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2 Samuel 13:1-14:33 – Like Father, Like Son

Summary

Three stories form a sordid tale of rape, murder, deception, and reconciliation. Just as David's sexual misappropriation of Bathsheba had ended in the murder of Uriah, David's sons mirror his behavior in Amnon's rape of Tamar and Absalom's murder of Amnon.

Analysis

In announcing God's judgment against David for his affair with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah her husband, Nathan the prophet had said, "I [the LORD] will raise up trouble against you from within your own house" (2 Samuel 12:11a). These chapters report the beginning of the fulfillment of those words. All four of the main characters are named in the opening verse (Amnon, David, Tamar, and Absalom). In effect, David sees his own transgressions replayed before his very eyes in the lives of his children:
  • His virgin daughter, Tamar, is sexually violated by her half-brother, Amnon, David's firstborn son, as he had violated Bathsheba (13:1-22).
  • Absalom, Tamar's brother, will murder Amnon, as David had had Uriah murdered (13:23-39).
  • Even the reconciliation between David and Absalom will turn sour as Absalom's return will morph into rebellion that nearly destroys David and the nation as surely as it did destroy Absalom himself (14:1-33).

2 Samuel 13:1-14:33

Amnon and Tamar

13Some time passed. David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. 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.’ 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.” 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.’

7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, ‘Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.’ 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.’ 14But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she was, he forced her and lay with her.

15 Then 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!’ 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. 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.

20 Her 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.* 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

23 After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. 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.’ 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.

30 While 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.’

34 But 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.

37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. David mourned for his son day after day. 38Absalom, having fled to Geshur, stayed there for three years. 39And the heart of* the king went out, yearning for Absalom; for he was now consoled over the death of Amnon.

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem

14Now Joab son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s mind was on Absalom. 2Joab sent to Tekoa and brought from there a wise woman. He said to her, ‘Pretend to be in mourning; put on mourning garments, do not anoint yourself with oil, but behave like a woman who has been mourning many days for the dead. 3Go to the king and speak to him as follows.’ And Joab put the words into her mouth.

4 When the woman of Tekoa came to the king, she fell on her face to the ground and did obeisance, and said, ‘Help, O king!’ 5The king asked her, ‘What is your trouble?’ She answered, ‘Alas, I am a widow; my husband is dead. 6Your servant had two sons, and they fought with one another in the field; there was no one to part them, and one struck the other and killed him. 7Now the whole family has risen against your servant. They say, “Give up the man who struck his brother, so that we may kill him for the life of his brother whom he murdered, even if we destroy the heir as well.” Thus they would quench my one remaining ember, and leave to my husband neither name nor remnant on the face of the earth.’

8 Then the king said to the woman, ‘Go to your house, and I will give orders concerning you.’ 9The woman of Tekoa said to the king, ‘On me be the guilt, my lord the king, and on my father’s house; let the king and his throne be guiltless.’ 10The king said, ‘If anyone says anything to you, bring him to me, and he shall never touch you again.’ 11Then she said, ‘Please, may the king keep the Lord your God in mind, so that the avenger of blood may kill no more, and my son not be destroyed.’ He said, ‘As the Lord lives, not one hair of your son shall fall to the ground.’

12 Then the woman said, ‘Please let your servant speak a word to my lord the king.’ He said, ‘Speak.’ 13The woman said, ‘Why then have you planned such a thing against the people of God? For in giving this decision the king convicts himself, inasmuch as the king does not bring his banished one home again. 14We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up. But God will not take away a life; he will devise plans so as not to keep an outcast banished for ever from his presence.* 15Now I have come to say this to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid; your servant thought, “I will speak to the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his servant. 16For the king will hear, and deliver his servant from the hand of the man who would cut both me and my son off from the heritage of God.” 17Your servant thought, “The word of my lord the king will set me at rest”; for my lord the king is like the angel of God, discerning good and evil. The Lord your God be with you!’

18 Then the king answered the woman, ‘Do not withhold from me anything I ask you.’ The woman said, ‘Let my lord the king speak.’ 19The king said, ‘Is the hand of Joab with you in all this?’ The woman answered and said, ‘As surely as you live, my lord the king, one cannot turn right or left from anything that my lord the king has said. For it was your servant Joab who commanded me; it was he who put all these words into the mouth of your servant. 20In order to change the course of affairs your servant Joab did this. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God to know all things that are on the earth.’

21 Then the king said to Joab, ‘Very well, I grant this; go, bring back the young man Absalom.’ 22Joab prostrated himself with his face to the ground and did obeisance, and blessed the king; and Joab said, ‘Today your servant knows that I have found favour in your sight, my lord the king, in that the king has granted the request of his servant.’ 23So Joab set off, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24The king said, ‘Let him go to his own house; he is not to come into my presence.’ So Absalom went to his own house, and did not come into the king’s presence.

David Forgives Absalom

25 Now in all Israel there was no one to be praised so much for his beauty as Absalom; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26When he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of every year he used to cut it; when it was heavy on him, he cut it), he weighed the hair of his head, two hundred shekels by the king’s weight. 27There were born to Absalom three sons, and one daughter whose name was Tamar; she was a beautiful woman.

28 So Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem without coming into the king’s presence. 29Then Absalom sent for Joab to send him to the king; but Joab would not come to him. He sent a second time, but Joab would not come. 30Then he said to his servants, ‘Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.’ So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31Then Joab rose and went to Absalom at his house, and said to him, ‘Why have your servants set my field on fire?’ 32Absalom answered Joab, ‘Look, I sent word to you: Come here, that I may send you to the king with the question, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me to be there still.” Now let me go into the king’s presence; if there is guilt in me, let him kill me!’ 33Then Joab went to the king and told him; and he summoned Absalom. So he came to the king and prostrated himself with his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.

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10 February 2011

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