Sermon preached on 2 Samuel 13 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 4/10/2016 in Novato, CA.
2 Samuel 13
“So Tamar Remained Desolate”
My heart breaks for our sister when I read this. What a terrible thing to have happened to Tamar. And if you’ve ever experienced such evil like this, then my heart breaks for you too. And even if you’ve not experienced evil quite like this, the reality is we’ve all known evil in various ways. We know it firsthand, in our own struggle with sin. But surely we’ve all also tasted it dished out to us by someone. We live in a world where it is common for people to hurt us, and harm us, and sin against us, in different ways. What do we do when that happens to us? Or, how can you help those when that happens to us? Especially when that person feels like Tamar expressed there in verse 13. She said in light of the violation that ultimately happened, “Where could I take my shame?” She clearly experienced great shame, and sorrow, and brokenness in it all. What do you tell a Tamar at a time like that? What do you tell people today who face this or similar sorrows? Let us keep this in mind as we study this passage. We’ll study the passage and keep that question in the back of our minds as we do.
So then, let’s start our study of this passage by thinking first of Amnon’s love and hate. The themes of love and hate are here in this chapter. The passage begins by telling of Amnon and his great love for beautiful Tamar. Amnon, is the firstborn son of David, heir to the throne, and of course the problem with Amnon’s love for Tamar is that she is his half-sister. They were both children of David, but through different mothers. Verse 2 reminds us that such a relationship would have been improper. Such incest was clearly forbidden by the Mosaic law. See Leviticus chapters 18 and 20, for example. Deuteronomy 27:22 explicitly calls this cursed, even if it is just a half sibling. And so this passage shows that Amnon wanted something that he couldn’t have.
This is what you call a sinful desire; coveting. Notice how greatly he entertained this thought. It says in verse 2 that he made himself sick over it. In verse 4, other people are even noticing that he’s losing weight because of this. Of course, this is not unknown to us. Still today, people can have negative physical effects related to really strong emotions. Basically, it sounds like he’s worked himself into some sort of clinical type of depression over his sinful desire to have his sister. As a side note of application here, we see how powerful and how destructive sin is. Not only are Amnon’s actions wrong in this chapter, but his mental and emotional entertaining of such sin is having disastrous physical effects on him. If you find yourself in a similar situation, I urge you to get help. You need to confront your sinful fascinations and take steps to put that out of your life and replace such thinking with godly thoughts. And you very well may need help from others. Talk to your pastor or elders or another older brother or sister in the Lord and get help.
Sadly, it looks like Amnon did try to get help from others, but he got some bad counsel. We see this in verses 4-5. He speaks with Jonadab, who happens to be both his friend and his cousin. Interesting, verse 3 says that Jonadab was a crafty man. That makes it sound like a negative description, but actually, the word translated as crafty is a word the means wisdom, generally used in a positive way. And so it really is saying that Jonadab was a wise man. But evidently that wisdom here was not in accordance with God’s ways. For his Jonadab advises Amnon to do a deceptive thing. Jonadab explains to Amnon how to get Tamar to come over to his home and into his bedroom. Of course, Jonadab doesn’t explain further what Amnon could do from there, but evidently Amnon fills in the blanks well. And so here’s more application for someone tempted with the temptations that Amnon had. Yes, you may need to get help if your situation becomes as extreme as it did for Amnon. But you need to make sure you get the right help. You need to take great care in who you entrust your soul to in term of spiritual counsel. People often today go to therapists that are giving them worldly wisdom, instead of the wisdom from above. That’s the problem with thihs so-called wisdom of Jonadab; it was not godly wisdom. It was carnal wisdom, worldly wisdom. It was the wisdom that told Amnon that he was a prince so he should be able to get his way. It was wisdom that encouraged sin. This was not actually wise counsel. What Amnon needed was for someone to confront him on his sinful thoughts and sinful emotions and admonish him. He needed someone to speak the truth in love to him and call him to repentance. But alas for Tamar’s sake, that is not the counsel that he got. Jonadab’s wisdom was not so wise after all.
So, Amnon puts Jonadab’s plan into action. David is unwittingly used in the process to help give Amnon the setup that he wanted. Amnon then sins in two big ways. First, he violates her. That’s clear from verse 14. Then he does a second sin. He sends her away. He has his way with her, and then discards here. It’s like a forced marriage followed by him then immediately divorcing her. She says that this is even worse than the violation! And the passage tells us why he turned like this. It says that his love turned to hatred. 2 Samuel 13:15, “Then Amnon hated her with very great hatred, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her. And Amnon said to her, ‘Get up! Go!’”
Of course that shows that Amnon’s love really wasn’t real love for Tamar. It was really his sinful lust. And this is the problem in this act of rape. You can’t force your love on someone. Nor can it be purchased. Song of Solomon 8:7, “If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, he would be utterly despised.” And so when Amnon violates her and see that she doesn’t reciprocate his love, he hates her for it. And so here is yet another application. Such sin doesn’t satisfy. Amnon probably fantasized about this for so long, but when it finally happened, he himself was the one tricked. He was tricked by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin can’t ultimately satisfy. Amnon learned this the hard way, at the expense not only at Tamar’s expense here, but ultimately it will cost him his life.
We should note that Tamar seems to do everything she could here to try to stop this. She advocates for righteousness the whole time, hoping, and pleading, that her prince of a brother would live up to the good name of being a son of David. The first word out of her mouth at his proposition is “No,” and the next several statements from her mouth all include negations. Verse 12, she says, “No, my brother, do not force me, for no such thing should be done in Israel. Do not do this disgraceful thing!” And she pleads again with him after the fact, when he tries to send her away. But still he won’t listen. And so she is cast out, along with her robe that previously marked her virginity. And so in her shame, she put ashes on her head, she tore her virgin’s robe, and laid her hand on her head and went away crying bitterly. She’ll ultimately find herself staying in her brother Abaslom’s house, staying there lonely and desolate. How sad for our sister Tamar.
And so who will avenge her? Who will comfort her? Who will take away her shame? Surely her father, the mighty King David, the anointed of the LORD, the man after God’s own heart? This is now our second point to see David’s response. Well, we see David’s response in verse 21. When David heard of it, he was very angry. At first that sounds promising, and yet that’s all we see hear of David. He is very angry, but he doesn’t act. This was a time more than ever that Tamar needed both her father and the king. She needed her father’s comfort in a way that surely only a father could bring at such a moment. And she needed the king to do what the king was supposed to do, to execute justice and judgment in the land. This forced rape was wrong in itself. Remember, how the sons of Jacob responded when their sister Dinah was raped; they killed the rapist. And this violation was even all the more wicked as it was a forced incest. So, it was doubly wrong. And yet the king does nothing. The father does nothing.
Of course, we can understand why this would have been difficult for David. It would have involved punishing his firstborn and beloved son. What a test that would have been for David. After David’s own personal failings recently with Bathsheba and Uriah, would he now choose to honor God’s laws and be willing to sacrifice his firstborn son for the sake of justice? Remember, that Abraham was willing to offer even his innocent firstborn as a sacrifice to God, even though that was his only begotten son of promise. Would David be willing to give up his guilty firstborn, one son among his many other sons, for the sake of righteousness? Surely, this would have been hard for any father, but I would imagine it would be even harder for David. Remember, David had sinned in a different but similar enough way. His sin with Bathsheba was also his taking sexually what was not his to have. He got grace from God in that. Surely he would have felt himself a hypocrite to give Amnon justice when he got pardon. And of course, Nathan predicted that basically this kind of stuff would happen now in his family, as a chastisement for David’s sin. And so all this would have added to the complexity for David making a decision here of what to do. We see again how our history of sin, even when God forgives us of it, can still leave lasting challenges in this life. And so, when all is considered by David here, he ultimately does not give up his son for the sake of righteousness and for the sake of avenging tarnished Tamar. He is very angry, but that is it.
Yet, there is one who would act on Tamar’s behalf. That’s her full brother Absalom. His initial response in verse 20 is to try to comfort and provide for his sister. We learn in verse 22 of his great hatred that this aroused in him for Amnon. That theme of love and hate is still here, now taken on by Absalom. But then in his hatred, Absalom patiently bides his time. He waits for two years to go by before he strikes. Again, David becomes a pawn in the events here, when Absalom gets David to send Amnon over to his ranch out near Ephraim. There, Absalom conspires with his servants to kill Amnon. Interestingly, we see further weakness by David here. In the past, his intelligence network has been really good at bringing him intel. But here, at first, the news that comes to David is wrong. He gets told that Absalom killed all of David’s sons. And what is worse, is that David believes it. I say it’s worse because we see that the wise/crafty Jonadab is able to immediately dismiss the rumor. Jonadab knows right away what must have really happened. He was sure that only Amnon had been put to death. In other words, Jonadab wasn’t surprised at all that Absalom did this. Jonadab seems to have clearly known that this was Absalom’s goal for two years. But I guess the point here is that Jonadab clearly knew this, but David, King David, did not. Jonadab knew what was going on in the house of David, but David did not. I think that’s another weakness we see of David here.
And so after Absalom brings this vengeance on Amnon, he then has to flee. He flees for three years to Talmai, the king of Geshur. That’s actually Absalom’s grandfather on his mother’s side, according to 2 Samuel 3:3. David now ultimately mourns for both Amnon and then eventually Absalom, per verses 37-39. To be clear, Absalom had to flee because his action makes him a vigilante, taking the law into his own hands. He essentially becomes a murderer here. And for Absalom, again, think of the internal conflict David must have had in terms of judging Absalom in terms of murder? For David himself was a murderer who was pardoned by God. What challenges David had in all this. How it exposes that troubles he has as he endures the chastening of God in all this.
And so Absalom is able to provide some measure of vindication and comfort for Tamar in all this, and yet his actions still seem to fall short. His very act of vindication actually clouds the issue of justice when he is perceived as vigilante who then has to flee the country for three years. And I might ask who cared for Tamar when his brother was away all that time? Her lonely desolation probably seemed even more lonely then too.
And so we come back again to the question at the start of our message. It is Tamar’s question. She asked the question in verse 13. “Where could I take my shame?” That was said at the time rhetorically. In other words, she said it in a way that basically said that she would have a shame that could not be taken away. In this world, surely there was much truth to that. And yet we know nonetheless there is an answer to her question. In times of experiencing such extreme evil like this, there was one who could take away her shame. It wasn’t her earthly father who was also her king. It wasn’t in her brother Absalom. But it was in the one promised to her father’s house. In this midst of this dysfunctional family left marred in the shame of sin, God would raise up Jesus Christ. That king would be able to give her justice in his kingdom. Jesus could be for her an everlasting father who would wipe away all her tears. Jesus could come to her and give her comfort and peace in a way that no one else could. Jesus would not reject her and send her away in her shame. No, he would bring her out of her desolation. He would call unto her, “Come unto me. Come unto my house. Take off that filthy and torn robe. Take on instead my robe, my spotless robe of perfect righteousness. Know my love. I will be your advocate. I will plead your cause. I will clearly and completely vindicate you before all. And I will give you peace and fellowship.
More could be said, but I trust you understand the point. It would be the hope of Christ that would have to be the ultimate comfort and hope for Tamar. In other words, the hope of Christ would have to be her hope when she was tempted to feel hopeless. But in Christ there was every hope for our dear sister Tamar. But what about us? What do we say to ourselves or to our brothers or sisters who go through such horrible trials like this? What do you say to yourself or others who know such shame, such defilement, who have born the effect of evils like this?
It might seem cliché to people to point them to the hope of Christ. People might at first not want to hear of such hope when they are suffering such shame and pain right here and now. But as your pastor I plead with you, is that not the hope that we need at that point? Is there really some better hope to give them? Would you give them warm platitudes from Chicken Soup for the Soul? Would you simply pat them on the back and let them know that you are thinking of them? Or would you encourage them with the hope of Jesus Christ? When we feel so hopeless because of our shame and sorrows, this is what we need. We need to be encouraged in our hope of Jesus Christ. I know of no greater comfort. It is not cliché or just some platitude. It is the true hope and the best comfort. Know that even now your Savior stands ready in your sorrow and shame to attend to you. Come to him in prayer. Pour out your sorrows. Search his Word for words of comfort and hope. Give him your tears and your heartbreak and all your broken dreams. Put it all before him. Don’t hold back. Find your joy in him amidst this all. Know his peace that transcends all understanding. Realize that even now he gives you these things. And know that beyond this age, there is a comfort and hope of an even greater measure.
This is all possible, because God did not withhold his only begotten firstborn son. He did not withhold his innocent son, but he gave him up for us, and for our salvation. And that salvation includes the comfort and peace and joy of God. I close then with the words of this hope as found in Revelation 7, starting in verse 13. They speak of the final victory and comfort we have in Christ.
Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these arrayed in white robes, and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” So he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17)
Amen. Let us pray.
Copyright © 2016 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.