New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

2Sa 13:1 It happened after this, that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her-
The romantic love between the two would not have happened if David had had one wife. There would have been no half sister to fall in love with.

2Sa 13:2 Amnon was so troubled that he fell sick because of his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her-
The obsessive love of Amnon for Tamar may have similarities with David's for Bathsheba. 

2Sa 13:3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very subtle man-
Truly evil arose for David from his own house, for Jonadab was his nephew. "Subtle" suggests he was going to act like the serpent in Eden, suggesting temptation on the basis of appealing to the human sense of entitlement, regardless of what moral boundaries were crossed.

2Sa 13:4 He said to him, Why, son of the king, are you so sad from day to day? Won’t you tell me? Amnon said to him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister-
David's brothers had originally not been that supportive of him, as we recall from their attitude when David arrived to fight Goliath. They would never have quite gotten over Samuel's visit to the family when one by one, they were all rejected and David was chosen as the man after God's own heart, which they were not. And now David had morally disgraced himself. Shimeah had likely passed on his feelings about David to his son Jonadab. This is how jealousy complexes pass on through the generations, with an associated desire to bring down a man to ones' own level. Jonadab likely at this stage realized the reason for Amnon's depression. Amnon was the firstborn and the logical successor to the throne; as firstborn son of the king, he ought to be able to have anything he wanted, according to Jonadab. And that included crossing any moral boundaries. We see Amnon's sin as a result of a chronic sense of entitlement to anything, whatever moral boundaries that might involve crossing. And this problem of sense of entitlement because of position... remains a problem for many.

2Sa 13:5 Jonadab said to him, Lie down on your bed, and pretend to be sick. When your father comes to see you, tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and dress the food in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it from her hand’-
Jonadab really was the "subtle" (:3) serpent, suggesting the sin in an indirect way without stating it, and operating on the subliminal level. And this is the essence of all our temptations. What goes on in our heart is played before us in external terms in this story. As with the serpent, the temptation and sin functions through eating. The many temptations and falls into sin which the Bible records are really the essential pattern of every man's sin. It all begins with the subliminal images and unarticulated suggestions. See on :20. This theme of subliminal suggestion is continued in 2 Sam. 14:1.   

2Sa 13:6 So Amnon lay down and faked being sick. When the king came to see him-
This corroborates with how David visited and prayed for Saul and his family when they were sick (s.w. Ps. 35:13). The Biblical records pain absolutely imaginable and credible character portraits. The uninspired writings are typically unrealistic and inconsistent in their presentations of characters.

Amnon said to the king, Please let my sister Tamar come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat from her hand-
Tamara was under the immediate control of her elder brother Absalom. But David as the father and king overrode that. The language of baking cakes and eating from her hand repeats in :5,6,10 to create the impression that Amnon did exactly according to Jonadab's suggestion.

2Sa 13:7 Then David sent home to Tamar saying, Go now to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him-
David comes over as involved in the tragedy and would have later felt guilty for letting the plan go ahead; it was all as judgment for his sin of obsessive "love" for Bathsheba. 

2Sa 13:8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes-
The cameraman is zoomed in close on her taking the dough, kneading it, pouring it out (:9) etc. We are invited to play Bible television with the whole scene.

2Sa 13:9 She took the pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. Amnon said, Have all men leave me. Every man went out from him-
He is quoting the words of Joseph in Gen. 45:1, also in the context of food, and the comment "Every man went out from him" confirms this connection. But his spirituality is all out of context, doing as many do today- quoting bits of the Bible way out of context, to justify their own wrong actions and beliefs. See on :14.

2Sa 13:10 Amnon said to Tamar, Bring the food into the inner room, that I may eat from your hand. Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the inner room to Amnon her brother-
The narrative is well written. The details enable us to imagine the scene, and we are prepared for the calamity which is now about to happen.

2Sa 13:11 When she had brought them near to him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, Come, lie with me, my sister!-
These are the words of Potiphar's wife to Joseph. See on :9,14 for how the Joseph story is alluded to and used wrongly, way out of context, by Amnon. It was a desperate attempt to justify the unjustifiable. It was the reflection of how David lay with Bathsheba "because she was cleansed from her impurity". That was an irrelevant, out of context spiritual precondition he laid down. And it was reflected in how Anon was to reason in raping Tamar.

2Sa 13:12 She answered him, No, my brother, do not force me! For no such thing ought to be done in Israel. Don’t you do this folly-
Sexual sin is likewise termed "folly" (Gen. 34:7). Amnon would be known by all as a "fool" (:13), an empty vain person (Jud. 9:4). Sin is therefore associated with being empty and vain; and our world and its "entertainment" is so full of emptiness, vanity and folly. This is the quintessence of sin.

2Sa 13:13 I, to where would I carry my shame? And as for you, you will be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you-
Such marriages were forbidden (Lev. 18:9; Dt. 27:22), although Abraham had done so. We get the impression that David would have yet again considered himself above the law, and allowed this marriage. He had apparently not learned from his sin with Bathsheba; which I suggested arose from his impression that following the spirit rather than the letter of the law allowed him to actually break basic moral principles. The way Tamar reasons, we might conclude that she was not against marrying Amnon. Perhaps she even liked or loved him; and thus again we see the utter folly of his actions, destroying what could have been a positive marriage just because he wanted immediate gratification of lust. And that of course is a folly played out so often in human life.

2Sa 13:14 However he would not listen to her voice; but being stronger than she, he forced her, and lay with her-
There are various out of context connections with the Joseph story. Amnon has used the words of Joseph (out of context) in :9. He forces her and lays with her, and then her distinctive garment of many colours (cp. Joseph's) is torn. It is all jumbled, because Amnon was jumbling up the references to the Joseph story to wrongly justify himself. He wishes to give the impression that she had acted as Potiphar's wife, hence he throws her out of the house and has the door bolted behind her, as if she is a crazy, sexually obsessed woman who has tried to lay with him. False justification of fleshly actions with quasi Biblical reasoning is a major failure of so many.

2Sa 13:15 Then Amnon hated her with exceeding great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her
We are clearly intended to understand that "the love with which he loved her" was not love but lust. And when gratified, it turned to hatred. Amnon's obsessive love for Tamar was an echo of David's relationship with Bathsheba. All this would have been yet another aspect of the emotional trauma which David went through at this time; to fall out of love with the woman for which he had almost thrown away his eternal salvation. And in addition to this, all Israel would have got to know about what had happened- with a fair degree of exaggeration thrown in, we can be sure.  

Amnon said to her, Arise, be gone!-
This, and bolting the door after her, could be read as him implying that she had sexually assaulted him and not the other way around.

2Sa 13:16 She said to him, Not so, because this great wrong in sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me! But he would not listen to her-
Her high morals are reflected by her deep sense of hurt at being sent away falsely accused. A woman of lower morals would have been more hurt by the rape, and then shrugged and moved on.

2Sa 13:17 Then he called his servant who ministered to him and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her-
As suggested on :15, the bolting of the door suggested she was a crazy woman filled with sexual lust who had to be excluded forcibly from a man's bedroom, and this she found more hurtful than the rape itself (:16).

2Sa 13:18 She had a garment of various colours on her; for with such robes were the king’s daughters who were virgins dressed. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her-
Again we note the stress upon the door being bolted, which was done because she presumably wanted to return to talk with Amnon. And he wished to give the impression she had sexually thrown herself at him and was crazy.

2Sa 13:19 Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore her garment of various colours that was on her; and she laid her hand on her head, and went her way, crying aloud as she went-
A woman of lesser morality would perhaps have kept wearing the symbol of her virginity. But she tore it to show she had lost her virginity, indeed it had been torn from her, and she was in mourning for herself seeing nobody else was. We note the internal credibility of the account in that she had just been cooking, and so there were "ashes" readily available to her, which she threw onto her head.

2Sa 13:20 Absalom her brother said to her, Has Amnon your brother been with you?-
This continues the theme noted on :5, of specifics not being stated but implied. "Been with you" meant 'raped you', and Absalom's comment that she need not worry too much about it is tantamount to saying 'I will restore your honour by killing him'. We are left to reflect how it is that which is left unspoken, not specifically articulated, which is so often the sin. 

But now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house-
See on :33. These words too were apparently suggested to him by Jonadab. He maybe advised Absalom "Tell her not to worry about it, because...". The subliminal suggestion was "Because you are going to regain her honour by killing Amnon". There are Biblical examples of refusing to take guilt when others feel that it should be taken. Recall how the Lord’s own parents blamed Him for ‘making them anxious’ by ‘irresponsibly’ remaining behind in the temple. The Lord refused to take any guilt, didn’t apologize, and even gently rebuked them (Lk. 2:42-51). In similar vein, Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Even if I made you sorry with a letter, I do not regret it” (2 Cor. 7:8). He would not take guilt for their being upset with him. Likewise Absalom comforted his raped sister not to ‘take it to heart’, not to feel guilty about it, as it seems she was feeling that way, taking false guilt upon her.

2Sa 13:21 But when king David heard of all these things, he was very angry-
The internal credibility of the character portrayal in the record is shown again. For this is just how he reacted to Nathan's parable about the man who had taken a poor man's lamb.

As we go through the life of David, it is evident he went along roads few others have travelled. For example, who else would offer his sacrifice upon the altar and then start strumming his harp in praise as he watched the animal burn (Ps. 43:4 Heb.)? This was a new paradigm in Israelite worship. Like Job, David had no precedents in past spiritual history from which he could take comfort (Job 5:1). David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam. 6:13-20; and 2 Sam. 19:21 = Ex.22:28), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not. He knew that the ideal standard for married life was one man: one woman, and yet he was somehow able to flout this and still be a man after God's own heart. He broke explicit Mosaic commandment by marrying Saul's wives and also his daughter, he airily waived the Mosaic law concerning bloodguiltiness (consider the implications of 2 Sam. 14:4-11), and the need to stone rapists (2 Sam. 13:21). When others tried to do these kind of things, they were severely punished by a God who insisted upon serious obedience to His Law. Consider how Saul was condemned for offering sacrifice instead of a priest (1 Sam. 13:10-13); and Uzziah likewise (2 Chron. 26:16-19). When the woman of Tekoah basically suggested that the Mosaic laws about the rights of the revenger of blood be repealed, David seems to have agreed. When Amnon seeks to rape his sister Tamar, she suggests that he ask David to allow them to marry- and surely, she says, he will agree. Yet this too would have been counter to the spirit of the Law about marriages to close relatives. Yet David went beyond the Law so often; and it is this which perhaps led him to commit the sin of presumption in his behaviour with Bathsheba. Right afterwards he comments about the man who stole his neighbour’s sheep, that it must be restored fourfold; whereas the Law only stipulated double, David felt he so knew the spirit of the Law that he could break the letter of it- in any context. And this was his [temporary] downfall.  

2Sa 13:22 Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar-
David's anger with Amnon (:21) is contrasted with Absalom's silence about the matter, whilst nursing hatred in his heart which was to come to fruition in the murder of his brother. David's passion, as discussed on :21, is therefore presented as more acceptable than Absalom's secret hatred which came to full term in murder.

Not good nor bad / evil means nothing at all. Adam's choice in Eden was that of everyman in every sin; it was a choice between a total "yes" or a total "no" to God. The desire was to know "good and evil"; and this term is used as an idiom for "everything" (Gen. 24:50; 2 Sam. 14:17,20), the whole area in between good and evil is in this sense "everything" (cp. Gen. 31:24; 2 Sam. 13:22). Adam and Eve were attracted by the possibility of experiencing everything, of having the total knowledge, the omniscience, which is with God alone. Their failure was more than simply eating a fruit; it involved rebellion and pride, a desire to be equal with God-

2Sa 13:23 It happened after two full years, that Absalom had sheep shearers in Baal Hazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king’s sons-
We note that David did not enforce the death penalty for Amnon, even though the law of Moses required this (Lev. 20:17). We compare this with how he ordered the death penalty for the man in the parable who had stolen the poor man's lamb, even though this was beyond the law's requirements. David had been spared the death penalty and so he reflected that grace to his son; and yet we sense there was also parental bias in the case. By not punishing Amnon with death, nor later Absalom, he allowed a situation to develop which would cause yet more bloodshed.

2Sa 13:24 Absalom came to the king and said, See now, your servant has sheep shearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant-
Absalom comes over as hypocritical as describing himself as his father's servant, when he was planning to murder his father's son.

2Sa 13:25 The king said to Absalom, No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you. He pressed him; however he would not go, but blessed him-
The blessing probably involved a gift (1 Sam. 25:27). David surely guessed that there would be some plan by Absalom to slay Amnon, hence his weak argument that they all didn't need to go as it would be expensive for Absalom to entertain them all.

2Sa 13:26 Then Absalom said, If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us. The king said to him, Why should he go with you?-
Clearly David guessed what was going to happen, and in that lies the pain for David.

2Sa 13:27 But Absalom pressed him, and he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him-
We sense David's weakness, giving in to pressure, quite unlike in his days before his sin with Bathsheba. And of courses he had no specific reason to deny Amnon's presence, apart from his premonition that Absalom was planning to kill Amnon.

2Sa 13:28 Absalom commanded his servants saying, Mark now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine; and when I tell you, ‘Strike Amnon’, then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I commanded you? Be courageous, and be valiant!-
That Amnon was made drunk by Absalom recalls how David had made Uriah drunk. Every aspect of David's sins was now being repeated in the behaviour of his sons.

2Sa 13:29 The servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man got up on his mule, and fled-
This is the first mention of mules in the Bible. They were cross bred in disobedience to Lev. 19:19. We get the impression that a generally slack attitude to what might have been considered minor matters of the law was associated with the major sin of murder. This is the problem when we start to think that some parts of God's laws can just be ignored. David was fond of them, having his own mule (1 Kings 1:33), and Solomon was willing to receive them as tribute (1 Kings 10:25).

2Sa 13:30 It happened, while they were in the way, that the news came to David, saying, Absalom has slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left!-
As to why this happened, see on :31. That such a gossip should arise is not surprising, once we realize that Absalom coveted the throne. He would not be against slaying all possible competitors for it, not least the firstborn son Amnon. This was clearly part of his motivation for the murder, and not simply vengeance for Tamar's rape.

2Sa 13:31 Then the king arose, and tore his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn-
We wonder why David was given this false news to start with. It was perhaps to make him consider the possibility that all the promises about his "seed" had now been abrogated, seeing all his seed had been cut off. Those promises would have been in his mind as he lay on the earth. That posture however is associated with prayer. Perhaps he was praying that through his disgraced daughter Tamar, there would somehow come the promised Messianic seed. Through this trauma he was therefore driven closer to his longing for the Christ, just as we may be, e.g., through a false alarm due to a cancer scare.

2Sa 13:32 Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, answered, Don’t let my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead; for by the appointment of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar-
Jonadab is not specifically stated as having given the idea of this murder to Absalom, but given his behaviour from :5, suggesting sin in a subliminal way, we can assume that he had done the same. "Why not invite Amnon to a feast on your property, you can all get drunk together..." was the subliminal way of suggesting "And you can get him murdered there, away from the court scene in Jerusalem".

2Sa 13:33 Now therefore don’t let my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead; for Amnon only is dead-
This idea of 'don't take it to heart' is exactly what Absalom said to Tamar ( see on :20), and we are therefore led to believe that Absalom's words to Tamar were also put in his mind by Jonadab's suggestion. Jonadab knew exactly what was going to happen, even though he was not present; because it was all of his subliminal suggestion to Absalom. He was really a very evil man, but the world around us bombards us with such subliminal suggestion.

2Sa 13:34 But Absalom fled. The young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming by the way of the hillside behind him-
This situation is going to be repeated when David later anxiously waits for news of the battle between his supporters and Absalom. He is going to again be waiting anxiously for the news from a messenger and weeping bitterly at the news of Absalom's death (2 Sam. 18:33). Situations repeat in our lives, and even if we cannot attach meaning to event at the time, we at  least have the comfort that they bear the same hallmark of Divine involvement in our lives, according to some plan- even if we may not discern it.

2Sa 13:35 Jonadab said to the king, Behold, the king’s sons are coming! It is as your servant said-
We sense his smugness. All this was of Jonadab's suggestion, living out the jealousy complex of his father against his brother David. As Jonadab's father had been jealous of his brother David, so now it was all repeating. For Absalom's desire to remove Amnon was not simply in order to avenge his sister, but because Amnon was in line for the throne which he coveted.

2Sa 13:36 It happened, as soon as he had finished speaking, that behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice, and wept. The king also and all his servants wept bitterly-
Perhaps the bitterness of David's grief was because "Amnon" is a form of the word used in the promises to David in 2 Sam. 7:16, that his seed would be "established". He likely imagined that his firstborn son would perhaps be that promised seed. But now Amnon lay dead in shame, slain by his own brother, for having raped his own half sister. David's disappointment in his own family life ["my house is not so with God"] was intended to drive him more strongly towards faith in his future "son", the Messianic seed, the Lord Jesus.

2Sa 13:37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai the son of Ammihur, king of Geshur. David mourned for his son every day-
Talmai was Absalom's grandfather (2 Sam. 3:3). Had the Israelites driven out Geshur as they should have done (Josh. 13:13) and David not married a Gentile, then this situation might not have arisen. Absalom would have been left with no supportive place to run. "Geshur" means "joining" and such a joining in marriage to these people is another example of David's unwisdom with women.

2Sa 13:38 So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years-
"Absalom fled" is stressed three times. Or this may also be because a longer account has been abridged, under inspiration. This would also account for the fragmentary style of the narrative at this point. "Three years" may be a summary period and not necessarily to be taken literally.

2Sa 13:39 King David longed to go forth to Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, since he was dead
It's possible that David didn't remain feeling like this for Absalom; see on 2 Sam. 14:1,24. David had ineffable sadness in his personal life. He so loved his son Absalom, his very soul was consumed  for that strapping young man (2 Sam. 13:39 AVmg.); but that son bitterly hated David, and coolly plotted to destroy him and his reputation. David loved Abigail and Ahinoam, but those fairy tale romances took a bitter blow when David fell for Bathsheba. David loved his parents, especially caring for their safe keeping in his wilderness years; only to be forsaken by them (the Hebrew means just that), and to be rejected by his brothers and sisters (Ps.27:10; 38:11; 69:8; 88:18). David loved Solomon and gave very special attention to teach him the real spirit of the Truth, taking time out from a hectic public life to do so; only for that beloved son to turn away in later life, to fast women, alcohol, materialism, and the perversions of idolatry. David's disappointment in his own family life ["my house is not so with God"] was intended to drive him more strongly towards faith in his future "son", the Messianic seed, the Lord Jesus.