Now Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. And after a time Amnon, David’s son, loved her. And Amnon 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. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. And Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he 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.” Jonadab 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 bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So 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, that I may eat from her hand.”
Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. And she took dough and kneaded it and made cakes in his sight and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and emptied it out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this outrageous thing. As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her, and being stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up! Go!” But 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. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her.” Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves, for thus were the virgin daughters of the king dressed. So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. And Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe that she wore. And she laid her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.– 2 Samuel 13:1-19 ESV
In this chapter, we will see yet another ugly consequence of David’s disobedience to the commands of God. He had been forgiven by God for his sins, but that did not mean there would be no consequences. In this case, we begin to see one of the unexpected consequences of David’s violation of God’s command for the king not to marry multiple wives. Three of David’s children are involved in this story. Two of them, Absalom and Tamar, were born to David by his wife, Maacah. Absalom was born while David reigned in Hebron. Tamar was most likely born after David had moved his capital to Jerusalem. Amnon was born in Hebron as well, but to a different mother, Ahinoam. David had many wives and even more children. Like any family, there would be sibling rivalry and conflicts between children. But his hyper-blended family was going to prove to be a breeding ground for trouble. And one of the things that will stand out as this story unfolds is David’s less-than-stellar parenting skills. He may have been a mighty warrior and military leader, but he appears to lack what it takes to lead his large collection of children. And this disconnection from his children will only grow worse and more deadly as the sordid details of the events become known to him.
We’re told that Amnon “loved” his half-sister, Tamar. She was young, beautiful and a virgin. And while the text claims that love was involved, it is interesting to note that the Hebrew word used to describe Amnon’s affection for Tamar can actually refer to sexual love. And as the story will so graphically demonstrate, Amnon’s attraction to his half-sister was purely physical. He lusted after her. So much so, that he made himself sick thinking about it. In his mind, Tamar was off-limits and he racked his brain constantly trying to figure out how he might have her, even as he was having immoral and inappropriate thoughts about her. With the advice of a close friend, Amnon devised a plot to carry out his lust-driven desire to have Tamar. And his father, David, unknowingly went along with it. He was oblivious to what was going on. So, he sent Tamar to take food to her “sick” brother, not knowing what Amnon had planned for her. And Amnon ended up raping his sister, against her will and despite her impassioned pleas to stop.
Tamar begged Amnon to consider what he was doing. She pleaded, “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel. Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, and he will let you marry me” (2 Samuel 13:12-13 NLT). It would not have been unprecedented for David to have agreed to a marriage between the two of them. It was a common practice in those days. Abraham had married his half-sister, Sarah (Genesis 20:12). But Amnon was not interested in marriage. He was not persuaded by Tamar’s warnings about the damage this act would do to his reputation. He could care less. He was driven by lust. And we know the deadly outcome of a life motivated by lust.
…each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:14-15 ESV
As we see, once Amnon got what he wanted, his “love” for Tamar would turn to hatred. Having satisfied his sexual desire, he saw no more need for her. He threw her out like a used, unneeded object. He took her virginity by force and left her to deal with the shame, dishonor and humiliation all alone. She was thrown out by force. She was discarded like trash, used up and no longer of any value to Amnon. And she tore her robe and covered her head in ashes, a sign of mourning over her lost virginity. In that culture, Tamar would now be considered damaged goods. It did not matter that she was the daughter of the king. She was no longer a virgin. She would be treated with disdain and viewed with disrespect, regardless of the circumstances. No man would want her. He young life had been ruined, all because Amnon could not or would not contain his lust. He was a man driven by sexual desire. Any love he had for Tamar had been overshadowed by his lust. He had long ago stopped seeing her as his sister or even as a woman. She was an object, a trophy to be won and a forbidden desire to be satisfied – at any cost.
But this will not be the end of this story. It will get worse. As James so pointedly puts it: “and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” The most telling part of the story will be the role David plays. What will he do when he finds out what happens? How will he handle this devastating event that took place in his own home between two of his own children? David was the king, but he was also a father and a husband. How would he lead? He knew how to fight the enemies of Israel and win, but did he know how to do battle with the enemy within the walls of his own home? David was going to learn that inaction and avoidance would be inadequate reactions to what had happened. To do nothing, while the easier path to take, was going to prove disastrous and deadly.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.