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Amnon and Tamar

13 David had a son named Absalom. Absalom had a very beautiful sister named Tamar. Another one of David’s sons, Amnon,[a] was in love with Tamar. She was a virgin. Amnon wanted her very much, but he did not think it was possible for him to have her. He thought about her so much that he made himself sick.[b]

Amnon had a friend named Jonadab son of Shimeah. (Shimeah was David’s brother.) Jonadab was a very clever man. He said to Amnon, “You are the king’s son. So why do you always look so sad? Tell me what the trouble is!”

Amnon told Jonadab, “I love Tamar. But she is the sister of my half-brother Absalom.”

Jonadab said to Amnon, “Go to bed. Pretend you are sick. Then your father will come to see you. Tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come in and give me food to eat. Let her make the food in front of me. Then I will see it and eat it from her hand.’”

So Amnon lay down in bed and pretended to be sick. King David came in to see Amnon. He said to King David, “Please let my sister Tamar come in. Let her make two cakes for me while I watch. Then I can eat from her hands.”

David sent messengers to Tamar’s house. They told her, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house and make some food for him.”

So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon. He was in bed. Tamar took some dough, pressed it together with her hands, and cooked the cakes. She did this while he watched. Then Tamar took the cakes out of the pan and set them out for him. But he refused to eat. He said to his servants, “Get out of here. Leave me alone!” So all of his servants left the room.

Amnon Rapes Tamar

10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom and feed me by hand.”

So Tamar took the cakes she had made and went into her brother’s bedroom. 11 She started to feed Amnon, but he grabbed her hand. He said to her, “Sister, come and sleep with me.”

12 Tamar said to Amnon, “No, brother! Don’t force me to do this. Don’t do this shameful thing! Terrible things like this should never be done in Israel! 13 I would never get rid of my shame, and people would think that you are just a common criminal. Please, talk with the king. He will let you marry me.”

14 But Amnon refused to listen to Tamar. He was stronger than she was, so he forced her to have sexual relations with him. 15 Then Amnon began to hate Tamar. He hated her much more than he had loved her before. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out of here!”

16 Tamar said to Amnon, “No! Don’t send me away like this. That would be even worse than what you did before!”

But Amnon refused to listen to Tamar. 17 He called his servant and said, “Get this girl out of this room, now! And lock the door after her.”

18 So Amnon’s servant led Tamar out of the room and locked the door.

Tamar was wearing a long robe with many colors.[c] The king’s virgin daughters wore robes like this. 19 Tamar tore her robe of many colors and put ashes on her head. Then she put her hand on her head and began crying.[d]

20 Then Tamar’s brother Absalom said to her, “Have you been with your brother Amnon? Did he hurt you? Now, calm down sister. Amnon is your brother, so we will take care of this. Don’t let it upset you too much.” So Tamar did not say anything. She quietly went to live at Absalom’s house.[e]

21 King David heard the news and became very angry, but he did not want to say anything to upset Amnon, because he loved him since he was his firstborn son.[f] 22 Absalom began to hate Amnon. Absalom did not say one word, good or bad, to Amnon, but he hated him because Amnon had raped his sister Tamar.

Absalom’s Revenge

23 Two years later, Absalom had some men come to Baal Hazor to cut the wool from his sheep. He invited all the king’s sons to come and watch. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “I have some men coming to cut the wool from my sheep. Please come with your servants and watch.”

25 King David said to Absalom, “No, son. We will not all go. It will be too much trouble for you.”

Absalom begged David to go. David did not go, but he did give his blessing.

26 Absalom said, “If you don’t want to go, please let my brother Amnon go with me.”

King David asked Absalom, “Why should he go with you?”

27 Absalom kept begging David. Finally, David let Amnon and all the king’s other sons go with Absalom.

Amnon Is Murdered

28 Then Absalom gave this command to his servants, “Watch Amnon. When he is drunk and feeling good from the wine, I will give you the command. You must attack Amnon and kill him. Don’t be afraid of being punished. After all, you will only be obeying my command. Now, be strong and brave.”

29 So Absalom’s young soldiers did what he said. They killed Amnon. But all of David’s other sons escaped. Each son got on his mule and escaped.

David Hears About Amnon’s Death

30 The king’s sons were still on their way into town. But King David got a message about what happened. But the message was, “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons! Not one of the sons was left alive.”

31 King David tore his clothes and lay on the ground.[g] All of David’s officers standing near him also tore their clothes.

32 But then Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “Don’t think that all the king’s sons were killed! Only Amnon is dead. Absalom has been planning this from the day that Amnon raped his sister Tamar. 33 My lord and king, don’t think that all of your sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”

34 Absalom ran away.

There was a guard standing on the city wall. He saw many people coming from the other side of the hill, and went to tell the king. 35 So Jonadab said to King David, “Look, I was right! The king’s sons are coming.”

36 The king’s sons came in just after Jonadab said that. They were crying loudly. David and all of his officers began crying. They all cried very hard. 37 David cried for his son every day.

Absalom Escapes to Geshur

Absalom ran away to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur.[h] 38 After Absalom had run away to Geshur, he stayed there for three years. 39 King David was comforted after Amnon died, but he missed Absalom very much.

Joab Sends a Wise Woman to David

14 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that King David missed Absalom very much. So Joab sent messengers to Tekoa to bring a wise woman from there. Joab said to this wise woman, “Please pretend to be very sad. Put on sackcloth. Don’t dress up. Act like a woman who has been crying many days for someone who died. Go to the king and talk to him using these words that I tell you.” Then Joab told the wise woman what to say.

Then the woman from Tekoa talked to the king. She bowed with her face to the ground. Then she said, “King, please help me!”

King David said to her, “What’s your problem?”

The woman said, “I am a widow. My husband is dead. I had two sons. They were out in the field fighting. There was no one to stop them. One son killed the other son. Now the whole family is against me. They said to me, ‘Bring us the son who killed his brother and we will kill him, because he killed his brother.’ My son is like the last spark of a fire. If they kill my son, that fire will burn out and be finished. He is the only son left alive to get his father’s property. So my dead husband’s property will go to someone else and his name will be removed from the land.”

Then the king said to the woman, “Go home. I will take care of things for you.”

The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “Let the blame be on me, my lord and king. You and your kingdom are innocent.”

10 King David said, “If anyone is saying bad things to you, bring them to me. They will not bother you again.”

11 The woman said, “Please, use the name of the Lord your God and swear that you will stop these people. They want to punish my son for murdering his brother. Swear that you will not let them destroy my son.”

David said, “As the Lord lives, no one will hurt your son. Not even one hair from your son’s head will fall to the ground.”

12 The woman said, “My lord and king, please let me say something else to you.”

The king said, “Speak.”

13 Then the woman said, “Why have you planned these things against the people of God? When you say these things, you show you are guilty because you have not brought back the son who you forced to leave home. 14 We will all die some day. We will be like water that is spilled on the ground. No one can gather this water back from the ground. You know God forgives people. God made plans for people who are forced to run away for safety—God does not force them to run away from him! 15 My lord and king, I came to say these words to you, because the people made me afraid. I said to myself, ‘I will talk to the king. Maybe the king will help me. 16 The king will listen to me and save me from the man who wants to kill me and my son. That man just wants to keep us from getting what God gave us.’ 17 I know that the words of my lord the king will give me rest, because you are like an angel from God. You know what is good and what is bad. And the Lord your God is with you.”

18 King David answered the woman, “You must answer the question I will ask you.”

The woman said, “My lord and king, please ask your question.”

19 The king said, “Did Joab tell you to say all these things?”

The woman answered, “As you live, my lord and king, you are right. Your officer Joab did tell me to say these things. 20 Joab did this so that you would see things differently. My lord, you are as wise as God’s angel. You know everything that happens on earth.”

Absalom Returns to Jerusalem

21 The king said to Joab, “Look, I will do what I promised. Now please bring back the young man Absalom.”

22 Joab bowed with his face on the ground. He blessed King David, and said, “Today I know that you are pleased with me. I know because you have done what I asked.”

23 Then Joab got up and went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 But King David said, “Absalom must go back to his own house. He cannot come to see me.” So Absalom went back to his own house, but he could not go to see the king.

25 People really bragged about how good-looking Absalom was. No man in Israel was as handsome as Absalom. Every part of his body was perfect—from his head to his feet. 26 At the end of every year, Absalom cut the hair from his head and weighed it. The hair weighed about five pounds.[i] 27 Absalom had three sons and one daughter. Her name was Tamar, and she was a beautiful woman.

Absalom Forces Joab to Come See Him

28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two full years without being allowed to visit King David. 29 Absalom sent a message to Joab, asking for permission to see the king, but Joab refused to come see him. So Absalom sent a second message to Joab. Again, Joab refused to come see him.

30 Then Absalom said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to my field. He has barley growing in that field. Go burn the barley.”

So Absalom’s servants went and started a fire in Joab’s field. 31 Joab got up and came to Absalom’s house. He said to him, “Why did your servants burn my field?”

32 Absalom said to Joab, “I sent a message to you. I asked you to come here. I wanted to send you to the king to ask him why he asked me to come home from Geshur. I cannot see him, so it would have been better for me to stay in Geshur. Now let me see the king. If I have sinned, he can kill me!”

Absalom Visits King David

33 Then Joab came to the king and told him what Absalom said. The king called for Absalom. Absalom came to the king and bowed low on the ground before the king. The king kissed him.

Absalom Makes Many Friends

15 After this, Absalom got a chariot and horses for himself. He had 50 men run in front of him while he drove the chariot. Absalom would get up early and stand near the gate.[j] He would watch for anyone with problems who was going to King David for judgment. Then Absalom would talk to them and say, “What city are you from?” They would say they were from such and such tribe in Israel. Then Absalom would say, “Look, you are right, but King David will not listen to you.”

Absalom would also say, “Oh, I wish someone would make me a judge in this country! Then I could help everyone who comes to me with a problem. I would help them get a fair solution to their problem.”

And if anyone came to Absalom and started to bow down to him, Absalom would treat him like a close friend—he would reach out and touch him and kiss him. Absalom did that to all the Israelites who came to King David for judgment. In this way Absalom won the hearts of all the people of Israel.

Absalom Plans to Take David’s Kingdom

After four years,[k] Absalom said to King David, “Please let me go to Hebron to complete a special promise that I made to the Lord. I made that promise while I was still living in Geshur in Aram. I said, ‘If the Lord brings me back to Jerusalem, I will serve the Lord in a special way.’”

King David said, “Go in peace.”

Absalom went to Hebron. 10 But he also sent spies to all the tribes of Israel. They told the people, “When you hear the trumpet, say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’”

11 Absalom invited 200 men to go with him. They left Jerusalem with him, but they did not know what he was planning. 12 Ahithophel was one of David’s advisors. He was from the town of Giloh. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he invited Ahithophel to join. Absalom’s plans were working very well and more and more people began to support him.

David Learns About Absalom’s Plans

13 A man came in to tell the news to David. The man said, “The people of Israel are beginning to follow Absalom.”

14 Then David said to all of his officers who were still in Jerusalem with him, “Come on, we cannot let him trap us here in Jerusalem. Hurry up, before he catches us. He will destroy us all, and Jerusalem will be destroyed in the battle.”

15 The king’s officers told him, “We will do whatever you tell us.”

David and His People Escape

16 King David left with everyone in his family, except ten of his slave women. He left them to take care of the house. 17 The king left with everyone in his house following him on foot. They stopped at the last house. 18 All the king’s officers passed by him. And all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and the Gittites (600 men from Gath) passed by the king.

19 The king said to Ittai from Gath, “Why are you also going with us? You are a foreigner; this is not your homeland. Go back and stay with the new king. 20 You came to join me only yesterday. You don’t need to wander from place to place with me. Take your brothers and go back. Go with my faithful, loving kindness.”

21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as long as you live, I will stay with you, in life or death!”

22 David said to Ittai, “Then come, let’s go cross Kidron Brook.”

So Ittai from Gath and all of his people and their children crossed over Kidron Brook. 23 All the people[l] were crying loudly. Then King David crossed over Kidron Brook, and all the people went out to the desert. 24 Zadok and all the Levites with him were carrying the Box of God’s Agreement. They set down God’s Holy Box, and Abiathar said prayers[m] until all the people had left Jerusalem.

25 King David said to Zadok, “Take God’s Holy Box back to Jerusalem. If the Lord is pleased with me, he will bring me back and let me see Jerusalem and his Temple. 26 But if he says he is not pleased with me, let him do whatever he wants to me.”

27 The king said to Zadok the priest, “You are a seer. Go back to the city in peace.[n] Take your son Ahimaaz and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 I will be waiting near the places where people cross the river into the desert. I will wait there until I hear from you.”

29 So Zadok and Abiathar took God’s Holy Box back to Jerusalem and stayed there.

David’s Prayer Against Ahithophel

30 David walked up the path to the Mount of Olives. He was crying, his head was covered, and he went without sandals on his feet. All the people with David also covered their heads and were crying as they walked with him.

31 Someone told David, “Ahithophel is one who joined in Absalom’s plot against you.” Then David prayed, “Lord, I ask you to make Ahithophel give only foolish advice.” 32 When David got to the top of the mountain, he bowed down to worship God. Then David noticed Hushai the Arkite. Hushai’s coat was torn, and there was dust on his head.[o]

33 David said to Hushai, “If you go with me, you will be just one more person to care for. 34 But if you go back to Jerusalem, you can disagree with Ahithophel and make his advice useless. Tell Absalom, ‘King, I am your servant. I served your father, but now I will serve you.’ 35 The priests Zadok and Abiathar will be with you. You must tell them everything you hear in the king’s palace. 36 Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan will be with them. You can send them to tell me everything you hear.”

37 So David’s friend Hushai went back to the city, just as Absalom arrived in Jerusalem.


  1. 2 Samuel 13:1 Amnon Amnon was half-brother to Absalom and Tamar. They all had David as their father, but Amnon had a different mother. See 2 Sam. 3:2, 3.
  2. 2 Samuel 13:2 He thought … sick Or “Amnon thought of a plan to pretend he was sick.”
  3. 2 Samuel 13:18 many colors Or “stripes.”
  4. 2 Samuel 13:19 Tamar tore … crying This was the way people showed how very sad and upset they were.
  5. 2 Samuel 13:20 She … Absalom’s house Or “She lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a ruined woman.”
  6. 2 Samuel 13:21 but he did not … son This is found in the ancient Greek version and a Hebrew scroll from Qumran but not in the standard Hebrew text.
  7. 2 Samuel 13:31 tore his clothes … ground This showed that he was very sad and upset.
  8. 2 Samuel 13:37 Talmai … king of Geshur Talmai was Absalom’s grandfather. See 2 Sam. 3:3.
  9. 2 Samuel 14:26 five pounds Literally, “200 shekels by the king’s weight.”
  10. 2 Samuel 15:2 gate This was where people came to do all of their business. This was also where many court cases were held.
  11. 2 Samuel 15:7 four years This is found in several ancient versions. The standard Hebrew text has “40 years.”
  12. 2 Samuel 15:23 people Literally, “country.”
  13. 2 Samuel 15:24 said prayers Literally, “went up.” This could mean “burn incense,” “offer sacrifices,” or it might mean simply that Abiathar stood to one side, by the Holy Box, until all the people passed by.
  14. 2 Samuel 15:27 You are a seer … peace Or “You do see, don’t you, that you should go back to the city in peace.”
  15. 2 Samuel 15:32 coat was torn … head This showed that he was very sad.

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