Did David ever seek God’s guidance about marriage?

Q. King David sought the Lord consistently in battles. However, I don’t know of any time he sought the Lord about anything to do with his wives. Did he and I’m not finding it?

You’re right that David sought God’s guidance about how he should protect his people by fighting against their enemies. In fact, he did this in a way that is exemplary for us. In one instance, the Philistines attacked Israel and, with God’s guidance, David attacked them directly and defeated them and drove them off. Later the Philistines returned and attacked Israel at the very same place. Many of us would probably assume that if God wanted us to attack directly the last time, we should also do so this time. But David sought God’s guidance again, and God told him, Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them. Following this guidance, David once again defeated the Philistines, this time definitively.

It would be good if David had been just as diligent in seeking God’s guidance about marriage, but he was not. As you say, we cannot find any place in Scripture that describes David asking God about this. David married Michal, the daughter of King Saul, even though she appears to have been an idol-worshiper rather than someone devoted to God as David was. Michal later showed that she indeed did not share David’s devotion to God when she criticized him for dancing exuberantly before the Lord as he brought the tabernacle into Jerusalem.

In addition, before he became king, David married two other women, Abigail and Ahinoam, but there is no indication that he sought God about this. And after he became king, David married more wives, including at least one who was the daughter of another king, so he may have been making marriage alliances. But once again the Bible says nothing about David seeking God’s guidance. And we know from the rest of David’s story what great trouble came about because of the rivalry between the sons of David’s various wives. Some of this may have been due to the influence of the wives themselves, if they did not inculcate godly character and values in their sons.

The issue you raise is very important. My late wife and I ministered directly to college and university students for 25 years. We served churches next to schools, and then in our 50s we became front-line campus staff. (Lots of adventures to tell about there!) From our sad observations, we had to warn students that nothing was more likely to undermine their effectiveness in God’s service or even turn them away from the Lord than getting involved in a relationship with someone who was not devoted to God as they were. But the desire to love and be loved is so strong that many people are likely to get involved in such relationships unless they are committed to doing nothing except what God clearly directs them to do.

In other words, a Christian should only marry someone as an act of obedience to God. Certainly, if things are as they should be, this will be joyful and enthusiastic obedience! But this must be the principle. If God says no, then the answer is no.

Remember the promise of Jesus: “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” In this context, I would take “leaving wife” to mean not marrying someone if God says no, and “a hundred times as much” to mean potentially finding a much better match later on if we obey God in that way.

To quote the apostle Paul, “I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”

Author: Christopher R Smith

The Rev. Dr. Christopher R. Smith is an an ordained minister, a writer, and a biblical scholar. He was active in parish and student ministry for twenty-five years. He was a consulting editor to the International Bible Society (now Biblica) for The Books of the Bible, an edition of the New International Version (NIV) that presents the biblical books according to their natural literary outlines, without chapters and verses. His Understanding the Books of the Bible study guide series is keyed to this format. He was also a consultant to Tyndale House for the Immerse Bible, an edition of the New Living Translation (NLT) that similarly presents the Scriptures in their natural literary forms, without chapters and verses or section headings. He has a B.A. from Harvard in English and American Literature and Language, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christian Life and Thought, with a minor concentration in Bible, from Boston College, in the joint program with Andover Newton Theological School.

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