Become a Patron & Spark a Verse

These Are My Sons, by Jonathon Roberts, explores the life of David as reflected through his children and picks out the themes of "Lies" and "Genealogies" from the texts of:

  • 2 Samuel 3:2-5 (Genealogy) 
  • 2 Samuel 5:1-16 (David becomes King) 
  • 2 Samuel 13:1-34 (Amnon rapes Tamar, Absalom kills Amnon) 
  • 2 Samuel 18:9, 14-15 (Absalom killed) 
  • 1 King 1:5-27 (Adonijah sets himself up as king)
  • 1 Chronicles 3:1-9 (Genealogy)

Jonathon decided to film a live performance for this special post.

Words and Music
Jonathon Roberts
Jonathon Roberts, piano, voice; Emily Clare Zempel, clarinet
Recording and Mixing
J Scott Hinkley
Michael Markham
Christopher Colbert
Clocktower Lofts, Bronx, New York
Artist Curated by
Spark+Echo Arts


2 Samuel 3:2–5

(1 Chronicles 3.1-4)

2 And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahin´o-am the Jez´reelitess; 3 and his second, Chil´e-ab, of Ab´igail the wife of Nabal the Car´melite; and the third, Ab´salom the son of Ma´acah the daughter of Tal´mai king of Geshur; 4 and the fourth, Adoni´jah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephati´ah the son of Abi´tal; 5 and the sixth, Ith´re-am, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.

2 Samuel 5:1–16

(1 Chronicles 11.1-3)

1 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. 2 Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.

(1 Chronicles 11.4-9)

6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jeb´usites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither. 7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jeb´usites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain. Wherefore they said, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. 9 So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built round about from Millo and inward. 10 And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him.

(1 Chronicles 14.1,2)

11 And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David a house. 12 And David perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake.

(1 Chronicles 3.5-9; 14.3-7)

13 And David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David. 14 And these be the names of those that were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shammu´a, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, 15 Ibhar also, and Elishu´a, and Nepheg, and Japhi´a, 16 and Elish´ama, and Eli´ada, and Eliph´alet.

2 Samuel 13:1–34

Amnon and Tamar

1 And it came to pass after this, that Ab´salom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. 2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. 3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jon´adab, the son of Shim´e-ah David's brother: and Jon´adab was a very subtile man. 4 And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Ab´salom's sister. 5 And Jon´adab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand. 6 So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.

7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat. 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes. 9 And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. 10 And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11 And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister. 12 And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly. 13 And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. 14 Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone. 16 And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her. 17 Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her. 18 And she had a garment of divers colors upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins appareled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. 19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.

Absalom's Revenge and Flight

20 And Ab´salom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Ab´salom's house. 21 But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth. 22 And Ab´salom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Ab´salom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

23 And it came to pass after two full years, that Ab´salom had sheepshearers in Ba´al–ha´zor, which is beside E´phra-im: and Ab´salom invited all the king's sons. 24 And Ab´salom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant. 25 And the king said to Ab´salom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him. 26 Then said Ab´salom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee? 27 But Ab´salom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him. 28 Now Ab´salom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant. 29 And the servants of Ab´salom did unto Amnon as Ab´salom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.

30 And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Ab´salom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left. 31 Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent. 32 And Jon´adab, the son of Shim´e-ah David's brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king's sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Ab´salom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar. 33 Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king's sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead.

34 But Ab´salom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hillside behind him.

2 Samuel 18:9

9 And Ab´salom met the servants of David. And Ab´salom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.

2 Samuel 18:14–15

14 Then said Jo´ab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Ab´salom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak. 15 And ten young men that bare Jo´ab's armor compassed about and smote Ab´salom, and slew him.

1 Kings 1:5–27

Adonijah Usurps the Throne

5 Then Adoni´jah the son of Haggith exalted himself, saying, I will be king: and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before him. 6 And his father had not displeased him at any time in saying, Why hast thou done so? and he also was a very goodly man; and his mother bare him after Ab´salom. 7 And he conferred with Jo´ab the son of Zeru-i´ah, and with Abi´athar the priest: and they following Adoni´jah helped him. 8 But Zadok the priest, and Benai´ah the son of Jehoi´ada, and Nathan the prophet, and Shim´e-i, and Re´i, and the mighty men which belonged to David, were not with Adoni´jah.

9 And Adoni´jah slew sheep and oxen and fat cattle by the stone of Zo´heleth, which is by En–ro´gel, and called all his brethren the king's sons, and all the men of Judah the king's servants: 10 but Nathan the prophet, and Benai´ah, and the mighty men, and Solomon his brother, he called not.

11 Wherefore Nathan spake unto Bath–she´ba the mother of Solomon, saying, Hast thou not heard that Adoni´jah the son of Haggith doth reign, and David our lord knoweth it not? 12 Now therefore come, let me, I pray thee, give thee counsel, that thou mayest save thine own life, and the life of thy son Solomon. 13 Go and get thee in unto king David, and say unto him, Didst not thou, my lord, O king, swear unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? why then doth Adoni´jah reign? 14 Behold, while thou yet talkest there with the king, I also will come in after thee, and confirm thy words.

15 And Bath–she´ba went in unto the king into the chamber: and the king was very old; and Ab´ishag the Shu´nammite ministered unto the king. 16 And Bath–she´ba bowed, and did obeisance unto the king. And the king said, What wouldest thou? 17 And she said unto him, My lord, thou swarest by the Lord thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne. 18 And now, behold, Adoni´jah reigneth; and now, my lord the king, thou knowest it not: 19 and he hath slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the sons of the king, and Abi´athar the priest, and Jo´ab the captain of the host: but Solomon thy servant hath he not called. 20 And thou, my lord, O king, the eyes of all Israel are upon thee, that thou shouldest tell them who shall sit on the throne of my lord the king after him. 21 Otherwise it shall come to pass, when my lord the king shall sleep with his fathers, that I and my son Solomon shall be counted offenders.

22 And, lo, while she yet talked with the king, Nathan the prophet also came in. 23 And they told the king, saying, Behold Nathan the prophet. And when he was come in before the king, he bowed himself before the king with his face to the ground. 24 And Nathan said, My lord, O king, hast thou said, Adoni´jah shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne? 25 For he is gone down this day, and hath slain oxen and fat cattle and sheep in abundance, and hath called all the king's sons, and the captains of the host, and Abi´athar the priest; and, behold, they eat and drink before him, and say, God save king Adoni´jah. 26 But me, even me thy servant, and Zadok the priest, and Benai´ah the son of Jehoi´ada, and thy servant Solomon, hath he not called. 27 Is this thing done by my lord the king, and thou hast not showed it unto thy servant, who should sit on the throne of my lord the king after him?

1 Chronicles 3:1–9

(2 Samuel 3.2-5; 5.13-16; 1 Chronicles 14.3-7)

1 Now these were the sons of David, which were born unto him in Hebron; the firstborn Amnon, of Ahin´o-am the Jez´reelitess: the second, Daniel, of Ab´igail the Car´melitess: 2 the third, Ab´salom the son of Ma´achah the daughter of Tal´mai king of Geshur: the fourth, Adoni´jah the son of Haggith: 3 the fifth, Shephati´ah of Abi´tal: the sixth, Ith´re-am by Eglah his wife. 4 These six were born unto him in Hebron; and there he reigned seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years. 5 And these were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shim´e-a, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, four, of Bath–shu´a the daughter of Am´mi-el: 6 Ibhar also, and Elish´ama, and Eliph´elet, 7 and Nogah, and Nepheg, and Japhi´a, 8 and Elish´ama, and Eli´ada, and Eliph´elet, nine. 9 These were all the sons of David, besides the sons of the concubines, and Tamar their sister.

Jonathon Roberts

Jonathon Roberts

From the Artist

When I read the Bible I often find myself skimming over the lists of names. I forget that these are real people with full lives, emotions, a history, and a legacy. I set out to reverse this habit in myself while writing this song. I found lists of David’s sons and daughter in the Old Testament and started to imagine what his relationship might be with each of them. How did this relationship evolve as David’s life changed, from being in Hebron to Jerusalem? What about when his sons got caught up in acts of lies and jealousy? I focused on three sons: Amnon, Absalom and Adonijah. I imagined the love that David had for them but also the tremendous regret and sadness he felt at their behavior. Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, Absalom punished and murdered Amnon and ultimately died in disgrace hanging by his hair from a tree, and Adonijah was a charmer who unsuccessfully tried to seize the throne only to be killed as well. David is a noble man; his unending love and trust for God in his life and written in the Psalms is in an inspiration for us all. Still, how would he feel when looking at this same list of his sons that we see. The song begins with the David’s joy of bearing children and his rise in power and ends with an imagined scene of David addressing his sons, expressing his frustration, anger and regret. At times he may even see and blame himself.


Jonathon Roberts is a composer and sound designer for games, film, theatre, and ensembles. His style grew out of classical and jazz training, and evolved through quality life adventures: touring the country in an RV with a one person theater piece on the Apostle Paul, living in Brooklyn with an improv music ensemble, performing in a downtown NYC absurdist comedy band, and a long stint writing music for the renowned slot machine company, High 5 Games. He has released four albums including the latest, Cities a song cycle personifying biblical cities. He created the popular podcast/web series ComposerDad Vs. Bible, in which ComposerDad accepts intense compositional challenges from a mysterious Bible while out with his kids. He frequently collaborates on music and theater projects with his wife, actor Emily Clare Zempel. They live in Beacon, NY, with their two boys and a tangled box of electrical cords.


Most Sparks for 2 Samuel
Peter Sahlstrom

Peter Sahlstrom


@sparkandechoart #MySons
No Tweets Yet. Tweet with @sparkandechoart #MySons and your tweet will appear here!
Facebook Conversation