(Continued from page 575)
The progressive tragedies that surrounded the death of Amnon
Beginning in verse 22, the focus shifts to Absalom. Although he hated Amnon for violating his sister, he said nothing about it, either good or bad. He pretended indifference, but he had a plan and was patient until the time seemed right. When Samuel told Eli that God would kill his two sons, the evil Hophni and Phineas on the same day, Eli slowly put this to the back of his mind when it did not happen immediately. In a similar way, when Agag the king of the Amalekites was at first spared by the disobedient king Saul, he was at first relieved because he was not immediately killed - but, of course, the faithful Samuel hacked him to pieces as soon as he knew of this further disobedience by Saul. In the same way many unbelievers blaspheme against God, thinking there is no God and they can mock him as they wish. But God dwells in eternity, not in time, and a thousand years are as a day to Him - time makes no difference with God: 'He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh' (Psalm 22). It makes no difference with God whether He strikes a man dead today or 50 years from today - or even if the man dies from 'natural causes' many years from now. The timing is irrelevant for if he dies unrepentant his destiny is Hell and eventually the 'lake of fire' and it doesn't matter to God, who dwells in eternity. No one can accuse God of 'bad timing' for He determines every factor, the degree of learning, amount of understanding etc., that each man or woman requires in order to have sufficient knowledge to know Him and His way of salvation. People have argued that some Nazis made commitments to the Lord Jesus Christ when they knew that they were to be executed for war crimes and therefore the threat of the death penalty forced them to make a decision. But, on the other hand, if they knew that they might have many years in prison ahead of them would they not have more time to make a decision, in fuller knowledge? We cannot answer this for only God knows the state of a man's heart and He calls those who He knows are His (John 6:44-65) and in His time. Thus time is very subtle. God's decrees are eternal and a great deal of time may occur between pronounced judgement and the actual judgement itself and only He can know which timing is right. Absalom's timing, waiting for the right moment to avenge his sister, has been compared in a minuscule way to God's timing and we now see how he pretended to pay no attention to his half-brother's sin.
Absalom let Tamar know that he knew what Amnon had done to her and then told her that this was something to be kept secret, within the family (13:20). She was to keep silent about it and not take it to heart. We wonder whether Absalom really thought she could do such a thing, for massive psychological damage is suffered by rape victims and only the handing out of a just sentence on the perpetrator can help to heal such painful wounds. Perhaps it is to facilitate her keeping silent and help her deal with this trauma that Absalom takes her into his own home. In our text at least, Absalom does not tell his sister what he has in mind. We learn from Jonadab's conversation with David two years later, that it was Absalom's intention to kill Amnon the day he learned his brother had violated Tamar (v32). Never was this beautiful young woman to experience marriage or the bearing of children. We can hardly calculate all that Amnon stole from his sister that evil day.
Perhaps, after two years had gone by, Amnon had forgotten the matter. But Absalom had not and cunningly arranged a celebratory sheep-shearing party and invited his father and brothers to attend (13:23-27). David declined, but Amnon and the rest of his brothers went along. Absalom then instructed his servants to watch for a suitable time, then kill Amnon. Thinking, perhaps, that this was a plot to seize the throne, the remaining brothers fled. Rumour sped faster, however, and by the time the news reached David, it had mushroomed into a report that all the king's sons had been slain. David promptly went into deep mourning, tearing his clothes and lying on the ground. After sowing the wind, he was beginning to reap the whirlwind. Lust, incest, rape, and murder have occurred among the members of his own family.
We learned (v5) that Jonadab was the one who helped devise the scheme by which Amnon could rape his sister. In verse 32, he appears again as the two-faced individual he was. He informed the king that the rumours were false (v32-332): 'For Amnon only is dead for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar." What a hypocrite! There is only one way Jonadab could have known what he now told David, for Jonadab had not accompanied David's sons to the feast at Absalom's ranch. Since he was not there to see what happened the early reports had to come (directly or indirectly) from those who had been there, at Baal-hazor. How could Jonadab assure David that these reports were not true when he was not there to see what happened? There appears to be only one answer: Jonadab had known for some time what Absalom's intentions were with regard to Amnon, and he neither said nor did anything to prevent it!
Having committed the murder, Absalom fled to his mother's people at Geshur. David showed by his actions how much he loved Absalom, for verse 374 tells us: "David mourned for his son every day. " The heart of the king longed to go out to Absalom and, although he was not able to, he was comforted concerning Amnon because he was dead. I believe this means that David's conscience was eased some-what because, as long as Amnon was alive, he was overshadowed by his inability to punish him for the crime. He felt paralyzed in handling him and knew he should be punished but did not want to go back and reopen old personal wounds. There was probably not a day that went by without David thinking about the incident between Amnon and Tamar, and he probably berated himself for not having acted promptly at the time. Matthew Henry7 comments (on v30-39): 'Jonadab was as guilty of Ammon's death, as of his sin; such false friends do they prove, who counsel us to do wickedly. Instead of loathing Absalom as a murderer, David, after a time, longed to go forth to him. This was David's infirmity: God saw something in his heart that made a difference, else we should have thought that he, as much as Eli, honoured his sons more than God.' But now, Amnon is dead and the matter was out of his hands and forgotten and Absalom remained in exile for three years.
God seems to have orchestrated these events to enable David to experience his own sin from the perspective of others. In effect, some of David's family were doing to David what he had done to God. As David had abused his authority as the "king of Israel" to sin against God by taking Bathsheba, Amnon now abused his authority and position as a "son of the king" to take Tamar. As David sinned by killing Uriah, Absalom sinned by killing Amnon. David had now experienced something of the pain that God suffered, something of what Bathsheba suffered, and something of what others, impacted by his sin, suffered. This text also has much to teach David and us regarding sin. Since the history of man began, sin starts with some kind of "forbidden fruit." For Adam and Eve, the forbidden fruit was eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For Joseph, it was Potiphar's wife. For Daniel and his three friends, it was the king's foods. For David, it was Bathsheba. For Amnon, it was Tamar. We see that, while sin starts small and often private, it grows quickly to greater and more public sin. We see from our text that sin never pays. Its price tag is always much higher than its worth. Neither David, nor his family, nor the nation Israel will ever have reason to smile about David's sin and its consequences.
This passage certainly encourages us to stay out of sin. But it also instructs us that once sin has begun, the sooner it is stopped, the better for all. How much better for all if the shrewd but self-centred Jonadab had rebuked Amnon for his sinful lust, rather than to tell him how he could get what he wanted. How much better if David had recognized the evil of Amnon's request and refused to allow his daughter to see Amnon, and his son Amnon to go to the sheep-farm of Absalom. There is a passivity here toward the sin of others which is painfully evident. Those who will not correct those who sin are only co-conspirators in their expanding sin. How many families have experienced great heartache because a mother or a father refused to discipline a wilful or wayward child? How many marriages have broken up because a husband or a wife refused to deal with sin in their lives, or in the life of their mate? How often families have taken the course of action Absalom recommended - keeping sin a family secret.
We certainly see that sin separates. We know, or should know, that sin separates us from God. But it also separates us from others. The sin of Adam and Eve brought separation from God, and shortly after, it separated Cain and Abel. Sin separated Joseph and his brothers. Sin divided David's family. Sin separated Amnon and Tamar, Amnon and Absalom, David and Absalom, and eventually the whole nation. Sin is the root of disunity and division.
We can also learn from each of the characters in our text. Amnon warns us about the pursuit of fleshly lusts (cf. 1 Corinthians 10). Jonadab warns us about the danger of using the sins of others to further our own interests, making them a part of our own agenda, rather than paying the price for rebuke and correction. David instructs us concerning passivity toward sin. David knew all the facts about the crime committed against his daughter, yet it seems that he did nothing about it. We ask ourselves why not? Was it because of his own guilt due to his sin with Bathsheba? Tragically, if the incident between Amnon and Tamar is purposely portrayed as similar to that between David and Bathsheba, then we have another piece of evidence in support of Bathsheba's innocence in the night's events with David. We can confidently say that Tamar is an innocent victim and, if so, then we may tend to think that something similar probably happened with David. As a result David was probably afraid that if he corrected Amnon someone might ask him who he was to be casting stones at sinners? Whatever the reasons for David's inaction, it only facilitated the sins of others. From Absalom, we learn the danger of resentment and bitterness. Absalom was not willing to deal with Amnon biblically. He wanted to get his revenge in his own way and, in doing so, became a murderer and a fugitive.
(Continued on page 577)