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Amnon and Tamar
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. 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, 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 three years. 39And the heart of the king went out, yearning for Absalom; for he was now consoled over the death of Amnon.
2Sa 13:1-5. Amnon Loves Tamar.
1. Tamar—daughter of David by Maachah (2Sa 3:3).
2. for she was a virgin—Unmarried daughters were kept in close seclusion from the company of men; no strangers, nor even their relatives of the other sex, being permitted to see them without the presence of witnesses. Of course, Amnon must have seen Tamar, for he had conceived a violent passion for her, which, though forbidden by the law (Le 18:11), yet with the sanction of Abraham's example (Ge 20:12), and the common practice in neighboring countries for princes to marry their half sisters, he seems not to have considered an improper connection. But he had no means of making it known to her, and the pain of that disappointment preying upon his mind produced a visible change in his appearance and health.
3. Jonadab, the son of Shimeah—or Shammah (1Sa 16:9). By the counsel and contrivance of this scheming cousin a plan was devised for obtaining an unrestricted interview with the object of his attachment.
4. my brother Absalom's sister—In Eastern countries, where polygamy prevails, the girls are considered to be under the special care and protection of their uterine brother, who is the guardian of their interests and their honor, even more than their father himself (see on Ge 34:6-25).
2Sa 13:6-27. He Defiles Her.
6-8. Amnon lay down, and made himself sick—The Orientals are great adepts in feigning sickness, whenever they have any object to accomplish.
let Tamar my sister come and make me a couple of cakes—To the king Amnon spoke of Tamar as "his sister," a term artfully designed to hoodwink his father; and the request appeared so natural, the delicate appetite of a sick man requiring to be humored, that the king promised to send her. The cakes seem to have been a kind of fancy bread, in the preparation of which Oriental ladies take great delight. Tamar, flattered by the invitation, lost no time in rendering the required service in the house of her sick brother.
12-14. do not force me—The remonstrances and arguments of Tamar were so affecting and so strong, that had not Amnon been violently goaded on by the lustful passion of which he had become the slave, they must have prevailed with him to desist from his infamous purpose. In bidding him, however, "speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from thee," it is probable that she urged this as her last resource, saying anything she thought would please him, in order to escape for the present out of his hands.
15. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly—It is not unusual for persons instigated by violent and irregular passions to go from one extreme to another. In Amnon's case the sudden revulsion is easily accounted for; the atrocity of his conduct, with all the feelings of shame, remorse, and dread of exposure and punishment, now burst upon his mind, rendering the presence of Tamar intolerably painful to him.
17. bolt the door after her—The street door of houses in the East is always kept barred—the bolts being of wood. In the great mansions, where a porter stands at the outside, this precaution is dispensed with; and the circumstance, therefore, of a prince giving an order so unusual shows the vehement perturbation of Ammon's mind.
18. garment of divers colours—As embroidery in ancient times was the occupation or pastime of ladies of the highest rank, the possession of these parti-colored garments was a mark of distinction; they were worn exclusively by young women of royal condition. Since the art of manufacturing cloth stuffs has made so great progress, dresses of this variegated description are now more common in the East.
19, 20. Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours … laid her hand on her head, and went on crying—that is, sobbing. Oriental manners would probably see nothing beyond a strong sense of the injury she had sustained, if Tamar actually rent her garments. But, as her veil is not mentioned, it is probable that Amnon had turned her out of doors without it, and she raised her hand with the design to conceal her face. By these signs, especially the rending of her distinguishing robe, Absalom at once conjectured what had taken place. Recommending her to be silent about it and not publish her own and her family's dishonor, he gave no inkling of his angry feelings to Amnon. But all the while he was in secret "nursing his wrath to keep it warm," and only "biding his time" to avenge his sister's wrongs, and by the removal of the heir-apparent perhaps further also his ambitious designs.
20. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house—He was her natural protector, and the children of polygamists lived by themselves, as if they constituted different families.
23-27. Absalom had sheep-shearers in Baal-hazor, which is beside Ephraim—A sheep-shearing feast is a grand occasion in the East. Absalom proposed to give such an entertainment at his estate in Baal-hazor, about eight miles northeast of Jerusalem near a town called Ephraim (Jos 11:10). He first invited the king and his court; but the king declining, on account of the heavy expense to which the reception of royalty would subject him [2Sa 13:25], Absalom then limited the invitation to the king's sons [2Sa 13:26], which David the more readily agreed to, in the hope that it might tend to the promotion of brotherly harmony and union.
2Sa 13:28-36. Amnon Is Slain.
28. Absalom had commanded his servants, saying … when Amnon's heart is merry with wine … kill him, fear not—On a preconcerted signal from their master, the servants, rushing upon Amnon, slew him at the table, while the rest of the brothers, horror-struck, and apprehending a general massacre, fled in affrighted haste to Jerusalem.
29. every man gat him up upon his mule—This had become the favorite equipage of the great. King David himself had a state mule (1Ki 1:33). The Syrian mules are, in activity, strength, and capabilities, still far superior to ours.
30, 31. tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons—It was natural that in the consternation and tumult caused by so atrocious a deed, an exaggerated report should reach the court, which was at once plunged into the depths of grief and despair. But the information of Jonadab, who seems to have been aware of the plan, and the arrival of the other princes, made known the real extent of the catastrophe.
2Sa 13:37-39. Absalom Flees to Talmai.
37. Absalom fled, and went to Talmai—The law as to premeditated murder (Nu 35:21) gave him no hope of remaining with impunity in his own country. The cities of refuge could afford him no sanctuary, and he was compelled to leave the kingdom, taking refuge at the court of Geshur, with his maternal grandfather, who would, doubtless, approve of his conduct.