Tamar, daughter of David

Oct 25, 2022 3:14 AM
Character StudyTamarWomenSexual Assault2 Samuel
Bible References
2 Samuel 13


The first few times I read 2 Samuel 13:1, I assumed Tamar to be the daughter of

and one of his many wives based solely on this verse. With this assumption, I read 2 Samuel 13:1 to insinuate that Tamar and
were full sister and brother, thus Maacah—a princess of Geshur[1][2]—would be the mother of both Tamar and Absalom, according to 2 Samuel 3:3. 2 Samuel 13:1 would then also be confirming that David’s other named sons,
and Solomon were her half brothers. Most of this assumption is actually confirmed in 2 Samuel 13:2, where it refers to Tamar as the sister of Amnon; since Amnon and Absalom have different mothers, Tamar must be David’s daughter to be the sister of both men, and subsequently must also be the sister of Solomon. However, it is still only speculation that she is the full blooded sister of Absalom and the daughter of Maacah.

Meaning of the Name Tamar

Most Biblical names not only have a meaning, but the meaning is often a revelation about the character or destiny of the person who bears it. In the case of Tamar, her name means “palm tree.”[5] Although I do not think this name was meant to prophesy over Tamar’s life the way many Biblical names do, I can say that palm trees are very strong trees. They are unlikely to topple under the harassing winds of hurricanes. Tamar also had to be very strong.

The Tragedy of Tamar

Trigger warning: the following section contains discussion of sexual assault and rape.

We are introduced to Tamar as being a very beautiful virgin—so beautiful that her half brother (Amnon) becomes obsessed with her. The fact she is a virgin tells us she is both young and unmarried. Until modern times, women were expected to be married at the onset of, or shortly after puberty in most societies; Israel was likely no different. Note, however, that the age in which girl start menstruation has been decreasing in recent decades.[3] During Tamar’s era, the age of puberty was likely closer to 18. Nonetheless, this would still make Tamar very young at the time of 2 Samuel 13.

The Assault on Tamar

Through conspiracy, Amnon tricks Tamar into caring for him under the pretense of being sick. During Tamar’s visit, Amnon sends away all the people in his chambers, except for Tamar. Once alone, Amnon asks Tamar to have sex with him but she refuses. It is interesting to note that while she calls out the act as sin and shameful, she also suggests Amnon should ask their father to marry Tamar, even commenting that it was likely David would agree. This goes against Leviticus 18:9, which was clearly penned before the time of David, and prohibits sex between brother and sister. Thus, it would be sinful even if Amnon had gone about it the “proper” way. It is likely that Tamar considered familial marriage as a lesser sin as it was extremely popular in Egypt and still came with the protection and stability any other marriage would have had. It is also possible that like us today, people were prone to picking and choosing what they would obey (re: David with all his wives, adultery, and murder…)

Amnon does not take Tamar’s no for an answer. Instead he forces himself on her. After the fact, Amnon’s infatuation disappears and he hates her. Due to this new found hatred for his sister, he sends her away. Tamar expresses that this is worse than the violation he has committed against her. The reason this is worse is due to how women during that time were treated in society. Virginity was considered a crucial part of the marriage covenant up until recent years. Arguments could be made that the act of shedding blood is what sealed the covenant; blood is similarly shed through sacrifice (or circumcision) after every covenant made between man and the Father. Due to this, men would not marry women who were not virgins—this is seen in the reaction of Joseph when he learns that Mary is pregnant in the New Testament. Most women could not provide for themselves and depended on a husband or male relative to provide for their needs (think Ruth and Naomi). By sending Tamar away, Amnon doomed her to solitude and poverty.

The Aftermath

When Amnon sends her away, Tamar does not go quietly—this would be a sign of willingness as implied in Deuteronomy 22:23-29. Instead Tamar puts ashes on her head, tears her clothes—a sign of distress and mourning—and goes out crying. It is unclear how long after the assault Absalom encounters his sister but he knows immediately what has happened. He provides shelter for her, resolving the issue of impending poverty, but not the issue of solitude. Absalom tries to comfort Tamar, but also requests that she “keep silent.” Due to his subsequent actions, I believe he thought if Tamar left it to the men and didn’t trouble herself with it, she would find peace. Actions speak louder than words, and in most cases, people do not know how to truly help the person who is traumatized.

It seems that Absalom takes the matter to David, as we are told that when David hears about the matter he is angry. However, David does not do anything to bring justice to the issue. I am not sure when in the timeline of David’s life these events occurred, but knowing David’s issues with adultery and subsequent murder to cover his tracks it is possible that he felt unworthy to pass judgment on Amnon. Some translations start 2 Samuel 13:22 with “but,,” while others use “and.” The former suggests that even though David did not issue any punishment to Amnon, he may have spoken ill of or to him. The latter simply informs us that Absalom is thoroughly disgusted with Amnon because of what has transpired.

Over the next two years, Absalom plots to avenge Tamar and eventually sets a trap for Amnon that leads to his death in front of all their brothers. After having Amnon killed, Absalom flees in fear of retribution, presumably by his other brothers since we are told David is at peace with Amnon being dead. Absalom takes refuge in Geshur with his grandfather during this time; it is unclear if Tamar also goes to Geshur or if she stays in Jerusalem.


We are not told anything about Tamar after she takes refuge in her brother’s house. Though David appears sympathetic, in that he is angered by the rape and at peace when Amnon the rapist is killed, it is unclear if he provided support for Tamar after the death of Absalom. It is also possible that despite the situation Tamar was able to find a husband and have children; however the Bible does not expound on what ultimately happened to her.

Absalom has a daughter whom he names Tamar; she is also said to be very beautiful. It is likely that he named her after this Tamar.

There are a few references to a place called Tamar (e.g. Ezekiel 47:19), however I could not find anything that suggested the place was named after this Tamar (or the Tamar of Genesis).[4]

References & Footnotes

  1. Brent Nagtegaal. Biblical Geshur: Revealing the Royal Hometown of David’s Fourth Wife”. Armstrong Institute of Biblical Archeology. August 14, 2019; visited October 2022
  2. W. Ewing. “Geshur”. Bible Hub; visited October 2022
  3. M A Bellis, J Downing, and J R Ashton. “Adults at 12? Trends in puberty and their public health consequences.” Journal of epidemiology and community health  vol. 60,11 (2006): 910-1. doi:10.1136/jech.2006.049379
  4. Tamar 2 (Tamar)”. Bible Hub; visited October 2022
  5. Strongs H8559. תָּמָר”. Blue Letter Bible; visited October 2022

Other Pages to View

Related Studies


Related Studies

Related Podcasts

Related History

Related Experiences

Related Poetry

Character StudyHagarWomenSarahAbrahamIshmael
Psalms 1-10
Chapter StudyPsalmsBook 1Messianic ProphecySymbolismProphecyCovenantJusticeDavid
Joshua 2: Spies in the Land
JoshuaChapter StudyRahabWomenLyingFaith
2 Chronicles 22: Ahaziah and Athaliah
2 ChroniclesChapter StudyWomenAthaliahAhaziah/JehoahazJehoramMurderSyria
2 Chronicles 8-10: Queen of Sheba
2 ChroniclesChapter StudyWomenEthiopiaMoney
Isaiah 29-33: Woe to the Unbeliever
IsaiahChapter StudyProphecyJudgementPovertyWomenMessianic Prophecy
Isaiah 4: Judgment of Israel (Pt. 3)
IsaiahChapter StudyWomenRelationshipsJerusalemSymbolismProphecy
Isaiah 3: Judgment of Israel (Pt. 2)
IsaiahChapter StudyFalse Deities and ProphetsWomenProphecyJudgement
1 Samuel 28-31: Saul’s Last Battle
1 SamuelChapter StudyAmalakitesPhilistineDavidWitchcraftSaul
1 Samuel 25: Samuel’s Death and David’s Wives
1 SamuelChapter StudyAbigailRelationshipsWomenDavidSamuelMichal
1 Samuel 23: David Saves Keilah
1 SamuelChapter StudyDavidBetrayalPhilistine
1 Samuel 18-27: Saul Tries to Kill David
1 SamuelChapter StudyJonathanRelationshipsSaulDavidPhilistineMurderMichal
1 Samuel 17: David and Goliath
1 SamuelChapter StudyPhilistineDavidNephilim and Giants
1 Samuel 16: David is Anointed
1 SamuelChapter StudySaulDavidSamuelRelationships
1 Samuel 1-3: Introducing Samuel
1 SamuelChapter StudyPriesthoodHannahWomenIntercessory PrayerSamuel
Deuteronomy 5-26: The Second Address (Part 3)
DeuteronomyChapter StudyTithesRelationshipsServants and SlavesSexual AssaultWomenCommandments
Homosexuality in the Bible
LeviticusSexual ImoralitySexual AssaultRelationshipsLawCommandmentsLove
Nehemiah 3: Rebuilding the Wall
NehemiahChapter StudyJerusalemWomenMessianic Prophecy
Esther 6&7: Victory
EstherChapter StudyWomenPersiaIrony
Esther 3-5: The Threat to the Jews
EstherChapter StudyWomenFastingRacismGenocide
Esther 2: The Rise of Queen Esther
EstherChapter StudyBenjaminWomenPersia
The Unnamed Concubine
Character StudyJudgesWomenSexual Assault
Judges 19-21: A Call to War
JudgesChapter StudySexual AssaultWomenLeviBenjamin
Judges 13-16: Samson
JudgesChapter StudyRelationshipsSamsonWomenPhilistineOaths and VowsDan
Judges 4-5: Deborah, Jael, and Barak
JudgesChapter StudyDeborahWomenLeadership
2 Samuel 21-24: Contradictions on David's Final Days?
2 SamuelChapter StudyDavidSaulDoctrinePhilistine
2 Samuel 19-20: Israel and Judah
2 SamuelChapter StudyDavidDivision of Israel
2 Samuel 11-12: David and Bathsheba
2 SamuelChapter StudyRelationshipsAdulteryJudgementDavidMurder
2 Samuel 5-10: David’s Military Success
2 SamuelChapter StudyDavidRelationshipsMessianic Prophecy
2 Samuel 1-4: After Saul’s Death
2 SamuelChapter StudySaulDavidDivision of Israel
2 SamuelCharacter StudyDavidTamarSexual ImoralitySexual Assault
2 Samuel 13-19: Absalom’s Coup
Chapter Study2 SamuelDavidRelationshipsTamarWomenSexual ImoralitySexual AssaultRepentance and Forgiveness
Tamar, daughter of David
Character StudyTamarWomenSexual Assault2 Samuel
Acts 16: Timothy Was Biracial…Sort Of
ActsChapter StudyTimothyGenealogyCircumcisionPaulWomenBaptism
Character StudyGenesisWomenSexual AssaultDinahJacobLeahLeviSimeonYouTube
Acts 12: Peter, Rhoda, and Herod
ActsChapter StudyWomenPeterPersecutionRomeHolidayPassover
Would You Rather?: Rahab vs. Mary
Would You RatherRahabMary & JosephWomen
Genesis 37-50: The 12 Tribes of Israel
GenesisChapter StudyJosephBenjaminLeviJudahRuebenSimeonZebulunIssacharGadDanManassehEphraimAsherNaphtaliRepentance and ForgivenessFamineEgyptWomenSexual ImoralityGenealogyIncestTamarDreams and VisionsIrony
Genesis 27-36: Jacob & Esau, Two Nations
GenesisChapter StudyWomenJacobLeahEdomRachelTithesFalse Deities and ProphetsDinahSexual AssaultCircumcisionLeviSimeonGenocideTheft
Do Not Commit Adultery
Exodus 14-17: Leaving Egypt
ExodusChapter StudyEgyptPhilistineMosesMiriamWomenWildernessWaterAmalakitesNames of GodFire
Who Was Jezebel?
JezebelCharacter StudyWomenRacism1 Kings2 KingsRevelationYouTube
Mediate Like Abigail
Abigail1 SamuelDavidCharacter StudyWomenYouTube
Esther 1: The Demise of a Queen
WomenEstherPersiaChapter Study
Ruth 4: The Legacy
RuthChapter StudyWomenBoazMessiahRahabTamarGenealogy
Ruth 1: In the Land of Moab
Chapter StudyRuthWomenMoabBoazRelationshipsFamine
The Creation and Purpose of Women
WomenEveGenesisGarden of EdenYouTube
Does Feminism Align With Biblical Principles?
Featured TopicWomenSexual AssaultProverbs
PSALMS to God is a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel that discusses many topics and issues, always keeping YHWH as the anchor. Hosea 4:6 says “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”—here, the aim is to always ask questions and study to find the answers. You can keep up with new content by signing up for the weekly newsletter.