The Second Book of Samuel, Otherwise Called the Second Book of the Kings
Commentary by ROBERT JAMIESON
CHAPTER 13 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 ( Lev 18:11 ), yet with the sanction of Abraham's example ( Gen 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 JF & B for 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 ( Num 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.