By Ellen Taylor
Editor’s Note: Some passages in Scripture deal in subject matter which might be especially painful for some readers. Though many of the wounds we receive in this life are deeply personal and unimaginably painful, when they appear in God’s Word, we are reminded that He sees them. Whenever sin is addressed in Scripture—whether through teaching or story—it comes to us in the context of God’s unwavering commitment to bring an end to all evil in this world through the finished work of Christ (Revelation 21:3-4). We are praying for and with you as you read.
As readers of 2 Samuel, we are told about the lust and selfishness lurking in Amnon’s heart. We overhear Jonadab’s wicked advice to his friend. We know Amnon is only pretending to be sick in order to lure his sister into his bedroom all alone. We know the horrible violation that is coming, and it makes it no less difficult to read Tamar’s story.
I’ve often wondered why this episode is included in Scripture. Sure, it’s a part of David’s story, and it sets the stage for Absalom’s rebellion—but is it necessary to understand redemption history? Would the story of Israel really be incomplete without Tamar’s devastation being repeated and rehearsed every time someone reads through the Old Testament?
God’s promises to Abraham and David would have come true in Christ, whether or not we had ever heard of Tamar. Sin would still be defeated on the cross, and the kingdom of God would still come, had Amnon never sunk to the depravity of demons. But Tamar’s story is there, black text against off-white paper in the middle of my Bible, inviting me to read and ask why God included it in His Word.
But that’s just it—God did include it in His Word. He breathed it out and made it sacred by incorporating it into Scripture. We should never doubt that God sees our greatest pain—those moments when we are trapped, all alone, without witness or defender. He sees the years that pass afterwards when memories of abuse drive us underground and away from others. He sees, and He is there, bottling up our tears, as the psalmist so poetically put it (Psalm 56:8). The record of 1 Samuel 13 leave us no doubt.
Tamar’s story is difficult to read, and I think that’s another reason why it’s included in Scripture. Too often, we flirt with sin, skirting just past the edges of God’s commandments. Other times, we race out head first. But Tamar’s experience puts the ugliness of sin on full display. She is, to use the Bible’s own words, made desolate by the sin of Amnon. And we are all, in one form or another, continually making each other desolate, one sin at a time. I don’t say that to minimize or trivialize the pain of Tamar or any other person who has been sexually abused or violently attacked. There is really no comparison between our everyday sins and tragedies like Tamar’s. My point is, rather, that our sin always has consequences, for ourselves and for the other people in our lives. The sins of others are wounding us, and our own sins are wounding others, all the time. In our sin, we are steadily bringing desolation to one another instead of life.
And it is precisely for this reason that Jesus came—to replace desolation and pain with life and joy. During His earthly ministry, Jesus described a time in the future He called “the renewal of all things” (Matthew 19:28). On that day, “grief, crying, and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4) and “past events will not be remembered or come to mind” (Isaiah 65:17). That means the shame brought upon Tamar by her brother Amnon does not have the final word. It will, one day, be no more. And in that, there is hope, even in a story like Tamar’s.
Today, let’s thank our God, whose goodness is deeper and wider than even the most abominable of sins our hearts can devise, and let’s pray together for every soul whose ever known the pain of Tamar.
Written by John Greco