April 9 Reading: II Samuel 13-15 Commentary

Below is our II Samuel 13-15 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, ‘Watch now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!’ then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant.'” So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. (II Sam. 13:28-29)


Everything from I Samuel 16 to II Samuel 10 records and celebrates David’s rise to and rule as king. II Samuel 11-12 records one of the Bible’s darkest sins, David’s adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband Uriah. The rest of II Samuel (Chap. 13-24) reveals David’s turbulent life after his sin. Everything that God said would happen as a consequence for his sin (see II Sam. 12:7-12) did happen.

II Samuel 13 – Family Violence

commentaryThe family violence God foretold begins in II Samuel 13. The key figures are Amnon (David’s firstborn son of his wife Ahinoam – II Sam. 3:2), Jonadab (Amnon’s cousin, son of Shimeah, David’s brother – v. 3), Absalom (David’s firstborn son by his wife Maacah (II Sam. 3:3) and Tamar, Absalom’s sister. David is also found in the narrative.

We are told Tamar was “lovely” (v. 1) and that she was a virgin. We also read that Amnon loved her but that “it was improper for Amnon to do anything to her.” He was in such distress about his inability to be with Tamar that he “became sick” over it. (v. 2).

Jonadab noticed Amnon’s sickly appearance and asked what was wrong, to which Amnon confessed his love for Tamar. Jonadab, described as a crafty man (v. 3), planned a way for Amnon to be with Tamar. It’s all a ruse to get Tamar to come attend to her “sick” brother (vv. 5-6). When the request is sent to David for Tamar to help her brother, David sends her (v. 7).

When Tamar arrived, she prepared food for Amnon. He told everyone to leave the house and for her to bring it to his bed and feed him (vv. 8-10). When she came near to feed him, he grabbed her and said, “Come, lie with me, my sister” (v. 11).

In desperation, Tamar tried to reason with Amnon. She called this thing “disgraceful” and that he would bring “shame” on her. Indeed, if he just asked David for her hand in marriage, “he will not withhold me from you” (v. 13)

But Amnon refused to listen and raped her (v. 14).

Absalom and David Find Out

After the rape, Amnon’s feelings towards Tamar change. He “hated her exceedingly, so that the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her” (v. 15). So he asked her to leave, to which Tamar refused, saying, “No, indeed! This evil of sending me away is worse than the other that you did to me” (v. 16). But Amnon called his servants and forced her out of the house.

In mourning the loss of her virginity, Tamar tore her robe of many colors and put ashes on her head (vv. 18-19). The opportunity for her to marry and have a family of her own were over. The shame of this event would be with her the rest of her life.

When Absalom saw his sister, he asked “Has Amnon your brother been with you?” It’s an odd question, which makes one think others knew of Amnon’s lust for Tamar ahead of time. Or perhaps word had just begun to leak out and Absalom was confirming what he’d heard. Regardless, he told Tamar to remain in his house and not to take this thing to heart. So Tamar “remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house” (v. 20).

David also heard of the incident. All we are told of his reaction was that “he was very angry” (v. 21). In this case, Amnon deserved the death penalty according to the law (see Lev. 20:17). But there was no reaction or punishment that came to Amnon by David.

Absalom’s Revenge

Two full years went by (v. 23). The whole incident seemed to have been swept under the rug. However, Absalom’s hate for Amnon continued because of what he’d done to Tamar his sister (v. 22).

Absalom set up a situation where he could isolate Amnon away from the king. Absalom asked David and all the king’s sons to come to a sheepshearing festival Absalom was holding. David declined the invitation. However, he allowed his sons to go including Amnon, when Absalom pressed him about it (vv. 24-27).

Absalom told his servants ahead of time, “Watch now, when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon!’ then kill him. Do not be afraid. Have I not commanded you? Be courageous and valiant” (v. 28). And when the time was right, they did murder Amnon. And all the king’s sons fled (v. 29).

At first, word reached David that Absalom had murdered all the king’s sons (vv. 30-31). Jonadab however, knew better. He comforted David saying, “Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for only Amnon is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar” (v. 32). Of course Jonadab would know this, based on the fact that he helped Amnon entice Tamar and knew of Absalom’s rage over the incident.

David’s sons did return home like Jonadab foretold. Absalom fled to be with his grandfather Talmai and lived there 3 years (v. 37-38) . David mourned the loss of Amnon, his firstborn son and rightful heir to the throne. But in time he longed to go to Absalom, but for whatever reason, did not.

II Samuel 14 – Absalom in Jerusalem

Joab, David’s commander, “perceived that the king’s heart was concerned about Absalom” (v. 1). It’s probable that he had encouraged David many times to go see Absalom. But up until this point, he had not.

So Joab planned an elaborate scheme to get his message across to David. He hired a “wise woman” from the town of Tekoa and gave her a story to tell the king. The story itself did not occur. But the details of the tale were designed to get David to think about Absalom and ultimately for him to commit to see him (vv. 4-17).

At some point, David realized Joab had put the woman up to this (v. 19). When the woman confirmed David’s suspicions, he directed Joab to go bring Absalom to Jerusalem. So Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom to Jerusalem to his own house (v. 23). But he did not see David (v. 24).

David and Absalom Reconcile

While living in Jerusalem, Absalom’s fame grew. “No one was praised as much as Absalom for his good looks” (v. 25). He had “no blemish” and his hair was long. How long? When he cut it at the end of each year it weighed 200 shekels (about five pounds).

While in Jerusalem, Absalom had three sons and one daughter that he named Tamar. But what about his relationship with David? Well as it turns out Absalom lived in Jerusalem for TWO YEARS without seeing David.

We have no idea why. But you’d have to assume that there were lingering emotions present from the fallout of Absalom murdering Amnon. Bitterness? Shame? Regret? Pride? Anger? David’s own embarrassment and guilt for not dealing harshly enough with Amnon after he raped Tamar?

Whatever the reason, Absalom had enough. He tried to get Joab’s attention twice by sending messages to him. Joab ignored Absalom, which is odd considering he’s the one who got David to bring him to Jerusalem in the first place.

Finally, Absalom burned a field belonging to Joab. That got Joab’s attention and he connected with Absalom who wanted to know why he’d even came to Jerusalem. It would have been better for him to remain in Geshur if the king was not going to see him.

After all that, five years after the incident with Amnon and Tamar, “Joab went to the king and told him. And when he [David] had called for Absalom, he came to the king and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. Then the king kissed Absalom” (v. 33)

II Samuel 15 – Absalom Turns on David

Despite their encounter at the end of Chap. 14, it does not appear that David and Absalom truly reconciled. Their may have been forgiveness and a time of peace between them, but there was not true restoration. Absalom still seemed bitter as evidenced by his actions in Chap. 15.

Absalom maneuvered to win the hearts of the people. To do so, he’d stand near the city gate and interact with people who came to have the king settle a dispute. Instead of directing them to the king, Absalom said there was no one to hear their case. So Absalom would hear it, make a decision and in that way, gained the trust and favor of the people (vv. 2-6).

After four years in Jerusalem, Absalom asked David to move to Hebron saying, Please, let me go to Hebron and pay the vow which I made to the Lord. For your servant took a vow while I dwelt at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If the Lord indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord'” (v. 7). Of course this was all a ruse to get away from David and plan his rebellion. And since Absalom was born in Hebron, this request did not raise David’s suspicions. 

From Hebron, Absalom planted the seeds of his rebellion. He sent spies throughout the land, drawing people to his cause. Even some of David’s own counselor’s defected and joined Absalom’s side (v. 12).

David Flees Jerusalem

Absalom must have been very good at planning his rebellion secretly. David seemed entirely unaware and caught off guard when a messenger came saying, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom” (v. 13).

David was unprepared (or at least felt unprepared) to thwart an attack by Absalom. So he decided to flee the city. He either left out of panic and fear or because he did not want Jerusalem attacked and for there to be loss of life. Or perhaps, it was a little of both.

Many of David’s servants went with him, which must have been an encouragement at a time when his family was plotting against him. David’s departure made the people sad and “all the country wept with a loud voice” (v. 23). The Levites, led by Zadok the priest, wanted to bring the ark with David. But David told them to take the ark back to the city. God’s presence would remain with the people (vv. 24-29).

“So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.” (v. 30)

It was then that David also found out that one of his counselors, Ahithophel, was among the conspirators with Absalom. David prayed that God would turn “the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!” (v. 31). He sent his trusted friend Hushai back to Jerusalem to try and win Absalom’s favor in the hopes of thwarting Ahithophel’s counsel (v. 32-37). 

And Absalom came into Jerusalem.

Questions to Consider:

How have you seen sin impact someone’s life? What consequences are you dealing with because of past sin? 

The longer you wait to make things right with another person, the more difficult it becomes to have any type of meaningful relationship with them in the future.

David’s relationship with his son Absalom was deeply strained. We are told David longed to see him but for some reason slow-played that encounter. By the time they “reconciled” in II Sam. 14, Absalom’s roots of bitterness had grown too deep. Who do you need to talk to today?

What other points would you want to know about in our II Samuel 13-15 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.