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Tamar's Rape

2 Samuel 13

Tamar was the daughter of King David and Absalom's full sister born to Maacah who was the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3, 13:1). Absalom was the third eldest son of David. Amnon was the oldest whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel (1 Chronicles 3:1, 2 Samuel 3:2). Daniel was second born to Abigail.

We don't know Tamar's age, but considering she was still living in David's house and was a virgin locked away from any men other than family we can safely assume she was a young teenager. Amnon, the oldest of David's sons and Tamar's half brother, became infatuated with Tamar. Over time he began making himself  physically sick and lost a lot of weight. The problem for Amnon was Tamar wasn't only his half sister (and according to the Law he could never have her), but she was also a virgin. So even if he did try with Tamar he was well aware that both their lives would be ruined. She could never marry and would be considered unclean even if she never gave her consent and Amnon would be considered scum by all Israel and would be stoned to death.

When he became so obsessed with Tamar that he became sick, his cousin Jonadab noticed and inquired of his illness. Amnon confided in Jonadab about Tamar. Instead of rebuking his cousin, who was also the successor to the throne of Israel, Jonadab makes a suggestion to get Tamar. It's apparent Jonadab was being selfish as well. Considering Amnon was to be the next King, Jonadab was only looking out for his own best interests in the future.

"Jonadab 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 bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it from her hand.'" (2 Samuel 13:5)

This was a believable lie since Amnon looked physically ill. So Amnon did as Jonadab said and when David came to see his son on hearing he was sick, Amnon said  "Let my sister Tamar come and make me cakes in my sight that I may eat from her hand." (2Samuel 13:6)

Not thinking anything was wrong with that, when David got home he told Tamar to go to her brother's house and cook for him to help him feel better. As a King, David was certainly concerned about his heir to the throne. As a dad, he worried over his son's health. Being obedient, Tamar went to Amnon's house and did as she was told. When she finished, she took the tray to her brother, who was in bed, and offered it to him. He refused the tray and instead ordered his servants to leave the room. Once alone with Tamar he called her closer to feed him.

There's not much detail about the relationship between Amnon and Tamar, but it appears at this point Tamar was becoming alarmed. Amnon ordered everyone out of his room to leave them flag #1. The next red flag had to be the impropriety of a young virgin princess being alone with a man even a brother. Red flag #3...he wanted her to feed him. She didn't have time to respond or even twitch when Amnon grabbed her arm and said "Come, lie with me, my sister". (2 Samuel 13:11)

It seems Tamar had at least a suspicion by her quick response to him...

"'Don't, 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.'" (2 Samuel 13:12-13)

It's interesting to look at her argument. She was horrified, but it also shows her purity and wisdom. First she tries to reason with him theologically and immediately follows it with an argument of  morals he was violating communally in the worst way. Next she adds an argument for guilt. Guilt for her and her lost future and his...the implications socially for his evil. Next is the vengence he would face from a King and father. As if by mentioning "king" it would snap Amnon out of it. Lastly, she simply was desperate and trying to get out of the situation as quickly as possible. There's no way David would have given permission for Amnon to marry his sister. She knew this and was making a last ditch effort to get free.

Amnon didn't want to hear any of it and at that point he didn't care. He over powered Tamar and raped her. What happened next is disgustingly shocking to say the least.

"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!'" (2 Samuel 13:15)

Once the act was done a few things happened to Amnon. He had finally satisfied his pent up lust for his sister. The drive and obsession that had made him literally sick was no longer there. Then came revulsion. He suddenly realized what he'd done and the atrocity of it. Overwhelmed with guilt, fear of being punished and shame, he threw Tamar out as if she was nothing than a prostitute. The sight of her only increased the horror for him.

Poor Tamar at this point was so horrified that she began begging Amnon...

"No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other which you did to me."

Throwing her out was even crueler than raping her. It was now exposing her to public shame, testing God and bringing shame and dishonor on the royal family. Amnon could possibly go on with his life with no one knowing, but she couldn't. Now she could never marry or have children. Not only would the King find out she was no longer pure, but so would all of Israel. Suddenly a tragedy in private was being forced on the public. The level of Amnon's selfishness and self centeredness is shocking. Amnon wouldn't listen to her and had his servant throw her out of his house with the order "bolt the door after her".

Sobbing hysterically, her life ruined, Tamar ripped the colorful coat the King's virgin daughters wore as an expression of her violation, put ashes on her head (a symbol of deep mourning), put her hand on her head as a sign of death and wailed loudly as she left. Absalom found her coming from Amnon's and by looking at her, seeing the gestures of her mourning and hearing her wailing, he figured it our pretty fast and asked if Amnon raped her. His question was soon answered.

Calmly, and rather indifferently, he told Tamar to calm down and not take it personally. This seems odd at first, but maybe Absalom knew what his half brother was like. Did he already know Amnon was often given over to the lewdest behavior? As the heir, who would refuse him? Amnon may have done something of this order before. In any case, there was no way Tamar could be calm. There was no way she couldn't take it to heart and I think Absalom's immediate behavior was a cruel injury to her as well. He then took her to his own home where she lived out the rest of her life unmarried, childless and in her brother's care.

The next injury came to Tamar from her father, King David. 2 Samuel 13:21 says David was absolutely furious when he found out and rightly so. But ultimately David did nothing to right the severe wrong done to his daughter. As King, he should have been the first to kick in the Law and as a father he should have demanded justice for his daughter even if his son was the perpetrator, but he did neither. Because he did nothing it started the brewing of Absalom who hated Amnon for what he'd done and spent two years stewing over it until it culminated in Absolom tricking Amnon to a banquet where Absalom's servants killed him.

It was also the beginning of Absalom's rebellion against David. Having so many sons from so many different women caused nothing but strife, jealousy, favoritism and feelings of injustice. 2 Samuel 14:27 tells us that Absalom had three sons and a daughter and the daughter he named Tamar. I have no doubt Absalom loved Tamar and was protective of her. He cared for her for the rest of his life. He gave it two years before taking vengeance on Amnon himself. I'm sure he was already cooking up a scheme to kill his brother, but David had two years to seek justice for his daughter and nothing was done. This was further victimizing Tamar and pinning one son against another.

This type of situation would be extremely difficult. It was David's successor to the throne. His first born son. His beautiful little girl. How do you seek justice against your child for another child and not be affected by it? But the right thing is usually the hardest thing to do and David failed. Had he taken action, as God commanded and as morality demanded, he may not have had to deal with Absalom trying to usurp him later. He may not have been running for his life later from Absalom and Absalom may not have been killed. Not to mention the awful emotional and mental damage this heaped onto an already withering Tamar.

The greatest injustices and severest injuries come from those closest to us. Those we trusted and loved. Those who, by nature and instinct, are supposed to love and protect us. When even that is missing how does someone recover? How can we ever trust anyone when we can't even trust our own family? Tamar was not only used up and thrown out like trash by her brother, whom she obviously loved and trusted, but was further victimized by those she should have been able to run to and get immediate protection and comfort from. The worst part is not that she was ruined for any future marriage by a selfish, lascivious was the betrayal, lack of concern and lack of justice by the rest that probably caused the most emotional and mental damage. How utterly and deeply tragic.

Had David acted as King and did what was right it would have softened the blow not only for his daughter, but also for himself and his sons later. The sin found him out and his lack of concern for justice that one time brought shattering consequences for the House of David.


Anonymous said...

The article is very interesting. I just would like to know your opinion about God letting this happen to Tamar.

Ariel said...

So sorry I didn't get to you sooner! I've been extremely busy, out of the country and had a death in the family. It's been pretty insane. To answer your question though, rape is never God's will not does He approve. But we know all things work together for our good and He will use that devastation for His purposes and the good of many. The Bible is full of terrible and sad stories that often leave us wondering, much like life, why did that happen? As someone who has seen and experienced a lot of pain and suffering I can assure you He does bring good out of it. Jesus was sinless and He suffered undeservedly so did Joseph and Lazarus the beggar and I'm sure Tamar and they wondered and agonized over the same question but here we are thousands of years later and their experiences as tragic ad they were are teaching us and helping us :)

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Disclaimer: I do not condone the teaching of men by women nor am I trying to exercise authority over men by using this blog as a method of teaching men. All posts are for the edification of women. For more on what I believe concerning this issue please see: Women - No Dominion Over Men
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