Regular nibbles from the Bible. . .come for a bite, leave with an appetite

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight. (Psalm 19:14, MSG)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Last Defense (2 Samuel 20)

David returns as king--but this time the celebrations are tarnished, and not everyone is happy he is back. I won't go into all the details--old Joab kills his competition for head of the army, for example--but I want to spare a moment to talk about David's concubines.

Excavation of David's palace
David seems unbelievably cruel. He left ten unnamed women in charge of the palace while he ran away. Absalom was quick to take advantage of the situation, upon the advice of Ahithophel. He pitched a tent on the roof of the palace and publicly slept with his father's concubines. He meant it to disgrace his father and to strengthen his hold over the people.

David must have guessed something like that would happen. Why did he leave them so defenseless? And then, after the inevitable happened, he treated those women as if it was their fault:

When David arrived home in Jerusalem, the king took the ten concubines he had left to watch the palace and placed them in seclusion, under guard. He provided for their needs but didn't visit them. They were virtual prisoners until they died, widows as long as they lived. 2 Samuel 20:2-3, MSG

Those women had been traumatized. They probably longed for David's comfort, his familiar embrace, encouraging words--perhaps even one of his songs.

Instead, he made them prisoners and never visited them again. Well provided for and protected, but prisoners, none the less. Even worse, their position didn't change after he died. They lived in seclusion until their deaths.

David always seemed to go a little squirrely about women--the stories of Michal and Bathsheba, and now  the concubines. I doubt those nameless ten had a choice about becoming concubines. I can't imagine many Jewish women happily becoming a king's concubine and not wife ten or twelve. Something about them brought them to David's attention, and he had to have them. He trusted them enough to leave the palace in their care.

And just as quickly his attention waned and he discarded them. They were painful reminders of what
happened with Absalom, of his disgrace, his rebellion, and David's deep grief for his son. The physical attraction the concubines held couldn't compete with the deep feelings of revulsion after David's return.

I feel like I'm rambling. I'm not a man, but from what I understand of a man's psyche, David's behavior is an example of male reactions at their worst.

I don't know if any of the women wanted to leave the security of the palace. I don't know if they had dreams of a husband after David's death, or of a life outside the walls of the harem. What offends me that they didn't have a choice.

So, the so-what part of the story is harder than usual. A few thoughts:

  • No believer is perfect and always makes the right decisions.
  • Our choices affect those around us.
  • Our suffering may be the result of someone else's free will.
  • David acknowledged his fiscal responsibility even after his feelings changed.
  • Although not stated here, even when people reject us, God still loves us.


  1. That's a hard read. I am thinking how we (I) have been rejected various times and the men, they just gallop merrily along ... leaving us to "die." Fortunately, we have hope in Jesus and we don't stay there long! And we are loved, as you said. He will never leave us nor forsake us nor tire of us (I wonder sometimes, when I do the same things over and over again!)

  2. So true, Kathy! Many women can identify with these poor concubines.