02 August 2012

When someone who shouldn't seems bent on doing evil to you...

With this post, I should have you caught up with where we are in studying through 2 Samuel 12-14, particularly as it relates to the topic of confrontation... and how we all need to learn to both gently accept confrontation as well as to compassionatly and gently confront when warranted (which probably isn't as often as some miht think... but as this story demonstrates... when done might prevent the need later). 

We reviewed the Biblical account, first:
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.”

“Don’t, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”

But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of here and bolt the door after her.” So his servant put her out and bolted the door after her. She was wearing a richly ornamented robe, for this was the kind of garment the virgin daughters of the king wore. Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the ornamented robe she was wearing. She put her hand on her head and went away, weeping aloud as she went. (2 Samuel 13.8-19)
Tamar, as instructed by her father, went care for her brother. I find that part of the story more than a little strange and I wonder if Tamar was suspicious or confused. Most guys I know wouldn't call for their sister if they were feeling bad... they'd ask for their mama. Was Tamar "au courant?" Had there been palace gossip that clued her to the fact that her brother liked her as a lot more than just his little sister? In my imagining of how this whole drama played out, I see Tamar going with a bit of trepidation and hesitancy... wondering what her brother might be up to... but still trusting in the fact that big brothers are supposed to look out for and protect their little sisters - even in a blended family.

My friends were quick to inform me that in their world, culturally it was more normal for a young man to ask for his sister to come and care for him... not his mother. So the fact that Amnon made this request would not have seemed strange or ominous to either David or Tamar. Thus, they tended to look a little more graciously upon David's lack of a confrontation (see my last post regarding this topic) than I was inclined to do. From their point of view, not only would Tamar have agreed to this request quite willingly, she might even have been surprised and hurt had it not been asked. Thus, she would have entered Amnon's apartments totally naïve and unsuspecting of any ulterior motive. Her first inkling of trouble might have been when her brother first refused to eat and wanted to retire further into his bed chamber... but even then, that might have simply prompted even more studious care and concern from Tamar.

As far as this group of women were concerned, Tamar - particularly because the Bible never gives even the slightest indication of anything other than her complete innocence and total lack of complicity in this matter - was a tragic victim... and not just of Amnon's lust, then rage and hatred.

As we continued to study this passage, my lady friends were outraged, though not surprised, by Amnon's bold, unabashed arrogance. "...he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

Her reply? “Don’t, my brother!”

Here we begin to see details of the actual confrontation between these two siblings. Amnon states his request, using physical force to restrain Tamar and prevent her from immediately fleeing his presence. Her initial, simple (and paraphrased by me) reply is "Don't do this... Don't rape me. This is wrong." Some commentators suggest that she tried appealing to the reality of their blood relationship hoping to discourage him. That is a good tactic in any confrontation because successful confrontations usually happen if and when there is an important relationship between both confronter and confrontee. We can't know if that was the case... we don't know what Tamar was actually thinking. And good strategy or not, this time it didn't work. Since Amnon himself had already referred to their sibling relationship (in fact, the word Amnon used is translated elsewhere as sister of my sisters), one might surmise that the reminder he'd be sleeping with his sibling, one related to him by blood, would not have been effective.

Tamar continues her plea by reminding him that what he was wanting was not just wrong, but wicked. You know, sometimes people get carried away, or unintentionally engage in wrongful behavior. But wicked carries the idea of premeditation and chosen delight in the sinfulness or its pleasure. In the original language, it has the idea of foolish, wrong-thinking behavior... and God, throughout the book of Proverbs, speaks strongly against such behavior. This appeal also has no effect on Amnon.

When there is still no change in his intentions, she next tries to get him to see things from her point of view... how this single moment of his passion would destroy all of her hopes for the future. Amnon still insisting, Tamar attempts to shame him into relenting his pursuit of this course of action. She compares him to a vile person (see "vil" is a root of both vile and evil?), trying to shock him, but still to no avail. Finally she relents enough to desperately beg, "Go to our father... he will give me to you legally and honorably as your wife. He will not deny you." Tamar tried several strategies to change her brother's mind, but in the long run, confrontation only works if the confrontee is willing to listen... and as one translation goes, he did not "hear"ken to the words of his sister.

Or? Amnon refused. And he raped his sister.

After the fact, Tamar tries one more time to confront her brother. Maybe it is the horror of what he'd just done; maybe his conscience is seared; maybe he is so totally self-centered and selfish that he cannot think of another's viewpoint. She tries to point out that their situation is still redeemable. He has failed to protect her and her purity to this point, but if will begin to do so now, neither one of them needs to live with the disgrace of what has taken place. Once again, though, the biblical text says he refused.

As we talked through these verses, the group of women made several very perceptive observations:
  • Amnon's response to Tamar in her "disgrace" was so totally different from Joseph and his response to Mary and her potential "disgrace" as her community learned she was pregnant. I'd never even compared the two responses.
  • Sometimes we have confrontation thrust upon us, with no warning. Tamar was abruptly forced into the role of Amnon's confronter. Thus, we need to know how to handle this type of conflict and to confront well because we may not have a choice.
  • Sometimes confrontation is forced upon us because someone else has not accepted their responsibility or has played the ostrich... hiding their heads in the sand to avoid conflict. We need to be sure that we are not the ones "ostrich-ing."
  • Sometimes, no matter how persuasively and effectively we confront another person, they still have the choice to respond appropriately or in a righteous manner.
  • Thus, our job is to either confront well or to accept confrontation well, discerning whether or not it is God's way of speaking truth to us. We cannot hold ourselves responsible for the actions and responses of the other person involved.
We concluded our study at that point, and figure to finish chapter 13 next time - as we see both Absalom's and David's response to their knowledge of what had happened to Tamar.
If you are interested in the history of these Bible studies, here are the links to previous posts dealing with this series of studies. 

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