we can give up for Lent. Realistic things. You can’t give up things you have to do: like school or sleep or homework. But we can give up our excesses and use that time to focus on God and the amazing gift he has given us in Jesus Christ.

[Brainstorm on the board some idea!]

So Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which in our case was this past Wednesday. On Ash Wednesday people come to church and reflect on repentance and forgiveness. Often ashes are placed on people’s forehead in the shape of the cross. Why ashes? Why do we do this?

Someone please read Genesis 2:7. This is from the story of the creation, and how God created Adam.

7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,[a] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

Okay can someone now read Genesis 3:19?

By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread
until you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

This verse comes from the story of Adam and Eve. It’s after Adam and Eve take the apple and during the part where God is telling them what their punishment will be. So in the first verse, it says that God made man from dust. That he shaped the dust and breathed life into it. Here in this punishment section, God reminds Adam he is made of dust, and that in the end “to dust you shall return.” Basically, that he will die, that because of sin, all men will die and return to dust.

Ash Wednesday is to remind us of that.

This is a really somber and dark thought. Ash Wednesday is basically this reminder of “hey you’re going to die.” It was funny because this year Ash Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, and one of my pastor friends said, that when people have to asked for his Valentine’s Day plans he would say, “I have to work and remind everyone of their inevitable deaths.”

So where Christmas Advent is all hope coming out of the darkness, Lent instead starts with this dark reminder that “hey you’re going to die someday.”

Why so somber? Well Lent is about repentance and fasting and preparation for the coming of Jesus’s death and resurrection. It’s natural that when thinking about how Jesus died for us, we would think about our own deaths.

So Ash Wednesday kicks Lent off and then it goes on for presumably forty days, right?

Weirdly no. We say the forty days of Lent, but that forty days only counts non-Sundays. So Sundays don’t count, meaning Lent is actually 46 days. And the next big day of Lent is Palm Sunday, which is the sixth Sunday of Lent.

Palm Sunday is all about Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus comes to Jerusalem for Passover, the week before his death, and this is at the very end of his ministry so everyone knows who is he and Jesus is just this superstar. Everyone wants to see him and touch him and be near him. Though they don’t necessarily understand who he is. They’ve just heard about the amazing things he’s done, the miracles.  Someone read Luke 19:36-40.

36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

When we talk about Palm Sunday in church it’s usually from two perspectives. First off they focus on that Jesus is worthy of praise and deserved the praise that people were giving him when he came to that city. Frankly that’s how Jesus should have been greated every time he entered the city. And when some people in the crowd told Jesus that he shouldn’t let people praise him so, he told them if they were silent the very rocks on the earth would cry out praises. Because Jesus is God and all of creation calls out to God’s greatness.

However, the second thing pastors often focus on during Palm Sunday is that these people who are praising Jesus? These people who are crying out his goodness and that he is king, they are the very same people who betray him little more than a week later.

People are fickle, meaning their loyalties change quickly and easily, especially when someone doesn’t meet the expectation they thought. These people who were praising Jesus? They were expecting him to come in and overthrow the status quo, to make a new Jerusalem now, where Rome no longer controlled them. But that’s not why Jesus was there. And when Jesus failed to meet their expectation, they turned on him. And they called for his death.

Palm Sunday is the beginning of what people call “Holy Week.” This is the week between Palm Sunday and Easter.

The Thursday of Holy Week is called “Maundy Thursday” which sounds kind of like “Monday Thursday.” But it’s Maunday. Maunday Thursday commemorates the Last Supper. Someone read Luke 22:7-16.

7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 So Jesus[a] sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” 9 They asked him, “Where do you want us to make preparations for it?” 10 “Listen,” he said to them, “when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” 13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; 16 for I tell you, I will not eat it[b] until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

The reason why Jesus comes to Jerusalem and has his triumphal entry in the first place is so that he can celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. This was really common that Jewish people would come to Jerusalem and celebrate Passover there. So Jesus has his disciples go find a room for them there to celebrate in. They find a room upstairs, this is often translated as “the Upper Room.” When people at this church call the room where the high schoolers have Sunday School “the Upper Room” that’s a pun on this room where Jesus shared a last Passover with his disciples.

Every Gospel—Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John—tell this story. A story of Jesus sharing one last meal with his closest friend and giving them a commandment that we still commemorate as Communion. But Maundy Thursday is not all about intimate dinner with friends. That very night after the dinner, Jesus is betrayed and arrested.

The next day of Holy Week is Good Friday. Now I always thought it was weird as a kid that we called it Good Friday because Good Friday is the day we remember Jesus’ death on the cross. What’s good about Jesus’s death? So I actually googled this, and I think this goes back to very old English uses of the word “good.” In oldish English, “Good” can just mean “a day or season observed as holy by the church.” So it’s not that Good Friday is a particularly happy day, it’s that this is a very holy day.

Jesus death is a very somber thing, but it is a critical aspect of our faith.

Can someone read Matthew 27:45-51?

45 From noon on, darkness came over the whole land[a] until three in the afternoon. 46 And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.”[b50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last.[c51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split.

Jesus dies and at the very moment he dies, the veil in the temple is torn. We’ve talked about this before, but in the Temple—the place that was basically considered God’s home on earth—only certain people were allowed to go to certain places. Most Jewish people could enter the courtyard, but only priests could go inside and only the highest of priests could enter the holy of holies—the place where they said the spirit of God dwelled. In Old Testament times, that’s where the Ark of the Covenant would have been, but by Jesus’s time the ark is already missing.

This veil that splits, is the veil between the holy of holies and the rest of the temple, and this represents that with Jesus’s death, there is no barrier anymore. It’s not only the holy of holies where God dwells. He dwells everywhere. And we can all have access to him.

So yes Jesus’s death is sad and tragic—he didn’t deserve to die—but for us there is freedom. Because for Jesus death is not the end. And that’s why we have Easter Sunday. Because Easter Sunday is the next Sunday after Good Friday, and that’s the Sunday where we celebrate Jesus being raised from the dead.

Now when I was your age, I used to get really confused because everyone would say Jesus was dead for three days. And I would be like “well Good Friday is Friday and Easter is only two days later. How is that three days?” So we’ve talked about this a little before, but the Roman calendar didn’t work like ours. When we count how many days there are until something we don’t count the day we’re on. So if you’re doing something on Wednesday, you would say it’s only three days away, because today is Sunday and you would count Monday, Tuesday ,Wednesday—that’s three days. But in Roman times, you would count the day you were on. So that would be Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, four days.

So when the Bible says Jesus was dead for three days, they’re counting Friday. So it’s Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Three Roman days between Good Friday and Easter. But then it’s Easter Sunday. And I’m sure you guys already know what that’s all about.

Easter is the day we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.

Can someone read Matthew 28:1-8.

28 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” 8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.

In this time period, after someone died, they would treat the body with oils. We don’t do that now because we have embalming techniques they didn’t know about—ways to preserve the body. Normally women would apply these spices and oils to the body right after death. But in Jesus’ case they couldn’t do that because Jesus died right before the Sabbath—the day Jewish people aren’t supposed to work. They barely had time to take the body away and put it in a tomb. Because the Sabbath starts on sundown of Friday. Sunday morning would be the first time they would be able to actually apply the oil and spices to Jesus’s body.

So early Sunday morning, these women go to the tomb. And instead of finding a body that’s already started to decay and smell bad, they find an angel who tells them that Jesus isn’t there that he has been raised from the dead and that they need to go tell everyone.

We talked about this a few weeks ago, but it’s actually amazing that God chose to reveal Jesus’s resurrection to women first. Women were not considered believable witnesses back in the day, they were not trusted. And in fact, as soon as they women go and tell the disciples, they don’t believe them, and the men go to check out the situation for themselves. They basically think the women are hysterical and making things up.

But God revealed Jesus’s resurrection to these women first, and made them the first ones to share the good news.

And this is the good news. Jesus’s resurrection is literally the linchpin of all of Christianity.

Someone read 1 Corinthians 15:14.

14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.

The book of Corinthians was written by the apostle Paul and here Paul says in no uncertain terms, “if Christ has not been raised from the death, then our faith is in vain.” What does that mean? When someone says something is “in vain.” In vain means “without success or result.” Basically, what Paul is saying here is that if Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead—if that’s not true—then Christianity is not true.

All of our belief and our faith hinges on this very fact, that Jesus was raised from the dead. Not by any person, but by himself—by God—because he is God.

Christmas is a great and fun holiday where we talk about hope and light in the darkness, but Easter—Easter is why Christianity exists. It’s what our faith is about. And that’s why Lent and Easter are so important. Jesus was raised from the dead for us, to bring us salvation.

Someone please read Galatians 2:19-20.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,[a] who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is another book of the Bible written by the apostle Paul. And here Paul is talking about how it is through Jesus’s death and resurrection that we have hope, that we have faith, that we have life.

This is what Easter is about. Celebrating our new lives in Christ, about how God loved us so much that he sent his Son to save us. And that’s why we spend so long preparing for Easter, for putting ourselves in the right mindset.

That said, there is no Biblical mandate to fast for Lent. There is no mandate that says you must do this. I don’t fast from something every year. But doing it is a great tool for us to put our hearts and minds in the right frame so we can appreciate what God has done for us.

David and Absalom

Last week we discussed how the repercussions of David’s sins trickled down into his children. David’s oldest son and heir, Amnon assaulted his half-sister Tamar. And then David decided to do nothing about it. He didn’t punish Amnon in any fashion. Enter Absalom, who is David’s third son and Tamar’s brother. Absalom waited two years for David to do something to punish Amnon, and when David did nothing, Absalom took matters into his own hands. He had invited Amnon out to a picnic and while he was feasting, he had him murdered.

Afterwards, Absalom fled, staying far away for fear of punishment from his father and king, David. But just as David refused to punish Amnon, after a few years, David wanted Absalom back. He missed his son. So David invites Absalom back to Jerusalem and forgives him.

Just as David did not punish Amnon for assaulting Tamar, David does not punish Absalom for murdering his brother in cold blood.

This does not earn Absalom’s loyalty. It actually causes Absalom to view David with contempt and begin to think that maybe…just maybe, David is no longer fit to be king. And that is where we pick up today. So please go get your Bibles and open it up to 2 Samuel 15:1-6.

15 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, “From what city are you?” When the person said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say, “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” 4 Absalom said moreover, “If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” 5 Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. 6 Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

So Absalom starts to sew a little bit of discord in Israel. He gets up early and goes to stand out by the gate, and basically intercepts anyone who is taking an issue to the king. Part of the job of the king was to hear issues of the people and dispense justice as he saw fit. And people would come from far and wide in the kingdom to ask the king to deal with such issues. Absalom basically stops these people as they enter the city and makes small talk, asking where they are from and basically expressing an interest in them. He would then ask them why they came to the city and hear about their issues. He would then validate them that their issue was good and sincere, and totally the kind of thing you would take before the king…if only the king was doing their job and listening to them.

Absalom is directly implying here that the king is not doing his job. Now we don’t know if David was shirking this duty or not. It seems unlikely, as David hasn’t been recently called out in this section of the Bible for failing his kingly duties and not listening to people. But Absalom is basically telling people that David isn’t doing his job anymore, and oh, wouldn’t it be nice if Absalom was king? And then Absalom could help them and dispense the justice they are asking for?

Absalom is basically saying here “David is a bad king, isn’t it about time that we a have new king…like say me?”

And the people believed him, and through this, the Bible says, he stole the heart of the people of Israel. Absalom convinced the people he had their best interest at heart and David no longer cared for them.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 15:7-12.

7 At the end of four[a] years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron and pay the vow that I have made to the Lord. 8 For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram: If the Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the Lord in Hebron.”[b9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up, and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem went with Absalom; they were invited guests, and they went in their innocence, knowing nothing of the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for[c]Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.

One day Absalom goes to his father, the king, and basically asks to go make a religious pilgrimage to Hebron. Absalom claims it’s because while he was on the run after killing Amnon he made a vow to God that if God would bring him back to Jerusalem, that he would go to Hebron one day and worship God there.

David has no reason to believe Absalom wouldn’t mean exactly what he says, and David is certainly not the type of man to stand between his son and God. So he gives Absalom his blessing to leave.

But Absalom is not being honest. It is not his intent to go worship God. Instead he sends messages out to all the people of Israel basically saying that he is going to become king.

Absalom is calling on the fact that people love him to try to overthrow his father and put himself in place as king of Israel.

One of David’s advisors, a guy named Ahithophel, even joins Absalom.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 15:13-17.

13 A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” 14 Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” 15 The king’s officials said to the king, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides.” 16 So the king left, followed by all his household, except ten concubines whom he left behind to look after the house. 17 The king left, followed by all the people; and they stopped at the last house.

A messenger comes to David and tells him that most of Israel has put their faith in Absalom and that basically Absalom is raising an army. And David doesn’t want Jerusalem to be put under siege or hurt by Absalom basically bringing war to Jerusalem, so he makes the hard decision to flee.

It’s a tactical decision, one that will keep Jerusalem safe and keep take David out of reach of Absalom for a little while longer, but it also leaves Jerusalem open for Absalom to just walk in and basically set himself up as king.

David gathers up most of his family and leaves, lots of people who are loyal to him following him on his way out. And he stops just at the last house of Jerusalem.

Someone please reads 2 Samuel 15:24-31.

24 Abiathar came up, and Zadok also, with all the Levites, carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, until the people had all passed out of the city. 25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me back and let me see both it and the place where it stays. 26 But if he says, ‘I take no pleasure in you,’ here I am, let him do to me what seems good to him.” 27 The king also said to the priest Zadok, “Look,[a] go back to the city in peace, you and Abiathar,[b]with your two sons, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan son of Abiathar. 28 See, I will wait at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem, and they remained there.

30 But David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot; and all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went. 31 David was told that Ahithophel was among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, “O Lord, I pray you, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”

The priests also pack up and begin to leave Jerusalem, bringing with them the ark of the covenant. They wait with David at the edge of the city until everyone who is planning to leave the city has done so, and then David stops them from following the people out. He tells them to stay in the city with the ark of covenant, because David knows what happens next is in God’s hands. If God wills it, David will come back and be king again. But if God does not will it, then David will not be king. But the ark belongs in Jerusalem and therefore there it will stay.

He tells the priests to stay in the city and watch. He tells them where he is going—into the wilderness—and that they can send him word if they need to. And then the priests take the ark of the covenant back into the city.

Then David goes up on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is a place just outside of Jerusalem’s old city, named “Mount of Olives” because olives literally grow on it. This is a place we’re going to see referenced again and again in the Bible, a place that is important not just here in David’s time but later to Jesus. So David is just outside the city and he is crying as he goes up the mount—crying because everything has come to this, that the people must leave his city because of one of his own sons. But also he is upset because he has learned one of his own advisors has betrayed him.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 15:32-37.

32 When David came to the summit, where God was worshiped, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn and earth on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in time past, so now I will be your servant,’ then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel. 35 The priests Zadok and Abiathar will be with you there. So whatever you hear from the king’s house, tell it to the priests Zadok and Abiathar. 36 Their two sons are with them there, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan; and by them you shall report to me everything you hear.” 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.

While on top of the mountain, a man named Hushai meets David. Hushai is loyal to David and very upset that David is going to leave the city and wants to go with him. But David has a better idea. Because David may be leaving the city for Absalom but he hasn’t given up. He tells Hushai to basically make friends with Absalom and get Absalom to trust him. Hushai is then to serve two purposes: one he is to be a spy. He’s to let the priests know anything he hears so they can report it to David. But perhaps more importantly, he asks Hushai to give Absalom bad advice.

Because David knows that Ahithophel will give Absalom the best advice he can, and that if Ahithophel’s advice is followed it gives Absalom a better chance of winning. But if Hushai gives bad advice then maybe, just maybe, Absalom will do something stupid and it will give David to reclaim his throne.

So Hushai goes back into the city and is there when Absalom arrives.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 16:15-19.

15 Now Absalom and all the Israelites[a] came to Jerusalem; Ahithophel was with him. 16 When Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” 17 Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” 18 Hushai said to Absalom, “No; but the one whom the Lord and this people and all the Israelites have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain. 19 Moreover, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? Just as I have served your father, so I will serve you.”

Absalom arrives in the city, and David’s old advisor Ahithophel is with him. Hushai, however, meets up with them shouting, “Long live the king!” And Absalom calls him out—because Absalom knows Hushai is David’s friend, so he’s suspicious at first, demanding to know what happened to Hushai’s loyalty and demanding to know why he didn’t go with David.

Hushai counters by saying that his loyalty is with the one God and the people have chosen, and whoever God has chosen, Hushai will be loyal to. And after all, isn’t Absalom, David’s son? So he will serve Absalom just as he served David.

Absalom buys this hook line and sinker, and makes Hushai one of his advisors.

Now Absalom needs to figure out what he’s going to do for his next move. Should he go after his father and attack? Should he sit tight in Jerusalem and just wait David out? So he gathers his advisors and asks their opinions. First up is Ahithophel. Someone please read 2 Samuel 17:1-4.

17 Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will set out and pursue David tonight. 2 I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged, and throw him into a panic; and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down only the king, 3 and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man,[a] and all the people will be at peace.” 4 The advice pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel.

Ahithophel asks Absalom for 12,000 men. He wants to take those men and go after David right now—and not wait a single minute longer. Ahithophel knows that right now David is probably feeling tired and sad and like nothing is working in his favor, and if he gets attacked right now while he and all his people are feeling like this, they have a good chance of winning. He wants to kill David and then bring all the people who left with him back to Absalom.

This is really good advice. And if Absalom had done this, there is a good chance he might have won the day and we’d remember Absalom as the second king of Israel.

But Absalom didn’t just ask for Ahitohpel’s advice. He also asks for the advice of Hushai—who as we know is a spy for David who’s sole purpose is to convince Absalom of bad advice.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 17:7-14.

7 Then Hushai said to Absalom, “This time the counsel that Ahithophel has given is not good.” 8 Hushai continued, “You know that your father and his men are warriors, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the troops. 9 Even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits, or in some other place. And when some of our troops[a] fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ 10 Then even the valiant warrior, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear; for all Israel knows that your father is a warrior, and that those who are with him are valiant warriors. 11 But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beer-sheba, like the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person. 12 So we shall come upon him in whatever place he may be found, and we shall light on him as the dew falls on the ground; and he will not survive, nor will any of those with him. 13 If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.” 14 Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the Lord had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the Lord might bring ruin on Absalom.

Hushai says that Ahithophel’s advice is bad. After all everyone knows David and his men are fierce warriors and they’re not sad, he says, but enraged!! Like a mother bear separated from her cubs! Also, Hushai points out, David is like an expert warrior—after all he spent his entire youth at war with either the Philistines or Saul—and undoubtedly he has hidden himself so well they will never find him. Hushai says that it will all end with Absalom’s troops being slaughtered and this will not be good for Absalom.

Hushai then says their better bet is to gather all of Israel and then Absalom should personally go out into battle with his people, leading them from the front lines. This advice, I should point out, will mean Absalom would delay in going after David because it will take time to gather that many people.

But Absalom listens to Hushai and chooses his advice over Ahithophel’s.

Hushai, being a spy, then immediately sends word to David about what has been decided, so that David can anticipate Absalom’s movements and not be killed by him. And David is able to move all of his people and escape Absalom’s coming army before Absalom even gets there.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 18:1-8.

18 Then David mustered the men who were with him, and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 And David divided the army into three groups:[a] one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. The king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.” 3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us;[b] therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.” 4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. 5 The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.

6 So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

David gathers all his men and commanders to him and divides them up. And this time David wants to go out and lead them himself. But this time his commanders protest, basically saying he is too valuable to risk. If they die but he lives, it will have been worth it, but if he dies, what good is this whole battle? So it is better that he stays back.

David listens to their advice but then gives his commanders one last order, he asks that they deal gently with Absalom.

Basically David doesn’t want Absalom to die. Despite everything Absalom has done—despite the fact that Absalom has literally tried to overthrow David and has led to battles and death and destruction, David doesn’t want Absalom to be punished. And in a melee, battle like this, it’s really hard to keep from killing one specific person. This puts a huge burden on the commanders. Because this ends up being a huge battle, that is spread over all of Israel.

This inability to discipline and punish his own children is one of David’s fatal flaws. It’s what led to Amnon and this whole situation to begin with.

But in the end, David’s men triumph and win the day.

Can someone please read 18:9-15.

9 Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging[a]between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 10 A man saw it, and told Joab, “I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying: For my sake protect the young man Absalom! 13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life[b] (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” 14 Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” He took three spears in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

Absalom is out in the battle, unlike David, because remember the advice Hushai gave him was to go out into the battle himself. He’s riding a mule and the mule goes under a tree, and Absalom gets caught in it, unable to get himself down! The way he’s described as being caught, it’s clear he’s alive but just unable to untangle himself.

And a soldier reports back to one of David’s commanders, Joab, that they saw Absalom in a tree. And Joab is like “What? IF that’s true why did you not kill him?” And the man is basically like “Umm, David said not to? I’m not going to go against the king.”

And Joab is like “This is so stupid. David was stupid to give this command and I guess I’m going to have to do this myself.” So Joab leads his men and goes and kills Absalom.

Joab disobeys a direct order from David, because David didn’t want Absalom killed. But Joab knows that if Absalom doesn’t die, that if he lives, this rebellion will never fully be quelled. And he knows David will forgive Absalom and not punish him—just like Amnon—and that could lead to another revolt. So Joab does what he thinks is necessary to save David and the kingdom.

With Absalom dead, the fight ends. His men have nothing to fight for without their would-be king. David becomes king again but at the cost of his son.

The rebellion is over. David is king. But not even David can live forever. Next week we’ll discuss the final story of King David.

 

Amnon and Tamar

Warning: This deals with rape and incest and how in ancient times--in patriarchy--women's worth is often tied to their status as either an unmarried virgin or a married woman. I try my best to express that in reality or God's eyes a woman's value is not defined by these things. But your mileage may vary on how great a job I did on that. Feel free to change things up! Once again this is pretty deep topics, but this sort of stuff comes up as early as Middle School and I think it's important to deal with it head on. 

If you were here last week, you’ll remember we talked about how spring David decided to stay home instead of leading his army on the front—as was his duty as king. This led to David abusing his power as king, again and again. First in raping one of his subjects named Bathsheba and second ordering her husband named Uriah to be killed in battle to cover up the fact he got Bathsheba pregnant. God was really not happy with David and this blatant disregard for the law. David sinned and then tried to cover it up with more sin and didn’t even realize what he had done was wrong until confronted by the prophet Nathan.

In the end David did realize he sinned and asked for forgiveness; however, David was still going to have to live with the consequences of his actions and God felt the need to punish David as well, since his sins were so grievous. The punishments God said he would bestow on David were two-fold: First off, the child he had with Bathsheba would die—which as we saw last week did happen. Secondly, there would be discord in David’s own house—in his own family—and the sword—meaning battle and strife—would never leave his family.

This week is where the second half of that punishment begins to unfold. And it all starts with David’s oldest son Amnon.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:1-5.

13 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar,the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.

2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.

3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”

Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”

5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon is the first born and heir of David, king of all Israel. If Amnon had been a good son, he might indeed have been king after David one day. But things did not go accordingly, because Amnon decided one day he was “in love” with Tamar. Now I put “in love” in quotations marks, because not only does it become clear very quickly that “love” is not what Amnon feels, but according to my Jewish Bible, Hebrew has no word to distinguish between “in love with” or “to lust after.” So you have to use contextual clues to see which meaning is really intended. In this case, it becomes pretty clear that he is lusting after her and love has nothing to do with it. In fact, the next verse says he becomes “obsessed” with her, so much so that he makes himself sick because he thinks “Oh she is a good virgin girl and she’ll never have anything to do with the likes of me.”

She’s also his half-sister. David is both of their dad. Now in the ancient world, it actually wasn’t all that uncommon among nobility for people to marry their siblings. This is crazy to us. Not only is it illegal in the modern world to marry your sibling, it’s also just icky to think about. But things were different in the ancient world. The pharaohs were well known for marrying their siblings. But the Israelites were not supposed to be like the Egyptians pharaohs, they were supposed to obey God’s law. And there is specifically a law in Leviticus that directly forbids marrying your full or half sibling. Leviticus 20:17 says “If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.”

So Amnon probably wouldn’t be allowed to marry her, and he wanted her, and well…he is his father’s son. So Amnon listens to the advice of his friend Jonadab and basically plots a way for him to be alone with Tamar.

Someone read 2 Samuel 13:6-10.

6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”

7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.

Amnon pretends to be sick and David is a decent dad who likes his sons, so he comes and visits him to see how he’s doing. And Amnon says he would like his sister Tamar to come and comfort him. David, since he cares for his son and has no reason to suspect anything, sends Tamar out to Amnon—who apparently has his own house. He is a full grown adult living on his own.

So Tamar, once again, suspecting nothing because she has no reason to suspect something to be going on, goes and makes him bread. She goes to serve it to him and he refuses to eat it until they are left alone. And Tamar, having no reason to suspect her brother of wanting to harm her is like “okay.” So everyone leaves and she brings the bread to his bedroom to serve it to him.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:11-14.

11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

As soon as they are alone he grabs her. And she protests. She says no, over and over again. She even tries to say that if he really wants her, maybe they can go to David and he’ll approve the marriage. Which seems unlikely since it’s against the law, but at this point she would probably say anything to keep such a horrible thing from happening to her.

Amnon ignores her and rapes her.

We talked about last week how rape is still a very prevalent thing in our society. If you guys keep up with the news and current events, you might have heard of the “me too” movement, which is a lot of women talking about how they have been sexually assaulted in their lives. I want to pause a moment on this story because so often when we think of rape we think of the stranger who jumps out of the bushes and attacks someone. But most cases of sexual assault are actually people the victim knows, like in this case.

There would even be some modern people who if something like this happened now would say, “Well what did Tamar expect would happen? She went to a man’s house alone? Obviously she wanted it.” But the Bible is very clear here. Tamar did absolutely nothing wrong. She was asked to help her brother, because he was supposedly sick. She obeyed her father, like a good daughter, and helped her brother, like a good sister. She assumed good intent on the part of Amnon.

When Amnon made his intentions clear, she said “no.” She said it clearly “No, my brother.” And then she even said it again, telling him not to force her, telling him that what he was doing was wrong, reminding him that doing so would disgrace her in the eyes of society, and telling him he was like a wicked fool. And then when that didn’t seem to be working grabbing on to a desperate straw, suggesting he go to the king. Anything just to stop this from happening.

But he didn’t listen to her and the Bible directly says he was stronger than her. Tamar had no chance.

If something like this happens to you, it is not your fault. And remember, rape is not just something men do to women. It can happen to men to. Remember the story of Joseph, and how he was a slave, and his master’s wife tried to force him to have sex with her. Joseph is lucky that he managed to escape, but then because of it, she had him sent to jail. Like Joseph, like Bathsheba, like Tamar, the repercussions of these things are often greater for the victim than for the actual rapist or abuser. And that is so unfortunate. We are very lucky to live in a time where people are actually beginning to talk about these things instead of sweeping them under the rug.

No means no, male or female. And proceeding after someone says no, is rape. Even if it is was someone you were on a date with, even if it’s your spouse. No one owes anyone else sex, and you should always ensure your partner is 100% on-board with whatever is about to happen.

And if something like this has ever happened to you, if someone has ever touched you inappropriately or sexually, or raped you, and I hope to God that has never and will never happen, it is not your fault. It is not Tamar’s fault. It was not Bathsheba’s fault, and it was not Joseph’s fault. The only person at fault is the person who harmed you.

And if something like this has happened to you or does happen to you, and for whatever reason you are afraid to tell your parents, you can always talk to me or Halecia or Megan or any of the pastors at this church.  

Moving on with this Bible story can someone read 2 Samuel 13:15-19.

15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.

After he rapes her, Amnon suddenly despise her. Why? I don’t really know, but sometimes there are people who only want things they can’t have. And once they have it, they don’t want them anymore. Perhaps Amnon was like that. And so as soon as he’s done raping her, he’s like “Leave me!”

Now you would think Tamar would be happy to be sent away, to escape her attacker, and in modern days that would be often how a modern woman or victim would react. But things were different in the ancient world. In Deuteronomy 22:28-29 it says, “28 If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he shall pay her father fifty shekels[a] of silver. He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives.”

So according to ancient Israel Biblical law, if a man rapes a virgin, he has to marry her. And then instead of the father paying him a “dowry” which was what fathers in the ancient world often did—they paid money to the man who married their daughter—the man has to pay the father. And then this man—this rapist—can never divorce her.

This seems all sorts of wrong by our modern standards. And in the modern world, no one can make you marry your rapist. So why was the law like this back then?

This goes back to the idea of the “patriarchy” and how women were viewed as property. Raping a woman in the ancient world was basically viewed like…opening a bag of chips in the store. If you open a bag of chips in the store before you buy it, you have to buy it. And if you don’t—if you put it back on the shelf, no one else is going to buy that bag of chips. It’s going to sit on that shelf forever and eventually be thrown out.

So if you opened the bag of chips—if you raped the virgin—you had to buy her. And in that time period—as horrible as it would be to marry your rapist—it would be better than becoming a pariah in society—an outcast—because no one will ever marry you, eventually your parents will die—and you’re a woman so you can’t earn your own living, so you will be destitute and die in poverty.

That’s a really horrible thought for us. That people would think of women as property. And I cannot underscore this enough. God does not think of women as property. God did not create only men in his image and then the women are whatever is leftover. Genesis 1:27 says “in the image of God he created [humans]; male and female he created them.” Women too are the image of God. And in the Old Testament God uses women in unexpected ways to subvert this idea that women are things who men must control. From Rahab hiding spies and making decisions for her entire family, to Ruth who follows her mother-in-law to a new land and then scandalously does what she thinks is right even if in the eyes of society she might be viewed poorly. And even God who is constantly compared to a father in the Old Testament is often compared to a mother. Because God is neither male nor female, even if it’s easier for us to use a male adjective to refer to him. Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so I [God] ill comfort you.” We also talked about how the first person who even knew Jesus’s name, the person God chose to use to bring Jesus into this world, was a woman. How for the first years of his life, the incarnation of God would be completely dependent on a woman for care and nourishment.

And then there is Jesus. I can’t wait until we reach the stories of Jesus in this class and we can see how Jesus constantly fights the patriarchy, raising women up to be the equal of men even as society fights it. In Jesus’s time Rabbis only taught men, it was considered crazy to teach a woman, but Jesus taught women. When a little girl needed to be healed, in a time when girls weren’t valued, Jesus healed her, because she was just as important to him as any man or boy. And finally when Jesus was resurrected, it wasn’t a man who saw him first, it wasn’t a man who Jesus revealed himself to first. It was a woman. “For a brief, beautiful time after meeting the Resurrected Jesus in the garden, Mary Magdalene was the only Christian in the world.”* Jesus trusted and lifted up women over and over again as the equals of men, that he taught and cared for the same as men, and the fact that women were both the first person who ever knew Jesus—in the case of Mary his mother—and the first person who knew him as he truly was as the Resurrected Christ—in the case of Mary Magdalene, these are important and show that God values women just the same as he values men, and it is society, it is the sin-filled world, it is the sin of patriarchy that doesn’t value women.

So while we are in the Old Testament, yes it can often seem like women are just property and when they do make decisions they are criminalized for it. This is not God’s view of women. This is the view of the men around these women. It is not to God who Tamar is property. It is to David and Amnon who she is just a piece of property.

So this law that says a woman has to marry her rapist, is not because God thinks women are bags of chips. It because God knew all the men of that time viewed women that way. And he made a law that would protect women from being discarded in this harsh cruel world of patriarchy.

Biblically it was Amnon’s duty to marry Tamar. But he refuses to.

So Tamar makes it super obvious what happens. She is loud about, she is acts as if she’s mourning—cuz in many ways she is. She is mourning her trust of her family and her place in society. So you would think her father, David, might care about her and do something about this. You would think he might hold Amnon accountable wouldn’t you?

Well let’s see what he does. Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:20-22.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.

21 When King David heard all this, he was furious [but he would not punish his son Amnon because he loved him, for he was his firstborn]. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

Absalom, her brother who has the same mother as her, takes her in. He can’t provide her with a husband or take away the pain of what has happened, but he can—for as long as he lives—provide her a place to stay so that she doesn’t end up destitute and alone. He comforts her as best he can, even if to us it seems a little callous to say “don’t take this horrible thing that happened to you to heart” but he’s trying to be a good brother.

It then says when David heard what happened he was furious but he did nothing. This is something we’re going to see over and over again, David letting his kids off easy when he really shouldn’t.

Meanwhile, Absalom doesn’t say anything good or bad about Amnon, but he is quietly seething.

And as we’ll see planning.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:23-29.

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there.24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”

25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.

26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”

The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.

28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.

Two years pass, two years in which Absalom is seething and hating his brother for the very real crime Amnon did against Tamar. After two years, Absalom finally decides to take matters into his own hands. Because obviously David decided to do nothing to punish Amnon. So Absalom will do it himself.

So Absalom’s plans a sheep-shearing party for all his brothers and he invites David but David says, “No. We shouldn’t all go, that will be too difficult.” Absalom insists that at least Amnon go and David allows it. So all of the King’s sons—his brothers—go with him. And then when they are out there, eating the feast that Absalom made for them, Absalom has his servants kill Amnon.

The rest of his brothers flee in fear.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:30-33.

30 While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.

32 But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”

Before any of his sons arrive back at the palace, David gets a report that Absalom has killed ALL OF HIS SONS. And he freaks out. But Jonadab, who if you’ll remember was Amnon’s friend with the plan, tells him that only Amnon is dead. How does he know? Was he there and got back first? I don’t know. But he definitely knew that Absalom has had it out for Amnon since Amnon raped Tamar. And assures him only Amnon, David’s heir, is dead.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 13:34-39.

34 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.

Now the man standing watch looked up and saw many people on the road west of him, coming down the side of the hill. The watchman went and told the king, “I see men in the direction of Horonaim, on the side of the hill.”[a]

35 Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”

36 As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.

37 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.

38 After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years.39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.

Absalom feels rather than go back to Jerusalem, but the other sons come back and David is reassured that they’re not all dead. But David id still devastated by Amnon’s death.

Absalom stays away for three years, but eventually David wants him to come back. And eventually David does forgive him and bring him back to Jerusalem.

However, that is not the end of Absalom’s story, which we’ll pick up with next week.

 

David and Bathsheba

Warning: The story of David and Bathsheba deals with abuse of power, rape, and murder. This is pretty intense stuff for Middle School Sunday School but important. So just be appropriately warned.

Last week we talked about David as king of Israel. We talked about how he was an amazing military leader who led Israel to many victories. We also talked about how he was a good person, who wanted to do right by the promise he made Jonathan, so he brought Jonathan’s son into his house. It was easy to see why God would choose David for the leader of his people, and why in 1 Samuel 13:14 David is called “a man after God’s own heart.” David didn’t just pursue power, he pursued God, and led the people of Israel where God wanted them to go.

But David was still human. And the story we’re going to study today we’re not just talking about a “little” sin like lying. We’re talking about gross abuses of power, betrayal, rape, and murder. So please open your Bibles to 2 Samuel 11:1. Someone read just that one verse please.

In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab with his officers and all Israel with him; they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem.

This one verse sets up this entire section. It’s spring and the verse specifically says it’s the time when kings go out to battle. We’ve already seen in last week’s lesson that David wasn’t afraid of battle, and he was on the forefront of many battle fields! David wasn’t the sort of the king to sit back in his castle and let other people die. David was a king who joined his men on the front lines. Until now. Why? Why did David stay home? We don’t know, we can’t say, but we can say that from the verse pointing out that kings are supposed to go to battle, that the writer is condemning the fact that David stayed home. He should have gone out with men.

Instead, for whatever reason he stays home.

There is an old saying, “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.” It’s a saying that means bored people are more likely to get up to mischief, and this is the exact sort of situation that phrase is referring to. David is bored—by his own doing, he could have gone out to battle—and as such, he gets himself into trouble.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 11:2-4.

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David rose from his couch and was walking about on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; the woman was very beautiful. 3 David sent someone to inquire about the woman. It was reported, “This is Bathsheba daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 So David sent messengers to get her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself after her period.) Then she returned to her house.

One afternoon, David is lounging about, bored, so he goes to his roof. Now David has a palace, so his roof is going to be higher than anyone else in Jerusalem’s roofs. So from his roof, he can see everyone else’s roofs. From his roof he sees this beautiful woman, Bathsheba bathing on her roof.

Why is Bathsheba bathing on her roof? Well the Bible explains it right there. “She was purifying herself after her period.” There are actually Mosaic laws about what a woman can and cannot do while she is on her period. During Old Testament times and even still today in Orthodox Judaism, a woman was considered “unclean” while she was on her period. This meant she couldn’t touch other people or else she would make them unclean too. Now that seems crazy to us, but there are logical reasons for this. Back then they didn’t have the same sort of hygiene products we have. Literally all they could for any sort of bleeding was press bandages to it. They didn’t have band-aids, ace bandages, pads, or tampons. So if a woman was on her period, back in the time when people live in tents, she would go hang out in a special women’s tent. I’m not sure what exactly they did in David’s time, but Bathsheba probably didn’t leave her house while she was on her period.

In Biblical law, a woman was considered unclean for up to seven days *after* her period. And then to symbolize she was clean, she had to go through a bathing ritual. So that is what Bathsheba is doing. She is not on her roof, bathing naked to tempt men—the thought wouldn’t have even crossed her mind. No one else would be able to see her roof except from the palace and it’s not like she would think the king is out spying on her.

She is on her roof bathing because she is following Biblical law. This is what we know of Bathsheba. She is a married woman, cleaning herself so she can be considered Biblically clean again.

Unbeknownst to her David sees her and she’s beautiful. So he asks about her. “Who is this beautiful woman?” And he is told, she is the wife of Uriah. He is told: she is married. 

Instead of being like “bummer. Guess I can’t ask her to be my wife then.” David sends messengers to her house.

Now Bathsheba is married to Uriah, a man who we later learn is a soldier for David. A man who is currently at war on David’s behest. Imagine, your husband is at war in your king’s army, and suddenly your king sends messengers to your door. What are you thinking? You might be thinking, “My husband is dead, and the king is sending for me so he can tell me himself.” We don’t know what the messengers told her, but regardless, back then if your king called for you to come to the palace, you would come. You wouldn’t defy him. That could be dangerous not just for her but her husband. So when the king calls you to the palace, you come to the palace.

So David has Bathsheba brought to the palace and David rapes her.

For a long time in church history that statement “David raped Bathsheba” would be considered controversial. There was a long time in church history when this story was basically taught as a warning about seducing women, leading men astray, but I want to be clear that is not what this story is about. Bathsheba did not bathe on her roof so David would see her. She bathed on her roof to meet Biblical mandates about cleanliness. Bathsheba was a married woman who the Bible makes clear later was innocent. She was commanded to come to the palace by her king. She obeyed her king, as is expected of a woman in her time.

This story is about David’s abuse of power. Let’s not forget, David has multiple wives. If he wanted to have sex with someone, he has many women he can choose from. Why did he choose Bathsheba? Because he saw her and he wanted to her and he was king so no one could stop him.

And Bathsheba? What choice did she have? She was brought to the palace, probably fearing the worst, that she was about to be told her husband was dead, and instead her king makes advances on her. She is a woman with absolutely no power in this situation. She is in David’s house—you can’t just leave the king’s presence. She may not even know the way out. We don’t know what happened behind those closed doors. Did Bathsheba go along with it so that it would be easier? Did she refuse and David attacked her? We don’t know. But as we will see later, the Bible makes it clear that in this scenario, Bathsheba did nothing wrong.

It is David who betrays the trust of his subject and abuses his power for nothing but a temporary pleasure.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 11:5-8

5 The woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am pregnant.”

6 So David sent word to Joab, “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent Uriah to David. 7 When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab and the people fared, and how the war was going. 8 Then David said to Uriah, “Go down to your house, and wash your feet.” Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.

Bathsheba gets pregnant, and David is the only possible option for the father, because her husband is at war. So she sends message to David because she doesn’t know what she is supposed to do. It’s his child. She didn’t ask for this situation.

Now David instead of taking responsibility, he connives a plan. He has Joab—his commander—send Uriah home. He does it under the guise of being a good king who is asking how the war is going and what Uriah thinks. And then he sends Uriah home. He doesn’t tell Uriah that he raped his wife. He doesn’t tell Uriah that his wife is pregnant. Instead he wants Uriah to go home and sleep with Bathsheba so that Uriah will think that Bathsheba’s child is his child.

David is trying to cover up his sin with deception and deceit.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 11:9-13.

9 But Uriah slept at the entrance of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house. 10 When they told David, “Uriah did not go down to his house,” David said to Uriah, “You have just come from a journey. Why did you not go down to your house?” 11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah remain in booths;[a] and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do such a thing.” 12 Then David said to Uriah, “Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will send you back.” So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day. On the next day, 13 David invited him to eat and drink in his presence and made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but he did not go down to his house.

But David underestimates Uriah. Instead of going to his home, Uriah sleeps at the entrance of the palace. And when David finds out he’s like “Why didn’t you go home?” And Uriah says he didn’t because how can he sleep in comfort when all of his men are camping in the fields?” Uriah is a good person, a loyal person, a person who trusts his leader, and is a good leader himself.

David then tries to get him drunk and send him home so he will sleep with his wife, but he gets Uriah too drunk and instead Uriah sleeps it off at the palace.

Uriah unknowingly thwarts David’s deceitful plans twice.

So what is David to do? Fess up? That would be the right thing to do. But David isn’t going to do the right thing here.

Someone reason 2 Samuel 11:14-15.

14 In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. 15 In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.”

David’s plan to deceive Uriah fails, and his backup plan? His backup plan is just to have Uriah killed. His backup plan is one of the most despicable things a general can do. Betray his soldier. Now this isn’t a scenario where a general knows a mission might lead to his men’s death, but he is honest with his men, and they all go in with their eyes open to the risk. This is a scenario where the general specifically sends a man into a dangerous situation with no purpose other than to kill him.

Yet another example of David’s extreme abuse of power.

Someone read 2 Samuel 11:16-18.

16 As Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant warriors. 17 The men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell. Uriah the Hittite was killed as well. 18 Then Joab sent and told David all the news about the fighting;

So out in the war, at the battlefront, Joab is besieging a city and he sends Uriah to the most dangerous part of the battle for no other purpose for him to die. And Uriah being a loyal trusting soldier who trusts his commanders, he goes and he fights.

And he dies.

Joab sends the news back to David, that the battle didn’t go as expected. He tells the messenger that if David gets mad about how many men were killed or how the battle went just to say, “Well Uriah died.”

Someone please read 2 Samuel 11:22-25.

22 So the messenger went, and came and told David all that Joab had sent him to tell. 23 The messenger said to David, “The men gained an advantage over us, and came out against us in the field; but we drove them back to the entrance of the gate. 24 Then the archers shot at your servants from the wall; some of the king’s servants are dead; and your servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also.” 25 David said to the messenger, “Thus you shall say to Joab, ‘Do not let this matter trouble you, for the sword devours now one and now another; press your attack on the city, and overthrow it.’ And encourage him.”

The messenger delivers the news to David about how the enemy gained advantage over them and many people died—including Uriah. And David tells the messenger to tell Joab “Don’t worry about it. Be encouraged. You got this.”

Basically David doesn’t mind how many of his own people died, because well at least Uriah died!

This is despicable. He threw men away like pawns just to kill one man who did nothing wrong.

Someone read 2 Samuel 11:26-27.

26 When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. 27 When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord,

Bathsheba hears her husband is dead and she is devastated. She loved Uriah, and now he is dead. So she goes into mourning. Back then there were “mourning periods” that is the acceptable amount of time a person should mourn and everyone should be respectful of them mourning. You can’t do things like get re-married during a mourning period.

So David waits until her mourning period is over, and then is basically like “You’re my wife now.”

Bathsheba had very little choice in this matter. If she didn’t marry David, everyone would know her child is illegitimate. They might kill her for having committed adultery. At the very least, as a widow with a child, she would probably end up in poverty. So marrying the man who raped her and killed her husband is really her only choice.

Not that she could say no to the king anyway.

So let’s tally what David did here. Not only did he commit adultery, but it wasn’t consensual adultery, meaning he raped her. Then to cover up his sin he tried to deceive Uriah, and when that didn’t work he had Uriah murdered. And then he basically made the woman he raped marry him.

Do we think God is happy with this course of action?

No. No he’s not. And he’s not just going to let David’s sin go.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

12 1 and the Lord sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had very many flocks and herds; 3 but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. 4 Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” 5 Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; 6 he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.”

God sends Nathan—who you will remember is the current prophet of God—to talk to David. Nathan shows up and he doesn’t just go in full guns blazing, demanding David repent, because he knows David is so deep in his sin that he doesn’t even really realize what he did was wrong. So instead Nathan tells him a story about these two men—a rich man and a poor man.

This rich guy he says has many flocks and herds, so all sorts of sheep and animals and is very well off. While the poor man has one little lamb that he loves, that he is completely devoted to.

One day a stranger shows up and the rich man needs to prepare a meal for him and he doesn’t want to kill one of his own animals so he steals the poor man’s lamb and slaughters it.

David hears about this gross injustice and is incised. He recognizes this story about lambs as the injustice it is. So David is like “The rich man should die for what he has done but at the very least he shall give that man for lambs back since he stole the one!”

Someone please read 2 Samuel 12:7-12.

7 Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; 8 I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. 9 Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. 10 Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. 11 Thus says the Lord: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. 12 For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.”

Nathan responds to David with “You are the rich man in this story, dude! You are the one who has done this! You had all this wealth and wives, given to you by God, and instead you felt the need to steal the one wife of your servant! And because of this, you will be punished! There will be trouble in your family. You will lose your wives and everyone will be able to see it. Because while you do things secretly, David, I am God, and everyone will see your punishment.”

Now there are a couple of things I want to pause and point out here. Earlier I mentioned that historically many people have read this story of David and Bathsheba as a story where Bathsheba seduces David. However, it is clear here in the metaphor that Nathan told about the lambs, that neither God nor Nathan blame Bathsheba for what has happened. She is compared to an innocent lamb. Adultery is not something God takes lightly. Adultery, if you remember, is a fancy word for married people cheating on their spouses. But here and nowhere in the text does Nathan or God yell at Bathsheba for committing adultery. Instead it compares her to an innocent lamb who has no choice in the matter. This reinforces that Bathsheba was raped is the appropriate interpretation of the text. Bathsheba had NO CHOICE. She was just a lamb stolen from her master.

Another thing I want to point out is that by comparing Bathsheba to a lamb, Nathan is also basically saying Bathsheba is property. And this entire punishment is very male centric. We’ve talked about before how the Bible was written during very patriarchal times. Patriarchal means men are in charge and women are viewed as less than and property. We can even see that in how this story is written. Never once does the writer consider how Bathsheba might be feeling, other than when it points out she mourned her husband. If a modern person, or a woman, had written this text, they might dwell more on how an actual crime was committed against Bathsheba, and not just Uriah.

Patriarchy is the culture of the time, it is the backdrop of the Old Testament. But I do not want us to every interpret that as “God thinks women are less and doesn’t care about them.” We will see stories over and over again that counter that. And the fact that this time period is so incredibly patriarchal only serves to underscore the ways in which God subverts the patriarchy.

What do I mean by that? Well in patriarchal cultures, there is this tendency to blame women when things like rape happen to them. Women are more likely to be punished for sexual sin, in patriarchal cultures, then the man they committed the sexual sin here. But God subverts that understanding here by not blaming Bathsheba at all, and by solely laying the blame at David’s feet.

It is David who grossly abused his power. It is David who will be punished.

Someone please read 2 Samuel 12:13-15.

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan said to David, “Now the Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die. 14 Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord,[a] the child that is born to you shall die.” 15 Then Nathan went to his house.

Finally David realizes what he has done is wrong, and he admits his wrongdoing before God and Nathan. Nathan says because David realized his sin here, his punishment will not be death. However, his actions have “utterly scorned the Lord,” basically meaning he has shown completely disrespect and disregard for God and his laws. And because of that this curse of family strife will still be on David and the first part of that is the child born to him will die.

Now this may seem like it’s also a punishment for Bathsheba and maybe it is. Maybe she wanted this baby and she will mourn the loss. But also maybe her entire life she would have resented the baby for what it represented it: her rape and Uriah’s murder.  Unfortunately a side effect of the male centric view of the Bible is that we will never know how Bathsheba felt about this. But the baby does die.

However, God did not completely forget Bathsheba or make her suffer more than she already had. Skip forward and someone please read 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

24 Then David consoled his wife Bathsheba, and went to her, and lay with her; and she bore a son, and he named him Solomon. The Lord loved him, 25 and sent a message by the prophet Nathan; so he named him Jedidiah,[a] because of the Lord.

After the baby dies, David goes to Bathsheba and gets her pregnant again, with a son named Solomon. It also says the prophet called him “Jedidiah.” If you look at the footnote in your Bible it will say that Jedidiah means “Beloved of the Lord.”

So God remembers Bathsheba and gives her another son, a son he loves, and not just any son. But we’ll later see that Solomon comes to be David’s heir, the king after David.

I think this is God remembering Bathsheba and giving her something, a counter to all the terrible suffering she went through. David was always going to have an heir. There was always going to be a king after him. But he had many wives, and Bathsheba was far from his first. Solomon was not his oldest kid by any means. And we’ll see later how Solomon ends up being king. But I think part of God having Bathsheba being the mother of the heir is to show to her love and raise her up, despite the fact that David tried to pull her down.

This whole sequence in the Bible is one sin after another. David commits adultery and rape. He murders Uriah. He abuses his power asking again and again. These are all sins I hope no one in this room ever commits, sins so great that in modern society you would go to jail for them.

And yet despite all of this, David is still considered the greatest king Israel has ever had and is considered a man after God’s own heart. Why?

Well we all sin. And yes your lie may not be as bad as David’s murder on a societal scale and how it hurts other people, but it still separates you from God. And when we recognize our sins and ask forgiveness, like David, God forgives us and doesn’t hold it against us. Yes there will be consequences for our actions, but God doesn’t let our sins stop him from loving us, and we don’t have to let our sins stop us from pursuing him.