Restoring Tamar: A Prayerful Study of 2 Samuel 13

Today begins the new devotion and study of 2 Samuel 13.  It is the story of Tamar, King David's daughter who was raped by her half brother, Amnon.  


This devotion is about what could have been had Tamar known that her God was bigger than her tragedy, that she yet could have lived out her destiny.  It’s also about us; about how wounds inflicted upon our souls can mark us and cause us to think untrue thoughts about ourselves that bring distortion and destruction to our lives .

While we never hear from Tamar again, we do know that God honored her with the thirteenth chapter of 2nd Samuel. Tamar was important to Him! God insisted her story be told.   It has been told and retold for three thousand years.

Come on with me, let's take this journey together….


2 Samuel 13: The Rape of Tamar


2 Samuel 13:20

“Her brother Absalom saw her and asked, “Is it true that Amnon has been with you? Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother. Don’t you worry about it.” So Tamar lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house.”

Desolate, desolate, desolate, desolate, desolate, desolate, desolate,. 

The word rolls so easily off the tongue; three syllables, repeated… until there’s indistinguishable obscurity.   It is astonishing at the amount of pain that can be represented with such a small word. Even more astounding is the superficial response of Tamar’s brother, Absalom, when he learned of her rape…”Well, my sister, keep quiet for now, since he’s your brother.  Don’t you worry about it.”

Desolation lived out in years of silence, darkness, yearning yet hatred of yearning, lostness… a princess unadorned.  Largely, destiny is intrinsic in one’s name. The Hebrew meaning of Tamar is date palm tree. According to the online Strong's Concordance, the etymology of the word is from an unused root meaning to be erect.  Rather than stately, upright, erect and fruitful, Tamar lived out her life bowed, contorted, disfigured, withered, barren and emotionally crippled.  

It didn’t have to be so. 

Oh, how I love the Word of God!  Our Father God was not apprehensive about presenting the shocking contractions in the lives of His people; about insisting the scribes of His Book divulge the weaknesses, failures, and gross sin; the missed opportunities, faithlessness, and despair of the people whom God called His. The flippant response of Tamar’s brother, Absalom to her calamity contained no remedy, no resemblance of Jehohvah Rapha.  She seemed to have no one to confront her in her brokenness with a truth greater than the reality of her rape: that all was not lost… that God is good, that He is kind, that with Him nothing is impossible; that God can bring not only recompense but beauty from the ashes; that nothing is beyond His redemption.

This devotion is about what could have been had Tamar known that her God was bigger than her tragedy, that she yet could have lived out her destiny.  It’s also us; about how wounds afflicted upon our souls can mark us and cause us to think untrue thoughts about ourselves that bring distortion and destruction to our lives .

While we never hear from Tamar again, we do know that God honored her with the thirteenth chapter of 2nd Samuel. Tamar was important to Him! God insisted her story be told.   It has been told and retold for three thousand years.

Date Palms are historically important because they are a source of food that has supplied nutrition to millions of people over thousands of years. The true Date Palm is the species that makes the date fruit that is so commonly eaten. Another characteristic of this genus is that the leaves are induplicate which means their leaves form an upward V-shape that allows them to hold water. The fruit or pulp layer of the Date Palm is much thicker than this layer in other species… It is sweet and quite rich in sugar.  It is because of this thick fruit layer that the Phoenix dactylifera is the only species grown for consumption of the fruit as a food crop. They can grow up to 60 feet tall and tolerate heat and drought conditions and therefore do well in hot, desert areas. 

Tamar was called, literally, to be fruitful; to be the source of sweet nourishment to her kingdom.  She was called to be regal, grand, gracious and vigorious.  Her name predicted her to be a life-giving stately ornament that would adorn palaces; to be stalwart and stedfast and strong, to be tenacious, tough and vigorous.  

But a devastating storm struck and so damaged the tree that it began to die.


Devotion 1:  2 Samuel 1:1

“Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar. And Amnon, her half brother, fell desperately in love with her.” 

Tamar was young, beautiful, and privileged; the daughter of the renowned king of Israel, King David, the most celebrated leader of historical Israel. At the time of this story, she would have been approximately fifteen years of age and according to the custom of that day, she would have been awaiting a prearranged marriage to a diplomatic influential prince. King David was the first leader of Israel to use marriage for political alliance. Tamar’s mother, Maacah was the daughter of a neighboring king, King Talmai, of Geshur.  Maacah was also Absalom’s mother. Amnon was Tamar’s half-brother by another of David’s wives, Ahinoam. This scenario played out in contemptuous rivalry, dysfunction and death.

 First Chronicles chapter 3:1-9 gives a concise list of David’s sons….

“These are the sons of David who were born in Hebron: The oldest was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel. The second was Daniel, whose mother was Abigail from Carmel. The third was Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith. The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital. The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, David’s wife. These six sons were born to David in Hebron, where he reigned seven and a half years. Then David reigned another thirty-three years in Jerusalem. The sons born to David in Jerusalem included Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon. Their mother was Bathsheba, the daughter of Ammiel.  David also had nine other sons: Ibhar, Elishua, Elpelet, Nogah, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. These were the sons of David, not including his sons born to his concubines. Their sister was named Tamar.”

It is appears that Tamar, not including any children born to concubines, was King David’s only daughter.  The foremost desire of any little girl is to be her father’s princess. Tamar was that. Please pray for insight as you answer these questions.

  1. Describe your relationship with your father, absentee father, or step-father? 
  2. If there were one word to describe that relationship, what would it be?
  3. If you could change one thing about that relationship, what would you change?
  4. In what ways have you transfered onto your Heavenly Father, the attributes of your earthly father?
  5. For an idea of what your Heavenly Father is really like, read Ephesians chapter one.  If possible, use a contemporary version, like The Message. How does your concept of God compare to this passage?

As we mentioned in the introduction, Tamar’s name means date palm tree.  Naming a child in the Hebrew culture was grandiose. The name given would define the child’s character, describe qualities and traits, and could represent current events or prophecy future destinies.

6. Take a moment to look up the meaning of your name. What does it mean?     

7. In what ways can you see that you have conformed to your name?

8. If your name means something less than you’d like, look at different ways to interpret the meaning. For example, if your names means “to be brought low,” concentrate on the ways that service or humility represents greatness in God’s sight.  Also, search for scriptures that relate to your name’s meaning.
Read Genesis 32: 27-28. Because of Jacob’s persistence, his name was changed from “supplanter” to “God prevails.”

Before we proceed and to better understand the personalities of the principle characters in our story, let’s take a look at the meanings of the names of Tamar’s brothers Absalom and and her half brother Amnon, and her father, David.

Absalam was David’s third son but assumes the second position in the family line probably because David’s second son, Daniel or Chileab, as he is  also called, died at a early age. He is not referred to again after the First Chronicles 3 reference.  

Absalom’s name translates as "my father is peace" (Strong’s) The Pulpit Commentary states,“But David was a man whose conduct was generally governed by his feelings. He was a creature of warm and often generous impulse, but his character lacked the steadiness of thoughtful and consistent purpose.”

As we read further in the story, it becomes evident that although David was Israel’s greatest leader, he was a rather permissive father.  Absalom knew this about his dad and strategically exploited the trait.

9. Are there ways in which you have been guilty of manipulating or even exploiting the characteristics of those closest to you; a parent, a spouse, a child, a sibling, a friend, a co-worker? 

Look up the definition of ‘manipulate.’
These definitions seems especially illuminating: to manage or influence skillfully, especially in an unfair manner: to manipulate people's feelings; to adapt or change to suit one's purpose or advantage.

10. What does this bring to light in your heart?  Are there areas in which you have been manipulative?   What are they?    Illumination brings annihilation. Use this opportunity to confess this inclination….

11. For you to consider: how is ‘gossip’ used to manipulate?

Absalom was a handsome guy.  2 Samuel 14:25-26 elaborates,“Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful.” It seems Absalom named his daughter in honor of his sister.

Amnon simply put means "faithful." A more comprehensive meaning includes: to support, confirm, uphold, nourish, or to be carried by a nurse. Gesenius’s Lexicon expands the meaning: to support with the arm, to carry as a child, as one who guards or brings up, to be firm, unshaken, such as one may safely lean on, to trust, to be secure.

As we will observe in this unfolding drama, Amnon selfishly internalized the meaning of his name to justify his own whims instead of seeing himself as a faithful support and nourisher of those he was called to protect.

Can you think of a time when you leaned too heavily into what you perceived to be your own personal right?  Has that tendency become a needs-based expectancy rather than a goodwill service to others?  For example, my name, Sandra, means “helper of mankind.”  I get to choose to either view that mission from the lens of selfishness or through the lens of benevolence; as my own right to be helped or as a call to help others.

David, “A man after God’s own heart,” as God Himself announced him in First Samuel 13:14.  David means “beloved.”  Even in the midst of David’s flaws, he seemed to always know that God loved him. That was David’s strength.


References for Devotion 1 ….


-All devotion heading scriptures taken from  ( 1-31-13


-Tamar means:


-Absolam means:


-Amnon means:  


-David means:  

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