A Tale of Two Tamars

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A Tale of Two Tamars

Copyright © April 30, 2011 Douglas W. Jerving.
All Rights Reserved.

In the following series of articles we will examine the lives of two women in the Old Testament and what we can learn from them to help us as believers today. Both women are named Tamar, and the first one we will study is actually the second in the historical records. Thus, we will look at Davidís daughter Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1-22 first. Second, we will look at Tamar from the patriarchal era in Genesis 38:6-30.

2 Samuel 13:1-22

Part 1: The Crime

In 2 Samuel 13:1-22 we read the story of the rape of Tamar by her half brother Amnon. The rest of the chapter deals with the consequent murder of Amnon by Absalom, Tamarís full brother. The chapter begins the history of the fulfillment of Nathanís prophetic judgment prophesy against Davidís house because of his sin with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:9-15).

Absalom and Tamar were Davidís son and daughter by Maacha, the daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur. Absalom was the third-born son of David. Amnon was the firstborn son of David by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. (2 Sam 3:1-3).

Amnon, it says, loved his half-sister Tamar, but the text implies that this love is based merely on physical attraction rather than because he appreciated the virtuous nature of the woman. He may very well have been attracted to his sister because he saw her gentle and kind nature as well as her beauty, but this did no more within him than to kindle a passion to take advantage of her. However, knowing that there was no way he could fulfill his lustful passions, and longing for her more day after day, he became lean and sick.

Amnon was obsessed with Tamar, and coveted an opportunity to be with her no matter what the consequences. Thus, when Jonadab, the son of Davidís brother Shimeah, proposed a stealthy plan to take advantage of Tamar, seemingly with the kingís own permission, Amnon took advantage of the plan. Amnon feigns sickness that has him bedridden. When his father David comes to visit him, he requests of David that Tamar visit and prepare him a meal. David complies, suspecting nothing, and sends Tamar on this mission of mercy to help in Amnonís healing.

After Tamar presents Amnon with the meal she has prepared, he refuses to eat. Instead, he orders all the servants out of the room and requests Tamar personally bring the food to him and feed him in his bedroom. It may be that once the food had been prepared, Amnon was encouraged to get up and come out to the dining area. But pretending to be to sick to rise, he asks for Tamar to come in to the sickroom. Having dismissed all attendants, he feels unencumbered in pursuing his covetous desires against her. He is fully aware that any charges leveled against him by his sister Tamar would only be her word against his. As the first born and heir to the throne, he would have the advantage. Tamar would likely be viewed by the kingís court and the community as a woman attempting to take advantage of Amnonís position in the kingdom, possibly to gain advantage for the household of her full brother Absalom.

Having obtained Tamarís attention, and no longer concerned about possible witnesses, Amnon took hold of the woman and attempt to seduce her. ďCome, lie with me, my sister.Ē He hoped that she might have been a willing participant in his transgression. But that was not the case. Tamar protested (v. 12) ďDo not force me, my brother! Such a thing should not be done in Israel. Do not perform this folly.Ē

Tamar refers not merely to his attempt to seduce or rape her, but, more specifically, to his desire for incestuous relations. Incest was forbidden under Mosaic Law and was punishable by death. (Lev 18:9-11; 20:17, where to be cut off implies capital punishment, but may instead have been enacted by banishment from the community in some cases.) Rape of an unbetrothed virgin was a lesser offense than incest, requiring the rapist to marry the woman so abused. Rape of a betrothed woman required the death of the rapist. (Ex 22:16-17; Deut 22:23-29.) Sexual immorality is referred to as folly in Genesis 34:7, which should be translated as disgraceful. Tamarís allusion to the passage in Genesis is clear.

Tamar goes further in her attempt to dissuade Amnon (v. 13). Consider the consequences she implores him, to both of their lives if such a thing were done. Having been humbled by the loss of her virginity, Tamarís status within Israel would be that of a castaway. No man would marry her, and she would be forced into perpetual dependence upon her fatherís (or in this case, her brotherís) house. She would be deprived of the blessing of children, and a home of her own. These very fears of becoming desolate (unfulfilled in her role as a godly woman in Israel) were exactly what did happen to Tamar (v. 20).

As for Amnon, she warns that he will be viewed as a disgraceful person by the community. The term fool in verse 13 (KJV) has the same connotation as did folly in verse 12. Amnon would be viewed as a sexually immoral person. In modern parlance, he would be branded as a pervert, or a sexual predator.

Tamar, as a last resort, recommends that Amnon be more honorable and request the King give permission for Amnon to wed Tamar. Some commentators believe this was an impossible suggestion in light of the Mosaic Law that we looked at above. Others leave this possibility open in light of the fact that Tamar was the daughter of a woman originally outside of the Mosaic covenant. Whatever the law may have dictated, Amnon did not care. His only concern was the temporal satisfaction of his lusts.

Amnonís thorough degeneracy is seen. He objectifies Tamar twice by refusing to even hear her protests (verses 14a; 16c), then by horribly and violently raping her, and last, by evicting her from the house. He cares nothing for her person. It means nothing to him that he has hurt her, stolen her virginity, and shamed her reputation. It means even less to him, that having done so he now thrusts her from him. She is a thing to be used and then thrown out with the trash. He has gotten what he wanted from her, and rids himself of her.

Up to this point we have examined the directly obvious events and their implications within 2 Samuel 13:1-22. We will look further into the story of Tamar in Part 2. There we will examine the hidden motivations in the hearts of the principal and supporting players in the text.


Doug Jerving is the publisher of the NewEdisonGazette.com. You may contact him at dje@newedisongazette.com.


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