Like Father, Like Son…

(This week’s assignment:  Write the Bible: Additional words to the story found in 2 Samuel 13:1-33. Biblical text in blue, my writing in black)

King David reveled in the spoils and gold acquired through the capture of Rabbah. It seemed to take the sting away from losing the child he and Bathsheba had together. The win seemed to, once again, affirm David’s powerful authority. He could be heard saying in the halls of his vast temple, “If I desire something, I shall have it.”

David’s collection of wives continued to grow, as wife Maachah, a Geshurite princess, gave birth to a beautiful daughter Tamar, and a son Absalom. Wife Ahinoam bore David a son, named Amnon.

2 Samuel 13:1-33Common English Bible (CEB)  13 Some time later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with Tamar the beautiful sister of Absalom, who was also David’s sonThe young royal princess lived in a world where her powerful father and brothers have a responsibility to watch over her and protect her. Although Tamar is privileged, she is also powerless. Amnon was so upset over his half sister that he made himself sick. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible in Amnon’s view to do anything to her. 

Amnon was aware of the legal traditions of Israel “If a man meets a virgin who is not engaged, and seizes her and lies with her, and they are caught in the act, the man who lay with her shall give fifty shekels of silver to the young woman’s father, and she shall become his wife. Because he violated her he shall not be permitted to divorce her [send her away] as long as he lives” (Deuteronomy 22:28-29).

But Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, David’s brother, who was a very clever man.  “Prince,” Jonadab said to him, “why are you so down, morning after morning? Tell me about it.”  So Amnon told him, “I’m in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”

“Prince, if you desire something, you shall have it.”

“Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick,” Jonadab said to him. “When your father comes to see you, tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I can watch and eat from her own hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. The king came to see him, and Amnon told the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of heart-shaped cakes in front of me so I can eat from her hand.” David’s concern for the comfort of his son, compelled him fulfill his request.

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Please go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare some food for him.”

So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house where he was lying down. She was obedient, trusting, and kind. Her father, King David, had instructed her to help her ailing half-brother. She dutifully attended to him, unaware that he has schemed and lied in order to get her alone.

She took dough, kneaded it, made heart-shaped cakes in front of him, and then cooked them. She took the pan and served Amnon, but he refused to eat.

“Everyone leave me,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom so I can eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the heart-shaped cakes she had made and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. 11 When she served him the food, he grabbed her and said, “Come have sex with me, my sister.”

12 But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t rape me. Such a thing shouldn’t be done in Israel. Don’t do this horrible thing. 13 Think about me—where could I hide my shame? And you—you would become like some fool in Israel! Please, just talk to the king! He won’t keep me from marrying you.” In special situations, blood relatives were permitted to marry. This arrangement would keep Tamar from the shame of losing her virginity without being betrothed.

14 But Amnon refused to listen to her. He was stronger than she was, and so he raped her.

15 But then Amnon felt intense hatred for her. In fact, his hatred for her was greater than the love he had felt for her. So Amnon told her, “Get out of here!”

16 “No, my brother!”[a] she said. “Sending me away would be worse than the wrong you’ve already done.” Her disgrace would be greater than before, because society would expect Amnon to keep his obligation and marry her.

But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. 17 He summoned his young servant and said, “Get this woman out of my presence and lock the door after her.” (18 She was wearing a long-sleeved robe because that was what the virgin princesses wore as garments.)[b] So Amnon’s servant put her out and locked the door after her.

19 Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has your brother Amnon been with you? Keep quiet about it for now, sister; he’s your brother. Don’t let it bother you.” So Tamar, a broken woman, lived in her brother Absalom’s house. Tamar became another victim in the abuse of power in David’s house.

21 When King David heard about all this he got very angry, but he refused to punish his son Amnon because he loved him as his oldest child. If his son desired something, he shall have it.

 22 Absalom never spoke to Amnon, good word or bad, because he hated him for raping his sister Tamar.

Absalom kills Amnon

23 Two years later, Absalom was shearing sheep at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, and he invited all the king’s sons. 24 Absalom approached the king and said, “Your servant is shearing sheep. Would the king and his advisors please join me?”

25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son. We shouldn’t all go, or we would be a burden on you.” Although Absalom urged him, the king wasn’t willing to go, although he gave Absalom a blessing.

26 Then Absalom said, “If you won’t come, then let my brother Amnon go with us.”

“Why should he go with you?” they asked him. 27 But Absalom urged him until he sent Amnon and all the other princes. Then Absalom made a banquet fit for a king.[d]

28 Absalom commanded his servants, “Be on the lookout! When Amnon is happy with wine and I tell you to strike Amnon down, then kill him! Don’t be afraid, because I myself am giving you the order. Be brave and strong men.” 29 So Absalom’s servants did to Amnon just what he had commanded. Then all the princes got up, jumped onto their mules, and fled.

30 While they were on the way, the report came to David: “Absalom has killed all of the princes! Not one remains.” 31 The king got up, tore his garments, and lay on the ground. All his servants stood near him, their garments torn as well. 32 But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “My master shouldn’t think that all the young princes have been killed—only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s plan ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 So don’t let this bother you, my master; don’t think that all the princes are dead, because only Amnon is dead,” and so the unraveling and disintegration of David’s family continued. Power imbalances demonstrated through fulfilled desires and rape of Bathsheba, became a family trait passed down to David’s sons and became the weakness that permeated the family lineage.

(Addition/Engagement with text)
Hillary Lipka’s article, “David and Bathsheba: Affair or Rape?” compares the two most common arguments concerning Bathsheba’s participation in the adulterous affair with King David. Was Bathsheba cunning and lured David…or did David abuse his power and force Bathsheba into his bed? While we don’t have much detail of the story found in 2 Sam. 11:27, we do know that David’s actions were displeasing to God, and he was condemned by the prophet Nathan. David would have had power over everyone and every situation – and so it was Bathsheba (who was definitely not on equal playing field with David) who was the victim of the desires of a King who would not be denied. This, unfortunately, became family trait passed down to David’s sons.

 

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3 thoughts on “Like Father, Like Son…

  1. I love the theme of weaving David and Amnon’s equal violations into your retelling of this story. I actually had to walk away from computer once I finished digesting this story in its original form; my anger was deep. In a world where “Hooters” exists, I cannot say we have come very far since David’s days. I found great satisfaction reading your version and I appreciate your willingness to write. This assignment was tough and I had to fight instinct to leave the text alone. I’m thankful you took this on too.

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  2. Great post Jenny! You did a really wonderful job of incorporating some really enriching history to help flesh out this very difficult and painful story. I, too, honed in on the vulnerability of Tamar and women in general at that time. Amnon’s action was doubly despicable because of how quickly he chose to cast her away after he violated her. I wish there was a way to understand his behavior, but alas I think your conclusion is probably a lot more indicative of the narrative arc’s purpose: explaining how David’s house was to start falling apart because of their sin and falling away from God. Anyway, great post – thanks for taking time to do some great digging!

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  3. Jenny, great post! I enjoyed your perspective on the story of Amnon and Tamar. I agree with you that David should have foreseen what was coming or at least protected Tamar after the act happened. I thought it was interesting that at the beginning you made the statement “The young royal princess lived in a world where her powerful father and brothers have a responsibility to watch over her and protect her. Although Tamar is privileged, she is also powerless.” Was Tamar really privileged? Maybe in comparison to other females, but being a female immediately made her a second class citizen, something solidified in this text. Thanks for the great post!

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