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13 Time passed, and David’s children grew older. David’s third son, Absalom, had a sister, Tamar, who was so beautiful that David’s oldest son and heir, Amnon, fell in love with her. Amnon was actually sick with desire for his half sister Tamar. Because she was a royal virgin, there was no chance for him to be with her.

But Amnon had a friend, his cousin Jonadab (son of David’s brother Shimeah), who was very shrewd.

Jonadab: Son of the great king, why do you look so tired and run-down every day? Won’t you tell me?

Amnon: It’s Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister. I’m in love with her.

Jonadab: Listen, lie down in your bed, and pretend that you are really sick. When your father comes to check on you, ask him, “Could my sister Tamar come and make me something to eat here, where I can see it, and could she feed it to me?”

So Amnon did as Jonadab had suggested. He lay down and faked an illness, and the king came to check on him, just as Jonadab said he would.

Amnon: Could my sister Tamar come take care of me? Could she make me some cakes here, where I can watch her, and then feed them to me?

David sent word home to Tamar.

David’s Message: Come to your brother Amnon’s house, and fix him something he can eat.

Tamar came to Amnon’s house, where he waited in bed. She made dough, kneaded it, formed cakes, and baked them, all so that he could watch her. Then she set the pan in front of him and served the food, but he would not eat.

Amnon: Send everybody away.

All the servants departed and left the two of them alone.

Amnon (to Tamar): 10-11 Bring the food over to my bed, so you can feed me.

When Tamar brought to him the food she had made as he lay in bed, he grabbed her.

Amnon: Oh, my sister! Come into my bed; I want to be with you.

Tamar (struggling against him): 12 No, my brother! Please don’t violate me. Don’t do anything so shameful. You know people don’t do such things here in Israel.

13 Think about me! Do you realize what this would do to me, my prospects, my reputation? Where could I go to hide my shame?

And think about yourself! People would say you were one of the most foolish men in Israel!

Please, speak to the king if you want me so badly. He loves you and won’t keep me from you.

14 But Amnon would not listen to her; and since he was stronger, he raped her.

15 After he was done, he was filled with disgust and hated her; his hatred was stronger than the love that motivated him to rape her.

Amnon (to Tamar): Now get out of my sight!

Tamar (clinging to him): 16 No, my brother. The shame you do in sending me away is even worse than the shame you brought on by raping me.

But again he would not listen to her. 17 He called for his manservant.

Amnon: Throw this woman out of my sight, and lock the door when she’s gone. Make sure she can’t come back inside my house.

18 Because Tamar had been a royal virgin, she wore a distinctive robe with long sleeves. When Amnon’s servant threw her out into the street and barred her return, 19 Tamar heaped ashes on her head and tore her long, beautiful robe in mourning for what had happened to her. Then she walked back toward her home wailing, one hand to her head, showing everyone that tragedy and shame had fallen on her.

20 Tamar’s brother Absalom found her.

Absalom: Has your brother Amnon raped you? For now, my sister, say nothing. He is your brother. Don’t let it affect you so much.

Absalom had begun to make plans for revenge. So Tamar remained a broken woman living in her brother Absalom’s house.

21 When King David heard of what Amnon had done, he was filled with anger, but he did nothing to punish his firstborn son.

22 For his part, Absalom would not talk to Amnon, either nicely or angrily; Absalom hated Amnon for raping his sister Tamar, but he waited patiently.

Oh the shame and intrigue within David’s family. The lust and deception Amnon exhibits is not greatly different from that of his father. It, in turn, poisons Absalom and David’s relationship. The eventual revolt and death of David’s son Absalom are the final fruits of David’s sins in desiring another man’s wife and sending that man to his death. Nathan has promised there would be discord in the royal household, and that discord rocks David’s family, leading to death and division among his children.

23 So two whole years passed. It was the time of year when Absalom’s sheep were to be sheared, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons to feast at his estate at Baal-hazor, near Ephraim. 24 He went to his father, the king, to ask for permission to invite his brothers.

Absalom: I have gathered my men to shear the sheep. Will the king and his servants please join me, your servant, in celebrating?

David: 25 No, my son. If we all go, we would just be a burden to you.

Absalom pressured his father. The king still refused to come, although he did offer his blessing. Absalom turned to go, but he stopped with a final request.

Absalom: 26 Then send my brother Amnon to be with us.

David (curious): Why would you want him to go?

27 But Absalom pushed and pressed him until finally David was persuaded to give his permission for Amnon and all of his sons to go.

[Absalom threw a kingly feast.][a] 28 But before it began, he gave his servants unusual instructions.

Absalom: Watch Amnon to see when the wine makes him drunk; and when I tell you, “Strike Amnon,” kill him. Don’t be nervous—this is my command from my own lips. Have courage and show your bravery.

29 So Absalom’s servants followed his command and killed Amnon when he became drunk, and the other royal sons rose from the feast and fled on their mules. 30 While they were on the road, a false report reached David’s ears that all of his sons had been slain by Absalom, and no one had survived. 31 The king tore his clothes and fell to the ground in mourning. All his servants who heard this news also tore their garments.

32 Then David’s nephew Jonadab (son of David’s brother Shimeah) told the king the truth.

Jonadab: My lord, don’t worry that all your sons are dead. Only Amnon has been killed by Absalom, and his fate has been certain since the day he raped his sister Tamar, for Absalom has known that he would repay Amnon for his terrible deed. 33 So, my lord, don’t grieve as though your line was extinguished, for only your son Amnon is dead.

34 Absalom fled.

When the young watchman at the palace looked up, he saw a group of people coming down the road behind him around the mountain.[b]

Jonadab (to David): 35 You see, my king? Here are your sons, just as your servant said.

36 When he had finished speaking, the sons of the king arrived. They shouted, they wept, and the king and all his servants joined them in bitter tears.

37-38 Absalom ran for his life. He sought sanctuary with his maternal grandfather, the king of Geshur (Talmai, son of Ammihud), and he stayed there for three years. Every day the king mourned for his lost son.

39 King David longed to pursue his son Absalom once he comforted himself concerning the death of his son Amnon.


  1. 13:27 Hebrew manuscripts omit this portion.
  2. 13:34 Greek manuscripts read, “The watchman went to tell the king, ‘When I look toward Horonaim, I see men on the side of the hill.’”

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