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2 Samuel 13:20 Her brother Absalom said to her, Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart. And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman

Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, took his sister into his house and cared for her. Instead of bringing a scandal on the royal family, Absalom advised his sister to keep the matter quiet. His motives are not clear, but he may have been concerned for his sister’s reputation, and her ability to marry in the future. As a desolate woman, however, Tamar seems to have never married or had children. In that culture, there was hardly anything worse. 

2 Samuel 13:21 When King David heard all this, he was furious

But he did not actually do anything. It was not an easy case since, on the one hand, the law required marriage. If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her . . . . He must marry the young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long as he lives (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), wrote Moses. 

On the other hand, the law forbade marriage. If a man marries his sister . . . it is a disgrace. They are to be publicly removed from their people (Leviticus 20:17), wrote Moses again. Furthermore, since David also committed sexual sin, he had no moral authority. If he challenged Amnon for his behavior, Amnon could challenge David for his behavior. Even though David was furious, there was not much he could do. 

2 Samuel 13:22 Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar

Absalom waited two full years for his father to take action against Amnon. When nothing was done, Absalom took matters into his own hands. He invited his brothers to a celebration, and when Amnon had plenty of wine, he commanded his servants to kill him. Then Absalom fled the country. 

2 Samuel 13:36 The king . . . and all his attendants wept very bitterly

David may have recalled the words of the prophet, after he committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed. You struck down Uriah the Hittite . . . and took his wife to be your own. . . . Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house (2 Samuel 12:9-10). 

David was guilty of sexual sin and murder, now his sons were guilty of the same. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. . . . Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction (Galatians 6:7-8), wrote Paul. 

David sowed to please his flesh, and reaped the destruction of his children. If only he had controlled himself when he saw Bathsheba bathing! The effect of David’s sin spilled over on his family, and our sin will often hurt those who are nearest and dearest to us. 

But whenever our sin is great, God’s grace can be even greater (Romans 5:20). The consequences may last a lifetime, but because of Jesus Christ, we are holy in [God’s] sight, without blemish and free from accusation (Colossians 1:22), wrote Paul. And we will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:11), wrote Peter. The good news of God’s grace overcomes the bad news of our sin. Christ died for sinners so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16), wrote John.

2 Samuel 14:1 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom

After murdering his brother Amnon, for raping their sister Tamar, Absalom fled to the land of Gesher. This pained his Father David, who grieved for about three years (2 Samuel 13:38). This was observed by Joab, a high-ranking official, who was concerned for David’s happiness.

Communication between David and Absalom was so broken down that they needed someone else to bring them together. Joab became their mediator, and in this way, reminds us of Jesus Christ. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5), wrote Paul. 

As the perfect mediator, Jesus can speak to humans on behalf of God, because he is God in human flesh (John 1:1, 14). Likewise, he can speak to God on behalf of humans, because he is the only human who never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). The rift between God and humans was so profound that we could never come together without a mediator. But now we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1), wrote Paul.

2 Samuel 14:21 The king said to Joab . . . . Go, bring back the young man Absalom

Joab went to Geshur and brought back David’s son, but David refused to meet with Absalom for about two more years. Then Absalom said to Joab, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death (2 Samuel 14:32). 

Absalom was confident that he did nothing wrong by killing his brother for raping their sister. And if he did, he was willing to die for it. Joab reported this to David who then called for his son. Absalom came into his father’s presence and bowed down with his face to the ground. . . . And the king kissed Absalom (2 Samuel 14:33). 

This sounds like a happy ending to a story of estrangement, but it’s not. The kiss was a public sign that the crown prince was now in good standing with his father. But the relationship was never restored, and there is no happy ending. 

God made families for nurture and love, but they can become a living hell. That’s why it’s important to always get along with our family. It is better to do the hard work of reconciliation than live with anger the rest of our lives. We can never avoid our families completely (especially in our heads) so it is wise to be friends whenever possible.

Reflection and Review
Was Absalom wrong to avenge his sister?
How does the gospel comfort us when sin has ruined our lives?
Why is Christ a perfect mediator?