The Biblical story of King David and his son Solomon, who later became king, has always fascinated me. Those familiar with the story know that it ends on a negative note, but more on that later.
I’ve always thought about family units as kingdoms. It makes sense. Over and above the standard king, queen, prince, princess, etc., many family units aspire for their legacy to carry on after them. For their name and memory to not die and be buried with them. This is commonly accomplished through dynasties. It’s a natural flow and desire of human life.
If you’re rusty on the details, here’s a brief synopsis of David and Solomon. David was anointed king to replace the first king of Israel (Saul), when he was relatively young. He was chosen by God and like many of God’s chosen he was an unlikely candidate. In time, Saul discovered that David was chosen to replace him and attempted to kill David over the course of many years. But a combination of God’s grace and David’s character allowed him to eventually become king of Israel.
While David was known as a “man after God’s own heart”, he was far from perfect. When David was younger, he leaned more heavily on God for direction and protection, but once he was sitting on the throne, it was clear he had a few character flaws. He sent a man to his death when he wanted to sleep with his wife. David further broke religious laws in having multiple wives. His family relationships were a complete disaster as he aged and failed to maintain order in his home. But for all of his flaws, he was committed to following God and experienced a great deal of success in life. Eventually, David had a son named Solomon.
Solomon was born into a horrific family dynamic. Through various circumstances, Solomon was named to the throne to succeed his father, even though he was several children behind in the pecking order. Famously, in a conversation with God, Solomon asked for wisdom above all else. God was pleased with this request and granted him vast wisdom, which it is said he used to grow the kingdom that his father David had established. For a period of time, Solomon reigned justly and well.
However, similar to his father, Solomon exhibited certain character flaws, namely that he was easily swayed by women and pursued multiple wives and later allowed the nation to worship other gods. Solomon ultimately failed even though he had the whole world in his hand.
I’ve always liked this story for a few reasons:
- David is a real father. A real father in the sense that he had noble intentions and got quite a few things correct, but ultimately he struggled and failed. Through those failings, he was able to establish an amazing kingdom and secure his place in history. While information is scant, and his other family relationships may suggest otherwise, David had a hand in raising a son who would one day succeed him on the throne and build upon his efforts.
- Solomon is initially successful in following in his father’s footsteps. Wildly so. He reacts wisely in a conversation with an all powerful God. He vastly expands the kingdom. He’s well liked among the people. His name too is solidified in the annals of history.
- Both David and Solomon’s stories are cautionary tales. They were kings. They had the whole world. Yet they ultimately failed. Solomon possibly more so than his father. David was charting a new course. It’s almost expected to succumb to material and physical temptations when you come from nothing. Yet Solomon would have had the benefit of knowing his father’s life story. Seeing the opportunities to avoid trouble. And yet, he ultimately followed in his father’s footsteps and bad relationships and neglecting his duties to the people ultimately cost him greatly.
So what lessons can we take away and why base the title of this blog on a failed king? Life is not a fairy tale. It’s messy. As much as we may try as fathers, there’s absolutely no guarantee as to how our sons will turn out. Even the best fathers have war and horror stories of how their sons have gone off the deep end. They don’t reflect the character and effort that the fathers poured into their sons. But those are few and far between. The vast majority of father/son relationships are average. At best. And it’s largely the father’s fault.
You didn’t think I was going to let you off the hook, did you? Listen, I know how it is. I work 10 to 12 hours a day. I have to find time to exercise, help clean the house, spend time with my wife/his mother, learn, grow, fix things, etc. It’s a shit show. But the investment pays immeasurable dividends. Not only to ourselves, but to our sons and the families that they will start and impact. What if David had been a better example to his son? What if he had stuck with one wife and acted with greater integrity? What if David had exerted more control and influence over his household and not allowed his other children to run a muck? What if David had taken more time to pour into Solomon and embed truths and principles into his soul? What if?
We’ll never know how much of Solomon’s problems came from his own actions, but we can clearly see where the failings of David impacted Solomon.
I want to raise a less damaged Solomon. I am the master of my kingdom. My son will inherit a kingdom that I’m building. It’s my duty to prepare him to be the best man and version of himself that he can be. To prepare him to manage what I hand him. To be the best father and husband that he can be. But that all starts with me. It all starts with you.
Together, we can raise our sons to be the version of Solomon that enjoys all the potential fruit of life and avoids the pitfalls that lead to misery and wasted opportunity.