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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 13

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.

Tamar - daughter of David by Maachah (2 Samuel 3:3).

Verse 2

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.

For she was a virgin. Unmarried daughters were kept in close seclusion from the company of men; no strangers, nor even their relatives of the other sex, being permitted to see them without the presence of witnesses. Of course, Amnon must have seen Tamar, because he had conceived a violent passion for her, which, though forbidden by the law (Leviticus 18:11), yet, with the sanction of Abraham's example (Genesis 20:12), and the common practice in neighbouring countries for princes to marry their half-sisters, he seems not to have considered an improper connection. But he had no means of making it known to her; and the pain of that disappointment preying upon his mind, produced a visible change on his appearance and health.

Verse 3

But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.

Jonadab, the son of Shimeah - or Shammah (1 Samuel 16:9), who was one of David's brothers. Although none of them were promoted to places of honour and emolument under government, probably from the feelings of alienation that subsisted between the king and his brethren, David seems to have acted in a kindly spirit toward their children; and the case of Jonadab is one of several known instances in which he had these young relatives about his court. By the counsel and contrivance of this scheming cousin a plan was devised for obtaining an unrestricted interview with the object of his attachment.

My brother Absalom's sister. In Eastern countries, where polygamy prevails, the girls are considered to be under the special care and protection of their uterine brother, who is the guardian of their interests and their honour, even more than their father himself (see the notes at Genesis 34:6-25).

Verses 4-5

And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 6

So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.

Amnon lay down, and made himself sick. The Orientals are great adepts in feigning sickness, whenever they have any object to accomplish.

Let Tamar my sister come and make me a couple of cakes, [ lªbibowt (H3834)] - delicate cakes, with stimulating seeds in them; omelets, pancakes [Septuagint, kolluridas]. To the king Amnon spoke of Tamar as 'his sister' a term artfully designed to hoodwink his father; and the request appeared so natural, the delicate appetite of a sick man requiring to be humoured, that the king promised to send her. The cakes seem to have been a kind of fancy bread, in the preparation of which Oriental ladies take great delight; and Tamar, flattered by the invitation, lost no time in rendering the required service in the house of her sick brother.

Verses 7-11

Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat. No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 12

And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.

Do not force me. The remonstrances and arguments of Tamar were so affecting and so strong, that had not Amnon been violently goaded on by the lustful passion of which he had become the slave, they must have prevailed with him to desist from his infamous purpose. In bidding him, however, "speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from thee," it is probable that she urged this as her last resource, saying anything she thought would please him, in order to escape for the present out of his hands.

Verses 13-14

And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 15

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly. It is not unusual for persons instigated by violent and irregular passions to go from one extreme to other. In Amnon's case the sudden revulsion is easily accounted for; the atrocity of his conduct, with all the feelings of shame, remorse, and dread of exposure and punishment, now burst upon his mind, rendering the presence of Tamar intolerably painful to him.

Verse 16

And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 17

Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.

Bolt the door after her. The street door of houses in the East is always kept barred, the bolts being of wood. In the great mansions, where a porter stands at the outside, this precaution is dispensed with; and the circumstance, therefore, of a prince giving an order so unusual shows the vehement perturbation of Amnon's mind.

Verse 18

And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.

A garment of divers colours, [ kªtonet (H3801) paciym (H6446)] - a tunic reaching to the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, worn by the youths of both sexes belonging to the upper classes (Gesenius, following Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 7: ch. 8: sec. 1). Most writers, however, interpret the words as denoting a tunic of various coloured patches sewed together, afterward woven [Septuagint, chitoon karpootos], having figures of various colours inwoven or embroidered on them [see the notes at Genesis 37:3, where the Septuagint has: chitoon poikolos , a variegated coat]. Since embroidery in ancient times was the occupation or pastime of ladies of the highest rank, the possession of these party-coloured garments was a mark of distinction: they were worn exclusively by young women of royal condition. Since the art of manufacturing cloth stuffs has made so great progress, dresses of this variegated description are more common in the East.

Verse 19

And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.

Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours ... laid her hand on her head, and went on crying - i:e., sobbing. Oriental manners would probably see nothing beyond a strong sense of the injury she had sustained, if Tamar actually rent her dress. But as her veil is not mentioned, it is probable that Amnon had turned her out of doors without it, and she raised her hand with the design to conceal her face. By these signs, especially the rending of her distinguishing robe, Absalom at once conjectured what had taken place. Recommending her to be silent about it, and not publish her own and her family's dishonour, he took no notice of it to Amnon. But all the while he was in secret 'nursing his wrath, to keep it warm,' and only 'biding his time' to avenge his sister's wrongs, and by the removal of the heir-apparent, perhaps further also his ambitious designs.

Verse 20

And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house.

Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house. He was her natural protector, as Simeon and Levi were of Dinah (Genesis 34:1-31); and the children of polygamists lived by themselves, as if they constituted different families.

Verse 21

But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.

When king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth. It cannot be supposed but that David would be grieved and incensed at so gross an outrage, perpetrated by a member of his own family. In our version his indignation merely is declared, without the infliction of any penalty, whether by degradation or banishment from court. [A leniency so singular and misplaced is accounted for by a sentence which is found in the Septuagint version: kai ouk elupeese to pneuma Amnoon tou huiou autou hoti eegapa auton, hoti proototokos autou een, but he did not vex the mind of Amnon his son, because he loved him, because he was his firstborn son. (See also Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 7:, ch. 8:, sec. 2, where the same clause occurs, whence it may be referred that both drew it from the same source, the ancient Hebrew text of this book).]

Verse 22

And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 23

And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king's sons.

Absalom had sheep-shearers in Baal-hazor, which is beside Ephraim. A sheep-shearing feast is a grand occasion in the East. Absalom, proposing to give such an entertainment at his estate in Baal-hazor, about eight miles northeast of Jerusalem, near a town called Ephraim (Joshua 11:10), he first invited the king and his court, but the king declining, on account of the heavy expense to which the reception of royalty would subject his son, Absalom then limited the invitation to the king's sons, which David the more readily agreed to, in the hope that it might tend to the promotion of brotherly harmony and union.

Verses 24-27

And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 28

Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.

When Amnon's heart is merry with wine ... kill him, fear not. On a preconcerted signal from their master, the servants, rushing upon Amnon, assassinated him at the table, while the rest of the brothers, horror-struck, and apprehending a general massacre, fled in frightened haste to Jerusalem.

Verse 29

And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.

Every man gat him up upon his mule. This had become the favorite equipage of the great. King David himself had a state mule (1 Kings 1:33). The Syrian mules are, in activity, strength, and capabilities, still far superior to ours.

Verse 30

And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left.

Tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons. It was natural that, in the consternation and tumult caused by so atrocious a deed, an exaggerated report should reach the court, which was plunged into the depths of grief and despair. But the information of Jonadab, who seems to have been privy to the design, and the arrival of the other princes, made known the real extent of the catastrophe.

Verses 31-36

Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 37

But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.

Absalom fled, and went to Talmai. The law as to premeditated murder (Numbers 35:21) gave him no hope of remaining with impunity in his own country; the cities of refuge could afford him no sanctuary: and he was compelled to leave the kingdom, taking refuge at the court of Geshur with his maternal grandfather, who would doubtless approve of his conduct.

Verse 38

So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 39

And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.

The soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom. The verb, being feminine, does not refer to David, neither is it correct to say that David longed to go forth to Absalom; because there is no ground to suppose that he entertained either an intention or a wish to visit his exiled son. The clause should be rendered: The anger of king David ceased to go (left off going) forth against Absalom. In this sense the verb is used, 2 Samuel 11:1; Genesis 14:18, in apparent efforts to pursue the fratricide, and bring him to condign punishment for his crime. [So the Septuagint renders it: kai ekopasen ho basileus Dauid tou exelthein pros Abessaloom, and king David ceased from the labour of going out against Absalom.]

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/2-samuel-13.html. 1871-8.
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