Amnon and Tamar
13 1 Some time later, this happened: Absalom, David's son, had a sister who was very attractive. Her name was Tamar. Amnon, also David's son, was in love with her. 2 Amnon was obsessed with his sister Tamar to the point of making himself sick over her. She was a virgin, so he couldn't see how he could get his hands on her. 3 Amnon had a good friend, Jonadab, the son of David's brother Shimeah. Jonadab was exceptionally streetwise. 4 He said to Amnon, "Why are you moping around like this, day after day - you, the son of the king! Tell me what's eating at you." "In a word, Tamar," said Amnon. "My brother Absalom's sister. I'm in love with her." 5 "Here's what you do," said Jonadab. "Go to bed and pretend you're sick. When your father comes to visit you, say, 'Have my sister Tamar come and prepare some supper for me here where I can watch her and she can feed me.'" 6 So Amnon took to his bed and acted sick. When the king came to visit, Amnon said, "Would you do me a favor? Have my sister Tamar come and make some nourishing dumplings here where I can watch her and be fed by her." 7 David sent word to Tamar who was home at the time: "Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare a meal for him." 8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon's house. She took dough, kneaded it, formed it into dumplings, and cooked them while he watched from his bed. 9 But when she took the cooking pot and served him, he wouldn't eat. 10 Then he said to Tamar, "Bring the food into my bedroom, where we can eat in privacy." She took the nourishing dumplings she had prepared and brought them to her brother Amnon in his bedroom. 11 But when she got ready to feed him, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, sister!" 12 "No, brother!" she said, "Don't hurt me! This kind of thing isn't done in Israel! Don't do this terrible thing! 13 Where could I ever show my face? And you - you'll be out on the street in disgrace. Oh, please! Speak to the king - he'll let you marry me." 14 But he wouldn't listen. Being much stronger than she, he raped her. 15 No sooner had Amnon raped her than he hated her - an immense hatred. The hatred that he felt for her was greater than the love he'd had for her. "Get up," he said, "and get out!" 16 "Oh no, brother," she said. "Please! This is an even worse evil than what you just did to me!" 17 He called for his valet. "Get rid of this woman. Get her out of my sight! And lock the door after her." 18 The valet threw her out and locked the door behind her. 19 Tamar poured ashes on her head, then she ripped the long-sleeved gown, held her head in her hands, and walked away, sobbing as she went.
Absalom's Revenge and Flight
20 Her brother Absalom said to her, "Has your brother Amnon had his way with you? Now, my dear sister, let's keep it quiet - a family matter. He is, after all, your brother. Don't take this so hard." Tamar lived in her brother Absalom's home, bitter and desolate.
21 King David heard the whole story and was enraged, 22 but he didn't discipline Amnon. David doted on him because he was his firstborn. Absalom quit speaking to Amnon - not a word, whether good or bad - because he hated him for violating his sister Tamar. 23 Two years went by. One day Absalom threw a sheep-shearing party in Baal Hazor in the vicinity of Ephraim and invited all the king's sons. 24 He also went to the king and invited him. "Look, I'm throwing a sheep-shearing party. Come, and bring your servants." 25 But the king said, "No, son - not this time, and not the whole household. We'd just be a burden to you." Absalom pushed, but David wouldn't budge. But he did give him his blessing. 26 Then Absalom said, "Well, if you won't come, at least let my brother Amnon come." 27 But Absalom was so insistent that he gave in and let Amnon and all the rest of the king's sons go. 28 Absalom prepared a banquet fit for a king. Then he instructed his servants, "Look sharp, now. When Amnon is well into the sauce and feeling no pain, and I give the order 'Strike Amnon,' kill him. And don't be afraid - I'm the one giving the command. Courage! You can do it!" 29 Absalom's servants did to Amnon exactly what their master ordered. All the king's sons got out as fast as they could, jumped on their mules, and rode off.
30 While they were still on the road, a rumor came to the king: "Absalom just killed all the king's sons - not one is left!" 31 The king stood up, ripped his clothes to shreds, and threw himself on the floor. All his servants who were standing around at the time did the same. 32 Just then, Jonadab, his brother Shimeah's son, stepped up. "My master must not think that all the young men, the king's sons, are dead. Only Amnon is dead. This happened because of Absalom's outrage since the day that Amnon violated his sister Tamar. 33 So my master, the king, mustn't make things worse than they are, thinking that all your sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead." 34 Absalom fled. Just then the sentry on duty looked up and saw a cloud of dust on the road from Horonaim alongside the mountain. He came and told the king, "I've just seen a bunch of men on the Horonaim road, coming around the mountain." 35 Then Jonadab exclaimed to the king, "See! It's the king's sons coming, just as I said!" 36 He had no sooner said the words than the king's sons burst in - loud laments and weeping! The king joined in, along with all the servants - loud weeping, many tears. 37 David mourned the death of his son a long time. 38 He was there three years. 39 The king finally gave up trying to get back at Absalom. He had come to terms with Amnon's death.
Joab's Scheme for Absalom's Return
14 1 Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king, deep down, still cared for Absalom. 2 So he sent to Tekoa for a wise woman who lived there and instructed her, "Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in black and don't comb your hair, so you'll look like you've been grieving over a dead loved one for a long time. 3 Then go to the king and tell him this . . . " Joab then told her exactly what to say. 4 The woman of Tekoa went to the king, bowed deeply before him in homage, and said, "O King, help!" 5 He said, "How can I help?" 6 I had two sons. The two of them got into a fight out in the field and there was no one around to step between them. The one struck the other and killed him. 7 Then the whole family ganged up against me and demanded, 'Hand over this murderer so we can kill him for the life of the brother he murdered!' They want to wipe out the heir and snuff out the one spark of life left to me. And then there would be nothing left of my husband - not so much as a name - on the face of the earth. 8 The king said, "Go home, and I'll take care of this for you." 9 "I'll take all responsibility for what happens," the woman of Tekoa said. "I don't want to compromise the king and his reputation." 10 "Bring the man who has been harassing you," the king continued. "I'll see to it that he doesn't bother you anymore." 11 "Let the king invoke the name of God," said the woman, "so this self-styled vigilante won't ruin everything, to say nothing of killing my son." "As surely as God lives," he said, "not so much as a hair of your son's head will be lost." 12 Then she asked, "May I say one more thing to my master, the king?" He said, "Go ahead." 13 "Why, then," the woman said, "have you done this very thing against God's people? In his verdict, the king convicts himself by not bringing home his exiled son. 14 We all die sometime. Water spilled on the ground can't be gathered up again. But God does not take away life. He works out ways to get the exile back." 15 "So now I've dared come to the king, my master, about all this. They're making my life miserable, and I'm afraid. I said to myself, 'I'll go to the king. Maybe he'll do something! 16 When the king hears what's going on, he'll step in and rescue me from the abuse of the man who would get rid of me and my son and God's inheritance - the works!' 17 As your handmaid, I decided ahead of time, 'The word of my master, the king, will be the last word in this, for my master is like an angel of God in discerning good and evil.' God be with you!" 18 The king then said, "I'm going to ask you something. Answer me truthfully." "Certainly," she said. "Let my master, the king, speak." 19 The king said, "Is the hand of Joab mixed up in this?" 20 It was because he wanted to turn things around that your servant Joab did this. But my master is as wise as God's angels in knowing how to handle things on this earth."
21 The king spoke to Joab. "All right, I'll do it. Go and bring the young man Absalom back." 22 Joab bowed deeply in reverence and blessed the king. "I'm reassured to know that I'm still in your good graces and have your confidence, since the king is taking the counsel of his servant." 23 Joab got up, went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem. 24 The king said, "He may return to his house, but he is not to see me face to face." So Absalom returned home, but was not permitted to see the king. 25 This Absalom! There wasn't a man in all Israel talked about so much for his handsome good looks - and not a blemish on him from head to toe! 26 When he cut his hair - he always cut it short in the spring because it had grown so heavy - the weight of the hair from his head was over two pounds! 27 Three sons were born to Absalom, and one daughter. Her name was Tamar - and she was a beauty.
28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, and not once did he see the king face to face. 29 He sent for Joab to get him in to see the king, but Joab still wouldn't budge. He tried a second time and Joab still wouldn't. 30 So he told his servants, "Listen. Joab's field adjoins mine, and he has a crop of barley in it. Go set fire to it." So Absalom's servants set fire to the field. 31 That got him moving - Joab came to Absalom at home and said, "Why did your servants set my field on fire?" 32 Absalom answered him, "Listen, I sent for you saying, 'Come, and soon. I want to send you to the king to ask, "What's the point of my coming back from Geshur? I'd be better off still there!" Let me see the king face to face. If he finds me guilty, then he can put me to death.'" 33 Joab went to the king and told him what was going on. Absalom was then summoned - he came and bowed deeply in reverence before him. And the king kissed Absalom.
Absalom Revolts against David
15 1 As time went on, Absalom took to riding in a horse-drawn chariot, with fifty men running in front of him. 2 Early each morning he would take up his post beside the road at the city gate. When anyone showed up with a case to bring to the king for a decision, Absalom would call him over and say, "Where do you hail from?" And the answer would come, "Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel." 3 Then Absalom would say, "Look, you've got a strong case; but the king isn't going to listen to you." 4 Then he'd say, "Why doesn't someone make me a judge for this country? Anybody with a case could bring it to me and I'd settle things fair and square." 5 Whenever someone would treat him with special honor, he'd shrug it off and treat him like an equal, making him feel important. 6 Absalom did this to everyone who came to do business with the king and stole the hearts of everyone in Israel.
7 After four years of this, Absalom spoke to the king, "Let me go to Hebron to pay a vow that I made to God. 8 Your servant made a vow when I was living in Geshur in Aram saying, 'If God will bring me back to Jerusalem, I'll serve him with my life.'" 9 The king said, "Go with my blessing." And he got up and set off for Hebron. 10 Then Absalom sent undercover agents to all the tribes of Israel with the message, "When you hear the blast of the ram's horn trumpet, that's your signal: Shout, 'Absalom is king in Hebron!'" 11 Two hundred men went with Absalom from Jerusalem. But they had been called together knowing nothing of the plot and made the trip innocently. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he managed also to involve Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's advisor, calling him away from his hometown of Giloh. The conspiracy grew powerful and Absalom's supporters multiplied.
13 Someone came to David with the report, "The whole country has taken up with Absalom!" 14 "Up and out of here!" called David to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem. "We've got to run for our lives or none of us will escape Absalom! Hurry, he's about to pull the city down around our ears and slaughter us all!" 15 The king's servants said, "Whatever our master, the king, says, we'll do; we're with you all the way!" 16 So the king and his entire household escaped on foot. The king left ten concubines behind to tend to the palace. 17 And so they left, step by step by step, and then paused at the last house 18 as the whole army passed by him - all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and the six hundred Gittites who had marched with him from Gath, went past. 19 The king called out to Ittai the Gittite, "What are you doing here? Go back with King Absalom. You're a stranger here and freshly uprooted from your own country. 20 You arrived only yesterday, and am I going to let you take your chances with us as I live on the road like a gypsy? Go back, and take your family with you. And God's grace and truth go with you!" 21 But Ittai answered, "As God lives and my master the king lives, where my master is, that's where I'll be - whether it means life or death." 22 "All right," said David, "go ahead." And they went on, Ittai the Gittite with all his men and all the children he had with him. 23 The whole country was weeping in loud lament as all the people passed by. As the king crossed the Brook Kidron, the army headed for the road to the wilderness.
24 Zadok was also there, the Levites with him, carrying God's Chest of the Covenant. They set the Chest of God down, Abiathar standing by, until all the people had evacuated the city. 25 Then the king ordered Zadok, "Take the Chest back to the city. If I get back in God's good graces, he'll bring me back and show me where the Chest has been set down. 26 But if he says, 'I'm not pleased with you' - well, he can then do with me whatever he pleases." 27 The king directed Zadok the priest, "Here's the plan: Return to the city peacefully, with Ahimaaz your son and Jonathan, Abiathar's son, with you. 28 I'll wait at a spot in the wilderness across the river, until I get word from you telling us what's up." 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the Chest of God back to Jerusalem and placed it there, 30 while David went up the Mount of Olives weeping, head covered but barefooted, and the whole army was with him, heads covered and weeping as they ascended.
31 David was told, "Ahithophel has joined the conspirators with Absalom." He prayed, "Oh, God - turn Ahithophel's counsel to foolishness." 32 As David approached the top of the hill where God was worshiped, Hushai the Arkite, clothes ripped to shreds and dirt on his head, was there waiting for him. 33 David said, "If you come with me, you'll be just one more piece of luggage. 34 Go back to the city and say to Absalom, 'I'm ready to be your servant, O King; I used to be your father's servant, now I'm your servant.' Do that and you'll be able to confuse Ahithophel's counsel for me. 35 The priests Zadok and Abiathar are already there; whatever information you pick up in the palace, tell them. 36 Their two sons - Zadok's son Ahimaaz and Abiathar's son Jonathan - are there with them - anything you pick up can be sent to me by them." 37 Hushai, David's friend, arrived at the same time Absalom was entering Jerusalem.