Forty women: 30. Tamar

Tamar seems to be having a minor renaissance as a girl’s name. I always wonder whether parents are naming their daughters after the Tamar we’ve already met, whose first two husbands died, who was thrown out of the family, and then had to pretend to be a prostitute to get her father-in-law to have sex with her, so she could get pregnant. Or after the Tamar we’re looking at today, whose half-brother raped her which two years later prompted a civil war.

Well. Maybe they just went to Devon or Cornwall for their holiday one year.

David, you remember, had at least eight wives and an unspecified number of concubines. Unsurprisingly, therefore, he had a substantial number of children. Nineteen sons by his wives and more by his concubines.

“And Tamar was their sister.” (1 Chronicles 3:9)

So that must have been fun. Maybe there were other sisters. It seems likely, but if there were, they aren’t mentioned at all.

Amnon was the eldest. And he’d grown up watching his father take wife after wife, concubine after concubine. He’d seen the king’s attitude to women: if there was one he wanted, he had her. Like father, it turns out, like son.

Because Amnon had seen a woman he wanted. A woman he became so obsessed with he made himself ill. And yes, there was a part of him at least that knew he couldn’t have her. Shouldn’t have her. She was young. She was a virgin. And she was his sister.

But he wanted her. And so he was going to have her.

He gets advice from his cousin and so he lays his plans. He pretends to be ill and asks for Tamar to bring him special food. And when she comes, he grabs and tells her to come to bed with him.

Horrified, she resists. She doesn’t just point out the wickedness of it, she’s also rightly concerned for her whole future. She would be disgraced. There would be no hope of any kind of future for Tamar if she were to let Amnon have his way.

“But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.” (2 Samuel 13:14)

And then. Well, then, Amnon’s obsession takes a twist. Where he thought there was love, now there is hate.

For Tamar, this isn’t just about adding insult to injury. This is her worst fears coming to pass. Amnon won’t marry her. He won’t give her his protection and his name. Wrong thought that might have been, given their close relationship, at least it would have give Tamar a name. A place. A family.

As it is, she goes to her brother Absalom, who gives her refuge in her grief.

“And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.” (2 Samuel 13:20)