Q: #300. Were there bad dads in the Bible?
A: It would actually be a lot easier to talk about “good dads” in the Bible, rather than the “bad dads,” because there were a LOT of bad dads, but very few good ones. In fact, pretty much every well known man in the Bible (primarily in the Old Testament as the New doesn’t really talk about a father’s children) appears to have been a pretty lousy father. They allowed their children to get away with things, and in some cases did things to their children, that in today’s society would almost certainly have resulted in their children being taken away from them. Let’s look at some examples from some of these famous father’s with children.
Abraham – Slept with his wife’s concubine because he and his wife Sarah became impatient waiting for God’s promise of a son through Sarah. The concubine (Hagar) had a son named Ishmael (Gen 16). Abraham later sent Hagar and Ishmael off into the desert with a skin of water and some food after he had his promised son through Sarah named Isaac (Gen 21:1-21). (I do not mention that Abraham was then going to sacrifice Isaac on an altar, because God told him to do this: Gen 22.) Some big lies he told (Gen 12:10-20)(Gen 20:2-18), were later retold by Isaac (Gen 26:7-11).
Isaac – Played favorites with his children, favoring Esau over Jacob (his wife Rebekah favored Jacob over Esau)(Gen 25:28). This created some serious sibling rivalry, as Jacob first stole Esau’s birthright (Gen 25:29-34), and later Esau’s blessing from Isaac (Gen 27:1-36). As a result, Esau planned to kill Jacob, so Jacob had to run away (Gen 27:41-45).
Jacob – Two of his sons, Simeon and Levi, went into a city and killed every male because one man had raped their sister. They then looted the town, and took all the children and wives. For this, they only got a verbal rebuke from Jacob (Gen 34). Later, another of his sons, Reuben, slept with his concubine (Gen 35:22). In addition, yet another son, Judah, had sex with and impregnated his own daughter-in-law (Gen 38:16-30).
Just as his father Isaac and mother Rebekah did, Jacob played favorites with his children, favoring Joseph over his other sons (Gen 37:3-4). For this, Joseph’s brothers hated him and eventually sold him into slavery (Gen 37:26-28). They covered this up by lying to their father Jacob (just as Jacob had done earlier in his life), telling him Joseph had been killed by wild animals (Gen 37:31-35).
Lot – He offered his two daughters to a mob to be raped (Gen 19:1-11)(See study: Why did Lot offer His two daughters to be raped?). He later got drunk and slept with each of them on successive nights (Gen 19:30-36). (This resulted in two sons: Ammon and Moab, who were the father’s of the Ammonites and Moabites, two of Israel’s greatest enemies.)
Eli – Eli’s two sons, Hophni and Phinehas (1 Sam 2:34), were called “worthless men” who “did not know the Lord” (yet they served as priests). They had a total lack of reverence for God, and disobeyed Him on a regular basis (1 Sam 2:12-17). They also slept with the women who served at the entrance of the Tabernacle (1 Sam 2:22). For this, Eli simply offered a minor verbal rebuke (2 Sam 2:23-25). God even told Eli that he honored his sons above Him (2 Sam 2:29). For the things Eli’s sons did, God said He would kill them (1 Sam 2:30-34). This later happened in (1 Sam 4:10-11).
Samuel – Samuel’s two sons, Joel and Abijah, did not live for God. They did not walk in Samuel’s ways and they “turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice” (1 Sam 8:2-3).
David – Perhaps the most important man in the Old Testament, he was also perhaps the worst father. Look at what his four famous sons did:
1. Adonijah: Laid claim to David’s kingdom when David was on his death bed (1 Kin 1). David made Solomon king instead, but after David died, Adonijah tried again to make a play for the throne (1 Kin 2:10-23). For this, his brother Solomon killed him (1 Kin 2:24-25). (In [1 Kin 1:6], it says David had not rebuked Adonijah at any time.)
2. Amnon: Raped his half-sister Tamar (2 Sam 13:11-14). For this, his brother Absalom killed him (1 Sam 13:28-29).
3. Absalom: In addition to killing his brother Amnon, he had his servants set Joab’s barley field on fire (2 Sam 14:30), took control of David’s kingdom (2 Sam 15:13-14), slept with David’s 10 concubines on the roof of the palace (2 Sam 16:21-22), and then tried to have David killed (2 Sam 17). He was killed by Joab for doing these things to David (2 Sam 18:14-15).
4. Solomon: In addition to killing his brother Adonijah, he was ordered by David on his death bed to kill Joab (1 Kin 2:5-6) and Shimei (1 Kin 2:8-9) and he did so (1 Kin 2:28-34)(1 Kin 2:36-46). Later in life, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kin 11:3), and these many wives turned his heart away from God towards idols (1 Kin 11:4-10). God called his son Rehoboam an “evil king” (2 Chr 12:14). His mother, one of Solomon’s wives, was from the evil city of Ammon (1 Kin 14:31)(2 Chr 12:13). (The city formed as a result of Lot having sex with his daughter.) He was so wicked that the 10 northern tribes of Israel seceded from his rule, and set up their own kingdom with Jeroboam as their king (1 Kin 12:16-24). (Solomon had tried to kill Jeroboam earlier (1 Kin 11:40) .) Following in his father’s footsteps, he had numerous wives and concubines 2 Chr 11:21).
In defense of these father’s, and many others I didn’t mention, I believe some of these problem children may have been the result of a father not maintaining a proper balance between doing God’s work and spending time with his family. This same thing can happen with minister’s today. The work of ministry can be so consuming that it can take every moment of one’s life. Ministers must diligently guard against this. In addition, the families of those who work in ministry also face greater demonic attacks. We must pray for our ministers and their families.
Sometimes, however, even when a child has a terrific, Godly father, who raises his child right (I think of Manoah with Samson: Judg 13 & 14), that child can still fail to follow the Lord. In these cases, we must simply turn that child over to God and pray for him/her. We must realize that all of us, as father’s, make mistakes with our children as they grow up. There are things we wish we had done or hadn’t done, things we wish we had said or didn’t say. However, if we seek to follow God with all of our heart, and follow God’s Biblical principles for raising our children, here is a promise I believe we should hold on to:
(Prov 22:6) Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Jacob, Samuel, David were called “heroes of the faith” (Heb 11) by God. David was called a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22)(1 Sam 13:14). Lot was called “righteous” (2 Pet 2:7-8), as was Abraham (Gal 3:6). They all messed up in their parenting, but God knew their hearts. He knows the hearts of all men (1 Sam 16:7)(1 Kin 8:39)(Lk 16:15)(Acts 1:24). He knows our hearts. We all make mistakes, He can fix them and work through them. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). We need to trust this.
*** A few other examples many point to as “good fathers” are: Joseph (step-father of Jesus) and Zechariah (father of John the Baptist).