What Does it Mean, to ‘Train up a Child?’(6)

Taken from, “The Significance of the Godly Family,” 2009.

By Andrew McColl, 20th April, 2021

The Pattern of Breakdown of Old Testament Discipleship:

Others have been with those who rebel against the light… (Job 24:13).

The incest of the daughters of Lot: (Gen.19:30-38) What was different about the education and discipleship of the daughters of Lot, compared to that of Isaac, Abraham’s son? How had they been so influenced in their upbringing, that they could conclude it was perfectly appropriate to trick their father into drunkenness, so they could have sex and fall pregnant to him? Clearly, the attitudes and behaviour of the inhabitants of Sodom around the girls during their upbringing, had a marked impact on them, and their father.

The scripture says that Lot was “oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men… [and] felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds” (II Pet.2:7-8). But foolishly, he did not consider these were sufficient reasons to take his family and leave the city; he required a visit from angels to persuade him. When the men of the city approached his door, wanting to rape the angels who were with him, he offered to give his daughters instead to the mob, promising that they could “do to them whatever you like”(Gen.19:8). The angels were able to save the lives of Lot and his daughters, but the girls’ subsequent behaviour shows that they had already succumbed to the morality of Sodom.

[Lot] selected a city where his children could not be discipled and educated properly in the Bible. He wanted to live in the luxury of a corrupt society with a wicked educational system, instead of wandering around in a bunch of tents with Abraham…the long-term price was great. Lot ended up living in a cave…more importantly, he lost his children. [1]

B) The rape of Dinah: (Gen.34:1) It appears that Dinah went alone, when she “went out to visit the daughters of the land.” Whether Jacob knew she was going is not clear, but this is not the point. While it is easy to be wise in hindsight, she should have been accompanied and protected, if she was to go at all into the company of people she knew nothing of. This instance reflects Jacob’s negligence in the care of his only daughter, and his failure to be responsible in the subsequent negotiations with Hamor and Shechem. As a result, there was needless revenge and bloodshed on the part of Simeon and Levi (Gen.34:25-29), so much so that Jacob feared that they would all be destroyed.

C) The rape of Tamar, and murder of Amnon: (II Sam.13) The sin of our children cannot always be prevented by our diligence. But we are obliged, as much as it lies within our power and responsibility, to behave wisely and circumspectly, knowing that there is corruption in every heart, whether it names the name of Christ, or not. This David did not do, in his oversight of his children. When Amnon requested of David that Tamar be sent into him, to prepare him some food, David did not perceive any impropriety. But Amnon went one step further. Being with her half-brother in a bedroom, when everyone has been dismissed by him from the room (v.9), was itself a place of vulnerability for her. But she has no apparent inkling of any danger.

Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar was a family tragedy. It was the second in a series of tragic events within David’s family, which relate to David’s adultery with Bathsheba, and his murder of Uriah. Was David at fault in relation to Tamar’s rape? He was Amnon’s father, and had not successfully discipled that young man.

David had written the Psalm, “Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. Who is the man who desires life and loves length of day that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit” (Ps.34:11-12). Perhaps David and her mother had not trained Tamar (like Dinah), to avoid circumstances that could leads to compromise or danger. What David clearly didn’t do, in relation to Amnon, was to “know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds” (Prov.27:23).

King David’s inability to act justly after the rape of Tamar in dealing with Amnon, set in motion a further series of events, spanning a number of years. Absalom, angered by his sister’s rape, is never consoled by justice being done, and being seen to be done, to Amnon. He is angry with Amnon, but also frustrated and angry with his father. There appears to be no penalty for Amnon, for an offense that in some circumstances would result in capital punishment (Deut.22:25). David was “very angry (v.21), but what does Amnon care about that? The injustice is swept under the carpet.

David is unable to act, presumably because the criminal is his own son, and he is torn between a conflicting sense of the need for justice for the Lord, for Tamar, his desire to avoid a public family scandal, and his attachment to Amnon. He fails to put into practice his own injunction, that “…he who practices deceit will not dwell within my house” (Ps.101:7). David is emotionally manipulated by the events of the day. This may have been what Amnon was confident about, all along.

Thus Absalom murders Amnon; an awful, but in some ways, a logical conclusion (v.29). But there is one person who plays a subtle, perhaps indirect role, in both the rape of Tamar, and the murder of Amnon. The Bible describes Jonadab, David’s nephew, as “a very shrewd man” (v.3). Jonadab knew before both the rape of Tamar, and the murder of Amnon, something of the possible outcomes. Initially the “friend” (v.3) of Amnon, Jonadab was also aware of Absalom’s conspiracy against him. When King David hears the initial news, that there has been a slaughter, that“not one [of the king’s sons] is left” (v.30), Jonadab is able to explain to him, that “…only Amnon is dead” (v.33).

What can we learn from these three tragic Old Testament examples?

Firstly, we are instructed that every father has authority from God to “manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (I Tim.3:4). This is effectively a New Testament rendition of God’s command to Abraham (Gen.18:19).

Job, who probably lived in Abraham’s era, also took his obligations as a father very seriously (Job 1:5). One minister whose views I respect, has written that “by far the majority of church families I know are not protective enough of their children.”[2]This is a critical aspect, if fathers wish to see their family inherit the promises of God. 

Secondly, it is the devil’s classic strategy when attacking a family, to send an evil thought to a weak family member, via a person who appears to be perfectly innocuous. The devil of course, appears to be “an angel of light” (II Cor.11:14). Who would have thought that a demonically inspired serpent in the Garden could have brought down the whole human race, or that Jonadab (David’s own nephew), could have participated in two evil conspiracies, which ended in a rape of one family member and the death of another? Fathers need to be aware of this demonic strategy, and respond accordingly.

Thirdly, sins in the family, may not be a father’s fault; but they are his responsibility. They happen on his watch. A father’s failure to act firmly, decisively and protectively when necessary, can have disastrous consequences in his family. Sin has a remarkable capacity to intrude into the family, the most central place of human activity, as Genesis graphically shows.

Conclusion:

We sometimes make an error in majoring on the sins of commission, such as murder, rape and adultery, sins which are addressed in the Ten Commandments. But sins of omission, which Adam, Lot, Jacob and David committed, can be just as dangerous and deadly, as sins of commission.

Adam’s first error was in not protecting his wife in the garden, from a devious, lying, slanderous interloper. That was an aspect of God’s command to “cultivate and keep it” (Gen.2:15). At a critical point in their families’ development when a crisis was looming, these four men failed to take initiative and act protectively. The Bible warns us that, “Like a trampled spring and a polluted well, is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked”(Prov.25:26).


[1] Ray Sutton, “That You May Prosper,” 1997, p.116.

[2] Dr S. M. Davis, “Changing the Heart of a Rebel,” 1998, p.1.

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