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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 13

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-39

2 Samuel 13:2 . He fell sick for his sister Tamar. Most young men who have come to ruin, have followed some blind and impetuous passion.

2 Samuel 13:13 . The king will not withhold me from thee. In her maternal grandfather’s house irregular marriages had been sanctioned, as we see in Tamar’s case. She was an Assyrian of Geshur, Genesis xxxviii: yet such a connexion is forbidden in the law of Moses. Leviticus 20:0.

2 Samuel 13:15 . Then Amnon hated her exceedingly. So the tide of Sthenob√¶’s passion turned against Bellerophon, as also that of Potiphar’s wife. Genesis 39:17.

2 Samuel 13:21 . David was very wroth. Yea, and so was Eli, but the punishment ended in mere words. Had those wicked sons been punished, an infinitude of mischiefs had been prevented. Abulensis, as well as other rabbins, has censured David for this. The censures seem founded on an adjection in the LXX which reads, that when David heard of all those things he was much afflicted, but would not grieve the mind of Amnon his son, because he loved him, and because he was his firstborn. Excusing one crime produced a thousand others. David, like Eli, was on the very point of losing his own life for sparing an effeminate son.

2 Samuel 13:37 . Absalom fled to Talmai; his maternal grandfather, king of Geshur, adjacent to Amalek. 1 Samuel 27:8. He fled not to the altar with his bloody hands; no atonement was to be found there. He fled not to a city of refuge; there he could not be protected; but he fled to a court that had not the law.


Having reviewed the affecting case of David in the preseding chapter, we now find a complicated tragedy in two of his sons. The storms of passion, like those of the ocean, rise and fall in succession. Parents should form those habits in children from the earliest dawn of reason, which may be cultivated in future life with greater success: he who has no command of his passions, but suffers himself to be precipitated in the foulest crimes, forfeits his claims to the title and dignity of man. It was an additional calamity to Amnon, that he had a friend and a cousin not less wicked, but more artful than himself. This man, instead of consulting the interest and honour of the heir apparent, instructed and emboldened him to the perpetrating of a crime which cost him his life. Happy is that prince who is surrounded by a wise and virtuous council; but as this cannot always be obtained, it would be well for those designated to the throne, to be acquainted with human nature on a full scale from the cottage to the palace, that they be might be able in the issue to be their own ministers. Those have generally made the best kings who have known adversity as well as prosperity.

The moment Amnon had accomplished his wishes, the high tide of criminal passion suddenly ebbed, from frantic love to utter abhorrence. He was overwhelmed with anguish; horror seized his soul, and his heart loaded him with a thousand reproaches. Unable to bear himself, he could no longer bear the sight of Tamar. A moment before, all the wise and weighty arguments of the princess, which had no effect in restraining his impetuous desire, now fell as millstones on his conscience. Auguring that the public odium and punishment about to follow would correspond with his conscience, he basely spurned from his presence the unoffending victim of his crime.

Here is a case indeed worthy of improvement. Draw near then to this chamber, ye gay and guilty circles, who riot in pleasure and despise restraint; who accuse heaven of contraction in the sacred limits of marriage, and who love tragedy, provided it be embellished with lawless love. Here is a tragedy consummate in its characters, and replete with instruction. Here is a prince, who by one frantic passion lost his crown and his life; and for ought we know, lost his soul. Here is a prince, who by one crime covered the princess his sister with shame and tears all her future days; who embittered the life of his Sire with every calamity which can afflict the best of fathers, and the best of kings. Here is the prince who provoked Absalom to revenge; and a revenge followed by rebellion, which caused tears to Israel for an age to come. From the ghastly countenance of Amnon, from the horrid language of that guilty chamber, make the transition to yourselves. Recal the scenes of your intrigues; the oaths, the perjuries, the violence, to accomplish the objects of your desire; read in all the scenery of this chamber, what sort of a place hell will be, when you shall meet with all the accomplices of your crimes, and not be able as Amnon to expel them from your presence. Anticipate what sort of anguish you will feel, when God, the avenger of the wrongs of unprotected innocence, shall pour his vengeance down in full tale for all your sins: and say now, say by the force of reflection, whether the laws of heaven which enjoin mortification and self-denial, be not worthy of the holy character of God, and conducive to the happiness of man.

Absalom, on receiving his sister under his protection, was animated with a disposition widely different from Amnon’s, but far more fatal. As though educated in an Indian court, he discovered neither anger nor resentment. The cunning of a long protracted malice, suppressed the rising of indignation and the language of revenge. He made no complaints to the public, nor solicited redress from the throne; he was resolved to take revenge, and in such a way as should leave the throne open for himself. What an argument may hence be drawn for the impartial administration of justice. If man, roaming in hordes and camps in a savage state, have surrendered his rights for the benefit of civilized society and legal protection, and if he fail of redress when greatly wronged, it is natural for him to resume his ancient liberty, by taking vengeance in private war. No one but a christian is superior to revenge, because he believes that God will do it to the impenitent in a time and a way, far above all his wishes. Thus the immortal spirit of Uriah saw inflicted on David’s house a series of punishments, better timed, and far more tremendous than any plots he could have formed against his sovereign.

The assassination of Amnon, in slaying the heir apparent, if the real views of Absalom be considered, was, in regard to his malice, hypocrisy, and the intoxication of the unhappy victim, an example of wickedness almost without precedent. Providence nevertheless permitted it to occur, and in great compassion to all Israel: two wicked princes totally disqualified for the throne, were by this means removed. To David, those calamities were peculiarly instructive. By the dishonour of Tamar he would be reminded of Bathsheba; by the plot against Amnon he would recollect his own contrivance to dispatch Uriah, and that he had previously intoxicated him with wine. How mysterious is providence. In time and in eternity, it is a study worthy of angels and of men.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/2-samuel-13.html. 1835.
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