A Tale of Two Tamars, Part 2

Permission is granted to reprint the following article as long as no changes are made and the byline, copyright information, and the resource box is included. Please let me know if you use this article by sending an email to dje@newedisongazette.com.

A Tale of Two Tamars, Part 2

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 2: The Consequences

Tamar is beautiful, she is pure, she is a god-fearing woman, she is obedient to her faith, and is a virgin of the kingís daughters. No doubt she could keep a house in the broadest sense of the term (Prov 31). She was a good cook (verses 7-9) and surely could embroider and sew, and do all the things that an esteemed daughter of Israel and of the kingís household, would be capable of doing. She no doubt was capable of holding her own ground in any discussion of the day, being the daughter of two ruling families. She was well versed in the laws of ancient Israel (v. 12). From every angle, Tamar would have been a virtuous wife and an asset to the home of her future husband. For which of these things does Amnon hold her in such contempt?

For Amnon, Tamar was prey to be hunted, or a spoil to be awarded a conqueror. He envied her goodness and covetously wanted to own it for himself. In her virginity she was unobtainable, which made her all the more desirable. In her refusal to his advances she was a higher hurdle to jump to obtain the prize. Her adamant ďNo!Ē was, in his twisted mind, like that of every sex offender, a hidden and coyly challenging ďYes!Ē

Tamar having been barred from the house by Amnonís servant (v. 18) as if she were a common peasant woman returns to Absalomís house in great distress (v. 19). She tears her garments, puts ashes on her head and covers her head with her hand.

The robe of many colors (long flowing sleeves most likely) was the attire worn by the virgin daughters of royalty. Tearing it symbolized her having been humbled against her will. The ashes remind us of the precarious nature of life and that what we have is soon lost in death (see Job 2:8; 30:19; 42:6; Ps 102:9).

The hand on the head was an attempt to return her lost veil, probably stolen by Amnon, back to her head. The veil, a headcovering, was the symbol of her holiness, chastity (virginity more specifically), and submission to God (Gen 24:64-65. See also Song of Songs 5:7, where the watchmen remove the Shulammiteís head covering, presupposing her to be a prostitute). Her headcovering was for Amnon, the most visible piece of Tamarís attire threatening his unchaste desires against her. Her headcovering unambiguously declared her inaccessibility to him. It most likely was one of the first things that he forcibly robbed from her.

Tamar does not go silently. She refuses to take on a victim mentality. She is vocal in her weeping declaration for all to hear. She uses the body language of destroying the garments of her virginity, and the bitter cry of her heart to declare her lost status. She refuses to be silent as is often the tendency of many rape victims. (Women who experience sexual violence often avoid public denouncement of the perpetrator since this can lead to a further sense of violation due to the intrusive nature of the interrogation of the crime.) Even though she may be interrogated later, and forced to relive her humiliation, she does not cover up the crime against herself.

Terribly, and to their shame, both Tamarís brother and father, after understanding what has taken place, do cover over the crime. Tamar is further victimized when they refuse to do her justice.

In Absalomís case, he actually tells his sister to be quiet! Shut up. Quit talking about it! ďHe (Amnon) is your brother.Ē While Absalom implies that Tamar should forgive and forget, it is really in his heart to avenge his own (perceived) lost honor. He is concerned that Tamar may bring a discredit to him by bringing charges against Amnon. He is concerned with the court politics more than the fact that his sister has been treated disreputably. Thus she needs to be silenced. Later, he will deal with Amnon. For now, he just wants his sister to cease her charges against the man because it creates for Absalom a political disadvantage.

Possibly worse is her father Davidís reaction. It was because of Davidís own command that Tamar was put in harmís way in the first place. It was certainly not too hard for a wise old king to have suspected that there had been less than pristine motivations behind Amnonís request for his sisterís presence. It is hard to imagine David had not previously seen his firstborn swooning over his sister. David knew the inner workings of lust. He had allowed it in his own life before, and now he was promiscuously allowing it in his son.

David (v. 21), is angry, but does nothing! There is no true justice administered for Tamar. David hoped to preserve his firstborn son for the throne, even though the law demanded his execution. David quite possibly also feared popular opinion. He might be viewed as a hypocrite who demands others to do what he says and not what he does. His anger is consequently without teeth. It is a pretense. And with it, Tamar is victimized once more. First her father did nothing to prevent her abuse, and then he did nothing to vindicate her and bring closure for her against her enemies.


In Tamar we see much more than the victim of a heinous crime. She never allows herself to view herself as a mere victim. Her story is of a woman who is strong in her faith towards God despite the tragic events in her life and the terrible abuses experienced at the hands of more than one trusted person in her life. Because of her intrinsic value, power, beauty, success, purity, and so on, she becomes the target of the envy and covetousness of the perpetrator.

Tamar was a woman of powerful integrity before the assault and she displays the same power afterwards. The men that she should have been able to trust to defend her integrity attempted to quench that power. She did lose the battle against the male dominated social strata of her day, but she never lost her glory in Godís eyes. The perpetuation of her story for now nearly 3000 years is evidence that she never lost her dignity. Nor did Tamar ever lose her authority as a daughter of Israel, and of God. She is the perfect illustration of what the Apostle Paul says about the believer in Christ in 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (KJV):

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. [We are] troubled on every side, yet not distressed; [we are] perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh. So then death worketh in us, but life in you. We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak; Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present [us] with you. For all things [are] for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God. For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward [man] is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding [and] eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen [are] temporal; but the things which are not seen [are] eternal.


I am much indebted to the author of the reference work listed below for her many observations about the life of Tamar and their social implications:
Rlaine Neunfeldt, Sexual violence and power. The case of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13:1-22 in Journal of Latin American Hermeneutics, 2007 - Instituto Universitario ISEDET. (PDF file found on: www.isedet.edu.ar/journal/violence.pdf. Originally accessed on April 28, 2011).


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


Return to The New Edison Gazette main site.