Ammon and Tamar – 2 Samuel 13

Read the Passage: 2 Samuel 13

Tamar’s Innocence (13:1–6)

As a part of God’s judgment upon David for his sins of adultery and murder, God told David that “the sword shall never depart from your house” (2 Sam. 12:10). Since God had put away David’s sins (cf. 2 Sam. 12:13), this is best viewed as a prophecy about the results of David’s sins. Note the distinction between the judgement of sin (cf. Rom. 3:23), discipline for sin (cf. Heb. 12:11), and the consequences of sin (cf. Exod. 20:5). 2 Samuel 13 describes the interaction between David’s daughter Tamar, David’s first son Ammon, and David’s third son Absalom. Note that Tamar and Absalom were full siblings, and Ammon was their half-brother. 2 Sam. 13:1–6 describes Ammon’s lust after Tamar. Such passion was forbidden under the Old Testament civil law (cf. Lev. 18:11). Yet, given Ammon’s emotion, the practice of pagan nations, and perhaps Abraham’s example with Sarai, Ammon sought to indulge his sin.

This passage notes that Ammon was so infatuated with Tamar that he was physically sick (cf. 2 Sam. 13:2), even losing weight (cf. 2 Sam. 13:4). Ammon’s friend, Jonadab, suggested a plan by which Ammon indulge his desires, which included the rape of Tamar. Jonadab, who is described as being “a very crafty man” (2 Sam. 13:3), was Ammon’s cousin, being the son of David’s brother Shimeah. Note that Shimeah is called Shammah (cf. 1 Sam. 16:9; 17:3) and Shimea elsewhere (cf. 1 Chron. 2:13). In his dialog with Jonadab it seems clear Ammon knew it was wrong to violently lust after Tamar, but was led into this sin by Jonadab. This is a helpful reminder to us of the importance of choosing one’s company wisely for, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Prov. 13:20; cf. Prov. 23:20–21; 1 Cor. 15:33). Indeed, as is recorded in following verses, Ammon was destroyed on account of his sin.

Ammon’s Sin (13:7–22)

The plan that Jonadab suggested to Ammon, which he enacted, was for Ammon to feign illness, call Tamar to his side, and then sexually violate her. One striking element of this narrative is that David seems oblivious to Ammon’s lust of Tamar and his intended sin. Thus, David is drawn into Ammon’s scheme. Perhaps God had blinded David to the sinfulness of his children as a part of His divine discipline (cf. Deut. 28:28). When Tamar discerned Ammon’s intent to rape her, she gives him four logical reasons why he should cease: first, Tamar reminds Ammon that his intended act is unlawful (cf. 2 Sam. 13:12); second, Tamar tells Ammon that violating her would bring shame upon her (cf. 2 Sam. 13:13a); third, Tamar notes that rape will reveal him as a fool to Israel (cf. 2 Sam. 13:13b); and fourth, Tamar urges Ammon to ask King David for her in marriage, which seems unlikely to have been granted (cf. 2 Sam. 13:13c).

David had 8 named wives in Scripture, plus other unnamed wives and many unnamed concubines. Furthermore, David had 19 named sons and 1 named daughter in the Bible, plus other unnamed children. As David’s firstborn son, Ammon would have been in line to succeed David as king; yet, his rape of Tamar led to his eventual murder at the hands of Absalom. After violating Tamar, 2 Sam. 13:15 reports that Ammon’s hate of Tamar exceeded his former passion for her and he cast out of his house. Ammon likely felt shame, guilt, fear of exposure, and dread of punishment; yet, turning Tamar away was not the path of repentance. As a result of her defilement, Tamar mourned, for within Hebrew society she would have been viewed as defiled. David’s reaction to these events is telling, as he was “very furious” (2 Sam. 13:21); yet, he did not punish Ammon nor is there any indication that he comforted Tamar.

Absalom’s Revenge (13:23–39)

2 Sam. 13:23–39 records Absalom’s revenge for the rape of his sister Tamar, as here Absalom murders his half-brother Ammon. 2 Sam. 13:13 notes that these events took place a full two years after Ammon’s initial sin. Two things in this narrative stand out. First, it is remarkable that yet again, David seems oblivious to his children’s intended actions. Perhaps David was suspicious of Absalom’s invitation to attend a sheep-shearing celebration, for he declined to participate. However, David did allow all of his sons (including Ammon) and some servants to attend. Second, there is likely an intended parallel in this text between David’s use of his servants to murder Uriah (cf. 2 Sam. 11:14–17) and Absalom’s use of his servants to murder Ammon (cf. 2 Sam. 13:28–29). After his murder of Ammon, Absalom fled to Geshur, which was governed by his grandfather.

Application Questions:

  1. What can Christian parents do to ensure that their children accept the Lord and walk with God (cf. Prov. 22:6; Eph. 6:4)?
  2. Given Abram’s marriage to his half-sister Sarai, how can we explain the prohibition in Lev. 18:11 of marriage between step-siblings?
  3. Have you ever been led into sin by one of your friends? What should we do if we realize that one of our friends is a fool and/or a source of temptation?
  4. Why do you think David seems to be oblivious to the sinful tendencies and notions of his children, even placing Tamar in a dubious situation?
  5. Why did David not punish Ammon? What parallels can you draw between David’s murder of Uriah, and Absalom’s murder of Ammon?