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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical

2 Samuel 13

Verses 1-39

3. Breaking up of David’s house and family by the crimes of his sons Amnon and Absalom

2 Samuel 13:1-39

a. Amnon’s incest with Tamar. 2 Samuel 13:1-21

1And 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. 2And Amnon was so vexed [troubled]1 that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin, 3and Amnon thought it hard for him to do anything to her. But [And] Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab2, the son of Shimeah David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very subtil man. 4And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day [Why art thou so lean, O son of the king, morning by morning]? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar my brother Absalom’s sister. 5And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make [feign] thyself sick; and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat [food3 to eat], and dress [prepare] the meat [food3] in my sight, that I may see it and eat it 6at her hand. So [And] Amnon lay down and made [feigned] himself sick. And when the king was come [And the king came] to see him, [ins. and] Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of 7cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand. Then [And] David sent home to Tamar [sent to Tamar to the house], saying, Go now [I pray thee] to thy brother 8Amnon’s house, and dress [prepare] him meat [the food]. So [And] Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, and he was laid down; and she took flour [the dough] and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes. 9And she took a [the] pan,4 and poured them out before him; but [and] he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him. 10And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat [food] into the chamber, that I may eat of [at] thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother. 11And when she had brought [And she handed] them unto him to eat, [ins. and] he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me my sister. 12And she answered [said to] him, Nay, my brother, do not force [humble] me, for no such thing ought to be done in Israel; do not thou this folly. 13And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go [shall I carry my reproach]? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now, therefore, I pray thee, speak [And now, speak, I pray thee] unto 14the king; for he will not withhold me from thee. Howbeit [And] he would not hearken unto her voice, but, being stronger than she, forced her [and he was stronger 15than she, and humbled her], and lay with her.5 Then [And] Amnon hated her exceedingly [with a very great hate]; 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. 16And she said unto him, There6 is no cause; this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But [And] he would 17not hearken unto her. Then [And] he called his servant [young man] that ministered7 unto him, and said, Put now [ye] this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her. 18And she had a garment of divers colours [a long-sleeved garment8] upon her; for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then [And] his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her. 19And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours [the long-sleeved garment] that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying 20[ins. as she went]. And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister [and now, my sister, hold thy peace]; he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So [And] Tamar remained 21desolate in her brother Absalom’s house. But9 when [And] king David heard of all these things, [ins. and] he was very wroth.

b. Amnon murdered by Absalom. 2 Samuel 13:22-33

22And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had forced [humbled] his sister Tamar. 23And it came to pass after two full years [about10 two years], that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hezer, which is beside Ephraim; and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. 24And 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. 25And the king said unto Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now [om. now] go, lest we be chargeable unto thee [burdensome to thee]. And he pressed him; howbeit [and] he would not go, but [and he] blessed him. 26Then said Absalom [And Absalom said], If not, I pray thee let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why 27should he go with thee? But [And] Absalom pressed him, that [and] he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. 28Now Absalom had commanded [And Absalom 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. 29And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had [om. had] commanded. Then [And] all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him upon his mule and fled. 30And it came to pass, while11 they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom 31hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left. Then [And] the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent. And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, 32answered and said, Let not my lord suppose [say] that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead; for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced [humbled] his sister 33Tamar. Now therefore [And now] let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that [saying], All the king’s sons are dead; for Amnon only is dead.

c. Absalom’s flight. 2 Samuel 13:34-39

34But [And]12 Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there came much people by the way of the hillside behind13 him. 35And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king’s sons come; as thy servant said, so it Isaiah 36:0 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that behold the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept; 37and the king also and all his servants wept very sore. But [And]13 Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned 38for his son every day. So [And]13 Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was 39there three years. And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom; for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.


2 Samuel 13:1-21. Amnon’s crime.14 2 Samuel 13:1. sqq. And it came to pass after this—general chronological statement, referring what follows to the time after the Ammonite war. Tamar and Absalom were the children of Maacah, daughter of Talmai king of Geshur, whom David had married after he ascended the throne at Hebron (2 Samuel 3:3). Amnon was David’s oldest son; his mother was the Jezreelitess Ahinoam (2 Samuel 3:2). The apodosis begins with the words: “and Amnon was so troubled” (2 Samuel 13:2), while 2 Samuel 13:1 from and Absalom to the end is explanatory parenthesis.

2 Samuel 13:2. Literally: it was strait to Amnon unto becoming sick, that is, he was sore troubled, so that he fell sick. Not: “feigned himself sick” (Luther), for he does not feign till 2 Samuel 13:5-6 (where the word is properly so rendered). [Ewald (quoted by Thenius) remarks that Amnon’s character and conduct were doubtless affected by the fact that he was the first-born son, and of a mother apparently not of the noblest birth.—Tr.] We have a picture here of the consuming fire of passionate love, which could not be satisfied, because Tamar was a virgin and it seemed to him impossible to do anything to her, that is, her maidenly reserve and her inaccessibility [in the harem or women’s apartment] or other difficulties thwarted his designs.

2 Samuel 13:3 sq. By his wicked, crafty cousin Jonadab, the son of his uncle Shimeah (another son of whom, Jonathan, is mentioned 2 Samuel 21:21) Amnon is not only strengthened in his sinful desire, but is shown a way whereby he may attain his end by guile and violence. He becomes “lean,” an appearance all the more striking in a “king’s son,” in whose case there was no reason for it. From morning to morning—his aspect was more wretched in the morning after nights made sleepless by torturing passion. [Thenius: a finely chosen point in the description of his malady, from which also it appears that Jonadab was, if not a house-mate, at least his daily companion. Bib. Com.: he mentions the morning because it was his custom to come to Amnon every morning to his levee.—Tr.] This wretched appearance of his favored the advice to feign himself sick (2 Samuel 13:5). To see thee, “seeing” used for visiting the sick (Psalms 41:7 (6); 2 Kings 8:29). Jonadab’s counsel takes for granted that the father will not refuse the sick son such a request. From the whole account we see that the king’s children dwelt in different households. “Probably each wife with her children dwelt in a separate part of the royal palace” (Keil), and further the grown sons, as appears from 2Sa 13:7; 2 Samuel 13:20, had each his separate house. “A couple of cakes;” some solid, distinctly shaped preparation is here meant, since there were “two” of them. Whether it received its name from its heart-like shape, or its heart-strengthening power (Keil), [the word is lebibah, and the Heb. for “heart” is leb], or because it was made from rolled dough,15 is left undecided. Tamar was probably famed for her skilful cooking. [In the East such skill is not unusual, even in women of high rank.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:8 sqq. “She took a pan [2 Samuel 13:9], so Chald. and Sept. [On the word rendered “pan” see “Text and Gram.;” it seems more probable that it is a name for some preparation of food.—Tr.] “Baked” [2 Samuel 13:8]; the Heb. word (בשל) is used for roasting or baking, see Exodus 12:9 comp. with 2 Chronicles 35:13. Amnon’s refusal to eat must have conveyed the impression that he was very sick, and the exclusion of all persons from the room might be easily explained by the fact that he was weakened by his illness. He was as clever an actor as Jonadab a crafty counsellor.

2 Samuel 13:12 sqq. Tamar’s noble conduct in rejecting this wicked proposal is a confirmation of what is said in 2 Samuel 13:2 of the hindrances in Amnon’s way. Such things are not done in Israel, it is against the law and custom of the people of God (as contrasted with the heathen). Comp. Leviticus 20:17 with 2Sa 13:7; 2 Samuel 13:26. Tamar repels the wickedness from the highest moral point of view, which is determined by the theocratic-national position and significance of Israel. The word “folly” (נְבָלָה) is here used of unchastity as in 2Sa 34:7. [The same sense is given substantially by the rendering of Eng. A. V.: “not so should it be done in Israel” (as Philippson).—Keil remarks that the expression recalls Genesis 34:7 (where it is a commentary on Shechem’s conduct to Dinah), the words being the same; and Bib. Com. adds that Tamar probably knew the passage in Genesis, and wished to profit by it. But, as this passage is a remark of the Editor of the Pentateuch (as the phrase “in Israel” shows), and it is doubtful whether the Pentateuch in its present shape existed in David’s time, the resemblance between the two passages must be otherwise explained. The phrase in question may have been a common one, or the Editor of Genesis may have taken it from our narrative, as a remark appropriate in his narrative.—Tr.]—Next to the honor of Israel as the people sanctifying itself to the Lord, she adduces her own honor and Amnon’s (2 Samuel 13:13); both, she would say, will suffer irreparable shame. Further, in order more certainly to hold him off, she urges him to ask her in marriage of the king, who would not deny his request. This would be in opposition to the law, Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 27:22, whereby sexual connections between brothers and sisters (those having only one parent in common are especially mentioned) are strictly forbidden. In order to harmonize this apparent contradiction Thenius thinks it not impossible that the prohibitions in Leviticus 18:7-18; Leviticus 20:19-21; Deuteronomy 27:20; Deuteronomy 27:22 referred first to the maintenance of moral purity in family-life, and that they did not wholly forbid real marriages between brothers and sisters (having only one parent in common), particularly where there was special inclination. But this view cannot be well made to accord with the absoluteness of the prohibition and the sharpness of the threat of punishment. The strict prohibition of sexual connection in general must have applied to marriage also. It must be supposed either that the law was not strictly carried out, or that Tamar, knowing the law very well, wished to keep back the passionate advances of Amnon. So Josephus [7, 8, 1]: “this she said, wishing to escape his passion for the present,” and Clericus: “that she might elude him in every way possible, lest, if all hope of marriage were denied, the man should be the more incited to violence.”16

2 Samuel 13:15. On the satisfaction of sexual desire follows hate towards its object and instrument; “a psychological trait,” remarks Thenius, “that vouches for the truth of the narrative.”

2 Samuel 13:16. Tamar’s reply is not to be rendered (Vulg., Luther): “the evil is greater than the other,” for the Heb. requires: “this great (greater) evil.” Nor can we (with Thenius) alter the Heb. text after the Sept.: “nay, my brother (אַל־אָחִי), for the evil is greater,”17 etc., which is obviously a change to avoid difficulty, and the consequent change of text is too violent. The renderings: “give no occasion of this greater evil” (Cler., Ges.), and: “but not this greater evil than the other!” (De Wette) do not accord with the wording of the Heb. Böttcher, by two changes (עַל for אָל, and insertion of מָח), gets the sense: “wherefore this great evil, greater than …?”; on which Thenius rightly remarks that it is difficult to see why the narrator should have put this unintelligible phrase into the mouth of the unfortunate woman rather than the simple “why?” (מַדּוּעַ or לָמָּה).—It certainly seems better (if anything is to be added) to insert the word “let there be” or “be thou” (תְּהִי), so that it shall read: “become not the cause of this great evil, which is greater than …” (Maur., Dietrich in Ges. Lex. s. v. אֹדוֹת); but this expression also: “become not the cause” is, not simple and natural enough in the mouth of the excited Tamar. It is better to suppose an unfinished sentence and render (changing אַל into אֶל־): On account of this greater evil … she is interrupted by Amnon, and cannot finish her address. This is clear from what immediately follows: But he would not hear her, and said to his servant, Put her out from me; he ordered her to be put out before she could finish. This expulsion was a still “greater evil” than the other violence done her, both for her, because it would create the impression that she had done something shameful, and for him, since he thus added wrong to wrong. [On this reading see “Text. and Gram.,” where reasons are given for adopting substantially the text of the Sept.: “nay, my brother, for this evil is greater,” etc. The objection to Dr. Erdmann’s rendering is the same that he has himself urged against another: it is too formal, too little in keeping with the excited state in which we should suppose Tamar to be. A similar objection applies to the translation given in the Bib. Com.—Tr.] 2 Samuel 13:17. [Amnon orders Tamar to be expelled.] This order and conduct must have led the servant to suppose that she had done something shameful.—[Bib. Com.: The brutality of Amnon needs no comment.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:18. [Tamar is expelled.] She had on a garment with long sleeves (פַּסִּים); the usual undergarment covered only the upper arm, while this covered the whole arm. and took the place of the armless meil [outer garment or robe.] Translate: thus were the king’s daughters, the virgins, clothed with robes; such long-sleeved mantles distinguished the princesses.

2 Samuel 13:19. Her indication of grief at the shame done her. The hands clasped above the head or laid on the head, are a sign of grief at the shame that has come on the head as the bearer of one’s personal honor. Comp. Jeremiah 2:37. [2 Samuel 13:18 b would seem to connect itself more naturally with 2 Samuel 13:17, and 2 Samuel 13:18 a with 2 Samuel 13:19. It may be, as Keil says, that her royal dress is mentioned to bring out more clearly the harshness of her treatment, since the servant must have recognized the dress. The word “robes” in 2 Samuel 13:18 is discussed in “Text. and Gram.;” the sentence would perhaps be helped by omitting the word.—Bib. Com. suggests that Tamar took the ashes that she put on her head from the very place where she had cooked the food for Amnon.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:20. [Absalom cares for his sister.] Instead of “Amnon” the Heb. has Aminon, a diminutive, expressive of scorn and contempt.18 Absalom’s question shows that a suspicion of Amnon naturally suggested itself to him: Has Aminon thy brother been with thee? euphemism for Amnon’s deed. Absalom, with his careless exhortation: lay not this thing to heart, is a sad comforter. [More probably, under this careless exterior he concealed a deep purpose to avenge the crime, which he at this moment had neither words nor inclination to discuss. He seems not to have failed in his duty to his sister.—Tr.]—And Tamar abode in his house as a desolated woman; literally, “and as desolated,” not “as solitary.”

2 Samuel 13:21. [David’s anger.] After the words: “and he was very wroth,” the Sept. adds: “and he grieved not the spirit of Amnon his son, because he loved him, because he was his first-born.” But this addition gives too circumstantial and full a reason why David contented himself with being angry and did not punish Amnon; we cannot alter the Heb. text to accord with it (as Then, and Ewald do). David’s failure to inflict on Amnon the legal penalty of death [Leviticus 20:17] was a sign of weakness, and led to Absalom’s revenge and his rebellion against his father.

2 Samuel 13:22. [Absalom’s hatred of Amnon.]—From bad to good, neither bad nor good (Genesis 24:50), he talked not at all with him because he hated him.—There is no need with Böttcher to transpose 2 Samuel 13:21-22. Verse 20 having described Absalom’s procedure (in connection with Amnon’s crime) and 2 Samuel 13:21 the king’s, 2 Samuel 13:22 begins a new section, in which is first stated the deepest ground of Absalom’s conduct towards Amnon afterwards related, namely, his hate towards him. The present order of verses therefore presents the thoroughly well-arranged progress in the narrative, which Thenius thinks can be attained only by a transposition.

b. 2 Samuel 13:22-33. Amnon’s murder by Absalom.

2 Samuel 13:22 is closely connected with 2 Samuel 13:23 sq., giving the ground of Absalom’s fratricide, though two years elapse before the act of vengeance is executed. According to verse 23 Absalom had an estate in Baalhazor near Ephraim. Probably also the other sons of the king had such landed possessions. A joyful festival was connected with sheepshearing (comp. 1 Samuel 25:2; 1 Samuel 25:8), as is not seldom the case also in Germany. Baal-hazor is more exactly described as being near Ephraim. This cannot mean near the tribe-territory of Ephraim; the Prep. “near” (עִם) shows that a city called Ephraim is meant (2 Chronicles 13:19 Qeri, comp. Joshua 15:9; John 11:54; Joseph., bell. Jude 1:4Jude 1:4, Jude 1:9. Jude 1:9, according to Eusebius eight miles north of Jerusalem). Thenius: “probably Tell Asur south of Shiloh; see Käuffer, Stud. II. 145.”19

2 Samuel 13:25. He blessed him, i.e. wished him well (בֵּרֵךְ as in 1 Samuel 25:14).

2 Samuel 13:26. “If thou goest not,” literally: “and not;” so Sept. and Vulg. But Thenius renders: “O that Amnon might go with us” (taking &#לוּ לֹא, Ew., § 358 b). The king, unwilling to go himself,20 is also unwilling for Amnon to go, as the question: “why should he go with thee?” shows. For he could not be ignorant of Absalom’s hatred to Amnon. [Thenius: “let Amnon, the first-born [and heir-apparent] go along with us (me and the other princes) as thy representative.”—Thus David found it hard to deny Absalom’s request without giving as a reason what he was unwilling to say.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:27. [David consents.] David here also shows himself weak in yielding to Absalom’s request.—As our narrator is only concerned to tell how the fratricide was accomplished, he omits mention of the meal that Absalom prepared, especially as this was indirectly given in 2 Samuel 13:23-24. The addition of the Sept.: “and Absalom prepared a repast like the repast of a king,” is to be regarded, therefore, as a mere explanatory insertion.21

2 Samuel 13:28 sqq. [The murder.] As David had weakly left Amnon’s crime unpunished, Absalom held it his duty to take vengeance on Amnon and maintain his sister’s honor. This feeling does not, however, exclude the motive of selfish ambition in Absalom; by the death of Amnon he would be one step nearer to the succession to the throne; there may, indeed, have been another brother, Chileab, older than he (2 Samuel 3:3), but probably (to judge from Absalom’s conduct, 2 Samuel 15:1-6) he was no longer alive. Absalom’s ambition, which afterwards led him into rebellion, probably welcomed this pretext for putting Amnon, the heir to the throne, out of the way. Comp. Winer, R.- W. I. 14.

2 Samuel 13:29. [Flight of the princes.] “Every man on his mule.” Mule-breeding is forbidden in Leviticus 19:19. [Yet mules were frequently used by persons of distinction, Absalom (2 Samuel 18:9), David and Solomon (1 Kings 1:33; 1 Kings 10:25), and were probably introduced by commerce or war. Our passage contains the first mention of them; afterwards they seem to have become common (1 Kings 18:5; Zechariah 14:15; Ezra 2:66). Ewald thinks that the law in Lev. does not forbid breeding them; certainly it does not absolutely forbid owning them. See Art. Maulthier in Herzog.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:30. Tidings came, namely, by the servants, who had come on in advance of the princes. The exaggeration in their report is psychologically easily explained by the circumstances.

2 Samuel 13:31. [The king’s grief.] The king’s servants stood still, immovable (נִצָּבִים), comp. Numbers 22:32 sq.; Deuteronomy 5:20. It need not be inferred from the phrase: And all his servants stood before him with garments rent, that the courtiers preceded the king in the rending of the garments (Böttcher), since this rending on their part would naturally follow on the king’s, and did not require special mention.—[Sept.: “and all his servants that were standing about him rent their garments,” which represents an easy and natural Hebrew; but there is not sufficient ground for altering the Heb. text to accord with it.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:32 sqq. Jonadab, who had counselled Amnon to commit his crime, now corrects the false report [sharp-sightedly seeing how the thing must De.—Tr.], and gives a reason for his assertion that Amnon alone was dead:22 for on Absalom’s mouth was it laid (it lay) from the day; that is, one could infer from his words that he intended this (De Wette), or, better: “one could see it in him; for the movements of the soul are seen (next to the look) most clearly about the mouth” (Thenius). The subject of the verb “was” [Eng. A. V. this], namely, the murder of Amnon, or hatred to Amnon, naturally suggests itself, and the omission is in accordance with Jonadab’s excited, hurried speech. His purpose was set, determined (שִיתָה), comp. Exodus 21:13; his determination to do the deed lay on his mouth, was decidedly and clearly stamped in the features about his mouth. Vulg.: “in hatred,” instead of “in the mouth;” Aq., Sym.: “in wrath” (they read אַפֵּי instead of פּי).23 [If our Hebrew text is retained, the rendering of Eng. A. V. is in accordance with the general usage of the words: “according to the commandment of Absalom it was determined from the day,” etc., where the difficulty is to say what was determined and to whom the commandment was given. On the other hand, it is not probable (as Erdmann’s rendering asserts) that Absalom openly showed his purpose to kill his brother; in that case the latter would have been warned. The general meaning, however, is clear, that Absalom had made up his mind two years before to kill Amnon.—Tr.]

c. 2 Samuel 13:34-39. Absalom’s flight.

2 Samuel 13:34. And Absalom fled. There is no ground for attaching these words to Jonadab’s speech, 2 Samuel 13:33 (Mich., Dathe), since the latter could not have known of Absalom’s flight, and it is not a mere surmise about it that is expressed, but the fact. From 2 Samuel 13:29 on two lines of narration must be distinguished. The one, starting with the flight of David’s sons (2 Samuel 13:29), gives the rumor, the fact affirmed by Jonadab and its impression on David, up to 2 Samuel 13:33; the other, pointing back to 2 Samuel 13:29, begins with Absalom’s flight (synchronous with that of the princes), and proceeds to tell of the arrival of the other sons after Absalom’s flight. The sentence: “And Absalom fled,” certainly breaks the connection, since the next sentence (“the watchman lifted up his eyes”) is closely connected with 2 Samuel 13:33. But the words are not taken from 2 Samuel 13:37, as has been assumed; the object of this interruption is to bring forward the important event that preceded the arrival of the sons of David, so that on the one hand Absalom’s flight and absence from the royal court, on the other hand the presence of his brothers and their complaint to their father are the subject matter of the narration, which closes with the goal of Absalom’s flight and David’s conduct in respect to Absalom and the death of Amnon.

2 Samuel 13:34. The young man, the watchman, who was looking out for the persons returning from the festival. Much people, a crowd of people made up of the numerous retinue of the sons of David. “From the way behind him,” that is, “according to well-known usus loquendi (see Exodus 3:1 comp. with Isaiah 9:11; Job 23:8) simply from the west” (Thenius), since in front means geographically the East. “From the side of the mountain,” probably Mount Zion. The princes came not from the north, but from the west, because the return by this route was easier and quicker.

2 Samuel 13:35. Jonadab confirms his previous, assertion.

2 Samuel 13:36. Repetition of the mourning of 2 Samuel 13:31, only deeper.

2 Samuel 13:37. The narrative returns to Absalom, resuming the statement of his flight (from 2 Samuel 13:34); this repetition is occasioned by the preceding remark: “the king’s sons came.” The sense is: “except Absalom, who had fled.” On Talmai see 2 Samuel 3:3. Absalom’s stay with him lasted three years. [On the text of 2 Samuel 13:34-38 see “Text, and Gram.” The conclusion there reached is that the order in our present text cannot be defended, there being no visible reason for the repetitions, and the omission of the subject (David) in 37 b being impossible if that clause were in its proper position, but that our present text may be the abridgement of a longer narrative, in which the repetitions were not out of place, and the omission of subject not improper.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:39. And David the king24 held back from going forth against Absalom, for he had consoled himself for Amnon, that he was dead.—The construction being impersonal [it restrained=David was restrained], no subject is to be supplied, as “grief restrained” (Maurer), or: “Absalom’s flight to Geshur and his abode there restrained” (Keil); for the reason of his not going out after Absalom lay in his tone of feeling, as indicated in the words: “for he had consoled himself.” This was his ground of action, not sorrow for Absalom’s flight, and this accords with the capacity for rapid change of his sanguine temperament; his hot anger soon sank into quiet. Comp. 2Sa 13:21; 2 Samuel 12:20-24. The rendering: “And David longed to go forth to Absalom” (Chald., the Rabbis, De W. in the Remarks) supposes the insertion of the word soul (נֶפֶשׁ) after the verb (so Eng. A. V.] But (apart from the hardness of this insertion) there are two objections to this rendering, namely, that David could have sent for Absalom, if he wanted him, and that, so far from feeling any love-longing towards Absalom, David was permanently set against him, as appears from the fact that, after Joab had gotten him back, it was two years before the king would see him (2 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 14:28). Ewald25 renders: “David’s anger ceased to express itself about Absalom.” But the verb (יצא) cannot be so translated, and the insertion [of the word anger] is arbitrary and violent. Böttcher’s* translation: “and David left off going,” etc., supposes that he had begun to go, and was stopped by obstacles, which is nowhere intimated. The same objection lies to Thenius’* rendering: “he desisted from going out” (after having begun), time having softened his grief; but nothing is said of this in the connection. [The impersonal construction (of Erdmann and others) cannot be maintained here, and the Heb. text in its present shape gives no sense. We must either adopt the rendering of Eng. A. V. supplying the word soul, or (after Ewald) supply some such word as anger. David’s feeling towards Absalom here indicated is apparently a kindly one, since it is probably what Joab is said in 2 Samuel 14:1 to perceive, and in this latter verse it is a kindly feeling (Dr. Erdmann takes a different view). The sense, then, seems to be as follows: David longed to recall Absalom, but political and judicial reasons deterred him; Joab perceives this, and helps the king out of the difficulties that his sense of justice threw in the way of the exhibition of his love for his exiled son.—Tr.]


1. “The sins of the fathers are visited on the children.” The truth of this moral law is illustrated in the history of David’s family. The divine threat uttered by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:7-12) begins here to be fulfilled in the disintegration of David’s family-life. As he destroyed the honor and happiness of Uriah’s house, so his first-born son brings shame on his; as he committed murder, so the sword dooms his child. One sin led to another; the bitter spring of sin grew in time to a river of destruction that flowed over the whole land, and even endangered David’s throne and life (Baumgarten).

2. The fratricide Absalom is a transgressor of God’s command, infringing by his self-avenging the divine arrangement whereby sin and sinner meet with their judgment. On the other hand, God controls Absalom’s crime, and by it punishes Amnon’s crime. Absalom is God’s instrument, though not himself less guilty. The Lord uses men’s sins according to His pleasure; human unrighteousness must serve the ends of His righteousness.
3. Right family-discipline consists in enforcing God’s holy laws in the control of children, and carelessness in this causes sin to grow quietly, till the evil bursts suddenly forth and destroys the happiness of the household. But when evil makes its appearance God’s law requires strict chastisement, wherein David failed towards both Amnon and Absalom. This neglect, usually the result of weak affection (and in David’s case induced also by the recollection of his own sin), leads to still greater sins and crimes in the family.
4. These dreadful experiences of David and his sons are intended to lead him to purity, humility and sanctification. “He that thinks all this a sign of God’s wrath and disfavor knows little of what it means to have forgiveness of sins. David confessed his sins, and so found favor with the Lord his God. But how wholesome for him was the Lord’s chastisement now, how he needed constant self-humbling, and what better for this end than these bitter experiences of his family? Whom the Lord loves He chastens” (Schlier). “Forgiveness of sin usually merely converts punishment into paternal chastisement, the rod of anger into the smiting of love. Externally the consequences of sin remain the same, only their internal character is changed. Otherwise forgiveness of sin might too easily lead to wilfulness” (Hengstenb. Gesch. d. Reiches Gottes [Hist. of the Kingdom of God], II. 127).


2 Samuel 13:1. Osiander: Even though God forgives the sin, nevertheless He lays upon the sinner a cross, that he may be more heedful, and his neighbor may be deterred from sin (Numbers 14:20-23).

2 Samuel 13:2. Starke: Where the parents live in sin, the children commonly follow after (1 Kings 15:1-3).—[Henry: Godly parents have often been afflicted with wicked children; grace does not run in the blood, but corruption does. We do not find that David’s children imitated him in his devotion; but his false steps they trod in, and in those did much worse, and repented not.—Wordsworth: He was forgiven by God, but they came to a miserable end.—Scott: So depraved is the human heart, that even natural affection may degenerate into licentiousness; and the intercourse even between near relations should be conducted with caution and prudence, that no opportunity may be given to those who are disposed to commit iniquity.—Tr.]—Osiander: The more one thinks about an unchaste love, the greater it becomes.

2 Samuel 13:3-5. Cramer: Lust punishes itself, consumes the marrow in the bones, shortens life, and ruins one’s good name (Sir 23:22).—J. Lange: One man is another’s angel, a good angel for warning, and so for seduction an evil angel.—[Hall: Had Jonadab been a true friend, he had bent all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful lust; had showed the prince of Israel how much those lewd desires provoked God, and blemished himself, and had lent his hand to strangle them in their first conception. There cannot be a more worthy improvement of friendship, than in a fervent opposition to the sins of them whom we profess to love—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:10. Starke: The ungodly are ashamed only before men, not before God (Sir 23:25 sq.).—Seb. Schmid: He who wishes to guard against sinning with others, should not follow them where he may be constrained to sin.—Hedinger: Unrighteous works always seek to remain concealed (Proverbs 7:18-20).

2 Samuel 13:15-17. Starke [from Hall]: Inordinate lust never ends but in discontent. … Brutish Amnon, it was thyself whom thou shouldst have hated for this villainy, not thine innocent sister. O how many brothers of Amnon there are even to-day.—[Scott: It cannot reasonably be expected that those who make no scruple of debauching the persons of those for whom they pretend affection, will feel any remorse at deserting them with cruelty and disdain, at exposing them to shame and contempt, or at leaving them to all the horrors of penury and prostitution. Let none ever expect better treatment from those who are capable of attempting to seduce them.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 13:21. Wuert. B.: While parents should love their children, yet they must not spare them when they have done evil, but bring them to due punishment, that they may not have to be punished by God or by the executioner (1 Samuel 2:29).—[Hall: The better-natured and more gracious a man is, the more subject he is to the danger of an over-remissness, and the excess of favor and mercy.—Wordsworth: David was wroth, but did not punish his son Amnon; being conscious of the sin which he had himself committed, and by which he had tempted his children to sin. And because the king did not execute justice, therefore Absalom, Tamar’s brother, takes the law into his own hands, and murders his brother Amnon. Thus one sin leads to another by an almost endless chain of consequences.—Tr.]—J. Lange: It is very important that persons in authority, teachers and fathers of families should lead such a life that in punishing others they may not have to fear reproach, and thereby be restrained.—Schlier: What is to become of a house, in which father and mother, in the consciousness of their own faults, no longer venture to do their duty?

2 Samuel 13:28 sq. Schlier: The Lord our God has everything in His hand; He uses even the sin of men according to His will, He punishes one transgressor through another, He chastens one wrong-doer through the wrong-doing of another. The Lord’s mighty hand comes into the common course of the world, and the execution of His judgments goes on right through the midst of the unrighteousness of men.—Always does that remain true which is written: Be not deceived, God is not mocked; sin remains always and everywhere the ruin of peoples.

2 Samuel 13:36 sq. Osiander: By new attacks and afflictions God brings to His people’s mind their before committed sins, in order that they may the more earnestly go forward in a penitent life.—Cramer: Next to experience of the wrath of God there is no sorer pain under heaven, than when parents come to have such heart-sorrow in their children as to doubt of their souls’ salvation, 2 Samuel 18:33.

[Amnon. (This might be addressed to an assembly of men alone.) 1) An improper love. 2) Brooding over a sinful attachment till unhappy (2 Samuel 13:2). 3) In cherishing a sinful desire, one meets temptation to indulge it (2 Samuel 13:3-5). 4) Unmanly deception and unnatural crime (2 Samuel 13:6-14). 5). Sinful love sooner or later turning to hate and disgust (2 Samuel 13:15-18). 6) Licentiousness often leads to other crimes and great calamities (2 Samuel 13:28-29).—A miserable father. 1) He has been obliged to leave unpunished a disgraceful crime in his house (2 Samuel 13:21). 2) This has given excuse to a headstrong and ambitious son to murder his brother. 3) Rumor, accepted by his fears, has greatly magnified the calamity (2 Samuel 13:30). 4) He knows these terrible events to be deserved chastisements for his own former misconduct (2 Samuel 12:10-11).—Tr.]


[1][2 Samuel 13:2. Impf. Qal. of יָצַר, impersonal construction.—The היא in this verse is written הוא in one MS. of Kennicott, which is perhaps an illustration of the fact that this archaic form was not confined to the Pentateuch.—Wellhausen suggests that the Athnach would better stand under אחותו.—Tr.]

[2][2 Samuel 13:3. The name Jonadab (abbreviated from Jehonadab) means “Jahveh has freely given,” as Jonathan means “Jahveh has given;” but there is no ground for supposing that the two names (here and 2 Samuel 21:21) represent the same person (Josephus).—Tr.]

[3][2 Samuel 13:5. Two different words are used for “food,” the first the ordinary expression (לחם), the second a rarer word (בריה), rendered βρῶμα by the Sept. The word לביבה “cake” is discussed by Erdmann in the Exposition.—Tr.]

[4][2 Samuel 13:9. מַשְׂרֵת, an obscure word. It is nearly identical in form with the Chaldee מסרתא “pan,” which is the rendering in the Targum of the Heb. מַחֲבַת “pan,” and is by some (Cahen) regarded as the Chald. word itself here used instead of the ordinary Heb. word, which is, however, improbable in the Book of Samuel. But while Chald. and Sept. (and Josephus) render it “pan,” Syr. and Vulg. regarded it as designating the food that had been prepared: Vulg. quod coxerat, Syr. “cakes,” and such a meaning would better suit the connection. But no satisfactory etymology has been proposed for it. Geiger’s explanation (Urschrift, p. 382), that it is for מִשְׁאֶרֶת (from שׂאר) “unbaked leavened dough” is not in keeping with the statement in 2 Samuel 13:8 that the dough had been baked. The meaning of the word must be left undetermined.—Tr.]

[5][2 Samuel 13:14. The אתה, pointed in the text as Accus., may be read אִתָּהּ “with her,” for which several MSS. read עִמָּהּ; but the Accus. is allowable (later usage, according to Wellhausen).—Tr.]

[6][2 Samuel 13:16. The translation of Eng. A. V. is impossible in the present form of the Hebrew text; the text, indeed, gives no sense at all, and must be regarded as corrupt. Dr. Erdmann (changing אַל into אֵל and regarding the sentence as interrupted) renders: “on account of this evil, which is greater than the other, etc.,” but such a rendering of אֶל־אדֹוֹת is without authority, and does not fit well with the context. Philippson also, throwing forward the beginning of Tamar’s speech, translates: “and she said to him respecting the evil deed, Greater is this than the other, etc.,” which is intolerably flat. We should naturally regard the אַל as introducing a protest, as in 2 Samuel 13:12; and, changing the אדות into אחי, we obtain the sense (by transposing the Adjective נְּדוֹלָה): “nay, my brother, this evil is greater than the other, etc.,” which is nearly what the Vat. Sept. (in verse 15) and some other Greek versions (in Montfaucon’s Hexapla) give: “nay, my brother, for the last evil is greater than the first, etc.” These Greek versions apparently had הָרִאשׁנָה instead of &הַוּאֹת אַל אָחִי כִּי נּדְֹלָה הָרָעָה הָאַחֶרֶת מֵהָרִאשֹׁנָה אֲשֶׁר. The “this” of our Hebrew text is supported by the Syr. “why doest thou me this grievous evil, etc.?” and by the Sept. in 2 Samuel 13:16, which seems, however, to be altered into conformity with the Heb.—Or, following 2 Samuel 13:12 more exactly, we may write: אַל אָחִי אַל־תַּעֲשֶׂה “nay, my brother, do not this evil which is greater, etc.;” the text above-given is simpler and more in accordance with the ancient versions.—Some MSS. and printed editions have עַל instead of אל (according to the constant usage with אֹדוֹת in the O. T.), and this reading is adopted by the Bib.-Com., which renders: “and she spake with him on account of this great wrong in sending me away, greater than the other, etc.,” supposing that the writer has here blended Tamar’s words with his own narrative (so Cahen). But (not to insist that the rendering “spake with him” is impossible) such a blending is improbable, and the phrase “on account of” in general is not in keeping with the context. Fürst takes the word as a substantive, and renders: “let there be no occasion of this evil, etc.,” which is without support in the usage of the O. T., and is besides very tame.—Tr.]

[7][2 Samuel 13:17. Sept. “the overseer of his house;” the word is omitted in one MS. of Kennicott, and in one of Pinner’s (Thenius).—Tr.]

[8][2 Samuel 13:18. So Sept. and other Greek versions, Vulg. and Chaldee (Syr. and Arab. omit the verse). The Greek renderings are καρπωτός and ἀστραγαλωτός.—The מְעִילִים (Eng. A. V. “robes”) is somewhat difficult, and various unsatisfactory alterations of the word have been proposed (Wellh.: so the king’s daughters … were apparelled of old, מֵעוֹלָם). The sentence sounds strange: “she had on a long-sleeved tunic, for so the unmarried princesses wore over-mantles;” but nothing better has been proposed. Böttcher regards it as a gloss.—Tr.]

[9][2 Samuel 13:21-22. The proposed changes of Böttcher and Thenius are criticised by Erdmann.—Tr.]

[10][2 Samuel 13:23. Literally: “unto two years days,” a common mode of expression in Heb. (see Lex. s. v. יֶרַח חדֶֹשׁ) the general designation of time being defined more precisely by the addition of the simplest unit “day.”—Tr.]

[11][2 Samuel 13:30. Absolute construction, corresponding to the Abl. Absol. in Latin. Lit.: “and it came to pass, they on the way, and the news came, etc.”—Tr.]

[12][2 Samuel 13:38. The repetition of the statement that Absalom fled is striking, and the narrative 2 Samuel 13:36-38 is not clear and natural in arrangement. We should rather expect 37 b (in which no subject is expressed) to follow 36, and 38 makes 37 a unnecessary. So the first clause of 34 seems out of place. But, while it is hard to justify the present arrangement on logical grounds, the unnecessary repetitions may result from the fact that we have the outline of an originally longer narrative wherein these repeated statements would not be out of place. The order of the masoretic text is sustained by the versions. In 2 Samuel 13:37 after Geshur (Γεδσούρ) Sept. adds εἰς γῆν χαμμαχάδ, which Thenius accepts as representing an original Heb. “land of Maacah” (Böttcher: land of his mother Maacah), and Wellh. rejects because of the Art. (χα=הַ) and because of the absence of the word “mother.”—Tr.]

[13][2 Samuel 13:34. Erdmann (after Thenius) renders: “from the West,” referring to Exodus 3:1 compared with Isaiah 9:11; Job 23:8, in none of which passages, however, has the word a suffix as here; and the present Heb. form is suspicious because the anarthrous דֶּרֶךְ (way), as construct, would naturally require a substantive after it. Moreover, the Sept., Syr. and Vulg. here show important deviations from the Heb. The Syr. omits this word (אחריו), the Vulg. renders it with devium, and the Sept. (adding to our text) has: “and behold, much people were coming in the way behind him on the side of the mountain on the declivity (ἐν τῇ καταβάσει), and the watchman came and told the king and said, I have seen men on the way of Oronen on the side (μέρους) of the mountain.” As to this addition it is hard to say whether it belongs to the original text, or is an explanatory insertion; it fills out the narrative very naturally, but this is itself a suspicious fact, and the words spoken by the watchman might certainly be a variant translation of the same Heb. as lies at the basis of the statement in 2 Samuel 13:34 (in the Hebrew). However this may be (Thenius, Böttcher and Wellhausen accept the addition), the Oronen of the Sept. points to Horon or Horonaim, a well-known place on the neighboring mountain, and the phrase “on the declivity” is thus explained as referring to the declivitous side of the hill (and so the Vulg. devium, Heb. מוֹרָד). We thus reach the rendering “by the way of Horonaim (Beth-horon) on the side of the mountain,” which is syntactically and geographically satisfactory; and need suppose only that חרֹנַיִם has been altered in the masoretic text into אחריו. The addition in the Sept. may be a marginal explanation (if is not found in the Vulg.), and its first clause may be altered into conformity with the existing Heb. text; the ἐν τῇ καταβάσει may belong to the original form (Vulg. devium), and the “on the side of the mountain” may be an explanation of this original or marginal. At any rate the change of אחריו to חרנים is altogether probable.—Tr.]

[14][From this point to 2 Samuel 23:7 (and 2 Samuel 11:0 except 2 Samuel 13:1) is omitted in Chron., it not entering into the design of that Book to record the merely individual history of David, but only his theocratic and ritual acts.—Tr.]

[15]Böttcher: from Arab. לבב, Chald. לפך, Heb. לוה.

[16][Bp. Patrick mentions an (unfounded) Jewish opinion that Tamar was born of Maacah while the latter was a captive (Deuteronomy 21:10 sqq.), that is, before she became a proselyte and David’s wife, and that Tamar was therefore legally not Amnon’s sister.—Probably both the explanations suggested above by Erdmann are correct; the Levitical code was hardly observed with strictness at this time.—Tr.]

[17][Thenius here writes μεγάληκακία, but Tischendorf has μείζων.—Tr.]

[18][So Böttcher and Thenius, after the analogy of the Arabic, in which a diminutive is formed by inserting a letter (Yod) after the second radical; but the diminutive form is doubtful here, partly because the ancient versions (Arabic included) except Chaldee do not here follow the Heb., but give the form Amnon; the reading here may be a clerical error (so Wellhausen and Bib.-Com.).—Tr.]

[19]Böttcher: “The name אפרים is probably from עפרים or עפרין.” Thenius: “If the tribe Ephraim were meant, it would read: ‘which pertains to’ (אֲשְר לְ) (comp. 1 Samuel 17:1; 1 Chronicles 13:6), not ‘near’ (עִם), Vulg. juxta Ephraim, and see Genesis 35:4 and especially Joshua 7:2.”—[Mr. Grove, in Smith’s Bib. Dict., thinks that three different places are meant in John 11:54; 2 Samuel 18:6 and 2 Chronicles 13:19, and does not identify our Ephraim with any of them; there is, he says, no clew to its situation.—Tr.]

[20][Kitto (Dai. Bib. Ill.) remarks that David’s reason in 2 Samuel 13:25 is the first intimation in history of the ruinous expense of royal visits, and mentions the case of the Hoghton family in Lancashire, said to have been ruined by a visit from King James I.—Tr.]

[21][Thenius (followed by Wellh.) accepts this addition as a part of the original text because of its naturalness, holding the reason for its omission from the Heb. to be the similar ending of the two clauses (הַמֶּלֶךְ, here and in 2 Samuel 13:27). But Erdmann’s argument against this elucidatory statement is just and entitled to consideration.—Tr.]

[22][Some VSS. and EDD. have “my lord the king,” instead of “my lord;” and some read כִּי, “for,” instead of כּי אִם, “but.” In such particles the text is uncertain.—Tr.]

[23][The common Vulg. text has “in the mouth (in ore) of Absalom.” The Syr.: “it was fixed (שׂימה) in the purpose of Absalom,” confirms the Heb. as a free rendering, while the Chald.: “treachery (waylaying) was in the heart of Absalom,” seems to take the שׂימה (“laid”) as a substantive (= זִמָּח, Thenius). Hence Ewald would read it שִׂטְמָה [an unknown word] = “look of revenge,” and Wellhausen takes our word (from the Arab, root = sinister fuit) as a substantive = “sinister expression.” A substantive as subject would naturally be expected here, but the proposed emendations are hardly satisfactory. Following the Chald. we might read: “on the heart of Absalom was laid this thing,” etc., which (by inserting the words “this thing”) would correspond with the following clause. But this conjecture is not sufficiently supported by external authority.—Tr.]

[24]“David the king,” instead of the usual (Sept., Vulg.) “king David” (comp. Ges., § 113, Rem.). [Some take the דָּוִד here, on account of its unusual position (but see 1 Samuel 18:6), to be a corruption of some other word meaning grief, soul, or the like.—Tr.]—וַתְּכַל from &#כלא כלה, “to prevent” (Maur., Keil), “these two verbs often interchanging.” As the 3 pers. masc. is often impersonal [וַיֵּצֶר לוֹ], so sometimes the 3 pers. fem. (1 Samuel 30:6; Psalms 1:3; comp. Ges., § 137, 2). וַתַּכַל therefore here = “and it hindered him.” [To this impersonal construction there are two syntactical objections: 1) the substantive idea of the verb is active instead of neuter, and in any case we should expect the object (דוד) to be introduced by a preposition; 2) the Inf. after כלא is properly introduced by מִן instead of לְ as here. Maurer renders: “it restrained him,” i. e. grief; others: “David restrained [his servants],” which the form of the verb (fem.) does not permit.—Tr.]

[25]Ewald: וַתֵּכֶל הֲמַת דָוִד לָצֵאת עַל־אַבְשָׁלוֹם; Böttcher: וַתֵּכֶל לְדָוִד; Thenius; וַיֶּחְדַּל.

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.