Like Father, Like Sons
(This lesson is entitled “Sexual Abuse” in the Lifeway curriculum)
Sunday School Lesson for July 14, 2002
Amnon’s Sinful Plot (13:1-14)
The shameful episode that transpires in this chapter is set up by the seemingly innocuous words “In the course of time.” This links the events of chapter thirteen with that which immediately precedes it in chapter twelve. Specifically, this passage will display the outworking of Nathan’s prophecy of judgment against David—“the sword will never depart from your house” (12:10).
The principle characters of the story are introduced in this verse as “Amnon,” David’s eldest son by Ahinoam; “Tamar,” the half sister of Amnon by David’s wife Maacah; and “Absalom,” David’s son also by Maacah. Here we learn that Amnon became obsessed with Tamar his half sister. The text relates that he “fell in love with Tamar,” even “to the point of illness.” Verse 2 clearly indicates that his feelings for Tamar were purely sexual in nature. Tamar had remained a “virgin,” and this fact greatly frustrated Amnon’s perverted intentions—“it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” What Amnon desired was clearly forbidden by God in the covenant law (Lev. 18:9, 11; 20:17; 27:22).
At this point, “Jonadab,” the brother of David and “shrewd” friend and cousin of Amnon, came to inquire about the welfare of the king’s oldest son and heir to the throne. Amnon confessed that his sickly physical appearance was directly linked to his profoundly intense feelings for his half sister—“I’m in love with Tamar.” Being a crafty and worldly-wise man, Jonadab suggested that Amnon feign illness in order to have his half sister dispatched to his side by command of the king in order to minister to him. The language employed here—“so that I may watch her and then eat from her hand”—strongly suggests the inappropriateness of Amnon’s intentions.
This section details how Amnon’s plot was carried out to perfection. Having convinced the king that he was ill and in need of Tamar’s presence (vv. 6-8), Amnon ordered everyone out of his bedroom so that he could be alone with Tamar who had innocently come to his side with “bread” (v.9). However, instead of taking the nourishment Tamar had provided, Amnon “grabbed her” and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.” The word translated “grabbed,” a Hebrew term meaning to “overpower,” strongly suggests that Amnon employed physical force to subdue and intimidate the woman he clearly understood was his “sister.”
Amnon’s evil plot culminates with the forcible violation of his sister’s virginity. Despite her protests to the contrary and her attempts to get her brother to recognize the perverted nature of his intentions, Amnon “raped her” (v. 14). Bergen observes that Tamar’s words to the effect that such a “wicked thing” should “not be done in Israel” (v. 12) are clear “allusions to the Torah’s account of Shechem’s rape of Dinah (cf. Gen. 34:7). This skillful reference to a sordid chapter in patriarchal history not only forced Amnon to put his mind—at least momentarily—back into the sacred Scriptures, but also to consider the end result of Shechem’s—and therefore, his own—actions” (381).
The utter wickedness of this event is displayed in the interchange between Tamar and Amnon (vv. 12-13). Tamar spoke of the “disgrace” that would befall her as a result of Amnon’s actions, as well as the fact that Amnon himself would be viewed as one of the “wicked fools in Israel.” The Hebrew term employed for “wicked” speaks of one who engages in activities that are considered acts of perversion or flagrant godlessness (Dale, 135). Tamar even suggested that Amnon could avoid committing such a heinous sin by requesting that David grant permission for the two to become married. Though such a union would be a direct violation of the Law (Lev. 18:9), “it was clearly to be preferred to rape” (Baldwin, 248).
The section ends with the statement that Amnon rejected all of Tamar’s pleas and violated her “since he was stronger than she” (v. 14).
The Reaction of Tamar and Absalom (13:15-22)
Following his act of sexual violation, Amnon commanded Tamar to “get up and get out.” Ironically, Amnon had previously “wanted everyone else out of his bedroom so that, without the presence of witnesses, he could have his own way with Tamar; here he wants Tamar out of his bedroom so that, in her absence, he will not be reminded unduly of the awful sin he has committed” (Ronald Youngblood, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, 963). With Amnon’s sexual lust now satisfied, he “hated her more than he had loved her” (v.15). Bergen explains that the “winds of ‘love’ (v.1) which had propelled him so forcefully proved to be nothing more than gusts of lust” (382).
Again, Tamar protested Amnon’s intended course of action by reminding him that sending her away “would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me” (v. 16). This statement is an apparent reference to the Law which “dictated that a man who had sexual intercourse with a virgin not pledged to be married to another was obligated to marry her and pay a financial penalty (cf. Exod. 22:16-17; Deut. 22: 28-29)” (Bergen 382).
In verse 17 we read once again that Amnon “refused to listen to her” and had Tamar physically removed from his residence by his “personal servant.” It is significant that Amnon does not even use her name, but only refers to Tamar as “this woman.” In verses 18-19 Tamar expresses outwardly her sense of grief, loss, and embarrassment—“Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing.”
Initially, Absalom comforted his sister and encouraged her to allow the memory of her violation by Amnon to fade away—“Don’t take this thing to heart” (v. 20). In addition, Absalom did not confront Amnon or even speak of his sin against Tamar for a period of two years. Yet, in his heart “he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister” (v. 22).
As for the reaction of David, the text simply says that he became “furious,” but did not take any action himself (v. 21). “Like Eli and Samuel, David failed effectively to control his sons, and his own bad example would inhibit any protest against Amnon” (Baldwin, 250).
This paragraph details Absalom’s plot to avenge the rape of his sister. For a period of “two years” he patiently awaited the opportune moment to strike Amnon down for his evil deed (v. 23). The plan would involve enticing Amnon to attend a sheep-shearing at “Baal Hazor,” a city just to the north of Jerusalem (v. 23, 26-27). The text records that at the height of the festival, when many in he crowd would be intoxicated, Absalom “ordered his men” to “strike Amnon down” (v. 28). Soon after the job was done, David learned of the attack. After sorting through the details it became clear that Absalom had carried out his “expressed intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar” (v. 32). The tragic news was “Amnon is dead” (v. 33).
The chapter concludes with Absalom on he run from justice. For a period of “three years” he remained at “Geshur” (v. 38). Though Absalom succeeded for the moment in escaping justice, “he forfeited any likelihood of inheriting the throne of Israel” (Baldwin, 252). David, on the other hand, “mourned for his son every day” (v. 37), yet “longed to go to Absalom” (v. 38).
One: The certainty of God’s Word—This passage clearly reveals that God’s Word is certain, sure, and infallible. The central focus of this episode is the outworking of Nathan’s word of judgment pronounced upon David and his kingdom (12:10-12). Just as the Lord had declared through the prophet, David’s sin resulted in a horrible calamity involving the whole cast of members of the royal family.
When we consider the faithfulness of God’s Word, we need to remember that this includes both His promises of salvation and blessing, as well as those related to judgment, wrath, and retribution.
Two: The sins of the fathers repeated in the lives of the sons—The tragic episode before us also teaches a timeless principle—no one sins in a vacuum, especially those who have authority and power over others. Just as the Decalogue cautions, the sins of the father will impact the lives his children, even to the third and fourth generation (Ex. 20:4). Let this be a warning to all those in positions of leadership! For further study: Make a list of the tragic parallels between the actions of David in chapter 12 and the story of Amnon’s sin and its consequences in this passage.
Three: The “domino effect” of sin: Once again we see that one sin leads to another, and another, and on and on.