Sunday, August 27, 2023

One daughter, whose name was Tamar (2Samuel 13)

2Samuel chapter 13 is a very sad chapter for many reasons. I know Greek has several words for "love" but I'm not sure where Hebrew stands. The word "love" is used several times here for the way Amnon felt towards Absalom's sister Tamar (who was his half sister, of course), but it's very clear that what's being talked about is lust. I've known men who have this sort of attitude towards women; they're crazy about them, until they actually get them in bed, and then they're suddenly trash. Of course anyone rational knows it's the man who is truly trash.

It's interesting that Tamar actually tries to reason with Amnon. She suggests that they should ask David for permission to marry. (I don't know whether it's reasonable to think David would approve, or if she's just looking for a way out.) Once Amnon has taken advantage of her, she pleads to not be sent away, because--just in case you didn't know--she's now no longer a virgin, and therefore essentially a ruined woman in her culture, and her only hope is that Amnon might marry her after the fact. But she is kicked out.

(The SAB makes a side note on her garment, comparing it to Joseph's coat of many colors. I didn't discuss it there, but yes, Joseph's coat was gender nonconforming, and it's not often talked about by Biblical scholars as far as I know. It is interesting speculation that perhaps Joseph was transgender in some fashion, and the issue is at least tangentially touched on in the Bible.)

Absalom finds his sister distraught, and takes her into his house, where she stays for the rest of her life. He doesn't really say much to comfort her, but he plots revenge on Amnon. David hears about what happened, and he's very angry, but it doesn't seem that he does anything about it. The SAB has a strange note for them, in that while they usually stick with the text of the KJV, here they take a detour into the NRSV, where there is added text about Amnon being David's favorite son. I looked and hardly any English translations have this text, although it apparently comes from the Septuagint (an early Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible). I'm not really sure why this apparently rare variant text is needed to supply us with something to complain about. The simple fact that David does nothing about Amnon seems enough of an injustice without a spurious reason why.

Anyway, after waiting two years, Absalom has Amnon killed. Absalom and his men flee from David, apparently assuming they will be in trouble. Someone tells David that Absalom has killed all his brothers, and David mourns. Someone else corrects the story and tells David that just Amnon is dead, and it's likely in retribution for Tamar's rape. Eventually, David is sad and misses Absalom. Nowhere in this story is it said what David, God, or Tamar thinks about Amnon's killing. However, Deuteronomy 22 in most cases sentences a rapist to death.

[Edited to add: The SAB says, "This chapter, which includes incest, rape, murder, should be rated NC-17." I agree, and I think the point being made is appropriate; that there are certain parts of the Bible that are not appropriate for children, and should be shocking to adults. A lot of Christians don't recognize this fact.]

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