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Amnon and Tamar

13 It happened afterwards that Absalom the son of David had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar, and Amnon [her half brother] the son of David was in love with her. Amnon was so frustrated because of his [half-] sister Tamar that he made himself sick, for she was a virgin, and Amnon thought it impossible for him to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother; and Jonadab was a very shrewd (cunning) man. He said to Amnon, “Why are you, the king’s son, so depressed morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” And Amnon said to him, “I am in love with Tamar, my [half-] brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Go to bed and pretend you are sick; and when your father [David] comes to see you, say to him, ‘Just let my sister Tamar come and serve me food, and let her prepare it in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’” So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.”

Then David sent word to the house for Tamar, saying, “Go now to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, and he was in bed. And she took dough and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and baked them. She took the pan and dished them out before him, but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, “Have everyone leave me.” So everyone left him [except Tamar]. 10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made and brought them into the bedroom to her [half-] brother Amnon. 11 When she brought them to him to eat, he took hold of her and said, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” 12 She replied, “No, my brother! Do not violate me, for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do this disgraceful thing!(A) 13 As for me, how could I get rid of my shame and disgrace? And you, you will be considered one of the fools in Israel. So now, just speak to the king [about taking me as your wife], for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he would not listen to her; and since he was stronger than she, he violated her and lay with her.

15 Then Amnon became extremely hateful toward her, for his hatred toward her was greater than the love which he had for her. And Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!” 16 But she said, “No, because this wrong of [a]sending me away is worse than the other that you have done to me!” But he would not listen to her. 17 Instead, he called his young man who was his personal servant and said, “Now throw this woman out of my presence and bolt the door behind her.” 18 Now Tamar was wearing [b]a [long-sleeved] robe of various colors; for that is how the virgin daughters of the king dressed themselves in robes. Then Amnon’s personal servant took her out and bolted the door behind her. 19 So [c]Tamar put dust on her head [in grief] and tore the long-sleeved robe which she had on, and she put her hand on her head and went away crying out [for help].

20 So her brother Absalom said to her, “Has your brother Amnon been with you? But now keep silent, my sister; he is your brother; [d]do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained secluded in her brother Absalom’s house. 21 Now when King David heard about all these things, he was very angry [but failed to take any [e]action]. 22 But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar.

23 Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons [to a party].

Absalom Avenges Tamar

24 Absalom came to [his father] the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers; please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” 25 But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, we should not all go, for we will be a burden to you.” Although Absalom [strongly] urged David, still he would not go, but he gave him his blessing. 26 Then Absalom said, “If not, then at least let my brother [f]Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him [again], and he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.

28 Now Absalom commanded his servants, “Notice carefully, when Amnon’s heart is joyous with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not be afraid; have I not commanded you myself [and in doing so have I not taken full responsibility for his death]? Be courageous and brave.” 29 So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon just as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons got up, and every man mounted his mule and fled.

30 Now it happened while they were on the way [back home], that the [exaggerated] report came to David, “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” 31 Then the king stood and tore his clothes and lay on the ground [in mourning]; and all his servants were standing by with their clothes torn. 32 But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, responded, “Do not let my lord assume that all the king’s sons have been put to death; for only Amnon is dead. This act of revenge has been on Absalom’s mind since the day Amnon violated his sister Tamar. 33 So now, do not let my lord the king take the report to heart that all the king’s sons are dead; for Amnon alone is dead.”

34 Now Absalom fled. And the young man who kept watch looked up, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. 35 And Jonadab said to the king, “Look, the king’s sons are coming. It has turned out just as your servant said.” 36 And when he finished speaking, the king’s sons came, and they raised their voices and wept; and the king and all his servants also wept very bitterly.

37 But Absalom fled and went to [his mother’s father] Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David [g]mourned for his son every day. 38 So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there for three years. 39 And the heart of King David longed to go to Absalom; for he was comforted regarding Amnon, since he was dead.

The Woman of Tekoa

14 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent word to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there and told her, “Please pretend to be a mourner, and put on mourning clothes, and do not anoint yourself with oil, but act like a woman who has for many days been in mourning for the dead. Then go to the king and speak to him in this way.” So Joab [h]told her what to say.

When the woman of Tekoa spoke to the king, she bowed with her face to the ground and lay herself down, and said, “Help, O king.” The king asked her, “[i]What is the matter?” She said, “Truly I am a widow; my husband is dead. Your maidservant had two sons, but the two of them struggled and fought in the field. There was no one to separate them, so one struck the other and killed him. Now behold, the entire family has risen against your maidservant, and they say, ‘Hand over the one who killed his brother, so that we may [j]put him to death [to pay] for the life of his brother whom he killed and destroy the heir also.’ By doing this they will extinguish my coal that is left, leaving my husband without a name or a remnant (heir) on the face of the earth.”

Then David said to the woman, “Go to your home, and I will give orders concerning you.” The woman of Tekoa said to the king, “My lord, O king, the guilt is on me and on my father’s house, but the king and his throne are guiltless.” 10 The king said, “If anyone speaks to you [about this matter], bring him to me [for judgment], and he will not touch you again.” 11 Then she said, “Please let the king remember the Lord your God, so that the avenger of blood will not continue to destroy, otherwise they will destroy my son.” And David said, “As the Lord lives, not a single hair [from the head] of your son shall fall to the ground.”

12 Then the woman said, “Please let your maidservant speak one more word to my lord the king.” He said, “Speak.” 13 The woman said, “Now why have you planned such a thing against God’s people? For in speaking this word the king is like a guilty man, in that the king does not bring back his banished one. 14 For we will certainly die and are like water that is spilled on the ground and cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not [simply] take away life, but devises plans so that the one who is banished is not driven away from Him. 15 Now I came to speak of this matter to my lord the king because the people have made me afraid. So your maidservant thought, ‘I will just speak to the king; perhaps the king will do what his maidservant requests. 16 For the king will hear and save his maidservant from the hand of the man who would destroy me and my son together from the inheritance of God.’ 17 Then your maidservant said, ‘Please let the word of my lord the king be comforting, for my lord the king is as the angel of God to discern good and evil. May the Lord your God be with you.’”

18 Then the king answered and said to the woman, “Do not hide from me anything that I ask you.” And the woman said, “Let my lord the king please speak.” 19 The king said, “Is the hand of Joab with you in all of this?” And the woman answered, “As your soul lives, my lord the king, no one can turn to the right or to the left from anything that my lord the king has said. Indeed, it was your servant Joab who commanded me; he put all these words in the mouth of your maidservant. 20 In order to change the appearance of things [between Absalom and you, his father] your servant Joab did this thing. But my lord has wisdom like the wisdom of the angel of God, to know everything that is in the earth.”

Absalom Is Recalled

21 Then the king said to Joab, “Listen, I will most certainly do this thing; now go, bring back the young man Absalom.” 22 Joab bowed his face toward the ground and lay himself down and blessed the king. Then Joab said, “Today your servant knows that I have found favor in your sight, my lord, O king, in that the king has done the request of his servant.” 23 So Joab got up, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 However, the king said, “Let him go to his own house, and do not let him see my face.” So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the king’s face.

25 Now in all Israel there was no man as handsome as Absalom, so highly praised [for that]; from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. 26 When he cut the hair of his head (for at the end of each year he cut it, because its weight was heavy on him) he weighed the hair of his head at [k]200 shekels by the king’s weight. 27 To Absalom were born three sons and one daughter whose name was [l]Tamar; she was a beautiful woman.

28 Absalom lived two full years in Jerusalem, without seeing the king’s face. 29 So Absalom sent for Joab, to send him to the king, but he would not come to him; even when he sent again a second time, he [still] would not come. 30 Therefore Absalom said to his servants, “See, Joab’s property is near mine, and he has barley there; go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire. 31 Then Joab [m]took action and went to Absalom at his house and said to him, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?” 32 Absalom answered Joab, “I sent for you, saying, ‘Come here, so that I may send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come [back] from Geshur? It would be better for me to still be there.”’ Now then, let me see the king’s face, and if there is guilt in me, let him put me to death.” 33 So Joab came to the king and told him. Then David called for Absalom, and he came to the king and bowed his face to the ground before the king; and the king kissed Absalom.

Absalom’s Conspiracy

15 After this, Absalom provided for himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men as runners before him. He would get up early and stand beside the road to the gate [of the city, where court was held]; and when any man who had a dispute came to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but there is no man appointed as the king’s agent to listen to you.” Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were appointed judge in the land! Then every man who had a dispute could come to me and I would get justice for him.” And whenever a man approached to bow down before him, he would put out his hand, take hold of him, and kiss him. This is how Absalom dealt with everyone in Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.

And after [n]four years, Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go and pay my vow which I have made to the Lord at [o]Hebron [my birthplace]. For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram (Syria), ‘If the Lord will in fact bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord [by offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving].’” And [David] the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Then two hundred men from Jerusalem who were invited [as guests to his sacrificial feast] went with Absalom. They went innocently and knew nothing [about his plan against David]. 12 And Absalom sent for [p]Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh, while he was offering sacrifices. And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom increased continually.

David Flees Jerusalem

13 Then a messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” 14 David said to all his [q]servants who were with him at Jerusalem, “Arise, let us flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom! Go in haste, or he will overtake us quickly and bring disaster on us and strike the city with the edge of the sword.” 15 The king’s servants said to him, “Listen, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides.” 16 So the king left, and all his household [r]with him. But the king left behind ten women who were [s]concubines to take care of the house (palace).(B) 17 The king left, and all the people with him, and they stopped at the last house. 18 All of David’s [t]servants passed on beside him, and all the Cherethites, Pelethites and the Gittites, six hundred men who had come with him from Gath, passed on before the king.

19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you go with us, too? Go back and stay with the king [of your own country], for you are a foreigner and an exile as well; return to your own place. 20 You came only yesterday, so should I make you wander with us today while I go where I will? Return and take your brothers back with you also. May lovingkindness and faithfulness be with you.” 21 But Ittai answered the king, “As the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, most certainly wherever my lord the king may be, whether for death or life, there will your servant be also.” 22 So David said to Ittai, “Go on and cross over [the Brook Kidron].” So Ittai the Gittite crossed over with all his men and all the little ones who were with him. 23 While all the country was weeping with a loud voice, all the people crossed over. The king also crossed the Brook Kidron, and all the people went on toward the way of the wilderness [that lies between Jerusalem and the Jordan River].

24 Now Zadok also came, and all the Levites with him carrying the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar [the priest] came up [and officiated] until all the people had finished passing from the city. 25 Then the king told Zadok, “Take the ark of God back to [its rightful place in] the city [of Jerusalem, the capital]. If I find favor in the Lord’s sight, He will bring me back again and let me see both it and His dwelling place (habitation). 26 But if He should say, ‘I have no delight in you,’ then here I am; let Him do to me what seems good to Him.” 27 The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace [you and Abiathar], and your two sons with you, your son Ahimaaz and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. 28 See, I am going to wait at the [u]fords [of the Jordan] in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar brought the ark of God back to Jerusalem, and they stayed there.

30 And David went up the ascent of the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went, with his head covered and walking barefoot [in despair]. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went. 31 David was told, “Ahithophel [your counselor] is among the conspirators with Absalom.” David said, “O Lord, I pray You, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.”

32 It happened when David came to the summit [of the Mount of Olives], where he worshiped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his tunic torn and dust on his head [as if in mourning]. 33 David said to him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I have been your father’s servant in the past, so I will be your servant now;’ then you can thwart (make useless) the advice of Ahithophel for me. 35 Are not Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? So it shall be that every word you hear from the king’s palace, you shall report it to them. 36 Their two sons are there with them, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send to me everything that you hear.” 37 So Hushai, David’s friend, returned to the city, and [at about the same time] Absalom came into Jerusalem.


  1. 2 Samuel 13:16 Sending her out like this would cast suspicion on Tamar’s behavior.
  2. 2 Samuel 13:18 Lit a garment of extremities. This robe must have been similar to the one Jacob (Israel) made for Joseph in Gen 37:3.
  3. 2 Samuel 13:19 Because she had been forced and violated in this way she would no longer be acceptable to another man as a wife.
  4. 2 Samuel 13:20 Absalom consoled and quieted Tamar so that he could plan his revenge.
  5. 2 Samuel 13:21 According to Jewish law, Amnon should have been executed for the rape of his half sister.
  6. 2 Samuel 13:26 Amnon was David’s eldest son and first in the line of succession.
  7. 2 Samuel 13:37 David’s failure to act when Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar ultimately cost him two of his sons not just one.
  8. 2 Samuel 14:3 Lit put the words in her mouth.
  9. 2 Samuel 14:5 Lit What’s with you.
  10. 2 Samuel 14:7 The custom of the time permitted a near relative of the victim to kill the perpetrator.
  11. 2 Samuel 14:26 I.e. about 4 lbs.
  12. 2 Samuel 14:27 Absalom named his daughter after his sister.
  13. 2 Samuel 14:31 Lit arose.
  14. 2 Samuel 15:7 The Hebrew text reads “forty years.” The LXX, Syriac, and writings of Josephus read “four years.” Absalom would be about thirty years old at this time.
  15. 2 Samuel 15:7 David had moved the capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, but Hebron was still an important city.
  16. 2 Samuel 15:12 Ahithophel, one of David’s wisest and most trusted advisers, was the father of Eliam, Bathsheba’s father. Ahithophel’s alliance with Absalom may have been an act of revenge motivated by David’s sin against his granddaughter and her murdered husband.
  17. 2 Samuel 15:14 This would have included various officials, guards, staff, and other members of David’s court and household.
  18. 2 Samuel 15:16 Lit at his feet.
  19. 2 Samuel 15:16 See note Gen 22:24.
  20. 2 Samuel 15:18 See note v 14.
  21. 2 Samuel 15:28 I.e. narrow or shallow places where a river may be crossed by wading.

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