14. Tragedy in the Royal Family (2 Samuel 13:1-36)
A few years ago, several of our daughters were with my wife Jeannette and me on the way home from a school function. We pulled into a store to buy some ice cream for dessert. As we turned back onto the road toward home, a car suddenly appeared from behind us traveling at a fairly high rate of speed. As I watched him approach, I decided he was going to rear-end us, so I quickly changed lanes. I was wrong. Either the driver was not paying attention (or was not sober), or he had intended to change lanes at the last moment. I'm not sure which. The moment I moved from the far right hand lane to the center lane, so did he. I was driving one of my diesel-powered automobiles and did not have much chance to increase my speed quickly. The driver saw what was happening and swerved yet another lane to the far-left lane -- too quickly -- and at too high a rate of speed.
We watched as the man sped past our car, lost control, and ran up over the center divider. As he did so, the concrete divider ruptured his gas tank and gasoline streamed out, leaving a wet trail behind the still speeding car. The metal on the underside of his car was also scraping against the concrete, creating a shower of sparks. What happened next was inevitable. The sparks ignited the trail of gasoline left in the path of the careening car. All this happened along side and then to the front of us. We could not stop any more than he could. Finally, his car bounced over the center divider, over the three on-coming lanes, and up onto the other side of the road. We watched it all, horrified by the wall of fire that had ignited, separating us from the car and its driver. Helpless, we watched the trail of fire catch up to the now finally stopped car. The gas tank ignited, and from our point of view, it looked as though the driver was engulfed. We could not get to him as we were too far away, and the wall of fire separated us from him. It was with great relief that we watched a bystander pull the man from the car, shortly to be taken away by an ambulance.
When I read chapter 13 of 1 Samuel, I have very similar feelings of impending tragedy, knowing I am not able to stop what is about to happen. We read of Amnon, son of King David, who desires Tamar, daughter of David by a different mother. We watch incredulously as David orders Tamar to the house of Amnon, marveling at his gullibility. We shudder as we hear Amnon ordering everyone but Tamar to leave. We look on helplessly as Tamar tries to resist, only to be raped by her brother. And then, adding insult to injury, we see Amnon's “love” turn to hate, so that he has Tamar thrown out of the house, destined to live desolate the rest of her life.
How could this happen? How could David have been a part of it? Why does God allow the innocent to suffer at the hand of the wicked? How is this incident relevant to present day life? What lessons does God have here for the Old Testament saints who read it? What lessons are here for us? Let us listen and learn well, for there is much for us to ponder, much to learn, and much to apply.
This message is entitled, “Tragedy in the Royal Family.” I am not trying to be cute, nor do I wish to capitalize on the recent tragedy of Princess Diana's death. The title very accurately describes the content of our text and of this message. There are a great many benefits to being a part of a royal family, and as recent events make clear, there are also many liabilities. From the media's point of view (at least at this time), the privacy of the royal family has been undermined and attacked by a few aggressive photographers, who would seemingly get a priceless picture no matter what the cost to members of the royal family. In our text, there are no intruding, harassing photographers. The sins committed within the royal family become public knowledge, exposed by their own actions and recorded by the inspired author for our edification. We dare not attempt to read the account of this tragedy as some would a sleazy tabloid. This is a Word from God to us, teaching us the high price of sin.
Saul, who once sought to kill David to insure the longevity of his own throne, is now dead, and David has become the king of both Judah (David's tribe) and Israel (the other tribes of Israel). David had subdued most of the surrounding nations and captured Jebus, making it his capital city and renaming it Jerusalem. He brought the ark of God to Jerusalem, intending to build a temple for God there, only to be gently rebuked, but assured by the fact that God would build for David an eternal “house,” a kingdom that would not end.
David's power and success seems to have gone to his head. Instead of leading his army in war, David stays at home, sending Joab and the army of Israel against Rabbah, the capital city of the Ammonites, to take this city and make his triumph over his enemies complete. While at home in Jerusalem, David takes advantage of the “good life” as king. He sleeps late, getting up at the time others are going to bed. As he strolls about the roof of his palace one evening, he happens to see a sight he was not intended or even supposed to see -- a lovely young woman cleansing herself, probably in keeping with the law. David looks too long and too hard and decides he wants this woman, not as his wife, nor as his mistress, but only for the night. When he sends his servants to inquire about her, they inform him that she is a married woman, the wife of one of Israel's military heroes, Uriah the Hittite.
This should have ended it for David, but it did not. He sends messengers to bring Bathsheba to his palace, and there he sleeps with Bathsheba. It is not until some time later that David is informed that Bathsheba is pregnant. David makes every effort to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, so that he will appear to be the child's father, but Uriah has too much character and integrity to be used by David. And so it is that David orders Joab, commander of his military forces, to have Uriah killed in a way that looks as though he is just another casualty of war. I doubt this fooled too many Israelites, but it most certainly did not fool God, nor Nathan the prophet. Nathan comes to David with an emotional story of a rich man who steals the pet lamb of a poor man, and when David condemns this man, Nathan informs him that he is the man. David repents, confessing his sin not only to God, but to the nation in Psalms 32 and 51.
The first of many painful consequences of David's sin come with the death of the first child of David and Bathsheba, the child conceived through David's sin. Though David mourns and petitions God fervently for the life of this son, God denies his request, and the child dies. David rightly responds to God's answer, much to the amazement of his servants. Having learned his child has died, David gets up, washes himself, worships in the house of the Lord, and then goes home and eats. David has hope concerning this child, and he has confidence and trust in the God who declines his request. In chapter 13, we come to the next traumatic consequence of David's sin, the rape of his daughter, Tamar, and the murder of his son, Amnon. Once again, David will mourn the loss of a son. In reality, he will mourn the loss of two sons: the loss of his son Amnon by murder, and the loss of his son Absalom by his flight to avoid punishment.
Amnon's First Sin Against Tamar
1 Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. 2 Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her.
3 But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” 5 Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, 'Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat from her hand.”'
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand.” 7 Then David sent to the house for Tamar, saying, “Go now to your brother Amnon's house, and prepare food for him.”
8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house, and he was lying down. And she took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. 9 She took the pan and dished them out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Have everyone go out from me.” So everyone went out from him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes which she had made and brought them into the bedroom to her brother Amnon. 11 When she brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 “As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
If you are like me, you almost find your head swimming when you read this account about David's relatives. Characters in this plot include David; Jonadab, David's nephew, son of David's third brother, Shimeah; Amnon, David's first-born son of Ahinoam; and Tamar and Absalom, daughter and son of Maacah, David's third wife (who was the daughter of Talmai, the king of Geshur). It is very difficult to remember who belongs to whom, isn't it?
It may be worthwhile to quickly summarize on the following page some of the genealogical information pertinent to our text, so that we can at least visualize these relationships.
David and His Siblings61
(1 Chronicles 2:13-17)
Some of David's Wives and Children62
(1 Samuel 18; 25:39-44; 2 Samuel 2:2; 3:2-5 (see also 1 Chronicles 3:1-9)
In this tragedy in David's family, a number of people who are members of the royal family -- or who are in close proximity to them (i.e. servants) -- are involved, willingly or not. It all starts with Amnon, David's first-born son. (Michal is David's first wife, given by Saul, then taken away by Saul, and finally taken back by David, but she never bears David a child -- 2 Samuel 6:23.) Ahinoam is David's second wife, the first to bear him a son. This makes Amnon the first-born of David, the most likely successor to David's throne as king of Israel, at least according to the custom of the day. Tamar and her brother Absalom are the children of David's wife, Maacah, who is also the daughter of the king of Geshur.
17 'If there is a man who takes his sister, his father's daughter or his mother's daughter, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace; and they shall be cut off in the sight of the sons of their people. He has uncovered his sister's nakedness; he bears his guilt (Leviticus 20:17).
As I read the text, the Law of Moses which forbade marriage and sex with a sister is not Amnon's main concern. It is, indeed, Tamar's concern, but not Amnon's. The author continues to speak of these two as brother and sister, but when Amnon's frustration is mentioned, it is for another reason:
Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her (13:2, emphasis mine).
Amnon makes himself ill because she is a virgin, and because of this, he “was not able to do anything to her.” We are not told that Amnon loves Tamar and wants to marry her. I believe we are told that Amnon wants to have sex with Tamar, but she is a virgin, and that staying so until marriage is her commitment.65 Amnon wants to have a sexual relationship with Tamar. He is willing, but she is not. She is a virgin and seems intent on keeping it this way. No wonder he could not get anywhere with her. And no wonder he is frustrated. His frustration has gotten to the point that it is making him ill (lovesick?). The symptoms of this “illness” are not stated, but I would imagine possible symptoms would be an upset stomach, a lack of appetite, and lack of sleep.
It is not surprising that one of David's nephews, Jonadab, son of David's older brother Shimeah, is one of Amnon's friends. After all, they are cousins, part of the royal family living in Jerusalem (or nearby). Jonadab could not help noting that day after day Amnon is depressed. And so he asks Amnon what is wrong. Then Amnon tells him the problem -- he is in love with Tamar, his sister, whose brother is Absalom.66 Jonadab is a shrewd man, and Amnon's dilemma poses no great problem to him. First of all, is Amnon not the “son of the king” (verse 4)? Is the inference here that as the “son of the king” Amnon has the right and the authority to please himself, so as not to be so depressed? I am reminded of the words of wicked Jezebel to her husband Ahab:
4 So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food. 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?” 6 So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.' But he said, 'I will not give you my vineyard.”' 7 Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:4-7).
I cannot tell for certain what Jonadab has in mind as the outcome of his scheme. I am not quite willing to say that his plan is one that will enable his friend to rape Tamar. Was it a plan that would enable Amnon the opportunity to be alone with her, and then to seduce her, or perhaps to persuade her to marry him? I am not sure. But it most certainly is a devious scheme he proposes. Let Jonadab pretend to be sick, so sick that he cannot get out of bed. When his father David comes to visit him, let him ask the king if his sister can come to his house and prepare a meal for him.
This is as far as the proposed plan of Jonadab goes. At least from what we are told in our text, he does not tell Amnon what to do from there. He only tells Amnon how to get close to Tamar. We are not told that he tells him to send out all the servants (though he may have), or to grab her in an effort to persuade her to have sex with him. If Jonadab is as shrewd as our text tells us that he was, surely he must have considered some of the possible scenarios of what would happen after Amnon was able to get Tamar alone. Either Jonadab knew what Amnon intended and helped him achieve it, he suspected what he intended but did not ask, or he did not consider the options. He is too shrewd for the last of these options. Jonadab must surely share in Amnon's guilt.67
Amnon carries out Jonadab's plan, and it works just as he predicted. Amnon's illicit desires are facilitated by Jonadab's plan. And that plan makes David an unwitting and unwilling participant in this evil scheme as well. David comes to see Amnon, as expected. And when Amnon asks David to have Tamar come and prepare food for him in his sight, David complies. It is David's “executive order” (at least his order as Israel's chief executive -- who then would deny him?) that “sent” messengers to Tamar's house, not unlike they had been sent to summon Bathsheba. And so it is that David is the means by which Amnon is able to get Tamar alone.
One must wonder how all this could have gotten past David undetected. He seems incredibly gullible here. He may have known that Amnon was not eating well and that he was sick, but did he really think this young woman was a better cook than those seasoned (pardon the pun) professionals available to Amnon? Did he really believe that having a beautiful young woman come in and cook for Amnon and then serve him (in bed!) was somehow good therapy? Could David be this nave? One must read this account with the greatest wonder. How could David be so gullible as to become an unwitting participant in Amnon's evil plan?
As directed by David, Tamar goes to Amnon's house and begins to prepare food for him. I wonder what was going through her mind as she makes her way to his house. Has he made “passes” at her before? It would seem likely that he has, and been rebuffed. When Tamar arrives, Amnon is lying down. Tamar goes about her task, making the dough, kneading it, and then rolling it into little cakes. All the while, Amnon looks on. When the cakes are cooked, she attempts to serve Amnon, but he refuses. The king's son then orders everyone out of the room. David has gotten Tamar this far, and now everyone present is under Amnon's authority. Who would dare challenge or refuse him? And so everyone leaves, leaving Amnon and Tamar alone. Amnon then instructs Tamar to bring the food to him, in his bedroom, “that he might eat from her hand.” And so she takes the cakes she has made and brings them to him in the bedroom.
Our minds are spinning as we read the words. Is it possible that those who left the room had no sense of what was to follow? Were they afraid to protest or resist? And how can it be that Tamar does not sense what is about to happen? Could she not flee? The danger signs are there, but she is at Amnon's house because the king commanded it. It is like watching an automobile accident happen before our eyes, seeing what is happening, but being powerless to do anything about it.
Once alone, all subtlety disappears. Amnon grabs hold of Tamar, urging her to lie with him. He does not ask her to marry him -- just to sleep with him. It is interesting to note how Amnon words his entreaty: “Come lie with me, my sister” (verse 11, emphasis mine). Why does Amnon call attention to this fact, reminding Tamar of the very thing that should prevent him from following through with his desires? I fear the very thing that should cause him to forsake his pursuit of Tamar is that which attracts him to her. Was it not possibly the same with David? Learning that Bathsheba was married to Uriah did not keep him from taking her; it may even have strengthened his desire and resolve to do so. When “Madam Folly” seeks to entice “Sir Simple” in the Book of Proverbs, she uses the fact that it is forbidden fruit as a part of her seduction (Proverbs 9:17). Why should this come as a surprise to us ? Does not Paul teach that when the law prohibits something, sin uses that same law to entice us to do the forbidden thing (see Romans 7:7ff.)?
Tamar is truly the innocent victim here. She does not encourage Amnon; in fact, she frustrates him by her resolve to remain a virgin until marriage. And when she goes to Amnon's house, she does so at David's command. Amnon orders all to leave so that she has no one to come to her aid. It is hard to believe those who left did not know -- or at least suspect -- what Amnon had in mind. When Amnon coarsely propositions Tamar, she answers just as the Law of Moses instructed. When she answered, “No, my brother,” (emphasis mine), she states the reason Amnon's request is wrong. She speaks of the sexual intimacy he requests as a violation of her, and so it will be. He will do to her that which can never be undone. Her reproach can never be removed, for he has taken her virginity. She does not just plead for herself; she pleads with Amnon to act in his own interest. Raping her will make him as one of the fools in Israel. He, the king's first-born son, will become as one of the lowest men in the nation.
I suspect that because she sees that Amnon will not be kept from having her, she makes one final plea. Let Amnon go to his father, David, and request to marry her. Surely he will not deny him. There is a certain precedent for what she says. After all, Sarah is to Abraham what Tamar will be to Amnon. Sarah and Abraham have the same father but different mothers (see Genesis 20:12). I do not think she wants to marry Amnon, but marriage is better than rape and dishonor. Perhaps she hopes Amnon will ask his father and be rebuked and warned never to think about such a thing again or to come near Tamar.
It doesn’t work. Amnon is determined to lay with Tamar then and there. If she will not do so voluntarily, then she will do so anyway. Amnon is bigger and stronger, and to him at this moment, might may not be right, but it will prevail.68
It is surely not the scene Amnon must have played and replayed in his mind, as he waited for this occasion. She is not willing, and this act of violence has nothing to do with love. From intense and unbearable attraction, Amnon's feelings toward Tamar turn to revulsion. He cannot stand the sight of this woman he has violated. Amnon now orders her out. Once again, Tamar resists. She protesta that however evil Amnon has been in raping her, he is even more wicked in casting her off, for in so doing he makes it clear that he will not have her as his wife. She no longer has any options, so far as marriage and children are concerned. Once again, Amnon will not listen to reason or righteousness.
Once again, we see similarities between this sin of Amnon against Tamar and the sin of David against Bathsheba and Uriah. It is bad enough for David to sleep with Bathsheba, but killing her husband is even worse. So too with Amnon's second sin of casting Tamar off after he has violated her.
If it was Amnon who first clung to Tamar, refusing to let her go, it now seems to be Tamar who clings to Amnon, refusing to go. If he has violated her, at least he can do the honorable thing and marry her. Amnon is further repulsed by this, ordering his servant to throw her out and to lock the door behind her. The servant obeys, and Tamar leaves the house, having torn her long-sleeved garment and putting ashes on her head. As she goes her way, she has her hand over her head and is weeping. Surely there are many who looked on, if not knowing exactly what had happened, at least knowing something very terrible has happened to her.
Absalom, Amnon, David, and Jonadab
20 Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom's house. 21 Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. 22 But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar. 23 Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king's sons. 24 Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold now, your servant has sheepshearers; please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, we should not all go, for we will be burdensome to you.” Although he urged him, he would not go, but blessed him. 26 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?” 27 But when Absalom urged him, he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him. 28 Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, 'Strike Amnon,' then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 The servants of Absalom did to Amnon just as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose and each mounted his mule and fled. 30 Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king's sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn. 32 Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother, responded, “Do not let my lord suppose they have put to death all the young men, the king's sons, for Amnon alone is dead; because by the intent of Absalom this has been determined since the day that he violated his sister Tamar. 33 “Now therefore, do not let my lord the king take the report to heart, namely, 'all the king's sons are dead,' for only Amnon is dead.” 34 Now Absalom had fled. And the young man who was the watchman raised his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. 35 Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king's sons have come; according to your servant's word, so it happened.” 36 As soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king's sons came and lifted their voices and wept; and also the king and all his servants wept very bitterly.
One of those who learn what happened is Absalom, Tamar's (full) brother. He lets Tamar know that he knows what Amnon has done to her, and then he does something quite surprising -- nothing, or so it seems. He seems to tell her that this is something to be kept secret, within the family. She is to keep silent about it and not to take it to heart. Does Absalom really think she can do such a thing? Perhaps it is to facilitate her keeping silent and help her deal with this trauma that Absalom takes her into his own home. In our text at least, Absalom does not tell his sister what he has in mind. From what Jonadab will tell David two years later, it was Absalom's intention to kill Amnon the day he learned his brother had violated Tamar (verse 32). Never was this beautiful young woman to experience marriage or the bearing of children. One can hardly calculate all that Amnon stole from his sister that evil day.
On the surface, David's response to the news of his daughter's rape seems similar to that of Absalom. David does not seem to conceal his anger, however. The author tells us that David is fully aware of all that took place (verse 21). Nevertheless, it appears that David does absolutely nothing. One must ask why. Is David not able to get the kind of testimony the law requires? Possibly, but this does not seem likely. Is David fearful of being hypocritical? How can he punish his son for doing what he has done? Or, is David reluctant because he is partly guilty as well? After all, he is the one who ordered Tamar to go to Amnon's house.
It does seem as though David may have ranted and raved in his anger, even if he did not deal with Amnon as he should have. But Absalom seems to be the essence of self-control. He conceals his hatred and anger and acts as if nothing has happened. But in his heart he has already purposed to make Amnon pay for ruining his sister's life. He has the motive. All he needs is the means and the opportunity. That will come in two years time. Until then, Absalom does not so much as speak to Amnon. He treats him as though he doesn't exist; soon he will not exist.
Two years pass. Seemingly all has been forgotten, and Amnon has gotten away with his crime. Absalom may have made other attempts to get Amnon away from David's watchful eye and protection and failed, but this time his plan will succeed. Sheep-sheering time has come, and Absalom, like many others, has finished the task and is planning to celebrate. He knows David can appreciate such things, not only as a former shepherd boy but also from his experiences in the more recent past (see 1 Samuel 25:2ff.). Here is the pretext Absalom has been seeking.
I doubt very much that Absalom wants David to attend the celebration in Baal-Hazor, nearly 20 miles away to the north and east of Jerusalem. It is a trek David will not wish to make, and I believe Absalom knows it. Besides, David and his entourage will be a large group, too large to be easily accommodated. And so David declines, but gives Absalom his blessing. Absalom expected this response, and he does not give up. He now presses David for what he really wants -- he wants David to send69 his son Amnon. Is Absalom implying that Amnon can represent David as his first-born? We do not know because we are not told.
David wonders, though. Why would Absalom ask specifically for Amnon to come? David presses Absalom on this point, but he seems to avoid the question and continue to press his father to send him. Is it David's idea to send all his sons along with Absalom? Perhaps. This will certainly seem to put some of David's suspicions to rest. One way or the other, David stays home (oh boy, is this deja vu?) sending his sons in his place.
Absalom has already formulated a plan and given his servants their instructions. As David instructed Joab to kill Uriah, now Absalom instructs his servants to kill Amnon.70 Absalom will see to it that Amnon does his share of drinking, and thus will be “merry with wine.” (This too seems to have a strange sense of deja vu, as we recall that David sought to make Uriah's heart merry so that he could get him to do what he wanted.) When Amnon is sufficiently drunk, Absalom will give the order, and it is then that his servants are to kill him. Let these men not fear; Absalom is taking full responsibility for what they are about to do to Amnon. The time comes, and Absalom gives the order, and Amnon's life is taken.
The remainder of David's sons are terrified when they see Amnon killed by Absalom's servants. Does Absalom intend to kill them, too? They are not waiting around to find out. They all mount their mules and flee back toward Jerusalem. News reaches David before his sons are sighted. As is often the case, the initial news report is exaggerated. Someone reports to David that all of his sons have been slain, and that not one is left alive. Now before we let our minds set this false report aside, let me call attention to the intense suffering David experiences in that period of time when he still believes the report to be true. David would feel very much like Job when he learned that all of his children had been killed (see Job 1). What intense suffering David underwent for that short period of time. It is like the death of his son by Bathsheba, multiplied many times over (see 12:14ff.). David tears his clothes and lays prostrate on the ground, and all of his servants follow his lead.
During this interim, between the first initial (inaccurate) report and the arrival of his sons, Jonadab approaches David, assuring him this report is not true. He tells David that only one son is dead -- Amnon -- and that this was the intent of Absalom from the day his sister Tamar was raped by Amnon. Therefore, Jonadab urges, the king should not mourn excessively, as though all of his sons are dead (verses 32-33).
Note something interesting about Jonadab's words: there is only one way he could have known what he just told David. Jonadab had not accompanied David's sons to the feast at Absalom's ranch. He had not been there to see what happened. The early reports had to come (directly or indirectly) from those who had been there, at Baal-hazor. How can Jonadab assure David that these reports are not true when he was not there to see what happened? There is only one answer so far as I can tell. Jonadab had known for some time what Absalom's intentions concerning Amnon were. Jonadab knew that Absalom was planning to kill Amnon, and he neither said nor did anything to prevent it.
I don't like what I see of Jonadab in this chapter. He may have been a very shrewd fellow, but he seems to be an opportunist with no scruples. He must have had an idea what Amnon had in mind with regard to Tamar, but he did nothing to stop him. Instead, he told him how he could achieve his evil purpose. And now, having been an accessory before the fact in the rape of Tamar, he adds to his sin by knowing about Absalom's plan to kill Amnon and yet doing nothing about it. (Frankly, I'm surprised he didn't tell Absalom how to get Amnon out to the ranch.) And beyond this, he now uses this knowledge to try to further his own standing with David. It seems that he has a very shrewd reason for telling David that only Amnon has died, before David's sons return to Jerusalem. Their arrival proves that Jonadab knows what he is talking about. When they arrive, Jonadab says to David, “See, didn't I tell you this ahead of time? Things took place just as I told you they would” (verse 35). I think Jonadab is trying to make points with David.
Shortly after Jonadab assures David that only one son is dead, the watchman look out and see that many men are coming. Soon, all of David's sons but two arrive in Jerusalem: Amnon who is dead, and Absalom who kills him and flees. The weeping is commenced by David's sons this time, and David joins with them in mourning the death of Amnon. They all weep bitterly.
As I conclude this lesson, let me suggest some of the ways this passage may instruct us.
First, this text is placed immediately following the passage that depicts David's sin and its personal consequences in the death of his first son by Bathsheba. This is not only because the events of chapter 13 follow closely in time to those of chapter 12, but because chapter 13 describes further consequences of David's sin. The sin of David that was once personal and private comes to impact the entire nation. David's sin affects him, his wife and son, and now other members of his family. Soon, David's sin will divide the nation and deprive David of his throne for a time.
I believe it is true that the death of David's son (chapter 12), and now the rape of his daughter and the murder of his son (chapter 13), are not God's punishment for his sin, but God's discipline. If David were to be punished for his sin, he would have to die. Nathan assured David that he would not die, because his sins had been taken away. The tragedies which take place from this point on are meant to be instructive and corrective, even though they are also painful. This is completely consistent with the teaching of God's Word (see Hebrews 12:1-13).
Hugh Blevins, a friend and fellow-elder, made this observation on our text. God has orchestrated these events to enable David to experience his own sin from the perspective of others. In effect, some of David's family were doing to David what he had done to God. As David had abused his authority as the “king of Israel” to sin against God by taking Bathsheba, Amnon now abuses his authority and position as a “son of the king” to take Tamar. As David sinned by killing Uriah, Absalom sinned by killing Amnon. David can now experience what God did, what Bathsheba did, what others impacted by his sin did.
Second, this text has much to teach David and us regarding sin. Notice that sin often starts with some kind of “forbidden fruit.” For Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit was eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For Joseph, it was Potiphar's wife. For Daniel and his three friends, it was the king's foods. For David, it was Bathsheba. For Amnon, it was Tamar. We see that while sin starts small and often private, it grows quickly to greater and more public sin. We see from our text that sin never pays. Its price tag is always much higher than its worth. Neither David, nor his family, nor the nation Israel will smile about David's sin and its consequences. As Mark Twain once said, “Its better to stay out than to get out.” This certainly applies to sin.
This passage certainly encourages us to stay out of sin. But it also instructs us that once sin has begun, the sooner it is stopped, the better for all. How much better for all if the shrewd Jonadab had rebuked Amnon for his sinful lust, rather than to tell him how he could get what he wanted. How much better if David had recognized the evil of Amnon's request and refused to allow his daughter to see Amnon, and his son Amnon to go to the ranch of Absalom. There is a passivity here toward the sin of others which is painfully evident. Those who will not correct those who sin are only co-conspirators in their expanding sin. How many families have experienced great heartache because a mother or a father refused to discipline a willful or wayward child? How many marriages have broken up because a husband or a wife refused to deal with sin in their lives, or in the life of their mate? How often families have taken the course of action Absalom recommended -- keeping sin a family secret.
We certainly see that sin separates. We know (or should know) that sin separates us from God. But it also separates us from others. The sin of Adam and Eve brought separation from God, and shortly after, it separated Cain and Abel. Sin separated Joseph and his brothers. Sin divided David's family. Sin separated Amnon and Tamar, Amnon and Absalom, David and Absalom, and eventually the whole nation. Sin is the root of disunity and division.
Thirdly, we can learn from each of the characters in our text. Amnon warns us about the pursuit of fleshly lusts (compare 1 Corinthians 10). Jonadab warns us about the danger of using the sins of others to further our own interests, making them a part of our own agenda, rather than paying the price for rebuke and correction. David instructs us concerning passivity toward sin. David knew all the facts about the crime committed against his daughter, yet it seems that he did nothing about it. Why not? Was it his own guilt due to his sin with Bathsheba? Was he afraid that if he corrected Amnon someone might ask him who he was to be casting stones at sinners? Whatever the reasons for David's inaction, it only facilitated the sins of others. And from Absalom, we learn the danger of resentment and bitterness. Absalom was not willing to deal with Amnon biblically. He wanted to get his revenge in his own way. This he did, and in doing so became a murderer and a fugitive.
Fourth, this text has much to teach us about love. Everything that is called love is not necessarily love. It is obvious that Amnon thinks he is in love, but it is also obvious that he is not. In Amnon's mind, love is synonymous with sex. His brand of “love” is frustrated by purity, and not at all concerned about righteousness (such as that conduct prescribed by God's law). Amnon's “love” would not stand the test of 1 Corinthians 13. Tamar was never fooled by Amnon on this matter. How sad it is that so many young women have forsaken their virginity because of a few syrupy words, uttered by a hormone-driven young man. Today, there are many young women who fail to hold the same values or the same standard as Tamar. They do not see their sexual purity as something to be prized and protected; they see it as a curse, to be shed as soon as possible. Let this passage instruct us on the real meaning of love and of the great value of sexual purity, whether a man's or a woman's.
Finally, this text sheds light on the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Think of how Absalom felt about Amnon's abuse of his sister, Tamar. Think of how David felt about the abuse of his daughter. One can only wonder how David found it possible not to do something to Amnon. Now with this in mind, think about how God the Father must have felt, and continues to feel, toward those who reject, rebel against, and blaspheme His sinless Son, Jesus Christ. When He sent His son to this world nearly 2,000 years ago, men rejected Him as a sinner, and they crucified Him on the cross of Calvary. If you were God, how would you feel toward those who did this, and toward those who continue to reject Christ today?
I have some good news and some bad news for you. Let me start with the bad news. The bad news is that God is going to punish those who have rejected His Son. When He returns to the earth, He will come in glory and with power to subdue His enemies:
Jesus said to him [the high priest], “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 26:64).
“This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33 “Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. 34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: 'THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, 35 UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”' 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ -- this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:32-36).
“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31 because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30).
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).
1 Why are the nations in an uproar And the peoples devising a vain thing? 2 The kings of the earth take their stand, And the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart And cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, 6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain.” 7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. 8 'Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance, And the very ends of the earth as Your possession. 9 'You shall break them with a rod of iron, You shall shatter them like earthenware.”' 10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. 11 Worship the LORD with reverence And rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2)
No man who has ever lived has been worthy of eternal life. Every single human being is born in sin and fails to live up to God's standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23; 6:23). We all deserve the penalty of death. God, in His mercy and grace, has provided a solution in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. He came to this earth, adding perfect humanity to His undiminished deity. He lived a sinless life, revealing Himself as God's only way to heaven and eternal life (John 14:6). God placed the guilt of our sins upon Him, and when He died on the cross and was raised from the dead, He provided a way of salvation for all who will receive it.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater; for the testimony of God is this, that He has testified concerning His Son. 10 The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. 11 And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life (1 John 5:9-13).
The great news of the gospel is that we do not need to suffer the wrath of God for our sin. Jesus Christ has already borne that penalty, for all who receive it. The bad news is that those who reject His Son, and the penalty He paid, will some day stand before Him as a defeated enemy, acknowledging Him to be the sovereign King of all the earth. I pray that you will receive this gift of forgiveness and eternal life, so that you may become a part of God's royal family, rather than to remain one of His foes.
61 I have separated the first three brothers of David from the second three because the first three were named in 1 Samuel 16 as the three oldest brothers of David and again in chapter 17, as the only three of David’s family to go to war. The names of the last three are given in 1 Chronicles 2. Jonadab, son of Shimeah, is the fellow mentioned several times in our text. Abishai, Joab, and Asahel are the three sons of Zeruiah, David’s sister, who play a significant part in David’s life. Amasa, son of Abigail, will be appointed as commander of the armies of Israel by Absalom when he temporarily takes over David’s kingdom in 2 Samuel 17. When David returns to the throne, he will replace Joab by Amasa (chapter 19), and shortly after, Joab will kill him (chapter 20).
62 The three children of David we are interested in at this point are Amnon, son of Ahinoam, and Absalom and Tamar, children of Maacah. Adonijah, son of Haggith, is the one who will try to assert himself as David’s successor, as described in 1 Kings 1.
63 This is probably a good place to make an observation. Four times in our text the word “love” is used. It is clear that the “love” of Amnon is little more than lust, and yet these four times the translators of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, used the Greek word agapao. Let those who would suggest or state that “agape love” is a divine love, the highest form of love, take note that this is not consistent with the use of the word, either in the Septuagint or in the New Testament. Let us beware of over-simplification.
64 There are other “Tamar’s” in the Old Testament. One was the daughter-in-law of Judah, found in Genesis 38, and another is “Tamar,” the daughter of Absalom (2 Samuel 14:27). Did Absalom honor his sister (who remained barren the rest of her life) by naming his daughter after her?
66 One definitely gets the impression that Amnon had a healthy respect for (and perhaps even fear of) Absalom. Not only did Tamar plan to keep herself a virgin, but she had her brother Absalom to help protect her virtue. Big brothers (and dads) have a way of putting the fear of God into the suitors of their sisters (and daughters).
68 I would have to say, as I alluded to earlier in this series, that if the incident between Amnon and Tamar is purposely portrayed as similar to that between David and Bathsheba, then we have one more piece of evidence in support of Bathsheba’s innocence in the night’s events with David. Surely we can say that Tamar is an innocent victim. And if so, then we may be inclined to suppose that something similar happened with David.
69 This word “send” or “sent” (or its implied equivalent) keeps cropping up. Numerous times it is found in chapter 11, where David uses his authority (sends) to accomplish and then to add to his sin regarding Bathsheba and Uriah. Here in chapter 13 David “sends” Tamar to Amnon (verse 7) and virtually sends Amnon (with the rest of his sons) to Absalom (v. 27).