Amnon and Tamar
Tamar’s rape is pictured as punishment for David, corresponding to his adultery: a sexual offense, followed by murder. Again we see the innocent suffering for the sins of the guilty, the long-reaching consequences of sin.
Rated R for sex
Some time passed. David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her.
Amnon was David’s first born son (2 Samuel 3:3), the crown prince.
2Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her.
3But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah; and Jonadab was a very crafty man. 4He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
“My brother’s sister” is clearly “my sister,” too. But when we are intent on sinning, we can easily twist the facts.
5Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed, and pretend to be ill; and when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me something to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’”
Evil advice! The plan is to separate Tamar from any help. Jonadab does not need to say, “and then rape her” because Amnon is thinking along the same lines.
6So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”
7Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.”
Really, it is so childish. “I can’t eat any food unless so-and-so brings it to me.” And David, equally foolish, indulges his son.
8So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. 9Then she took the pan and set them out before him, but he refused to eat.
Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him.
10Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.”
12She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! 13As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.”
“Amnon and Tamar” by Jan Steen, 1670. (Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, Germany.
She offers clear, vigorous, and logical reasoning against this wrong action, hoping to deter him for both her and his own good. He, however, is too blinded by his own desires to hear the truth.
14But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.
15Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. Amnon said to her, “Get out!”
His meaning is “Get up, go out” — the exact opposite of his earlier “Come in, lie down.” So it was not love, after all! Now he feels only guilt and shame, and since her very presence reminds him of his sin, he cannot stand her.
16But she said to him, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.”
But he would not listen to her. 17He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” 18(Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times.) So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her.
What a terrible way to treat “this woman,” his sister, a princess of Israel!
“The Desolation of Tamar” by James Tissot, 1900 (Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis)
19But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went.
Tamar’s gestures are all expressions of grief. The tearing of her tunic signifies that she is no longer a virgin.
20Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house.
21When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.
Now David indulges his son in his sin! This could have been a teaching moment, to bring Amnon to confession and repentance, even as David himself had experienced with Bathsheba.
22But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had raped his sister Tamar.
Absalom Avenges the Violation of His Sister
Rated R for violence.
23After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons.
Two years went by but Absalom did not stop plotting the revenge of Amnon’s sin against his sister Tamar.
24Absalom came to the king, and said, “Your servant has sheepshearers; will the king and his servants please go with your servant?”
25But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, or else we will be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing.
26Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.”
The king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. Absalom made a feast like a king’s feast.
28Then Absalom commanded his servants, “Watch when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not be afraid; have I not myself commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.”
HERE Johnny Cash sings “God’s Gonna Cut You Down.”
29So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons rose, and each mounted his mule and fled.
30While they were on the way, the report came to David that Absalom had killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them was left. 31The king rose, tore his garments, and lay on the ground; and all his servants who were standing by tore their garments.
32But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men the king’s sons; Amnon alone is dead. This has been determined by Absalom from the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33Now therefore, do not let my lord the king take it to heart, as if all the king’s sons were dead; for Amnon alone is dead.”
Well, I guess it is almost “good” news that only one son is dead. Yet David must realize that Absalom would never have killed Amnon had David himself properly handled the situation at the beginning.
34But Absalom fled.
When the young man who kept watch looked up, he saw many people coming from the Horonaim road by the side of the mountain.
35Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.”
36As soon as he had finished speaking, the king’s sons arrived, and raised their voices and wept; and the king and all his servants also wept very bitterly.
37But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, king of Geshur.
We read in 2 Samuel 3:3 that Absalom’s mother’s father was the king of Geshur.
David mourned for his son day after day.
38Absalom, having fled to Geshur, stayed there three years. 39And the heart of the king went out, yearning for Absalom; for he was now consoled over the death of Amnon.
Three years was long enough for David to accept that all hope was gone for Amnon. But Absalom was out there, and David longed to be reunited with him.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of: