A Wicked Thing...And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.” “Don’t, 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. 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.” But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.2 Samuel 13:10b-14
For context, read 2 Samuel 13
Once more, we have come across a story of a woman who is sexually assaulted. This time, at the hands of her own brother. It should disturb us that this happened to so many women in the Bible! It shows just how wicked and sinful the human race is. God’s laws were meant for His people’s own protection. And yet, so often, they didn’t obey His laws. As is the case with many of King David’s children.
Tamar was one of David’s daughters. She was the full sister of Absalom and the half-sister of Ammon. She was a beautiful woman. So beautiful that her half-brother, Ammon, was lusting after her. You see, polygamy didn’t just create rivalry among wives. It also created awkward, and potential, unnatural sibling relationships.
Incest may not have been frowned upon in the nations surrounding Israel but in Leviticus 18
, the LORD gave His laws to Moses considering unlawful sexual relationships and every kind of incest you can think of is listed there as against God’s law. The LORD said, “...I am the LORD your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them” (Leviticus 18:2-4
). Verses 9 and 11
specifically address not sleeping with your sister or half sister.
Ammon should have known that it was against God’s law to pursue a relationship with Tamar. But he consults with his cousin Jonadab and comes up with a ridiculous plan to rape her. He pretends to be sick in bed and asks his dad, David, to have Tamar come up to his bedroom to make him cakes. For some reason, David agrees to this request and when Tamar is giving Ammon the food, he grabs her and forces her to come to bed with him.
Tamar rightly tries to convince him to leave her alone. She reminds him that such a wicked thing should not be done in Israel. Their pagan neighbors might behave this way. But she was reminding him that they were God’s people. God’s people shouldn’t do things like this! She reminded him that he would disgrace her for the rest of her life and that he would be regarded as a fool. She even suggested that he ask David for her hand in marriage. Surely, she knew that it was against the law for them to be married, but she was stalling-hoping it would give her a chance to escape the humiliating situation that she was in. But he overpowered her and raped her. Worse, after he raped her, he decided he hated her and threw her out.
She went away with ashes on her head and tore her clothes to show that she was in mourning and that she was ruined. She wept and wailed as she went. She had been defiled and could no longer live among the virgin daughters of the king, so she stayed with her brother Absalom.
Her brother Absalom and King David were both angry that Tamar had been raped and violated. But David did nothing to punish Ammon for his crime against his daughter. Absalom told his sister to stay quiet and “do not take it to heart”. He waited 2 years to avenge her. When he did move to take Ammon out, his motives were questionable. Was he avenging Tamar or just removing Ammon from the line of succession for the throne?
And Tamar? She was left unmarried and childless living with her brother Absalom’s family. Her half-brother, Ammon did not obey God’s Word and his actions left her desolate.
The WORD about women in the story of Tamar is that God did not wish for such a wicked thing to be done to her or anyone else. In fact, God valued women enough to give His people laws meant to protect them from such evil. They were to be set apart from the despicable lifestyles of the pagans around them. Sadly, many in Israel didn’t act like they were God’s people. They acted just like everyone else and Tamar was a victim of this disregard for God’s law.
ReflectIn what ways are God’s people meant to be set apart and different from the world around us?PrayGod, I know that Your ways are not meant to restrict us, but to protect us. Help me to live set apart from the rest of the world and in obedience to You. Amen.