Tamar, the Daughter of King David
Where to find Tamar's story
Tamar was the beautiful daughter of King David and Maacah one of David's many wives. She was raped by her half-brother Amnon. Her brother Absalom killed Amnon. The Bible says the reason for the killing was revenge for the rape. Her story is told to validate Absalom's killing of Amnon, but with Amnon out of the way Absalom was next in line to be king. Her story is told in 2 Samuel 13:1-37
Tamar Tells Her Story
"No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile!" Tamar said to Amnon in, 2 Samuel 13:12.
I could not stand to be around him. He was always leering at me, making suggestive remarks, touching me when no one was looking. I tried to stay away from him but our father sent me to take care of him when he got sick. I knew he was faking. I did not think I was in any real danger. I was after all, a virgin and the daughter of the king.
He watched me as I made the cakes he requested. When they were ready he sent everyone away and asked me to come to his bedroom and feed him the cakes. I thought he was just being creepy. "Let me eat them from you hand" he whined. When I entered the room he grabbed me and said he wanted to have sex with me. I begged him not to do anything so vile. I begged him not to shame me. I begged him to ask our father if he could marry me. I knew our father would say no and once he saw the kind of man Amnon was it would be easier for me to stay away from him.
It was no use. He was stronger than me and I could not fight him off. He raped me. His rape was not about love but loathing and the desire to have power over me. He had ruined me. I beg him to marry me as our law requires. I said, "No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me." He would not listen. He had his servant throw me out and called me, "this woman." He didn't even use my name. I tore the robe I was wearing. It was the mark of the virgin daughter of the king. I put ashes on my head as a symbol of mourning and ran to my brothers house, crying all the way. There was nothing left for me now. I was not a virgin. I would never marry and have a home of my own. I would live in the home of my brother and serve him. My brother tried to comfort me but I was desolate.
When our father found out about my rape he was angry but he did not punish Amnon. I was of less value to him than his firstborn son.
Two years later my brother killed Amnon. He was very cleaver in biding his time. He waited until the celebration of the sheep shearing and when Amnon was drunk he ordered his servant to kill him. Absalom went into hiding for three years.
Observations on Tamar's Story
The cover of the winter/spring 2014 issue of MS. magazine declares, "1 in 5 Women Students on College Campuses Will Experience Sexual Assault" One of the more blood chilling statistics reported is, 63 percent of men who admitted committing rape or attempted rape had raped an average of 6 women. Another chilling statistic is that 1.5 million women are raped or assaulted by an intimate partner every year in the U.S.
Tamar's rape is a vehicle, a literary device presented to further the stories of the male biblical heroes. We are not told about her life before the rape. We are told that she was beautiful as if that is all that matters. After the rape we know that she was a desolate woman living in her brother's home. We are also told in 2 Samuel 14:27 that a daughter named Tamar was born to Absalom. Miriam Therese Winter asks the question, "Was she Tamar's daughter?"
I was never taught about the rape of Tamar in Sunday School or the laws which require a rape victim to marry her rapist. Would the statistics of rape and assault be different if the church confronted these biblical stories of rape and assault? If the church condemned the actions of the attacker would it make a difference? Would there be less blaming of the victim if there were serious consequences for the rapist? What difference would it make if this story were told, not as an incident in the life of a biblical hero but as the sad and ruined life of a biblical woman?