II Samuel 13



(vs. 1-22)  The facts are:


1. Amnon entertains an improper affection for his half-sister Tamar, and

meditates evil.

2. Making known his secret passion to Jonadab, he is prompted to a device

for securing a personal interview with her.

3. The king, visiting Amnon in his pretended sickness, kindly arranges that

Tamar should wait upon him with special focal in his chamber.

4. Seizing an opportunity in the absence of attendants, he accomplishes his

purpose in defiance of her protests and pretexts.

5. By a sudden revulsion of feeling, he now hates her, and causes her to be

driven away in disgrace.

6. Her trouble becoming known to the king and to Absalom, the one is

very wroth and does nothing, and the other conceals his cherished hatred

and revenge.


1 “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.” After this. This phrase, as we have seen on ch.10:1,

has little chronological force, but the date of the sad event which formed

the second stage in David’s punishment can be settled with considerable

certainty. Tamar was the daughter of Maacah, a princess of Geshur, and

David’s marriage with her, while still at Hebron, is mentioned as a proof of

his growing power, and consequently some time must have elapsed after

his appointment as king before this alliance took place. As Absalom was

apparently older than Tamar, if she were now fifteen or sixteen years of

age. David would have been king of all Israel at least thirteen or fourteen

years, and would have reached the summit of his glory. His wars would be

over, Rabbah captured, and his empire firmly established. For twenty more

years he must sit upon his throne, but as a culprit, and bear the many

sorrows resulting from his sin. Amnon was David’s firstborn, the son of

Ahinoam of Jezreel; and probably he would never have committed his

shameless crime had not David’s own sin loosed the bonds of parental

authority. As it was, he hesitated, but was encouraged to it by his cousin,

who was too subtle a man not to weigh David’s character well before

coming to the conclusion that Amnon might safely gratify his lusts. The

name Tamar means “palm tree,” and both she and Absalom were

remarkable for their personal beauty.


2 “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

anything to her.”  Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick. The Hebrew literally

is, and it was narrow to Amnon, even to becoming sick. To an Oriental a

feeling of narrowness means distress, while in joy there is a sense of

largeness and expansion. Our words for distress have lost this picturesque

force. That Amnon thought it hard does not mean that he had any feeling

for his sister’s disgrace, but that he knew that his attempt was difficult. He

did not see how he could get Tamar into his power, and feared the

consequences. The wives had each her own dwelling, and the daughters

were kept in strict seclusion.


3 “But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of

Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.”

Jonadab, the son of Shimeah. He is called Shammah in I Samuel 16:9,

and is there described as Jesse’s third son. A brother of Jonadab, named

Jonathan, is mentioned in ch. 21:21 as a valiant soldier who slew one of the

Philistine giants. Subtil is not used in a bad sense, but means clever, ready

in devising means.



A False Friend (v. 3)


“And Jonadab was a very subtile man.” Every virtue has its counterfeit. As

there is a friendship which is true and beneficial, so there is what appears to

be such but is false and injurious. Of the former we have an instance in

David and Jonathan (I Samuel 18:1-4), of the latter in Amnon and

Jonadab (his cousin, a son of Shammah, ibid. ch. 16:9; ch. 21:21), “one of those

characters who in great houses pride themselves on being acquainted and on

dealing with all the secrets of the family” (Stanley). In Jonadab, the daily

companion of Amnon (v. 4), we see the kind of friend that should not be chosen.


1. He is distinguished for subtlety, not for virtue and piety. “In the choice

of a friend, let him be virtuous; for vice is contagious, and there is no

trusting of the sound and the sick together” (Seneca). “Friendship is

nothing else but benevolence or charity, under some modifications, viz.

that it be in a special manner intense, that it be mutual, and that it be

manifest or mutually known. It cannot be but between good men, because

an ill man cannot have any true charity, much less such an intense degree of

it as is requisite to friendship” (J. Norris, ‘Miscellanies’). A companion is

sometimes chosen solely for his cleverness and insinuating address; but his

superior intelligence (however desirable in itself), unless it be combined

with moral excellence, enables him to do all the greater mischief

(Jeremiah 4:22).


2. In professing concern for another’s welfare he seeks only to serve his

own interests; his own pleasure, gain, influence, and advancement (v. 4).

True friendship is disinterested. Jonadab appears to have cared only for

himself. Hence (to avoid getting himself into trouble) he gave no warning

to others of what he foresaw (v. 32). “This young man, who probably

desired to make himself of some importance as David’s nephew, was clever

enough to guess the truth from the first; but it is sad to think that his

thought and his advice were never founded on anything but a knowledge of

the devil in man” (Ewald).


3. When he is acquainted with the secret thoughts of another, he fails to

give him faithful counsel. (v. 5.) Such acquaintance is often obtained by

flattery — “thou a king’s son” — and frequent questioning; but it is not

followed, in the case of improper desires and purposes, by admonition.

“No flatterer can be a true friend.” “Had he been a true friend, he had bent

all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful

lust” (Hall). “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”  (Proverbs 27:6)


4. Whilst he devises means for another’s gratification, he smoothes his

way to destruction. His aim is only to please. He advises what is agreeable,

but what is morally wrong; and thus incites to sin; for which, with all its

consequences, he is, in part, responsible. “In wise counsel two things must

be considered that both the end be good, and the means honest and lawful.

Jonadab’s counsel failed in both.” “The rapacious friend, the insincere

friend, the friend who speaks only to please, and he who is a companion in

vicious pleasures, — recognizing these four to be false friends, the wise

man flies far from them, as he would from a road beset by danger”

(Contemporary Review, 27:421). “A companion of fools shall be

destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20; 1:10).




A Diabolical Friend: A Homily for Young Men (v. 3)


This chapter contains a dreadful story.


Ø      The unnatural lust of Amnon,

Ø      the vile counsels of Jonadab,

Ø      the unsuspiciousness of the king,

Ø      the confiding innocence of Tamar,

Ø      her unavailing remonstrances and resistance,

Ø      the hardened villainy of her half-brother,

Ø      his hatred and cruel expulsion of his innocent victim,

Ø      her bitter anguish and lamentations,

Ø      the unjust leniency of David towards the offender

(although “very wroth”),

Ø      the vengeance so quietly prepared and so sternly

executed by Absalom,

the king’s lamentations over the death of Amnon, and

Ø      his subsequent longing after the fugitive Absalom, —


present a picture of:


Ø      horrible wickedness,

Ø      helpless misery,

Ø      weak negligence, and

Ø      fierce and deadly revenge,


which moves us with alternate detestation and pity, as well as wonder that

so much depravity should have been found in the family of a man so godly

and devout, until we remember:


Ø      the unfavorableness of polygamy to the right training of families,

Ø      the foolish indulgence of David towards his children, and

Ø      his own evil conduct, which weakened his authority.


Passing by, however, all other particulars, let us consider awhile this statement,

Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab... a very subtil man.”



first view the friendship of Jonadab and Amnon seems natural and proper.

They were first cousins; Jonadab was a man of intelligence (subtil,”

equivalent to “wise,” not necessarily “subtle” in the bad sense); he “showed

himself friendly” by noticing his friend’s doleful appearance and inquiring

the cause. Not until we observe the advice he gave, and see how it was

accepted and followed, do we discover how base he was, how base they

both were. Amnon’s vileness appears, indeed, earlier, in his indulgence of a

passion for his beautiful half-sister, and that so violent, while so seemingly

hopeless, that it affected his health. A case, surely, calling for pity and

sympathy! No wonder that his dear friend so feelingly inquired after his

health, and employed his subtlety to find a remedy! They must have known

each other very well for one to acknowledge so disreputable a cause of his

ill looks, and the other to suggest so infamous a restorative. What a real

friend would have advised is obvious. He would have urged Amnon, by

every consideration of morality and religion, of regard for the honor of his

family and nation, the happiness of his father, and the duty he owed to his

sister, to conquer his guilty passion. But Amnon knew well that he was in

no peril of being troubled with such counsel, or he would not have

acknowledged his shameful lust. Observe, too, how utterly this pair of

friends, like all their tribe, disregarded the ruin and misery which they were

plotting for the innocent Tamar. They seem to have been tolerably sure that

the offence would not be thought very serious by “society,” (What have we

come to in America to be thought of in the same sentence as this???  CY – 2018)

and that the law would not be put in force by David. His own sins of a similar

kind would give them confidence of impunity. Even after committing the foul

crime, Amnon does not seem to have thought it necessary, for the sake

either of safety or decency, to retire for at least a time from Jerusalem until

the affair had “blown over.” What a contrast between this friendship and

that of David and Jonathan! Many such friends, alas! are to be found in the

world; men who are counseling and aiding and hardening each other in

licentiousness, whose delight is to ruin the innocent, and bring dishonor

and misery on their families; and who are preparing each other for WELL-

MERITED DAMNATION!   Yet their debauchery is overlooked by

“society,” especially if they be of high rank, while their victims receive

no pity. It would be of little use to address such wretches, even if we could

gain their attention and have access to them. But we may warn young men

who have not yet come under their deadly influence, but who may be in

danger of doing so. For in all classes of society persons are to be found who,

corrupt themselves and who delight in corrupting others. Young men coming

from the country to great cities, where at present they have no friends, are in

peril, not only from prostitutes or sometimes from loose married women,

but from men of the class referred to. These will test them by using double

entendres, advancing to outspoken ribaldry and freer conversation about sexual

indulgences. If discouraged, they will laugh at the “innocence” and

“squeamishness” of the youth they would corrupt. If he at all encourage

them, they will introduce him to indecent books (nowadays, pornography

in every technological and graphic form – CY – 2018), or offer themselves as

guides to the places where he may safely indulge his passions. To an

inexperienced youth, not yet well grounded in Christian principles, such

approaches present very powerful temptations. The assault from without

meets with auxiliaries within, in the awakening passions themselves, and in

a curiosity “to see a little life.” The manner in which such temptations are

met at the beginning is likely to determine THE CHARACTER OF THE

YOUTH’S WHOLE FUTURE LIFE!  To yield is to be undone; to resist and

conquer is to gain new strength for future conflict and victory. Let, then, those

who are thus tempted shrink back from their tempter as from a viper. At the

first indication of such depravity let them “cut” those who display it,

 however related to them by blood, however agreeable as companions

(the more agreeable the more dangerous), however able to help them in

their worldly career (a la – Harvey Weinstein of Hollywood who has

been in the news this year about his taken advantage of young aspiring

actresses – CY – 2018).  If their counsel be not followed, yet friendly

association with them in any degree must exercise a debasing influence.

It may not be possible to avoid them altogether; they may be employed in

the same establishment, and indulge themselves in loose language in the

hearing of their fellows; but let a loathing of them be cherished, and every

practicable effort be made to silence and suppress them.




Ø      Close and decided friendship WITH CHRIST!   Begun early, cultivated

diligently by daily communion with Him in secret, through devout study of

His Word, believing meditation, fervent prayer. Thus the heart will become

filled with the purest and noblest affections, leaving no room for the vile;

and thus will the youth become “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his

might,” and “be able to withstand in the evil day” (Ephesians 6:10, 13).


Ø      Friendship with the best Christians. Union and communion with them in

Church fellowship, in Divine ordinances, in Christian work, in social life

and its pure enjoyments. Christian people should interest themselves in the

young (especially young men from home), and welcome them to their

confidence, their friendship, their homes. For the young must have friends;

and if there be difficulty in associating with the good, they are in so much

greater danger of contenting themselves with the evil or the doubtful. But

if they form Christian friendships, these will be as an impassable barrier

against the advances of such as would lead them astray.


Ø      Constant watchfulness and prayer. Against everything that, if indulged,

would make the society of the wicked welcome. Guard the heart, for out of

it springs the life (Proverbs 4:23). Seek of God a clean heart (Psalm 51:10).

Suppress every impure thought and feeling (see Matthew 5:28),

and every impulse to utter impure words (Ephesians 4:29; 5:4). Let the

psalmist’s prayers (Psalm 141:3-4; 139:23-24) be yours. Ever cherish

the thought of Hagar, “Thou God seeth me” (Genesis 16:13).  (Even

though the following are not in the Bible, they certainly apply to this train

of thought! 


“A stitch in time, saves nine!”

                   (Thomas Fuller)


“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!”

(Ben Franklin)


                                CY – 2018)


Ø      Consideration of the certain result of following evil counselors. “A

companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20). Amnon

found it so. Let the young man think, when sinners entice him, “They

are inviting ME to misery, death, hell!”  Finally, it is not only those

who are unchaste, and the abettors of unchastity whose close acquaintance

and counsel are to be avoided, but the irreligious and immoral in general

(many are secularists and identify with secularism “....from such turn

away...” – II Timothy 3:5 - CY – 2018); all who are “lovers of pleasure

rather than lovers of God” (ibid. v. 4, Revised Version); all who adopt,

practice, and tempt to infidelity, sabbath breaking, intemperance, gambling,

untruthfulness, dishonesty, or any other form of evil. “Be not deceived: evil

company” of any kind “doth corrupt good manners” (I Corinthians 15:33,

Revised Version).


4 “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.” Why art thou, being the

king’s son, lean? The Hebrew is, Why, O son of the king, dost thou pine

away morning by morning? There was probably a gathering of friends every

morning at the young prince’s house, and his cousin, attending this levee,

noticed Amnon’s melancholy, and, having forced a confession from him,

is unscrupulous enough to suggest a plan that would make Tamar her

brother’s victim.


5 “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.”

When thy father cometh to see thee. While the daughters lived in

Oriental seclusion in the dwellings of their mothers, the sons seem

to have had separate apartments assigned them in the palace. And David

evidently was an affectionate father, who even went to the abodes of his

sons in a loving and unceremonious way, to see how they fared. But

Jonadab abused the king’s affection, and made it the very means of

removing the obstacles in the way of his daughter’s disgrace. And like the

whole tribe of flatterers and time servers, he employed his cleverness to

gratify his patron’s momentary passion, indifferent to the miserable

consequences which must inevitably follow. For the least punishment

which Amnon would have to bear would be exclusion from the succession

to the crown, besides disgrace and his father’s anger. Absalom, who was

three or four years younger than Amnon, he despised, and counted for



6 “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.  7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying,

Go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat.

8  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.  9 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.”

She took a pan. Many of the words are difficult because, being

the names of ordinary domestic articles, they do not occur in literature. A

man may be a good French scholar, and yet find it difficult in France to ask

for things in common use. Here the Syriac is probably right in

understanding, not a pan, but the delicacy Tamar had been cooking. In v. 8

the word rendered “flour” is certainly “dough,” and is so rendered in the

Revised Version. The cakes were a kind of pancake, fitted to tempt the

appetite of a sickly person. The picture is a very interesting one: the palace

parceled out into separate dwellings; the king kindly visiting all; the girls

on friendly terms with their brothers, yet not allowed to go to their rooms

without special permission; and finally Tamar’s skill in cookery — an

accomplishment by no means despised in an Oriental menage (members

of a household), or thought unworthy of a king’s daughter.




Tamar (v. 7)


A princess; the daughter of David and Maacah (of Geshur), and sister of

Absalom; distinguished for her beauty, modesty, domesticity, obedience

(v. 8), tender heartedness, piety, and misfortunes. In her we see an

illustration of (what has often occurred):


1. Purity pursued by licentious desire (v. 2).

2. Simplicity beset by wily designs (ver. 5).

3. Kindness requited by selfish ingratitude (vs. 9-10).

4. Confidence exposed to enticing persuasions and perilous temptation

(v. 11).

5. Virtue overpowered by brutal violence (v. 14).

6. Innocence vilified by guilty aversion (v. 17). “So fair had she gone

forth on what seemed her errand of mercy, so foully had she been driven

back” (Edersheim). “Let no one ever expect better treatment from those

who are capable of attempting their seduction; but it is better to suffer the

greatest wrong than to commit the least sin” (Matthew Henry).

7. Sorrow assuaged by brotherly sympathy (v. 20).

8. Injury avenged with terrible severity (v. 28).


10 “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.

11 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.  12 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.”    Do not force me; literally, do not humble me.

It is to be regretted that the word should be changed, as it bears testimony to the

nobleness of the Hebrew women, who regarded their chastity as their

crown of honor. The word folly is used in the sense of unchastity in

Genesis 34:7 and elsewhere, and it is noteworthy that the Jews thus

connected crime with stupidity. Vain, that is, empty persons were the

criminal part of the population (Judges 9:4), and to call a man “a fool”

was to attribute to him every possible kind of wickedness (Matthew 5:22).

The thought which lay at the root of this view of sin was that Israel

was a peculiar people, sanctified to God’s service; and all unholiness,

therefore, was not merely criminal in itself, but a proof that the guilty

person was incapable of rightly estimating his privileges. Tamar urges this

upon her “empty” brother, and then pathetically dwells upon their mutual

shame, and, finding all in vain, she even suggests that the king might permit

their marriage. Such marriages, between half-brothers and half-sisters were

strictly forbidden, as tending to loosen the bends of family purity

(Leviticus 18:9; Deuteronomy 27:22); but possibly the Levitical code was

occasionally violated, or Tamar may have suggested it in the hope of escaping

immediate violence.




Things That Ought not to be Done in Israel (v. 12)


The plea of Tamar, “no such thing ought to be done in Israel,” is

interesting, as showing that the sentiment was prevalent amongst the

Israelites, morally imperfect as they were, that they were not to be as the

nations around them; that practices prevalent elsewhere were altogether

out of keeping with their position and calling “It may be so elsewhere; but

it must not be so in Israel.” A similar sentiment as to what is suitable and

becoming is appealed to in the New Testament. Christians are exhorted to

act “as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3; Romans 16:2), to “walk

worthy of the Lord,” “worthy of their vocation,” etc. (Colossians 1:10;

Ephesians 4:1).


  • THE GROUNDS OF SUCH A SENTIMENT. Why should the people

of God regard themselves as under special obligations to live pure and holy



Ø      The character of their God. “Ye shall be holy, for I am holy” was the

language of God to Israel (Leviticus 11:44); and it was repeated to

Christians (I Peter 1:15-16). The injunction could not have been

addressed — cannot now — to the worshippers of other gods.


Ø      Their own consecration to God. Israel was separated by God from other

people to be His own people, devoted to the practice of purity and

righteousness (Leviticus 20:24, 26). All their history, laws, and

institutions had this for their aim, and were adapted to it. In like manner

Christians are:


o        “called to be saints” (Romans 1:7),

o        chosen of God, “that they should be holy and without blame before

Him in love” (Ephesians 1:4).


The Son of God is called Jesus, because He came to “save His people

from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The purpose of His love and self-sacrifice

for them is to “redeem them from all iniquity, and purify unto

himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works” (Titus

2:14, Revised Version). This aim is expressed by the rite by which they are

consecrated to God and introduced into His kingdom — it is a baptism, a

washing from uncleanness. For this they are united into a holy fellowship,

with sacred ministries and services, and godly discipline; and all the

inspired instructions and admonitions addressed to them, and expounded to

them by their teachers, have manifestly the same end and tendency. With all

and above all, the Spirit which dwells amongst them and gives life and

reality to all their communion, worship, and service, is the Holy Spirit, and

his work is to regenerate and sanctify their nature, and produce in them all



Ø      The wonders by which they have been redeemed and consecrated.

Ancient Israel, by a long succession of supernatural revelations, marvelous

miracles, and providential interpositions. The Church of Christ, by the

incarnation of the Eternal Word, and all that followed in the life, death,

resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the miraculous bestowment

and works of the Holy Ghost. Yea, every true Christian is himself, as such,

a product of the Spirit’s supernatural power, being “born again,” “born of

the Spirit” (John 3:3, 6). Thus it is that this “holy nation” is perpetuated

in the earth.


Ø      Their privileges and hopes. “The children of Israelwere “a people near

unto God” (Psalm 148:14). He was their “Portion;” they enjoyed His

special presence, guidance, government, and defense. In a yet more

emphatic sense Christians have God as their God, enjoy constant union and

communion with him, and are assured of His love and sympathy, care and

protection. Moreover, to them is given, more clearly and fully than to the

Old Testament Church, the hope of eternal life. And what is this hope? It is

that of seeing God and being like Him (I John 3:2), of becoming “a

glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but…holy

and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27), presented “faultless before the

presence of His glory” (Jude 1:24). It is to be admitted into the “New

Jerusalem,” into which nothing unholy can enter (Revelation 21:27).

The condition of realizing this blessedness is purity of heart — that

“holiness without which no man shall see the Lord” (Matthew 5:8;

Hebrews 12:14). it is clear that in such a community nothing unholy

“ought to be done,” however common elsewhere. Such things are utterly

inconsistent with their position, their knowledge, their professions, and

their prospects.



need not dwell on gross sensuality, such as that against which the words of

the text were first used. They were appropriate then, because the standard

of morality “in Israel was so much higher in respect to such practices than

in the surrounding nations. But the respectable part of general society in

our time and country recognizes “no such thing” as Amnon proposed as

lawful. And as to many other departments of morality, the moral standard

of society has been elevated by the influence of Christianity. In using the

words, therefore, we do well to think of practices which are permitted or at

least thought lightly of by others, but which are nevertheless contrary to

the precepts or spirit of our religion. Amongst these may be named:


Ø      Selfishness. Including covetousness, worldly ambition, illiberality, etc.,

with the disregard or violation of the claims and rights of others that are

allied to them. These are common enough in Christian countries, but ought

not to exist amongst Christian people, whose religion is a product of

Divine love, whose great Leader and Master is the incarnation of love, who

have received numberless precepts enjoining the love of others as of

themselves, and have been assured that love is greater than faith and hope

(I Corinthians 13:13), much greater, then, than religious ceremonies,

and ecclesiastical forms and observances. Covetousness in particular is

closely associated in the New Testament with sensuality, as a vice not even

to be named amongst Christians, and is declared to be idolatry

(Ephesians 5:3, 5; Colossians 3:5; I Corinthians 5:10-11);


Ø      Pride. Whether of rank, or wealth, or intellect. Holy Scripture, in both

Testaments, abounds in precepts and examples against pride. The Lord

Jesus “humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8) in becoming man, and in the

whole of His life on earth, and frequently enjoined humility on His disciples,

and reproved every indication of a proud spirit in them. Common, therefore,

as pride is in the world, “no such thing ought to be” in the Church.


Ø      Similar remarks may be made as to:


o        unkindness,

o        the revengeful spirit,

o        the unforgiving spirit,

o        quarrelsomeness,

o        uncharitableness,

o         evil speaking, and the like.



Ø      To these may be added  frivolity, gaiety — dissipation, a life of mere

amusement, with no serious, worthy purpose or pursuit. These are not

becoming in those who are enjoined to work out their salvation with fear

and trembling; to be sober and vigilant because of the activity of Satan in

seeking their destruction; to deny themselves, etc. (Philippians 2:12;

I Peter. 5:8; Luke 9:23).


Ø      Indifference to the spiritual welfare of others. The gospel brings into

prominence the claims which men have upon Christians in this respect.

Jesus very solemnly warns against “offending,” others, even the least, by

doing or saying what would lead them into sin or hinder their salvation

(Matthew 18:6-7). He repeatedly teaches His disciples that He gave

them light in order that they might “shine before men,” and so lead them to

glorify God (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 4:21-22). Paul commends

the Philippians for their “fellowship in furtherance of the gospel,” and urges

them to “strive” on its behalf (Philippians 1:5, 27, Revised Version).

Peter enjoins that “as every man hath received the gift,” he should use it for

the good of others, in teaching and ministering (I Peter 4:10, 11). And

in general, the cause of Christ is committed to His disciples, that they may

sustain and extend it both by active service and by pecuniary gifts. To the

discharge of this duty by others we owe our own Christian privileges and

character. If we disregard it, we display ingratitude, unfaithfulness to our

Lord, and insensibility to His great love to ourselves. UNCONCERN

AS TOT HE SALVATION OF MEN is natural enough in men of the

world, but “no such thing ought to be” found amongst Christians.

Finally, in the absence of specific precepts, we may settle many a doubt as

to our duty by considering whether the act or habit in question is suitable

and becoming in those who profess themselves earnest disciples of Jesus

Christ; whether it is in harmony with HIS SPIRIT AND CHARACTER

and conducive, or at least not hostile, to our spiritual benefit, or



13 “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.

14 Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger

than she, forced her, and lay with her.  15 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.”

Anmon hated her exceedingly. Amnon had not really ever

loved Tamar; his passion had been mere animal desire, which, by a well

known psychological law, when gratified TURNED TO HATRED.  Had he

possessed any dignity of character or self-respect, he would have resisted

this double wrong to one so near to him, and whom he had so terribly

disgraced; but he can only remember the indignant words she had spoken

— her comparison of him to “the fools in Israel,” and her obstinate

resistance to his wishes. With coarse violence he orders her away; and

when, humbled and heartbroken, she begs for milder treatment, he adds

insult to the wrong, and bids his manservant push her out, and bolt the

door after her. By such an order the manservant and all Amnon’s people

would be led to believe that she was the guilty person, and Amnon the

victim of her enticements.



Fools in Israel (v. 13)


Sad as was the case of the injured Tamar, that of her wicked brother was

sadder still. She was outraged, but innocent; he was “as one of the fools in



  • WICKED MEN ARE “FOOLS.” The term is often used in Holy

Scripture as synonymous with “godless,” “lawless,” “sinful;” especially in

the Book of Proverbs, where piety and holiness are designated “wisdom.”

The folly of sinners appears in that:


Ø      Their life is opposed to right reason. To wisdom, as recognizable by the

intellect and moral sense, and as revealed in the Sacred Word. They

reject the guidance of “the only wise God”the Infinite and All-

perfect Wisdom. This is true, not only of gross and brutal sinners like

Amnon, but of the most refined and intellectual. Either:


o       they know not how to live, or, worse,

o       will not live according to their knowledge.


Of many in our day we may use the words of Paul (Romans 1:22),

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”


Ø      They act contrary to their own well being. They reject the greatest

blessings for this life and the next; and choose for themselves

degradation, destruction, and misery. They sell their souls for

transient gain or pleasure, or surrender them to destruction because

they are too proud to learn or to accept salvation as a free gift of God

to the undeserving.


Ø      They are in many instances the subjects of strange and fatal delusions.

Believing themselves Christians, though destitute of the most essential

characteristics of Christ’s true disciples; imagining themselves safe for

eternity because of their devotion to ritual observances and dutiful

submission to their priests, although they continue in their sins.



enlightened communities; in Christian congregations; in the purest




the most hopeless of the class. Because of:


Ø      The light which shines there. Revealing God, truth, duty, sin and

holiness, life and death. They “rebel against the light” (Job 24:13),

either by ignoring it, or hating and consciously rejecting it.


Ø      The influences enjoyed there. From the examples of good men; from the

institutions and life of the Church; from the presence and operation of the

Holy Spirit.


Ø      The privileges accessible there. The friendship of Christ and Christians;

approach with assurance to the throne of grace in prayer for all needful

Divine guidance and strength.


Ø      The convictions produced there. Living “in Israel,” it is scarcely possible

to escape impressions and convictions which especially bring wisdom

within reach, and render continuance in folly and sin the more deplorable.

They furnish opportunities of repentance and salvation which, being

neglected, greatly increase GUILT!


Ø      The heavier doom incurred there. By those, that is, to whom the

advantages there enjoyed become occasions of greater sin. To them belong

the “many stripes” (Luke 12:47) and the “sorer punishment”

(Hebrews 10:29). Let each of us, then, be concerned not to be “as one

of the f   ools in Israel.”


16  “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.”

There is no cause. This is certainly not a possible translation of

the Hebrew, which is probably corrupt; and though Tamar’s words may

have been broken and hysterical, we cannot suppose that the narrator

intended to represent her sobs. The text is rendered by Philippsohn, “And

she said to him respecting the evil deed, Greater is this than the other.”

Similarly Cahen renders it, “au sujet de ce mal.” Flat as this is, no better

rendering is possible; but the Vatican copy of the Septuagint has a reading

which suggests the line of probable emendation: “Nay, my brother, this evil

is greater than the other.” It was greater because it cast the reproach upon

her, refused her the solace of his affection, and made her feel that she had

been humbled, not because he loved her, but for mere fantasy. He has had

his will, and, careless of her sorrow, he sends her contemptuously away,

indifferent to the wrong he has done her, and irritated and mortified at her

indignant resistance. However much we may disapprove of Absalom’s

conduct, Amnon richly deserved his punishment.  (“....he shall bare

his iniquity.” – Leviticus 20:17)


18 “And she had a garment of divers colors upon her: for with such

robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins appareled. Then

his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.”

A garment of divers colors. This was probably a long tunic

with sleeves, so woven as for the colors to form patterns like those of the

Scottish tartans (see on Genesis 37:3). The next sentence is probably a

note, which has crept from the margin into the text, and which literally is,

“For so king’s daughters, while unmarried, wore over mantles” (me’ils; see

note on I Samuel 2:19). Both the Authorized Version and the Revised

Version so render as if the colored chetoneth and the me’il were the same;

but the meaning of the note rather is to guard against the supposition that

the princess, while wearing the close-fitting long tunic with sleeves, had

dispensed with the comely mantle. It is, indeed, possible that, while busy in

cooking, she had laid the me’il by, and now rushed away without it. But it

was the tunic with its bright colors which made both Amnon’s servitor

and also the people aware that she was one of the king’s daughters.


19 “And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers

colors that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on

crying.”  Tamar put ashes. There was no concealment of her wrong,

but, thrust out of the inner chamber into which Amnon had enticed her

(v. 10), she cast ashes upon her head from the very fire which she had

just used in cooking, and, rending her garment, hastened away with her

hand on her head, and with cries of lamentation. If David had foreseen this

sad sight when giving way to his passion for Bathsheba, he would have felt

that sin is indeed “folly,” and that its pleasure is followed by shame and

bitter anguish.


20 “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.”  Hath Amnon? The Hebrew has Aminon, a

diminutive, which some authorities regard as expressive of contempt. More

probably it is an accidental variety of spelling. Hold now thy peace. We must

not suppose that Absalom did not comfort his sister, and make her conscious of

his love. He was, in fact, so indignant at her treatment as to have purposed the

sternest vengeance. But this he concealed from her, and counseled

patience, net merely because she would have dissuaded him from a course

so full of danger to himself, but because it was the duty of both to wait and

see what course David would take. Where polygamy is permitted, it is the

duty especially of the brothers to defend their sisters’ honor (Genesis 34:31).

But David was both her father and the chief magistrate; and,

moreover, he had been made an instrument in his daughter’s wrong. They

must be patient, and only if David failed in his duty would Absalom’s turn

come. Meanwhile, Tamar dwelt in his house desolate, as one whose

honor and happiness had been laid waste.


21 “But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.”

David... was very wroth. The legal punishment for Amnon’s crime was

“the being cut off in the sight of the people” (Leviticus 20:17). But how

could David, who had himself committed crimes for which death was the

appointed penalty, carry out the law against his firstborn for following

his example? Still, he might have done more than merely give Amnon

words of reproof. Eli had done as much, and been punished with the

death of his sons for his neglect of duty (I Samuel 2:34). The sin of

David’s son had been even more heartless than theirs; and could David

hope to escape the like penalty? It would have been wise to

have given proof that his repentance included the suppression of the crime

to which his previous conduct had given encouragement. But David was a

man whose conduct was generally governed by his feelings. He was a

creature of warm and often generous impulse, but his character lacked the

steadiness of thoughtful and consistent purpose.




Impunity (v. 21)


“And King David heard of all these things, and was very wroth;” but “he

did not grieve the spirit of his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he

was his firstborn” (Septuagint). And he did not punish him (I Samuel 3:13);

which must be looked upon as:


  • AN OMISSION OF MANIFEST DUTY. If he had been only a father,

he would have been bound to chastise his children for their misbehaviour;

but, being also a king, he was under still stronger obligation to punish the

guilty. To do this:


Ø      Properly belonged to the authority delegated to him.

Ø      Was expressly enjoined in the Divine Law (Leviticus 20:17).

Ø      Urgently demanded by the sense of justice.

Ø      Indispensably necessary to the protection of his subjects.

“Kings, then, have not absolute power to do in their government

what pleases them; their power is limited by God’s Word; so that

if they strike not where God has commanded to strike, they and their

throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon

the face of the earth for lack of punishment” (John Knox).

(Remember Ecclesiastes 8:11 – CY – 2018)



Persia and other Eastern countries) the king, as vicegerent of heaven, had a

large discretionary power of dispensing with the penalties of the Law; but

it behooved him to exercise it without partiality and on sufficient grounds.

Although David’s omission to punish is not expressly condemned, yet the

consequences by which it was followed show that it took place (not, as

some have supposed, on “principle,” or because it was “impossible” for

him to do otherwise, but) without such grounds.


Ø      The affection of a father. This, however, ought not to have prevented

punishment by a father or judge; as it did, being inordinate and blamable,

in Eli (I Samuel 2:22, 30).

Ø      The rank of the offender; the king’s son, his firstborn, heir to the crown.

But he was not above the law; nor less guilty than another of inferior

position would have been. “God is no respecter of persons.”

Ø      The transgression and forgiveness of the king himself. Nevertheless,

whilst both may have exerted a pernicious influence, Amnon was

responsible for his own conduct; and David’s exemption (only from

legal punishment) rested on grounds which did not exist in the case

of his ungodly and impenitent son. The king’s wrath proves his full

conviction of Amnon’s guilt and his moral abhorrence of its enormity:

his failure to “grieve,” or inflict suffering upon him, indicates his own

weakness and dereliction of duty. “Punishment is an effort of man to

find a more exact relation between sin and suffering than this world

affords us. A duty is laid upon us to make this relationship of sin to

suffering as real, and as natural, and as exact in proportion as it is

possible to be made. (“....rulers are....a terror....but to the evil..”

Romans 13:3).  This is the moral root of the whole doctrine of

punishment. But if the adjustment of pain to vice be the main

ground of punishment, it must be admitted that there are other ends

which society has in view in its infliction. These secondary

elements in punishment appear to be:


o       the reformation of the offender;

o       the prevention of further offences by the offender;

o       the repression of offences in others” (Edward Fry, Nineteenth

Century, No. 79, p. 524).  (“And all Israel shall hear, and

fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is

among you.”  Deuteronomy 13:11; 19:20 – CY – 2018)




Ø      It does not appear to have produced any other effect on the offender

than to confirm him in recklessness and fancied security. “Punishment

connected with sin operates towards reform in two ways:


o        by the association of ideas — the linking together of that from which

our nature shrinks with that from which it ought to shrink, so that the

temptation to sin recalls;


§         not only the pleasure of sin,

§         but the pain of suffering;


o        by the shock to the habits of thought and of practice which suffering

produces, by the solution of continuity in the man’s life which it

causes, by the opportunity for reflection and thought which it thus

affords” (Lord Justice Fry).


Ø      On others, also, it was injurious; weakening respect for royal authority

and public justice, (see Ecclesiastes 8:11 – CY – 2018) causing:


o        the law to be despised,

o        grounds for private revenge, leading to further impunity (v. 39;

ch. 14:24, 33),

o        more daring crimes (ch. 15:7; 16:21), and,

o        widespread disaffection and rebellion.


Ø      On the king himself. Further impairing his personal, moral, kingly

energy, and accumulating “sorrow upon sorrow” (vs. 31, 37; ch. 15:13).

It was another link in the chain of painful consequences

resulting from his great transgression; naturally, slowly, effectually

wrought out under the direction and control of the perfect justice of the

supreme King; accomplishing a beneficent end:


o        in purifying his heart,

o        restoring him to God,

o        averting his final condemnation, and

o        teaching, warning, benefiting mankind.


“The dark sin of which he had been guilty spoke of a character that had lost

its self-control, its truthfulness, its generosity. His penitence was not able

to undo all its consequences and to bring back the old energy and life. Over

and above its direct results in alienating the hearts of his most trusted

counselors, and placing him at the mercy of a hard taskmaster, that dark hour

left behind it the penalty of an enfeebled will, the cowardice of a hidden

crime,  the remorse which weeps for the past, yet cannot rouse itself to

the duties of the present. He leaves the sin of Amnon unpunished in spite

of the fearful promise it gave of a reign of brutal passion, ‘because he loved

him, for he was his firstborn.’  Half suspecting, apparently, that Absalom

had some scheme for revenging the wrong which he had failed to redress,

he has no energy to stop its execution. He shrinks only from being present

at a meeting the meaning and issues of which he does not comprehend, and

yet dimly fears. When the exaggerated report is brought back that Absalom

had slain all his brothers — sure sign, if it had been so, that he was claiming

the throne, and marching to it through the blood of his kindred — David’s

attitude is that of passive, panic stricken submission” (E.H. Plumptre, ‘Biblical

Studies,’ p. 89). Who can say that he sinned with impunity?

“Thenceforward the days of his years became full of evil, and if he lived

(for the Lord caused death to pass from himself to the child by a vicarious

dispensation), it was to be a king:


o        with more than kingly sorrows, but with little of kingly power;

o        to be banished by his son;

o        bearded by his servant;

o        betrayed by his friends;

o        deserted by his people;

o        bereaved of his children;


and to feel all, all these bitter griefs, bound, as it were, by a chain of

complicated cause and effect, to this one great, original transgression”

(Blunt, ‘Undesigned Coincidences,’ p. 146).


“It often falls, in course of common life,

That right long time is overborne of wrong;

Through avarice, or power, or guile, or strife,

That weakens her, and makes her party strong.

But justice, though her doom she do prolong,

Yet at the last she will her own cause right.”



22 “And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad:

for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.”

Absalom spake…neither good nor bad. (On this phrase, see Genesis 24:50;

31:24.) Absalom’s outward demeanor was one of utter indifference, concealing

a cruel determination. It is strange how unlike the son was to the father.



The First-Fruits of Iniquity (vs. 1-22


The rather long account given of the base sin of Amnon is no

doubt intended to show how the chastisements pronounced by Nathan

(ch. 12:10-11) were brought about. In this way the spiritual

character of the narrative shines through all the details, which in themselves

seem worthy of being forever lost in oblivion.  (this is what the sinner

apparently counts on but it is a great mistake – CY – 2018)   It is in connection

with the evil, and often through the evil, of life that the righteousness of God is

historically revealed. Those who object to such passages as these in the

Bible know not the principle on which it, as a book, is constructed. It is not

the deeds that are the object of thought and instruction, but the fulfillment

of the righteous judgments of God, brought to pass in the fact and

consequences of their occurrence. In the deeds here recorded we have a

graphic description of the firstfruits of the dreadful sin of David.



SOCIETY. “Sin” is a term descriptive of the moral quality of thought or

action. It is a demonstrable fact in the sphere of mind and life, that every

distinct thought and mental act, to say nothing of the outward expression

of it, is a power or force contributed towards a modification of the existing

forces at work in the world. No mental life is the same after a given

thought has been formed as it would have been had some other been in its

place. The law of dynamics, by which every wave of motion produces an

effect forever, holds good in the mental and moral sphere. SIN is a wave of

evil, a force in an oblique direction, or as a seed to germinate and

reproduce its kind. David’s dreadful deed could not but be an instance of

this inevitable law. Other counter-influences of good might arise, but they

would not annihilate the fact of the evil influence, and social life would not

be the same as it would have been in case his energy had all gone in the line

of good, and the energy of the counteraction had been, not counteractive,

but supplementary to the force of his unbroken holy life. IT IS AN AWFUL


and that the trace of the curse in some form, though not necessarily active,

will ever be found in the thought and constitution of society.



There are always in the human heart propensities urgent for activity, and

they are kept back very much by reason of the force of goodness in the

good, as well as by the natural action of conscience. There can be no

question that Amnon was, like many, prone to the lusts of the flesh, and

that the fact of David’s fall had lessened the restraints upon him. The

secrecy encouraged by Jonadab might well be stimulated by the previous

secrecy of David in his sin, so far as it was known to his family. The

influence of David’s sin on the mind of Joab could not fail to render court

life more corrupt in its springs; for it is a mournful fact that, while we by

our sins set a new force for evil at work which gives momentum to those

already active, we do not convey to society the blessedness which

subsequently may come to us in a free pardon. A notorious sin in high

stations is the foster parent of kindred sins. A parent by his known sin

sheds influences around his children that tend to develop the worst

elements of their nature. It is fuel to fire.




THEIR DEEDS. The enlarging family of David offered wider scope for the

ill effects of his conduct to work upon. The addition of Bathsheba to the

harem under the peculiar circumstances could not but awaken jealousies,

and among the various children loosen the bonds of restraint on the lower

tendencies of life. He who had so cleverly sought to cover sin in the case of

Uriah and his wife, could not detect the secret plot covered by the sickness

of his son, whom he with paternal kindness visited and comforted (v. 6).

The iniquity thus coming to maturity at last came to his knowledge in a

form little suspected. Its distinctly incestuous character, and the cool

cunning with which it was prepared for and perpetrated, must have given

intense pain to David, apart from the evil of the act, inasmuch as it would

forcibly remind him of days and nights of scheming to accomplish a horrid

crime, and compel him to see that the son has learned too well to imitate the

deeds of the father. The more sincere his recent penitence, and the more

perfect his restoration to God’s favor, the more keen the anguish that

now would fill his spirit; for he would see and feel as a holy reconciled man

only can. A similar experience is that of parents who witness in their sons,

it may be, bolder forms of the sin to which they were once the victims.

There are such in Christian society. Their peace with God may be real

through the merits of Christ, but their pathway is beclouded by a terrible

sorrow. The terrible evils of sin in this life, even to the good! Bitter is the





CHARACTER. It is said that when David learned the full facts of Amnon’s

conduct towards Tamar, he “was very wroth” (v. 21). No doubt. Every

kind and holy feeling of the restored man would be outraged by this vile

conduct. But it is significant that nothing further is said. No action of a

legal character was taken. The sentence of the Mosaic Law was not

enforced. The remembrance of his own sin unfitted him to deal with

Amnon as was due. Direct action on his part for his punishment would, he

thought, be met by the reproach of his own deeds. “Physician, heal

thyself,” had a paralyzing meaning for him. The reference to Absalom

nourishing revenge till occasion offered is an historical set off to David’s

inactivity. There is nothing unusual in David’s conduct. It is repeated every

day. The liar’s tongue is deprived of its power in reproving lies in others.

The deceiver in business affairs cannot with energy and force warn others

against fraud. Men who have openly indulged in the lusts of the flesh speak

with bated breath and act with indecision when public questions concerning

the suppression and punishment of licentiousness are discussed. They may

be sincere in their expression of pain, and be intensely angry if any of their

offspring fall into vile ways, but they are conscious of a secret force

checking the action which otherwise would have been taken. None can

speak and act on moral questions AS THE PURE!   Our Saviour’s words on

all moral subjects carry with them the force of His unsullied life. Herein is an

example for teachers and the taught.




1. There should be an avoidance of all customs in society that in any way

tend to strengthen, and give occasion for the development of, the baser

feelings of human nature. Oriental harems may have their counterparts in

certain usages of Western life. Whatever weakens the feelings of purity and



2. Care should be taken to avoid the company and services of men clever in

evil. There are Jonadabs in society, whose services are ready, but are

fraught with woe.


3. The man who can make use of the kindly sympathies of others in order

to encompass their ruin is already far gone towards perdition; and

inasmuch as there are many such still in society, men who abuse the

tenderest affections for lustful ends, their persons should be abhorred and

shunned by all Christian people.


4.      The selfishness and cruelty of sin is a universal quality (vs. 15-17), and

as such it deserves the utmost detestation. All sin is self against God and

God’s holy order. The adulterer in his lust, the defrauder in his deceit, the

extortioner in his greed, the rebellious son in his disobedience, know this

too well. Their deeds are damage to the universe FOR SAKE OF SELF!


5. There is always being treasured up somewhere retribution for those who

seem to escape the punishment due to their sin. Absalom’s self-control

(v. 22) is suggestive of restraint on the forces which at last cannot but

overwhelm the wicked with destruction (II Peter 2:3; Jude 1:15).



(vs. 23-39)  The facts are:


1. Absalom, holding a sheep shearing festival at Baal-hazor, invites the

king and his sons.

2. The king, declining to go on account of being unnecessarily

burdensome, gets rid of Absalom’s entreaty, and bestows on him a parting


3. After some persuasion, Absalom obtains permission for all the king’s

sons to accompany him.

4. During the festivities the servants of Absalom, in obedience to their

master, smite Amnon, whereupon all the other of the king’s sons flee.

5. A false report having reached the king that all his sons were slain, he

gives vent to his grief in most distressing form, until Jonadab, who was in

the secret of the affair, informs him of the actual facts of the case.

6. Absalom flees, and the rest of the sons return home, and join their father

in lamentation over the event.

7. During Absalom’s exile for three years, David, while recovering from his

grief over Amnon, was in a mind to go out after him, were it possible.



23 “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.  24  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.” 

Absalom had sheep shearers in Baal-hazor. The sheep shearing was a

usual occasion for feasting and holiday keeping (see I Samuel 25:2, 8).

Baal-hazor was apparently the name of Absalom’s estate, situated near the

town Ephraim (II Chronicles 13:19), which, according to Eusebius, lay about

eight miles north of Jerusalem. As Ephraim was near the wilderness of Judah,

it was probably the same town as that to which our Lord withdrew (John 11:54).

The phrase beside, literally, near, Ephraim, shows that it must be the town, and

not the tribal territory, which is here meant. Two full years; Hebrew, years of days.


25 “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.  26 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?  27 But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the

king’s sons go with him.”  But blessed him. These words, in the courtly language

of the East, not only mean that David parted from Absalom with kindly feelings

and good wishes, but that he made him a rich present (see note on I Samuel 25:27,

where the same word occurs; and observe the nature of Abigail’s blessing described

there). David’s court had evidently become lavish, when thus a visit from him to

his son’s farm would be too costly for the young prince’s means; but had he so

increased his present as to have made it reasonable for himself and his chief

officers to go, Absalom must have deferred his crime. As it was, the invitation

put David off his guard, and, forgetting the fatal consequences of his good

nature in permitting Tamar’s visit to Amnon, he allowed his sons to go to

the festival. Nor must we blame him for his compliance. He had probably at

first been full of anxiety as to the course Absalom might pursue, but his

silence and forbearance made him suppose that Tamar’s wrong had not

caused her brother any deep sorrow. Himself a man of warm feelings, he had

expected an immediate outburst of anger, but such stern rancor persevered

in for so long a time with such feline calmness of manner was beyond the

range of his suspicions; and the invitation, first to himself and then to all his

sons, made him suppose that Absalom had nothing but affectionate feelings

toward them all.


28 “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.  29 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.”  Smite Amnon. The order

was given before the banquet began, and every arrangement made to render

the attack successful. Though Tamar’s wrong was the mainspring of Absalom’s

conduct, yet neither he nor his men would forget that Amnon stood between him

and the crown; and Amnon, entirely off his guard, never very wise at his best,

and with his senses made dull by wine, seems to have fallen an easy prey. And

as soon as the murder was committed, the rest of the king’s sons, though all had

attendants with them, fled in dismay, not knowing what might be the extent

of Absalom’s purpose. It is said that they fled on mules, this being the first

place in which this animal is mentioned, as the word so translated in

Genesis 36:24 really means “hot springs,” and is so translated in the

Revised Version. The breeding of hybrids was forbidden in Leviticus

19:19, and probably they were procured, as were horses, by trade. Up to

this time the ass had been used for riding; but now David had a favorite

mule (I Kings 1:33), and Solomon received mules as tribute (ibid. ch. 10:25).

Horses seem to have been used chiefly for chariots.




The Revenge of Absalom (vs. 22-29)


Absalom hated Amnon.”


1. He was the third son (Chileab, probably, being dead) of David, by Maacab,

daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur; born at Hebron, his name (“father of

peace”) indicating, perhaps, the hope entertained at his birth (ch. 3:1-5).

“The young handsome hero must have been conspicuous among the

soldiers of Israel, and taken his place among the sons of David, who were

‘chief rulers.’”

2. Hatred (when about eighteen years old) and murder (after two years).

3. Flight to Geshur (v. 38) and residence there (three years).

4. Return (ch. 14:23-24) and partial reconciliation (during two

years); married about this time, and father of three sons (dying in infancy,

ch. 14:27; 18:18) and one daughter (Tamar, named after his sister).

5. Full reconciliation (ch. 14:33; 15:1-11) and preparation for revolt (four years).

6. Conspiracy in Hebron (ch. 15:12-13).

7. Occupation of Jerusalem (ch. 15:37; 16:15-19), possession of the palace

(ch. 15:20-23), anointed king (ch. 19:10), consultations (ch. 17:1-14).

8. Pursuit of David, and defeat in battle (ch. 17:24-26; 18:1-8).

9. Slain by Joab (ch.18:9-18).

10. Lamented by David (ch.18:33; 19:1-4).


Revenge is sinful resentment. It is felt, on account of real or supposed injury,

toward the person rather than the conduct of the offender; desires his suffering,

not his improvement; and seeks it maliciously, deliberately, and unlawfully.


Ø      “All pain occasioned to another in consequence of an offence

or injury received from him, further than what is calculated to

procure reparation or promote the just ends of punishment,

is so much revenge” (Paley, ‘Mot. Ph.’).

Ø      It is “a kind of wild justice” (Bacon, ‘Essays’).


Of the spirit of revenge, which was embodied in Absalom, and

too often finds a place in others, observe:


  • ITS SEEMING JUSTIFICATION; for he who indulges it commonly

seeks to justify himself therein (ch. 14:32), it may be, on account



Ø      The grievous wrong suffered, directly or in the person of another with

whom he is closely connected. The more this is brooded over,

the greater it appears and the more it incites to wrath.


Ø      The natural instinct of anger and retaliation, which is


“Far, far too dear to every mortal breast,

Sweet to the soul as honey to the taste.”



But it must be directed, controlled, often completely repressed by:


o       justice and

o       love.


“The taking vengeance on a foe is honorable,” it has been said,

“rather than the being reconciled” (Aristotle, ‘Rhetoric’). True wisdom

teaches otherwise (I Samuel 11:12-13; Proverbs 20:22; 24:29).


Ø      The culpable failure of justice, on the part of the civil magistrate, “the

minister of God,” etc. (Romans 13:4). It may be a temptation to private

vengeance; but it does not warrant any one in taking the law into his own

hands; whilst by doing so he becomes a breaker of the law and justly liable

to its penalty. “The revenge which he took for the foul wrong that his sister

had suffered at the hands of Amnon did not shock the men of Israel as it

shocks us. To him, by the feeling of all Oriental nations, belonged the

special guardianship of her honor; and subtly as the punishment was

inflicted, it was nothing more than the monstrous turpitude of the guilt

deserved. Had David been true to his kingly calling, instead of passing the

crime over with a weak sorrow and a yet weaker leniency, there would

have been no occasion for the vengeance which Absalom felt himself

bound to take. The two long years of waiting which followed on his

revenge, must have been a time in which disappointment, irritation,

bitterness against his father, were gaining, slowly but surely, the mastery

over him” (Plumptre).




Ø      Enduring and implacable hatred (v. 23); a malicious purpose formed

from the first (as his intimate companion read in his countenance, v. 32),

but concealed that it might be the more effectually accomplished when

opportunity served. “A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds

green, which otherwise would heal and do well” (Bacon).


Ø      Subtle and deceitful scheming (vs. 24, 26); under pretence of kindness;

and taking a base advantage of affection, consideration, and confidence.

V. 25 is “the first instance history offers of the ruinous cost of royal visits

to those who are honored with them” (Kitto).


Ø      Pitiless and treacherous cruelty (v. 28; ch. 11:13). Another

instance of indulgence in intoxication (I Samuel 25:36-37; ch. 11:13,

again). “Absalom calls the execution of this base cruelty in his

servants, courage and valor; being indeed but treacherous and cowardly

murder; which shows that vices are oft-times colored with the name of

virtues, as drunkenness is called good fellowship, avarice good husbandry,

subtlety to deceive wisdom, and pride magnanimity” (Guild). It is not

improbable that he wished to get rid of Amnon as an obstacle in the way to

the throne. “The wild acts of Absalom’s life may have been to some extent

the results of maternal training; they were at least characteristic of the

stock from which he sprang” (Smith, ‘Dict.’). “From his father he inherited

nothing but his regal pride” (Ewald). “He was a man who could scheme

deeply, bide his time patiently, and then strike with decision and daring”

(D. Macleod).




Ø      Disbelief in the presence and justice of God, who, though man fails to

punish, “will by no means clear the guilty.”  (Exodus 34:7)


Ø      Insensibility to His forbearance, which should teach the like

(I Samuel 24:13; Matthew 5:48).


Ø      Disobedience to the Divine Law, which is fulfilled in one word,” etc.

(Galatians 5:14), and to many special injunctions (Romans 12:9;

Matthew 6:15).


Ø      Fruitfulness in wickedness and crime (I John 3:15), with all their evil

consequences to others and to a man himself (vs. 36-37). Absalom fled

from man, who only could kill the body; but he could not fly from blood

guiltiness and an accusing conscience, nor yet from the hand of God’s

justice, which did reach him afterwards” (Guild). “It was asked of the sage,

‘In what one virtue are all the rest comprised?’ ‘Patience,’ was his answer.

‘And in what single vice are all others concentrated?’ ‘Vindictiveness’”

(Rabbi Salomon Ibn Gabirol). “Whereas some may be apt to suspect that

the patient bearing of one injury may invite another, I believe it will be

found quite otherwise, that the revenging of one injury brings on another;

the one is like the withdrawing of fuel or combustible matter, which will

soon put out the fire, and the other is continually furnishing fresh fuel,

mixed with oil and gunpowder and such inflaming materials as are apt to

spread the fire of contention, but not to extinguish it” (J. Blair: 1740).


  • CONCLUSION. How odious is the spirit of revenge! He who gives way

to it might as well cherish a venomous serpent in his bosom. “Be not

overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).


Below is an excerpt from CH Spurgeon’s sermon entitled:

Number 1500 or The Lifting Up of the Brazen Serpent.


It vividly explains what it is to have a serpent in your bosom, and is

a good picture of the damage done by vindictiveness and vengeance.

(CY – 2018)


What an awful thing it is to be bitten by a serpent! I dare say some of you

recollect the case of Gurling, one of the keepers of the reptiles in the

Zoological Gardens. It happened in October 1852, and therefore some of

you will remember it. This unhappy man was about to part with a friend

who was going to Australia and according to the wont of many he must

needs drink with him. He drank considerable quantities of gin, and though

he would probably have been in a great passion if any one had called him

drunk, yet reason and common-sense had evidently become overpowered.

He went back to his post at the gardens in an excited state. He had some

months before seen an exhibition of snake, charming, and this was on his

poor muddled brain. He must emulate the Egyptians, and play with

serpents. First he took out of its cage a Morocco venom-snake, put it

round his neck, twisted it about, and whirled it round about him. Happily

for him it did not arouse it so as to bite. The assistant-keeper cried out,

“For God’s sake put back the snake,” but the foolish man replied, “I am

inspired.” Putting back the venom-snake, he exclaimed, “Now for the

cobra.” This deadly serpent was somewhat torpid with the cold of the

previous night, and therefore the rash man placed it in his bosom till it

revived, and glided downward till its head appeared below the back of his

waistcoat. He took it by the body, about a foot from the head, and then

seized it lower down by the other hand, intending to hold it by the tail and

swing it round his head. He held it for an instant opposite to his face, and

like a flash of lightning the serpent struck him between the eyes. The blood

streamed down his face, and he called for help, but his companion fled in

horror; and, as he told the jury, he did not know how long he was gone, for

he was “in a maze.” When assistance arrived Gurling was sitting on a chair,

having restored the cobra to its place. He said, “I am a dead man.” They

put him in a cab, and took him to the hospital. First his speech went, he

could only point to his poor throat and moan; then his vision failed him,

and lastly his hearing, His pulse gradually sank, and in one hour from the

time at which he had been struck he was a corpse. There was only a little

mark upon the bridge of his nose, but the poison spread over the body, and

he was a dead man. I tell you that story that you may use it as a parable

and learn never to play with sin, and also in order to bring vividly before

you what it is to be bitten by a serpent. Suppose that Gurling could have

been cured by looking at a piece of brass, would it not have been good

news for him? There was no remedy for that poor infatuated creature, but

there is a remedy for you. For men who have been bitten by the fiery

serpents of sin Jesus Christ is lifted up: not for you only who are as yet

playing with the serpent, not for you only who have warmed it in your

bosom, and felt it creeping over your flesh, but for you who are actually

bitten, and are mortally wounded. If any man were bitten so that he has

become diseased with sin, and feels the deadly venom in his blood, it is for

him that Jesus is set forth today. Though he may think himself to be an

extreme case, it is for such that sovereign grace provides a remedy.

The bite of the serpent was painful. We are told in the text that these

serpents were “fiery” a serpent, which may perhaps refer to their color, but

more probably has reference to the burning effects of their venom. It

heated and inflamed the blood so that every vein became a boiling river,

swollen with anguish. In some men that poison of asps which we call sin

has inflamed their minds. They are restless, discontented and full of fear

and anguish. They write their own damnation, they are sure that they are

lost, they refuse all tidings of hope. You cannot get them to give a cool and

sober hearing to the message of grace. Sin works in them such terror that

they give themselves over as dead men. They are in their own

apprehension, as David says, “free among the dead, like the slain that lie in

the grave, whom God remembers no more.” It was for men bitten by the

fiery serpents that the brazen serpent was lifted up, and it is for men

actually envenomed by sin that Jesus is preached. Jesus died for such as are

at their wits’ end: for such as cannot think straight, for those who are

tumbled up and down in their minds, for those who are condemned already

for such was the Son of man lifted up upon the cross. What a comfortable

thing that we are able to tell you this.


30 “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.  31 Then the king arose, and tare his garments,

and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.”

Tidings came. Some of the servants seem to have fled immediately that

the attack was made, and in their terror reported, not what had really

happened, but what they assumed was Absalom’s purpose. It shows, however,

how thoroughly Absalom had dissembled (concealed his true motives) when

thus they entirely forgot that he had a grudge against Amnon. And David, in

utter misery, tears his robes, and throws himself prostrate on the ground,

while his courtiers, with rent garments, stand speechless round him. But

the guilty Jonadab guesses more correctly the truth. He had probably

watched Absalom closely, and distrusted his silence. Nothing, perhaps, had

happened to justify his suspicions, but as soon as the tidings came he

divined the real meaning. And, wicked as he was, he could never have

supposed that Amnon would turn upon the woman he had wronged, and

insult and disgrace her. He probably imagined that Amnon really loved her,

and that the matter would be patched up. But when the wretched youth

acted so shamelessly, Jonadab probably felt sure that Absalom would

sooner or later take his revenge.


32 “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.  33 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.”

By the appointment; literally, for upon the mouth of Absalom

it was laid from the day he humbled Tamar his sister, “Mouth” is not the

word we should have expected here, and the Syriac instead has “mind,”

and the Chaldee “heart.” But the mouth often expresses determination, and

Jonadab may have noticed Absalom looking at his brother with compressed

lips. More probably, however, it is a colloquial phrase, with no special

application to Absalom; and the Syriac gives the true sense.




The Crime of Amnon (vs. 1-33)


The chastisements which David experienced came upon him chiefly through

his family. The misconduct of his sons was largely due to his own

“in the matter of Uriah,” and his defective discipline (I Samuel 3:13;

I Kings 1:6) in connection with polygamy (ch. 3:1-5). “This

institution is the absolutely irrepressible source of numberless evils of this

description. It ever furnishes a ready stimulus to unbounded sensual desire

in the sovereign, and, should he be exalted above it, is likely to introduce a

dissolute life among the very different children of different mothers, by

bringing the pleasures of sense so prominently and so early before their

eyes. The subsequent troubles with Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah were

all connected with this fundamental wrong; and on the same thread hung

many of the evils which were felt under David’s successors” (Ewald).

“Having grown up without strict paternal discipline, simply under the care

of their different mothers, who were jealous of one another, his sons

fancied that they might gratify their own fleshly lusts, and carry out their

own ambitious plans” (Keil). Amnon his eldest son (by Ahinoam of Jezreel,

whom David married during his exile, I Samuel 25:43; and born in

Hebron, ch. 3:2) was now about twenty years of age. “His character and

conduct were doubtless affected by the fact that he was the firstborn son,

and of a mother apparently not of the noblest birth.” In him

(regarded as a warning especially to young men) we notice:


  • IMPURE AFFECTION, springing up in the heart, and not repressed,

but fondly cherished. His passion was contrary to the Divine Law, not

merely because the object of it was his half-sister (v. 13), but also

because of its licentious nature (Matthew 5:28). His subsequent

conduct indicates that it was not


“True love, that ever shows itself as clear

In kindness as loose appetite in wrong.”



It is not improbable, from his ready entertainment of it, and the question of

Absalom (v. 20), that already he had given himself to unrestrained

indulgence of his passions. When once “reason by lust is swayed,” the heart

becomes a congenial soil for all unholy affections. And the only sure

safeguard is to “keep the heart with all diligence” (Proverbs 4:23);

by giving no place to an impure thought, avoiding every incentive to

“fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11); by the exercise

of habitual self-denial, and prayer for Divine grace (Matthew 5:29; 15:19).


  • INWARD MISERY, proceeding from restless passion and fretful

discontent at hindrances and restraints in the way of its gratification (v. 2).

It is well that such hindrances and restraints exist (in Divine Law, public

opinion, providential circumstances); for they afford opportunity for

reflection, conviction of its sinful nature, and the adoption of all proper

means whereby it may be overcome. Where it is still cherished, its strength

increases and its force is felt more powerfully, as that of a river appears

when a rock opposes its progress (Romans 7:7). “There is no peace to

the wicked.” “Amnon here neglected, indeed, the right means; viz. in time

to have resisted his affections and not to have given way unto them; to

have given himself to abstinence and some honest exercises which might

have occupied his mind; then by some lawful matrimonial love to have

overcome his unlawful lust; and to have prayed unto God for grace”



  • DELIBERATE DISSIMULATION, displayed in crafty devices,

adopted in accordance with evil suggestion, in order to selfish indulgence.

He who suffers a sinful desire to reign within him is peculiarly susceptible

to temptation, and readily yields to it; sometimes pursues a course of guile,

and takes advantage of affection, kindness, and unsuspecting confidence.

“The seducer is brother to the murderer.” Blinded and infatuated, he

resorts to the most subtle and contemptible expedients. And, alas! he too

often succeeds.



strongest inducements to the contrary (vs. 12-13). “It is enough to

suppose that the king had a dispensing power, which was conceived to

cover even extreme cases.” When persuasive craft is employed in vain to

entice into sin, and the slave of passion meets with another merciful check

by the opposition of virtue and piety (“in Israel), he is driven on to more

brutal, though less diabolical methods of accomplishing his base designs.

The dishonor done to the highest claims (of God, religion, His people), the

disgrace incurred, the misery inflicted, should be sufficient to deter from

“foolish and hurtful lusts;” (I Timothy 6:9) but with him they are of no avail.

“The unjust knoweth no shame” (Zephaniah 3:5; Isaiah 26:10). Then one evil

passion is replaced by another.


“Sweet love, I see, changing his property,

Turns to the sourest and most deadly hate.”



Ø      “He hated her, but did not hate his own sin. Thus he showed that the love

he had professed to her was not love, but lust; that it was not of God, but

of the evil one” (Wordsworth).


Ø      “It is characteristic of human nature to hate whom you have injured” (Tacitus).


Ø      “Such are the baits and allurements of sin, which have a pleasant taste at the

first, but in the end bite like a serpent; therefore one saith that pleasures must

be considered, not as they come, but as they go” (Wilier).


Ø      “He feedeth on ashes,” etc. (Isaiah 44:20). The victim of evil desire:


o        becomes an object of bitter aversion,

o        is pitilessly thrust away,

o        maliciously defamed, and

o        thus more grievously wronged:


the true picture of many a  desolated life! “What men dignify with

the name of love is commonly a base sensual inclination, entire selfishness,

which triumphs over the conscience and the fear of God, and without pity

consigns its object to irreparable disgrace and misery for the sake of a

momentary gratification! How different from that love which the Law of

God commands! yea, how contrary to it!” (Scott).


  • DELUSIVE SECURITY, arising from the persuasion that secret

iniquity may escape retribution. (“Stolen waters are sweet and bread

eaten in secret is plesant.  But he knoweth not that the dead are there;

and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”   (Proverbs 9:17)  The

transgressor thinks, perhaps, that it cannot be proved, no one will venture

to call him to account for it, and that it is not worse than other crimes that

go unpunished. Whatever fears (v. 21) or suspicions he may at first entertain,

are laid asleep by the lapse of time (v. 23). (“Because sentence against an

evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men

is fully set in them to do evil.”  Ecclesiastes 8:11)  He is not led to repentance

by the long suffering of Heaven, and he heeds not its wrath. But “judgment

lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.”  (II Peter 2:3).


  • SUDDEN DESTRUCTION, inflicted by an unexpected hand

(vs. 20, 28, 32). Where public law fails to do justice, private hostility finds

means to take vengeance. One sin produces another, and is punished by it;

craft by craft, violence by violence, hatred by hatred. “The way of

trangressors is hard” (Proverbs 13:15; 6:15; 29:1).


34 “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.  35 And Jonadab said unto the king,

Behold, the king’s sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.”

But Absalom fled. These words break the form of the narrative, but complete

the sense. They briefly state that Jonadab was right; for, so far from molesting

any of the rest of the king’s sons, Absalom had no other thought than for his

own safety. He had avenged his sister, but had at present no other sinister

design. It was David’s method of treating him which drove this youth,

with a nature fit for treachery, into schemes of rebellion. The way of the

hillside behind him. This may mean “from the west,” as, in taking the points

of the compass, the Hebrews looked to the east, which would thus be

“before them.” Compare “the backside of the desert,” that is, “the western

side,” in Exodus 3:1; and “the Syrians before and the Philistines behind,”

that is, on the east and west (Isaiah 9:12). But the versions differ so strangely

in their renderings that theycould scarcely have been made from our

  present text.


36 “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.”

The king also and all his servants wept very sore. The narrative

sets very clearly before us the great terror of the king, who at first

supposes that all his sons are murdered; there is then suspense while

Jonadab suggests that one only has been sacrificed to private vengeance;

then quickly comes the watchman’s report of the appearance of much

people rapidly descending the hillside, and this is followed by the hasty

rush of the fugitives into his presence, and the terrible certainty that one

son has, with long premeditated malice, murdered his brother. And as he

wept, David, we may feel sure, thought of Uriah, murdered because of his

own base passions, whereas Amnon had brought death upon himself by

following, alas! the example of his own father. He would think, too, of the

words of his sentence, that “the sword should never depart from his

house.” (ch. 12:10)  It had claimed one victim, and who could now stop the

outburst of angry passions in a family which previously had dwelt in kindly

friendship?  Probably, too, he reproached himself for not punishing Amnon.

Had he done so with sufficient severity to have satisfied Absalom, he would

have saved the life of his firstborn, and not have driven his second son into

terrible crime. He had not done so because his own sins had tied his hands.

Yes; David had good reason for weeping sore.


37 “But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king

of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.  38 So Absalom fled,

and went to Geshur, and was there three years.”  So Absalom fled. The triple

repetition of these words, and the fragmentary style, make it probable that we

have here an abridgment of a longer narrative. So in v. 35 the words probably

are a summary of a more circumstantial account of Absalom’s doings after his

young men had slain Amnon. (On Talmai and Geshur, see notes on ch. 3:3.)


39 “And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for

he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.”

And (the soul of) king David longed to go forth unto Absalom.

This translation has the support of the Jewish Targum, and, as

the verb is feminine, the insertion of the added word is possible, though the

sense seems to require “anger” instead of “the soul.” But the versions

(Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate) all give the verb its ordinary meaning of

“ceasing,” and, though there is something harsh in taking it impersonally,

yet their authority is too great for us to say that such a mode of rendering it

must be wrong. And if the grammar be difficult, the sense put upon the

words by the versions is excellent. Literally they are, As to King David,

there. was a ceasing to go forth after Absalom; for he was comforted, etc.

At first he had demanded of Talmai the surrender of the offender, and,

when Talmai refused, David tried other means; but in time, when his grief

for Amnon was assuaged, he desisted from his efforts. But even so it

required much subtlety on Joab’s part to obtain Absalom’s recall, which

would scarcely have been the case if David’s soul was longing for his son’s

return; and, even after his coming, David long maintained an unfriendly

attitude. Amnon was his firstborn, and evidently dearly loved, but David’s

culpable leniency had borne bitter fruit. And again he acts without

thoughtful sense of justice, and though at first he would have given

Absalom merited punishment, yet gradually paternal feeling resumed its

sway, unhappily only to be miserably abused.




Home Troubles (vs. 23-39)


The words of the prophet were being swiftly and terribly fulfilled in the

experience of the king. His own crimes of adultery and murder by stealth

were now bearing retributive fruit in his own family in the form of adultery

and murder, with the increment of incest. That these young men acted as

free agents and were responsible for their deeds makes no difference to the

fact that, in relation to the previous conduct of their father, it was a terrible

retribution in the order of providence. God does chastise His people with

the human rod. The blessed covenant made with the chosen one was not

broken — his soul was delivered from the mouth of destruction (Psalm

89:33-36); but a harvest of evil had to be reaped in the place where the

dreadful seed had been sown in the family. Never, perhaps, has this

family trouble been paralleled in the experience of good men; but though

its precise features are mercifully exceptional, we may see mirrored in this

family trouble elements of evil found in some form or other in other

domestic circles.



WRONG. There were signs of ill feeling in this home sprung from an

Oriental harem, before the vile deed of Amnon was perpetrated; but this

act developed and intensified whatever feeling of that character was in

existence. In the most imperfect and unhappy homes a positive deed of

wrong to a member of the family is sure to be resented by some other

member whose temperament or sympathies flow in a certain direction. The

world does not see the acts of harshness and even cruelty sometimes done

within the sphere of home; these acts are the parents of a brood of ill

feelings, which rankle and burn, waiting for occasion to vent their force on

some marked object of hatred. And as the love of home is the tenderest

and sweetest of all loves, so, when it is lost, there rises in its place the

bitterest and most irreconcilable of hates. The best wine makes the sourest



  • PARENTS CRITICIZED. Reading between the lines of this piece of

domestic history, we can see that the past conduct of David was not only

known, so far at least as Bathsheba was concerned, but that it had not

escaped the critical observation of his sons. How could it? A father’s

domestic conduct is in open light to his children, and, although natural

reverence may sway their bearing toward him, they cannot help making

critical observations on anything that undermines the respect due. A really

pious son would have wept in solitude over the father’s sin, and have

tenderly covered his shame; but the base tendencies of such young men as

Amnon, and the pride of an Absalom, would only have given keenness to

the critical spirit. It is a sad prophecy of trouble when children begin to

criticize a parent’s conduct, and it is moral ruin in a home when a father

does deeds which his children, even with their slight knowledge of things,

cannot but deplore. Once break down respect for moral conduct, and the

home is open to the invasion of numberless ills.


  • PARENTS’ APPREHENSION. There is always some room for

apprehension in connection with domestic life; for the powers of evil are

active, and the best guarded home may be occasionally invaded from

without by a foul spirit. But, as a rule, where prudence in management is

combined with correctness of conduct and a spirit of true practical

godliness, confidence is in the ascendant. The blessing of God is on the

abode of the faithful. In David’s house at this time, consequent on the

influence of his recent sin and the crime of Amnon, there was evident fear

in the father’s heart (vs. 26-27). He had secret reasons for not going or

wishing Amnon to go to the feast. Fears of business failures, and of

possible changes in domestic material comforts, are common and not to be

altogether avoided, yet they may carry with them no secret sting; but

anticipations of possible moral disasters and complications in the home life

are of all things most fearful burdens to bear, and their gravity is the

greater when they are felt to be connected with one’s own misconduct.

Fathers and mothers should take care that they lay no foundation for

painful apprehensions concerning the conduct of their children in deeds of

their own performance.



David was evidently troubled by observing the strained relations between

his sons Amnon and Absalom. The probability is that they were not on

terms of familiarity, and seldom visited each other. The ill feeling created

by the ruin of his sister had been secretly but steadily cherished for two

years, and the treasured revenge at last broke forth in the murder at the

festival of sheep shearing. It is the pain of a father still sometimes to

witness the development in violent and distressing forms of passions which

he either, through loss of personal influence, could not or would not seek

to remove or tone down. The first part of the prophet’s prediction had now

been fulfilled in two years; the other part was on its way, and only awaited

the maturity of the forces that were being secretly gathered. When

domestic troubles, having a root in moral evil, begin in a home, it is hard to

say how long it will be before the powers of evil assume a portentous

development. David was fearful, but he scarcely looked for such an issue of

a family festival. Literally, in this, as in other cases, sin when it is finished

brought forth death (James 1:15). The harvest came after the sowing

and germinating of the seed.



element in David’s domestic trouble was not simply the death of an

incestuous son, sad as the death of a firstborn always is, but the knowledge

that his own conduct was, in the mind of Absalom, the justification of the

murder. Absalom seems to have reasoned thus: “Amnon has done a guilty

deed worthy of death; no severe punishment has been inflicted on him by

my father, perhaps because of his own previous adultery with Bathsheba,

or because this is his firstborn; shame has been brought by this crime on the

entire family as the brother of the disgraced and ruined woman, I am her

legitimate avenger in the failure of law; and as the injury has been an open

one in the center of the family life, the doom shall be open, in the presence,

if possible, of father and brothers.” If David was the man of discernment

now as formerly, he could scarcely have failed to see that there was

something like this current of thought in the mind of his son Absalom, and

that it formed a specious justification of his daring deed. Rightly or

wrongly, some do reason in defense of their rash and evil deeds, and it is

the most serious element of the domestic trouble when the foundation of                                                  

their reasoning is found in the deeds or neglect of their parents. THE


possible support from the actions of those professing to be good.


  • A FOMENTER OF MISCHIEF AND EVIL. One of the troubles in

David’s home life was the presence of an influential double-faced man,

who, being in the secrets, entered as adviser into the schemes of some of

the family, and was instrumental in promoting incest, and then, on his own

showing, knew that it was a settled thing to murder the incestuous man

(vs. 3-5; compare vs. 32, 33). This cunning man, who had not the courage or

honesty to tell David of the design of Absalom, was a moral plague in

David’s family connection. It is an instance of how much evil may come to

a home by cultivating the friendship and intimacy of unprincipled or

cowardly relatives. Alas! for the home (and there are such in our country)

that is invaded by the pestilential influence of men who trample under their

feet chastity, love, and, if need be, LIFE ITSELF!  There are vipers and

dragons in the world still (Matthew 3:7; compare Psalm 91:13).




1. We see the wonderful contrast in domestic life where piety is maintained

in unfading beauty. Instead of:


a.      jealousies and hatreds,

b.      parents blamed by sons and full of fear,

c.       evil feelings maturing into developed deeds of violence and cruelty,

justified by reference to parental conduct, and stimulated or connived

at by base friends,


we shall see:


a.      love and consideration, reverence for parents,

b.      confidence in children,

c.       generous sentiments ripening into holy deeds,

d.      encouragement for kind actions found in parental example, and

e.       friendships formed conducive to peace and harmony.


2. We learn the danger of deliberately nourishing feelings of revenge even

when wrong has been done. It is for God to vindicate His own justice

(Romans 12:9  - “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”)

Just sentiments of anger may, unless guard be kept over them, burn into

more questionable forms.

3. The festive scenes of wicked men should be avoided, because of the evil

communications which corrupt good manners, and the possible incidental

evils arising therefrom.

4. When men are known to be proud and imperious and revengeful, they

are likely to be credited with more evil than they have really done (v. 30);

hence avoid such a spirit.

5. It is a shame to a man to be in the secrets of those intent on evil (vs. 3-

5; compare v. 32); and, though such may escape punishment in human society,

God will visit their sins on their own head.

6. Rulers and parents who show an unwise partiality (vs. 21-22) in not

adequately chastising evil doers, only defer the day of trouble and increase

its sorrows (v. 36).




Parental Sorrows (vs. 30-39)


“And the king also and all his servants wept very sore” (v. 36). David’s

intense feeling appears in:


Ø      his affection (vs. 6, 25, 39),

Ø      his wrath (v. 21), and

Ø      his grief (v. 31).


The delight which a father finds in his children is seldom unalloyed. His sorrows,

on their account, are:




Ø      Their misbehavior. “A ‘house cross’ is the heaviest of all earthly

crosses. The gall which is mingled in our cup by those who are

nearest to us surpasses all others in bitterness” (Krummacher).


“How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is

To have a thankless child!”

(‘King Lear.’)


Ø      Their misfortune (v. 19).


Ø      Their disappointment of:


o       his hopes;

o       his consternation, trembling anxieties, exaggerated fears (v. 30);

o       his bereavement by death (v. 32) and

o       by enforced exile through crime (v. 34); his son a fratricide, like

Cain, alive yet dead.


What a heavy burden of trouble was thus laid upon David! It is not

surprising that it was followed by serious and protracted

bodily affliction, favorable to the designs of his enemies and

conducive to still deeper distress (ch.15:4, 30), as several psalms

seem to indicate (Psalms 38, 39, 41, 55).


O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger,

Nor chasten me in thy hot displeasure.

For thine arrows stick fast in me,

And thy hand presseth me sore,” etc.

(Psalm 38:1-2.)




Ø      His sinful example. Children are more ready to imitate their father’s

vices than his virtues.


Ø      His defective discipline.


o        “David’s failure in the government of his family was due in part to

the excessive, even morbid, tenderness of his feelings towards his

children, especially some of them. He may also have thought of

his family circle as too exclusively a scene for relaxation and

enjoyment; he may have forgotten that even there there is

a call for much vigilance and self-denial” (Blaikie).


o        By this example we see that children whom their parents spare

to correct will in the end be a grief unto them” (Wilier).


o        “Chastisement without love is an outrage; no father is at liberty

to plague or torture his child; but a love that cannot chastise is

no love, and reaps a poor reward. A child that does not at the

proper time feel the father’s rod becomes at last a rod for his father”



o        Ofttimes the child whom the father loves most (as David did Amnon)

becomes his greatest grief by too much indulgence” (Guild).


Ø      His culpable clemency in the case of a great crime (v. 21). Even if

David did inflict some punishment on Amnon, as it has been supposed

(Chandler), yet it was altogether inadequate to the offence. The sorrows of

a father over the sins and sufferings of his children are intensified by the

knowledge that they are, in some degree, the result of his own errors and

transgressions.A parent can have no sharper pang than the sight of his

own sin reappearing in his child. David saw the ghastly reflection of his

unbridled passion in his eldest son’s foul crime (and even a gleam of it in

his unhappy daughter) and of his murderous craft in his second son’s

bloody revenge” (Maclaren).




1. The occasion of trouble is less calamitous than it might have been; less

than it was feared to be (v. 32).

2. Grief is assuaged by the lapse of time (vs. 37-38).

3. It is vain to mourn over WHAT IS IRREPAIRABLE (v. 39; ch.12:23;


4. These afflictions are chastisements from the heavenly Father’s hand, and

should be endured with patience and hope (Psalm 39:7, 9; 38:15).

5. They are mingled with tokens of Divine favor (ch.12:13, 25; Psalm 41:1-3;

Isaiah 27:8).

6. Their purpose is morally beneficial (Hebrews 12:11). “It may seem

strange to say it, but it is most true, that the tears which flow from the

eyelids of a man are as needful to the fruitfulness of his heart as the dews

which descend from the eyelids of the morning are to the thirsty ground”

(E. Irving).



Lost and Exiled (vs. 37-39)


The closing verses of this chapter are very obscure in their construction

and meaning. The sense most probable, and which we here proceed upon,

is that Absalom’s asylum with the King of Geshur was a reason why David

did not follow after him with a view to his apprehension and chastisement,

and that while at first he mourned for Amnon every day, he was in process

of time able to bear up under his loss. The calamity brought on by his own

sins (ch. 12:9-12) had now culminated in one son lost and another in exile.



CONSEQUENT ON SIN. The first temporal human trouble attendant on

David’s sin was dislike and aversion of his other wives, and this small

beginning was followed by his being put under the power of Joab

(ch. 11:6, 18-21), his exposure to others, the incest of his children, the

loss of influence by refraining from duty (vs. 21-22), and now it came to

a climax in the firstborn being in his grave, and the second son being

banished as an exile. It is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God, the

more so according to the station and privileges of the sinner. A firstborn

lost! A young man cut down with, so far as we can see, the vilest sins

unforgiven on his head! The flower of the family, the man of spirit, and

avenger in daring way of a sister’s wrong, in a foreign land, finding refuge

from a father’s wrath with the heathen! Fathers and mothers, learn the

lesson well, and seek for grace to be in the home pure and wise and loving,

like unto the holy Saviour.




only mourn over the lost one. And what bitterness in the mourning! The

dire chain of moral causes ending in that wretched death could not be

broken; for an inscrutable and just Providence had welded them to the first

adulterous link of his own manufacture. Whatever anger was cherished

against the brother assassin, and whatever desire to vindicate the law

against him, policy and other considerations prevented his going out after

him to drag him from the asylum afforded by another king. It was a time of

correction in righteousness when the bitter but wholesome lessons of his

life were to be taken to heart. It is fortunate if men, having by a succession

of faults and sins brought themselves face to face with hard unalterable

facts, apply their hearts with all earnestness TO GOD FOR HIS





ARE DESTROYED. Though dwelling in distinct abodes in Jerusalem, the

royal family had a common home life, and, under hallowed influences, this

might have been to David a source of strength in the administration of

affairs. Now, however, the joy of his heart was gone. Energy was spent in

sorrowful memories and thoughts concerning the possible future efforts of

the ambitious and now reckless exile, which otherwise would have gone in

the direction of cheerful daily work for the nation. (Think of the missed

opportunities by leaders in the past who have failed in this responsibility.

CY – 2018)  Fears of yet further troubles, and passionate desire to remove

the public reproach of letting crime in his house go by default, were not

helpful to calm effort for public good. Many a man loses energy for business

consequent on the loss of domestic joys. Home is the proper place for weary

men to find refreshment after toil, and cheer for new endeavors. We may

truly pity the man whose domestic troubles come in such form as to impair

his strength for THE BATTLE OF LIFE!   If he has not the grace of God

in his heart, it is not surprising if he yields to temptation and seeks relief

in sinful pleasures.



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