24 July 2012

When Daddy's Delinquent

Amnon and Tamar
by Jan Steen
@ http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/jan-steen/amnon-and-tamar-1670
So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.” So Tamar went to the house of her brother Amnon, who was lying down. She took some dough, kneaded it, made the bread in his sight and baked it. Then she took the pan and served him the bread, but he refused to eat.

“Send everyone out of here,” Amnon said. So everyone left him.
Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food here into my bedroom so I may eat from your hand.” And Tamar took the bread she had prepared and brought it to her brother Amnon in his bedroom.
But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.” (2 Samuel 13)
This is one of those biblical accounts that I find repulsive on so many levels - and so yes, I'd read it and yes, I'd even thought some about it... but I still allowed my distaste for the events in this story to push me away. I had never really studied it in detail... until now.

If you'll recall, at our last ladies' meeting, we'd started looking at 2 Samuel 13 as a part of our continuing Bible study of biblical conflict and confrontation. And the resulting discussion was quite rich... culturally eye-opening for me, too! Because that last post had already grown quite long, I decided to stop and come back to it later. Here's later!

We talked about the encounter between Jonadab and Amnon. And we recognized that our different background knowledge and cultural upbringings impacted how we looked at that passage. For me, it seemed pretty clear cut that Jonadab was not a true friend who may have started off well (i.e. he noticed that his friend was upset, went to him and asked him about it), but then tickled the ears of his buddy by telling him what he thought his friend wanted to hear. The ladies in this group weren't quite so sure that this was the case and helped me see at least two other possibilities for what might have motivated Jonadab to counsel Amnon as he did. And we all agreed that regardless of the ancient reality (which we may never know), what is clear is that we need to understand our own motives for becoming a confronter and make sure they are for God's glory and our neighbor's good...

Jonadab's plan, whatever his motivation, while deceptive was clearly effective. King David did come to see his ailing son to find out what was wrong. Here was one place where both the ladies and I agreed 100%: THIS was a missed confrontation on the part of David. Consider the context. David had just been confronted by Nathan for his sin - the pursuit of a woman who was not rightfully his to pursue. Murder followed adultery; the entire affair was immersed in subterfuge and deceit. We all believed that David was probably well aware of what was going on. In other words, he recognized Amnon's passionate feelings for Tamar, but chose not to confront his son. Why?

Differing ideas propose by the women:
  1. David's sin didn't occur in a vacuum and palaces are notorious for the gossip and rumors that wander through kitchens, courtyards, storage rooms, stairwells and hallways. Perhaps David felt he had no business confronting his son... that his sin disqualified him from being a mentor, invalidating his authority and any advice he might have to offer his clearly confused man-child.
  2. Amnon might have refused to respond to his dad, saying something to the effect of "Hey Pops. I'm only following you and the example you;ve set for us... doing whatever it takes to get what I want. What business do you have judging me, you hypocrite."
  3. David might have taken a fatalistic sort of view. Nathan had prophesied that these types of things would befall his family - a consequence of David's own sin. Therefore, he might have assumed nothing he could do would impact what was about to happen.
This led into a very fascinating discussion. These ladies, I think because of the very fatalistic view that is part and parcel of a Muslim background, seemed to really believe that Amnon had no choice in the matter. In their minds, God, through His prophet had declared that these things would happen and nothing David nor Amnon could do would change that. In other words, it was ordained that Amnon would sin to fulfill Nathan's prophecy. 


Believing something like that allows culture to trump God's Word. It is not consistent with what the Bible teaches. God does not change, but there are occasions where He relents and pursues a different path. Abraham pleaded with God for Sodom and Gomorroh; Moses pleaded for the nation of Israel. As far as a New Testament example, there is the parable of the unjust judge who finally relented at the widow's persistence. Don't forget, either, what James writes: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man." (James 1:13)

God gave me an opportunity that Saturday. I encouraged these woman to begin erasing a very predominant cultural conception regarding God. With God, it is always possible to make the righteous choice, to act justly, to be obedient, to show kindness, to be angry and sin not... Because we have been made in the image of God (and if we have trusted Him as Savior and have His Spirit living within), there are some wants and wishes that come from within and that are beautiful and pure. Because we are all sinners and have all chosen to disobey and violate His law on countless occasions, our hearts can also be deceitful and direct us towards disobedience, devience and disgusting, distasteful desires.

We are never left without the opportunity to choose the right from the wrong and to refuse temptation. 

David ignored his duty as Amnon's dad. 

  • Yes, David had sinned. 
  • Yes, he was unqualified to sit in critical judgment of his son. 
  • Certainly his children would have to bear some of the effects and negative consequences of his sin. 
But that is precisely why he was the perfect one to talk to Amnon. This was his boy, after all (and Tamar was his daughter...)! Isn't it sometimes amazing when we see our own struggles and shortcomings revealed so clearly in the behavior of our children? It's sometimes like a slap in the face. David had just walked this road. He knew the pleasures were not worth the resulting pain. He knew there were other, better courses of action to take. He knew the consequences for this sin... for any sin, really... were grave, for all sin is ultimately a sin against the only most high, most holy Lord of Heaven and Earth.

David failed to confront - and then Amnon received his tacit approval. In Amnon's twisted thinking, he might have perceived it as a blessing even, when David acquiesced to Amnon's wishes and sent Tamar to him. Maybe he thought Amnon's passions would be calmed just be spending time with his sister. Maybe he never dreamed Amnon would let his lustful feelings actually lead to physical harm. I also can't forget that maybe he truly had no inkling that Amnon's feelings for his half-sister were so vehement and potentially dangerous.

Whatever the case may have been - David squandered this opportunity to disciple his son by authentically and transparently sharing the hard and difficult lessons he had learned. Additionally, he failed to protect his daughter. I was a bit surprised that the women saw this to be the case, as I wondered if their cultural perspectives would influence how they understood these verses.

All in all, at least in this chapter, David was a delinquent daddy. He who'd been such a good shepherd to his father's flocks failed to adequately shepherd his family.

This missed confrontation is a powerful reminder of our responsibility. We are to be looking out for each other. If we see a brother or sister (or child) making a sinful choice, we are accountable for our action... or lack thereof. True - God does not call us to directly intervene every single time we see something questionable. Often it depends on our level of relationship and trust with the other person to be able to confront in such a way that pleases God. But when He does place us in that position, we must listen. We must make sure our motivation is God's glory and the other's good. Then we must gently engage the other person, making sure we share Biblical truth. 

We can't determine another's choice, but at least we can know that they understood there was another option.


We had one more great discussion topic that Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, but once again, this post has grown long. Stay tuned for the continuation - coming soon! 

In case you want to go back and look at the previous posts from this series, here they are, in order even! 


  1. this story makes me feel so physically ill. I just can't imagine the thought process of King David to allow harm to his daughter (and son!). I suppose it serves as a reminder to us to be vigilant as parents, like you said. It's just a hard story. Ugh.

    1. I don't know if I've decided David actually knew... maybe he should have... maybe he did but couldn't believe his own child could be capable of something so wrong... who knows. Not only do we need to be vigilant, but appropriately transparent with our kids, too. And the key word there is appropriately.

      very hard story and neither the rest of this chapter nor the next really get any easier. lots to learn...

      by the way, we need to fb chat again, soon!


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