When of 2 Samuel ends with David

When it comes to talking about the Bible, subjects of
murder, oppression, and rape are usually not the first things that come to
mind. That is not the case for 2 Samuel chapter 13. The passage is filled with
evil and injustice, but in order to fully understand the passage it is
necessary to read chapter 12 as well. Chapter 12 of 2 Samuel ends with David
being confronted by the prophet Nathan for committing adultery with Bathsheba.
Nathan informs David that he will not go unpunished for his actions. This is
shown in 2 Samuel 12:11-13, “Thus saith Jehovah, behold, I will raise up evil
against thee out of thine own house; and I will take thy wives before thine
eyes, and give them unto thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the
sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before
all Israel, and before the sun.” This is crucial to keep in mind in order to
understand why such events are happening in not only David’s life but the lives
of those around him. In class, we focused on three major lenses for understanding
how to read the bible that will be implemented in this paper to reflect on this
passage: geographical, archaeological and literary.

            As if adultery
was not bad enough, chapter 13 starts off with Amnon, David’s son Absalom’s half-brother,
forcing himself on David’s daughter, Tamar. Amnon claims to be in love with
Tamar and wants to sleep with her. David’s nephew, Jonadab sees that Amnon is
ill and after learning comes up with an evil plan to get Amnon what he wants. Jonadab
comes up with the idea of getting Amnon and Tamar in the same room alone. Amnon
goes along with the plan, but when they are alone Tamar is not as willing as
Amnon had hoped she would be. Tamar proposes a better idea to Amnon saying,
“Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me
from thee” (verse 13). Tamar believed that David would give his blessing for
them to be married. Amnon on the other hand is not willing to wait so he
instead takes advantage of Tamar and lays with her against her will. This
action really puts a nasty taste in my mouth. Tamar gives Amnon a way to have
everything he says he wants. If he loves her then he would have agreed to marry
her; if he wanted to lay with her so bad, then marrying her would allow him to
do this whenever. Amnon’s impatience is what triggers these other sins he
commits.

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In the aftermath, Amnon forces
Tamar, who is no longer a virgin or able to be married, to leave his room. Chapters
15-17 read, “Arise, be gone. And she said unto him, not so, because this great
wrong in putting me forth is worse than the other that thou didst unto me. But
he would not hearken unto her. Then he called his servant that ministered unto
him, and said, put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.”
This might be the most modern form of savagery I have read in the bible. Amnon
is completely wrong and never once admits it. He kicks Tamar, his sister and
woman he supposedly loved, out of his room with no intent of helping her in the
future. After learning of this great evil, Absalom has a great hatred towards
his half-brother Amnon. David is also very upset with Amnon. However, Amnon
goes unpunished for his sins for two years before Absalom orders his servants
to kill Amnon. Out of fear for his life, and of King David, Absalom runs away
to the king of Geshur and stays there for three years. The passage proclaims in
verse 37, “And David mourned for his son every day.”

Looking in through the
geographical lenses there is not much to see. The only mention of geographical
location is of Geshur. The place Absalom went after fleeing from King David.
Geshur is located on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee, north of Israel.
The only other places mentioned are Amnon’s room, Absalom’s party and the
king’s court.

Looking at this passage through
archaeological lenses helps to unfold the character, their actions and the
affects they had. Deuteronomy 22:28 reads, “When they are found the man who lay
with will give the young woman’s father fifty pieces of silver. She will become
his wife because he forced her. He cannot send her away as long as he lives.” Knowing
this, Amnon wanted to kick Tamar out and have nothing to do with her. In King
and Stager’s book, Life in Biblical
Israel, there is a line in chapter 2 page 59 that reads, “Sexual
relationships are divided between public and private offense… The private
category was rape, adultery and incest. Amnon has sexual relations with Tamar
and is eventually killed for it at the command of Absalom. In fact, Amnon may
have been guilty of both rape and incest.” There are so many sins brought up
that defeat Amnon’s character. He is a direct testament to Nathan’s prophecy,
Amnon is evil right from David’s own house.

Unfortunately, Tamar had to
suffer from David’s sin as well. She would not be allowed to marry, which meant
she would have no one to take care of her. Consequently, she would be embarrassed
for the rest of her life. 2 Samuel 13:19 reads, “And Tamar put ashes on her
head, and rent her garment of divers colors that was on her; and she laid her
hand on her head, and went her way, crying aloud as she went.” This evil would
follow Tamar forever.

This passage teaches a very
important lesson and that is one of purity. I have learned that one must
respect their body in the same way Tamar respected her purity. To Tamar, having
her purity taken from her meant the end of her life. She saw nothing but a
devastated future ahead of her. However, in today’s society, with the
objectification of women and the prevalence of sex in media, one’s purity is
perceived to be irrelevant and merely something that should be given up in
order to have more fun. Purity in terms of sex is seen as less and less
important while purity in general just seems to be disregarded. From the shows
on television to the music we listen to, our minds have been polluted with the
idea that everything goes and everything is okay. Until reading this, I hadn’t
considered just how polluted our minds have become over generations.

Also, we discover a very angry
Absalom. It has been two years since Amnon raped Tamar and still no one has
done anything about it. His own father did nothing to Amnon. The Rage in
Absalom grew and grew so large that one day he decided to take matters into his
own hands. Chapter 3 page 113 of King and Stager states, “Sheep-shearing which
took place, in the spring of the year, was the occasion of festivities.” This
was an important event and celebrated annually. Absalom thought this would be
the perfect time to kill Amnon for the wrong he committed against his sister
two years ago. Amnon probably was not expecting an attack two years after he
raped Tamar, so it was the perfect time. Absalom finally achieves his desires
by killing Amnon but is still left with the obstacle that is David.

When first hearing of the news,
King David was devastated because he thought that Absalom had murdered all of
his children. Knowing this Absalom flees to the land of Geshur in fear of King
David. Absalom initially fled to Geshur because the king of Geshur has a
daughter, Maacah, who is also Absalom’s mother. So Absalom went to Geshur to
seek help from his granddad, who happens to be the king.

This passage may only be a few
verses, but there are plenty of literary elements to review. This passage takes
us through a sad and twisted story, sort of like a script from a play. The
passage is written so powerfully that you feel like you are in the lives of the
characters. Robert Alter writes in his book, The Art of Biblical Narrative, “There are the moments when the
fictional imagination, as I have defined in chapter 2, is in full operation,
however a much more particular event may be based on an actual historical
occurrence.” This is important because it hints that this story is fictional.
Even still it is probable that the story is based on true facts. An example of
this would be the conversation between Amnon and Jonadab in verse 4 and 5. This
conversation more than likely did not happen like that or rather not word for
word. That conversation was more likely put in to fortify the words of the author
when he wrote in verse 3, “But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the
son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd man.” The
conversation was placed right afterwards to elaborate on how shrewd of a person
Jonadab was. Regardless of whether or not this was fiction or fact, this is a
well-written passage that allows us to take a front row seat into the lives of
the characters.

We also get a front row seat
into the life of such a broken woman as we read about the pain and the wrongs
that Tamar went through. It is hard not to feel sympathetic, and also connected
to her. Looking back again at verses 15-17, we see the broken woman, Amnon, has
left. Tamar is alone and has no hope of finding a husband and supporter. She
has no choice but to tear the sleeves off of her clothes which represented her
purity. The only glimmer of hope Tamar has is for Absalom, her brother to keep
her. Though he does, it is a very awful life for Tamar to live. Though this
story may not be completely true, the writing makes the readers feel empathetic.

The author does a great job of
keeping us on the edge of our seats during the entirety of the story. In the
last few verses, the author takes us down the dark path of Absalom’s heart. We
discovered a broken Tamar, but it is important to realize that Absalom is
broken too. This is probably why the author thought it necessary to inform us
of the two-year period with no consequence. This gives us something to look
forward to as readers. It raises questions such as, will Amnon ever be
punished? What happened to Tamar? Is the family still close? Etc. The author
keeps us reading by making us want to know the answers to these questions. This
passage is so beautiful because the author gives us a full historical lesson
while adding important dialogue to make it more like a story and enjoyable to
read.

Let’s dig a little deeper and
think past the characters. What is the message we learn from this tragic passage?
Again we have to look back to 2 Samuel. Here we are reminded of the wrong-doings
of King David and why his family is suffering from such evil. Nathan told King
David that he would be punished, and so would his family. This is not the first
and only time that the bible has mentioned children being punished for the
mistakes of their parents. Exodus 34:7 reads, “and that will by no means clear
the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon
the children’s children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.” I
believe that this is the biggest message of the passage. The sins we commit
affect everyone around us and not only does God punish the individual but the
people close to them as well.

We see this from basically every
main character. Starting with King David, his sin is the reason why his family
is so broken and corrupted. The worst part about it is that King David knows
that evil is to come, but he has no idea when or how. After everything happens,
King David knows that it is all his fault. Amnon’s sins ruin Tamar’s life
forever and eventually get him killed. Amnon’s sin gets his brother killed and
forces him to leave his family out of fear. It is so important for us to learn
from the people before us. Stories like this are road maps that show us the
right way and the wrong way. We can see the message in this story and learn
from the mistakes that King David and his family made.

This unpleasant story of King
David, Amnon, Tamar and Absalom really speaks to the heart. As we read the passage
and think about geographical locations we uncover important information not
given to us in the text. As we look into the passage through archeological
lenses, we get to experience what it felt like to be the characters and
understand why they made some of the decisions they made. Looking at the last
of the three lenses we see how a well-written literary passage can not only
make learning history more interesting but can help us understand better
through dialogue and added texts. Though this story has no happy ending, it
testifies to God’s unconditional love for us. If my family was punished for all
of the sins, I have committed then I would have no family left. This story has
impacted me on a very personal level and has taught me to always be grateful
because if God wanted to, he could take everything I love away from me. Therefore,
I must be thankful each day and do all things for his glory. This class and the
review of this passage have given me three important lenses that I will use for
the rest of my life.