Friday, March 23, 2012

2 Samuel 13:1-22

1 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
2 Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
5 “Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
7 David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. 9 Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.
“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”
12 “No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. 13 What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
15 Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
16 “No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.” 18 So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing a richly ornamented robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
21 When King David heard all this, he was furious. 22 And Absalom never spoke to Amnon again; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.

Points of Interest
  • ‘Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar’--Amnon is David’s oldest son, and Absalom is also among the older siblings; both of them were born during the time when David was king of Judah in Hebron. I gather that Tamar is a full sister to Absalom and a half sister to Amnon. I imagine that it could have been confusing to live among a large gaggle of siblings, half-siblings, stepmothers, and step-siblings constantly moving into and out of the royal court. However, Amnon, Absalom, and Tamar all seem to be fairly close in age, raised together as brothers and sisters at a time when the court was much smaller and less sophisticated. The fact that Amnon would develop this obsession with his sister seems highly unnatural. I wonder if this is an advanced version of David’s own illicit obsession. David fell in love with the wife of a brother-in-arms, someone who should be like a sister to him, not a lover. Amnon falls in love with an actual sister. David was raised as a simple shepherd and had to work his way over time to being an egocentric star. Amnon was born a prince; self-indulgence comes naturally to him.
  • ‘Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother’--Amnon’s cousin Jonadab is maybe a lifelong friend, maybe a social climber, maybe both. In any case, unlike David’s counselors like Nathan the prophet and even Joab, Jonadab makes no effort to help Amnon actually figure out what is best here. He simply helps Amnon get what he wants.
  • ‘Let her prepare the food in my sight’--Amnon deftly plays on the sympathy we tend to have toward loved ones who are sick. Everyone will be extraordinarily attentive to his comfort and deferential to his whims.
  • ‘Bring the food here into my bedroom’--he continues to play the role of sick child well. Claiming that having so many people around is tiring him out, he asks that everyone else be sent away and that Tamar serve him in bed: ‘I just need a little peace and quiet.’ Not suspecting he has lustful feelings toward his own sister, everyone thinks of this as a benign and relatively normal request. At worst, they think, Amnon is something of a high maintenance patient.
  • ‘Come to bed with me, my sister’--Amnon seems to be under the delusion that Tamar shares his feelings: ‘Finally, we’re alone together.’ But she’s shocked and horrified--and she realizes too late the vulnerable position she is in.
  • ‘he will not keep me from being married to you’--I think Tamar is just trying to buy time here, by pretending to be in favor of the relationship as long as it’s handled properly. She hopes that cooler heads would prevail if she can just get out of that room. It’s unlikely that, upon consideration, Amnon would even have the boldness to ask David for such a thing; and there’s absolutely no chance David would grant it.
  • ‘Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred’--predictably, the satisfaction of his obsession doesn’t match his expectations. How could it? Still captive to his narcissism, rather than repent as David eventually did, he blames the whole thing on Tamar.
  • ‘Get this woman out of my sight’--as so often in the case of rape, there are no witnesses. So, it becomes a he said-she said scenario. As the more powerful one, Amnon is able to control the situation in his favor.
  • ‘the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore’--through no fault of her own, Tamar is no longer qualified to wear her clothes. She tears them off in grief and protest.
  • ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’--Absalom seems to have had his suspicions of Amnon, perhaps lurking in the back of his mind for a while. Absalom probably just didn’t think that Amnon would ever have the right combination of audacity and opportunity to do anything.
  • ‘Don’t take this thing to heart’--at first blush, this sounds heartless. As it turns out, Absalom himself very much does take it to heart. I wonder if he’s not so much saying here, ‘It’s no big deal,’ as he’s saying, ‘It’s not your fault, and don’t worry; I’ll take care of you.’
  • ‘Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house’--she would need to marry beneath her station to find someone willing to take someone who is not a virgin. Instead of debasing herself in that way, she becomes a spinster aunt in her brother’s household.
  • ‘When King David heard all this, he was furious’--this is a strangely impotent fury. I recognize that parents try to avoid taking sides or picking favorites among their children; but when one child accuses another of rape, isn’t some sort of action called for? This is the second instance in a disturbing trend. Just like when Joab murdered Abner, in the face of unjustified violence by a powerful close relative, David does nothing.
Taking it home:
  • For you: Does reading about what happened to Tamar make you angry? It’s just so unfair. It doesn't make sense why such a bad thing needed to happen. Has something terrible and inexplicable ever happened to you? Maybe it’s not as extreme as what happened to Tamar, or maybe it is. Talk to God about this issue. Tell God the pain and frustration it’s caused you. Ask God to stand with you in the midst of the questions and pain. I think he’d be up for the conversation.
  • For your six: Pray today for your six’s romantic relationships. Are they married, dating, single? How is it going for them? I doubt that their relationship situations are quite as complex as Amnon and Tamar’s--let’s hope not--but they probably have their own set of challenges, drama, and heartbreak which relationships inevitably bring. Pray that your six would find God helpful in their relationships and that God would resource your six with everything they need to thrive relationally.
  • For our church: Ask God to make our church a place of refuge and advocacy for the innocent and vulnerable. Pick a group in society today which seems particularly vulnerable (homeless, battered women, human traffic victims, refugees) to pray for. Ask God to use people in our church to bring God’s hope and restoration to this particular group.
  • For families: Think about all the different relationships between individuals in your family. How do you each relate to the other members? It’s interesting how each of our personalities sometimes brings out different aspects of others’ personalities. Give each person an opportunity to share honestly about a part of themselves that others might not think of at first glance. Thank God for the ways God has made all of you unique and ask God to show all of you new ways of respecting and loving one another.