2 Samuel, chapter 13

Tamar was a daughter of King David, her mother being Maakah. David had six wives whilst he was in Hebron: Ahinoam, Abigail, Maakah, Haggith, Abital and Eglah. (2 Samuel 3:3-5) Tamar had a full brother, Absalom, and a half-brother called Amnon, who was the oldest son of David and Ahinoam of Jezreel. She was a beautiful virgin with a strong personality, obedient to her calling and with a servant heart. In chapter thirteen, we read that Amnon "fell in love" with his sister.

A shameful story

This story shows the problems in David's family which were the beginning of a fulfilment of prophecy given to David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba and then engineered her husband's death during a battle. (2 Samuel 12:11) Instead of asking his father, David, if he could marry Tamar, Amnon could not wait - a sure sign that it was lust, rather than love, which was the motivating force. Amnon sets a trap for her on the advice of his cousin. He pretends to be ill and asks his father to allow his sister to come and look after him. David agrees and Tamar responds willingly, ready to do whatever was necessary to help her brother. Amnon played the "sympathy card" with his family to get what he wanted and it worked like a dream.

Amnon forces himself on her and she tries to fend him off, pointing out the consequences of going about things the wrong way and suggesting that their father could allow them to marry first. However, Amnon refuses to listen and brutally rapes his sister. In so doing, he destroys both her present and future, ruining her chances of a good marriage. He effectively assassinates her character and leaves her a bleeding, trembling wreck. In a single act of violence, Amnon steals her virginity, destroys her integrity, her self-esteem and sabotages any hope of future relationships for her. Having had his way with her, despite her pleas for mercy, he then has her thrown out of his apartments. Worse still, he now despises her and wants nothing more to do with her. “He hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her.” (2 Samuel 13:15) His sudden, changed attitude towards her proved the point that it was lust that had driven him to such drastic action.

Being unwanted, so far as Tamar was concerned, was worse than the rape because it destroyed her self esteem and value. (2 Samuel 13:17) She was locked out and left alone to cry, full of fears and regrets. She took the beautiful robe that she was wearing as a royal princess, the robe which represented her virginity and which she would one day give to her husband and she tore it up. (2 Samuel 13:18-19) She covered her head in ashes - a sign of mourning and desolation - and went away to find her brother, Absalom. He counselled her to say nothing about what had happened and took her into his own home to look after her, but he nurtured a strong hatred for his half-brother, Amnon, and was determined to avenge his sister when the time came. (2 Samuel 13:20)

Anger but no justice

King David heard about what had happened and was "furious" but, where the reader might have expected some painful consequences, there then follows a deafening silence. David certainly had enough time to deal with the problem and to discipline Amnon within his own family, making him take responsibility for his actions. But despite being a great king and warrior, David proved to be weak and indecisive in his duties as a father. Absalom bides his time, carefully nursing his anger for two years, then sees an opportunity to take the law into his own hands. He arranges a party to celebrate the sheep-shearing and persuades David to allow Amnon and the rest of the king's sons to join the festivities. When Amnon has had plenty to drink and let down his guard, Absalom's men step in and cut him down. (2 Samuel 13:23-29)

Absalom lost respect for his father over the failure to deal with Amnon and it fuelled his own personal desire and ambition to see himself as a better candidate for the throne. The resulting conflict is described in 2 Samuel, chapters fifteen to eighteen. Absalom nearly succeeded in destroying David and God had to step in and save him. David continued to love Absalom, his precious son, to the very end, but those who had supported David in his early days did their best to protect him from himself. The king's men faced down the rebellion and Absalom was forced to turn and flee. In doing so, he died an ignominious death, caught by the flowing locks of his own hair (of which he was so proud) in a tree and speared to death by troops loyal to David.

Lessons from Tamar

Tamar was a victim, but also a survivor. We can learn so much from the fact that God has put her story in the Bible.

  1. Beware of the father’s sin being repeated by the children.
  2. Don't get involved with a man who makes himself ill with desire. He will not be any good with the pressures of life.
  3. Love is a giving force, while lust is a selfish compulsion centralised on gratification.
  4. Keep your maternal instincts under control. Men who behave like babies do not make good husbands.
  5. Always use discernment in EVERY situation.
  6. Never be on your own with a man unless you know his intentions are pure.
  7. Men lose respect for women who are persuaded to surrender their bodies. Women who do so also lose respect for themselves.


Many men seek a woman’s sympathy to get their own way and, if women are not careful, they become very vulnerable to different types of abuse and manipulation. A supposedly helpless man can stimulate a woman's maternal and nurturing instincts, encouraging her to show love and care for the weak, be that a baby or a grown man. All too often, men take advantage of this, allowing it to provoke in them a spirit of lust. Such deception can be considered as emotional rape, which can have dire consequences, as far-reaching as physical rape.

Many women have suffered the terribly degrading trauma of rape and sexual abuse. Someone who has been there can really understand and help you go through the various stages of healing and recovery. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5) For those who have not been through this trial, but have had painful experiences, which seem to have happened out of the blue, we need to know how to win through and be "overcomers". Situations may occur through no fault of our own, but they can bring our lives to a standstill with no apparent opportunity for restoration. Just because we are Christians does not mean that we are exempt from such attacks. They come directly from the enemy and show just how badly he wants to violate God's children. He plans and plots for our destruction, prowling around us like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Nevertheless, we can resist him through faith and overcome his attacks.

Overcoming by standing firm in our faith

“To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne." (Revelation 3:21)

  • Let's allow Christ to come into the dark places of our lives. He will heal us and set us free. (Isaiah 61:1-3; Mark 1:41; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 4:15)
  • Let's not turn away from God but go running to Him, like a child. When we become secure in our relationship with God, we will allow the past to fall away from us. (Psalm 34:17-19; 2 Corinthians 6:16)
  • Let's forgive. This is not an emotional experience but an act of obedience to His word - following Jesus' example at His crucifixion. (Ephesians 3:16; Luke 23:34)
  • Let's pray for our enemies. (Psalm 55:22-23; Jeremiah 15:21)
  • Let's love those who hate us. This is definitely helped when begin by praying. (Romans 12:21)
  • Let's fill our minds with good things. (Philippians 2:5)
  • Let's fill our lives with valuable activities. (John 10:10; Psalm 31:15)
  • Let's not allow loneliness to be so powerful that we lose all sense and discernment. (Micah 7:7-10)
  • Let's make friends with men and women who can be trusted as brothers or sisters under God. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • Let's not link our worth to our sexual ability but find worth in what God says about us. (Psalm 73:25-26)
  • Let's dress with decency. (1 Timothy 2:9)
  • Let's have no fear. (2 Timothy 1:7; Psalm 121:7-8; Psalm 140:1-4; Proverbs 1:33)
  • Let's allow joy to return and reign in us. (Psalm 30:5b)

Abuse and rape are such common subjects today that, although we are shocked when it comes close to home, we do not rise up against the real perpetrator of the crime, Satan himself. Certainly we should look on an abused person with compassion and pray (privately) for them. If we are the one abused, the only answer to complete recovery can be God’s way - as described above - however hard some of these points may seem. We can put up all sorts of barriers and good faces, but God wants to heal us from the inside out. He wants to "grant [consolation and joy] to those who mourn – to give them an ornament [a garland or diadem], of beauty instead of ashes, oil of joy instead of mourning, the garment [expressive] of praise instead of a heavy, burdened, and failing spirit – that they may be called oaks of righteousness [lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God], the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified." (Isaiah 61:2-3) Doesn’t that sound like a pretty good exchange when you feel so filthy, guilty, angry, unloved and rejected?

We have to constantly encourage ourselves that there is life after abuse and, although I may never be the same, I can learn from it. I can also use my experience to help others who are fighting their way through the "wild woods" and all their ghosts without Jesus. I can make sure that they find Him and are able to heal and grow in His love to produce the fruit of His Holy Spirit.

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