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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

2 Samuel 13

Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 318
AMNON AND TAMAR

2 Samuel 13:15. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her, was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.

THE word of God will surely take effect in due season; and every threatening in it, as well as every promise, will be accomplished. God had, with most astonishing mercy, so far pardoned the iniquity of David, as to remit all punishment of it in the future world: but, as his sin had produced a public scandal, and had caused the name of God to be blasphemed through the land, God warned him by Nathan, that he should be visited with troubles through life; with troubles in his own family, not unlike to those which he himself had brought on the family of Uriah. Accordingly we find that these troubles speedily commenced. His eldest son Amnon, the heir to his throne, conceived a criminal desire after his half-sister, Tamar; and so violent was his passion, that his health was visibly impaired by it. By the advice of his friend Jonadab, he laid a plan for getting her within his reach; and then, when she would not consent to his impious purposes, he effected them by force. But no sooner had he accomplished his wishes, than his love was turned into a most inveterate hatred; insomuch that, as our text informs us, “the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.” Now this change of his mind gives us a deep insight into human nature; and affords us occasion for many profitable remarks upon,

I.

The love of the ungodly—

As it is not our design to dwell more than is necessary on the particular event that is here recorded, we shall consider personal attachment as comprehending both love and friendship. Now love, in this extended sense, may exist in a very high degree where there is no religious principle; it may even in some respects vie with the most exalted instances that are to be found in the Church of God; with the love of Jacob to Rachel, for the sake of whom seven years of servitude appeared but as a few days [Note: Genesis 29:20.]; and with the friendship that subsisted between David and Jonathan, whose love for each other exceeded even the love of women [Note: 2 Samuel 1:25-26.]. But it must be confessed, that far the greater part of that which passes for love and friendship in the world, is bad; and that even the best of it is very defective. For the elucidating of this point we shall shew,

1.

The criminality of that which is evil—

[Behold that which is spoken of in our text: it was exceeding ardent, it is true; but it was selfish, cruel, impious: it had respect to nothing but personal gratification; it sought that gratification at the expense of the honour, the interest, the happiness of the object beloved; and it trampled under foot every law whether human or divine. In the case before us this is plain and obvious; and it will be found that very much of that which is called love and friendship, is of precisely the same stamp and character. It is scarcely needful to advert to that which issues in the seduction of innocence, and a dereliction of the seduced object to all the horrors of infamy and want; yet, how many thousands, of the lower classes especially, have reason to deplore and execrate the existence of such love, amongst their family, their friends, or their acquaintance! Nor is the friendship of innumerable classes both in higher and lower life unlike to this. Behold the gamester; he has his friends to whom he is strongly attached, not for any valuable qualities in them, but because they administer to his pleasure: but so cruel is his attachment, that if he can win from them all that they possess, he will gladly do it, though he thereby reduce both them and their families to the lowest ebb of misery and ruin. In like manner the persons that unite for what is called conviviality and good fellowship: what are these, but confederates against the God of heaven and earth, associated together to encourage one another in a contempt of his majesty, and a violation of his laws? If men unite for the purposes of plunder, or in resistance to the constituted authorities of the land, we conceive that we do them no injustice, when we speak of them as thieves or rebels: nor will God designate by any gentler terms the union of those who uphold one another in a systematic opposition to his holy will. Whatever be the particular line of conduct they pursue, whether the more flagrant one of open licentiousness, or the more approved one of sober sensuality, their love is selfish, because it centres in self; it is cruel, because it seeks its own ends without regard to the happiness of others; and it is impious, because it is a conspiracy to banish God from the world.]

2.

The deficiency of that which is good—

[Nothing is more honourable than virtuous love, nor any thing more delightful than friendship founded on virtuous principles. But still if the attachment be merely that which springs from natural affections, it is defective: it is defective in its foundation, its exercise, its continuance.

That cannot be perfect which has not piety for its basis. Our love to each other should spring from our love to God, and have respect to his image in the person beloved. The person’s conformity to God’s mind and will should be the reason, and the measure, of our love to him. Where this is not the case, the union will be in danger of being dissolved by that very thing which ought most powerfully to cement it. If one of the parties become pious, the change will only produce alienation of heart in him whose attachment was founded on natural qualities or attainments: the correspondence of sentiment which is essential to love will have ceased; and the most ardent affection will from thenceforth either be changed into hatred, or subside into cold respect.

As the foundation of merely natural attachments is defective, so also is the exercise: for how can our love aim at the spiritual welfare of its object, when we ourselves have no spiritual sensibility? We may do much, and suffer much, for the temporal happiness of those we love; but we shall retard, rather than advance, whatever could conduce to the good of his soul. How miserably defective then must such attachment be, when, instead of promoting, it obstructs the most valuable ends of life!

Nor is it possible, in the very nature of things, for such attachments to continue beyond the present state of existence. The righteous have a prospect beyond the grave. As a river gliding sweetly through its banks is separated at last by an intervening pier, and then flows in renewed union to the ocean to part no more, so do the godly pass their days together in sweet communion, till separated for a moment by death, they meet again in the future world, to spend an eternity together in unfading bliss. But no such prospect opens to the worldly man: however happy he may be in his love or friendship, his views are bounded by the narrow limits of this present world. We might add too, that even in this world its continuance is most uncertain: for where religion does not reign in the heart, and form the basis of our affection, the attachment is liable to be easily interrupted, and speedily dissolved: and it is but too often found, that when the object ceases, through illness or poverty, to administer the wonted satisfaction, attachment languishes, and gives way to indifference and neglect.]

Intimately connected with this subject is,

II.

The hatred of the unjust—

That men should hate those who injure them, will not create in us any surprise; but that they should hate those whom they have injured, and because they have injured them, may seem strange indeed: but this is really the common course of human events. The instance recorded in our text is worthy of particular notice.: The injury which Amnon had done to Tamar was beyond measure great: and, if his love underwent any change at all, we might well suppose that it would give way to pity and compassion. But behold, instead of harbouring any tender emotions towards her, he was instantly inflamed with the most inveterate resentment; insomuch that, ardent as his love had been, his hatred now far exceeded it. But this change was founded in human nature, and was precisely such as injustice is calculated to produce. We hate those whom we have injured,

1.

Because we have lowered ourselves in their esteem—

[We all affect the esteem of our fellow-creatures; and it is well to do so: “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold [Note: Proverbs 22:1.].” Whilst we are unconscious of having done any thing to forfeit a person’s esteem, we conclude, as a matter of course, that we possess it: but when we are sensible that we have injured him in any respect, we feel that we have suffered loss in his esteem: and this loss we resent as an injury done to ourselves. It is by no means uncommon for persons so to expose themselves to censure by their follies, as to render the society in which they mix, and even the town or village in which they live, disgustful to them; and they hate all the people whose censure they have incurred, for no other reason than because they have seen and noticed the improprieties of their conduct. Their pride is wounded; and they impute that to the malignity of others, which they should ascribe rather to their own folly. Thus it is with respect to injuries of every kind: we feel that the commission of them lessens our character in the eyes of him whom we have injured; and not having any suitable humiliation in our own souls, we impute that to malignity in him, which is the sole fruit of our injustice.]

2.

Because we have enabled him to lower us in the estimation of others—

[We can easily go to sleep in sin, provided our iniquity be unknown; but a discovery of it fills us with the most pungent grief. Now if we have injured any person, we have put ourselves in the power of that person, so that he can inflict upon us the severest wounds, by exposing our conduct to public reprehension. Some indeed there are who care but little about their character, and who are therefore indifferent whether their conduct be exposed or not: but, where character is dear to a man, and he has done any thing which would involve him in much disgrace, there his hatred will proportionably rise against the person that is privy to his shame. We cannot find a more striking instance of this than in the history of David. He had injured his friend Uriah in the basest manner; and used all possible methods to conceal his shame. Having failed in these, he found that Uriah must of necessity ere long discover the injury he had received; and therefore he longed for Uriah’s death; yea, he actually laid a snare for his life, and was delighted to hear that he had successfully attained his murderous object. We are far from saying that every man’s resentment would carry him to this length, even where the same grounds for it existed: but we have no doubt, that there is not any one who, in similar circumstances, would not rejoice to hear that the person whom he had injured was dead: all concern about his life would be swallowed up in the hope of concealing his own shame, and retaining an unblemished character before men.]

3.

Because we conceive him to be our enemy—

[It is natural to suppose that those whom we have injured are our enemies: and that consideration is quite sufficient to excite hatred in the bosom of an unjust man. Hence Solomon observes, “A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it [Note: Proverbs 26:28.].” Indeed it is from this consideration that men hate the Scriptures, and even God himself: they know that the Scriptures are against them, and that God is displeased with them: and therefore “they hate the light, and will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved:” yea, they say, “Make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us;” or, as the fool in his heart, “I wish there were no God [Note: Isaiah 30:11; Psalms 14:1.]!” In like manner they hate pious ministers also, as Ahab did; “I hate Micaiah, because he doth not speak good concerning me, but evil.” Whilst we suppose that men love us, there is no difficulty in loving them: the vilest of publicans and sinners will do this: but when we think that our persons or our characters are odious to others, it requires much grace to feel a loving spirit towards them; a grace which no ungodly man can exercise, nor any unjust man possess. Resentment is the only fruit which nature, so circumstanced, will produce.]

Many valuable lessons may be learned from this subject: we may see in particular the importance,
1.

Of cultivating a religious principle—

[Had Amnon felt the power of religion in his soul, he would have withstood the first impulse of his desire, and said, “How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Or, if he had been overcome with the temptation, he would at least have sought to repair the injury he had done, and not have aggravated it by such cruel treatment. But, being destitute of all religious principle, he was the sport of every lust, and was driven from one extreme to another, as a leaf before the wind. And what can we expect, but to be equally unstable, though we should not commit exactly the same enormities as he? Yes; nothing but a religious principle will keep us firm. If we have the fear of God in our hearts, we shall “stand in awe, and not sin,” even though we know that our iniquity will not be discovered by mortal eyes: and if we have the love of Christ in our hearts, that will constrain us to live to him, in a holy conformity to his will, and in a cheerful obedience to his commands.]

2.

Of associating with pious friends—

[Had Jonadab been pious, he would have instantly endeavoured to divert Amnon from his purpose: but, being himself an ungodly man, he offered himself a pander to Amnon’s lusts, and suggested to him the plan whereby he might obtain the gratification he desired. Thus was he, in fact, the instrument whereby these horrid impieties were accomplished. Thus it is with ungodly companions at all times: instead of discountenancing evil, they will encourage it, and facilitate the execution of it to the uttermost. Knowing then, as we do, how apt we are to imbibe the spirit of our friends, should we not be careful with whom we associate? Should we not select our friends from the wise and good, rather than from among the giddy and profane? “He that walketh with wise men,” says Solomon, “will be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed [Note: Proverbs 13:20.].” Let us remember that “evil communications will corrupt good manners;” and let us choose those for our associates in this world, whom we shall wish to dwell with in the world to come.]

3.

Of setting a good example—

[We cannot but trace, in some degree at least, the wickedness of Amnon to the sad example which David had set him. Amnon would be ready to excuse his own conduct towards Tamar, in comparison of David towards Bathsheba and Uriah. “At all events,” he would say, “my father cannot be very severe in censuring me, when he recollects what he himself has done.” In like manner, if we give the world occasion to reproach us, we shall lose all weight and influence in reproving them; yea, we shall harden them in their iniquities, and encourage them to vindicate themselves from our example. Let parents, and masters, and all that are in authority, bear this in mind, that one bad act of theirs will do more to countenance sin, than ten good admonitions will do to repress it. Let religious professors in particular remember it; for if they cast a stumbling-block before men, they will be accountable to God for all the evil that ensues. Methinks, in this, and in many subsequent events, David could not but see the sad fruit of his own iniquities; and that very consideration would add ten-fold poignancy to all his grief: and many parents may find in the conduct of their children the severest reprehension for their own neglects. Let us guard against all such occasion for self-reproach; and endeavour so to act, that we may be able to say to all around us, “Whatsoever ye have seen and heard in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.”]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/2-samuel-13.html. 1832.