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Passage: 2 Samuel 13:1-22

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.