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13 Prince Absalom, David’s son, had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Prince Amnon (her half brother) fell desperately in love with her. Amnon became so tormented by his love for her that he became ill. He had no way of talking to her, for the girls and young men were kept strictly apart.[a] But Amnon had a very crafty friend—his cousin Jonadab (the son of David’s brother Shimeah).

One day Jonadab said to Amnon, “What’s the trouble? Why should the son of a king look so haggard morning after morning?”

So Amnon told him, “I am in love with Tamar, my half sister.”

“Well,” Jonadab said, “I’ll tell you what to do. Go back to bed and pretend you are sick; when your father comes to see you, ask him to let Tamar come and prepare some food for you. Tell him you’ll feel better if she feeds you.”

So Amnon did. And when the king came to see him, Amnon asked him for this favor—that his sister Tamar be permitted to come and cook a little something for him to eat. David agreed and sent word to Tamar to go to Amnon’s quarters and prepare some food for him. So she did and went into his bedroom so that he could watch her mix some dough; then she baked some special bread for him. But when she set the serving tray before him, he refused to eat!

“Everyone get out of here,” he told his servants; so they all left the apartment.

10 Then he said to Tamar, “Now bring me the food again here in my bedroom and feed it to me.” So Tamar took it to him. 11 But as she was standing there before him, he grabbed her and demanded, “Come to bed with me, my darling.”

12 “Oh, Amnon,” she cried. “Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! You know what a serious crime it is in Israel.[b] 13 Where could I go in my shame? And you would be called one of the greatest fools in Israel. Please, just speak to the king about it, for he will let you marry me.”

14 But he wouldn’t listen to her; and since he was stronger than she, he forced her. 15 Then suddenly his love turned to hate, and now he hated her more than he had loved her.

“Get out of here!” he snarled at her.

16 “No, no!” she cried. “To reject me now is a greater crime than the other you did to me.”

But he wouldn’t listen to her. 17-18 He shouted for his valet and demanded, “Throw this woman out and lock the door behind her.”

So he put her out. She was wearing a long robe with sleeves, as was the custom in those days for virgin daughters of the king. 19 Now she tore the robe and put ashes on her head and with her head in her hands went away crying.

20 Her brother Absalom asked her, “Is it true that Amnon raped you? Don’t be so upset, since it’s all in the family anyway. It’s not anything to worry about!”

So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s quarters.

21-24 When King David heard what had happened, he was very angry, but Absalom said nothing one way or the other about this to Amnon. However, he hated him with a deep hatred because of what he had done to his sister. Then, two years later, when Absalom’s sheep were being sheared at Baal-hazor in Ephraim, Absalom invited his father and all his brothers to come to a feast to celebrate the occasion.

25 The king replied, “No, my boy; if we all came, we would be too much of a burden on you.”

Absalom pressed him, but he wouldn’t come, though he sent his thanks.

26 “Well, then,” Absalom said, “if you can’t come, how about sending my brother Amnon instead?”

“Why Amnon?” the king asked.

27 Absalom kept on urging the matter until finally the king agreed and let all of his sons attend, including Amnon.

28 Absalom told his men, “Wait until Amnon gets drunk, then, at my signal, kill him! Don’t be afraid. I’m the one who gives the orders around here, and this is a command. Take courage and do it!”

29-30 So they murdered Amnon. Then the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled. As they were on the way back to Jerusalem, the report reached David: “Absalom has killed all of your sons, and not one is left alive!”

31 The king jumped up, ripped off his robe, and fell prostrate to the ground. His aides also tore their clothes in horror and sorrow.

32-33 But just then Jonadab (the son of David’s brother Shimeah) arrived and said, “No, not all have been killed! It was only Amnon! Absalom has been plotting this ever since Amnon raped Tamar. No, no! Your sons aren’t all dead! It was only Amnon.”

34 Meanwhile Absalom escaped. Now the watchman on the Jerusalem wall saw a great crowd coming toward the city along the road at the side of the hill.

35 “See!” Jonadab told the king. “There they are now! Your sons are coming, just as I said.”

36 They soon arrived, weeping and sobbing, and the king and his officials wept with them. 37-39 Absalom fled to King Talmai of Geshur[c] (the son of Ammihud) and stayed there three years. Meanwhile David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed day after day for fellowship with his son Absalom.


  1. 2 Samuel 13:2 for the girls and young men were kept strictly apart, literally, “for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her.”
  2. 2 Samuel 13:12 You know what a serious crime it is in Israel, literally, “No such thing ought to be done in Israel; do not this folly.”
  3. 2 Samuel 13:37 King Talmai of Geshur. He was Absalom’s grandfather—his mother’s father.

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