Tamar’s Story

Write the Bible

The challenge this week is to imagine I am a Bible writer and I am allowed to write a prequel, sequel, or supporting part to the story found in 2 Samuel 13:1-33. In the readings and lectures to prepare me for this task, I learned the importance of how 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, and 2 Kings focus on the biblical monarchy. As reiterated by Dr. Lester in his first lecture several times in Judges the people are condemned for taking matters into their own hands and not doing God’s will so the Israelites end up with kings to guide them just as they have requested. In his second lecture, we learn how the divine king can also provide duties of the priest because of his special relationship with God. The article written by Steven McKenzie further discusses how monarchs in the ancient Near East owned their lands and had final authority over everyone and everything. He also talks about how the sons, or heirs, are the ones who will succeed their fathers for this position. Barry Bandstra spells out how David’s first son Amnon was in line for the throne when he acted on his obsession for his half-sister, Tamar. Tricking their father and her to come visit him in his bedroom he rapes her. Tamar’s full brother, Absalom, takes revenge killing him two years later.

According to information in the article by Deborah Rooke being the victim of rape was probably seen as Tamar’s fault because women were always viewed as adulteresses. In ancient times women were at fault for getting raped because they were seductresses. Victim blaming, or the woman being at fault in a rape, still takes place to today although it is less about committing adultery. Instead, it is believed that the woman should know how to prevent getting raped. She should not go places alone, never wear clothes which make her irresistible to men, never get drunk, and so on and so forth. Before you read the scripture followed by my story I ask you to think about the article by Hilary Lipka which questions if Bathsheba was a seductress or a rape victim. Knowing that the king has power over everyone and everything pretty much sums up my belief of what happened. Power is misused throughout the stories of David’s life as king. If David raped Bathsheba it would explain why he never punished his eldest son and never reached out and took care of his daughter. He viewed Amnon’s behavior as tolerable.

How timely and appropriate to focus on rape during sexual assault awareness month! I did some further research prior to writing my story because I wanted positive inspiration unlike the negative I’d read leading up to my envisioning the story I wish Tamar had lived. The article I found was written by Susan Ackerman expressing roles women would have had in ancient Israel and the Hebrew Bible. She even mentions Tamar as being a woman who was able to live independent of a husband because she was the king’s daughter.

2 Samuel 13:1-33 Common English Bible (CEB)

Some time later, David’s son Amnon fell in love with Tamar the beautiful sister of Absalom, who was also David’s son. Amnon was so upset over his half sister that he made himself sick. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible in Amnon’s view to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend named Jonadab, Shimeah’s son, David’s brother, who was a very clever man.

“Prince,” Jonadab said to him, “why are you so down, morning after morning? Tell me about it.”

So Amnon told him, “I’m in love with Tamar, the sister of my brother Absalom.”

“Lie down on your bed and pretend to be sick,” Jonadab said to him. “When your father comes to see you, tell him, ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and give me some food to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I can watch and eat from her own hand.’”

So Amnon lay down and pretended to be sick. The king came to see him, and Amnon told the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of heart-shaped cakes in front of me so I can eat from her hand.”

David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Please go to your brother Amnon’s house and prepare some food for him.”

So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made heart-shaped cakes in front of him, and then cooked them. She took the pan and served Amnon, but he refused to eat.

“Everyone leave me,” Amnon said. So everyone left him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the bedroom so I can eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the heart-shaped cakes she had made and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. When she served him the food, he grabbed her and said, “Come have sex with me, my sister.”

But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t rape me. Such a thing shouldn’t be done in Israel. Don’t do this horrible thing. Think about me—where could I hide my shame? And you—you would become like some fool in Israel! Please, just talk to the king! He won’t keep me from marrying you.”

But Amnon refused to listen to her. He was stronger than she was, and so he raped her.

But then Amnon felt intense hatred for her. In fact, his hatred for her was greater than the love he had felt for her. So Amnon told her, “Get out of here!”

“No, my brother!” she said. “Sending me away would be worse than the wrong you’ve already done.”

But Amnon wouldn’t listen to her. He summoned his young servant and said, “Get this woman out of my presence and lock the door after her.”(She was wearing a long-sleeved robe because that was what the virgin princesses wore as garments.) So Amnon’s servant put her out and locked the door after her.

Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long-sleeved robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and walked away, crying as she went.

Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has your brother Amnon been with you? Keep quiet about it for now, sister; he’s your brother. Don’t let it bother you.” So Tamar, a broken woman, lived in her brother Absalom’s house.

When King David heard about all this he got very angry, but he refused to punish his son Amnon because he loved him as his oldest child. Absalom never spoke to Amnon, good word or bad, because he hated him for raping his sister Tamar.

Two years later, Absalom was shearing sheep at Baal-hazor near Ephraim, and he invited all the king’s sons. Absalom approached the king and said, “Your servant is shearing sheep. Would the king and his advisors please join me?”

But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son. We shouldn’t all go, or we would be a burden on you.” Although Absalom urged him, the king wasn’t willing to go, although he gave Absalom a blessing.

Then Absalom said, “If you won’t come, then let my brother Amnon go with us.”

“Why should he go with you?” they asked him. But Absalom urged him until he sent Amnon and all the other princes. Then Absalom made a banquet fit for a king.

Absalom commanded his servants, “Be on the lookout! When Amnon is happy with wine and I tell you to strike Amnon down, then kill him! Don’t be afraid, because I myself am giving you the order. Be brave and strong men.” So Absalom’s servants did to Amnon just what he had commanded. Then all the princes got up, jumped onto their mules, and fled.

While they were on the way, the report came to David: “Absalom has killed all of the princes! Not one remains.” The king got up, tore his garments, and lay on the ground. All his servants stood near him, their garments torn as well. But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said, “My master shouldn’t think that all the young princes have been killed—only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s plan ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. So don’t let this bother you, my master; don’t think that all the princes are dead, because only Amnon is dead.

The rest of Tamar’s story…(not found in the Bible.)

When she heard the news of what Absalom had done she was relieved that Amnon would no longer be able to violate any other women. But relief didn’t last long for she was distraught thinking about what their father might do to Absalom and what would be her fate after this incident.

“My dear brother, you have avenged what happened to me but now I am afraid of what will happen to me as you leave your home to go into hiding from our father.” “Who shall take care of me when you are gone and where will I live?”

Absalom answered her, “Tamar, our father is fond of you and does feel bad Amnon hurt you. Go to him in his grief and ask him for a place to stay and a way to provide for yourself. He is sure to grant you these requests. If he hesitates or refuses, remind him that he is the king and can do anything even if it has not been done before.”

After giving her this advice he made haste, away from the house seeking safety for himself leaving her alone. Tamar internalized everything that had happened to her.

Not long after King David’s servants came to the house looking for Absalom. They said to her, “Where is Absalom? We have come to give him the king’s warning.” She answered them truthfully that she did not know and then asked that they take her to meet with King David.

They did so. She found her father weeping and fasting over the death of Amnon. When he saw her he ceased temporarily and allowed her to enter the room.

“Daughter, you know what your brother has done to my eldest son why are you here?” She answered him saying, “Father, I come for I have no place else to go and because you have sent my brother away I no longer have anyone to care for me.”

“You have come and yet I cannot help you.” He replied. Remembering what Absalom told her and knowing that she faithfully abided by the teachings of Yahweh she said, “Father, you are the servant of God and have been given God’s authority. You are able to even do priestly jobs when needed. Today you will invite me to stay at your house where I will bake the bread until I reach the age when I am too old to bear children. Once this happens I will enter the Temple and perform priestly duties.”

King David agreed and then went back to weeping and fasting.

Because her brother avenged the wrongs done to her by her half-brother she was allowed to live out the rest of her life without stigma and shame for she had done nothing wrong. This did not mean that her life was easy for it was hard work to make the bread for all who resided at the house of her father.

And when she finally reached the age when her body would no longer bear children she entered into the Temple to assume her priestly duties where she happily lived out the rest of her days.

Sources

Ackerman, Susan  http://religion.oxfordre.com/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780199340378.001.0001/acrefore-9780199340378-e-45

Bandstra, Barry http://barrybandstra.com/rtot4/rtot4-12-ch8.html

Lester, Dr. Brook

Lipka, Hilary http://bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/david-and-bathsheba.aspx

McKenzie, Steven L. http://bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/kingship-in-the-ane.aspx

Rooke, Deborah http://bibleodyssey.org/passages/related-articles/woman-adulterer-motif.aspx

5 thoughts on “Tamar’s Story”

  1. Hi Debi. The rest of Tamar’s story written by you was so kind. I felt that you had hope for her story and saw David in a different light than I did. I thought it was so great to feel hope for her. Along with that you gave Tamar a powerful (at that time) voice. Allowing her to say to her father she believes he can help her even in the difficult situation she was forced into. Excellent job using the sources we were given and bringing out a voice in Tamar!

  2. Well done Debi. Thanks for your insightful outcome! I heard a similar type of reflection last about the history behind the belief that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute (she wasn’t)… also attributed to the male dominated culture around 536 CE to diminish the fact that it was women (who were simply property and not to be believed) who witnessed the resurrected Christ first and He sent them to deliver the news.

  3. I am also so impressed your writing and historical view of the social attitude at the time in Israel. You did put a lot of time and energy into your presentation! You did excellent job!

  4. You did a great job of researching the role of women in ancient society to come up with a conclusion to the story for Tamar that resulted in a happy ending for her. Your writing style blends well also with the Biblical text. Well done!

  5. Hi, Debi, I am touched deeply by your thoughtful research about ancient people’s societal attitude for the rape of a woman and your story of Tamar that is very reflective and creative in its contents and organized plot. I really enjoy reading the whole story of your blog and appreciate your considerate and reflective writing of the bible story of Tamar!

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