Generational Curses #3: Did King David have a generational curse?

Was David’s son — King Solomon—affected by a generational curse in David’s family? Image: Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon by Edward Poynter (1836-1919), Wikipedia, Public Domain

In the first two articles in this series on Generational Curses, I looked at the principles of this curse outlined in Exodus 20:5, where God said the iniquity of the parents would be passed to the children for up to four generations.

You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. (Exodus 20:5 NASV)

In this third article, we will study the devastating effects that generational curses had on one particular family—King David’s.

This will involve taking a second look at what is conceivably one of the most misinterpreted verses in the Bible.

Israel’s greatest illegitimate son

In our first article, we studied how it was the iniquity (Hebrew ‘awon’) and not the sin (Hebrew ‘chattah’) of the parents that would be passed on to the children. In that article, I discussed that while sin refers to the act, iniquity refers to a “sin addiction.”

It was this iniquity that would be passed down for up to four generations.

In Psalm 51, written by King David, the two words iniquity and sin show up in a single verse:

Behold I was brought forth in iniquity (awon) and in sin (chattah) my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5 NASV)

In this Psalm — penned in the chaotic aftermath surrounding King David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba — David was desperately expressing his deep remorse and repentance over his adulterous affair.

But what was he trying to tell us in verse five?

Most agree, that David was explaining why this affair happened.

Traditionally, most commentators state that David was explaining that his affair was due to the sinful nature that affects all mankind because of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin. Subsequently, this verse has been widely used to support the doctrine of original sin.

However, this does not explain why David committed adultery because while it’s true all humans have a sinful nature, not all commit adultery.

So was David in fact telling us something else?

In this verse, David endeavored to communicate exactly what it says — that his mother conceived David in an act of sin — adultery.

This is a shocking change from the traditional interpretation given this verse.

Is there any scriptural proof supporting this theory?

Perhaps.  In 1 Samuel 16:1-13, God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel. So he approached the elders of Bethlehem to arrange a meeting with the sons of Jesse.

The Elders presented all the sons to Samuel, except one—David. After Samuel realized none of the sons standing before him was the one God was choosing to be king, Samuel asked if there were any other sons, and the elders mentioned David.

Samuel ordered David brought before him and anointed him King.

Why was David not brought before Samuel the first time? Most commentators believe David — being the youngest son — was omitted due to his age.

But is that the reason?

I suspect the real reason is that David was an illegitimate son and was exempt for that reason.

We know that David was a son of Jesse, implying that Jesse was David’s natural father. Psalm 51:5 tells us that David’s mother conceived him in sin, which quietly informs us that Jesse’s legitimate wife was not the mother.

This may suggest that David’s real mother was a prostitute, which also explains why David’s mother is never mentioned by name. It was not uncommon for children born from such illicit relationships to live with the father.

In Judges 11, we have a story that sheds some light on what may have been the motivating factors behind David’s exemption. In this account, a man by the name of Jephath was conceived when his father Gilead had sexual relations with a harlot (v 1).

Despite his questionable parentage, Jephath lived in Gilead’s house. Gilead as the father was responsible for raising the child.

However, Jephath’s birth created a tremendous amount of tension in the family. In the end, the legitimate sons of Gilead — the sons born of the true mother — drove Jephath from the family so he would not receive an inheritance when their father died (v 2).

Perhaps it was David’s brothers who did not want him brought before the prophet Samuel?

David’s mother may have also been a servant girl. When Abraham and Sarah couldn’t have a son, Sarah arranged for her husband to have relations with her maid-servant Hagar, which led to the birth of Ishmael (Genesis 21:8-10).

This was an acceptable practice in this culture (this in no way implies that God approved). Archaeologists have uncovered actual marriage contracts where a wife agreed — if she could not conceive a child — to purchase a specifically named slave girl through which her husband could have heirs.

However, when Sarah in her old age had a son—Isaac, Sarah drove Ishmael and his mother from the family. This ensured that Isaac would not have to share any of his inheritance with Ishmael.

Consequently, it may have been Jesse’s wife who pushed for David’s exclusion from the meeting with the Prophet Samuel.

Whatever the case, David was treated as little more than a servant and outcast by the family, and they ordered him to keep an eye on the flock, while the ‘true’ sons presented themselves to the prophet.

But God does not limit people because of their parentage and in the end, David became Israel’s greatest king, making him the nation’s most infamous illegitimate son.

Since he was conceived in sin, David explains in Psalms 51:5, that as a result he was brought forth in a state of iniquity.

Was David now suggesting a generational curse was in play?

As a young child in his mother’s arms, David was already firmly in the grip of his mother’s iniquity because of her catastrophic act of sexual sin. This sexual iniquity, David says in Psalm 65:3, prevailed against him — or overcame him.

I wonder if it was at the root of David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11).

The visitation upon David’s children

With David firmly locked in the jaws of iniquity, did it visit or have authority over his children as promised in Exodus 20?

Let the record speak for itself:

  • David’s first son Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-4).
  • His third son, Absalom led a revolt to overthrow his father. Note: Tamar was Absalom’s full sister and because David — no doubt paralyzed by his own sin and judgment — never dealt with the situation, Absalom arranged the murder/execution of Amnon in retaliation for the rape. This incident quickly ballooned into a full-scale revolt. At the height of this insurrection, Absalom raped David’s concubines on the roof of the palace for all of Israel to witness (2 Samuel 16:20-23). It was the ultimate act of humiliation for his father’s regime and retribution for David’s failure to deal with Amnon. In the end, Absalom’s rebellion failed, but I sometimes wonder if Jesus referred to this very incident when he taught his disciples that whatever is done and said secretly will be shouted from the rooftops (Luke 12:2, 3). If Jesus was subtly alluding to this incident, He basically said our secret sins will be shouted from the rooftops through the actions of our children.
  • Even Solomon, the son of Bathsheba and heir to David’s throne, was plagued by the lusts of his father. Solomon, in direct violation of God’s word, took 700 foreign women as wives and 300 concubines. These women had a diabolical influence on Solomon, seducing him into idolatry. Though Kings of this day often used arranged marriages to solidify truces with foreign nations, the Bible gets to the root of the problem, stating simply that Solomon loved his foreign women (1 Kings 11:1). Old-fashioned lust, not national security, was the foundation for this massive harem.

Even Jesse?

There is even evidence that David’s father Jesse was influenced by a similar generational curse. In the genealogy of Jesus, recorded in Mathew 1, we see that one of the forefathers of Jesse was a woman called Rahab the Harlot (5, 6). She was the woman who provided a safe harbor for the Israeli men spying out Jericho.

Because of this act of generosity, Rahab and her family were given protection during Israel’s attack. She not only joined the nation of Israel but eventually married a Jewish man (Joshua 2:1-8; 6:17, 25).

Coincidentally, David was the fourth generation down from Rahab, but despite this, David clearly puts the blame for this generational curse at the feet of his mother.

This was the third in a seven-part series on Generational Curses.

Originally posted on May 13, 2016.

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