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2 Samuel 13:1-22 – The Rape of Tamar

Summary

This chapter is a sordid tale of lust and rape between David's children that sets the stage for the coming chapters dealing with Absalom's rebellion against David.

Analysis

While we might assume Amnon and Tamar are the protagonists here, the Hebrew text subordinates them to Absalom, literally: "Absalom, David's son, had a beautiful sister named Tamar, and Amnon, David's son, loved her" (v. 1). The same form of Absalom's name (the form recognizable only in Hebrew) closes chapter 14 (14:39), providing an overall inclusio for these two chapters that set the stage for chapters 15-20, "Absalom's Rebellion." Nevertheless, Amnon and Tamar have their parts to play in this sordid tale of rape.

  • Amnon, obsessed with lust, not his purported "love" of Tamar, lets his lust rule his reason, as had his father with Bathsheba. He plots his sexual encounter by feigning illness and enlisting the unwitting cooperation of his hapless father. He eventually forces himself upon his half-sister.
  • Tamar, unlike the silent Bathsheba, argues her case, proposes alternatives, and clearly refuses ("do not") Amnon's advances--all to no avail.
  • David, displaying his weakness as a father, fails to discipline Amnon and leaves Tamar alone, without consolation, in dust and ashes, tearing the long robe that signified her virginity, and placing her hands on her head, signifying her grief or rejection (compare Jeremiah 2:37).
  • Absalom, however, provided some consolation for his sister as he quietly seethed because of Amnon. In the next story, Absalom's hatred will blossom into the murder of his half-brother, just as David had plotted the murder of Uriah.

2 Samuel 13:1-22

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.

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10 February 2011

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