2 Samuel 13:1-14:33 – Like Father, Like Son


2 Samuel 13:1-14:33


Three stories form a sordid tale of rape, murder, deception, and reconciliation. Just as David’s sexual misappropriation of Bathsheba had ended in the murder of Uriah, David’s sons mirror his behavior in Amnon’s rape of Tamar and Absalom’s murder of Amnon.


In announcing God’s judgment against David for his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah her husband, Nathan the prophet had said, “I [the LORD] will raise up trouble against you from within your own house” (2 Samuel 12:11a). These chapters report the beginning of the fulfillment of those words. All four of the main characters are named in the opening verse (Amnon, David, Tamar, and Absalom). In effect, David sees his own transgressions replayed before his very eyes in the lives of his children:

  • His virgin daughter, Tamar, is raped by her half-brother, Amnon, David’s firstborn son, just as he had violated/raped Bathsheba (13:1-22).
  • Absalom, Tamar’s brother, will murder Amnon, as David had had Uriah murdered (13:23-39).
  • Even the reconciliation between David and Absalom will turn sour as Absalom’s return will morph into rebellion that nearly destroys David and the nation as surely as it did destroy Absalom himself (14:1-33).

Interpretation of this section should not simply be a causative: David sinned, so his children punished him. Instead, this should provoke questions about what kind of climate and family context David cultivated around the palace. Famously, God will prevent David from building the temple, because David was a man of blood (1 Chronicles 28:3). The violence in David’s character prevented the peaceful building of David’s house, as well as God’s house. Though God pronounces judgment against David (“the sword shall never depart from your house” 2 Samuel 12:10), it is David who fundamentally causes the rifts and violence among his children.