Bible Insights

Five Confusing Verses About Tamar

I blogged about Tamar and her lustful half-brother who raped her. I spent three weeks reading and re-reading this story, meditating on it and trying to make sense of it. Despite that, five perplexing verses still mystify me.

Surely there’s some historical context I don’t comprehend, still I’m left with the feeling there’s more to this story. Consider:

  • “Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her,” (2 Samuel 13:2). First, she’s his sister. Second, what difference does it make if she’s a virgin; it’s still wrong? Third, what acceptable thing could he do if she wasn’t?
  • When solicited, Tamar said, “‘Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you,’” (2 Samuel 13:13). Again, they’re brother and sister; they can’t get married. Is this a ploy to escape or is she open to marriage?
  • After he raped her, “Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her,” (2 Samuel 13:15). True love cannot immediately turn to intense hate, perhaps lust can, but not love.
  • Tamar’s response: “‘No!’ she said to him. ‘Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me,’” (2 Samuel 13:16). After he rapes her, she wants to stay with him. Why? Is she trying to make the best of a bad situation?
  • “Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’” (2 Samuel 13:20) Absalom doesn’t ask, “What happened?” He assumes the perpetrator is Amnon. If he suspected Amnon’s intent, why didn’t he protect his sister?

Like these five verses, the Bible contains many passages that perplex us. We need to accept that we can’t comprehend all of the Bible’s nuances and embrace what we can understand; that should keep us busy the rest of our life.

Learn about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.