It’s not a story you tell your kids. It’s not a story you want to hear over and over. It’s a nightmare. But it’s in the Bible.
Recently, I’ve been working through a book that focuses on the story of David’s daughter, Tamar, being raped by her brother, Amnon, in 2 Samuel 13.
This is where every woman’s heart hurts and every man’s brain is left troubled. There’s rape. In the Bible. Honestly, I praise God for this passage though it leaves me in tears every time. Within these verses God declares He is not blind to the soul deep torment many women go through.
I was struck by the fact that after verse 1 in 2 Samuel 13, the Bible never calls Tamar beautiful again. Desolate – yes. Depressed – of course. Troubled – well, duh. But beautiful? Nope. In our broken culture, anyone else who observed that small fact would maybe wonder if that was God’s unjust judgment toward Tamar.
“Sorry, Sweetheart, someone else broke you, so, um, yeah, beauty is gone. You’re just Tamar, now. The desolate, forgotten daughter of David. Oh well. It’s a man’s world. I’m still God, Kiddo, so no fears, ‘kay?”
I am overwhelmingly blessed that such words were never spoken by Elroi- the God Who Sees. But that still leaves me wondering… Why? Why couldn’t God inspire the writer of 1 & 2 Samuel to call her beautiful just once after the evil deed was done?
She needed that affirmation. As a wounded woman, she needed her father, King David, to look her in the eyes (not write a letter or make a public announcement) and whisper, “You’re still beautiful, you’re still my daughter. Your value hasn’t changed.”
But that never happened.
I truly believe, in the beginning of the chapter, the author of the book was simply describing the scene. He called Tamar beautiful.
Christians believe (as do I) that every word written within the pages of the canonical Bible was and is inspired by God. In other words, if the word beautiful wasn’t supposed to be there, it wouldn’t have been. If God didn’t believe Tamar was beautiful, she wouldn’t have been painted as beautiful.
Numbers 23:19 tells us that God never changes His mind.
So, then, why couldn’t she be called be called beautiful?
(This is speculation, keep that in mind.) Often times in the Old Testament, the author’s approach to a story changes views. They often start out as a narrative and end in first or second person. It’s funny, it’s quirky, but it makes the story of Tamar that much richer.
In a culture where women were not given a voice, God gave Tamar one through the verses that mournfully tell of the injustice done to her. Her culture immediately called her unworthy of love, respect or even provision after she was violated.
So, it’s possible every negative description of her presence was the author’s way of saying, “She can’t speak for herself, but this is how she painted herself.”
She listened to her culture. She was told her hands were tied and she was ready for the gallows. If her father wasn’t the king, she probably would have been killed. She knew men no longer called her valuable.
She never stopped to ask Yahweh what He still thought.
The story of Tamar is left as an unbearable unfinished sentence. David never avenged his daughter. Tamar never found worth, though she was provided for by her other brother, Absolom. There is no understanding of peace after the storm.
It seems like that was God’s way of saying, “I know how deep the hurt goes. I’m not immune to how much this nightmare broke you, Daughter. Not everything will make sense on this side of Heaven… This fallen world means evil is present.”
Tamar apparently allowed herself to stay stuck in knowing she was provided for yet never called valuable by those around her. If she had questioned her God instead of the men in her family and culture, she would have heard one beautiful truth:
When God first wrote her story, He called her beautiful. That never changed and she still mattered.