Thursday, September 24, 2009

David's Son - an Unworkable Argument

One of David's sons died in infancy. David mourned him before he died, but stopped grieving when the child died. This puzzled the servants of David. When asked about his odd behavior:

2 Samuel 12:22-23
And he said, While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.

A large number of people use this as a prooftext for the idea either that infants of believers (or all infants) who die in infancy will be saved. There are three main problems with that argument:

1) Go to him in Heaven?

The verse just says "go to him." It doesn't say "go to him, in heaven." It does not indicate that David thinks he will join his son in Paradise. Furthermore, David's calm is not produced by joy. David does not rejoice that his son is in heaven. He just submitted to the providence of God and went about his business:

2 Samuel 12:19-20
But when David saw that his servants whispered, David perceived that the child was dead: therefore David said unto his servants, "Is the child dead?"
And they said, "He is dead."
Then David arose from the earth, and washed, and anointed himself, and changed his apparel, and came into the house of the LORD, and worshipped: then he came to his own house; and when he required, they set bread before him, and he did eat.

As one of my friends who uses the handle "Hobster," recently pointed out. David may simply have meant that he was going to be joining his son in the grave. In the Hebrew mind, we see this kind of thought. For example:

1 Kings 2:10 So David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.

In case you think this is a good thing, note that it is also said of wicked king Ahab:

1 Kings 22:40 So Ahab slept with his fathers; and Ahaziah his son reigned in his stead.

2) Go to him in Hell?

As noted above, David doesn't say where he thinks the child is going. He also doesn't say where he thinks he himself is going. He has just sinned grievously, and we are not specifically told whether David has assurance of salvation at this time. I suppose he ought to, but we are not told that he does have such assurance. If David does not have assurance of salvation, then this verse would seem to have either same general "go to the grave" concept, or perhaps a more sinister concept of going to the place of the damned.

3) Is David Inspired?

The text of Scripture is inspired, but the text is an historical narrative. It tells us what David said, but it does not specifically endorse what David said. Even if David meant he would see his child in heaven, we could not necessarily conclude that David was right as opposed simply to David being optimistic.


We don't know for sure where David's son went. It would not be wise, therefore, to build a doctrine regarding the salvation of infants on this verse alone. David's resignation and lack of joy (ending his weeping and fasting, not putting on a celebration) suggest that he had simply accepted the punishment of God, rather than having any particular hope as to the salvation of his son.

That is not, of course, to say that I think I've proved that David definitely didn't mean what so many softhearted folks would like to think he means. David thinking that his son was in heaven hasn't been proved wrong, and perhaps the comments by David were put there for us to adopt.

Regardless of whether one adopts the highly optimistic view that David thought his son was saved, one should heed David's argument. While a child is alive, pray for its health and welfare. Once it is dead, it is too late. Accept the chastisement of God (if it is that, as it was in David's case) and resist the temptation placed before you to be angry with God. Go, wash up, clean your face, worship God and go about your business. That's easy for me to say, but it is also the right thing to do.



Zaphon said...

Admittedly, this issue is one where sentimentality rules.

I disagree with the notion, I've heard expounded elsewhere, that if infants who died automatically entered heaven, that this would lead to mass abortion...why not since infants who die are assured of bliss and salvation hereafter? I find that notion just outlandish.

Does it not seem consistent with the Calvinistic view of grace, that those who are saved are saved apart from any action or ability on their part? Infants, being unable to sin or repent, are saved by God's mercy and lovingkindness.


Louis said...

"It would not be wise, therefore, to build a doctrine regarding the salvation of infants on this verse alone."

Agreed. It's only one piece of a larger puzzle. And of course there are different doctrines about infant salvation -- that all are saved, that all infants of believers are saved, that only some infants of believers are saved.

But as far as this particular verse goes, I wouldn't say it's an overwhelming case by any means, but it is at least suggestive that infants of believers are saved.

I think this verse should be read in light of Psalm 22:9. There, David says of the Lord, "you are he who tok me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother's breasts." This of course supports the idea of infant regeneration and suggests that David saw himself as belonging to the Lord from infancy.

Now if you turn to 2 Samuel 12, it's possible that, knowing his own experience, David also presumes the same of his son -- namely that he belongs to the Lord also, and that David will one day be re-united with him in the Lord, (wherever or however that future state is conceived).

Turretinfan said...


The usual Reformed explanation is that any infants who are saved are given faith in some seed form. How exactly, we're not told. That's all in God's hands, and it is just as merciful when he saves them (assuming he does) as when he saves us.


Rhology said...

TFan said:
Once it is dead, it is too late.

I believe you mean once the child is dead, we are to pray for the child's soul. That's clearly what David meant.

Anonymous said...

These have been some thought provoking comments in here.

I would comment on some.

First, to the issue of infancy and God, God being this big bad dude on high who is ruthless and terrible beyond belief Who clearly kills babies and commands the utter destruction of them along with their families.

I would set my comments here with this realization that there isn't going to be one infant alive today reading them.

Now, consider God's inspired Words:::>

Psa 137:7 Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations!"
Psa 137:8 O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us!
Psa 137:9 Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!

Only the "just" live by faith. Whoever is not living by faith will not share in the inheritance of those who do. Here is a case in point being made. There is this problem we have, by influence I suppose, that God "takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!" Who is doing that? Where did this idea come from? These are the inspired Words of God that by them we gain instruction and rest.

And why is this? For me, it's simple. Adam and Eve, as the saying goes, did not have navels. All humanity after came from a mother's womb. There must then be something about the biological qualities inherent in the womb of some women that causes God to destroy their infants?

Where did the nature of sin come from?

Does not God see the end of all things from their beginning?

Recently in my fellowship we had a young mother of three, she being in her late 30's, go into the hospital to have a routine operation. She never came out alive. Something happened. Something went wrong during the operation and she never recovered after the operation.

There was a period of time where she was in a coma.

All we were told is to pray for her because complications developed and she was struggling to recover. The battle was on! Many of us were overwhelmed with grief. We were on our faces crying out to God for recovery.

She was such a delightful personality, lighting up any room you found yourself in with her, whether at her home or other places. It wasn't difficult to pray in earnest for her. The Lord gave us those verses being addressed in this article to guide us in the eventualities we were facing. There came a deep release to a group of us men that morning when the phone rang and our Pastor called us from the hospital that morning and passed on the news.

I cannot explain it more than a burden lifted. Grief remained and anguish of soul still grips us at times now many months later as we now have a widower father, well loved by us and his three darling children to look after. It hasn't been easy for my Church to take up the slack that came to us and to his household with an 8 year old girl and a 5 year old boy and a 2 year old boy.

This verse was used by us to bring him and us comfort in the circumstances that when we die we shall see her anew! She died in Christ.

However, now, as I read this article and the comments, I am disposed to have another understanding with regard to that verse as I realize that possibly we are exergeting it incorrectly??

David's Son, an unworkable argument, yes, hmmmmmm?

Anonymous said...

Part two.

Now, I would develop some of my belief based on the idea opened up here, "just" where did the infant go and what might have been in David's thinking while in the eventualities of the death and possible life of his son?

Recall this then?

1 Sa 28:6-20

1 Sa 28:6....."1Sa 28:19 Moreover, the LORD will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The LORD will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines....1 Sa 28:20".

Note well the words of Samuel to Saul "where" he would be the next day; cf verse 19!

I would say King David was fully informed of these matters. It is speculative, I know.

I have a hunch though that King David, being the man he was, recalling all the many mercies of God befalling him up to this event of the child, he was predisposed to have a confidence with God about his child, seeing clearly the Word gives over the idea that Saul and his armor bearer went to be where Samuel came from when that medium brought him back up to the land of the living from Eternity.

Is this an unworkable argument? It can be for some.

Seeing the harsh treatment God brought about with infants and errors before and other verses about little children's angels always being before the Lord's face for them, it seems to me the inspired Word to be weighted on the side of Heaven and not Hades for where that child's soul went to.

As Psalm 137's example shows that God "dashing" infant bodies against the rocks, there are also these infamous words for our example why we ought not to rebell against the Lord's Anointed:::>

Num 16:25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him.
Num 16:26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, "Depart, please, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest you be swept away with all their sins."
Num 16:27 So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones.
Num 16:28 And Moses said, "Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord.
Num 16:29 If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me.
Num 16:30 But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD."
Num 16:31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart.
Num 16:32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods.
Num 16:33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly.

So we have both sides of God's Sovereign acts. It seems logical to me that to one, hell is where they go and to the other, Heaven is where they go.

Baptist Girl said...

I really don't think there is any verse that specifically speaks about infants going to heaven. It sure is a tough topic, mostly to those that have lost children. All I know is that we serve a loving and merciful God and what even He does, it is good. I enjoy your blog.

The Armchair Theologian said...

Mr. Turretin, I believe that the most exegetically defensible position would be in David saying that he's going to go to the grave, which is where his son is.

The Hebrew is literally saying "I am walking unto him but he will not turn back to me."

I would suggest that David's concern with the boy's death is telling, and to read "heaven or hell" into the text is looking for more than the text is likely saying.

I'm not actually sure that in the old testament, anyone thought that they would go to the celestial heaven ("the dwelling place of God", i.e. שְׁמֵי הַשָּׁמַיִם in Deuteronomy 10:14, 1 Kings 8:27, 2 Chronicles 2:6, 6:18 and Psalm 115:16) as opposed to simply the grave when they died. I think the idea of "going to heaven" is a New Testament idea.

Turretinfan said...

Hebrews 11 seems to suggest that the OT saints new of heaven. It was certainly revealed less clearly to them than to us.