The doctrine of “original sin” purports that all humans inherit sin and guilt from Adam. Many people cite Psalm 51:5 to support the doctrine of “original sin”. Written as a song of penitence for committing adultery with Bethsheba, King David said in Psalm 51:5,
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” – Psalm 51:5
Many people look at this from a very shallow perspective, and they assume this supports the doctrine of original sin. But a careful look into the scriptures, and into historical documents reveal something quite different.
David’s Early Life
In order to fully understand David, we must look into the entire context of David’s life.
Meeting with Samuel
In 1 Samuel, chapter 16, we read of a mighty prophet in Israel by the name of Samuel. In verse 1, The LORD told Samuel to go to Bethlehem, to Jesse’s house and meet with his sons because he must anoint (inaugerate) one of them as King of Israel.
And so Samuel made plans according to the word of the LORD. He planned to have a celebration in the form of a sacrificial service, invite Jesse and his sons, and anoint one of them as King. You see, inviting someone to a sacrifice was like having a huge BBQ party (for lack of a better analogy). They would slaughter an animal for sacrifice, put it on the fire, roast it, and eat it.
Samuel went to Bethlehem. And when he got there something amazing happened. Samuel was a very powerful man. His reputation was very great. The people revered him. So much so, that when he got to Bethlehem, all the elders of the city trembled! (1 Samuel 16:4)
It was like having a King come to town. It was the buzz of the town. Everyone would want to see him.
But something very strange happened. Jesse knew of the plans for Samuel to meet with him and his sons. But he attended the great celebration without David!
Why would Jesse leave David out of such a great meeting? Why would he leave David behind?
Some people think that it was because David was too young. But obviously David wasn’t that young! Jewish sources tell us that he was twenty-eight years old. And Israel has records of Kings being as young as eight! In fact there were many Kings younger than David. That couldn’t be the real reason.
In fact, if such a powerful and influential man personally, and explicitly requested to meet with you and your sons, wouldn’t you want ALL of them to be there? Even the toddlers, so they can meet him? Of course!
A Failed Set-up
The story gets even more mysterious, as we read that David was a shepherd, unlike his family or his brothers. His family excluded him from meeting with Samuel. They left him in the fields with his sheep.
David was as an outcast to his family. They didn’t allow him to attend family meals. And that would account for the reason he was excluded from meeting Samuel. It is said that at mealtime he was assigned his own table to eat in the corner. And that his family hated him so much that ‘“they hoped that a wild beast would come and kill him while he was performing his duties,”2 and for this reason was sent to pasture in dangerous areas full of lions and bears.3‘ (“Nitzevet, Mother of David” by Channa Weisberg.)
But we know that the Lord used this failed attempt to kill him only to train and strengthen him!
Clue: He Looked Different
We have a great clue into solving this mystery in that Scripture, Tradition, and Jewish history tell us that David was red.
He was fairer, and he had red hair – unlike the rest of his brothers, who were darker.
In 1 Samuel 16:12 is says that he was “ruddy”, which in the original Hebrew אַדְמֹנִי means “reddish”, of red hair or complexion.
But we are only scratching the surface into the real reason he was excluded from meeting Samuel, and so hated by his brothers.
We must look deeper into the early life of David – the life he lived before becoming King. Most scholars believe that David wrote Psalm 69 during his early years. It is in this Psalm we glimpse into a life that is intensely hated, rejected, mocked, and abused. Listen to his words:
Psalm 69:4 Those who hate me without a cause Are more than the hairs of my head; They are mighty who would destroy me, [Being] my enemies wrongfully; Though I have stolen nothing, I [still] must restore [it]…
Can you imagine being so hated that people make YOU repay things that others have stolen?
7 Because for Your sake I have borne reproach; Shame has covered my face.
11 I also made sackcloth my garment; I became a byword to them.
Sackcloth is burlap. Can you imagine wearing clothes made of burlap? Torture.
And he said that he became a byword. That means his name became a curse-word.
12 Those who sit in the gate speak against me, And I [am] the song of the drunkards. …
Those who sit in the gate are the most respected people in the city. Today you could liken them to celebrities, Wisemen, or religious rulers, rulers of the city.
19 You know my reproach, my shame, and my dishonor; My adversaries [are] all before You.
20 Reproach has broken my heart, And I am full of heaviness; I looked [for someone] to take pity, but [there was] none; And for comforters, but I found none.
21 They also gave me gall for my food, And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”
We know that this is all paralleled in Jesus. Not only because David reflected Jesus in profound ways, but also because Jesus is the Word of God personified. The Book of Psalms is the Word of God. If you want to know Jesus better, read the “Old Testament”.
But the question remains, why would David suffer such horrible hatred, rejection and mocking? The answer lies in verse 8:
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, And an alien to my mother’s children;
The word “stranger” here in the original Hebrew “muzar”, comes from the root “mamzer” meaning “bastard”, or “illegitimate child.”
Why would David say that he’s like an illegitimate child to his brothers?
The scriptures contain a few very mysterious things about David’s family. First of all, we all know that Jesse is David’s father. And Jesse is the son of Obed, the son of Ruth.
But David’s mother remained anonymous this whole time. Weirdly enough, the Bible doesn’t give us her name. The Bible names the rest of the matriarchs. Why not David’s mother?
Is she like Pharaoh in the days of Moses, who also remained unnamed? You see, Pharaoh is a title, not a name. Even to this day scholars argue about who that Pharoah was. Perhaps Pharoah wasn’t worthy to be named.
Is David’s mother like that? Is she not worthy to be named?
Another clue is the biblical account of David’s siblings:
1 Chronicles 2:13-16:
Jesse begot Eliab his firstborn,
Abinadab the second,
Shimea the third,
Nethanel the fourth,
Raddai the fifth,
Ozem the sixth, [and]
David the seventh.
16 Now their sisters [were] Zeruiah and Abigail. And the sons of Zeruiah [were] Abishai, Joab, and Asahel–three.“
All is fine and dandy, right?
Until we read 2 Samuel 17:25
2 Samuel 17:25 KJV – “And Absalom made Amasa captain of the host instead of Joab: which Amasa [was] a man’s son, whose name [was] Ithra an Israelite, that went in to Abigail the DAUGHTER OF NAHASH, sister to Zeruiah Joab’s mother.”
This is obviously talking about the same as David’s sisters Abigail and Zeruiah as:
- The scripture declared them sisters. And
- It identified Zeruiah as Joab’s mother.
But notice, its says Nahash is Abigail’s father!
This is David’s sister, Jesse’s girl. Jesse is her father legally, but perhaps not biologically.
Yes, that’s right. David’s sister, Abigail had a different father!
But how can this be?
There are a number of theories surrounding David’s family.
Jesse is Nahash?
Some Jewish Rabbis maintain that Nahash is just another name for Jesse.
There are a few problems with this view.
1, there is an ongoing controversy amongst scholars whether Nahash is in fact Nahash, the King of the Ammonites as identified in the surrounding scriptures such as 1 Samuel 12:12, and 1 Chronicles 19:1
2, Nahash means “serpent”, or “snake”. Why would Jesse have this name?
3, The scriptures do not confirm that Jesse IS Nahash, and
4, Could it possibly be that the Rabbi who came up with this theory might be a little bit biased? Could it be that he come up with this explanation to defend King David’s family from any such scandal?
Another theory is that David’s mother was married before. But like the first one, there is no evidence of this. We don’t see it in the scriptures. And as far as I can tell, we don’t see it in historical documents. This theory just lacks evidence in my opinion.
Another theory is that David’s mother was an adulteress. If this is the case, that would explain why:
- The Scriptures did not name her.
- David’s sisters had a different father
- Everyone hated, rejected, mocked, and abused him
- He looked different than his brothers
- Jesse excluded him from meeting Samuel
- He was an outcast of the family
- He said that he was conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5)
Having said that, this theory is very plausible.
But, you may say, if David’s was a product of his mother’s adultery, that would mean that he is not from the line of Jesse.
However, we know from God’s word, that God counts the spiritual children as true children, and not the biological.
Remember what Jesus said in John 8? He was speaking to a whole group of Jews, who was biological descendants of Abraham. He said that if they were true children of Abraham they would not do what they are doing. Jesus went further than that. He said they were all children of the Devil!
Also, remember the story of Abraham, Isaac, and Ishmael? Although Ishmael we biologically Abraham’s firstborn, Isaac got the blessings. We also see that in Jacob and Esau, and in the case of Jacob’s son Reuben.
God still saw David as Jesse’s son legally, by marriage, by law, and by spirit.
The Jewish Story of Nitzevet
We come to our final theory. This is the theory that David’s mother tricked Jesse into sleeping with her without knowing it! (Yalkut Makiri, Sefer HaToddah, and “Nitzevet, Mother of David” by Channa Weisberg.)
According to these sources, Jesse, David’s father was a man of great authority in Israel. He was very well known and well respected.
His wife’s name was Nitzevet, the mother of King David.
Jesse’s Vexing Ancestry
After having several children (David’s brothers) through Nitzevet, Jesse began to have doubts regarding his ancestry. You see, his grandmother Ruth was a Moabite. And it is forbidden for Israelites to marry Moabites.
And there was a controversy in those days. It was commonly excepted that a Moabite male should not marry an Israelite female. That is because according to scripture, the man was the leader of the house, and as such the spiritual authority of the man would overshadow that of the woman.
Therefore it was said that an Israelite male could marry a Moabite female for that same reason. The spiritual authority and blessings of the Israelite would overshadow any negative aspect of the woman. If that were the case, Jesse’s ancestry is justified.
Add to that the fact that Ruth converted, and counted herself amongst the Jewish people.
But others said the law goes both ways. The Israelite male should not marry a Moabite woman, and vice-versa.
Jesse was perplexed on account of this controversy. He decided to separate, but not divorce his wife Nitzevet. So they lived for quite some time without marital relations. And everyone was aware of that.
Another child? But How?
But there was a BIG problem – both Jesse, and Nitzevet wanted another child.
Jesse decided to do what Abraham did, and have a child through his handmaid. So they planned it.
His handmaid, however, liked Nitzevet. And the two of them conspired to trick Jesse. They decided to swap out during the night like Rachel and Leah did, and thus Jesse would sleep with Nitzevet and not the handmaid! To make it even more interesting, they planned to do it is such a way that Jesse wouldn’t even know! Perhaps get him drunk?
And thus it happened. And Nitzevet got pregnant. But she hid the truth from everyone. And doing this, she gained the reputation of a whore because everyone knew that she wasn’t sleeping with Jesse, right? So how did she get pregnant?
She bore the shame and reproach all her life. And so did David.
David was known as the child of adultery. That is why he was so hated, rejected, and mocked. And because he looked different than the rest, it was very believable. That is the reason he was excluded from meeting with Samuel.
And it is from that background that he wrote Psalm 69.
Psalm 51:5 about “Original Sin”?
To slot Psalm 51:5 in the “original sin” doctrine is just sloppy hermeneutics.
Everyone believed that David was an illegitimate child. And apparently, at least for the first part of his life, even David believed it. That is why he wrote in Psalm 51:5:
“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.” – Psalm 51:5