Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

The Rape of Tamar: A Modern Perspective of a Biblical Sex Crime.

The Rape of Tamar- A Modern Perspective of a Biblical Sex Crime.

By A. D. Wayman

Some time passed. David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend whose name was Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah; and Jonadab was a very crafty man. He said to him, “O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?” Amnon said to him, “I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.” Jonadab said to him, “Lie down on your bed, and pretend to be ill; and when your father comes to see you, say to him, “Let my sister Tamar come and give me something to eat, and prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ ”

So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.” Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. Then she took the pan and set them out before him, but he refused to eat. Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.

But when she brought them near him to eat, he took hold of her, and said to her, “Come, lie with me, my sister.” She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her. Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. Amnon said to her, “Get out!” But she said to him, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me.” But he would not listen to her. He called the young man who served him and said, “Put this woman out of my presence, and bolt the door after her.” (Now she was wearing a long robe with sleeves; for this is how the virgin daughters of the king were clothed in earlier times.)So his servant put her out, and bolted the door after her.

But Tamar put ashes on her head, and tore the long robe that she was wearing; she put her hand on her head, and went away, crying aloud as she went. Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has Amnon your brother been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother; do not take this to heart.” So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had raped his sister Tamar. (2 Samuel 13:1-22 NRSV)

The rape of Tamar in Second Samuel is interesting in that most commentaries or biblical scholars do not fully understand the scope of the issue of this violent sex crime. It could stem from the fact that most biblical scholars do not have in-depth knowledge of sex crimes or of criminal psychology to fully analyze biblical crimes. Within this article certain aspects of the Rape of Tamar will be discussed. The first issue discussed will be the role of fantasy and to what extent it played in the crime. Secondly, we will discuss the type of violence acted out from a modern-day perspective. And finally, we will discuss the response or aftermath of the crime.

The first part of the text shows the role fantasy played in the mind of Amnon. We read that he was greatly aroused by his sister.

Some time passed. David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister whose name was Tamar; and David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin and it seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her.
2 Samuel 13:1-2 NRSV

Amnon was so infatuated by his sister that he became ill. On top of that, the fact that incest was taboo and that there was no way he could have intercourse with her enraged him all the more. The more unattainable she was the more he wanted her. Now, Amnon needed help to compose the way he would pull the crime off so he asked a friend for assistance. From this act of violence it may be possible that Amnon had issues involving sex crimes in the past that were not recorded, possibly small offenses that built up to the larger crime. Another possibility was that the crime was dwelt upon in his mind and the fantasy was so perfected that he was able to pull it off without much trouble. This last statement could possibly be ruled out simply because he needed help from a friend to perfect the fantasy and the crime.
We can tell a lot about Amnon from this crime. As we read the above text, we can surmise that he was not all that intelligent. The crime itself was well organized but he did not care about getting caught. If he displayed narcissistic behavior he would have thought through the end results and would have married Tamar to avoid death or punishment. He would have thought himself above the law and it would not have seemed “impossible to Amnon to do anything to her.”

There are three aspects to the human sex drive: the biological, physiological and the psychosexual. The biological is the instinctual part of the human sex drive, what every common person seeks out as human. The physiological aspect is activated when the body responds to sexual stimuli. This can be hampered by sexual dysfunctions. The psychosexual, what we are interested in at the moment, is the individualistic aspect of the sexual experience. Since all human beings use their senses to enhance their sexual pleasure, studying the ways an offender manipulates these senses in the commission of a crime tells us a lot about the offender. This may later be of use to linking other crimes by using such information.

Amnon thought the idea of Tamar as caregiver made her most vulnerable and would draw the least amount of suspicion. Also the idea may have excited him sexually, for in his mind she would appear as his wife or consenting partner. It is hard to tell if Amnon possessed any paraphilias without reading too much into the text. It is not known if he was sexually aroused by non-human objects, suffered humiliation to himself or his partner, or preferred children or non-consenting partners. The only clue the text gives us is that she was a virgin. This alone may have been sexually exciting to Amnon and that may be the reason he became angry with her after the rape. We do not know his past but can only speculate. Possibly he had committed other sex crimes that were not recorded because they were with concubines. This event may have been recorded simply because it was taboo. It may also be assumed that he maintained the fantasy through masturbatory means which motivated the criminal behavior as soon as he had the opportunity to act out the crime successfully.

The violence acted out on Tamar could possibly be labeled as a Power Reassurance Rape with some aspects of the Sadistic type; however it is often difficult to place these crimes into neat categories. As Roy Hazelwood, a former F.B.I. violent sex crime expert puts it, “There are no absolutes.” In the Crime Classification Manual, the Power Reassurance Rape can be described as a highly sexualized and fantasy-driven crime that is planned or premeditated. Although for this type of rape the victim is usually unknown, expressive aggression is not shown by the offender, and there is little physical injury to the victim. That leads us to the sadistic elements of the rape mentioned above, although Amnon used no more force than necessary against the victim. We are, in fact, told in the text 2 Samuel 13:15;

Then Amnon was seized with a very great loathing for her; indeed, his loathing was even greater than the lust he had felt for her. Amnon said to her, “Get out!”

The word “loathing” in the above rendition of the text does not accurately describe the way Amnon felt after committing the crime against his sister. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the Hebrew word שׂנא pronounced śânê’ means: A primitive root; to hate (personally): – enemy, foe, (be) hate (-ful, -r), odious, X utterly. In this case, the King James Version renders the Hebrew text more accurately according to the type of crime we are dealing with, for it reads:

Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.

What first started as an intensely compulsive, fantasy driven lust, turned to anger. This would possibly put him is the sadistic category. He may have been angered by his own sexual dysfunction, or possibly it angered him that the sexual act with Tamar did not match the fantasy he rehearsed in his mind. Amnon was unable, however, to act out the “play” of the crime as it was advised to him by his friend Jonadab by himself; but his ability to coordinate multiple people and bring about the scripted events as he had imagined all the way up to the crime itself does show his persistence and cunning behavior, for we see in 2 Samuel 13:6-10;

So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill; and when the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king, “Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.” (7) Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, “Go to your brother Amnon’s house, and prepare food for him.” (8) So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house, where he was lying down. She took dough, kneaded it, made cakes in his sight, and baked the cakes. (9) Then she took the pan and set them [63] out before him, but he refused to eat. Amnon said, “Send out everyone from me.” So everyone went out from him. (10) Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the food into the chamber, so that I may eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.

It appears the only issue Amnon had with the experience, was his own sexual issues, or possibly, Tamar failed to fight him off and complied with seemingly little protest. This alone would have caused Amnon issues for possibly, if he was sadistic, as supposed in the above comments, he would only have experienced sexual arousal if she had fought him physically.

The response from Tamar was one of mourning, for her protests in 2 Samuel 13:12-14 went unheeded:

She answered him, “No, my brother, do not force me; for such a thing is not done in Israel; do not do anything so vile! As for me, where could I carry my shame? And as for you, you would be as one of the scoundrels in Israel. Now therefore, I beg you, speak to the king; for he will not withhold me from you.” But he would not listen to her; and being stronger than she, he forced her and lay with her.

According to Deuteronomy 27:22, it was taboo to have intercourse with a sister, for it reads;

“Cursed be anyone who lies with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or the daughter of his mother.” All the people shall say, “Amen!”

However, this law may have been seen differently at the time of David, for Tamar suggested that Amnon ask the King for her hand in marriage rather than both of them be disgraced. As shown above, he ignores the advice, rapes her, becomes angry, and hates her more than he had loved her. He then disgraces her more by sending her away and later she is told to forget about the offense committed against her.

Finally, the text tells us in 2 Samuel 13:20-21;
So Tamar remained, a desolate woman, in her brother Absalom’s house. When King David heard of all these things, he became very angry, but he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn. But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad; for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had raped his sister Tamar.

We can see how complex this crime was. Justice was seemingly dealt out when Amnon is killed by his older brother out of revenge. King David could not bring himself to deal out justice, for Amnon was his first born. Amnon’s post-offence behavior showed no indication that he was sorry for committing the crime or that he felt guilt in any way. Nor did he threaten Tamar. Tamar suffered greatly for at that time period no one would merry a rape victim so she had to live alone in her brothers house. This analyst shows that the fantasy driven crimes were around as long as man has been and the crimes back then were just as intense and crimes today.

Douglas, John, E. , Burgess Ann W. , Burgess Allen G. and Ressler, Robert K. (1992) Crime Classification Manual. Lexington Books. New York, NY.

Hazelwood, R. & J. Warren. (1995). “The Relevance of Fantasy in Serial Sexual Crime Investigations” Pp. 127-37 in Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press..

McCarter, Kyle P. JR. The Anchor Bible. II Samuel (1984). Doubleday & Company. Garden City, NY.

Michaud Stephen G. and Hazelwood Roy R. The Evil That Men Do. (1998). St. Martin’s Press. New York, NY.

Posted by the author of Religionthink.com

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