Revenge Has No Expiration – 2 Samuel 13

As punishment for his sins of rape and murder, David had already lost a son but soon, the crimes he was guilty of would befall his children. Amnon was David’s eldest son, who was born to him through Ahinoam. He would have been next in line to succeed after his father as the king of Israel but the only thing he succeeded in was in raping another woman. Absalom and Tamar were children of David (born through Maakah) but Amnon did not care about the optics and started lusting after his half-sister Tamar. Amnon had an advisor named Jonadab (son of David’s elder brother), who was a very shrewd man. He concocted a plan that would bring Tamar to Amnon’s bedroom on the pretext of him being ill.

An Unlawful Union

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.”

2 Samuel 13:6-7 (NIV)

When Tamar brought Amnon good in his room, he grabbed her and forced her to sleep with him. She was his half-sister and the Jewish laws forbade such unions (Leviticus 18:11). It would have been impossible for him to marry her let alone mention the idea to his father. For Amnon, Tamar was out of reach for him which developed in him an obsession for her. As the firstborn son of the king of Israel, he was next in line to the throne and would have been used to getting his way in the world. When he could not get this one thing, his obsession turned into violence.

Amnon confided his inner desire to his adviser Jonadab who can be compared to the shrewd servant who deceived Eve. He used Amnon’s own obsession against him and helped him forge a plan to not only rape an innocent girl but also wronged his father. When we have the urge to sin, we cannot be crystal clear in our plans as Amnon blindly follows the words of the evil one. Perhaps, the similar actions of his father, when he raped Bathsheba and the subsequent happy ending (or at least perceived happy ending) gave license to his sons to act out and do what they pleased.

The Guilt and Shame

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!”
“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.”

2 Samuel 13:15-17 (NIV)

From his words, it is clear that Amnon did not love his half-sister but was only filled with momentary lust. After defiling her, he accomplished the impossible task and his next concern was the guilt of his actions and the fear of being exposed. He did not even call Tamar by her name as he threw her out of his house and left her on her own to carry her shame.

People treat God in a similar way as after they have derived what they need, they start hating Him and drive Him away from their lives. When we don’t get what we desire from God, we turn our backs on Him and don’t even want to say His name out loud. People love to come to church and even take part in fellowships but one day suddenly they start hating the very mention of God. Like Amnon, these people do not love God but they only desire the concept of God in their lives.

Our God is a loving God, who reaches out to everyone when they do wrong. The ones who actually love Him, take heed of His rebuke and turn their ways. The lip worshippers on the other hand feel immense guilt when being rebuked and satan drives a wedge between them and God. Tamar could have exposed Amnon’s guilt and he hated her for it. God knows the inner desires of our sinful minds and we hate him for the same reason.

When David heard about all of this, he was furious but it seems he did not punish Amnon for his outrageous act of raping his sister. Perhaps the guilt of his own actions haunted him as he tried to restore peace in the family. Or maybe it was the preferential treatment that the king gave his firstborn that prevented him from banishing Amnon.

Murder at Baal Hazor

Two whole years had passed when Absalom, came up with a ruse to avenge his sister’s honour. He invited the king and his sons to Baal Hazor for blessing the yield that his sheepshearers had brought for him. This was a ploy by Absalom to get Amnon out of the king’s protection and strike him down when he is the most vulnerable. When the king refused to go to Baal Hazor, Absalom pleaded with his father to at least let Amnon come with him. In the end, all of the king’s sons went with Absalom but David stayed back.

Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave. ” So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.

2 Samuel 13:28-29 (NIV)

The news of Amnon’s death spread like wildfire but by the time it reached Jerusalem, there were a few fabrications attached to the truth. Absalom had killed his elder brother Amnon but the news that came to David’s ears was that he had stuck down all the royal princes. It was Jonadab who assured the king not to worry as Absalom would have killed only Amnon.

Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”
As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.

2 Samuel 13:35-36 (NIV)

The silent villain of the story is Jonadab, the advisor to Amnon and the one who ignited the spark that led to Tamar’s rape, and after the death of Amnon was fanning the flames of the embers of the fire he had started. Jonadab was David’s nephew, son of his elder brother Shammah (1Samuel16:9), so his position as the advisor could have been an appointed one wherein David wanted to keep the royal positions for his family members or his association with Amnon since their childhood would have forged their bond. Jonadab would have stories of how the great prophet Samuel visited their house a long time back.

At that time, Samuel looked over Jonadab’s father and anointed David as the king of Israel. Perhaps he thought that the throne belonged to his father and could have been plotting to usurp David by creating chaos within his household. He does not seem distraught like the others at the news of Amnon’s murder given their close association. He was calm like he was expecting this to happen and warned no one about Absalom’s plan. Even at this moment, he seems to be taking advantage of the death of Amnon to curry favour for himself in the eyes of the king.

A similar instance comes to mind when satan decided Eve into fulfilling the desires of the heart. She wanted the fruit of Knowledge and satan encouraged her to betray the trust God had placed in mankind (Adam). Similarly, Jonadab used Tamar to encourage Amnon to betray his father’s trust in his children and helped him trap his sister. Eventually, Amnon lost his life at the hands of a vengeful Absalom but Jonadab is standing right next to the king narrating the shameful acts of his children. This scene is repeated in heaven when satan deceives us and we fall into the trap that he lays out for us. And when we go away from the path of God and betray his trust, he enters the courts of Heaven and narrates all our wrongdoings to our Father.

The Fallout

Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.

2 Samuel 13:37 (NIV)

Absalom knew that his life was in danger in Jerusalem so he fled to Geshur where his maternal relatives ruled the land. This was the one place where David and his men would not be able to find him as he was assured protection from his grandfather. After mourning his son’s death, David longed to go to Absalom but his self-imposed exile had made it impossible for David to contact his son.

Throughout this ordeal, we see David having a strange and formal relationship with his children, granting the absurd wishes of his two sons. The first one ended in the rape of his daughter which did not seem to bother him that much and the second one ended in him losing two of his children. His parenting style almost cost him his throne as Absalom had a much bigger plot than just killing his elder brother. Not only the trouble within his household, but the consequences of his fallout with Absalom would also lead to the Benajmites attempting to secede from Israel as well.

We must be careful not to let satan in our lives when we are in our most vulnerable state. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted but we want to run the other way when we are faced with hardships and setbacks in this world. We fall prey to the evil one who capitalises on our weakened relationship with God to bring chaos into our lives. The more we run away from God and try to handle things on our own, the more we keep sinking into the quicksand that we have trapped ourselves in. Let us learn from David and his sons who lost their sense of right and wrong when they went away from God. Let us always tune our hearts to listen to the voice of God, be it rebuke or commendation and not let satan take advantage of our festered anger towards our brothers.

Discussion Questions

  • 13:14 – Why go to such extremes, could he not have found another way?
  • 13:16 – Did Amnon actually love Tamar?
  • 13:21 – If David was furious then why did he not punish his son?
  • 13:23 – Why would David allow his sons to go to such a place?
  • 13:35 – What is Jonadab’s role in all this?
  • 13:37 – Why does Absalom find shelter in Geshur?
  • Summary – David granted weird wishes to his two sons which almost ends up costing him his throne. Why is David so foolish and unable to see through the lies of his sons?

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