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Go to Bible: 2 Samuel 13
“Tamar.” An important name in David’s family, going all the way back to Tamar, who was married to Jacob’s son Judah’s oldest son Er, but ended up having a child in David’s line by Judah himself (Gen. 38). David named his daughter Tamar, and Absalom named his daughter Tamar (2 Sam. 14:27).
“and Amnon the son of David fell in love with her.” This “love” was not actual love, but simply animal lust. Amnon, being the oldest son of David and the crown prince, was spoiled and could not control his desires. The rape of Tamar by Amnon was the start of the fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy to David that the sword would not depart from his house and evil would arise from his own house (2 Sam. 12:10-11).(top)
“in the eyes of Amnon it seemed impossible.” This may have been because Amnon could not think of any legitimate way to be with Tamar since the Mosaic Law forbid brothers and sisters, even half-brothers and sisters, from having sex with each other (Lev. 18:6, 9; 20:17). However, since Amnon ignored those Mosaic Laws, it may have also been due to the fact that the unmarried daughters of the king would be closely guarded because any child they gave birth to would be a potential heir to the throne. Amnon may have felt it impossible to get to Tamar without her guardians, which eventually led to his ruse and his directly going to king David to send Tamar to him, which got rid of the guards.
“to do anything to her.” In this context, the phrase is euphemistic for sexual contact.(top)
“a friend whose name was Jonadab.” Although Jonadab was Amnon’s cousin, in this context it was their friendship that was important. In fact, often in royal families the cousins were rivals and more enemies than friends. This record emphasizes how important it is to choose friends wisely. This “friend” ultimately cost Amnon his life.
“Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother.” In 1 Samuel 16:9, Shimeah is called Shammah, and was David’s brother, the third son of Jesse. So Shimeah is Amnon’s uncle and Jonadab is Amnon’s cousin.
“shrewd.” The Hebrew word is chakam (#02450 חָכָם), and it can mean “wise, experienced, shrewd, cunning, crafty, etc., depending on the context. Jonadab was all those things, but in this context, shrewd, cunning, or crafty would fit well. It is not godly or wise to give someone bad advice. Perhaps Jonadab thought if he could help Amnon get what he wanted then Amnon, who was David’s first son and thus was in line to be king when David died, would someday give him power and authority in the kingdom.(top)
“Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Amnon was Tamar’s half-brother. But Absalom, David’s third son (2 Sam. 3:3), was Tamar’s full sister. Nevertheless, Amnon is called Tamar’s brother in 2 Samuel 13:10 because he was her half-brother.(top)
|2Sa 13:5||- (top)|
“heartcakes.” The Hebrew is labiybah (#03834 לָבִיבָה), and according to the Holladay Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon and Everett Fox (The Schocken Bible: The Early Prophets) the meaning is not just “cakes,” but heart-shaped cakes. Fox writes: “…others [have] simply ‘cakes,’ but the ‘heart’ (Heb. leiv, leivav) motif is central to the Avshalom [sic] stories, as I have argued…. Shaped foods were known in the ancient Near East.” Fox goes on: Amnon “pretends to be ill and requests that his half-sister make levivot, usually translated as ‘cakes,’ for him. …But as some interpreters have noticed, the homonym (levav) means ‘heart,’ and the verbal form of l-b-b (the biblical v and b are the same letter) occurs in the Song of Songs 4:9, ‘You have captured my heart’ (NJPS). So a word connected in love poetry with seduction is appropriate enough in the mouth of the lovesick Amnon, and on this and other grounds…we are justified in understanding levivot as something like ‘heartcakes.’”
Since Amnon would have had many people who could cook for him, it may have made more sense to David that Amnon asked for “heartcakes” specifically from Tamar, who may have been known for cooking them. In fact, it is possible that Tamar even brought her own pan to cook them in (see commentary on 2 Sam. 13:9, “pan”).(top)
|2Sa 13:7||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:8||- (top)|
“pan.” The Hebrew is a rare word, maserath (#04958 מַשְׂרֵת), only occurring here in the Old Testament but well attested in post-biblical Hebrew. There is no reason not to believe that shallow pans would have been available, especially among the king’s household, for specialty baking.
“and set it out.” The Hebrew text is unclear here. For one thing, there is no object to the verb, “it” is supplied. The act could be that she “set them out,” “poured them out,” “dished them out,” “set it [the pan] out” etc. What she actually did we cannot tell from the text. It is also possible that she is somewhat suspicious, because she seems to be keeping her distance and not feeding him with her hand, as he seemed to have wanted.(top)
“her brother.” Actually her half-brother.(top)
|2Sa 13:11||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:12||- (top)|
“you will be as one of the godless fools in Israel.” This is true, but it was also an attempt on Tamar’s part to get away from Amnon by getting him to stop what he was doing by realizing the consequences of what he was doing.
“for he will not withhold me from you.” It is very unlikely that Tamar was being serious when she said this, but was rather trying any tactic she could think of in the moment to escape Amnon. The Law of Moses forbid marriage between half brothers and sisters (Lev. 18:9; 20:17; Deut. 27:22), and thus it is unlikely that David would consent to Tamar being with Amnon, especially if Tamar did not want it.(top)
|2Sa 13:14||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:15||- (top)|
“Because this wrong.” Most versions smooth out the Hebrew text which is very choppy and reads more literally like Fox’s translation: “About this great evil—more than the other thing you did to me—sending me away…!” Kyle McCarter writes that the Masoretic Hebrew text “as it stands is unintelligible” (P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., The Anchor Bible: II Samuel). However, Everett Fox, in The Schocken Bible: Vol. II, The Early Prophets, points out that the halting syntax of the Hebrew text may not be due to a defective text but rather to Tamar’s broken emotional state: she had just been raped. The NET text note seems to agree, saying, “Perhaps the broken syntax reflects her hysteria and outrage.” Tamar was likely speaking through sobs, and Amnon would have understood perfectly what she was saying in spite of her broken sentences. The beauty of the Hebrew text lies in its preservation of the emotional scene that was occurring between Amnon and Tamar, and Amnon’s coldness to Tamar’s situation continues a coldness and calculating determination that would continue throughout his life.(top)
“Send this one outside.” This could even be translated, “Send this out.” Amnon speaks with great contempt. Many versions supply “woman,” but it is not in the Hebrew text; the word “this” is feminine, referring to Tamar. The word “send” is plural, and while it may be a plural of emphasis, it may also be that he expected Tamar to resist and made sure there were others who could help cast her out.(top)
|2Sa 13:18||- (top)|
“crying aloud.” It is possible that Tamar was even crying out that she had been raped. If a woman was raped in the city, she was supposed to cry out to get help, and while Tamar was likely too intimidated to do that when she was with Amnon, she may well have cried out after the incident (Deut. 22:22-29). By her actions, the torn robe, the ashes, and her crying aloud, Tamar is declaring that she has been raped as soon as she can.(top)
“been with you.” In this context the phrase is a euphemism for sex.
“For now, my sister, be quiet.” Absalom pretends to care for his sister, but in reality he is using her as part of his plan to gain the throne. Amnon’s rape of Tamar will give Absalom, David’s third son, a chance at removing Amnon, David’s first son and apparent heir to the throne. David’s household was riddled with evil.
“Do not take this thing to heart.” This statement was “heartless” on Abaslom’s part. What was Tamar supposed to do?
“desolate.” The Hebrew word occurs almost 100 times in the Hebrew Old Testament and most often refer to land that is not farmed and is barren (cp. its first use, Gen. 47:19). Thus, when used of a woman it refers to her being unmarried and therefore without children. It occurs in Isaiah 54:1, where it is used of the northern country of Israel which has been carried away into exile by the Assyrians and is compared to a “desolate woman.” The prophecy in Isaiah that the desolate woman will have more children than the woman with a husband is a prophesy of the fruitfulness of Israel in every way in the future Millennial Kingdom. Tamar was unmarried, without children, and mostly isolated from others. The joy in her life was gone, and almost any contact with the family of David would have only reminded her of the crime of her half-brother Amnon who was the crown prince and likely heir to the throne of David. The Bible does not say if Tamar remained unmarried in her brother’s house for the rest of her life, we just don’t know because the record of Tamar ends here and we hear nothing more about her. Her brother Absalom died in his rebellion against David, and certainly after that she likely would have had to move. She stayed in Absalom’s house for an unstated amount of time; it is possible that she even married and moved on with her life.(top)
“he was very angry.” The Septuagint adds to the text, and some English versions add the Septuagint addition to their English text. For example, the NRSV adds: “but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.” Other English versions that add the Septuagint ending to the text include the BBE, CEB, Douay-Rheims, NAB, and NJB. The addition, while no doubt partly right in the reason why David did not deal with Amnon, was not likely in the original Hebrew text but was likely an explanatory note added in the Greek text. Most scholars have concluded that the original is preserved in the Hebrew text.
David was very angry but did nothing. Likely for many reasons. No doubt David’s own adultery played a part, as did the fact that Amnon was his firstborn son. However, one of David’s faults was his indulgent affection for his sons (but not for his daughters), something that shows up several times in the biblical narrative, and it shows up here. Sadly, David was like many parents who do not raise their children in both the “training” and “admonition” of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). David did not upset his children by reproving and correcting them (1 Kings 1:6), but reproof and correction, and putting up with the emotional pain that children feel when they are reproved, is a necessary part of good parenting.
David apparently had a totally different relationship with his daughters than he did with his sons. While David indulged his sons and was blind to their faults, even coming close to losing his own life due to his blindness, there is no indication that he felt the same way towards his daughters. This was in part cultural, for example, David’s sons are listed in Chronicles but only his daughter Tamar, and that almost certainly only because of the part she played in the eventual death of Amnon. Nevertheless, that daughters would be treated so differently from sons was certainly not God’s intention or what we tend to think about a “man after God’s own heart.” There is no indication in the text that David sought any kind of justice for Tamar, or even did anything to comfort her. In fact, not only are no other daughters of David named in the Bible, even Tamar is never called David’s daughter, only the sister of her brothers, David’s sons.(top)
|2Sa 13:22||- (top)|
“Baal-hazor.” This is a large hill just about four miles northeast of Bethel. Today there is a large Israeli military installation there. It is in the southern part of Ephraim, close to the border of the tribal area of Benjamin.(top)
“let the king.” Absalom addresses his father in the third person as a sign (to Absalom, likely a pretend sign) of respect.
“and his servants.” This would not refer to David’s household servants, that some of them would likely go with David did not need to be stated. The “servants” in this case are officials in David’s kingdom, which would include his military leaders. [For more on “servants” being used for people of high position in the kingdom, see commentary on 2 Sam. 11:1].(top)
“He pressed him.” In 2 Samuel 13:25 and 13:27, the REV follows the reading of the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QSam(a ), which reads “and he pressed” rather than the reading in the Masoretic text, “and he broke through.” The Qumarn reading is likely original because it fits better with the context and agrees more with the readings in the Septuagint, the Syriac Peshitta, and the Latin Vulgate.
“but blessed him.” David blessed Absalom.(top)
“Why should he go with you?” David knew Absalom and Amnon were at odds, and in fact Absalom was not speaking with Amnon (2 Sam. 13:22). The Bible does not tell us what Absalom said to convince David, but we might guess that perhaps Absalom said that being at a feast together might help heal the rift between the two men. In any case, David agreed to let Amnon go.(top)
“he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.” That David did not suspect that something evil was being plotted when Absalom asked specifically that Amnon be allowed to go to his sheepshearing banquet (2 Sam. 13:26) is more of David’s blindness concerning his sons. Why didn’t David remember that Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister (and David’s daughter!) only two years earlier and now Tamar was living in Absalom’s house as a “desolate woman” (that is, unmarried and without children), and thus was a constant reminder and source of bitterness to Absalom? Especially given that in royal societies brothers were always trying to eliminate one another to gain power, especially the throne itself, and especially since Nathan had told David that one from his own house would lie with his wives (2 Sam. 12:11), which was a clear reference to someone trying to take the throne from him, it seems David would be more on the alert that there would be serious trouble from his sons. But David’s blindness when it came to his sons prevented him from seeing the danger and taking measures to prevent it.
“So Absalom made a banquet like a king’s banquet.” Although this sentence is missing from the Masoretic Hebrew text, it was almost certainly in the original and omitted due to a homoioteleuton (words that have the same ending, causing the copyist to skip words). The sentence can be found in the Septuagint, and also in the Old Latin. Also, there is evidence that it was in a Qumran manuscript (Dead Sea Scrolls book of Samuel taken from cave #4). Josephus (Antiquities; 7.8.2) mentions that Absalom threw a banquet and waited for Amnon to be weary from wine (cp. The Anchor Bible: II Samuel, by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.).
That Absalom would have a banquet like “a king’s banquet,” which meant it had lots of wine, would be natural and would help explain why Absalom would be so confident that Amnon would become “merry with wine.” Also, such a banquet would make sure the other son’s of David would not be in a position to defend Amnon.(top)
“sons of valor.” The literal Hebrew is “sons of valor,” and it means “valiant.” A “son of” something often had the characteristics or attributes of that something. So a “son of disobedience” was disobedient. A person who was “bar mitzvah” was a “son of the commandment [law].”(top)
“mule.” It seems strange to see royalty, especially David and his sons, riding on mules since the mule is a crossbreed between a horse and donkey, and crossbreeding was against the Mosaic Law (Lev. 19:19). Nevertheless, the mule does seem to be the royal mount of choice at least during the time of David (no mule is mentioned in the Bible before David’s time; according to Judges 5:10, the wealthy rode on donkeys). David’s sons had them, as we see here, and Absalom rode one into battle (2 Sam. 18:9), and David had one (1 Kings 1:33, 38, 44). The mule was bigger than a donkey and sturdier on the steep hillsides and loose soil of Judea than a horse. It is possible the mules were not bred by the Jews, but imported (cp. 2 Chron. 9:24).
It may have been that since a mule is a sterile animal David was not concerned that they would breed and make more and thus infringe upon the Law. It may have been that David realized the practical value of the animal and kept them for that reason. We cannot be sure, but one thing is certain: no matter why David had them, he was not concerned about “setting a bad example” by having them.(top)
“a rumor came to David.” The Bible does not say how the news of what Absalom did reached David at Jerusalem before the king’s sons did, who were riding on mules. It is possible that someone at the feast had a horse and outran the mules, and if that is the case, it is also possible that the person left the feast immediately upon seeing Amnon in the process of being killed and rode away assuming that all the king's sons would be killed the same way, and thus inadvertently started the rumor.(top)
|2Sa 13:31||- (top)|
“Jonadab.” We are introduced to Jonadab the son of Shimeah in 2 Samuel 13:3 when we learn he was Amnon’s “friend” and also a very shrewd, worldly-wise, person (Shimeah was one of David’s brothers and therefore Jonadab was Amnon’s and Absalom’s cousin). Jonadab was the person who hatched the plot for Amnon to be with Tamar, which ended up with her being raped (2 Sam. 13:5). Now, while Absalom is having a huge banquet, Amnon’s “friend” Jonadab is not only conspicuously missing from the banquet, but he is at the palace with David and also has inside information about what happened at the banquet even before accurate news about it reached David and his officials (2 Sam. 13:30-32). The Bible does not tell us how Jonadab knew what had happened at Absalom’s banquet, but it could well be that he noticed how angry Absalom was when Tamar was raped and ingratiated himself with Absalom in order to get more inside information about what was happening between the brothers. If he knew, and we can see from the text that he knew something, he was not really Amnon’s friend if he suspected harm would come to Amnon at the banquet but did nothing to help. It seems that because Jonadab had such accurate information about what happened at Absalom’s banquet that David would have started some kind of investigation into what happened and who knew about it. But David was too emotionally involved with his sons to deal with them in a righteous manner, and neither could he deal righteously with people who might have been involved with Amnon’s murder. The murder went unavenged, just as Tamar’s rape had been unavenged, and Absalom left the country.(top)
“take the thing to his heart.” In this context, “take...to heart” means to take it seriously, believe it.(top)
“But Absalom had fled.” Absalom would have known that people would have wanted to avenge the death of Amnon, and so would have planned an escape long before having Amnon killed.(top)
|2Sa 13:35||- (top)|
“wept bitterly.” The Hebrew says, “they wept a great weeping.”(top)
“and went to Talmai…king of Geshur.” Absalom fled out of Israel to his maternal grandfather, who had a marriage alliance with David and who protected him. The marriage of David and Talmai’s daughter is in 2 Samuel 3:3, but see commentary on 2 Samuel 3:2.
“David mourned for his son every day.” The Hebrew is “he mourned for his son,” but “David” is inserted for clarity. But what “son” is David mourning for, Amnon or Absalom? This is a difficult question because the word “son” is singular. David did miss Absalom (2 Sam. 13:39, 14:1).(top)
|2Sa 13:38||- (top)|
“and King David’s spirit for going out against Absalom was spent.” As the years passed, Amnon was long dead and the king tired of thinking of taking revenge on Absalom. The Masoretic Hebrew text reads, “and David longed to go out to Absalom,” but some scholars make a good case that the original text read “and the king’s spirit was spent for going out against Absalom,” in other words, David lost all enthusiasm for trying to do anything to Absalom. A number of things support that alternative reading. For one thing, the verb is feminine, not masculine, and so it would not naturally go with the name “David,” but would go with “spirit,” a reading that is found in the Dead Sea Scroll of Samuel (found in Cave 4), and in the Septuagint. Also, is seems like the context supports this alternative reading better, because when Absalom did return to Jerusalem, David flatly refused to see him, saying, “Let him return to his own house [in Jerusalem], but he is not to see my face” (2 Sam. 14:24). So although David agreed to have Absalom back in Jerusalem, he was still so upset about what Absalom had done that he refused to see him, which makes the reading, “and David longed to go out to Absalom” a bit of a contradiction (cp. The Anchor Bible: II Samuel, by P. Kyle McCarter, Jr.; Everett Fox, The Schocken Bible; Vol. II, The Early Prophets).(top)