Picture a young woman walking down the long, cool corridor of a palace. The robe she wears is regal, beautiful. It trails behind her, making the lightest rustling sound as she gracefully moves. When she passes by the palace servants or citizens of the kingdom, they lower their eyes in deference and respect for her. She is their princess, daughter of their beloved King David. She is the embodiment of beauty, but she is far more than that. Her reputation is that of having a heart like her father, a heart after God. She loves the law of God. She is compassionate and kind. It is rumored in the palace that this daughter of the king will fetch a very high bride price. She will very likely end up married to a great king. She might end up as queen over another kingdom. The dowry given for her would be very large indeed. She would likely receive cities as a wedding gift. Her value and worth is staggering. Her name is Tamar.
Tamar’s story is found in 2 Samuel 13 if you would like to read it for yourself. Tamar was the daughter of King David and his wife Maacah (who was also the daughter of a king). Tamar had a brother named Absalom. Because David practiced polygamy, Tamar had many half siblings as well. One of them was Amnon. Amnon was David’s firstborn son and heir-apparent to the throne.
According to the story, Amnon desires his beautiful sister Tamar to the point of illness. He knows that he can not have her. According to the law, one was not to have sexual relations with a sibling (Leviticus 18:9), yet Amnon was so consumed with lust for his sister that it begins to affect him physically. His friend and cousin Jonadab asks him why he is looking so dejected. Amnon explains his situation. Instead of rebuking him and giving him wise counsel, Jonadab suggests that he ask for Tamar to come and prepare bread in front of him so he can watch her as she makes it and he can “eat it from her own hands.” A friend that helps you in your pursuit of sin is not a friend at all.
Soon after this plan is hatched, David pays Amnon a visit because he has heard that his son is unwell. Amnon asks David to send Tamar to him to cook for him and raise his spirits. For whatever reason, David did not seem to think that was a suspicious or strange request because he sends Tamar to Amnon.
Tamar, in obedience to her father and in concern for her brother, bakes the food and is about to serve it to Amnon when he sends everyone else out of the room. He grabs her and insists that she sleep with him. She forcefully responds, “No, my brother! Don’t be foolish! Don’t do this to me! Such wicked things aren’t done in Israel! Where could I go with my shame?” Amnon does not take no for an answer. It says that since he was stronger than she was, he raped her.
When he had finished with her, it says that he “hated her more than he had loved her.” He snarls “Get out of here!” At this point, Tamar is weeping, begging him not to send her outside in this state. She said, “Sending me away now is worse than what you’ve already done to me.” He does not listen to her. He has his servant throw her out of his chambers. He locks her out.
There she stands, humiliated and exposed. Tamar takes off her long beautiful robe, the robe that marked her as the virgin daughter of the king, and she tears it. She would never again wear that robe. She puts ashes on her face and leaves, weeping as she goes. She weeps because of what has just happened to her. She weeps because of what she has just lost. She has lost something that cannot be restored. In their culture, her virginity was everything. She had lost her value to her father. Now, there would be no bride price. There would be no kingdom. There would be no groom. No one was coming for Tamar.
The conclusion of Tamar’s part in this story is that she lived out her days as “a desolate woman” in her brother Absalom’s house.
Everything we read in God’s Word is written for a purpose. This is a hard story to read. So, what are we to take from the story of Tamar? One of the most heartbreaking phrases in the story is the question she raises in her despair, “Where could I carry my shame?” As I read this story, I see shame having the final word in her life. There is no redemption there. I see revenge. I see the exploitation of her rape as a grasp for political power… but no redemption. Its absence speaks so loudly. This story cries out for redemption. Where can she go with her shame?
Some of you reading this are carrying shame you received through no fault of your own. Someone else has torn your robes and then shamed you for the very brokenness that their own hands have caused. I need you to hear me. It is not your shame to carry. Others of you are wearing robes you have torn yourself, through your own sin and choices, and like a scarlet letter, you feel like you have to wear that mantle of shame because you deserve it, because in feeling the crushing weight of shame, maybe it will somehow make up for what you’ve done.
We are all like Tamar in that our robes are torn. We are all desolate. We have nowhere to carry our shame. Yet, we are not like Tamar in that we have a different King, a different Father. Girls, our Father, our King, didn’t leave us shut up in a room waiting out our lives in shame. Our King went down every corridor in the kingdom, searching every room until He found his Tamar, his children, broken and torn. And when He found us, hiding in shame, he took the torn robe from our shaking hands. He took off his own royal robes of Righteousness, and he wrapped us in them until his glorious robe was all anyone could see. He called us his children. He called us holy. He carried us back into the palace and seated us next to him, to rule and reign with Him forever. Precious women of God! There is nothing so damaged that God cannot restore it. Nothing so broken that God cannot mend it. Nothing so hurt that God cannot heal it. No one so lost that God cannot find them. No one so far that God cannot bring them home.
Are you Tamar? Are you hiding, waiting out your years in shame because you think the damage can’t be undone? Do you think God can’t redeem your story? You ask, along with Tamar, “Where could I carry my shame?” The answer is, nowhere. You can’t carry your shame. Jesus can. And He does. He takes our shame. He takes our guilt and sin. He heals. He gives us His own righteousness. Why? Because He is the bridegroom. He still comes for us. Our sin did not stop Him. Our shame did not stop him. He comes. There is still a kingdom coming for us. There is still a bride price paid for us. He comes for us, not in spite of our brokenness, but because of it. Shame will not have the final word in your story. It will not have the final word in my story. Because of our Great King, because of our Good Father, we are not desolate anymore. We are the virgin daughters of the King. Our shame is gone, carried away and nailed to the cross of our Savior….our King.
*My blogs are written with the assumption that they are being read primarily by Christians. If you want to know more about what it means to be a Christian or about the gospel of Jesus Christ, click the link here:The Gospel
Very well done! You’ve brought the savage destruction of Tamar to life and turned a sad ending into the joyous one that Jesus can bear our shame for us. King David’s family life certainly was a mess, and this story, as well as Absalom’s betrayal, are both heart-breaking to read. Thank you for this. Grace!