Sunday, August 27, 2023

How much then is a man better than a sheep? (2Samuel 12)

2Samuel chapter 12 is the fallout from David's actions in the previous chapter, and while I shared there someone's explanation of why David did nothing wrong, it's hard to reconcile with Nathan's statements in verse nine here. Anyway, Nathan comes to David with a story about sheep theft, and David is enraged by the story; then Nathan reveals that the story was a parable of what David himself had done. David realizes he royally messed up.

Is polygamy OK? Well, it's not a sin, but it's not ideal, and most of modern society frowns on it. I've often wondered, if a Muslim man with four wives converted to Christianity, would the church tell him he needed to divorce three of his wives? I wouldn't think it was necessary, but I wonder... Anyway, let me address the verses on that page. First of all, like so many things in the Bible, just because it's there doesn't mean God is okay with it. As noted, the Torah says that a king shouldn't have too many wives, and I think a lot of these kings were likely over that unspecified limit; certainly Solomon was. The story Jesus tells of the ten virgins is not about a man marrying ten women, but a man whose wedding has ten bridesmaids. Talking about Adam and Eve as a monogamous relationship is not inherently a condemnation of polygamy, and neither is any verse that speaks of a man and his wife. Oh, and as a final note on this subject, if you ever meet a polygamist, ask him how he would feel about one of his wives getting a second husband; I assure you from experience that the reaction will be comical.

Are we punished for the sins of others? I'm just going to answer this directly and then address individual verses. Yes, we are punished for the sins of others, not because God wants to punish us, but because sin tends to affect the people around the person committing the sin. If I sin as a parent, it affects my spouse and children, maybe even grandchildren and other relatives. This is just a natural consequence, and has nothing to do with justice. Now, the first thing I should address is this chapter, and the fact that God seems to be punishing David's child for David's sin. I'm going to have to say first of all that death isn't a punishment for a child, because they simply go to the afterlife, so the question remains of how much the child suffered from his sickness. I don't know how to answer that, but I think that it can be said that a parent greatly suffers when their child is sick, and it certainly may be that David's emotional anguish was the worst suffering that anyone felt at this time; the story certainly seems to support that it was extreme. I know that may ring hollow for many reading this story, but that's what I have.

As for the rest? I'm going to say that many if not all of the verses in which God says he will punish children for the sins of their parents, it's indicating what I said above. I don't know why God sets limits on bastard children and their descendants, but it's interesting to note that David is supposedly the tenth generation descendant of Judah and Tamar, who were not married. The verse in Isaiah is probably another instance of God wanting to wippe out a people group who were particularly steeped in sin to end the cycle of violence; and yes, I know violence to end violence is somewhat ironic, but it's not evident that the Babylonians were completely destroyed unlike some other people. The nature of the curse of Canaan is mysterious, and I pondered it at length in Genesis chapter nine and the comments, unfortunately without concrete conclusion. The curse on King Abimelech's family was temporary, and God told him how to end it if I recall correctly, so I don't think it's particularly serious. Coming back to David and the whole upcoming business with Absolom, I think it's possible once again that this is a partially natural consequence of what David did here; he killed someone and stole his wife, and then declared his new wife's son to be his heir, all the while Absolom was almost certainly alive and a witness to all of what unfolded in these two chapters. That certainly could have had a negative influence on Absolom. The famine which was a punishment for the slaughter of the Gibeonites is a mystery to me, and I admit I can't make sense of it, nor can I fully make sense of the justice required by the Gibeonites later in that story, which God seems to be okay with, since the story seems to say that God ended the famine as a result of it. The matter of David's census is a curious one, as God seems to make David do something and then punishes him for doing it. (Yes, 1Chronicles 21 says Satan tempted David, but this is not a contradiction in itself if you understand the Hebrew concept of Satan as a servant of God.) There may have been something else God was mad at David for, and God was testing David with the census idea. (As for why taking a census was bad, I've heard it explained that it showed a lack of faith, in that David doesn't trust God to provide strength for him in battle, but needs to figure out how many fighting men he has.) As for God punishing Solomon by taking away the kingdom under his son, I think that's a punishment for both. Also in the case of Ahab, giving punishment to his son Ahaziah is arguably a punishment for his own evil. The punishment of Gehazi's descendants is probably just a natural consequence of Gehazi having leprosy, but yeah, it's still iffy since arguably it didn't have to be that way. I think it can be argued that the punishment of Shemaiah's children can be chalked up to Shemaiah's influence.

It's actually really great that the SAB includes the Romans five passage on this page, because there is a real sense in which it belongs, and is the ultimate question in this category. Why does the entire human race get cursed for the sin of one man? Why does an innocent man have to be killed to fix that curse? And while the SAB doesn't bring it up specifically here, why does the fix in some ways seem to be almost a half measure, since people still die after Jesus's death? These are actually huge theological questions, and they have to do with our relationship with God. Somehow Adam broke the relationship between mankind and God in a way that was so profound, it essentially broke the world. Theologians argue that in some way, all the evil in the world traces back to the fall in the garden. I don't know that I'm really qualified to answer this question, but I started attempting a discussion back in Genesis chapter three.

Was Solomon David's second or fourth son by Bathsheba? Second; the fact that Solomon is listed fourth doesn't mean he was the fourth child. The SAB notes that the crown David takes would have been very heavy; it's worth noting that Biblical measures are often rounded, but it was probably pretty close to a talent if they called it that, so yeah. And the chapter ends with more cruelty against the Ammonites.

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