Just when I thought these concubine accounts could not get more strange, there are the 10 concubines of David. Solomon was right — there is nothing new under the sun.
Consider the context of 2 Samuel 15-20. Absalom is in the full light of rebellion, gathers the men of Israel to his side and forces David (his father and king) to flee. In the process of securing his position as the new leader he seeks counsel from a fellow traitor named Ahithophel, once a counselor to David. While fleeing for his life (again), and weeping as he went, David learns about Ahithophel’s conspiracy with Absalom. He responds to this news with a short prayer: “Adonai, please! Turn Ahithophel’s advice into foolishness” (15:13-30)!
“Simple people always reduce everything to their own simple measure.”
― Norah Lofts, The Concubine
David finds himself cursed by Saul’s descendants while Absalom asks Ahithophel for counsel. And foolishness (David’s prayer) was the response.
Go in, sleep with your father’s concubines, the ones he left to take care of the palace…this will strengthen the position of all those who are on your side. So they set up a tent for Absalom on the roof… (vv. 21-22 CJB)
WHAT?! Can you believe that? There is so much wrong with this picture. Again we have concubines minding their own business who are thrown into a situation they did not create. The difference is that these 10 concubines were left in charge…deputized in his absence with responsibility for David’s palace.
Fast forward to David’s return and response (20:3) — He took the ten women who were his concubines and put them under guard. He provided for their needs but never slept with them again.
They were kept in confinement until they died, living like widows with their husband still alive.
Wow, unbelievable! David’s action suggests he had an expectation for the concubines to use his authority to protect themselves and the palace. Had they done so, it’s very possible that David would have returned and found them dead…or brutally ravaged. Keeping them alive and fed but without connection — as widows — was their punishment as concubines were beholden to the men who “rescued” them from lower standards of living.
Thankfully, most women would never agree to share a man with nine other women as sister wives. At some point, there is a limit. For most of us that limit is one man and one woman (amen to that!).
That said, our focus is on the spiritual parallel. Have people ever punished you for not acting according to their expectations? It’s happened to me. It’s not a good feeling, to say the least. For a while, it’s as if you live under your personal gray cloud while others mark off distance from you. They let you live. They feed you the basics — civility and common greetings — and justify themselves before God thinking that their behavior is okay. They let you “exist” in the community, but as an exile…as one in captivity…who grieves amidst all the life surrounding.
That may have been your reality. You may, in fact, be cast off right now. But that is not the will of God for you.
The difference between those 10 concubines and you and me…is the redeeming, transforming, accepting work of Jesus. May I share something with you? That door they locked you behind — socially, emotionally, spiritually, financially, physically, relationally — is open. Today, the spirit of Absalom may wreak havoc, but it has no power against the Greater One in you. The spirit of counsel from Ahithophel-type people may be acted out, but will eventually come to naught.
Choose life, royal one. Choose higher order thinking, which is your change of perspective to agree with God’s Word. You were left in charge…and today you have divine help to operate in dominion — fruitfulness, multiplication, and a royal reign in the earth. Shake yourself. Walk out of that door. Agree with God concerning your liberty in Christ. Change your garments and re-present yourself to the community.
Trust, all is well. I love you, and continue to declare your release.