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David’s harrowing time

May 27, 2010

And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem (2 Samuel 12:31).

I’m not one to think that David was implementing a forced labor policy after conquering the Ammonites. Most of the modern translations insert some words to swing such an interpretation, but I tend to believe the raw, harsh reality implied by the King James Version: when David vanquished the Ammonites, he rounded up and tortured his captives to death. And I believe David did this because the burden of his sin was greater than he could bear.

About a week earlier, David virtually staged the death in combat of a trusted captain whose wife he had just impregnated. And God sent Nathan the prophet to make sure that David understood the depth of his guilt:

“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? Thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon” (2 Samuel 12:9).

David, the man after God’s own heart and author of psalms celebrating his love of God’s law, had despised God’s commandments against coveting, adultery, and murder. And he could not stand the Ammonites, because of the part they played — his own use of them — in his enormity. Sin and guilt can turn men mad: David had indeed murdered Uriah by the sword of the Ammonites; and his guilt and rage toward them and himself made it imperative to destroy the accomplices to his sin and, worst of all, the breach it created with God (Psalm 51:4, 11).

Later in David’s life, he would see, and deal ineffectually with, the rape of his daughter Tamar by his son Amnon. After accomplishing his lust, Amnon despised his half-sister. Even though she was unwilling, he held her responsible for his sin and undoing. The event escalated into Absalom’s avenging his sister by staging the murder of his half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13).

These vignettes from David’s life seem to be reenactments of his and our first parents’ original dynamic: “And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:13). There is no reason to think that Adam hated Eve for her part in his transgression of God’s covenant, but he wasn’t being especially protective of her at this point, either.

I was thinking of these things this morning while reading, and of how very easy it is to forget to pray that the desires of my own heart would comport to God’s will, and to pray that my desires, should God purpose to bring them to fruit, would be appointed to his glory, and to my good, and not to any shame or undoing.

One Comment
  1. Vic permalink
    May 27, 2010 1:52 pm


    That is a beautifully hard-hitting way to remind us of our real need to be humble and seek first God’s will and not our own self-justification.

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