Our second woman this week is Tamar1. Her father is King David; the same David who killed Goliath, ran from Saul and became King of Israel and the father of Solomon. Because David had many wives, he had many children who were half- brothers and sisters to each other. In each case, David was their father, but their mothers differed.
David’s son Amnon admired Tamar. They were related and lived in the same palace because David was the father of both. Now Amnon didn’t admire her in the ‘respect and admiration’ sense of the word but in the love-sick, lust focused sense. In fact, we are told from the beginning that his admiration of Tamar was a self-seeking, evil intended lust. “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.” He had a lustful intention to fulfill, but Tamar would do no moral wrong. One day Amnon’s cousin (2 Sam 13:3) asks him why he continually looks so haggard. He is a son of the king and yet looks literally heart sick. “Amnon said to him, ‘I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’” Jonadab immediately responds with a way to trap Tamar so that his other cousin, Amnon, will be able to rape her. (2 Sam 13:5-10) Amnon puts this plan into effect, and after deceiving Tamar into feeding him from his sickbed, Amnon grabs her and says, “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…But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.” (2 Sam 13:12-14)
Tamar is shamed. Tamar is now ‘damaged goods’ and no longer eligible to be married. To cast her out now meant the crime would continue. She could never marry or have children; she would never have a normal life. She begs her brother to marry her and redeem something from this horrible situation. But instead, she is immediately hated, thrown out and abandoned. “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 longer his beloved Tamar, she instantly becomes ‘this woman.’ Amnon has ‘this woman’ removed from his sight, the door bolted, and Tamar weeps and mourns aloud as she tears her royal garments and places ashes on her head. Placing her hand on her head as the sign of a bereaved woman, bruised and hurt she makes her way back to the haram quarters.
Poor, tragic Tamar. What a horrible story. But it doesn’t end there. Absalom, her full brother takes her out of the haram and into his own home, so she won’t have to walk the halls and see her rapist again. She has to leave her home, but Amnon gets to remain in his. Absalom names his beautiful daughter after her, and eventually avenges Tamar by killing Amnon, the perpetrator. But at this time when she is hurt and broken and her spirit is utterly destroyed, he says, “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.” It is almost unbelievable that she is told to remain silent, to think about what a scandal this would be on both Amnon and the rest of the royal family, and not to take her rape to heart! And so, it is no surprise that the Scriptures record “and Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” (2 Sam 13:20b)
A woman raped. Broken. Dreams shattered. Any future life of marriage and family removed from her. She is moved from her home and told to be silent. Her father (King David) acknowledges his anger but does nothing to rectify the wrong done. (2 Sam 13:21) There is no restitution. There is more care and concern that the story might get out than for what has happened to her. There is no happy ending.
Sometimes things happen to us in our lives and it appears that no one cares or even sees. Sometimes the wrong is made worse when we are expected to stay silent and ‘not take it to heart.’ But the story doesn’t end here, because God is the God who sees all. God is the God of the broken hearted, and the wounded and the afflicted. Tamar was wrongly silenced, but God placed her name in the Holy Bible for all to see and remember, and her story is not silenced but told well beyond her place in time.
There is nothing that can be done to us that separates us from the love of God. His love for us is pure and holy and good. Eternal love. Never forgetting us. Redemptive love. A Saviour to forgive all of us our sins, and a Father to embrace us in His love. And one day heaven will be very different than the hurt and heartache and unfairness of this life.
1 There are 2 women named Tamar in the Bible. This is not the one mentioned in the lineage of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 1.