Amnon and Tamar
v1 David had a son called Absalom and another son called Amnon. Absalom had a beautiful sister called Tamar. Amnon loved Tamar. v2 But Amnon loved her so much that he became ill. Tamar was a young unmarried girl. So, Amnon could not do anything to her. v3 But Amnon had a friend called Jonadab. He was the son of David’s brother Shimeah. Jonadab was a very clever man. v4 He said to Amnon, ‘You are the king’s son. Why do you look so sad every morning? Tell me what is wrong.’
Amnon said to him, ‘I love Tamar. She is the sister of my brother Absalom.’
v5 Jonadab said, ‘Go to bed and pretend to be ill. Then your father will come to visit you. Say to him, “Please ask my sister Tamar to come and give me some food. I would like to watch her while she makes it. Then she can feed me.” ’
v6 So Amnon went to bed. He pretended that he was ill. The king came to visit him. Amnon said, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and make some bread for me. I would like to watch her make it. Then she can feed me.’
v7 So David sent a message to Tamar in the palace. He said, ‘Go to your brother Amnon’s house. Make him some food.’ v8 So Tamar went to Amnon’s house. Amnon was lying down. Tamar mixed together some flour and water. Amnon watched her as she made the bread. Then she cooked it. v9 She served it on a pan in front of Amnon. But he refused to eat it.
Amnon said, ‘Everyone must leave the room.’ So, everyone left him.
The bad things that Nathan *prophesied about David’s family in 12:10 start to happen in this chapter. David’s *sins were wrong sex and murder. He also used his power in the wrong way. In this chapter, his two oldest sons *sin in the same way.
David had 6 sons when he lived in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5). Amnon was his first son. Kileab was his second son. Absalom was his third son. The Bible does not tell us anything else about Kileab. So, he had probably died by this time. When a king died, his oldest son became the new king. Therefore, Amnon should become the king after David.
In those days, David’s family probably all lived in his palace. David was preparing Amnon to become the next king. The men and the women lived separately. David had several wives. So, his daughters probably lived with their own mothers. His daughters wore special coats. This showed that they were unmarried girls. In this society, women were much less important than men. Men often controlled the women. Women had to obey the men.
Amnon thought that Tamar was very beautiful. He really wanted just to have sex with her. So, in verse 1, ‘loved’ does not mean true, good love. Amnon had seen Tamar, but he could not meet her. He could not tell her that he wanted her. He could not touch her. The king protected his daughters so that they remained *pure. Amnon was selfish. Perhaps he had always received everything that he wanted in the past. But this time he could not have what he wanted. His strong feelings made him feel ill. He looked miserable.
In 1 Samuel 16:9, Shimeah was called Shammah. Jonadab was clever but not good. He knew how to get Tamar for Amnon. So, Amnon did what Jonadab said. Jonadab knew that David cared about his sons. He knew that David would visit Amnon. If someone was ill, that person would eat special food. Amnon wanted this food. Usually an unmarried woman would never go into a man’s house. David thought that Amnon was ill and weak. So, David sent Tamar to Amnon. Tamar obeyed her father. She prepared the food for her brother. (Tamar and Amnon had the same father but they had different mothers. So, we say that Amnon was Tamar’s ‘half brother’.) David had watched beautiful Bathsheba in 11:2. Amnon watched beautiful Tamar.
Everyone thought that Amnon was ill. So, they did not want to upset him. He did not want to eat when his servants were there. So, he sent everyone out of the room. They had to obey the king’s son. We do not know if anyone suspected Amnon’s behaviour. They probably thought that he was just in a strange mood.
v10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food to my bedroom. Serve it to me yourself.’ So, Tamar took the bread that she had made. She brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. v11 As she gave the bread to Amnon, he seized her. He said, ‘My sister, come into my bed with me.’
v12 Tamar said, ‘No, my brother. Do not *rape me. Nobody in *Israel should do this. It is such a terrible thing. v13 Think about me. I will always feel ashamed. And you will be like a wicked fool in *Israel. Please talk to the king. I am sure that he will let you marry me.’ v14 But Amnon refused to listen to Tamar. He was stronger than she was. So he *raped her.
v15 Then Amnon deeply hated her. In fact, he hated Tamar more strongly than he had loved her before. He said to her, ‘Get up. Go away.’
v16 Tamar said, ‘No. You have already done something wicked to me. But it is worse to send me away.’ But he refused to listen to her. v17 He called his servant in and said, ‘Take this woman out of here. Lock the door when she has gone.’ v18 So Amnon’s servant took her out of the room. He locked the door when she had gone. Tamar was wearing a special coat with long sleeves. The king’s daughters wore this type of coat while they were still young unmarried girls. v19 Tamar put ash on her head. She tore her special coat. She put her hands on her head. Then she cried loudly as she went away.
v20 Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has your brother Amnon been with you? Be quiet now, my sister. Do not allow this matter to upset you. He is your brother.’ So, Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house. She was deeply sad and lonely.
v21 King David heard what had happened. He was very angry. v22 Absalom did not say anything, good or bad, to Amnon. But Absalom hated his brother Amnon because Amnon had *raped Absalom’s sister, Tamar.
Tamar had cooked the food. But Amnon’s servant had probably taken it to Amnon. At first he would not eat. But when everyone else had gone, Tamar had to take the food to Amnon. Tamar thought that Amnon was ill and weak. But he was strong and he desired her. Amnon called Tamar ‘my sister’ (verse 11). However, God’s law says that a brother and sister should not have sex together (Leviticus 18:9). Tamar was shocked and she quickly said ‘no’. She called him ‘my brother’. She tried to persuade him to stop. She was desperate. In verses 12-13, she tried to persuade Amnon to stop. She gave Amnon three reasons why he should not touch her:
· The *Israelites all knew that this act was wrong. A man should never *rape a woman. A brother and sister should never have sex together. And unmarried people should not have sex.
· Tamar would feel ashamed for all her life.
· Nobody would continue to respect Amnon. He was a prince. But people would call him a wicked fool.
Sex is right only when a man and woman are married to each other. God hates all types of wrong sex (Leviticus chapter 18). Tamar thought that David would let Amnon marry her. She did not want to marry Amnon. But she did not want to have sex with any man whom she had not married. So, this idea seemed better to her, in her desperate state. (Before God had told the *Israelites not to marry brothers and sisters, men would sometimes marry their sisters. For example, Abraham and Sarah had the same father but different mothers, Genesis 20:11-12.) Tamar could not persuade Amnon. He was much stronger than Tamar was. She could not escape. ‘*Rape’ means to force someone to have sex.
Verse 15 does not say why Amnon’s feelings changed. But it proves that he had not really loved her. He may have felt very guilty or ashamed. He suddenly ordered Tamar to go. He did not continue to call her ‘my sister’. In verse 17, he referred to her as ‘this woman’. Tamar refused to go. She thought that Amnon should look after her. She probably felt ashamed because of what Amnon had done to her. Every man wanted to marry a woman who had not had sex with a man. Tamar knew that no man would want her now. Amnon did not care. His servant forced her to leave the room. He locked the door. Amnon would not marry Tamar. She could not go back even to speak to Amnon. In Exodus 22:16-17, God’s law says that a man who has sex with a woman should marry her. But it also says that her family can refuse to allow the marriage.
Tamar’s coat was special. Women only wore such coats if they were still available to marry a man. But she tore her coat in order to ruin it. Amnon had ruined her future. She would never be able to get married. She put ash on her head as a sign that she was very unhappy. Tamar cried because she had great pain in her spirit.
Absalom realised what Amnon had done to Tamar. Absalom comforted Tamar. He looked after her and he protected her in his home. ‘He is your brother’ means that this was a problem in the family. Absalom did not want people to lose respect for him. He said, ‘Be quiet now’. So Absalom was thinking that he would deal with it later. He did not act immediately. In fact, he waited two years (verse 23). During this time, Absalom saw how sad his sister was. He probably hated Amnon more each day. He refused to speak to Amnon.
Verse 21 says that David was also very angry. But it does not say that David punished his son Amnon. David had *sinned with Bathsheba. He had not controlled his emotions. David may have still felt guilty. Amnon *sinned in the same way with Tamar. Perhaps David loved Amnon and did not want to punish him. David expected Amnon to become king after him. Perhaps this is why David did not punish Amnon. In 1 Samuel 2:12-25 and 8:1-5, Eli and Samuel, the priests, had wicked sons. The fathers did not teach their sons to behave the right way. Also, they did not punish or control their sons when they *sinned. God wants fathers to teach his laws to their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-9 and Ephesians 6:4). A father should punish his children if they do evil things (Proverbs 23:13-14). It seems that David had not done this. So, David had trouble with several of his sons.
Absalom kills Amnon
v23 Two years afterwards, Absalom asked some men to come to Baal Hazor, near Ephraim. They came to cut the wool off his sheep. Absalom invited all King David’s sons to come too. v24 Absalom went to the king and said, ‘I am your servant. Some of my men are coming to cut the wool off my sheep. Please will the king and his servants come with us.’ v25 The king said, ‘No, my son, we will not all go. It would be too much work for you.’ Absalom tried to persuade the king. However, the king refused to go. But the king *blessed Absalom.
v26 Then Absalom said, ‘If you do not come, please let my brother Amnon come instead.’
The king said, ‘Why should Amnon go with you?’ v27 But Absalom kept on asking the king. Then King David let Amnon go with all the king’s other sons.
v28 Then Absalom said to his servants, ‘Watch Amnon. See when he has drunk too much wine. I shall say to you, “Kill Amnon!” Then you must kill him. I have ordered you to do it, so do not be afraid. Be strong and brave.’ v29 So Absalom’s servants killed Amnon because Absalom had ordered them to. Then all the king’s sons left. They got onto their mules (a mule is an animal like a *donkey) and they escaped.
v30 While the king’s sons were on their way home, David received a message. It said, ‘Absalom has killed all the king’s sons. None of them are still alive.’ v31 The king stood up. He tore his clothes. Then he lay down on the ground. All the king’s servants had torn their clothes too. They stood near the king.
v32 But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, ‘No, they did not kill all the king’s sons. Only Amnon is dead. Amnon *raped Tamar, Absalom’s sister. Ever since that day, Absalom planned to do this. v33 My master and king, do not believe the news that all your sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.’
v34 Meanwhile, Absalom had run away.
There was a guard on the wall of Jerusalem. He saw a crowd of people who were coming down the hill. They were on the road on the west side of the city. The guard went to the king. The guard said, ‘I see a crowd of people. They are coming along the road from Horonaim. They are on the side of the hill.’
v35 Jonadab said to the king, ‘I was right. The king’s sons are coming.’
v36 The king’s sons arrived at the moment when Jonadab finished speaking. They were crying very loudly. The king and all his servants cried very loudly too.
v37 Absalom ran away. He went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud. Ammihud was the king of Geshur. But King David was very sad about his son every day.
v38 Absalom ran away to Geshur. He stayed there for three years. v39 David recovered after Amnon’s death. Then David wanted to go to Absalom again.
At last, Absalom made his plans to deal with Amnon. Baal Hazor was about 24 kilometres (15 miles) north of Jerusalem. People had a party when they cut the wool off their sheep (1 Samuel 25:4). So, Absalom invited his family. He probably knew that King David would not go. When a king went somewhere, he took all his servants with him. Kings had many servants. Absalom would have to provide huge meals that were suitable for a king. Also, they would have all needed somewhere to sleep. In verse 25, the king’s *blessing meant that he approved of Absalom.
Absalom asked that Amnon should go instead of the king. Absalom called Amnon ‘my brother’. Absalom wanted to show their family unity. Perhaps David suspected that Absalom was not sincere. The two brothers had not spoken to each other for two years. But perhaps David thought that Absalom had forgiven Amnon. David sent all his other sons too. He may have thought that Amnon would be safer with them.
Amnon was the oldest prince in David’s family. Amnon was a special guest at Absalom’s party. So, Absalom should have given honour to such an important guest. But he hated Amnon. In verse 28, Absalom had to persuade his servants to kill Amnon. Verse 29 shows that they did not want to do such a terrible act. However, they obeyed their master.
A mule is an animal like a small horse or *donkey. It is strong like a horse. But it can walk safely on rough ground like a *donkey. Mules were royal animals at that time. The king’s other sons thought that they might die too. So, they escaped quickly. There must have been great shock and fear. People often get the facts wrong when there is such confusion. David tore his clothes to show how sad he was. (Tamar had done this in 13:19.) David also lay on the ground when his baby son was dying (12:16). But Jonadab knew the true facts. He had helped Amnon get Tamar. And he knew how Absalom had hated Amnon since that day. When the king’s other sons arrived everyone cried loudly for Amnon. King David continued to be sad for a long time. Verse 37 says ‘his son’. We think that this refers to Amnon. But David was probably sad about Absalom too.
Absalom had to run away after he had killed Amnon. He went about 140 kilometres (90 miles) north, to his grandfather Talmai (3:3). King David did not want to punish Absalom. But Absalom could never become king if he did not return to *Israel. At the end of three years, David had recovered from Amnon’s death. Verse 39 tells us that David wanted to go to Absalom. But David did not go. Probably David thought that Absalom deserved punishment.