Amnon

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According to the Hebrew Bible, Amnon (Hebrew: אַמְנוֹן‎, "faithful") was the oldest son of David and his wife, Ahinoam, who is described as "the Jezreelitess". He was born in Hebron when David was king of Judah.[1]

Amnon and Tamar, painted by Jan Steen

Rape of Tamar[edit]

Although he was the heir-apparent to David's throne, Amnon is best remembered for the rape of his half-sister Tamar, daughter of David and Maachah. Despite the biblical prohibition on sexual relations between half-brothers and sisters,[2] Amnon had an overwhelming desire for her. He acted on advice from his cousin, Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David's brother, to lure Tamar into his quarters by pretending to be sick and desiring her to cook a special meal for him. While in his quarters, and ignoring her protests, he raped her, then had her expelled from his house. King David was angry about the incident, but could not bring himself to punish his eldest son, while Absalom, Amnon's half-brother and Tamar's full brother, nursed a bitter grudge against Amnon for the rape of his sister.

The Banquet of Absalom, attributed to Niccolò De Simone.

Two years later, to avenge Tamar, Absalom invited all of David's sons to a feast at sheep-shearing time, then had his servants kill Amnon after he had become drunk with wine.[3] As a result, Absalom fled to Geshur.

2 Samuel 13:39 records that in time David came to terms with the death of Amnon, his first-born. Methodist founder John Wesley is critical of David: "He can almost find in his heart to receive into favour the murderer of his brother. How can we excuse David from the sin of Eli, who honoured his sons more than God?"[4]

Literary references[edit]

  • The Spanish poet Federico García Lorca wrote a poem about Amnon's rape of his sister Tamar, included in Lorca's 1928 poetry collection Romancero Gitano (translated as Gypsy Ballads). Lorca's version is considerably different from the Biblical original - Amnon is depicted as being overcome by a sudden uncontrollable passion, with none of the cynical planning and premeditation of the original story. He assaults and rapes Tamar and then flees into the night on his horse, with archers shooting at him from the walls - whereupon King David cuts the strings of his harp.
  • The Rape of Tamar, novel by Dan Jacobson (ISBN 1-84232-139-0)
  • The Death of Amnon poem by Elizabeth Hands

References[edit]