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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1And 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.
The history here, down to the end of 2 Samuel 23 (excepting a few particulars), is omitted in the Book of Chronicles.
2And 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 any thing to her.
3But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David's brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.
Shimeah - Called Shamma (marginal reference), was Jesse's third son.
Subtil - literally, wise. The word is generally used in a good sense, but here, and in Job 5:13, it means crafty.
4And 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.
5And 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.
Make thyself sick - "Feign thyself to be ill." (Compare 2 Samuel 14:2.)
That I may see it - He was to feign that he could not fancy anything that came from the kitchen, but that if he saw it cooked he should be able to eat it.
6So 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.
Make me cakes ... a pan - The words here used occur nowhere else, and the etymology is doubtful. Some particular kind of cake or pudding is meant 2 Samuel 13:8, called a לביבה lābı̂ybâh; according to some, it was, from its etymology, shaped like a heart.
7Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon's house, and dress him meat.
8So 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.
9And 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.
The dish into which she poured the לביבה lābı̂ybâh was doubtless borne to him by one of the servants into the chamber where he lay, and from which, the doors being open, he could see the outer room where Tamar prepared the meat.
10And 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.
11And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.
12And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.
Tamar's words are a verbal quotation from Genesis 34:7. The natural inference is that Tamar knew the passage in Genesis, and wished to profit by the warning that it contained. (Compare also 2 Samuel 13:13.)
13And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.
My shame - Better, "my reproach." Compare Genesis 30:23; Genesis 34:14; 1 Samuel 11:2.
Speak unto the king ... - It cannot be inferred with certainty from this that marriages were usual among half brothers and sisters in the time of David. The Levitical law forbade them (marginal reference), and Tamar may have merely wished to temporize. On the other hand, the debasing and unhumanizing institution of the harem, itself contrary to the law of Moses Deuteronomy 17:17, may well have led to other deviations from its precepts, and the precedent of Abraham Genesis 20:12 may have seemed to give some sanction to this particular breach of it.
14Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
15Then 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.
16And 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.
The sense of the passage probably is, "And she spake with him on account of this great wrong in sending me away, greater than the other wrong which thou hast done me (said she), but he hearkened not unto her." The Hebrew text is probably corrupt, and the writer blends Tamar's words with his own narrative.
17Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.
18And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
A garment of divers colors - See Genesis 37:3. Some prefer here (and there) "a tunic with sleeves," a tunic reaching to the extremities, i. e. the hands and feet, and worn over the common tunic, in room of a robe.
19And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.
Laid her hand on her head - To hold on the ashes (see the marginal references).
Went on crying - i. e. "went away, crying out as she went."
20And 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.
21But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.
The Septuagint adds, what is a good explanation, "but he did not vex the spirit of Amnon his son, because he loved him, because he was his first-born." This want of justice in David's conduct, and favoritism to Amnon, probably rankled in Absalom's heart, and was the first seed of his after rebellion.
22And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.
23And 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.
Sheepshearing was always a time of feasting (marginal references). Baal-hazor is not known.
24And 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.
25And 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.
26Then 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?
He mentions Amnon as being the king's first-born. If he could not have the king's company, let him at least have that of the heir apparent, and the king's other sons.
27But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king's sons go with him.
28Now 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.
29And 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.
Upon his mule - So in 1 Kings 1:33, 1 Kings 1:38 the mule is the royal animal on which David himself rides. In 2 Samuel 18:9 Absalom rides upon a mule.
30And 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.
31Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.
32And 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.
The history supplies another (compare 2 Samuel 13:3) instance of Jonadab's subtlety and sagacity. He at once gave the true explanation of the catastrophe at Baal-hazor, in spite of the false rumour.
By the appointment of Absalom ... - Meaning that Absalom's resolution to slay Amnon had been formed at the time, and only waited an opportunity to give expression to it.
33Now 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.
34But 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.
Absalom fled - This is the sequel to 2 Samuel 13:29. The king's sons rose from table and fled, and Absalom taking advantage of the confusion, also escaped and fled. This information is inserted here to account for the king's sons returning unmolested.
35And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king's sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.
The watchman, as his duty was, had sent immediate notice to the king that he saw a crowd approaching (see 2 Kings 9:17-20). Jonadab, who was with the king, was prompt to give the explanation.
36And 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.
37But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.
See the marginal reference.
Ammihur (see the margin) is found as a Punic name.
38So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.
39And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.
Longed to go forth - Rather, "longed after Absalom," literally, was consumed in going forth, with a sense of disappointed hope.