“O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33)
Here is an exceedingly bitter cry. It is one of the saddest passages in the entire Bible. One would think that such was the cry of a mother who had lost the dearest thing on earth to her, a child. But no, it is the bitter cry of a man weeping for his son who had been killed.
Absalom, the son of David, had been slain while leading his forces against his father, the King of Israel. David had instructed Joab and his men to deal gently with his son (2 Samuel 18:5). Regardless, they slew the young man (2 Samuel 18:14-15).
In the rearing of his son Absalom, David was indeed a failure. But wherein had David failed?
We must be fair and note that in other ventures in life, David was not a failure. In fact in many things he was very successful. We observe that David rose rapidly in rank. We saw him first as a shepherd boy. He possessed a brilliant mind and fortitude. As a courageous lad he went out to meet and defeat the great giant Goliath in battle.
David was a many-sided man. He was not only a shepherd but a poet, a singer, and later the King of Israel. A man like this will usually make good in any situation. While as king much wealth was accumulated in the treasury. Israel’s enemies had been defeated. The time of his reign is known as the “Golden Age of Israel.” David provided the proper foundation upon which his son Solomon eventually erected the temple. But in what way did this successful man fail?
He failed as a father. David paid a great price for his success. When David looked over his life he saw it too. It cost him many hours of sorrow. Our text in 2 Samuel 18:31-33 reveals only one time of his weeping. His son was killed while rebelling against him. Many fathers are like David today. They too will pay that price. Some men are successful at building fortunes but completely unsuccessful at building men.
One might ask: Why did David take this failure so hard? No doubt it was because of his tender love for the son he had lost. Fathers are not supposed to do much weeping, it is often thought by misinformed individuals. We should understand however that often fathers are just as devoted to their children as mothers.
David also took his failure hard because his loss was without remedy. We may blunder in some things and correct them next time, but there is no next time in the rearing of children.
David could have said, “I would make Absalom a different boy if I could only have my time over with him.” No wonder he cried. David took failure hard because he knew he lost his son hopelessly. Absalom was gone for good. He could not be brought back again. Death always produces this feeling when we lose loved ones. David lost his son needlessly. If he had been the right kind of a father, perhaps he could have saved his son. Many a father carries this accusation in his bosom.
The Negligent Father
The story is told about a father who took his little child into the field one afternoon and it being a hot day he laid down in the shade of a beautiful tree. The little child ran about gathering wild flowers and little bits of grass and coming to his father and would cry, “Look how pretty!” At last the father fell asleep and while he was sleeping the child wandered away. When the father awoke his first thought was, “Where is my child?” He looked around but he could not see him. He shouted at the top of his voice but all he heard was an echo. Running to a little hill he looked around and shouted again. There was no response. Then going to a steep cliff at some distance he looked down and there, far below on the rocks and briars he saw the mangled form of his precious child. He rushed to the spot and took up the lifeless corpse and hugged it to his bosom and accused himself of being the murderer of his child. While he was sleeping and neglecting for a just a short time his child had wandered over the precipice.
Such depicts so many fathers and mothers today. While their children are wandering closer and closer to the edge of the cliff and to certain destruction, parents are asleep regarding the moral and spiritual welfare of their off-springs.
Often parents contribute to the downfall of their children because of their own way of life. Some fathers drink, gamble, and are unfaithful to their marriage vows; and then they wonder what went wrong in the rearing of their children.
King David was crushed beneath the burden of thought that he had lost his son Absalom for all eternity. It should be noted that providing the daily necessities for one’s family is not enough. More important is the rearing of children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Money may provide for the body but not for the soul. Money may buy groceries but not character.
How Did David Fail?
Another question to ponder: Is why was David a failure as a father? When John was born, the question was raised, “What kind of child will this be?” (Luke 1:66)? It is required of parents to train children in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). David undoubtedly shifted his responsibilities to someone else.
He had many obligations, cares, troubles, and political problems but he should not have neglected his son. Perhaps Absalom never thought about going to David with his broken toy and he never thought about going to him with his broken heart. David gave him everything but himself. Many fathers are like that today.
David in his sins concerning Bathsheba could have influenced his son, adversely so. David repented and returned from the far country of sin, but Absalom never came back from that land of sorrow.
Fathers, you should consider your responsibilities toward your children before it is eternally too late. Lead your loved ones in the way of the Savior Jesus Christ. Make every effort to save your family from sin and an everlasting separation from the God of heaven. You cannot afford to lose your sons and daughters.