The Rape of Tamar
1 Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. In the course of time David’s son Amnon fell madly in love with her.tn Heb “Amnon the son of David loved her.” The following verse indicates the extreme nature of his infatuation, so the translation uses “madly in love” here.sn Amnon was the half-brother of Tamar; Absalom was her full blood-brother.
2 But Amnon became frustrated because he was so lovesicktn Heb “and there was distress to Amnon so that he made himself sick.” over his sister Tamar. For she was a virgin, and to Amnon it seemed out of the question to do anything to her.
3 Now Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah. Jonadab was a very crafty man.
4 He asked Amnon,tn Heb “and he said to him.” “Why are you, the king’s son,tn An more idiomatic translation might be “Why are you of all people…?” so depressed every morning? Can’t you tell me?” So Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar the sister of my brother Absalom.”
5 Jonadab replied to him, “Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick.tn This verb is used in the Hitpael stem only in this chapter of the Hebrew Bible. With the exception of v. 2 it describes not a real sickness but one pretended in order to entrap Tamar. The Hitpael sometimes, as here, describes the subject making oneself appear to be of a certain character. On this use of the stem, see GKC 149-50 §54.e. When your father comes in to see you, say to him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come in so she can fix some food for me. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I can watch. Then I will eat from her hand.’”
6 So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. When the king came in to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come in so she can make a couple of cakes in my sight. Then I will eat from her hand.”
7 So David sent Tamar to the house saying, “Please go to the house of Amnon your brother and prepare some food for him.”
8 So Tamar went to the house of Amnon her brother, who was lying down. She took the dough, kneaded it, made some cakes while he watched,tn Heb “in his sight.” and baked them.tn Heb “the cakes.”
9 But when she took the pan and set it before him, he refused to eat. Instead Amnon said, “Get everyone out of here!”tn Heb “from upon me.” So everyone left.tc A few medieval Hebrew mss have “and they removed everyone” (Hiphil preterite with vav consecutive 3cp, rather than Qal preterite with vav consecutive 3cp).
10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the cakes into the bedroom; then I will eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes that she had prepared and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom.
11 As she brought them to him to eat, he grabbed her and said to her, “Come on! Get in bed with me,tn Heb “lie with me” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); NCV “come and have sexual relations with me.” my sister!”
12 But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t humiliate me! This just isn’t done in Israel! Don’t do this foolish thing!
13 How could I ever be rid of my humiliation? And you would be considered one of the foolstn Heb “and you will be like one of the fools.” in Israel! Justtn Heb “Now.” speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.”
14 But he refused to listen to her.tn Heb “to her voice.” He overpowered her and humiliated her by raping her.tn Heb “and he humiliated her and lay with her.”
15 Then Amnon greatly despised her.tn Heb “and Amnon hated her with very great hatred.” His disdain toward her surpassed the love he had previously felt toward her.tn Heb “for greater was the hatred with which he hated her than the love with which he loved her.” Amnon said to her, “Get up and leave!”
16 But she said to him, “No I won’t, for sending me away now would be worse than what you did to me earlier!”tn Heb “No, because this great evil is [worse] than the other which you did with me, by sending me away.” Perhaps the broken syntax reflects her hysteria and outrage. But he refused to listen to her.
17 He called his personal attendant and said to him, “Take this woman out of my sighttn Heb “send this [one] from upon me to the outside.” and lock the door behind her!”
18 (Now she was wearing a long robe,tn The Hebrew expression used here (כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים, kÿtonet passim) is found only here and in Gen 37:3, 23, 32. Hebrew פַּס (pas) can refer to the palm of the hand or the sole of the foot; here the idea is probably that of a long robe reaching to the feet and having sleeves reaching to the wrists. The notion of a “coat of many colors” (KJV, ASV “garment of divers colors”), a familiar translation for the phrase in Genesis, is based primarily on the translation adopted in the LXX χιτῶνα ποικίλον (citona poikilion) and does not have a great deal of support. for this is what the king’s virgin daughters used to wear.) So Amnon’stn Heb “his”; the referent (Amnon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. attendant removed her and bolted the doortn The Hebrew verb is a perfect with nonconsecutive vav, probably indicating an action (locking the door) that complements the preceding one (pushing her out the door). behind her.
19 Then Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went on her way, wailing as she went.
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Was Amnon your brother with you? Now be quiet, my sister. He is your brother. Don’t take it so seriously!”tn Heb “Don’t set your heart to this thing!” Tamar, devastated, lived in the house of her brother Absalom.
21 Now King David heard about all these things and was very angry.tc The LXX and part of the Old Latin tradition include the following addition to v. 21, also included in some English versions (e.g., NAB, NRSV, CEV): “But he did not grieve the spirit of Amnon his son, because he loved him, since he was his firstborn.” Note David’s attitude toward his son Adonijah in 1 Kgs 1:6.
22 But Absalom said nothing to Amnon, either bad or good, yet Absalom hated Amnon because he had humiliated his sister Tamar.
Absalom Has Amnon Put to Death
23 Two years later Absalom’s sheepshearers were in Baal Hazor,map For location see Map1-D2; Map2-D3; Map3-A2; Map4-C1. near Ephraim. Absalom invited all the king’s sons.
24 Then Absalom went to the king and said, “My shearers have begun their work.tn Heb “your servant has sheepshearers.” The phrase “your servant” also occurs at the end of the verse. Let the king and his servants go with me.”
25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son. We shouldn’t all go. We shouldn’t burden you in that way.” Though Absalomtn Heb “he”; the referent (Absalom) has been specified in the translation for clarity. pressedtc Here and in v. 27 the translation follows 4QSama ויצפר (vayyitspar, “and he pressed”) rather than the MT וַיִּפְרָץ (vayyiprats, “and he broke through”). This emended reading seems also to underlie the translations of the LXX (καὶ ἐβιάσατο, kai ebiasato), the Syriac Peshitta (we’alseh), and Vulgate (cogeret eum). him, the kingtn Heb “he”; the referent (the king) has been specified in the translation for clarity. was not willing to go. Instead, Davidtn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity. blessed him.
26 Then Absalom said, “If you will not go,tn Heb “and not.” then let my brother Amnon go with us.” The king replied to him, “Why should he go with you?”
27 But when Absalom pressed him, he sent Amnon and all the king’s sons along with him.
28 Absalom instructed his servants, “Look! When Amnon is drunktn Heb “when good is the heart of Amnon with wine.” and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ kill him then and there. Don’t fear! Is it not I who have given you these instructions? Be strong and courageous!”tn Heb “and become sons of valor.”
29 So Absalom’s servants did to Amnon exactly what Absalom had instructed. Then all the king’s sons got up; each one rode away on his mule and fled.
30 While they were still on their way, the following report reached David: “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons; not one of them is left!”
31 Then the king stood up and tore his garments and lay down on the ground. All his servants were standing there with torn garments as well.
32 Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “My lord should not say, ‘They have killed all the young men who are the king’s sons.’ For only Amnon is dead. This is what Absalom has talked abouttn Heb “it was placed on the mouth of Absalom.” from the day that Amnontn Heb “he”; the referent (Amnon) has been specified in the translation for clarity. humiliated his sister Tamar.
33 Now don’t let my lord the king be concerned about the report that has come saying, ‘All the king’s sons are dead.’ It is only Amnon who is dead.”
34 In the meantime Absalom fled. When the servant who was the watchman looked up, he saw many people coming from the westtn Heb “behind him.” on a road beside the hill.
35 Jonadab said to the king, “Look! The king’s sons have come! It’s just as I said!”
36 Just as he finished speaking, the king’s sons arrived, wailing and weeping.tn Heb “and they lifted their voice and wept.” The king and all his servants wept loudlytn Heb “with a great weeping.” as well.
37 But Absalom fled and went to King Talmai son of Ammihud of Geshur. And Davidtc The Hebrew text leaves the word “David” to be inferred. The Syriac Peshitta and Vulgate add the word “David.” Most of the Greek tradition includes the words “King David” here. grieved over his son every day.
38 After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he remained there for three years.
39 The king longedtc The translation follows 4QSama in reading רוּחַ הַמֶּלֶךְ (ruakh hammelekh, “the spirit of the king”) rather than the MT דָּוִד הַמֶּלֶךְ (david hammelekh, “David the king”). The understanding reflected in the translation above is that David, though alienated during this time from his son Absalom, still had an abiding love and concern for him. He longed for reconciliation with him. A rather different interpretation of the verse supposes that David’s interest in taking military action against Absalom grew slack with the passing of time, and this in turn enabled David’s advisers to encourage him toward reconciliation with Absalom. For the latter view, see P. K. McCarter, II Samuel (AB), 344, and cf. CEV. to go to Absalom, for he had since been consoled over the death of Amnon.tn Heb “was consoled over Amnon, because he was dead.”