Nathan warned David that evil would rise up in his household for his sin with Bathsheba. We see the first of it as one of David’s sons, Ammon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar.
Ammon, as far as I’m concerned, is a man with an evil heart.
Sorry, I had to put that out there. Ammon is David’s oldest son. He is born to him by his second wife Ahinoam. She was the first wife he took while on the run from Saul. Michal is his first wife though he didn’t have her with him but a short time before running from Saul then he got her back before being made king of Israel.
I wonder how old Ammon was when David took Bathsheba. Did he get some of his ideas from his father’s actions? He apparently had his own house at the time this took place. Our writer does not mention any sons born to David while he was on the run. Even when Ziklag is sacked in David’s absence we only hear tell of his wives being taken. There are no children listed for him in this story. So this would put Ammon’s birth in the seven and a half years David ruled Judah alone. We aren’t told how long after David became king of Israel that he sinned with Bathsheba. He ruled Israel for 33 years.
Regardless of what Ammon had seen in David’s behavior, he KNEW his desire for his half-sister was wrong. The company he kept ‘helped him’ see a possible way to have what he wanted anyway. Be careful the company you keep!
Why didn’t David see anything wrong with Ammon’s request? Was ministering to your ‘sick’ brother by cooking in his presence a normal thing? Ammon’s request didn’t go directly to Tamar but through David. Was she suspicious? She probably felt bolstered by the fact that others were in the home with her and she couldn’t refuse a command of the king.
I feel compelled to tell the story. I have been fighting it because it is such a cruel story but Tamar deserves to be heard. Let’s see where the Spirit takes us.
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Tamar is a beautiful woman, inside and out. She loves to help wherever and whoever she can. As the daughter of the king she has opportunities that others don’t. She feels it is her duty and pleasure to give to those less fortunate than herself.
She is also an exceptional beauty. Women would give their last coin for skin as smooth and lustrous as Tamar’s. Her hair is full and thick, flowing past her waist in cascading waves. Her eyes are almond shaped and sit atop a straight nose with full lips completing her perfectly proportioned face. She has curves in all the right places and walks with grace.
One of the most stunning things about Tamar is her unpretentious attitude. Unlike Bathsheba who knows her beauty and loves to turn heads, Tamar wears her beauty with simplicity. It is simply part of her, just as her arms or legs are. She neither flaunts it nor hides it.
Ammon is the eldest of David’s sons and feels entitled. As the eldest he holds himself above his brothers and sisters, as well he should. He should set an example for them through his conduct. Right now though he doesn’t feel like a ‘shining example’. He feels frustrated and helpless.
Tamar, the sister of his brother Absalom, has blossomed before his eyes. This once little girl has become a woman and is the most desirable one he has ever seen. Ammon longs to reach out and hold her. To take her as his own; but he knows this is wrong. And still he cannot vanquish thoughts of her from his mind. They haunt him in the night. They follow him as he moves through the city. They nearly overwhelm him whenever she enters the room.
Ammon fights hard against these desires of his. He refuses to allow Tamar to see how her presence affects him. But another has noticed. His cousin, Jonadab sees something is wrong. Out of concern Jonadab voices his worries.
“O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” (verse 4a).
Ammon is frustrated with himself and the situation. He trusts Jonadab to keep his counsel. “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister” (verse 4b) he moans.
“And what is wrong with that? Aren’t you supposed to love your brothers and sisters?” Jonadab had understood Ammon’s dilemma but he wanted to draw it out from him.
“I love her as a man loves a woman! I want her with all my being.”
“Then have her.”
“But she is a virgin and the king’s daughter!”
“I can’t just take her in the hallways. As a virgin someone is always with her.”
“Here is what you do. ‘Lie down on your bed and pretend to be ill. And when your father comes to see you, say to him, “Let my sister Tamar come and give me bread to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, that I may see it and eat if from her hand”’ (verse 5). Make sure you are alone at some point and then you will know what to do from there.” Jonadab leers at him as he makes this last statement.
Ammon’s face lights up with an evil grin. “I think I feel a deadly disease setting in my friend.”
Ammon had already been fretting about Tamar and making himself ill he only needed to increase the severity of his distress, or at least convince others of it. The hard part was going to be getting his father to buy into his ‘dire’ distress without insisting the physicians tend to him instead of Tamar.
For the next two days Ammon stayed in bed moaning and groaning. He also refused the food his servants brought saying he was too sick to eat. On the third day word was sent to the king that Ammon had fallen ill.
David loved his children but he wasn’t the most attentive father. He saw to it that their needs were met and that they were cared for. The news of his eldest son’s illness though required a personal visit. He had to see if there was anything he could do for his son.
David enters the home of Ammon and is shown by the servants into Ammon’s bed chamber. Ammon’s face is pale in color and his eyes lack luster. “My son, tell me what ails you.”
“My whole body aches father. I am worn out. I can’t even eat!”
“I will call the physician to attend you.”
“Please don’t. I’m sure it will pass in time but I so miserable right now. Would that I had someone to tend me, like Tamar tends those in need.”
“Tamar is wonderful with those in need.”
“Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat them from her hand’’ (verse 6b). Surely this would revive me.”
David agrees to send Tamar. He goes to his home and has her summoned to him. When she arrive he tells her of her brothers need.
“’Go to your brother Ammon’s house and prepare food for him’ (verse 7b). He is feeling ill and desires your gentle touch to help revive him.”
Tamar is happy to help. She bows to her father the king then quickly makes her way to her brother Ammon’s house. She is taken to Ammon’s beside. “My brother, you sent for me? How may I serve you?”
“I am so weak. I haven’t been able to eat in days. And I remember the cakes you make. They are so light. I’m sure if you made me some I would be able to eat them and I would recover my strength.”
“I will make you some right away.”
As Tamar turns to leave Ammon speaks in a strained voice. “Can you make them where I can see? Just watching you work and knowing that you are doing this for me would raise my spirits.”
Tamar blushes at her brother’s complement. “I suppose I could do that.” She goes to the kitchen and gathers the items she will need to create the cakes her brother desires and then returns to his room to begin the process on the table that sits in his room. She sifts and stirs each ingredient into her mix. Then she takes it from the bowl and begins to kneed it on a board she has brought. She then shapes it and put it into a pan. “I have to cook it in the oven” she said with a smile. Then she rose with her pan to take it away to bake.
As soon as the cakes were done Tamar brought them back to the table and slid them from the pan. “Fresh from the oven” she says. Ammon doesn’t stir from his place in the bed. “They will be cold if you don’t eat them soon.”
Ammon looks around the room. In a weak voice he says, “’Send out everyone from me’ (verse 9b). I don’t want them to see how weak I am.”
Tamar nods and shoos everyone out of the room. Once the door is closed she waits again for Ammon to rise.
Looking as pathetic as possible Ammon makes another request. “Bring the food into the chamber, that I may eat from your hand” (verse 10b).
Tamar begins to have a stirring of apprehension but she pushes it down. She reassures herself, “Surely there is no danger from my own brother.” She picks up the still warm cakes and brings them to Ammon upon his bed. As she stretches her arm out for him to take them from her hand he reaches up as if to take them but then quickly wraps his hand around her wrist. Tamar freezes. Her heart pounds within her chest and her eyes lock on the hand holding her fast.
Ammon speaks in a sickeningly sweet voice. “Come, lie with me, my sister” (verse 11b).
Tamar choked with fear replies, “No, my brother do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel;…”
Ammon begins to rise without once breaking his hold on her wrist. His other arm snakes its way out and captures her other upper arm.
“…do not do this outrageous thing.” She breaks her eyes from the hand on her wrist and looks into his face. Pleading with all her strength she voices her fears. “If you do this to me, ‘where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the outrageous fools in Israel’ (verses 12-13a).”
Ammon still has not released her. She tries one more plea. “If you so desire to be one with me, ‘please speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.’ We can be properly married and I would be yours without shame.”
Tamar’s pleas fall on deaf ears. Ammon doesn’t want a wife and he doesn’t want to wait. He wants his desires met NOW and cares nothing of the consequences. Ammon is not weak as he has been pretending. His desire makes him even stronger. He throws Tamar to the bed and uses her own robes to muffle her cries as he ravishers her and tears her virginity from her. When he is satiated he rises from the bed and stands above her.
Tamar lies in a heap upon Ammon’s bed sobbing. Her robe still raised to expose her, her hair a tangled mass. Ammon looks down on her in disgust. “How could I ever have loved such a pathetic being” he thinks. Her nakedness no longer thrills him but turns his heart cold as deepest winter. “Get up! Go!” (verse 15b) he shouts at her.
Tamar is even more undone. She quickly rose from her place on the bed and fell instead at Ammon’s feet. “No, my brother” she pleads. “For this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me” (verse 16a). After being taken he could have made her his wife but by sending her away she is ruined for any man.
Ammon knows this fact but he doesn’t care. He has nothing but contempt for her now. Ammon reached up and rang the bell for his servant. As soon as the servant enters Ammon issues his command. “Put his woman out of my presence and bolt the door after her” (verse 17b).
The servant steps towards Tamar as if to bodily remove her. Tamar backs away from him and makes her way to the door of Ammon’s room and finally out of his house. The servant followed right behind and as soon as she crossed the threshold he bolted the door behind her.
Tamar had been violated, ruined and now humiliated. She looks at her hands and sees the sleeves of her robe; her robe signifying her place as a virgin daughter of the king. A wail of agony rises up from the depths of her soul and breaks from her lips. She stoops and grabs two handfuls of dirt from the ground near her feet and grinds them onto the top of her head. She then grasps the sleeves of her robe and rips them as she continues to cry out in soul wrenching agony. The door stays tightly shut behind her. She gets back up and, while covering her head with her hands and crying, makes her way to her brother Absalom’s house.
Absalom heard her approach. He had not often heard his sister cry so he didn’t recognize the wailing woman until he saw her. The state of her spoke all that needed to be said. He had been about when the king had commanded her to go and serve her brother Ammon. These two pieces quickly fall into place in his mind and he asks only for confirmation. “Has Ammon your brother been with your?” (verse 20a).
Tamar, too ashamed to speak, gives her brother a small nod. She stands before him with her face fixed on the ground.
Absalom desires to comfort her but first he must quiet her. “Now hold your peace, my sister. He is your brother; do not take this to heart” (verse 20b). He then brings Tamar into his home. He calls for his servants to draw her a bath and to bring her fresh clothes.
Tamar moves no longer with grace and beauty. Instead she shuffles behind the servants refusing to raise her eyes from the ground. She refuses to enter her bath until the last of the servants have left the room. Then she sinks into the water and sobs. She feels filthy all the way through. She begins to scrub herself to try and rid herself of the stench of Ammon but nothing removes the memory of it from her nostrils.
She finally stops scrubbing when the water begins to turn red. She has scrubbed herself to bleeding. She rises from the tub and steps into a robe that had been laid out for her. It is a simple robe unlike the one she used to wear. She sees her torn robe lying on the floor. It is as ruined as she feels. She picks it up by its edges and places it into the fire that warms the room.
Tamar vows that she will never again leave the four walls that now surround her. She sees nothing left for herself. She will do as her brother Absalom instructed. She will remain silent but there is NO WAY this act cannot ‘be taken to heart.’ Her heart and soul are forever broken.
Whispers circulate in Jerusalem for the next two days before they reach the ear of the king. David is livid when he hears of how Ammon shamed his sister. He wonders why Tamar didn’t come to him or even Absalom. He knows that she sought shelter from her brother.
David also wonders why Tamar didn’t cry out at the time. Wouldn’t the servants of Ammon have protected her if she cried out? And why did Ammon not take her as his wife? Had she somehow failed to please him? David cannot reveal either of these sins without risking the lives of his two children. His anger has no place to be spent except upon his own head for his sin with Bathsheba was the start of God’s judgement on his house.
Absalom kept his sister well cared for in his home. His brother, Ammon, he despised and refused to even speak to again, no matter the cause. He treated Ammon as dead to him for the pain he inflicted on his sister. Any time Absalom’s heart might soften towards Ammon, all he had to do was look at his sister’s face. Never again did she smile or minister to those in pain. Her own pain held her prisoner and shone clearly from her eyes.
(to be continued)
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My heart breaks for Tamar. She did nothing to deserve the treatment she received, including having the incident swept under the rug. No one called for a public accounting from Ammon. David did NOTHING to help her afterwards. Next time we will see what Absalom did ‘in her honor’ but it didn’t relieve her pain.
I’m just going to say it; what kind of parent ignores this kind of behavior in his children?! Why did David do nothing? Was he truly concerned that his children could both be killed? As a virgin, a girl who is raped isn’t required to cry out to be protected. One who is betrothed is, if she is in the city. Otherwise she is deemed complicit in her own rape and sentenced to death. But the rape of a virgin required that the man marry her and keep her for life. Ammon should have been made to marry Tamar at the very least. But I wouldn’t wish this beastly man on my worst enemy! I cannot imagine the contempt he would have heaped upon Tamar on a daily basis if he was forced to marry her. He deserved punishment.
Father God, thank You for protecting me from such a crime as rape. I haven’t been completely shielded from sexual assault but the lines of rape have never been crossed. So many women are violated in this world today. I pray Your hand of healing on each of them and Your hand of protection in every place where You are welcomed. I know we live in a fallen world and sin is a part of it. One day there will be no more of these crimes. Keep watch over my grandchildren as they grow up in this world. Give them great respect for others rights in this area. Protect those I love from attacks by strangers or even family members with evil intent.
I pray I was a better parent than David appears to be. I tried to always listen and mete out punishment or reward justly. I have NO IDEA how I would have dealt with this issue in my home. I pray I never have to find out!
Father God, more than anything else right now, keep those with evil intent away from my children and grandchildren. Ammon knew the act he desired was wrong and he kept from acting on it until he hung out with the wrong crowd. The evil was there all along, as sin is prone to do. But when influenced by another, evil became more acceptable until nothing stood in the way. Clear away the root of evil and put a hedge around our hearts so it has no way back in.