II Samuel 13
(vs. 1-22) The facts are:
1. Amnon entertains an improper affection for his half-sister Tamar, and
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
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
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
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” (
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
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
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
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
career (a la – Harvey Weinstein of
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.
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
“A stitch in time, saves nine!”
“An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure!”
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,
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
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
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
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
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
Things That Ought not to be Done in
The plea of Tamar, “no such thing ought to be done in
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
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;
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
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.
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
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.
providential interpositions. 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
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
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
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
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 the revengeful spirit,
o the unforgiving spirit,
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
TO THAT OF OTHERS!
13 “And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou
shalt be as one of the
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
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.
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
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
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
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
the f ools in
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
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
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:
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)
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
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
FACT, THAT THE UNIVERSE, AFTER SIN, IS A CHANGED PLACE
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.
WEAKEN THE RESTRAINTS ON EXISTING EVIL TENDENCIES.
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.
ESPECIALLY FEEL THE PAIN OF WITNESSING THE FRUIT OF
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
PARALYZED IN THEIR ACTION TOWARDS SINS OF THE SAME
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
chastity IS A POSITIVE EVIL!
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
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 “
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
peace”) indicating, perhaps, the hope entertained at his birth (ch. 3:1-5).
“The young handsome hero must have been conspicuous among the
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
7. Occupation of
(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:
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
“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
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”
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;
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).
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
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
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
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:
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).
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”
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
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
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).
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).
(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
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
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
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.
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
DEEVIL ENCOURAGES THOSE WHO DO WRONG to get all
possible support from the actions of those professing to be good.
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!”
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.
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
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;
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”
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.
ACCUMULATED CALAMITIES CONSEQUENT ON SIN. David could
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
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
INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT WHEN THE JOYS OF HOME LIFE
ARE DESTROYED. Though dwelling in
distinct abodes in
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
in his heart, it is not surprising if he yields to temptation and seeks relief
in sinful pleasures.
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