Once again we had a really faithful servant of the Lord and a kid that was… the opposite.
In the beginning, there isn’t really anything all the remarkable. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob… they’re all pretty comparable. They all have their moments of greatness, they all have their moments of weakness. Moses is interesting because not much is said of his kids. We know he had them, but that’s about it. His successor is Joshua, who was definitely up to the job. As the spiritual child of Moses, he upholds his mentor’s legacy admirably.
The first massive failing we see is Eli’s sons. The picture painted is not a pretty one. Eli must have known of his sons’ crimes, and yet he allowed them to continue. As the high priest, there is no evidence that he did anything but serve faithfully himself, but he failed to hold his sons accountable. He comes across as complacent at best, negligent more likely.
But then there’s Samuel. Samuel notably served well. He was respected, praised even. But his sons fell away? Was it a case of the preacher’s sons rebelling? Was he just too busy trying to lead a nation that he failed to lead his own house? Or were his sons corrupted by the power their father held? I really don’t know, and I’m really curious.
David’s house was a mixed bag. His eldest was just awful, not much is said about the second even to the extent that we have to assume he must have died at some point, but we don’t know how, and Absalom, well, maybe it was trauma that broke him, but he didn’t turn out very well, either. Solomon started out strong, but he couldn’t hold fast. So, what, the first was a spoiled prince, possibly coming of age during David’s darkest time? If David was in the city to see Bathsheba in the first place because of an attitude problem, because he had started to let his success go to his head, started to feel like he’d earned a few luxuries, then maybe his oldest was influenced by this attitude, maybe he was ‘raised’ in the shadow of that father.
Of course, who’s to say David had much to do with the raising of any of his kids? Solomon was Bathsheba’s son. Maybe his early faith is her doing. And we don’t anything of the many other children David fathered.
Here, though, here we have three kings. One held fast to the Lord for his entire life. His son was faithful, as well. His son, however, was downright terrible. The third of these went so far as to sacrifice his own child to a false god. So we have one father who successfully raised a good son who was faithful to God, and he became a father who… was not successful in raising a faithful son.
What’s the difference?
Again, we can’t know how active either of these men were in the raising of their children. They were fathers in a much different culture than ours. But they were each head of the household. They set the expectations for the nation, they certainly set the expectations for their wives and children and servants.
So how accountable are they for the way their sons turned out? Obviously, the king who rebuilt the altars and idols and sacrificed his own child is responsible for his own actions, bears his own guilt. How you are raised is never a get out of jail free card. But we are responsible for how we raise and educate our children. So how significant is this?
Should the behavior of Samuel’s children affect how see him? Because I can’t remember it ever being mentioned. I’m pretty sure the behavior of David’s children is factored into his reputation, and I know the behavior of Eli’s children is factored into his. So what’s the difference? Why does Samuel get a pass? Because his sons are only mentioned once, very briefly?
It’s all just something to think about. We can’t make choices for our children, and sometimes there’s nothing we could have done better. Sometimes, it is through no failing of the parents at all that the children break off and go their own way. I can’t help but think that, most of the time, though, if we’re honest, the negative influences on our children are a lot more identifiable than we’d like to admit. Most of the time, I can’t help but wonder how responsible we really are.
I know I’m not a perfect mother. I know my own struggles get passed on to my children and shape who they are becoming. I can only pray that I approach my responsibility with enough humility to mitigate the damage I’m doing, enough love to help them overcome it, and enough faith to leave the rest in God’s hands. I strive to live out my faith where they can see it; endeavor to teach them the tools they will need to find, test, and maintain their own faith; and pray they can feel the Spirit’s presence in our home.