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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for 2 Samuel 13

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Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom

A. Amnon and Tamar.

1. (2Sa 13:1-2) Amnon’s infatuation with Tamar.

After this Absalom the son of David had a lovely sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. Amnon was so distressed over his sister Tamar that he became sick; for she was a virgin. And it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.

a. Absalom the son of David had a lovely sister, whose name was Tamar: This brother and sister were the children of David through his wife Maacah, who was the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3).

b. Amnon the son of David: Amnon was David’s first born son, born from his wife Ahinoam the Jezreelitess (2 Samuel 3:2). Being the first born, Amnon was the crown prince – first in line for the throne of Israel.

c. Amnon the son of David loved her: Amnon longed for Tamar so much that he became lovesick. It was even more difficult for him because she was a virgin – meaning that she was available for marriage, but not to Amnon because marriage between half-brother and half-sister was forbidden.

i. The name Tamar means “Palm Tree,” signifying fruitfulness. The name Absalom means “His Father’s Peace.” The name Amnon means “Faithful, Stable.” “None of them answered their names.” (Trapp)

2. (2Sa 13:3-5) Jonadab’s evil advice.

But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Now Jonadab was a very crafty man. And he said to him, “Why are you, the king’s son, becoming thinner day after day? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” So 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, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me food, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ “

a. Jonadab was a very crafty man: Indeed he was. His wicked advice to Amnon began a disastrous chain of events. Jonadab was a cousin to Amnon, being the son of David’s brother (2 Samuel 13:32).

i. “A friend no friend; a carnal friend, a spiritual enemy, who advised, for the recovery of the body, the ruin of his soul.” (Trapp)

b. I love Tamar: As later events will show, he did not love Tamar at all. Amnon lusted after Tamar and called it love. He certainly was not the last person to do this, and lust often masquerades as love.

c. My brother Absalom’s sister: If Absalom was my brother then clearly Tamar was my sister. In his lust, Amnon did not allow himself to call Tamar his sister – instead, she was Absalom’s sister. The power of lust is strong enough to twist the way we see reality.

d. Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill: Jonadab advised Amnon to deceitfully arrange a private meeting with Tamar. He didn’t need to say, “And then force yourself on Tamar,” because in their shared wickedness, Jonadab and Amnon thought the same wicked thoughts.

3. (2Sa 13:6-10) Amnon pretends illness in order to be alone with Tamar.

Then Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let Tamar my sister come and make a couple of cakes for me in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.” And David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Now go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was lying down. Then she took flour and kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. And she took the pan and placed them out before him, but he refused to eat. Then Amnon said, “Have everyone go out from me.” And they all went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them to Amnon her brother in the bedroom.

a. Please let Tamar my sister come and make a couple of cakes for me: Amnon’s behavior was clearly childish, and David indulged it. Amnon acted like a baby. It is childish to refuse food unless it is served the way we want it.

i. From this and other passages, it appears that David was generally indulgent towards his children. This may be because he felt guilty that in having so many wives, children, and responsibilities of state, he didn’t take the time to be a true father to his children. He dealt with the guilt by being soft and indulgent with his children.

ii. Amnon took Jonadab’s wicked advice quickly and completely. It’s too bad that men don’t often respond to godly advice the same way.

b. And David sent home to Tamar: This was what Amnon wanted. If he was alone with Tamar because David commanded it, then it gave part of the responsibility to David.

c. But he refused to eat: Amnon showed by this that everything he told David was a lie. He continued the deception so he could force himself upon Tamar in the bedroom.

4. (2Sa 13:11-14) Amnon rapes Tamar.

Now when she had brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” And she answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing! And I, where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” However, he would not heed her voice; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

a. Come, lie with me, my sister: Amnon’s evil naturally revealed itself. Here he admitted his incestuous desire as he made the wicked suggestion to Tamar. Amnon seems to be a spoiled prince who always took what he wanted.

b. Do not do this disgraceful thing! Tamar easily saw how evil and disgraceful this was. Amnon could not see what was so plainly evident because he was blinded by lust.

c. Where could I take my shame? And as for you, you would be like one of the fools in Israel: Tamar wisely asked Amnon to consider the result of his desire, both for her and for him. It would shame Tamar and reveal Amnon as one of the fools. Blinded by lust, Amnon would not see the inevitable result of his desire.

i. “There is something exceedingly tender and persuasive in this speech of Tamar; but Amnon was a mere brute, and it was all lost on him.” (Clarke)

d. Please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you: The Law of Moses commanded against any marriage between a half-brother and half-sister (Leviticus 18:11). Tamar probably said this simply as a ploy to get away from Amnon.

e. He forced her and lay with her: This was nothing but rape. Tamar did whatever she could to avoid this and all the blame clearly rests on Amnon.

5. (2Sa 13:15) Amnon rejects Tamar.

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Arise, be gone!”

a. Amnon hated her exceedingly: This revealed Amnon’s attraction for Tamar for what it was – lust, not love. Amnon was attracted to Tamar for what he could get from her, not out of concern for her. In many lustful relationships there is a combination of both love and lust but in Amnon’s attraction there was only lust.

i. In this single-minded lust, Amnon only built upon the example of his father David. David was never this dominated by lust, but he was pointed in the same direction. David’s multiple marriages (2 Samuel 3:2-5) and his adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:2-4) displayed this same direction.

ii. This is often how the iniquity of the fathers is carried on by the children to the third and fourth generations (Exodus 20:5). A child will often model a parent’s sinful behavior and will often go further in the direction of sin the parent is pointed towards.

b. The hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her: Amnon had no real love for Tamar, only lust – and so he immediately felt guilty over his sin. Tamar was simply a reminder of his foolish sin. He wanted every reminder of his sin to be put far away.

i. “Let me give a friendly, fatherly tip unto all of you young girls, who may be in the position of Tamar, in that you have some fellow who is really pressing hard to have sex with you. He is the soul of kindness. He is very attentive. He calls all the time. He opens the door for you. He brings you flowers, but he’s pushing hard for a sexual relationship. Don’t give in. If you really love him, make him wait until you’re married. If he really loves you, he will. Over, and over, time and again, the fellow will press and press until he has taken you to bed, and that’s the last you see or hear from him. You’re no longer a challenge. He’s conquered, and he’s off for new conquests. If you really love him and want him, make him wait. If you really love God, and love yourself, make him wait.” (Smith)

6. (2Sa 13:16-18) Amnon casts Tamar out of his presence.

So she said to him, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. Then he called his servant who attended him, and said, “Here! Put this woman out, away from me, and bolt the door behind her.” Now she had on a robe of many colors, for the king’s virgin daughters wore such apparel. And his servant put her out and bolted the door behind her.

a. This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me: What Amnon did to Tamar was wrong, but he could still somewhat redeem the situation by either marrying her or paying her bride-price in accordance with Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29. The payment was meant to compensate for the fact that Tamar was now less likely to be married because she was no longer a virgin.

b. A robe of many colors: The idea behind the Hebrew phrase is that it was a robe extending all the way down to the wrists and ankles, as opposed to a shorter one. It was a garment of privilege and status, showing the person did not have to work much.

c. Put this woman out... bolt the door behind her: Tamar deserved better treatment as an Israelite. Tamar deserved better treatment as a relative. Tamar deserved better treatment as a sister. Tamar deserved better treatment as a princess. Despite all this, Amnon spitefully treated Tamar as this woman.

7. (2Sa 13:19-20) Tamar mourns, Absalom comforts her.

Then Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe of many colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly. And Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this thing to heart.” So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.

a. Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her robe: Tamar correctly treated this as a calamity and did not hide the truth that a terrible crime was committed against her. She did not give place to the voice of shame saying, “This was somehow your fault.”

b. Has Amnon your brother been with you? Amnon probably thought he had concealed his crime. Nevertheless, it was so obvious to Absalom that he immediately knew that Amnon was responsible.

i. Part of the blindness of lust leads the lustful man or woman to believe that his or her actions are not obviously apparent to others. Amnon was deceived by this blindness of lust.

ii. Tamar didn’t go to her father David because she knew he tended to be indulgent to his sons, and he excused all kinds of evil in them.

8. (2Sa 13:21-22) David’s anger and inaction.

But when King David heard of all these things, he was very angry. And Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad. For Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

a. When King David heard of all these things, he was very angry: David was right to be angry, but he didn’t do anything to either protect Tamar or to correct Amnon. It may be that David was conscious of his own guilt in a similar matter and therefore felt a lack of moral authority to discipline his own son.

i. If this was the case, it was a grave miscalculation on David’s part. He could have said to Amnon, “I know the evil that results when we don’t restrain our lusts and affections. This is something you must address and conquer in God’s strength.” “Why did he not reprove him at least very sharply for this foul fact?” (Trapp)

ii. “They say a man never hears his own voice till it comes back to him from the phonograph. Certainly a man never sees the worst of himself until it reappears in his child.” (Meyer)

b. Absalom spoke to his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: Absalom played it cool. His devious nature set the stage for future revenge. “Nothing is more unsafe to be trusted, than the fair looks of a festered heart.” (Trapp)

B. Absalom murders Amnon.

1. (2Sa 13:23-27) Absalom invites all the king’s sons to a feast.

And it came to pass, after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal Hazor, which is near Ephraim; so Absalom invited all the king’s sons. Then Absalom came to the king and said, “Kindly note, your servant has sheepshearers; please, let the king and his servants go with your servant.” But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go now, lest we be a burden to you.” Then he urged him, but he would not go; and he blessed him. Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” But Absalom urged him; so he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.

a. After two full years: Two years went by but Absalom did not stop plotting the revenge of Amnon’s sin against Tamar.

b. Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal Hazor: Sheep shearing was a festive time, and it was natural that Absalom had a great feast and invited Amnon and all the king’s sons.

c. So he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him: Absalom showed some of the same cunning we saw in Amnon. He asked David to allow Amnon and all the king’s sons to come to the feast. This made David partly responsible for their meeting, just as Amnon got David to allow Tamar to visit him with food.

2. (2Sa 13:28-29) Absalom kills Amnon.

Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, “Watch now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!’ then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.” So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each one got on his mule and fled.

a. When Amnon’s heart is merry with wine: As a cunning killer, Absalom waited until Amnon was relaxed and vulnerable. Amnon probably came to the feast nervous about being with Absalom, but after a few cups of wine he was relaxed. At that moment, Absalom gave the order to “Strike Amnon!” and they murdered him.

b. So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded: God promised David that the sword shall never depart from your house (2 Samuel 12:10) in judgment of David’s sin. This is definitely a partial fulfillment of this promise.

i. “As David had committed adultery, made Uriah drunk, and then murdered him: so Amnon committeth incest, is made drunk, and [is] then murdered.” (Trapp)

3. (2Sa 13:30-36) David learns of the murder of Amnon.

And it came to pass, while they were on the way, that news came to David, saying, “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left!” So the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the ground, and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn. Then Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, answered and said, “Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for only Amnon is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar. Now therefore, let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead. For only Amnon is dead.” Then Absalom fled. And the young man who was keeping watch lifted his eyes and looked, and there, many people were coming from the road on the hillside behind him. And Jonadab said to the king, “Look, the king’s sons are coming; as your servant said, so it is.” So it was, as soon as he had finished speaking, that the king’s sons indeed came, and they lifted up their voice and wept. Also the king and all his servants wept very bitterly.

a. Absalom has killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left: It is significant that David did not react to this news with disbelief. He sensed that Absalom was capable of such evil. David reacted with mourning instead of disbelief.

b. Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men: Jonadab brought the “good” news to David that only Amnon is dead, and dead because he forced his sister Tamar. Jonadab probably hoped to gain favor with David by bringing this more favorable news, but God knew that Jonadab set the whole course of events in motion with his wicked advice to Amnon (2 Samuel 13:3-5).

c. The king and all his servants wept very bitterly: David is rightly grieved at learning of the death of his eldest son, the Crown Prince Amnon. Yet David’s lack of correction against Amnon contributed to this murder. If David had administered Biblical correction according to Exodus 22:16-17 and Deuteronomy 22:28-29, Absalom would not have felt so free to administer his own brutal correction.

i. “Absalom’s fratricide would never have taken place if David had taken instant measures to punish Amnon.” (Meyer)

4. (2Sa 13:37-39) Absalom flees to Geshur.

But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And King David longed to go to Absalom. For he had been comforted concerning Amnon, because he was dead.

a. Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur: Absalom did not go to a city of refuge because he was guilty, and the cities of refuge were only meant to protect the innocent.

b. Absalom fled and went to Geshur: This made sense for Absalom because his mother’s father was the king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3).

c. King David longed to go to Absalom: After three years, the sting of Amnon’s murder was not as sharp. David simply longed to be reconciled to Absalom again – without correcting his son for his evil. David’s indulgence towards Amnon is repeated towards Absalom and he will meet a similar end.

©2013 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
[A previous revision of this page can be found here]

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