Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
2 Kings (2 Samuel)
Amnon falls in love with his half-sister Tamar, and feigns himself sick, and requests her to attend him, Sa2 13:1-6. David sends her to him, and he violates her, Sa2 13:7-14. He then hates her, and expels her from his house, Sa2 13:15-17, She rends her garments, puts ashes on her head, and goes forth weeping, Sa2 13:18, Sa2 13:19. She is met by Absalom her brother, who, understanding her case, determines the death of Amnon, Sa2 13:20-22. Two years after, he invites all his brothers to a sheep-shearing, when he orders his servants to murder Amnon, Sa2 13:23-29. Tidings come to David that Absalom has slain all the king's sons, which fill him with the bitterest distress, Sa2 13:30, Sa2 13:31. The rest soon arrive, and he finds that Amnon only is killed, Sa2 13:32-36. Absalom flees to Talmai, king of Geshur, where he remains three years, Sa2 13:37, Sa2 13:38. David longs after Absalom, having become reconciled to the death of Amnon, Sa2 13:39.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:1
Whose name was Tamar - Tamar was the daughter of David and Maacah, daughter of the king of Geshur, and the uterine sister of Absalom. Amnon was David's eldest son by Ahinoam. She was therefore sister to Amnon only by the father's side, i.e., half-sister; but whole sister to Absalom.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:2
Amnon was so vexed - for she was a virgin - It has been well remarked that "the passion of love is nowhere so wasting and vexatious, as where it is unlawful. A quick sense of guilt, especially where it is enormous, as in the present instance, strikes the soul with horror; and the impossibility of an innocent gratification loads that horror with desperation: a conflict too cruel and too dreadful for human bearing." - Delaney.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:3
Jonadab was a very subtle man - And most diabolic advice did he give to his cousin. We talk of the simplicity and excellence of primitive times! "Say not thou what is the cause that the former days were better than these." Take them altogether, we may thank God that they are past, and pray him that they may never return.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:12
Nay, my brother - There is something exceedingly tender and persuasive in this speech of Tamar; but Amnon was a mere brute, and it was all lost on him.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:13
Speak unto the king - So it appears that she thought that the king, her father, would give her to him as wife. This is another strong mark of indelicacy in those simple but barbarous times. There might have been some excuse for such connections under the patriarchal age, but there was none now. But perhaps she said this only to divert him from his iniquitous purpose, that she might get out of his hands.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:15
Hated her exceedingly - Amnon's conduct to his sister was not only brutal but inexplicable. It would be easy to form conjectures concerning the cause, but we can arrive at no certainty.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:18
A garment of divers colors - See the note on Gen 37:3, where the same words occur.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:21
But when King David heard - To this verse the Septuagint add the following words: Και ουκ ελυπησε το πνευμα Αμνων του υἱου αυτου, ὁτι ηγαπα αυτον, ὁτι πρωτοτοκος αυτου ην; "But he would not grieve the soul of Amnon his son, for he loved him, because he was his first-born." The same addition is found in the Vulgate and in Josephus, and it is possible that this once made a part of the Hebrew text.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:23
Absalom had sheep-shearers - These were times in which feasts were made, to which the neighbors and relatives of the family were invited.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:26
Let my brother Amnon go - He urged this with the more plausibility, because Amnon was the first-born, and presumptive heir to the kingdom; and he had disguised his resentment so well before, that he was not suspected.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:30
Absalom hath slain all the king's sons - Fame never lessens but always magnifies a fact. Report, contrary to the nature of all other things, gains strength by going.
Virgil has given, in his best manner, a fine personification of Fame or Evil Report. - Aen. iv., 173.
Extemplo Libyae magnas it Fama per urbes;
Fama, malum qua non aliud velocius ullum,
Mobilitate viget, viresque adquirit eundo, etc.
"Now Fame, tremendous fiend! without delay,
Through Libyan cities took her rapid way;
Fame, the swift plague, that every moment grows,
And gains new strength and vigor as she goes," etc.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:32
And Jonadab - said - Amnon only is dead - This was a very bad man, and here speaks coolly of a most bloody tragedy, which himself had contrived.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:37
Absalom fled - As he had committed wilful murder, he could not avail himself of a city of refuge, and was therefore obliged to leave the land of Israel, and take refuge with Talmai, king of Geshur, his grandfather by his mother's side. See Sa2 3:3.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 13:39
David longed to go forth unto Absalom - We find that he had a very strong paternal affection for this young man, who appears to have had little to commend him but the beauty of his person. David wished either to go to him, or to bring him back; for the hand of time had now wiped off his tears for the death of his son Amnon. Joab had marked this disposition, and took care to work on it, in order to procure the return of Absalom. It would have been well for all parties had Absalom ended his days at Geshur. His return brought increasing wretchedness to his unfortunate father. And it may be generally observed that those undue, unreasonable paternal attachments are thus rewarded.