2 Samuel 13:21

And King David heard of all these things, and was very wroth; but "he did not grieve the spirit of his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn" (LXX.). And he did not punish him (1 Samuel 3:13); which must be looked upon as -

I. AN OMISSION OF MANIFEST DUTY. If he had been only a father, he would have been bound to chastise his children for their misbehaviour; but, being also a king, he was under still stronger obligation to punish the guilty. To do this:

1. Properly belonged to the authority delegated to him.

2. Was expressly enjoined in the Divine Law (Leviticus 20:17).

3. Urgently demanded by the sense of justice.

4. Indispensably necessary to the protection of his subjects. "Kings, then, have not absolute power to do in their government what pleases them; their power is limited by God's Word; so that if they strike not where God has commanded to strike, they and their throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth for lack of punishment" (John Knox).

II. UNWARRANTED BY ADEQUATE REASONS. In Israel (as in Persia and other Eastern countries) the king, as vicegerent of heaven, had a large discretionary power of dispensing with the penalties of the Law; but it behoved him to exercise it without partiality and on sufficient grounds. Although David's omission to punish is not expressly condemned, yet the consequences by which it was followed show that it took place (not, as some have supposed, on "principle," or because it was "impossible" for him to do otherwise, but) without such grounds.

1. The affection of a father. This, however, ought not to have prevented punishment by a father or judge; as it did, being inordinate and blamable, in Eli (1 Samuel 2:22, 30).

2. The rank of the offender; the king's son, his firstborn, heir to the crown. But he was not above the law; nor less guilty than another of inferior position would have been. "God is no respecter of persons."

3. The transgression and forgiveness of the king himself. Nevertheless, whilst both may have exerted a pernicious influence, Amnon was responsible for his own conduct; and David's exemption (only from legal punishment) rested on grounds which did not exist in the case of his ungodly and impenitent son. The king's wrath proves his full conviction of Amnon's guilt and his moral abhorrence of its enormity: his failure to "grieve," or inflict suffering upon him, indicates his own weakness and dereliction of duty. "Punishment is an effort of man to find a more exact relation between sin and suffering than this world affords us. A duty is laid upon us to make this relationship of sin to suffering as real, and as natural, and as exact in proportion as it is possible to be made. This is the moral root of the whole doctrine of punishment. But if the adjustment of pain to vice be the main ground of punishment, it must be admitted that there are other ends which society has in view in its infliction. These secondary elements in punishment appear to be

(1) the reformation of the offender;

(2) the prevention of further offences by the offender;

(3) the repression of offences in others" (Edward Fry, Nineteenth Century, No. 79, p. 524).


1. It does not appear to have produced any other effect on the offender than to confirm him in recklessness and fancied security. "Punishment connected with sin operates towards reform in two ways:

(1) by the association of ideas - the linking together of that from which our nature shrinks with that from which it ought to shrink, so that the temptation to sin recalls not only the pleasure of sin, but the pain of suffering;

(2) by the shock to the habits of thought and of practice which suffering produces, by the solution of continuity in the man's life which it causes, by the opportunity for reflection and thought which it thus affords" (Lord Justice Fry).

2. On others, also, it was injurious; weakening respect for royal authority and public justice, causing the law to be despised, furnishing grounds for private revenge, leading to further impunity (ver. 39; 2 Samuel 14:24, 33), more daring crimes (2 Samuel 15:7; 2 Samuel 16:21), widespread disaffection and rebellion.

3. On the king himself. Further impairing his personal, moral, kingly energy, and accumulating "sorrow upon sorrow" (vers. 31, 37; 2 Samuel 15:13). It was another link in the chain of painful consequences resulting from his great transgression; naturally, slowly, effectually wrought out under the direction and control of the perfect justice of the supreme King; accomplishing a beneficent end, in purifying his heart, restoring him to God, averting his final condemnation, and teaching, warning, benefiting mankind. "The dark sin of which he had been guilty spoke of a character that had lust its self-control, its truthfulness, its generosity. His penitence was not able to undo all its consequences and to bring back the old energy and life. Over and above its direct results in alienating the hearts of his most trusted counsellors, and placing him at the mercy of a hard taskmaster, that dark hour left behind it the penalty of an enfeebled will, the cowardice of a hidden crime, the remorse which weeps for the past, yet cannot rouse itself to the duties of the present. He leaves the sin of Amnon unpunished in spite of the fearful promise it gave of a reign of brutal passion, 'because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.' Half suspecting, apparently, that Absalom had some scheme for revenging the wrong which he had failed to redress, he has no energy to stop its execution. He shrinks only from being present at a meeting the meaning and issues of which he does not comprehend, and yet dimly fears. When the exaggerated report is brought back that Absalom had slain all his brothers - sure sign, if it had been so, that he was claiming the throne, and marching to it through the blood of his kindred - David's attitude is that of passive, panic stricken submission" (E.H. Plumptre, 'Biblical Studies,' p. 89). Who can say that he sinned with impunity? "Thenceforward the days of his years became full of evil, and if he lived (for the Lord caused death to pass from himself to the child by a vicarious dispensation), it was to be a king, with more than kingly sorrows, but with little of kingly power; to be banished by his son; bearded by his servant; betrayed by his friends; deserted by his people; bereaved of his children; and to feel all, all these bitter griefs, bound, as it were, by a chain of complicated cause and effect, to this one great, original transgression" (Blunt, 'Undesigned Coincidences,' p. 146).

"It often falls, in course of common life,
That right long time is overborne of wrong;
Through avarice, or power, or guile, or strife,
That weakens her, and makes her party strong.
But justice, though her doom she do prolong,
Yet at the last she will her own cause right."

(Spenser.) D.

Absalom the son of David had a fair sister.
No other book but the Bible dare have inserted such a chronicle as this and yet have hoped to retain the attention and confidence of the whole world through all ages. A chapter of this kind is not to be read in its singularity, as if it stood wholly alone and unrelated to other currents of human history. Coming upon it as an exceptional story, the only possible feeling is one of intense and repugnant disgust. If this chapter, and a few others almost like it, occupied any considerable space in the Bible, without being relieved by a context of a very different quality, they would certainly and properly wreck the fortune of the whole book as a public instructor and guide. Amnon did not represent a human nature different from our own. It must always be considered that such men as Amnon and Judas Iscariot represented the very human nature which we ourselves embody. The difference between the sweet child and the corrupt and infernal Amnon may in reality be but a difference in appearance and form. Time alone can tell what is in every human heart, and not, time only, for circumstances sometimes awaken either our best selves or our worst selves and surprise us by what is little less than a miracle of self-revelation Again and again, therefore, let it be said — for the tediousness is well compensated by the moral instruction — that when we see the worst specimen of human nature we see what we ourselves might have been but for the restraining grace of God. A relieving feature in the whole record is certainly to be found in the anger which was felt in regard to the outrage committed by Amnon. The outrage was not looked upon as a mere commonplace, or as a thing to be passed by a casual remark; it aroused the infinite indignation of Absalom, and in this ease Absalom, as certainly as Amnon, must be taken in a representative capacity. Whilst, therefore, it is right to look upon this most heartrending and discouraging aspect of human nature, it is rights also to remember that those who observed it answered the unholy deed with burning indignations, It is thus that the Spirit of God reveals itself through the spirit of man. This is not the voice of Absalom alone; it is the voice of the Spirit which fills and rules the world. We need men who dare express their angriest and holiest feelings in indignation that cannot be mitigated or turned aside; we need men who have courage to go forth and make their voices heard in moral darkness. Absalom killed Amnon, and killed him in a somewhat cowardly way; yet it would be difficult to blame Absalom for this act of fraternal reprisal and justice. Still, it is just at such critical points that the spirit of Christian civilisation intervenes and undertakes to do for the individual man what the individual man must not be permitted to do for himself. Here is the mystery of society. It would seem a short and easy method for every man who is outraged immediately to cause the criminal to suffer, but on second thoughts it will appear, first, that this is impossible, and, secondly, that it is utterly impracticable: impossible because in many cases the criminal may be stronger than the man who has been outraged, and impracticable because the criminal may by many cunning methods evade the punishment which the righteous man would inflict. These records are written not only for our instruction but for our warning. The most puristic mind may well pause before the record of this chapter and wonder as to his own possibilities of apostasy. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." "Be sure your sin will find you out." What is done in secret is to be proclaimed from the house-tops, and a sudden light is to unveil that which is supposed to be covered by the densest concealment. Society would be rent in twain by the very suspicion that there may be Amnons within its circle, but for the conviction that the Lord reigneth, and that all things make for righteousness and justice under his beneficent rule.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

A living sorrow, says the proverb, is worse than a dead. The dead sorrow had been very grievous to David; what the living sorrow, of which this chapter tells us, must have been, we cannot conceive. It is a very repulsive picture of sensuality that this chapter presents. One would suppose float Amnon and Absalom had been accustomed to the wild orgies of pagan idolatry. Nathan had rebuked David because he had given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. This in God's eyes was a grievous offence. Amnon and Absalom are now guilty of the same offence in another form, because they afford a pretext for ungodly men to say that the families of holy men are no better — perhaps that they are worse — than other families. In Scripture some men have very short biographies; Amnon is one of these. And, like Cain, all that is recorded of him has the mark of infamy. We can easily understand that it was a great disaster to him to be a king's son. To have his position in life determined and all his wants supplied without an effort on his part; to be so accustomed to indulge his legitimate feelings that when illegitimate desires rose up it seemed but natural that they too should be gratified; to be surrounded by parasites and flatterers, that would make a point of never crossing him nor uttering a disagreeable word, but constantly encouraging his tastes — all this was extremely dangerous. And when his father had set him the example, it was hardly possible he would avoid the snare. There is every reason to believe that before he is presented to us in this chapter he was already steeped in sensuality. It was his misfortune to have a friend, Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David's brother, "a very subtil man," who at heart must trove been as great a profligate as himself. For if Jonadab had been anything but a profligate, Amnon would never have confided to him his odious desire with reference to his half-sister, and Jonadab would never have given him the advice that he did. What a blessing to Anmon, at this stage of the tragedy, would have been the faithful advice of an honest friend — one who would have had the courage to declare the infamy of his proposal, and who would have so placed it in the light of truth that it would have shocked and horrified even Amnon himself l In reality, the friend was more guilty than the culprit. The one was blinded by passion; the other was self-possessed and cool. The cool man encourages the heated; the sober man urges on the intoxicated. The plan which Jonadab proposes for Amnon to obtain the object of his desire is founded on a stratagem which he is to practise on his father. He is to pretend sickness, and under this pretext to get matters arranged by his father as he would like. If anything more was needed to show the accomplished villainy of Amnon, it is his treatment of Tamar after he has violently compassed her ruin. It is the story so often repeated even at this day — the ruined victim flung aside in dishonour, and left unpitied to her shame. We think of those men of the olden time as utter barbarians who confined their foes in dismal dungeons, making their lives a continual torture, and denying them the slightest solace to the miseries of captivity. But what shall we say of those, high-born and wealthy men, it may be, who doom their cast-off victims to an existence of wretchedness and degradation which has no gleam of enjoyment, compared with which the silence and loneliness of a prison would he a luxury? Can the selfishness of sin exhibit itself anywhere or anyhow more terribly? If David winked, Absalom did nothing of the kind. Such treatment of his full sister, if the king chose to let it alone, could not be left alone by the proud, indignant brother. He nursed his wrath, and watched for his opportunity. Nothing short of the death of Anmon would suffice him. And that death must be compassed not in open fight but by assassination. And now the first part of the retribution denounced by Nathan begins to be fulfilled, and fulfilled very fearfully — "the sword shall never depart from thy house."

(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Every one must have been struck by the remarkable fact that while David was so admirable as a governor of a kingdom, he was so unsuccessful as a ruler of his own house.

1. First of all, in accounting for the troubles of his house, we have again to notice his plurality of wives — a sure source not only of domestic trouble, but of ungodliness too. The training of the young, and all the more since the Fall, is attended with very great difficulties; and unless father and mother be united, visibly united, in affection, in judgment, and in piety, the difficulty of raising a godly seed is very greatly increased. In David's house there must have been sad confusion. There could have been no happy and harmonious co-operation between father and mother in training the children, Hence the paramount importance of the apostle's exhortation — "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."

2. Further, David's own example, in certain respects, was another cause of the ill-ordered state of his family. A parent may have a hundred good qualities, and but very few bad, but the risk of his children adopting the bad is much greater than the likelihood of their copying the good. The bent of their fallen nature inclines them to the one; only Divine grace can draw them to the other. The character Of David was singularly rich in fine qualities, but it was also marked by a few flaring defects. One was, proneness to animal indulgence; another, the occasional absence of straightforwardness. These were the very defects which his children copied.

3. A third cause of David's failure in the government of his family was the excessive, even morbid tenderness of his feelings towards his children — especially some of them. Perhaps a fourth reason may be added for David's ill success in his family — though of this there is less positive proof than of the rest — he may have thought of his family circle as too exclusively a scene for relaxation and enjoyment — he may have forgot that even there is a call for much vigilance and self-denial. Men much harassed with public business and care are prone to this error. In truth, there is no recreation in absolute idleness, and no happiness in neglect of duty. True recreation lies not in idleness, but in change of employment, and true happiness is found not in neglecting duty, but in its performance.

(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

The wires became crossed; there was a flash, a beautiful pyrotechnic display, and then the machinery that ought to have lasted years longer was still — a mass of inert matter fit only to go to the shop and undergo extensive repairs. "She got short-circuited, and burned herself out," was the explanation of the engineer. No one questions that selfish indulgence and sin yield more intense and feverish pleasure than a life of self-control and unselfishness. All normal pleasures are moderate, because it is the wise design of nature to have them often repeated and continued through a long period, culminating at the" end. To yield to a desire for immoderate indulgence of any kind, whether it is the pursuit of the pleasures of appetite, or of business successes, or of social excitement, or intellectual dissipation in novel-reading or the play, is simply to short-circuit our lives and burn out in a few fitful flashes the possibilities of enjoyment that should have been extended over a long and happy lifetime.

Tytler's History.
Tarquinius' son Sextus, lawless and flagitious, had committed a rape on Lucretia. The dead body of the violated Lucretia was brought into the forum, and Brutus, throwing off his assumed disguise of insanity, appeared the passionate advocate of a just revenge, and the animated orator in the cause of liberty against tyrannical oppression. The people were roused in a moment, and were prompt and unanimous in their procedure. Tarquinius was at this time absent from the city, engaged in a war with the Rutulians. The Senate was assembled, and pronounced a decree which banished forever the tyrant, and at the same time utterly abolished the name and office of king.

(Tytler's History.)

Dr. Arnold, of Rugby, finding that two or three of the boys had been guilty of impurity of both speech and action, he promptly dismissed them from the school. The directors, meeting later on, took the Doctor severely to task for the drastic measures he had resorted to, and said "at that rate the college would soon be empty." He simply replied that he "would rather see the number reduced to twelve, and have purity of thought and action, than bad moral influence to have a foothold."

(Newton Jones.)

Absalom, Ammihud, Amnon, David, Jonadab, Shimeah, Talmai, Tamar
Baal-hazor, Geshur, Jerusalem
Amnon, Angry, David, Dear, Displeasing, Furious, Matters, News, Oldest, Trouble, Wroth
1. Amnon loving Tamar, by Jonadab's counsel feigning himself sick, ravishes her.
15. He hates her, and shamefully turns her away
19. Absalom entertains her, and conceals his purpose
23. At a sheep-shearing among all the king's sons, he kills Amnon
31. David grieving at the news, is comforted by Jonadab
37. Absalom flies to Talmai at Geshur

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 13:1-21

     5087   David, reign of

2 Samuel 13:1-22

     8340   self-respect

2 Samuel 13:1-33

     5661   brothers

2 Samuel 13:21-22

     6237   sexual sin, nature of

Saurin -- Paul Before Felix and Drusilla
Jacques Saurin, the famous French Protestant preacher of the seventeenth century, was born at Nismes in 1677. He studied at Geneva and was appointed to the Walloon Church in London in 1701. The scene of his great life work was, however, the Hague, where he settled in 1705. He has been compared with Bossuet, tho he never attained the graceful style and subtilty which characterize the "Eagle of Meaux." The story is told of the famous scholar Le Clerc that he long refused to hear Saurin preach, on the
Grenville Kleiser—The world's great sermons, Volume 3

Blessed are they that Mourn
Blessed are they that mourn. Matthew 5:4 Here are eight steps leading to true blessedness. They may be compared to Jacob's Ladder, the top whereof reached to heaven. We have already gone over one step, and now let us proceed to the second: Blessed are they that mourn'. We must go through the valley of tears to paradise. Mourning were a sad and unpleasant subject to treat on, were it not that it has blessedness going before, and comfort coming after. Mourning is put here for repentance. It implies
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

No Sorrow Like Messiah's Sorrow
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold, and see, if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow! A lthough the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the Prophecies (Luke 24:44) , bear an harmonious testimony to MESSIAH ; it is not necessary to suppose that every single passage has an immediate and direct relation to Him. A method of exposition has frequently obtained [frequently been in vogue], of a fanciful and allegorical cast [contrivance], under the pretext
John Newton—Messiah Vol. 1

Exhortations to Christians as they are Children of God
1 There is a bill of indictment against those who declare to the world they are not the children of God: all profane persons. These have damnation written upon their forehead. Scoffers at religion. It were blasphemy to call these the children of God. Will a true child jeer at his Father's picture? Drunkards, who drown reason and stupefy conscience. These declare their sin as Sodom. They are children indeed, but cursed children' (2 Peter 2:14). 2 Exhortation, which consists of two branches. (i) Let
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.' Acts 11: 18. Repentance seems to be a bitter pill to take, but it is to purge out the bad humour of sin. By some Antinomian spirits it is cried down as a legal doctrine; but Christ himself preached it. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent,' &c. Matt 4: 17. In his last farewell, when he was ascending to heaven, he commanded that Repentance should be preached in his name.' Luke 24: 47. Repentance is a pure gospel grace.
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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