II Samuel 13:1-22
13 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. 2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her. 3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” 5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’” 6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.” 7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat. “Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.” 12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.”14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her. 15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!” 16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.” But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went. 20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman. 21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
David asked for and received forgiveness for his sin with Bathsheba, but Nathan had said, “the sword will never depart from your house.” In this and future lessons in this series, do not expect to read much of blessings, successes, kindnesses, respect, favor and joys as we observed in Samuel 2-10. With this lesson we begin reading of a number of tragedies, set-backs, divisions, misunderstandings, failures, disappointments and losses. Sin opens anyone to evil while righteousness protects and preserves. When this happens to a spiritual leader the consequences are more far-reaching. If God has called you to spiritual leadership, serve Him cautiously, humbly and carefully.
1. Very Bad Advice 1-5
This record of the sin of Amnon against his sister, Tamar, causes me great sorrow every time I read it as I read through the Bible each year. The subject is not fit to be mentioned that any man, especially a son of David, should commit such abominable sin. We regret to observe that David’s sons did not follow the example of his good character, but some did follow his example in immoral ways.
There is evil in the heart of humans, as to whether this evil thought came from Amnon’s own heart or was urged upon him by the devil is not known. That happens to us too. But wherever the evil thought comes from, it is our responsibility to control our minds and desires. Verses 1-2 say, “In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David. Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” Beauty is a trap to some of us and evidently was to either Amnon or Tamar or both. The Scripture uses the word “love” but it was not love; it was lust. Amnon was sick in more ways than one. His soul was sick. He had no self-control. He did not love God and had no moral compass. There is a little of this sickness in all of us and—God be praised—the Bible tells us the life and health-giving remedy.
Those who are handsome or beautiful have no reason, because of that, to be haughty, but should rather be all the more careful. But in Amnon’s case, to lust so after his sister was an unnatural perversion. It was for certain forbidden fruit and this monster—her brother—who ought to defend his sister’s honor stooped to defile it. His unnatural desire for her body was so strong that he fell sick. His fleshly lust was at war with his soul and body. Sinners serve a harsh taskmaster.
The devil possibly hitch-hiked on this desire and made the temptation even stronger. Satan often does that, using our natural inclinations to do evil against us, increasing the desire, fanning the flame and encouraging us to do wrong. In this case, Amnon had a friend—or so he is called. Had he truly been a friend—actually he was a cousin—he would have quickly warned Amnon of his danger, but if Amnon choose a relative like this for a “friend,” that already shows us something of Amnon’s character. This man was David’s nephew and apparently had more of David’s blood in him than of David’s spirit. Verses 3-4 say, “Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, ‘Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?’ Amnon said to him, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’”
Jonadab noticed Amnon’s poor frame of mind. You are the king’s son, you have many pleasure of the court at your disposal. By contrast, Daniel and his friends in Babylon knew that the pleasures of the king’s court did not bring happiness, but neither Jonadab nor Amnon understood this. Jonadab was subtle, cunning and quickly offered to Amnon a remedy for his “sickness.” You have the power of a prince, use it, ask your father. Jezebel counseled her husband, Ahab, in a similar way. I Kings 21:7 says, “Jezebel his wife said, ‘Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.’” Gratify yourself. Do not pine. You are the king’s son, upright or not, use your position to achieve your goals.” Can you see the danger of this subtle advice? Does Satan not still use it on us today? Easy gratification, physical satisfaction, fulfilled desires. These are all available to you. Take your pleasures. Drive away your sorrows. Help yourself! But at the end of such a road is death and destruction.
You and I may say to sons and daughters of the King of kings, with greater authority and certainly greater righteousness, “Ask your Father. He will not deny you. Present your requests before His throne of grace and find help in time of need. Exercise your rights, step up to your opportunities and live like a child of the King! Accept the promise of the Father and enjoy the benefits of familiarity with Him in the higher spiritual realm. This is very very different than the abuse of power in the lower earthly realm such as Janadab recommended to Amnon.
We may observe in this story the horrible consequences of friendship with wrong company. Far from warning Amnon of the consequences of his illegitimate desires, Jonadab gave Amnon very wicked counsel. Verse 5 says, “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’” Had he been the friend he pretended to be, he would have drawn back in horror at the mention of such extreme wickedness that he, himself was expressing, would have explained its evil, what an offense it would be to God and what a wrong to his own soul, what fatal consequence it would lead him to and whom else he might more nobly marry. But no! He gave counsel as to how to get Tamar to his bedside and then he could do what he wanted. Amnon was already sick and now Jonadab helped make him sicker. And sicker he became.
2. A Very Evil Plan Executed 6-14
Amnon followed Jonadab’s advice and soon David payed a visit to his sick son. Verse 6 says, “So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.’” Let us assume that David gave him good counsel, prayed with him and asked what he could do for him. So Amnon continued with the plan and made his request. Apparently, David saw no reason to suspect anything was wrong and immediately sent Tamar to her brother’s apartment. God hid his heart from understanding in this matter. He therefore immediately ordered Tamar to go and attend her sick brother. Verse 7 says, “David sent word to Tamar at the palace: ‘Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.’” Though done innocently, later he probably reflected with great regret. I cannot help but observe that in the course of life some things seem very natural and appropriate to do, but they may lead to very regrettable consequences. We need the leading and warnings of the Holy Spirit. Verses 8-9 say, “So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.”
Though she was a beautiful princess and well dressed, she was happy to knead cakes and bread for her brother. If she were not accustomed to making bread, she could not have done it then. So Amnon had her by his side, but he needed to have her alone. Verses 9-10 say, “‘Send everyone out of here,’ Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.’ And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.”
Tamar was willing to humor him as in her virtue and innocence she has no thought of the pollution, evil and violence that lurked in the heart of Amnon. But soon the mask is thrown off. Verse 11 says, “But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister.’” Amnon’s behavior was base, thoughtless, unkind, violent, foolish, brutal, cruel, passionate, savage and vicious. Why on earth did he think Tamar would comply with his demand? Yet those that are unclean may easily assume that others are too.
When I read verses 12-14, I want to weep. “‘No, my brother!’ she said to him. ‘Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.’ But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.”
Amnon’s ears seem to be deafened to all reason. She could not persuade him to stop. Even in the disbelief and confusion of the attack, as Tamar blushed and trembled in her weaker body, yet she gave good reason from her head for Amnon to abort his evil plan. She called him “brother.” Lev 18:9 says, ‘Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” And Lev.20:17 says, “If a man marries his sister, the daughter of either his father or his mother, and they have sexual relations, it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people. He has dishonored his sister and will be held responsible.” This would be a wicked deed. She pled for her own sake too. Where would I remove this disgrace? Furthermore, she explained how it would not be good for Amnon himself. Even though you are the firstborn, would Israel submit to the government of such a fool. Is this how Amnon will repay the kindness of his sister who came to serve him?
Wickedness of this degree probably did not occur or appear suddenly in Amnon. We could guess that it developed gradually and David either did not know about it or felt he was weak and did not correct it. There are other indications in Scripture that lays blame for lack of discipling his children at David’s feet. Years later when David is old, Absalom’s younger brother sought to become king. Here is what I Kings 1:5-6 say about that: “Now Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith, put himself forward and said, ‘I will be king.’ So he got chariots and horses ready, with fifty men to run ahead of him. (His father had never rebuked him by asking, ‘Why do you behave as you do?’ He was also very handsome and was born next after Absalom.)” If David did not correct Absalom and Adonijah properly, what basis do we have to believe that he corrected Amnon. Samuel did not learn well from Eli’s weak leadership over his sons. And David did not learn well from Samuel’s weak leadership of his sons either.
But all her efforts and arguments were in vain. Amnon’s haughty spirit will not be denied the pleasure of conquest that he sought. Her own chastity, comfort and honor—all that was dear to her—was of no concern to Amnon. This is how he would repay Tamar for her willingness to serve him. He will treat her as a harlot. What a villain! May God deliver modest and virtuous women from this kind of wicked, selfish and unreasonable men.
3. A Very Evil Thing Becomes Even More Evil 15-19
Satan is at work. He immediately turned Amnon’s lust for Tamar into hatred toward her. He became as outrageous in his hatred as he had been in his lust. Verses 15-16 say, “Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, ‘Get up and get out!’ ‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.’” He turned her out of doors by force ordering a servant to put her out. Verses 17-19 say, “He called his personal servant and said, ‘Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.’ So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing an ornate robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornate robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.”
This was worse than the former and the former had already been extremely cruel. Could anything have been more barbarous, ill-natured, or more disgraceful to her. There was no apology, no time for her to recover her senses, not a moment to compose herself or get over her confusion, no allowance for her to carefully put her clothes back on again. To hate the person he had abused showed that he had no conscience, his heart was not humbled and he was out of control. Sins may seem sweet as we are tempted or during the sin itself, but they will bite like a serpent. Tamar would not stoop to Amnon’s low moral level and it made Amnon all the more angry. Amnon was left alone in his quarters with his sin, his sickness and his servants. We must leave the corrupt, depraved and foul criminal to the terrors of his own guilty conscience. This sad wretch of a man would, in two years, receive justice, but other developments were to occur first.
4. The Responses of Absalom and David 20-23
Secrets become known. Can you think of any sin that was exposed more rapidly than Amnon’s? No sooner was the door bolted behind her, than Amnon’s crime, immorality and transgression became dramatically and publicly declared by the beautiful princess weeping with deep grief as she shuffled down the street with her beautiful gown torn and ashes on her head. She bitterly lamented the insult and injury she had received. It was a stain to her honor, though no blemish to her virtue. She tore her fine clothes in an attempt to express her grief. She put ashes on her head intentionally to deform herself, she no longer felt beautiful.
She went to her brother Absalom’s house because he was her own brother, and lived there in solitude and sorrow. Verse 20 says, “ Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” Absalom spoke kindly to his sister, Tamar. We do not know if he confided in her his desire which became an intention to avenge the injustice. Apparently Amnon had a reputation which would explain why Absalom inquired if she had been with him. Absalom could have known it was dangerous for a modest woman to be with Amnon and yet Tamar to be totally unaware.
Was David angry with himself for telling Tamar to go to Amnon’s apartment? Was he angry with Absalom? Was he angry with Amnon? If so, for what? Probably. He could not have been angry with Tamar. Verse 21 says, “When King David heard all this, he was furious.”
David had reason to be angry that his own son would do this wicked thing and draw him in as an accessory to it. It would be an embarrassment to him for not giving him a better education; a blot on his family, the ruin of his daughter, a bad example in his kingdom and bring condemnation on his oldest son.
We must ask, was it enough for him to just be angry? No. He ought to have punished his son for it, and put him to open shame because as Amnon’s father and king he had the responsibility and the power to do it. He fell into Eli’s and Samuel’s error, whose sons were not disciplined and raised to be righteous. If Amnon were dear to him, he should have corrected him. Proverbs 23:13-14 say, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.” But the problem here was that Amnon was no longer a child. It was too late for Amnon though not too late for Solomon. But Eccl. 8:11could still apply. It says, “When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong.”
And did Absalom give vent to his anger or grief? No. Verse 22 says, “And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.”
Absalom apparently had resolved already to be the judge in Israel. Since his father will not punish Amnon, he will. But a difference exists between judgment for the sake of justice and the satisfaction of revenge. II Sam 3:3 tells us who Absalom and Tamar’s mother was. “. . . the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;” Absalom’s grandfather was not a believer; he was a heathen king. Absalom evidently wanted to take revenge from a time long before he actually did so. Amnon would make his sister a harlot; Absalom would make Amnon pay with his blood.
Absalom “hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.” Absalom’s hatred of his brother’s crime could have been commendable. He may have correctly quoted the law of Moses and found justice for Tamar against Amnon, but Absalom wrongly made himself a judge. The same law that says do not commit adultery also says do not kill. James 2:11 says, “For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’” Absalom has not yet killed Amnon, but the seeds of that murder have already begun to grow in his heart.
Absalom hid his hatred and said nothing either good or bad to Amnon. He either acted like he did not know or did not care—and waited for his opportunity. Absalom’s hatred was sin. In the verses that follow in the remainder of II Samuel chapter thirteen we will see what that hatred produced. Absalom had no thought for bringing Amnon to repentance and restoration; he could only think of revenge. Amnon’s and Absalom’s hearts were both hard; an accident waiting to happen. Had either of them followed the wisdom and grace of Lev. 19:17, there could have been a better outcome. “Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in their guilt.” Either of them could have; neither of them were willing. The Word of God gives us guidance and help in all situations, but if we don’t read or obey it, that wisdom and help remains unclaimed. And so the principle of Proverbs 26:26 is proven true in what happened to these two brothers. “Their malice may be concealed by deception, but their wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.”
Let us not entertain deceitful notions of what love is. Leniency to allow children to grow up in our homes, to disobey without our correcting them with fair and firm discipline as David evidently did, is not love; it is weakness. We may think its is love, but it is not love. If we love our children we will correct them. To want to be physically intimate with anyone who is not our spouse as Amnon did, is not love; it is lust. Neither David nor Amnon understood love correctly. These lessons are vital to the Christian leader. As good examples need to demonstrate and teach love, not leniency, with our children and love, not lust, in our relationships with adults of the other gender. These are two valuable lessons the prudent Christian leader will take away from this chapter.