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Bible Book List
Women of the Bible - Monday, June 2, 2014

Tamar, Daughter of King David

Her name means: "Date Tree" or "Palm Tree"

Her character: Tamar shared her father's, David's, good looks. Young and innocent, she was naive to the danger that threatened from her own family.
Her sorrow: That her half brother saw her only as an object for his lust, destroying her future as a result, and that her father, the king, did nothing to protect her.
Key Scriptures: 2 Samuel 13:1-22

Her Story

David's daughter Tamar was a knockout. No doubt she was destined for a marriage that would strengthen the king's political alliances. Though not under lock and key, she probably lived a rather protected life. But all the precautions in the world couldn't save her from the danger that threatened from David's inner circle.

Amnon was David's heir. As the king's eldest son, he was used to getting his way. But lately he'd grown despondent. Something was bothering him, chasing away his sleep, gnawing at his heart.

One day, Jonadab, Amnon's cousin, asked him: "Why do you, the king's son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won't you tell me?"

Amnon confided in his friend, saying, "I'm in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister."

"Go to bed and pretend to be ill," Jonadab shrewdly advised. "When your father comes to see you, say to him, 'I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.' "

So David, concerned for his son, unwittingly sent his daughter into a trap that would ruin her life.

After Tamar had prepared a meal for Amnon, he asked her to enter his bedroom and feed him. But as soon as Tamar did, he grabbed her, begging, "Come to bed with me, my sister."

"Don't, 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? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you." But despite her pleas, Amnon forced himself on her.

As soon as the storm of his passion died down, Amnon's infatuation turned to hatred. He threw Tamar out of his house, bolting the door against her, as though she, not he, were the guilty one. Desolate, the young girl tore her robes, throwing ashes on her head and weeping loudly as she wandered the streets. When her brother Absalom found her, he hushed her, saying, "Be quiet now, my sister, he is your brother. Don't take this thing to heart." But Absalom himself took it to heart, hating his half brother Amnon for what he had done.

Though David was furious when he heard the news, he did nothing to punish Amnon. Did he favor his son over his daughter, thinking her hurt a small matter? Or had his moral authority been so compromised by his lust for Bathsheba that he simply could not bring himself to confront his eldest son? Whatever the case, Absalom did not share his father's hesitation. Instead, he bided his time, waiting for an opportunity for vengeance. Two years later he murdered Amnon.

First rape, then murder. David's household was devastated not by barbarians outside the gate but by those inside his own family. After Amnon's death, David must have been haunted by Nathan's earlier prophecy after David's own adultery with Bathsheba: "Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house…. Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you" (2 Samuel 12:10-11). The father's lust was mirrored by the son's; the father's violence, by one son's murder of the other.

Tamar, unprotected by her father, betrayed by her own brother, lived in Absalom's house, a desolate woman, without the possibility of marriage or children because she was no longer a virgin. Thus a chain of sin wove its way through David's family, enslaving the innocent along with the guilty.

Her Promise

The horrifying facts of Tamar's experience—not only the rape itself but the effect it had on her future and her emotional well-being—are not too far from the experiences of many women today. Statistics reveal a staggering number of women who have been violated by family members when they were very young. The effects of those experiences can haunt a woman's existence, influencing her relationships with her husband, with male and female friends, and with her children. Help is available to those who seek it, but the ultimate hope and help can only be found in the love and acceptance God so willingly offers. His forgiving spirit can help recovery begin. His comforting spirit can bring a soothing balm to the hurt of the past. His constant presence can bring healing for the loneliness and detachment many feel.

This devotional is drawn from Women of the Bible: A One-Year Devotional Study of Women in Scripture by Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda. Used with permission.

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