2 Samuel 13:1 In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
Amnon was the firstborn son of David, and the crown prince of Israel. He allowed himself to fall in love with his half-sister Tamar, to whom marriage was forbidden. Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere (Leviticus 18:9), wrote Moses. By setting his affection on what God had forbidden, Amnon became frustrated. There were other young women to choose from, but Amnon wanted what God had refused.
2 Samuel 13:2 Amnon 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.
Amnon’s love for Tamar could be better described as lust. He was not as noble as Job who said, I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman (Job 31:1). Instead, Amnon fantasized about what it would be like to have her. Jesus’ words apply to Amnon perfectly: anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).
2 Samuel 13:3 Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab . . . . [He] was a very shrewd man.
As advisor to the crown prince, Jonadab wanted to remain in Amnon’s favor by helping him get what he wanted. Jonadab advised Amnon to fake illness, and arrange for Tamar to come and take care of him.
When she arrived, he grabbed her and said, Come to bed with me, my sister. No, 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 (2 Samuel 13:11-13), she said.
Tamar was in danger of becoming a victim of rape and incest, which would permanently scar her. For siblings to be married was forbidden, but it was not without precedent. Abraham, the father of Israel, was married to his half sister, Sarah (Genesis 20:12). If Amnon spoke to their Father, King David, perhaps he would allow it.
2 Samuel 13:14 But [Amnon] refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
Amnon did not expect to grow up and become a rapist. Raised in a godly home, he knew this was a terrible sin. But instead of resisting his sinful nature, he repeatedly indulged it, until it got the best of him. What had he become?
This is why Jesus reserved some of his strongest language for sexual sin. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matthew 5:29-30). It would have better for Amnon to pluck out his eye and cut off his hand than to do what he had done.
2 Samuel 13:15 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!
The Bible does not explain the reversal of Amnon’s emotions, but two explanations are possible. First, whenever we hurt someone deeply, we may be tempted to hate them because of the guilt we feel. The more we are able to hate them, the less guilty we may feel.
Second, instead of accepting his guilt, Amnon may have put the blame on Tamar, convincing himself that she seduced him. This may be more likely, since we are naturally quick to blame others, and slow to blame ourselves.
2 Samuel 13:16-17 No! she said to him. Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me. But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.
Tamar went away weeping. She tore the beautiful robe she was wearing, and put ashes on her head as a sign of her grief. She would never be the same. She never fully recovered.
Sexual crimes are especially bad because the harm can last a lifetime. Emotional damage can leave the victim less responsive sexually, and diminish marital happiness. Or feeling compromised, the victim may become promiscuous, and spiral downward morally. This is why the penalty for sexual crimes could even include death (Leviticus 20:10).
Reflection and Review
What kind of friend was Jonadab?
Why did Jesus condemn sexual sin?
Why do you think Amnon reversed his feelings toward Tamar?