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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 13

Verse 1

2 Samuel 13:1. It came to pass after this, &c.— When David had taken Rabbah and all the other cities of Ammon, he had not long returned to Jerusalem before his domestic misfortunes began to multiply upon him, and to verify the terrible threats which Nathan had denounced from the Lord, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house. Tamar was the daughter of Maacah, the daughter of the king of Geshur, and the uterine sister of Absalom. Amnon was David's eldest son by Ahinoam.

Verse 2

2 Samuel 13:2. Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick It is natural to think, that the passion of love is nowhere so wasting and vexatious as where it is unlawful. A quick sense of guilt, especially where it is enormous, as in the present instance, strikes the soul with horror; and the impossibility of an innocent gratification loads that horror with desperation. Witness the two most remarkable instances of this kind found in history; that of Antiochus for Stratonice his mother-in-law, and this of Amnon for Tamar his sister. Indeed, that of Antiochus appears the less criminal of the two, inasmuch as he seemed determined to conceal his till death, and at the same time to hasten that death to prevent its publication, had not the sagacity of his physician discovered it. Though possibly Amnon had done the same, had not the importunity of his false and subtle friend Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, drawn the secret from him. It is lamentable to think, that the heirs of royalty, whose virtue is of infinitely more consequence than that of meaner men, should yet be under more temptations to taint it, from the poison of infectious flatterers.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 13:9. She took a pan, &c.— Tamar came and prepared food at Amnon's desire, with all the housewifely skill of those simple ages, when an utter inattention to all the purposes of domestic life made no part even of a princess's praise. See Gen 18:6 and Herodot. lib. 8: cap. 137. After having baked the cakes, it is said, she took a pan, and poured them out; which makes it probable that she fried them in oil, according to the custom of that country. But he refused to eat. The insinuation was, that he was grown worse; and, to cover the deceit the better, he ordered every body to go out of his room, as if he could neither bear the sight nor the noise of company. And when they were gone, he desired his sister to bring the victuals into an inner chamber, 2 Samuel 13:10. She, suspecting no evil, did as he desired.

Verse 12

2 Samuel 13:12. She answered him, Nay, my brother Amnon having mentioned his criminal passion to Tamar, she represents to him in the most lively manner the horror of his crime; that it was a violation of the laws, that it would be her destruction, and that it would dishonour him in the highest degree before all Israel: but, finding all these considerations fruitless, she changed her tone, and tried to flatter him into forbearance. He was her father's eldest son, his darling, who could deny him nothing. He had only to speak to the king for her, and his request would certainly be complied with: an argument which, as is generally thought, she urged in order to extricate herself at present from his hands. See Joseph. Antiq. lib. 7: cap. 8.

Verses 15-17

2 Samuel 13:15-17. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly The flux and reflux of passion in a brutal breast are here finely painted. Commentators are at a loss to account for this sudden and excessive hatred; and, indeed, there seems to be something extraordinary in it. Tamar's rape had an effect upon her ravisher directly contrary to that of Dinah upon her's. But their circumstances were different. Hope seconded and supported Shechem's passion, but despair drove Amnon's into its opposite extreme. This is often observed to be the case with passions too tumultuous and unruly. Amnon's mind was first agitated by lust, and then by remorse, which drove to different extremes like the vibrations of a pendulum. God abandoned him thus to the tumult of his own intemperate mind, to make this other punishment of David's adultery more flagrant, and the prophet's prediction of raising up evil to him out of his own house more conspicuous; for Amnon's barbarous behaviour now precluded all possibility of concealing his guilt.

Verse 18

2 Samuel 13:18. She had a garment of divers colours See Gen 37:3 and Martin's Explicat. des Textes Difficiles, p. 172.

Verse 20

2 Samuel 13:20. Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee Oppressed with sorrow, and overwhelmed with shame, Tamar went to her brother Absalom's house, who, seeing her confusion and distress, easily apprehended the cause of it, and put the question to her, whether her brother Amnon had been with her; covering the gross injury he suspected, under the veil of the most decent and distant phrase which could hint his suspicion; and, as if all this had not been enough to save her blushes, and let her see that he understood her distress, he stopped her short from attempting any answer: but hold now thy peace, my sister; he is thy brother: regard not this thing. However, as all he could say could not remedy the evil, so neither could it relieve it; which seems sufficiently implied in what is added, So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house. In all probability she continued so her whole life long, unmarried and undone; and Amnon had the horror of reflecting, that for one moment's base and brutal indulgence he had made his nearest kinswoman, an amiable and innocent sister, miserable to the last moment of her life.

Verse 21

2 Samuel 13:21. When king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth We may easily conceive what resentment and uneasiness David felt for this crime: but how he punished it we know not. The truth is, he could not punish it without exposing the infamy of his house, and cutting off his eldest son: and how hard was it for a father to do this. The LXX and the Vulgate, whom Houbigant follows, add these words to the present verse: David, when he knew all these things, was very much afflicted: but he would not grieve the spirit of his son Amnon, for he loved him exceedingly, as being his first-born. There can be no doubt but that David's consciousness of his own guilt with Bath-sheba, rendered him more backward to punish that of Amnon. However, the guilt which human justice or human infirmity did not chastise as it deserved, the divine vengeance did.

Verse 22

2 Samuel 13:22. And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad, &c.— But Absalom spoke not at all with Amnon, because he was enraged against him for having violated his sister Tamar. Houb. Though grieved to the soul for the injury done to his sister, and resenting it to death, yet Absalom so well dissembled his resentment, as not to take the least notice of it to Amnon.

Verse 26

2 Samuel 13:26. I pray thee let my brother Amnon go with us As heir presumptive to the crown, Amnon might represent the king; and it was probably upon this pretence that Absalom was so pressing for his attendance.

REFLECTIONS.—Such a transaction as this of Amnon's could not be concealed.

1. David heard of it, and very wroth he was; yet, instead of punishing this rape and incest with death, as it deserved, he spared his son; but God will not; vengeance shall overtake him. Note; Over-indulgent parents, by their sinful lenity, make a severe scourge for themselves.

2. Absalom, though silent, entertains deep-rooted vengeance in his bosom. He saw, probably, that to seek for justice were vain; or he desired the malicious gratification of being his own avenger. Two long years he waited opportunity, whilst the civility of his carriage, and his taking no notice of the rape, had now removed all suspicion of the sanguinary revenge that he meditated in his heart. But now the day approaches for the accomplishment of his dark design, a festal day, when, on shearing his sheep, he invited the king and his family to grace his entertainment at Baal-hazor: and when his father, fearing it would be too expensive and burdensome to him if they all went, excused himself, thanked him for his kindness, and gave him his paternal benediction, he presses him at least to send his brethren, and Amnon in particular, as the most honourable. David with reluctance, at his importunity, complies; and Amnon, unsuspicious of the plot, goes with his brethren to the feast. Note; (1.) The longer hatred is smothered, the fiercer it burns; and when it finds the moment for revenge, the deeper it strikes. (2.) Many are over-generous in their invitations, and consider not the expence of their entertainments, till the pressures of poverty make them smart for their extravagance.

3. The festal board is spread, the glass goes round, and Amnon, flushed with wine, little suspects the sword that hangs over him. The signal is given, which had before been concerted between Absalom and his servants; they suddenly rush into the room, and lay Amnon dead at their feet. Such were their master's guilty commands, and they judge this sufficient to authorise them; while he, who, as next heir to the crown, would be able to protect them, encourages them not to startle at the bloody work, but courageously execute his orders. Hereupon all the king's sons fled, fearing lest the same fate should overtake them. Note; (1.) To die in a state of drunkenness is very terrible. (2.) The fear of man is usually stronger than the fear of God; and many dare not dispute the commands of a master, though at the hazard of their eternal damnation. (3.) It was just in God to permit the death of Amnon, though wicked in Absalom to assassinate him. When sinners execute God's designs, they mean no such thing; but, while instruments of his vengeance, fill up the measure of their own iniquities.

Verse 32

2 Samuel 13:32. This hath been determined, &c.— What unparalleled impudence and effrontery was this! to speak with such calmness and unconcern of a horrid villany, which he himself had contrived, and of which he now saw the dreadful consequences! Could there be a more miscreant minister?

Verse 37

2 Samuel 13:37. But Absalom fled, &c.— As he had committed a wilful murder, he could have no city of refuge in his own country; and therefore he fled out of the kingdom, to his mother's father. Thus did God, by withdrawing his restraining grace from Amnon, and leaving him a prey to his own passions, raise up evil to David out of his own house: a daughter ravished by her own brother; that brother murdered by another brother; that other in exile for it, and soon to perish by a fate yet more deplorable, had it not been, if possible, more deserved!

REFLECTIONS.—Bad news flies apace, and never loses in the relation.

1. David is alarmed with the death of all his sons; such were the first flying reports; and, ready to fear the worst in remembrance of his past doings, and the threatenings against his family, he rends his clothes, and falls prostrate on the earth in an agony of grief, while his servants, with their clothes rent, stand round him. Note; It becomes us to sympathize with the afflicted.

2. Jonadab, who suspected the truth from reflecting on former circumstances, suggests, that Amnon only is dead, in revenge for his rape of Tamar; and the event verified his conclusion, for the king's sons now appeared in sight from the watch-tower, and haste to his presence. There with tears they report the sad catastrophe; and, though it was some alleviation that they were not all slain, yet Amnon's death, awakened the king's bitter sorrow. Note; (1.) In all our calamities we have to thank God that they are no worse. (2.) The loss of a son, and a wicked son too, is a deep wound in a godly parent's heart.

3. Absalom fled immediately from justice, and sought an asylum with his grandfather Talmai, where three years he lived an exile. Note; One rash action often makes the whole life miserable.

4. As time wore off the grief for the dead Amnon, the love of the living Absalom revived. His sin was overlooked, and his return ardently longed for; though how to restore him, in opposition to honour and justice, David hardly knew. Note; (1.) It is a mercy that time blunts the edge of sorrow, else all our days would be embittered with mourning. (2.) The greatest provocations cannot extinguish parental affection.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-samuel-13.html. 1801-1803.