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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 loved 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)
“it seemed hard in the eyes of Amnon.” 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.
“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-English 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 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.(top)
|2Sa 13:10||- (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 Absalom 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 Absalom and Tamar, and Absalom’s coldness to Tamar’s situation continues a coldness and calculating determination that would continue throughout his life.(top)
“Put this one out.” This could even be translated, “Put 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.(top)
|2Sa 13:18||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:19||- (top)|
“been with you.” In this context the phrase is a euphemism for sex.
“But now hold your peace, my sister.” 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.
“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.(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)|
|2Sa 13:23||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:24||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:25||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:26||- (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 Dead Sea Scrolls book of Samuel taken from cave #4, in the Septuagint, and also in the Old Latin. 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)
|2Sa 13:28||- (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. 9:23).
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)
|2Sa 13:30||- (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)
|2Sa 13:33||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:34||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:35||- (top)|
|2Sa 13:36||- (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.(top)
|2Sa 13:38||- (top)|
“and King David longed to go out to Absalom.” The Masoretic Hebrew text reads as the REV text does, 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)