“His father had never rebuked him at any time.” The Hebrew word translated “rebuked” is atsab (#06087 עָצַב). The Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament by Botterweck, Ringgren, and Fabry says that the root “indicates a state of mental or emotional distress.” Here it means to be hurt or grieved (New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis), or “pained” (BDB Hebrew and English Lexicon ). The HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament says “hurt,” but also says “rebuke,” which would be the cause of the emotional pain. David had never rebuked Adonijah and caused him emotional pain, but that was a failure on David’s part. It is a parent’s job to train a child and that means rebuking the child when it is appropriate. Rebuking a child usually causes some emotional pain, but it is necessary to bring the child to maturity.
Throughout the record about David there are indications that he was not a good disciplinarian as a father, and that his sons got away with a lot, which later led to trouble in the family. Poor parenting was one of the terrible consequences of the harem system and having multiple wives. It is hard to be a good Dad when your children live in a harem and every rival wife is jealous of any time you spend with a son who is not her son. In this verse we see that David had never corrected Adonijah, which eventually led to Adonijah being executed by Solomon (1 Kings 2:25). Furthermore, the fact that in many cases the son who became king killed off his brothers meant that every child in the harem was raised to be an enemy of every other child.
We see more consequences of David’s poor parenting that may well have contributed to disaster when he allowed Solomon to marry a pagan wife. Before he became king, Solomon married Naamah, an Ammonite woman, and had his son Rehoboam by her (1 Kings 14:21). The fact that David did not forbid that marriage may have contributed to Solomon marrying many foreign wives once he became king, and those wives turned his heart away from God (1 Kings 11:1-6), leading to the destruction of the United Kingdom of Israel.
David had other family troubles as well. His eldest son, Amnon (2 Sam. 3:2), raped Tamar, one of his daughters (2 Sam. 13:14). David was angry about it (2 Sam. 13:21), but did nothing. This led to David’s son Absalom, the full brother of Tamar, murdering Amnon (2 Sam. 13:28-29). Again David was angry, but after a few years he forgave Absalom and allowed him back into his graces, at which point Absalom rebelled against David and tried to take over the kingdom, but Absalom was killed.