Week Commencing 26th August 2018
Notes for next Sunday’s sermon on 2 Samuel 13, “A house collapses”
This chapter is a mess: lust and rape, hate and murder. If you have time, you may want to read the whole chapter, before we explore the detail. Warning: you may find some of this disturbing.
This week, we shall follow a slightly different approach – and spend each day examining the story by focusing in on one player at a time.
DAY 1: Read 2 Samuel 13:1-15 – today we focus on Tamar
Let’s start by understanding the relationships here. Tamar and Absalom are full siblings – the offspring of David and one of his wives – Maachah. Amnon is the son of David and his wife Ahinoam and therefore half-brother of Tamar and Absalom.
Tamar must be heard: she is trapped (5-11), ignored (14a, 16b), raped (14b), despised, (15), banished (17) and ruined (18-19, 20b). We’re meant to see how awful this was for her.
So – rape was shameful enough; but this was more than rape. It was incest and explicitly forbidden in the covenant law (Leviticus 18:9, 11; 20:17, Deut 27:22). Tamar called it ‘godlessness’ and argued that if Amnon did this, he would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. ‘Wicked fool’ was not mere name calling but a term used to describe flagrant godlessness (see Isaiah 32:6); someone who carries out sexual offences such as rape (see Gen 34:7 and Judges 20:5-6), premarital unchastity Duet 22:21), homosexual relations (Judges 19:23-24). Tamar pleads with Amnon to consider the consequences both for her and for him (v13a), but to no avail. He raped her, following which (v15b) he tells her to get up and get out. Tamar protests: kicking her out is a greater wrong than violating her. But Amnon has neither ears nor heart. He demands she be removed as if she were a bit of impersonal trash to be put out on the footpath. Her brother Absalom’s words (v20a) must have been cold comfort! She lives in Absalom’s household, but her life is ‘desolate’. The writer wants to win our sympathies for Tamar. He wants us to see the deep sinfulness of Amnon’s deed and the sadness of that sinfulness in Tamar’s resultant condition. The writer wants us to abhor this perversion.
I find Dale Ralph Davis’ commentary very challenging here. Let me quote him: “…we don’t abhor it that much. We find it interesting. We become like spectators entranced with the disaster of others…. We may be fascinated with Amnon’s scheming without hating his wickedness; we may be entranced – as many are – with the literary artistry of the story without grieving Amnon’s sin. There is a perversion in us; we are not unholy we find it supremely difficult genuinely to hate sin.” End quote. Wow! Your thoughts? Shamefully, I can relate (at least in part) to what Davis is saying here! Which makes me ever more grateful for the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ and for my forgiveness thereby won!
DAY 2: Read 2 Samuel 13:15-22 – today we focus on Amnon
Amnon ‘loved’ his half-sister Tamar (v1b) and ‘became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.’ The word translated ‘virgin’ is ‘betulah’, i.e., a woman of marriageable age rather than a virgin as such. She is sexually mature, beautiful and in Amnon’s view, ready. However, he can see no way of doing ‘anything to her’ – though we are left in no doubt about what he would like to do. Perhaps royal daughters were under protective oversight. He plans a way of being alone with her by faking illness, and he rapes her. But the way the account is written, means we the reader are in shock when we read in v15: Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
Amnon’s was no passing disgust; he turned a deaf ear to Tamar again (v16b), threw her out and locked her out. We now see that Amnon’s ‘love’ was only lust, and we know that lust and hatred are natural bedfellows. We see it all too clearly in today’s contemporary music: lust rules and the media glamorizes hard, bitter, sadistic sex. Sometimes adults see it for what it really is. Teenagers rarely do!
DAY 3: Read 2 Samuel 12:23-31 – today we focus on Jonadab
Jonadab was Amnon’s friend and David’s nephew. The writer describes him as ‘shrewd’. We see that shrewdness in action as in response to Amnon’s depression and on hearing of his passion for Tamar, he comes up with a plan to help Amnon get what he wants. Jonadab is ‘shrewd’ because he knows all the angles, knows how to work the angles, knows how to make anything succeed – even the rape of a cousin. Jonadab is the consummate politician: he gets things done.
Jonadab has clear insight into what is going on. In vv32-35, in the panic following Amnon’s murder, Jonadab was the only cool head at the palace. He knew that Amnon had been killed due to Absalom’s long-considered revenge for Amnon’s ravishing of Tamar.
Jonadab is perhaps the most dangerous man in the whole fiasco. Amnon’s evil is relatively restricted; he will always be in bed with someone, tending his hormones. But Jonadab has the skill to leak evil everywhere. He is dangerous because he has skill without scruple, wisdom without ethics, insight without integrity. Nothing succeeds like success; nothing impedes like standards. Jonadab can show you how to raise needed funds for your Christian institution or how to rape a scrumptious female; whichever you want! John Calvin, protestant reformer of the 16th century said of Jonadab, that he so forgot himself as to be a pimp for his male cousin, a disgrace to his female cousin and disloyal to his uncle, the king. This leads us to pray adds Calvin, that should God ever grant us such ‘shrewdness’, that he would also add integrity and sincerity so that we may keep ourselves from craftiness.
Adds Davis: “Many of us have observed that in the church those with the greatest gifts pose the gravest threat, for unless their gifts are wrapped in godliness they multiply disaster among Christ’s flock.”
DAY 4: Read 2 Samuel 12:32-38 – today we focus on Absalom
Absalom hated Amnon, because Amnon had abused Absalom’s sister. But Absalom’s hatred was a sophisticated, high-class hatred. He gave no public clue of his animosity, nor did he take any hostile action toward Amnon. Absalom’s was a cool, patient hatred, a rage that could wait. After two years, the moment arrived. The sheep-shearing party would be a perfect time to shear sheep and butcher Amnon. David had refused Absalom’s invitation, though Amnon attended at Absalom’s request. The plan was to wait until Amnon loosened up during happy hour, then, at their master’s word or signal, Absalom’s henchmen were to wipe out Amnon. Everything went off like clockwork (v29a). Naturally panic reigned until all the facts were in. Absalom fled, but Amnon was dead – and that is all that mattered.
Our danger is that we may think that Absalom embodies some restricted member of society who can plot and pull off sinister and/or highly visible crimes. But it is not so. Absalom is not the rare exception but the universal rule. Absalom is everyone! Remember the Apostle Paul’s lurid description of us before Christ? – At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Titus 3:3.
There is no hope of escape except through the kindness and love of God our Saviour – Titus 3:4. Apart from that, we share Absalom’s nature whether or not we duplicate his deed. No one is righteous, not even one.
We see in this chapter, the outworking of what was made clear to David following his adultery: The sword will never depart from your house – 2 Samuel 12:10. This is what has begun to happen in ch 13. Many have pointed out the appropriateness of the disaster: Amnon’s sexual escapade with Tamar corresponding to David’s with Bathsheba, and Absalom’s contrived murder of Amnon paralleling David’s of Uriah. God is fulfilling his word of judgement against the house of David. Humanly speaking, everything is a mess: but God is fulfilling his word! Sometimes, only that assurance, keeps his people sane. That – and keeping our eyes on our Saviour and our hope towards eternity!
Reference: Commentary on 2 Samuel by Dale Ralph Davis.
(Some parts of these notes use Davis’ text word for word or are a summary of his text.)