II Samuel 13:1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.
3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.
4 And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day?
wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.
Amnon had a friend… Amnon was a kings kid…he was a son of David, king of Israel. He lived in a palace and enjoyed all the regal splendors of a child of the king. In the text we probably find Amnon in his teenage years. Although, his age is irrelevant because I think its notable that all of us regardless of the season of life we find ourselves in can have the same tendencies as Amnon.
But here in his youth he finds himself in a predicament…he has fallen in love with his sister…more correctly his half-sister…Tamar. They shared the same father…but different mothers.
Understand in this setting and time…there was nothing illicit or improper with this relationship…it was quite common at this time.
I would guess that the emotions that Amnon initially had for Tamar were innocent…but a battle began to be lost in the confines of his mind.
Now, Tamar was no ordinary woman. She was a princess. She was the daughter of David, the King of Israel. The Bible tells us that she was young and beautiful. The story also tells us that she was wise and courageous, a sharp contrast to the ugliness of her brothers and her father. She had everything going for her in terms of worldly status, as much as a woman could, that is. In spite of the glass ceiling of patriarchy, she had position, wealth and influence. What was working against her was a family that did not care about her.
Tamar’s family, you see was more interested in saving face for the male sons of David, than they were about the dignity of Tamar.
King David had many wives and many children as was the custom in the Holy Land 3000 years ago. The two oldest sons were in a struggle for power. Both wanted David’s throne, and both would stop at nothing to get what they wanted. Amnon was the eldest and therefore the apple of David’s eye. His younger brother Absalom hated Amnon, but dared not risk his father’s favor by doing anything against Amnon. Absalom was savvy and even corrupt in his pursuit of power. The greed and arrogance of Amnon and Absalom brought both of them to an early death. I tell all of this as a way to set the stage for what happened to Tamar.
Amnon’s mother was named Ahinoam. Absalom and Tamar’s mother was named Maachah. Since they shared David as their common father, they were family. Tamar was Absalom’s full sister and Amnon’s half-sister.
Now, Amnon fell in love with Tamar. The Bible says he fell in love, but it was more like he fell in lust for her.
Many of us confuse lust with love. Survivors of incest confuse sex with love, since sex is seen through the immature eyes of a child as a way to earn the love of a certain family member. True love, according to M. Scott Peck in his book The Road Less Traveled, is the commitment to your partner’s spiritual growth. Lust has a lot more to do with hormones than it has to do with love or respect. Lust is also not always shared by the object of the lust. When lust combines with arrogance, shame and the need for power, the result is often rape.
Amnon was so in lust with Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin and his half-sister and it seemed to him that he could do nothing about his lust but fantasize.
But where there is a will there is a way. Where there is power and disrespect for another, there is the abuse of power and the creation of a victim. Amnon had a scoundrel of a friend by the name of Jonadab who devised a cruel plan so that Amnon could have his way with Tamar. Jonadab told Amnon to act like he was sick and ask to have Tamar come to take care of him. “Then,” he said, “you can have your way with her.”
Tamar came to take care of her supposedly sick half-brother. Amnon fantasized as he watched her make cakes for him. When the cakes were ready, he refused to eat the food. He sent everyone out of his bed chamber except for Tamar. He said to her, “bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.”(2 Sam. 13:9)
You know what happened next. When Tamar came into the bed chamber, Amnon grabbed her and said, “come lie with me, my sister.” But she said, “NO!” Any sexual contact that happens after someone has said “no” is considered rape. Very clearly she said, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!”(13:12)
Tamar did not want this to happen. She had trusted him, and now he was about to violate her. So Tamar fought back. She struggled with all of her power to maintain her composure and her pride. She even thought up a plan of her own. She told him, “speak to the King; for he will not withhold me from you.” (13:13)
In those days, it was not uncommon to marry your own half-sister, but only with the permission of her father. If Amnon could simply ask David for Tamar’s hand in marriage, he could have her. Tamar saw the writing on the wall. She knew that Amnon was going to have his way with her. All she asked of him was to provide her with a shred of dignity.
Romans 7:23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.
It’s in the mind that many of our greatest battles are won and are lost. It’s in your mind that you will determine the outcome of the battle often times before it even begins. There is power in what you place in this mind.
Think defeated…and you will find yourself defeated.
Think negative and you become negative!
You allow the devil to entertain thoughts in your mind that are unholy…those thoughts will become subtle desires…those desires not reigned in will morph into an unbridled passion….that passion if not quenched becomes an action….that action put into motion is an iniquity in the eyes of God…that iniquity if not repented of becomes a wedge between you and God…isolating you from the presence of the Almighty!
Sins path will lead you to a place of pain, torment, addiction, bondage and loss of self-control- and you become a slave to sin!
Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.
18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.
20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.
22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I’ve seen good, strong saints in the Lord become slaves to sin simply because they lost the battle in their mind!
But remember, Tamar not only represented his sexual lust but also his lust for power. To shame Tamar would also shame Absalom, her brother, his nemesis. Tamar was an innocent pawn in this sibling rivalry; a victim of Amnon’s injustice.
Amnon did not listen to her. He was stronger than she, and he raped her.
And as soon as he had finished, the Bible says that Amnon was “seized with great loathing for her. Indeed his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her.” (13:15) Amnon got what he wanted, and now could care less about Tamar. You can see that his interest in her was not love, but lust.
Amnon told her to get out. But Tamar was a courageous woman who would not shed her dignity. She pleaded with Amnon, “This wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” (13:17) He would not listen to her and said, “Get this out of my presence and bolt the door.” In most translations, verse 17 is translated, “Get this woman out of her.” But in the original Hebrew, Amnon says, “Get this out of here.” Tamar, the supposed object of his love, was no longer even viewed as a person in his eyes!
Tamar was adorned as a virgin with a long-sleeved robe. She tore the sleeves off her robe, put ashes on her head and went away crying. She had lost her dignity and her power. A woman who had been involved in an incident of incest, according to Leviticus 18 and 19, was to be punished. Tamar’s punishment was to remain barren for the rest of her life. In a society in which a woman’s worth was measured by how many sons she could bare, this served to make her a non-person in most people’s eyes. The Bible says that she spent the rest of her years lonely and desolate.
But that is not where the story ends. Tamar’s brother Absalom asked her what had happened, even though he already suspected that Amnon had violated her. Absalom heightened her shame by saying, “Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.”(13:20) Like Job’s so-called friends, like our culture’s minimizing of violence against women, Absalom all but said to his violated sister,
“Don’t worry so much.”
“It ain’t so bad.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“He is your brother after all, it’s not like he was a stranger.”
“Too bad you are so good-looking, maybe this wouldn’t have happened to you if you were uglier.”
King David heard of this and he was furious, but he would not punish Amnon, because he loved him. David did not remove Tamar’s shame, either.
The fact is that Tamar was abused by Amnon by his raping her.
Tamar was abused by Absalom by his not listening to her cries of pain.
Tamar was abused by David by his silence in the face of family violence.
Tamar’s witness to us today says that she too was an innocent victim. And if we are true to our faith which is a faith of love and justice, then we must say that Tamar’s violation and the violation of countless other Tamars was not part of God’s plan. God’s plan is that we must learn from these stories of pain and suffering and make sure they do not happen again. Think what would happen if all of the churches in this world committed themselves to believing that we must not make and more Tamars in this world. We must not make any more innocent victims of our senseless desires for power.
We follow a God who has not forgotten the Tamars of this world. We follow a God who is furious with us for settling for a world in which rape and murder and injustice and apathy can reign supreme. We follow a God who says that our churches must be places of hope and refuge—asylums, sanctuaries from the evils of the world—places where we can confess our sins and garner strength for the journey which is ahead of us.
Changing course and in Conclusion,
But what happened to Absalom?
I think another area we need to work on is expressing that love to our kids. I believe that most Dad’s love their children but for some reason it seems to be hard for us to express it. David had that problem. After Absolom murdered Amnon he fled the country and lived in exile for 3 years. David was mad about the murder to be sure but the Bible says that David still loved Absalom. In fact it says in 2 Sam. 13:39, “David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom.” (LB) But as much as he wanted Absalom to come back he never told him that. He never sent word saying, “Your forgiven, I understand your anger, I’ve done horrible things too.
Come back, let’s make a fresh start.” He just left him in exile. Finally, some of David’s advisors convinced David to let him come back to the city. And David said, “He may go to his own quarters,” the king ordered, “but he must never come here. I refuse to see him.” Pride- for 2 years Absolom lived in the city and everyone grew to love Absolom but David wouldn’t see him. Finally, after 5 years David said, “Okay, I’ll see him.” But by that time the resentment was so deep that Absolom revolted against his Dad and tried to take the throne away from him. Absolom and David’s forces fought against each other and finally there is a concluding battle in the woods of Ephraim and as Absolom is trying to escape, his long hair catches in an Oak tree and he can’t get free himself.
And Joab David’s captain finds the young man and takes three javelin’s and plunges them into Absolom’s heart. And one of the most pitiful scenes in the Bible is played out in 2 Sam. 18. David waits news for the battle but each time a messenger comes he cares not about how the battle is progressing but he keeps asking, “Is the young man Absolom safe?”
Finally, a runner tells him that his son is dead. And the Bible says in one of the saddest verses: “The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to his room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I could have died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”(NLT) How tragic. But now it’s too late. If you love your child, express it. Tell them. Touch them with a hug or embrace.