Today's passage: II Samuel 13
This is not a passage for the faint of heart. It is one of the more difficult passages of the Bible because of the adult content in it. In fact, trying to deal delicately with such subject matter must be a difficult job for a preacher, because there is little way to handle it delicately and still deliver the message that needs to be presented. It is a chapter that causes me to cringe. And yet, there is something here God wants us to learn. Probably several somethings.
One thing that God wants us to know is that marrying several women can create complications among the children. I've said it before, and I will say it again, because I assure you, the movement is on the horizon. Polygamy is trying to make a big comeback in this country. There are TV shows promoting it, and while maybe not advocating for it, trying to pave the way for acceptance. I don't watch any of them, but I have heard of at least 2 or 3 shows where a man has more than one wife. And the entire point is to make them seem like a normal family. Well, it is not normal. God never designed for man to have more than one wife. If He had, Adam would have had Eve #1 and Eve #2. It happened a lot in the Old Testament, and in every instance it was trouble. As early back as Abram and Sarai, when Hagar is introduced into the picture and Ishmael is born, multiple wives produced complications. And that is a complication that has continued on to this day, with the Muslim world declaring Ishmael to be God's heir when clearly it was to be Isaac. The ancestors of these two children are still fighting. It was not necessary. Unfortunately, David's marriages were going to cause another kind of trouble among his children. I'm sure there must have been a lot of arguing about which wife had preeminence, and therefore which son would be the next king. It was natural that these jealousies would arise. Would they have surfaced had all the children been from the same woman? Yes, it was likely that could have happened too, but everyone would eventually agree that the firstborn was heir to the throne. In David's case, he had a firstborn with Maachah (Absalom), and a firstborn with Abigail (Chileab), and a firstborn with Ahinoam (Amnon) and a firstborn with Bath-sheba (the firstborn died, but the first to live was Solomon). I mean there would be a lot of disputes as to whose son was the real firstborn. But having so many wives with children from each wife also brings about other difficulties as seen in this passage.
God also would want us to realize that love and lust are two completely different things. Amnon does not love his half-sister. He tries to convince others he does because that sounds nobler than to say he just wants to rob her of her virginity. There is no love involved here. Love does not deceive a young maiden into being a nursemaid for a person who is not sick in order to prey upon her. Love does not turn to hatred within minutes. Love does not force a person against her will, and then having its way throw the person out into the cold. That is not true love. Those are the characteristics of lust. This poor, poor girl. After the act is committed against her, she is more horrified because no other man will want her now, and Amnon doesn't even have the decency to take her as his wife, now that he has stolen the most precious gift she had to offer any man. It is no wonder that when Tamar's full-blood brother Absalom learns of it, he is enraged.
But here is the most shocking thing of all in this passage, and I can't wrap my head around it. Maybe I'm too unfamiliar with Middle Eastern culture to understand, but David finds out about this horrific deed and does nothing. "But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth." That's it. That is all that is said about the matter. It is obvious that he didn't deal with the situation, or if he did he must have been extremely lenient, because it is what drives Absalom to take matters into his own hands and avenge his violated sister. And really, I can't say I blame him. I cheer for vigilante justice sometimes in the movies, and this just seems to be another brand. But really, what was David thinking? How could he let such an act go? This was his oldest son, the future king behaving this way? It is obvious that Amnon was indulged, perhaps because he was the successor to the throne. But being an indulgent father, and a father who completely looks the other way are two different things. It is shameful.
Two years go by, and Amnon is still strolling about the palace, possibly smugly smiling at Absalom like the cat who ate the canary every time he passes him by. Very likely, sneering at Tamar any time he has the chance. Absalom shows remarkable restraint. "And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar." What is that saying-- "Watch out for the quiet ones." ? This is one of those cases. Absalom waits two years to carry out revenge. And I'm not saying he was right to do it, but it is easy to see why he would when King David did nothing. Amnon continued to bait Absalom all the while. I'm starting to think that David's family put the dys- in dysfunctional. Actually, that may have started with Jacob and his several wives/several children brood.
This is just not a pleasant chapter to read. It goes from bad to worse. Absalom is not punished for murdering his brother, which conveniently puts Absalom as next in line for the throne. No power motives there, right? David's boys must have been used to having things done their way, and if in the past they have not suffered consequences for their actions, it is no wonder they think this.
What can I learn here? As awful a parent as David is in this chapter, there are going to be times in my life when I really will not know what to do with my children, or how to deal with them properly.