How to Be a Bad Father
by Rich Murphy


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Many people have asked the question, "How can so-and-so be such a bad kid, when his parents are such great Christians? It's as if we, the Body of Christ, think that good Christian parents will automatically have good Christian kids. That somehow, the children will receive "goodness" automatically from their parent.

While I am sure that being a good Christian example to our children is essential in their development as children of God; I am also sure that there's more to raising children than being a good example. There's a lot of work involved as well.

Many good, godly people have raised children who went on to serve God, but many more have raised children who didn't want anything to do with God. These children attended church with their parents, did what was expected of them, maybe even went to Bible school, but never developed a true relationship with the Lord.

I knew a Bible school graduate, who had grown up in a Christian home. After graduation, he came to work in Mexico as a missionary. But, he wasn't even saved. Worse than that, he didn't even know he wasn't saved!

At the opening of the book of First Samuel, the priest Eli is mentioned. So are his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who were also serving as priests. But, they didn't know the Lord.

Now the sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the LORD.

1 Sam 2:12

I don't know how somebody can function in the ministry without knowing the Lord, but I know it happens. During the time that the United States was involved in the Vietnam War, a lot of young men went into the ministry as a means of avoiding the draft. They weren't called of God, they weren't anointed, and in many cases, they weren't even saved, but they went into the ministry, as a job, because it kept them out of the army.

But, that's a side issue. Getting back to the point of this study, here we see two children of a priest, who were themselves priests, and didn't even know the Lord. They were serving themselves, and serving a false god, even though they had the advantage of a godly upbringing, with a priest for a father.

Being a believer, or even being in the ministry doesn't guarantee our children will serve God. The only thing it guarantees is that we are responsible before God to teach our children His ways, and to know His Son.


I want to take a look at the life of a very godly man; a very well know man in the Bible; one who was a worshipper; who wrote one-third of the psalms; a man called King David. Specifically, I want to look at what happened to his children, and see if we can learn from him how to be a bad father. You see, even though King David was a great man of God, even though God anointed him and used him, even though he was "a man after God's own heart" (Acts 13:22) he was an absolutely horrible father.

Let's start by seeing who some of his children were:

And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; 3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; 4 And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.

2 Sam 3:2-5

Just to make things a little easier to keep track of, in these verses, I've put the names of the sons in bold, and underlined the names of their mothers. I say mothers, because each and every one of these first six sons had a different mother.

I know that men fantasize about how great it would be to have more than one wife. But, those fantasies aren't very realistic. All they are thinking about is the sexual part, not the rest. I don't know about you, but I think it would be awfully difficult to keep more than one woman happy.

Now, I also know that it was common in ancient times for a king to have several wives, because of political marriages. These political marriages were a common form of making a treaty. But, even though the Old Testament doesn't have any commandments against having more than one wife (even though it isn't a very wise thing to do) King David broke two commandments by doing this.

The first commandment he broke was the one about not having foreign wives. God didn't want the people of Israel to marry foreigners so that they would not be drawn away to false gods. The second commandment that he broke was the one where it says that a king is not to multiply wives to himself.

It appears that even though King David had some wonderful qualities, he also had some areas of sin in his life. Like many, he only obeyed those commandments that he wanted to.

I would have to say (based upon my experience as a marriage counselor) that David had a problem with lust. He just wasn't satisfied with his wife, or even his wives. His eye was always attracted to some other woman out there, even though he had several of his own. Actually, that's why he had so many wives.

This problem manifests itself in Second Samuel, chapter eleven:

And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. 3 And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bath-sheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? 4 And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. 5 And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

2 Sam 11:2-5

Even though King David had at least six wives at this point in time, he got involved in an affair with a married woman. Not only a married woman, but the wife of a friend. After all, why would Uriah's house be close enough to the palace for David to see his wife bathing, if he wasn't part of David's inner circle? Uriah was one of the "mighty men" of King David mentioned in Second Samuel, chapter thirty.

A lot of married men go looking for other women. They leave their home and their family in search of someone else to be with. I think this is the ultimate act of being a bad father. Someone who impregnates a woman, and then isn't responsible enough to be there for her and the children isn't a man, he's an animal. Being a man is more than being able to have sex, it's being responsible. It's protecting his family, providing for them, nurturing them, and teaching them the ways of God.

A lot of married men have the idea that it's okay to look at other women. They say, "Just because I'm married doesn't mean I can't look." Wrong! Looking is dangerous! Job, who was a man of much wisdom said, "I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?" (Job 31:1). He obviously knew that the looking wasn't the issue, it was the thoughts that come after the look.

Maybe the first time David saw Bath-Sheba was accidental. Since her house was close to the palace, and he was on the roof, he may have seen her through an open window. But, that doesn't mean that he had to keep looking. He could very well have closed his eyes, and looked the other way. But, he decided to keep looking. Thereby increasing his lust for her, and ending up in adultery.

As if the sin of the affair wasn't enough, David tries to cover it up. He has Bath-Sheba's husband, Uriah, sent home from the war, hoping that if he has sex with his wife, everyone will think the baby is his.

Unfortunately for David, Uriah was a man of integrity. Knowing that the army was still in the field, he felt he couldn't go to his home, and slept at the door of the palace, instead of with his wife (2 Sam 11:9-11).

Since he didn't go home, he couldn't cover up David's sin. This was a problem for David, so he had him stay another day, and got him drunk, hoping to lower his moral resolve (2 Sam 11:12-13). Once again, Uriah slept at the door of the palace, foiling David's plans.

Having tried unsuccessfully to cover up his sins, David feels himself forced into more drastic action. He arranges for Uriah to be killed in the war. So, David multiplied his sin.

Sin always has a price; there are always consequences. Romans tells us "the wages of sin are death" (Rom 6:23). Maybe, if King David had thought about the consequences, he wouldn't have had Uriah killed. But, apparently, all he though about was being caught for his adultery.

What were the consequences of David's actions? Even though David married Bath-Sheba to try and make things right, the baby died. David's sin cost the life of his child.

Exodus, chapter 20, where God wrote the 10 Commandments tells us that "God visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him" (Ex 20:5). A bad father doesn't take into account his actions, and how they will affect his children. He doesn't care if they have to pay the price for his iniquity. All he cares about is himself, and his desires.


Have you ever noticed that children don't always listen to what their parents say. We can talk to them, and talk to them, and talk to them, and it seems as if they don't hear us. We really have to work at it if we want to be sure that our children hear what we're saying. And you know, we weren't any different either. Looking back at my own childhood, I can't remember much of what my parents said.

Children don't always hear their parent's words, but they always see their actions. They don't always listen to what we try and teach them, but they always learn by following our actions. If our actions are godly, they learn to be godly. But, if our actions are of the flesh, they learn to live of the flesh.

Lots of parents tell their children not to smoke, while blowing smoke from their own cigarettes in the children's face. They tell them how bad it is for their health; how expensive it is; how it's sin; and all the while, they are smoking themselves.

What do those children do? The first opportunity they get, they steal a cigarette from their parents and try it out; sometimes as young as five years old!

Our children, especially our boys, need heroes. If we aren't their heroes, they'll find them somewhere else. They'll find sports stars, or singers, or actors and use them as their heroes. Unfortunately, these heroes aren't going to set a good example for them. They aren't going to show them how to live for God. They're going to show them how to live a life of fleshly indulgence.

Saint Francis of Assisi said: "Preach the gospel in all the world… and if necessary use words." The greatest preaching we do is not with our words, it's with our actions. That's true with our neighbors, with our family members, with our fellow workers, and with our children. If we want to preach something to our children, we'd better live it before them.


Amnon was King David's firstborn son, he son shows up again in Second Samuel, chapter thirteen.

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. 2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.

2 Sam 13:1-2

It appears here that Amnon learned from the example of his father. Just as David had a problem with lust, so did his firstborn, Amnon. Because he followed in his father's footsteps, he fell into lust, and ultimately sexual sin.

Because of his lust, Amnon faked being sick, and asked for his half sister Tamar, the one he was infatuated with, to come and nurse him. Not realizing his deception, David sends the sister, Tamar, to him, so that she can prepare something for him to eat. Once she had finished preparing the food, he commanded everyone to leave the house, and asked her to come into his bedroom and feed him by hand.

However, instead of eating what Tamar had prepared for him, Amnon tried to convince his sister to "lie with him." Knowing that this was sin, she refused, instead suggesting to him that if he really wanted her, all he had to do was ask his father to give her to him as his wife. Of course, he wasn't satisfied with that, and raped her (2 Sam 13:12-14).

When King David found out about Amnon's sin against his sister, he was furious (2 Sam 13:21), as any good father would be. Do you know what David did about it? According to the Bible, he did absolutely nothing. A bad father doesn't correct his children for what they do wrong.

It wasn't until two years later that Amnon paid the price for his sin. Even then, it wasn't David who dealt with him, but Absalom, David's third son, and he didn't deal with him in a godly manner, either. Absalom invited his brother to his home, and once there, commanded his servants to kill him.

Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous and be valiant. 29 And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded…

2 Sam 13:28-29

Once again, David did nothing about his son's actions. All the Bible tells us is that he "tore his garments, and lay on the earth" as a sign of mourning (2 Sam 13:31). Not only did he not discipline Absalom for committing murder, but the last verse of the chapter tells us that after he was through mourning for Amnon's death, he wanted to be with his son, Absalom.

So, now David's lost two son's due to his sin, the baby, and his firstborn. But, as a bad father, I'm sure he wasn't worried about that. After all, he had to worry about the son who was away from home.


The Bible doesn't tell us what happened to King David's second son, Chileab. I'm not sure why he isn't mentioned, but I think that it's because he died as an infant, or as a child. Otherwise, I'm pretty sure he would be mentioned somewhere else, along with the other older sons of David.

Now, let's see what happens to David's third born son, Absalom. We already know that he murdered his brother, Amnon, to make Amnon pay for his sin of raping their sister, Tamar. We also know that David didn't discipline him in any way for his sin, but instead missed him and wanted him to come back home.

After three years of living away from Jerusalem, Absalom is brought home. But, David won't allow him to come into the palace for another two years. Finally, at the end of this time, Absalom gets Joab, the commander of the army to bring him to the palace and see his father.

The very next thing the Bible tells us about Absalom is how he rises up in rebellion against his father, trying to steal his throne.

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. 3 And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. 4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! 5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. 6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

2 Sam 15:1-6

Let me say here that this wasn't a quick moment of rebellion that rose up in Absalom's heart, it was a long, drawn out, planned rebellion that he propagated. Verse seven tells us that he worked at winning the hearts of the people away from his father for four years, before taking any other action.

Then, once he was sure that he had enough of the people on his side, he set himself up as king. Hearing of this, David thought that god's favor had left him, and God had anointed Absalom to be king. To avoid being killed by his son, King David fled from Jerusalem.

Since the king was gone, and Absalom had appointed himself king, he moved into the palace at Jerusalem. To seal his kingship, and demonstrate to the people that whatever had been his father's was now his, he had a tent erected on the roof of the palace, and there had sexual relations with ten of his father's concubines (since concubines were considered private property of the king, they would pass from the king to his son if the succession was legitimate. By taking them, Absalom was symbolically taking all that belonged to his father.)

Of course, King David was still around, even though he had fled from the city. So, a confrontation had to occur at some point in time, and it did. Absalom couldn't be secure in his position as long as his father was alive, so he set out with the army to capture and kill his father.

David had to send his army to meet the army of Absalom, and he did. But, his heart wasn't in it. Even though his son had raised up in rebellion against him, he didn't want to see any harm come to him. He didn't want to see his son have to pay the price for his sin. In an effort to protect him, David told the three captains of his army:

And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.

2 Sam 18:5

Even though David had made his desires clear, Joab, the head of the army disobeyed him. While riding through the forest, Absalom's head got caught in the branch of a tree, and he was pulled from his mule. Someone told Joab, who went to kill him, ending the rebellion.

God takes rebellion very seriously. To Him, it is a capitol offense, deserving the death penalty. In the Old Testament, He commanded the people to kill their sons if they were rebellious:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: 19 Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; 20 And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. 21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.

Deut 21:18-21

Why did God command that? Because rebellion can be contagious. God knew that, and didn't want any rebellion to spread amongst His people. It is better that one rebellious son die, than to have all the youth of the city become rebellious. Even though David knew of this commandment, he didn't follow it. He preferred having a rebellious son, to having his son killed for his rebellion. A bad father doesn't think his children should pay the price for their sin.

So, now David has lost three sons to his sin; the baby, his firstborn, who raped his sister, and Absalom, who rose up in rebellion.


Well, maybe King David did better with the fourth son, let's take a look at what happens to him.

Adonijah, the fourth son, isn't mentioned until the first chapter of First Kings, when King David is old, sick, and about to die. Seeing that his father is about to die, he sets himself up as king.

Then Adonijah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him.

1 Ki 1:5

To be fair to Adonijah, I have to say that he was the oldest surviving son, and probably thought that it was his right to be king after his father. But, even then, why did he hurry to do it, instead of waiting for his father to declare him as king, or to die? It appears he was just as rebellious as his older brother Absalom.

But, the following verse is the one which really tells the story. It says:

And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Absalom.

1 Ki 1:6

While this verse is written to apply to Adonijah, I think we can safely say that it applies to David's dealings with all his sons. He never asked them "Why did you do that?" I don't know about you, but I ask my children that lots of times. Whenever they do something wrong, they can count on a long discussion with me; part of which is me asking them "Why did you do that?"

One of the answers I've received many times over the years is, "It was an accident." It's as if they think that they aren't responsible for any accidents. I can just see it now. Someone is driving their car, and runs over a pedestrian. When the police arrive, they say, "It was an accident." Do you think the police will let them go if they say that? No. They're still responsible. Accidents happen because people aren't being careful.

If a parent never asks a child to be accountable for their actions, the child will never grow up to be accountable. They will do whatever they want, not paying the least bit of attention to the consequences of their actions, or even whether they are correct.

Raising children is a great responsibility. David, as a bad father, ignored his responsibility, ignored his children, and his children paid the price.

When word came to David that Adonijah had named himself king, he didn't say anything to Adonijah. He didn't deal with the rebellion. However, he did have Solomon crowned as king (1 Ki 1:32-39). This, in itself, showed Adonijah the danger of what he was doing, and he ran to the temple, to take hold of the horns of the altar, for protection (1 Ki 1:50).

Although the outward rebellion was stopped by David having Solomon anointed as king, the inner rebellion in Adonijah's heart wasn't. He went to Solomon's mother, Bath-sheba, and asked her to petition the king for one of David's concubines to be his wife. (Remember, they were property of the king. A marriage to one of the concubines would give Adonijah legal right to contend for the throne).

This rebellion cost Adonijah his life. Realizing that asking for a concubine was as if Adonijah was asking for the throne, Solomon had Adonijah killed for treason.

So, now King David has lost four sons due to being a bad father; the baby, his firstborn, and the two who raised up in rebellion. That's quite a heavy price to pay for ignoring his responsibility as a father.


Why was King David such a bad father? I think there are five basic points where David failed in his job as a father:

He Was Too Busy For His Family - Parenting takes a lot of time. It is impossible to properly train a child in the way he should go (Pr 22:6) without investing a lot of time. If we, as fathers, are too busy with our work and our lives, we'll never succeed in being good dads.

He Wasn't Involved in His Children's Lives - We saw in Adonijah's life, that David never asked him, " Why did you do that?" Instead, he basically let them go their own way, without worrying about the consequences. Children whose father's aren't involved in their lives go their own way all right, it's the path to hell.

He Didn't Discipline Them - While I don't thing the Bible would tell us every action of David's life, it does tell us enough to know that he didn't discipline his children for their misdeeds. This is most obvious with Absolom. First he commits murder, then he raises up in rebellion, and all David did was say, "treat him gently." If we, as parents, don't discipline our children, the world will. And, the world's discipline will be much harder than ours.

He Gave Them Everything They Wanted - Of course, as king, David had the ability to give his children everything, and anything they wanted. Like many, he misunderstood love as satisfying every whim of the person. But, true love is more interested in what they need, than what they want. David indulged his children to the point where they thought they should have whatever they wanted.

He Wasn't a Good Example - While I am sure that David wasn't a bad example in everything he did, I am also sure that he was a bad example in some things. We've seen how Amnon followed in the bad example of his father. How many other places did his children fail, because of David's example?

So, if you want to be a bad father, follow David's example. Don't put the effort necessary into the lives of your children. If you don't you too can reap the kind of harvest of sorrow that David reaped. Or, maybe you'd prefer to learn from his mistakes, and put the time and energy into raising your children to serve the Lord. I guarantee you, your children are worth the investment of your time and energy.

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