The two sins committed by David, adultery and murder, are both found in this chapter in his house. He has sown for his own flesh and “from the flesh reaps corruption” (Gal 6:8a; cf. Jer 4:18). It is a chapter full of sorrow for David. A moment of thoughtless sin can result in years of crying bitter tears. At the same time, we may know that God can turn those bitter tears into a rainbow.
In this chapter the announced sword (2Sam 12:9-10) in his house begins to do its judgmental work. A man, a son of his house, his eldest son, rapes his daughter. Another son, one of his favorites, kills the rapist. Later this son will rebel against him and be killed. Amnon is his eldest son, the crown prince. The third son is Absalom. He loses his first-born son and also the second oldest sons – if we exclude Chileab who probably died young (2Sam 3:2-3).
By committing his sins, something has come into David’s family that breaks the already fragile family bond even more. He has no discernment in the case of Amnon’s dark plans with Tamar. He is also unable to act against it because his spiritual power and his spiritual insight have been greatly diminished by his life in sin. Maybe he also feels he’s become implausible to say something about the sins of his children.
The sin we have committed ourselves makes it difficult to strongly condemn another person’s sin. We see that here too. David does not act against Amnon nor against Absalom. The consequences of sins are not automatic. They don’t just come over his house. Every sin in his home takes place under his responsibility. If he had been strong, he could have prevented those consequences. The judgment comes from God, yet David himself is responsible.
We see that David is no longer the same man as before his sins. He is blind to certain things. He does not understand anything of the intentions of Amnon nor of those of Absalom. If sin has been devastating in the life of a believer, one consequence is that one is no longer the same person as before.
We learn here that children are the weakness of their parents. There is no area where we are so weak as when it comes to our children. Many parents have come on wrong paths because they have recognized and acknowledged their children’s sins so little. Sometimes they’ve even seen those sins, but haven’t acted against them or even defended them. Many people can judge sharply when it comes to others, but when it comes to their own children, they no longer see so sharply and sometimes even defend sin.
1 - 2 Amnon Covets Tamar
1 Now it was after this that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon the son of David loved her. 2 Amnon was so frustrated because of his sister Tamar that he made himself ill, for she was a virgin, and it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her.
The introductory words “now it was after this” show that what follows, connects to the foregoing. In this case, what happens “after” is not only a sequel to the previous, but also a consequence thereof. In the events described, too, we see that one thing is the result of another.
First we are introduced to the ‘protagonists’ in verse 1. They are two sons of David, a daughter of David and David himself. It is about a family drama.
The drama begins with a young man falling in love with his handsome half-sister. There is nothing to be seen of any fear of God in this son of David. If it had been there, he would directly have judged his evil lusts in himself. However, he does not follow his father in the good example that David also gave, but in the evil example that he unfortunately also gave. David has not been able to curb his lusts. His son goes even further in his sexual sinfulness. The young man’s love is so great that it makes him sick. This love is a purely selfish matter, only directed to self-satisfaction.
It is strictly forbidden by law to have relationships with a sister or half-sister (Lev 18:9; 20:17). This rule of the law and also the continuation of the history make it clear that this is not a question of love, but only of self-generated sexual lusts. Sexual desires are of God, but they may only be experienced in the bond of marriage and love. Of course, Tamar is not to blame.
The fact that “it seemed hard to Amnon to do anything to her” does not mean that he has any sense of respect for her. The sequel shows that for him she is nothing more than a lust object. That it seems hard to do anything to her perhaps means that it is impossible for him to come to her, because she lives, because she is a virgin, in the women’s enclosure.
3 - 5 Amnon Gets Advice from a Friend
3 But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man. 4 He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Then Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.” 5 Jonadab then said to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill; when your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me [some] food to eat, and let her prepare the food in my sight, that I may see [it] and eat from her hand.’”
Amnon has a friend. A good friend is worth a lot, especially if that friend is also “a very shrewd man”. However, Amnon’s friend is a cunning friend, and his shrewdness or wisdom “is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but it is … demonic” (Jam 3:15). He is also a member of David’s family and plays an important role in this family drama. This is evident from the way he addresses Amnon and the advice he gives him.
Jonadab speaks to Amnon about his sense of honor and the power he still has: ‘Am-non, why are you so miserable every morning, when you are the son of the king? You can have all the fun you want, can you? You only have to cut with your finger and your wishes will be fulfilled’. It is the way in which Jezebel addresses her husband Ahab, if he also wants something in which he is thwarted (1Kgs 21:7).
At his friend’s invitation to tell him what’s wrong with it, Amnon tells him that he loves Tamar. He is totally blind to the completely misplaced use of the word ‘love’. For Jonadab, ‘loving’ is also a hollow concept. He knows that Amnon is only interested in the body of Tamar. He advises him to pretend he is ill and then ask his father if Tamar can come to him to prepare some food for him. He adds that she must prepare this food “in my sight” and that he will “eat from her hand”. With this cunning proposal, Amnon will be able to look at her closely and she will have to get close to him.
6 - 9 Amnon Asks David for Tamar
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill; when the king came to see him, 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.” 7 Then David sent to the house for Tamar, saying, “Go now to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, and he was lying down. And she took dough, kneaded [it], made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. 9 She took the pan and dished [them] out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Have everyone go out from me.” So everyone went out from him.
Amnon follows his friend’s advice. David has not understood anything of the real intentions of Amnon. Although he has experienced what is in a person’s heart, he is blind to what his son wants. An important lesson is that we ask the Lord to give us an eye for what is going on in our children and that He makes us feel what the real motives are when they ask something of us. We must learn to go to Him first before we agree. On the one hand, we need to be preserved for a suspicious attitude. On the other hand, we also need to be preserved for a silly kind of trust, as if our children would be unable to commit certain sins.
10 - 14 Amnon Violates Tamar
10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes which she had made and brought them into the bedroom to her brother Amnon. 11 When she brought [them] to him to eat, he took hold of her and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 But she answered him, “No, my brother, do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing! 13 As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.
When Tamar brings the food to him, the lust breaks loose. His lust prevails so much that he grabs her instead of the food. He first tries to get her to lie in bed with him of her own accord. Tamar wants to bring him to other thoughts. First she points out to him the unheard of such an act in Israel. Then she tells him what a shame he would bring upon her. Then she shows him to what the consequences of his deed will be for himself. Finally, she offers another solution to be connected to each other and that is that he will ask the king if he can have her. It is all in vain. “However, he would not listen to her; since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her” (verse 14).
15 - 19 Amnon Sends Tamar Away
15 Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!” 16 But she said to him, “No, because this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you have done to me!” Yet he would not listen to her. 17 Then he called his young man who attended him and said, “Now throw this woman out of my [presence], and lock the door behind her.” 18 Now she had on a long-sleeved garment; for in this manner the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then his attendant took her out and locked the door behind her. 19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which [was] on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went.
Amnon has what he wanted. Is he satisfied now? It is appalling to read: “Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up, go away!”” (verse 15). From this history we learn two things. First of all, here we see how enormous the power of sexual lust is. It is an untamable power if you have not learned to control yourself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Part of the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control” (Gal 5:22-23a). The power of sexuality is irresistible if we do not submit to the rules God has given us in His Word. Secondly, we see that Amnon’s ‘love’ turns into hatred after he has given way to his lust.
These two lessons are repeated daily in the lives of (young) people who do as Amnon. They use sex as a commercially available item. Often men who have seduced girls have later become averse to them. The girls often participate in the exchange, which was not the case with Tamar.
If Amnon had been a guy with any decency, he would have taken Tamar as his wife. Although illicit sexual intercourse is certainly not equivalent to rape, there is another important lesson to be learned from the history of Amnon and Tamar. That lesson is that illicit sexual intercourse is not a sin that someone can just easily and fast confess, after which everything is back to normal.
In a very intimate way someone has made himself one with someone else. Not that there always has to be a marriage. Being one body – that is the case with sex outside marriage – is not the same as being one flesh, for that is only said of sexual intercourse between a man and a woman who first married each other (1Cor 6:16). To conclude, however, that one body never has obligations, goes too far. Every case is different and there must be confession and openness to the Lord and to one another in order to make a good decision.
One deed as a result of rampant lust causes a sea of misery. Tamar is dishonored, the family is disgraced, hatred prevails and some time later murder also results. It is a sad repetition of what the father of Amnon, King David, did himself. He was also guided by his lust when he saw Bathsheba washing (2Sam 11:2). He had let her come to him and had relations with her, although she was married. When he receives the message that she is pregnant, he tries to cover up his act by devious means. It all fails. There’s one thing left for him and that’s to let Uria, the husband of Bathsheba die in battle. That comes down to murder: king David becomes a murderer.
What misery has already arisen from illicit intercourse, whether it took place before marriage or outside marriage. It is to be hoped that we will be warned by such clear biblical examples (Pro 6:32-7:27).
There is another text that leaves no doubt as to what God thinks about pre-marital relationships and non-marital relationships: “Marriage [is to be held] in honor among all, and the [marriage] bed [is to be] undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb 13:4). Marriage is something that must be held in high esteem and valued as an institution of God. There must be respect for it. We can only show this respect by taking it into account and maintaining marriage as such. There is no exception for anyone, it should be honored “among all”.
When a marriage bed is defiled, it means adultery, illicit sexual intercourse by someone who has intercourse with a partner other than his or her own. Adultery is fornication committed by married people, but fornication includes more than adultery. Fornication is often the collective name for all forms of lewdness that unmarried persons can commit by having sexual intercourse with someone regardless of the marriage relationship.
With Amnon, after his horrible deed, his so-called love for Tamar immediately changes into hatred (cf. Eze 23:17). Here we see the meaning of the word love when in fact it means only self-love. Love must grow in the happy atmosphere and protecting bond of marriage. After sexual intercourse before marriage, there is often a certain degree of disgust. The blame is also often shifted to the other party. Only with sincere confession and deep repentance can there be restoration.
Amnon knows no love. As soon as he has satisfied his lusts, he disgusts her. That must be because he passes the disgust of his deed on to Tamar. This humiliation goes even further than physical humiliation and disgrace. Here, the soul is hurt to the deepest degree.
Amnon is totally insensitive to what he has done to her. He sends her away like a dog. Tamar expresses the deep dishonor that is done to her by putting ashes on her head, as a sign of mourning. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore her long-sleeved garment which [was] on her; and she put her hand on her head and went away, crying aloud as she went. She also tears the beautiful garment of her virginity. With her hand on her head, possibly as a symbol of the misery that has come upon her (cf. Jer 2:37), she goes away, crying aloud.
20 - 22 Reactions of Absalom and David
20 Then Absalom her brother said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. 22 But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar.
David is the absent father. Tamar does not go to him, but to her brother Absalom. When she comes to him, he immediately suspects what happened. He must have noticed how Amnon thought about Tamar. He may also have seen how he looked at her. Amnon’s deed did not fall from the sky. Was Amnon perhaps known as a sexual rake?
While in Absalom plans may already be coming up to avenge himself, he advises his sister not to publicize it any further. She should not be too concerned either. So is the advice of people who have their own ideas about solving problems and do not care about God’s judgment of them. Tamar seems to follow the advice and moves into her brother’s house. There she stays as a lonely and abandoned woman whose joy of life has turned into a hopeless wilderness.
When David hears of it, he is angry (verse 21), but that is all it is (cf. 1Sam 3:13b). Nothing else comes out of his anger. He has no power to act against his son, the crown prince. Even parents of little children often have so little to say about their children. It is not about children receiving authoritarian education, but about them being brought up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Children are not won by exercising pure force, but by love. The Lord gives us children so that we may teach them through loving authority how to submit to His loving authority.
David is responsible for everything that happens in his home. The judgment comes not only because of his sin with Bathsheba, but also because of his sin of negligence not to act against the evil in his family.
Amnon is an unscrupulous man who knows no love. Absalom is no different. Both of them know only one kind of love and that is the love for themselves. Absalom is not only unloving, he is also cunning, mean and can wait, if necessary two full years (verse 23). During this waiting period, the feelings of hatred remain burning in all their intensity. Meanwhile he doesn’t show any of these feelings in his dealings with Amnon. Absalom does not show anything at all, “either good or bad”. He meets the desired courtesies, without showing anything of what occupies him. If he has spoken a kind word at all, it has only been a camouflage of what lives in his heart (Psa 55:22a; Pro 26:24).
In this way, family members and members of the family of God can interact with each other in a way that is correct, but not more than that. What essentially binds them does not matter. The relationships are dominated by events that are not talked out, but in which the senses are set on a counter-action.
23 - 29 Absalom Kills Amnon
23 Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. 24 Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold now, your servant has sheepshearers; please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, we should not all go, for we will be burdensome to you.” Although he urged him, he would not go, but blessed him. 26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But when Absalom urged him, he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him. 28 Absalom commanded his servants, saying, “See now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then put him to death. Do not fear; have not I myself commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.” 29 The servants of Absalom did to Amnon just as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose and each mounted his mule and fled.
When two full years have passed since the events described in the previous section, Absalom organizes a party. It is a feast because of the shearing of the sheep. There are two more such celebrations in Scripture. They are not positive statements. Both these times and here there is talk of iniquity (Gen 38:12-15; 1Sam 25:4-11).
For this feast Absalom invites David and all his sons. The purpose of this feast is to kill Amnon. David objects to coming all together, because that will give Absalom too much work. After some insistence with David he gets the blessing of his father. That is the sign for Absalom that he can continue asking to hold the party and that then especially his “brother Amnon” will be allowed to come to the party.
As a father David is a man without a backbone. He is easy to persuade. While he is present, something is staged again, the purpose of which is hidden from him. David is a stranger in his own home. Later Jonadab says that Absalom’s face showed what he was planning to do. David does not see the consequences of his permission for the feast of Absalom, just as he did not see Amnon’s request earlier, when he asked for Tamar to come to him (verse 7). The result is that he loses two sons. Amnon is killed and Absalom flees.
Absalom instructs his servants to kill Amnon when he is drunk. He knows his brother as someone who enjoys drinking wine. The servants do so at the insistence of Absalom, who as the client takes responsibility for the death of his brother. All other sons of the king flee immediately after the murder of Amnon, away from the surroundings of the murderer. The fear of also being killed has struck.
30 - 36 Jonadab Informs David
30 Now it was while they were on the way that the report came to David, saying, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king arose, tore his clothes and lay on the ground; and all his servants were standing by with clothes torn. 32 Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, responded, “Do not let my lord suppose they have put to death all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead; because by the intent of Absalom this has been determined since the day that he violated his sister Tamar. 33 Now therefore, do not let my lord the king take the report to heart, namely, ‘all the king’s sons are dead,’ for only Amnon is dead.” 34 Now Absalom had fled. And the young man who was the watchman raised his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. 35 Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; according to your servant’s word, so it happened.” 36 As soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came and lifted their voices and wept; and also the king and all his servants wept very bitterly.
Rumor reaches David that all his sons have been killed by Absalom. That brings him to deep dejection and mourning. He thinks that everything is lost. He tears his clothes, because his kingship has no meaning for him anymore. Then he lies down on the ground. Life no longer has any meaning for him either.
Then comes Jonadab. His comments show that he knew the full two years of Absalom’s plan. The fact that he did not inform David of this is yet another proof of his corrupt character. At the same time it also shows that David walked with blinkers on. Another translation says that it could be read on Absalom’s face. Only David did not see it.
Jonadab is not very impressed by the death of his friend Amnon. He is a cool calculating man. We do not read of him that he is crying. He speaks to David (verse 33) in the same way as Absalom speaks to his sister after she was violated (verse 20). David should not be too concerned about it. This kind of comfort only give people who have no relationship with God.
37 - 38 Flee of Absalom
37 Now Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. And [David] mourned for his son every day. 38 So Absalom had fled and gone to Geshur, and was there three years.
Absalom flees to his grandfather. His mother is the daughter of the king of Geshur. Her origins may have contributed to the character of her son. David should never have married her. Absalom finds here a refuge outside the realm of the law of Moses, as if this would allow him to evade its authority. It is an illustration that God’s law has no authority for him.
39 David Longs for Absalom
39 [The heart of] King David longed to go out to Absalom; for he was comforted concerning Amnon, since he was dead.
After David has mourned Amnon for quite some time, his grief diminishes and he reconciles with his death. It seems that his desperation of Absalom’s sin also decreases over time. Instead of abhorring Absalom as a murderer, he longs to go to him and meet him. At first he did not manage to punish him justly for the murder of his brother, now he is almost willing to accept him again in favor. This marks the weakness of David.
Just as Saul in the book 1 Samuel occupies a large place as an opponent of David, so Absalom in 2 Samuel occupies a large place, also as an opponent of David. Both persons are a picture of the antichrist. Saul wants to take the life of David before he sits on the throne. Absalom wants to take the life of David when he has taken his place on the throne, but not all enemies have yet been judged and the kingdom of peace has not yet arrived. Absalom is a picture of satan as the liar and the murderer.
Absalom is even more depraved in character than Saul. As a son he has a close relationship with David and yet he revolts against him. The closer someone is to the good, the more terrible his condition becomes when he closes himself off for the good. We also see this aptly in Jude, one of the twelve apostles of the Lord Jesus. The fulness of grace and truth revealed in the Lord Jesus brings out the worst in man.