I smirk every time I hear an older person bemoan, “What is this world coming to?” Common opinion is that the world is getting worse. As a history dabbler, I disagree. People are people, and their sins are no more harmful to those around them than they ever have been. There are more of us now, so I guess you could argue the amount of sins has increased, but the individual is no more, no less warped or wicked than 100 or even 10,000 years ago.
Dysfunction has a history
Take the dysfunctional family. Pop culture has made a joke out of this abusive and painful lifestyle through shows such as Malcom in the Middle and the Simpsons. We are hooked on soaps dramatizing the lust and power struggles in families. Some believe our entertainment reflects the disintegration of the nuclear family; from the Cleavers to the Osbournes. Whether this is the case or not, this idealism that families are moving from good to bad, warps the reality that families have always been screwed up, and turns us into little critics instead of little Christs. It also blinds us to the numerous Biblical examples of dysfunctional families and the insight we can gain to help others (or ourselves) in similar circumstances.
One such case is the family of David.
Honestly, any man married to more than one woman is bound to have troubles. Take a look at David’s brides.
- Michal, the second daughter of King Saul
- Ahinoam of Jezreel
- Abigail, previously wife of the evil Nabal
- Bathsheba, previously the wife of Uriah the Hittite
Royal wives in ancient times were like modern day lobbyists. Women were traded for political gain. When a king took a new wife, it was usually to seal the deal on a new policy or foreign agreement. She was given as guarantee that the king continued his interests with her family and collateral against her family betraying the king.
God did not forbid polygamy in the Old Testament. But, when it came to the king, God did say he was to not have many wives so that his heart would not be turned from God’s law. Israel’s kings were to be different than other kings in their era. God wanted a complete loyalty from the king that multiple wives and the policies behind them would challenge.
David disobeyed God by conforming to the cultural norm of taking numerous wives. This is the first factor contributing to his family woes.
What cultural norms surrounding marriage do we follow in disregard to God’s well-intented commands?