A Royal Mess in Israel's Royal Family (Part 2 of 3)

2 Samuel 13 tells how Amnon, the son of King David, became consumed with desire for his half-sister Tamar. In order to get her alone, he pretended to be sick and requested of David that the princess come to his house to prepare food. Suspecting nothing improper, Tamar did as she was asked. She even brought the food to Amnon’s bedside at his request. But then her brother revealed his true intentions: he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”

Last week we contrasted Amnon’s lust with genuine love that treats another with respect, kindness, and godliness. Today let’s focus on Tamar’s response.

When her brother pressured her for sex, Tamar bravely resisted. Consider what she did.

  • She said no.

  • She appealed to Amnon’s feelings for her: “No my brother, do not violate me” — the Hebrew verb means to bow down or afflict, often denoting harsh, humiliating treatment. If he truly cared for her, he would not act this way toward her.

  • She appealed to his sense of right and wrong: “Such a thing is not done in Israel.” She called it “senseless” or “disgraceful” — one commentator suggests that the word denotes “a disregard for accepted moral standards which undermines the good of society.”

  • She warned Amnon to think of the consequences for them both: “As for me, where could I get rid of my reproach? And as for you, you will be like one of the fools in Israel!”

  • Finally, she even suggested that Amnon ask their father for her hand in marriage. Since the same Law that forbade sex between siblings also prohibited marriage between them, this probably was just a desperate attempt to thwart Amnon’s vile intentions (cf. Leviticus 20:17). But it shows the measure of Tamar’s resolve.

A more thorough rejection of her brother’s advances would be hard to imagine. And notice: Tamar wasn’t just saying no to being raped. Nor, it seems, was she just saying no to having sex with someone she didn’t find desirable. She was saying no to fornication. She was saying no because God’s law said no. For her it was a matter of principle, of godliness.

The lesson for today from this princess of Israel is that purity is priceless. Tamar put great value on her sexual purity. To violate it — to compromise God’s moral standard — was unthinkable to her.

We need to recapture Tamar’s spirit. In our culture, the past few decades have brought a growing numbness of conscience to­ward sex. Meaningless sexual encounters are not just accepted, but expected, with mutual consent being just about the only thing that matters. To more and more people, the very term “sexual immo­rality” sounds like a contradiction: how could sex be immoral?

The pervasiveness of that attitude toward sex has had an effect among Bible-believers. Several mainline denominations have pretty much abandoned Biblical teaching about sexual morality. For some, the only constraint is whether the two people (are we still limiting it to two?) claim to love each other. Even in churches that hew closer to God’s standard on such matters, many individual believers have become what author Kenny Luck calls “sexual atheists” — they want God to direct them in every other area of life, but their sexual activity is none of His business. Consider: in one survey of Bible-believing singles by a “Christian” dating website, 63% said they would have sex before marriage. In my own experience, I’ve been surprised at how often I encounter people who hold devout religious convictions about a great many things, but who don’t even pretend to have reservations about sleeping with their boyfriend or girlfriend.

The world says, “It’s just sex.” But God says that outside the marriage relationship, it is wrong and brings us under His judgment (Hebrews 13:4). He describes fornication as a sin against one’s own body (1 Corinthians 6:18).

And don’t think that sexual immorality doesn’t have an effect on you. Even many who are not spiritually-minded have enough sense to see that sex outside of marriage can wound us mentally and emotionally. Consider these words from a letter by 21-year-old Noelle:

I have chosen abstinence…because of friends’ relationships damaged by having sex without commitment and trust that only marriage provides. Some have suffered terribly because sex made them feel so close and bonded to someone only to later realize that it wasn’t the right person after all; they had given themselves so entirely to the other person that they felt they had lost part of themselves when they broke up. Others have had sex so often and with so many people that it means nothing to them; I wonder how such an intimate act can be considered nothing special.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

Next week: one more lesson from this sad tale.