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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Samuel 13

Verses 1-14

Second Samuel - Chapter 13

The Rape of Tamar, vs. 1-14

David’s beautiful virgin daughter, the princess Tamar, is first introduced. She was one of those with special distinction, signified by the apparel the virgin princesses wore. She was the sister of Absalom, who was David’s third son, and his mother was Maachah, the daughter of the king of Geshur, northwest of the tribes east of the Jordan Amnon is also introduced. He was David’s eldest son, heir apparent to the throne, and the son of Ahinoam, a girl from the southern town of Jezreel, whom David married while a fugitive from Saul. Jonadab, David’s nephew, is also introduced. His father was Shimeah, the third of Jesse’s sons, also called Shammah.

The love which Amnon is said to have held for the beautiful Tamar was nothing more than sinful lust. From later events it is probable that resentment toward his more popular younger brother, Absalom, may be the reason he longed so greatly to shame the lovely virgin. That he found it "hard for him to do any thing to her" is probably due to her chastity as a virgin, and perhaps out of fear of her brother Absalom, who protected her. As time went on he became obsessed with his evil desire to the point of illness.

At this point his wicked companion, Jonadab, proposed a wicked scheme whereby he might humble the princess. It was to feign illness to bring the king to him, when he should request the beautiful Tamar to nurse him and prepare his food. That Tamar possessed some talent in this respect seems to be implied. So Amnon took his bed and had the king come for a visit. There are several times in David’s career when he seems rather naive, and this is one. It seems he should have seen through Amnon’s wicked purpose, but he did not.

David immediately sent for Tamar to go to Amnon’s house and to prepare him food as Amnon requested. She did, taking the flour and preparing him cakes in his sight, as he wished. When she brought them to him he refused to eat them. Instead he ordered all the people out of his house and requested Tamar to bring the cakes and feed him by her own hand. When she complied, Amnon caught hold of her and demanded that she come to bed with him. But she resisted, pleading the shame it would bring to her and the fool’s name it would beget him. In her desperation she even suggested that he should ask David for her, that David would grant his request. This may reflect the light esteem for David, her father, which she might have shared with her brother Absalom. Or it may have only been a desperate ploy to escape Amnon’s clutches. Surely David would not have encouraged incest among his children!

But Amnon would not be denied, and being stronger he overpowered his sister, Tamar, and defiled her in fulfilling his lust upon her.

Verses 15-22

David’s Second Payment, vs. 15-22

Amnon soon proved his real feeling for Tamar His hate for her was a more consuming passion than had been his lust. He ordered her out of his house, as though she was there uninvited. Again Tamar protested that there is no cause for his evil treatment of her. She tried to reason that sending her off to a life of desolation was worse than his rape of her, for that would mean, under the customs of the time, that she was no longer marriageable. She was now a defiled woman, and no man would want her for his wife. Her pleading fell on deaf, cruel ears. Amnon called for his servant, had Tamar ejected from his house and the door bolted so that she could not re-enter. Tamar went down the street weeping. She tore her beautiful virgin’s robe and heaped ashes on her head. Her hand on her brow bespoke the shame from which she would feign have been rid in her helplessness. Thus her brother Absalom found her.

Absalom must have known the lewd feeling and talk of Amnon rela­tive to his sister. At once he surmised that she had been with Amnon. He spoke in sarcasm, "Has Amnon been with you? But hold your peace, Sister, for he is your brother! Don’t mind it!" This speech of Absalom was likely intended as mockery of David, and implication of what Absalom ex­pected would be his father’s attitude relative to the incident. Tamar re­mained a desolate woman in her brother’s house, and Absalom’s feeling about David was at least partially correct. David was very angry, but took no steps to deal with the rapist. Meanwhile Absalom made no comment, but bided his time against Amnon.

Verses 23-29

Assassination of Amnon, vs. 23-29

Absalom planned carefully for his revenge, waiting two full years, to allay suspicions as much as possible, no doubt. That his plot was hopefully intended to accomplish much more than the mere assassination of Amnon seems rather apparent. The site and occasion seemed to be a simple and customary festive affair.

Absalom had a sheep ranch north of Jerusalem at Baal-hazor, scarcely twenty airline miles from the city. Here he planned a feast, ostensibly for his sheepshearers and other guests, in celebration of the completion of the sheepshearing.

Absalom invited all his brothers, and especially he desired the presence of his father, King David, to be his guest of honor. But David desisted and would not be persuaded, though Absalom pressured him. Failing this Absalom then insisted that Amnon be sent as his guest of honor. David may have been suspicious of Absalom’s intentions, for he questioned his reason for wanting Amnon’s attendance. No direct answer seems to have been given, though Absalom’s pressuring finally persuaded the king to send Amnon.

Absalom had instructed the servants to watch Amnon, and when he became drunk with his wine to rise up and kill him. This they did, and the feast was broken up in great consternation and fear on the part of the guest princes. It seems they felt Absalom might also strike them. His ambitions for the kingship were likely well known by them, and had he succeeded in getting his father to attend his feast he may have intended to slay him as well.

Thus he could have incited rebellion and perhaps seized the kingdom. In such circumstances it was not at all uncommon to slaughter all who might have throne rights to protect his claim. This explains the great fear of the princes.

Verses 30-39

David’s Third Payment, vs. 30-39

Somehow the news of Amnon’s assassination reached Jerusalem before the arrival of the frightened princes. One suspects the complicity of the wicked Jonadab, David’s nephew. He was an about­face turncoat, first the companion of Amnon in his evil deed, then turned against him to the aid of the conniving Absalom. It almost looks as though he was a plant in the palace to speak for Absalom. He was aware of Absalom’s plans and quickly reassured David when the report came that all the princes were slain. How did he know this? and who planted the report that they were killed? Could it not have been a part of the overall plot of Absalom and Jonadab?

The news was very distressing to David. One of his sons had followed in his footsteps and like him had proved the truth that, "Lust when it is conceived brings sin, and sin when finished brings death," (James 1:15). In the death of his oldest son David made another payment in the fourfold repayment for taking the "poor man’s ewe lamb." The whole court was distressed and with the king rent their garments.

Soon the princes and their retinue began arriving back in the capital, proving the accuracy of Jonadab’s words. Their anguish and grief added to that of king and courtiers, as they wept and mourned loudly in the custom of people of the east.

Absalom had fled from the land to the kingdom of Geshur where his maternal grandfather reigned. Geshur was northwest of the Sea of Chinnereth, or Galilee. It should have been possessed by the Israelites in their conquest, but they had neglected to do so (Joshua 13:13; cf. 1 Chronicles 2:23). David mourned for Absalom every day, for that young man seems to have had a special place in David’s heart. But he did not recall him, and he remained in Geshur for three years. On the other hand the king was comforted concerning the death of Amnon, probably judging that justice had been wrought against him in spite of David’s own vacillation in regard to the rape of Tamar.

Points to note: 1) Lack of self-control has led to the ruin of many lives, of guilty and of innocent; 2) Satan adopts what seem innocent schemes to destroy the unwary; 3) sadism and cruelty are the work of those possessed of the Devil; 4) judgment for sin may come in many ways in life, but its worst comes after death; 5) one sin cannot be appeased by the commission of another.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-samuel-13.html. 1985.