On the heels of David’s immorality with Bathsheba, the author of 2 Samuel overlooked other events that took place in Israel, recording that “some time passed” (2 Sam 13:1) between chs. 12 and 13. His intention was to immediately record the fulfillment of Nathan’s proclamation to David that “The sword will never leave your house because you despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own wife” (2 Sam 12:10). This sad reality would take place in the lives of Amnon, David’s immediate successor; Tamar, the king’s daughter; and David’s son, Absalom.
The beginning of 2 Samuel 13 vividly articulates how Amnon felt about his sister: “Amnon was frustrated to the point of making himself sick over his sister Tamar because she was a virgin, but it seemed impossible to do anything to her” (2 Sam 13:1-2). With the element of conflict established, the remainder of 2 Samuel 13 records the sordid drama of David’s family. Enticed by his cousin Jonadab, “a very shrewd man” (2 Sam 13:3), Amnon raped his sister (2 Sam 13:1-19). Even though Tamar confronted her brother that to do this would humiliate both of them—and that if he were to ask David for her hand in marriage their physical union would not violate the standards commanded of Israel—he nonetheless violated her. Yet, in view of the Mosaic law (see Exod 22:16-17; Deut 22:28-29), sending Tamar away without paying the required sum to her father was “much worse than the great wrong” (2 Sam 13:16) Amnon had committed in violating her. The disgraced young woman went away weeping, in effect being told that she was not worth the price required for such an act. Tamar had to face social humiliation. Although Amnon’s actions infuriated the king, David took no retributive action against his son (2 Sam 13:21).
Absalom, second to his brother in line for the throne, took Tamar into his home and could not bring himself to say anything to Amnon. Absalom “hated Amnon since he disgraced his sister Tamar” (2 Sam 13:22). After two years, Absalom seized an opportunity and killed Amnon (2 Sam 13:23-33). Absalom, perhaps fearing his father’s retribution, fled to Geshur where he stayed three years (2 Sam 13:34-39). David mourned for Amnon “every day” (2 Sam 13:37) and in time the king “longed to go to Absalom” (2 Sam 13:39).
David’s countenance was so affected by the events in his family that even Joab was compelled to act. Perhaps remembering the effect of Nathan’s parable, Joab “sought to address the issue indirectly,” by employing a woman of Tekoa to approach David in dramatic fashion (2 Sam 14:3-20). However, while Joab’s plan worked and the king commanded that Absalom be brought back to his house in Jerusalem, David also declared, “he may not see my face” (2 Sam 14:24). Frustrated after waiting for two years without being summoned to the king’s court, or gaining any assistance from Joab, Absalom took the drastic step of setting Joab’s field on fire. He got Joab’s attention and an invitation to the king’s court (2 Sam 14:27-33). David’s prayer for deliverance in Psalm 13 expressed how the king would have felt when Absalom was on the offensive.
While the author of 2 Samuel did not take David to task for his failure of family leadership, David’s faults cannot be hidden. In the storyline of Scripture, Jesus Christ was the “Son of David” (Matt 1:1; 21:9) and promised David’s throne (Luke 1:32) but Jesus differed from David. David sinned and David’s greater Son offered forgiveness for sin:
He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth; when reviled, He did not revile in return; when suffering, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness; by His wounding we have been healed (1 Pet 2:22-24).