Summary: As great a king as David was, he was still a human king with all the flaws of any human being. It would take the coming of Jesus before we had a king who truly reflected God’s heart in all he did; whose leadership would fully reflect God’s character.
What we’re looking at today is not pretty. Incest, rape, murder, political intrigue leading to a coup d’état, David running for his life. And again we wonder what to make of it all. Why is it in here?
Well, there are a couple of reasons it’s in here. One is to show how quickly God’s judgement on David has its effect. God had predicted that trouble would arise from within David’s own house and that from now on the sword would never leave his house and so it begins. Amnon’s violation of Tamar has a direct correlation in the way David abused his power in violating Bathsheba. Soon his murder of Uriah will be reproduced in Absalom’s murder of Amnon. And after that will come political plotting and insurrection, first by Absalom, then by an Israelite named Sheba. And that’s only a foretaste of what will follow with the split of the nation in two following the death of Solomon 50 years later.
Secondly I think we’re meant to see how such a fate can befall even the house of David after it’s been given God’s blessing, after God has promised that his house will last forever.
But the other thing we discover as we read these remaining chapters in 2 Samuel is the way poor leadership leaves the way open for even worse leadership to take over. What we find as we read through this series of events is that David seems to have lost the plot as far as his leadership of the nation is concerned. In fact this poverty of leadership is something that will plague the nation of Israel and later Judah for many years to come. With just a few exceptions, the kings of Israel and Judah will show themselves to be poor leaders, either weak willed, or simply ungodly, even pagan in their rule.
Well, let’s look quickly at the events of ch13, before we think about the rest of the history of David.
Amnon is David’s firstborn son, son of Ahinoam, David’s second wife. Tamar is the sister of Absalom and they’re the children of Maacah, David’s third wife.
Amnon falls in love with his half sister. As we saw last week with David and Bathsheba, his desire for her is nurtured and dwelt upon until it becomes full blown lust. In fact it becomes an obsession. But how is he going to satisfy his lust for her? His cousin Jonadab comes up with a devious plot. In fact Jonadab appears a couple of times in this story and each time he seems to be involved in an underhand scheme of one sort or another. He’s the sort of person you come upon from time to time who are naturally clever, but who always seem to use their intelligence for improper ends. He suggests that Amnon pretend to be sick and that he works it so that Tamar is sent to look after him. And here’s where David’s leadership begins to come into question.
David unwittingly becomes the pawn in Jonadab’s plan. He doesn’t even question his son’s motivation but goes along with the request for Tamar to go and serve her brother a meal. Once David has given his approval, of course, it all seems to be above board. The social constraints that have applied to Tamar’s contacts with single men are removed. She’s left on her own in her brother’s presence. And what began as an act of innocent and affectionate care for her sick brother ends in shame and disgrace. He takes advantage of her but then, his lust having been satisfied, he realises the shame that he’s brought upon them both. Then as so often happens, his lust turns to hatred and he throws her out of the house. He’s used her and now he discards her.
What’s happened, you see, is that his lust has changed his perception of her from a person to a sex object. You see it in the way he ignores her pleas for mercy, for pity. He doesn’t care about her feelings. He can do what he wants with her because she’s just an object of desire. That, of course, is the problem with such things as prostitution and pornography. It exploits women, turning them into sex objects rather than people with feelings and emotions. And as in this case there’s no sense of satisfaction at the end of it. In fact the opposite.
What he claimed was love turns to a great loathing. Tamar is left desolate. Her life is ruined. She returns to her brother Absalom who takes her in, but does nothing at this stage about the wrong that Amnon has done.
Neither does David. He’s very angry but it’s an impotent anger. It comes to nothing. Like so many leaders after him he fails this critical test of his leadership.