So...this is one of those stories sprinkled through the Bible that show the daily horror of man. You don't expect a rape story; a family sexual abuse story in the Bible. At least I don't. But it shows God's intention for this book. It's meant to be a field manual from our leader, showing us where and how to go. A field manual that only mentions the best case scenarios is useless.
So here's the gist of it:
- As mentioned previously, David had many wives. His son, Amnon.
- From another mother, he had a brother and sister Tamar, and her brother Absalom.
- Amnon lusted after Tamar. And he couldn't think of a way to "do anything to her". He was so obsessed with her, he made himself ill.
- Amnon's creepy friend (also David's nephew) he use his father to force Tamar into serving him in his bedroom by deception.
- Amnon thought this an excellent idea, pretended to be sick, requested that Tama serve him and his father obliged. Which is so gross. Why? David knew the truth about men's urges and such, why would he force the daughter of one wife to serve a sick son of another wife in his bedroom?
- Tamar obediently obliges and cooks the food, but Amnon says, I want you to feed me by hand in my bed.
- Amnon tries to force her and she replies with several things that caught my eye:
- v. 12
- She clearly starts with "no". She did not want this act.
- Then she calls him "my brother". trying to highlight why it was wrong.
- Then she says, "do not violate me". emphasizing it would not be sex, but a violation
- "such a thing is not done in Israel" reminding him that the were a nation set apart and they did not abide in these perversions.
- v. 13
- The she points out that she would have no way to remove her reproach.
- And he would be a fool among his nation.
- And finally, she offers to marry him and make it legitimate by going to the king and asking for her.
- v. 14 Amnon overpowers her and rapes and violates her.
- v. 15 And then he despises her. He hated more intensely than he had been obsessed with her. I think this is a common response for abusers and predators. There are probably some basic psychological explanations, such as resenting that he wanted her and she didn't reciprocate, so when he had her, he could return the rejection. Or many they hate themselves, but are so narcissistic, they have to turn their hate on others. Whatever the reasoning, it is simple and plain evil. You have to harden your heart to allow yourself to do that to another human being and that means choosing evil over good. You invite in a cancer that you cannot contain to that one act.
- And his creepy buddy, David's nephew, is complicit. Yes, Amnon is responsible for his own criminal behavior; but the devil successfully tempted the nephew to successfully tempt Amnon. Verse 2 says it was hard for Amnon to think of anyway to do anything to her. The nephew made a way.
- Also in v. 15, he has her kicked out.
- In v. 16, she begs him to do the only remaining right thing and marry her- pointing out that sending her away to spend the rest of her life carrying the shame and reproach is worse than the rape itself. It hurts my heart that many cultures make it so hard on rape victims. That they should be anything but victims who should be able to confidently bring charges to the abuser is so sad and infuriating. It doesn't help that some women cry 'rape', making it harder to automatically believe every woman.
- Tamar would rather marry her rapist than to leave there in permanent shame. That just shocks the conscious.
- v 17, this cowardly weasel has an attendant throw her out and lock the door. Again, this image is so callous and cowardly, it's tough not to hate this man.
- In Verses 17 and 18, Tamar is left to respond in grief and shame, tearing her "virginal clothing" and covering herself in ashes, she leaves sobbing aloud. (Ryrie points out that she took the specific actions of a widow mourning her husband.)
The next scene in this gristly story gets progressively worse.
In v. 20, Tamar's brother discovers what happens and does a thing men are often inclined to do and that to simultaneously dismiss the woman's feels about the issue; and then take the issue, personally, to heart and go act on his own anger.
- He confirms what happened with her.
- Then he tells the rape victim to keep silent.
- Then seems to say to keep quiet because it was her brother, as if that's better?
- Then tells her not to take the matter to heart.
It's difficult to imagine how he could have handled this worse. What a horrible, horrible response.
- Telling a rape victim to keep quiet is truly another violation. She has already lost control of her body once and now she's not allowed to speak of it? Horrible response #1. And I know some might say that he wanted her to keep quiet to help his revenge plan work better; but that's not a valid reason. She's supposed to do something so he can more easily do what it takes to make himself feel better? No. No. No. No. No. If talking about is what she needed; his revenge plot should be what suffers; not Tamar.
- Then, I can't even describe how awful it sounds that he tells her to quiet down because it was her brother who did this thing. I hope there is something lost in translation because that is too horrible to consider.
- And then Absalom has the nerve to tell her to not take it to heart. HE TAKES IT TO HEART. He gets to act on his anger; but she's supposed to not take it to heart. What a selfish, knuckle-dragging, asinine thing to say to someone who is hurting from such a personal violation. Because of her culture, her whole life has now changed. She can never be a virgin again, with all that entails. And he pats her on the head and dismisses her feelings-- all the while planning to exercise his own feelings on the matter.
And the proof he handled it completely wrong? The last sentence in Verse 20: "So Tamar remained was DESOLATE in her brother Absalom's house.