2 Samuel 13
Benson Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
2 Samuel 13:1. Absalom, the son of David, had a fair sister — His sister by both father and mother. For they were both born of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. Now began another part of Nathan’s prophecy, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, to be awfully fulfilled On David; and the sad scene of domestic troubles to be opened which were to befall his family. And it is probable he had not been long returned to Jerusalem, from the taking of Rabbah, before they began to take place and multiply upon him.

And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.
2 Samuel 13:2. Amnon fell sick for his sister Tamar — He fell deeply in love with her, and being conscious that his passion was very criminal, he concealed it for some time, but at the expense of his health, being racked by the violence of a strong desire, and the terror of indulging it. Thus fleshly lusts are their own punishment, and not only war against the soul, but the body too, and are the rottenness of the bones. See what a hard master sinners serve, and how heavy a yoke sin is! For she was a virgin — And therefore under a strict guard, so that it was difficult for him to get private converse with her, or to enjoy her company. Amnon thought it hard to do any thing unto her — Thought it criminal, as indeed it was in a high degree, to betray that virtue and honour of which, as a brother, he ought to be the protector. His conscience at first startled and shrunk back from the commission of so great a sin, and he could not think of it without horror. But what wickedness is so vile as not to gain entrance into an unsanctified, unguarded heart, especially when evil counsel comes to aid its assaults!

But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.
2 Samuel 13:3. Amnon had a friend — Say rather an enemy; for surely he proved himself to be such in a high degree, by the evil counsel he gave, issuing in Amnon’s utter ruin of soul, as is too probable, as well as body. “He plainly perceived that Amnon’s disease was some strong desire ungratified; and insinuated to him that he who was the king’s son might give a loose to his desires, and despise the restraint of ordinary men! How vile was this advice! and how lamentable it is that the heirs of royalty, whose virtue is of much more consequence than that of meaner men, should yet be under more temptation to taint it from the poison of infectious flatterers.” — Delaney.

And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom's sister.
And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.
2 Samuel 13:5. Jonadab said, Make thyself sick — He advises Amnon to pretend that his stomach was so weak that he could eat nothing that his servants dressed, and therefore desired his sister, who understood how to make delicate dishes, might come and prepare something that he could relish. Ah! false, treacherous, and base flatterer! that could thus tempt thy prince to so vile a crime! More than the poison of asps is under the lips of such friends and counsellors.

So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.
Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat.
So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.
And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.
And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.
2 Samuel 13:10. Amnon said, Bring the meat into the chamber — It is probable that when Tamar first came, Amnon had received her in an outward room, but that, pretending now to be fatigued, he retired into his chamber, desiring her to go along with him, that he might put his design upon her in execution without being interrupted; it being an inner chamber probably, remote from any other room.

And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.
And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.
2 Samuel 13:12. Nay, my brother — Whom nature both teaches to abhor such thoughts, and obliges to defend me from such an injury, with thy utmost hazard, if another should attempt it. Do not force me — Thou oughtest to abhor it, if I were willing; but to add violence is abominable. No such thing ought to be done in Israel — Among God’s people, who are taught better things; who also will be infinitely reproached for so base an action. Thus she represents to him that, whatever other nations did, among whom idols were worshipped with filthy lusts, they who worshipped so pure and holy a God; and had such divine laws, ought not to be guilty of any such abomination. Do not this folly — That is, this wickedness, the foolishness of which she prays him to consider, as, for a moment’s gratification of a brutal desire, it would highly provoke the Divine Majesty, and bring lasting disgrace and wretchedness upon them both. Would he expose a sister to infamy? Would he expose himself to indelible reproach?

And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.
2 Samuel 13:13-14. And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? — How shall I drive it from me; and where shall I hide it? This plea for herself is inexpressibly beautiful and forcible. Thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel — Shalt utterly lose thy reputation, and be contemptible to all the people, as a man void of all religion, honour, virtue, and even humanity; wilt be treated as a brute and a fool, and, instead of the honour of being heir apparent to the throne, wilt sink into the lowest degree of derision and reproach. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king — Having urged in vain the heinousness of the action, the dishonour it would be to her, and the no less reproach it would bring on himself, and he still blindly persisting in his wicked resolution, she adds these words to give him hope and flatter him into forbearance. He would not hearken to her — Tamar said all this to a deaf man, who was wholly under the power of his furious lusts; which would not suffer him to regard God or men, his sister or himself.

Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.
2 Samuel 13:15-17. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly — His mind, which at first had been impelled by lust, was now agitated by remorse, which drove it to a different extreme, like the vibration of a pendulum. The horror of his guilt struck him with a sudden detestation of her whom he deemed the cause of it, and he hated his sister when he should have hated himself. Thus, through God’s abandoning him, in just judgment, to the tumult of his own intemperate mind, this other punishment of David’s adultery became more flagrant; and the prophet’s prediction, of evil being raised up to him out of his own house, more conspicuous. For Amnon’s barbarous behaviour now precluded all possibility of concealing his guilt. The moment his brutality was indulged, he commanded his sister out of his sight. And she said, There is no cause — For me to go, or for this hard usage. She had given him no cause for aggravating his first offence, by loading it with an immediate and public scandal, and indelible reproach upon her, himself, and his house; upon religion, and the people of God. This evil is greater than the former — Not a greater sin, but an act of greater cruelty, and a greater calamity to her; because it exposed her to general infamy and contempt. And, besides, it turned a private offence into a matter of public scandal, to the great dishonour of God and of his people, and especially of all the royal family. But he would not hearken to her —

He was now as deaf to decency and humanity as he had been before to all sense of shame and conscience, and, therefore, called to his servant that attended him, and bid him turn out that woman from him, and bolt the door after her.

And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.
Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.
And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
2 Samuel 13:18. She had a garment of divers colours — Of embroidered work. His servant brought her out, &c. — A high contempt of a king’s daughter. But the servant’s dependance on his master overruled all respect due to her. “Tamar thus treated,” says Delaney, “not parted with as an innocent woman, cruelly injured, but thrust out as a prostitute that had seduced to sin, is the strongest image of innocence, barbarously abused, and insufferably insulted, that history affords us; the greatest injury loaded with the greatest indignities! contumely added to cruelty!”

And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.
2 Samuel 13:19. Tamar put ashes upon her head — To signify her grief for some calamity which had befallen her, and what that was, concurring circumstances easily discovered. And laid her hand on her head — In token of shame and sorrow, as if she were unable to show her face. And went on crying — To manifest her abhorrence of the fact, and that it was not done by her consent.

And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house.
2 Samuel 13:20. And Absalom her brother said to her — To whose house she had passed on, in the condition just mentioned, with ashes on her head, &c., oppressed with sorrow, and overwhelmed with shame. Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? — A modest expression for the foul rape he had committed. Thus Absalom covers the gross injury which he suspected she had received, under the veil of the most decent and distant phrase that could hint his suspicion to her. And to save her blushes, and let her see that he understood her distress, he stopped her short from attempting any answer, by begging her to say nothing of the matter, but endeavour to forget the injury, since it was a brother that had done it. Hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother — Therefore thou must forgive and forget the injury; for thy disgracing of him will be a blot to us all; and thou wilt not get right from thy father against him, because he is as near and dear to him as thou; therefore, also, thy dishonour is the less, because thou wast not abused by any mean person, but by a king’s son; and, as this evil cannot be revenged, it must be borne. Thus he covers his design of taking vengeance upon Amnon at the first opportunity. Regard not — So as to torment thyself. So Tamar remained desolate — Through shame and dejection of mind, giving herself up to solitude and retirement. “And, in all probability, she continued so her whole life long; unmarried and undone. And Amnon had the horror of reflecting, that for one moment’s base and brutal indulgence, he had made his nearest kinswoman, an amiable and innocent sister, miserable to the last moment of her life.” Such are generally the sad products of sin!

But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.
2 Samuel 13:21. When David heard, he was very wroth — With Amnon: whom yet he did not punish, at least so severely as he ought to have done; perhaps, because he was his eldest son, and the next heir to his crown, and therefore he was unwilling either to cut him off, or to expose him to contempt among the people he might hereafter be called to govern; or, because he could not punish him in any legal or equitable manner, without laying open the infamy of his house; or, which seems to have been the most weighty reason, because he was conscious of his own guilt, in an instance not very dissimilar, which certainly had set Amnon a bad example; and because he had otherwise been partly accessory to his guilt by a very unguarded compliance with his son’s irrational request in sending Tamar to him. There can be no question but that David’s guilt with Bath-sheba rendered him more backward to punish that of Amnon. “However, the guilt which human justice or human infirmity did not, or could not chastise as it deserved, the divine vengeance did.” — Delaney.

And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.
2 Samuel 13:22. Absalom spake, &c. — Though he hated Amnon in his heart, yet he never expressed the least resentment, nor said any thing to him at all about that business. He neither debated it with him, nor threatened him for it, but seemed willing to pass it by with brotherly kindness. Not that he forbore all discourse with him on any subject, which would have raised jealousy in his mind, and also in David’s. But by the method Absalom pursued, Amnon was lulled asleep, in a belief that he would give him no trouble for what he had done.

And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king's sons.
2 Samuel 13:23-25. After two full years — This circumstance of time is noted, as an aggravation of Absalom’s malice, which was so implacable; and as an act of policy, that both Amnon and David might more securely comply with his desires. Let the king and his servants go — He certainly did not wish the king to go; but invited him, to avoid all suspicion. He would not go, but blessed him — Gave him thanks for his invitation, and prayed God to bless him.

And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant.
And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him.
Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee?
2 Samuel 13:26. Let my brother Amnon go with us — That is, with him and the rest of his brethren, as appears from the following verse. David designed, it seems, to keep him at home with him, as being his eldest son, and heir of his kingdom; otherwise Absalom would never have made particular mention of him, which, in consequence of what the king said, he was now forced to do. Nor did Absalom’s desire of Amnon’s company want specious pretences, as that, seeing the king would not, he who was next to the king in dignity might honour him with his presence; and that this might be a public token of friendship between him and his brother, not withstanding the former occasion of difference.

But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him.
2 Samuel 13:27. He let Amnon and all the king’s sons go — It is strange that Absalom’s urgent desire of Amnon’s company raised no suspicion in the mind of so wise a king: but God suffered him to be blinded that he might execute his judgments upon David, and bring upon Amnon the just punishment of his lewdness.

Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon's heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.
2 Samuel 13:28-29. When Amnon’s heart is merry — When he least suspects, and will be most unable to prevent the evil. Have not I commanded you? — I who am the king’s son, and, when Amnon is dead, next heir to the crown, and who therefore can easily stand between you and the danger of your being called to an account for what you do, or can obtain pardon for you, and not only so, but have it in my power to reward you. The servants did as Absalom had commanded — And Amnon fell. Thus did Absalom at one blow revenge himself upon his sister’s ravisher, and rid himself of his rival in his father’s favour, and only obstacle, as he apprehended, to his crown. Now is the threatened sword drawn in David’s house, which will not depart from it. His eldest son falls by it, through his own wickedness, and his father, by conniving at that wickedness, is accessory to his death. Then all the king’s sons arose and fled — Terrified at what they saw, they started up from the table, seized every man his mule, and fled home as fast as they could. But fast as they fled, fame reached the palace before them, and told David that Absalom had destroyed all his sons.

And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king's sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.
And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of them left.
Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.
2 Samuel 13:31-32. Then the king arose — He was thrown by this news, as we may well imagine, into the utmost consternation, and almost driven even to despair. He tore his clothes, and laid himself down upon the earth, like a person frantic with grief, and abandoned to distress; and his servants stood disconsolate around him with their garments torn also. And Jonadab answered, &c. — Recollecting himself in his subtlety, and running over the train of his own thoughts, he easily concluded that Amnon only was killed; and immediately took upon him to assure the king it must be so. Amnon only is dead; for by the appointment of Absalom, &c. — It is probable Absalom had talked among his familiar friends, that he would take an opportunity to revenge the injury done his sister, although, for the present, he took no notice of it, which Jonadab had some way or other discovered. But “what unparalleled impudence and effrontery,” says Delaney, “was this, to speak with such calmness and unconcern of a horrid villany, which he himself had contrived, and of which he now saw the dreadful consequences! What a miscreant minister was this, and how much fitter to be admitted into the councils of hell than into those of David! This hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister — And did Jonadab know all this? or had he any cause to suspect it? Then what a wicked wretch was he, that he did not make David acquainted with it sooner, in order that means might have been used to make up the quarrel, or, at least, that David might not have thrown Amnon into the mouth of danger, by letting him go to Absalom’s house. For, if we do not do our utmost to prevent mischief, we make ourselves accessory to it. It is well if Jonadab was not as guilty of Amnon’s death as he was of his sin. Such friends do they prove who are hearkened to when they counsel us to do wickedly.

And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king's sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.
Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king's sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead.
But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.
2 Samuel 13:34. Absalom fled — He was now as much afraid of the king’s sons as they were of him; they fled from his malice, he from their justice. No part of the land of Israel could shelter him; the cities of refuge afforded no protection to a wilful murderer. Though David had let Amnon’s incest go unpunished, Absalom could not promise himself his pardon for this murder. He therefore made the best of his way to his mother’s relations, and was entertained and protected by his grandfather Talmai three years; David not demanding him, and Talmai not thinking himself obliged to send him back unless he were demanded.

And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king's sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.
And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king's sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore.
But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.
2 Samuel 13:37. David mourned for his son every day — Either for the murder of Amnon, or for Absalom, who was lost as to any comfort he could have from him. “Thus did God, by withdrawing his restraining grace from Amnon, and leaving him a prey to his own passions, raise up evil to David out of his own house; a daughter ravished by her own brother; that brother murdered by another brother; and that other in exile on that account; and soon to perish by a fate yet more deplorable, had it not been more deserved! And now began another and more dreadful prophecy of Nathan to be fulfilled upon David, before his eyes: the sword was now first brought in upon his house, attended with this dreadful assurance of never departing from it.” — Delaney.

So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.
And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.
2 Samuel 13:39. The soul of King David longed to go forth to Absalom — To visit him, or to send for him. What amazing weakness was this! At first he could not find in his heart to do justice to the ravisher of his sister; and now he can almost find in his heart to receive into favour the murderer of his brother! How can we excuse David from the sin of Eli, who honoured his sons more than God.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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