‘This is the end,’ Amnon thought frantically as he stared at the knife, its blade gleaming as it caught the rays of the midday sun streaming through the open window.
His eyes travelled from the blade to the one who was wielding it, the one he called ‘brother’, and who was looking down at him with a snarl on his face. “How dare you humiliate my sister, you scum!” he spat “you have the audacity to reduce her to a mere whore, and treat her like one that has no dignity!”
“I am sorry” Amnon croaked, his mouth dry and he meant it. He had wronged his sister and had dishonored her in the worst possible way and he wished he could take it back. He wished he had not listened to Jonadab his best friend’s advice.
Absalom’s lips curved in a smile, “you are sorry” he turned and addressed the other men in the room, his men that he had brought on this mission “he said he is sorry!” and he threw his head back and laughed, a sound devoid of mirth. His men joined in the laughter too.
Amnon was taken aback and looked at his brother in confusion and then at the other men. Then Absalom stopped laughing and his eyes became hard as a flint stone and when he spoke, his voice was icy cold “you are going to pay for your deeds” and without warning he thrust the knife into Amnon’s chest just below the fifth rib, a practiced move.
“I am sorry too” Absalom said, as he thrust the blade deeper into Amnon’s chest, leaving only the hilt outside, his face a few inches from Amnon’s face that was contorted in pain. “In your next life, if you ever have one, you will stay away from my sister” he whispered and stood up and walked away towards the door, signaling to his men to follow him.
Amnon watched his brother walk away towards the door and seconds later he heard the neighing of horses as they galloped away leaving behind a cloud of dust. His breathing was fast and rapid and he experienced moments of blackness as he struggled to retain consciousness. He tried to remove the knife from his chest but his strength was fast waning and as he lost hold of consciousness, the last face that he saw was Tamar’s.
Tamar sat on the large mahogany bed that was covered in red silk sheets with imprints of roses and violets on it and stared blankly, her favorite position these days. Her hair tumbled down her back in disarray, and she looked disheveled and haggard. She had refused the maids from attending to her and has remained indoors all morning.
Ever since the event two years ago, she had not stepped out of her brother’s house where she had come to hide from her shame. She couldn’t bear to go out and see the look of scorn on all their faces. ‘Poor Tamar,’ they would say behind her, in tones loud enough for her to hear, and snigger while smiling at her sweetly. She just couldn’t stand that.
Her pride had been shattered as she was no longer qualified to be garbed in the multicolored silk gown that the king’s daughters who were unmarried- virgins- wore. None of the king’s daughters had ever been defiled before they got married.
Fresh tears coursed down her eyes at this thought and images of that day crashed in on her mind and she cringed at the memory. The wound was still as fresh as it was two years ago. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, like they claimed, or maybe it couldn’t heal hers. She still could not believe that her brother could do what he did, and to think he was one of her favorite step sibling, and as such she had had no qualms going to his house to cook for him when her father had asked her to. If only she knew, she would have lied or taken Mary, her maid with her.
Now, here she was, damaged for life. She that had been full of life and dreams of how her life would be and about the man that would sweep her off her feet and love and cherish her. Unlike her other sisters she had never wanted to marry into royalty. She had never wanted to end up like her mother who was just one of the wives in the harem. She was always aware of the longing she saw in her mother’s eyes every morning as she peeked at the king from the roof of the women’s palace when he spars with his general in the courtyard and she didn’t want that.
She wanted a man that would love her and always be in her bed beside her every night and who would dote after her and whom she could love with all her heart and raise children with. She had imagined having four children, three boys and one girl. She would name the girl Sarah, after the wife of the patriarch Abraham. She had always had a deep reverence for the matriarch and had wanted to raise her daughter to be virtuous like Sarah.
But now, none of that would happen. No man would want her now. She had been defiled and made a laughing stock by none other than her brother! Suddenly, she felt white hot anger surge through her and her hands ball into a fist. In that moment, she wished him dead. She wished a death that was slow and painful on him, one that would make him suffer for the hell he had put her through. He had reduced her to less than a human being and she was suffering a fate that was worse than death, all because he wanted her at all cost.
She looked up as Mary rushed into her room wide eyed and breathless, and the irritation she felt at her private moment being intruded on gave way to curiosity at the look of alarm on her maid’s face.
“What is the matter?” her voice was husky
“There has been a tragedy, my lady” Mary started, her voice shaking “your brother invited all the king’s sons to his sheep shearing at Baal-Hazor and he has killed Amnon but the others fled and just returned to Jerusalem.” She hesitated before adding “and your brother has fled the nation”
For a moment, Tamar stared at Mary, trying to digest the news she had just heard. “he- you mean Amnon is dead?” she stammered
“Yes” Mary whispered, obviously still in shock
Perverse pleasure shot through Tamar and she burst out in a bout of laughter startling her maid who stared wide eyed. ‘She must think I have lost my mind,’ Tamar thought as she doubled over and continued laughing till tears streaked down her eyes, reveling in the justice that had been meted on the offender.
‘But then maybe I really have lost my mind, here I am laughing at the news of the death of my half-brother, who was killed by my very own brother!’
Then it hit her, like the force of a fist and her laughter died in her throat. Amnon was dead. Amnon had been killed by Absalom her brother. Her brother had committed murder on her account. She gasped and covered her mouth with her hands and stifled a sob. The thoughts were too much for her and she burst out in loud and heart wrenching cries.
She knew that deep down, she would never wish death on anyone, not even Amnon. Her life had just gone from bad to worse and she had been foolish enough to laugh in the face of such calamity.
‘Oh, how foolish you are Tamar’, she thought as she wailed and pulled at her hair. She knew that the punishment for what Absalom her brother had done was death should he return to Jerusalem, and now he had gone on exile and she would not see him anymore, all because of her. She had just lost two brothers in one day, and one of them had been her lover.
Unbidden, she remembered the woman she had been named after. Tamar, one of her ancestors, and the daughter in law of Judah, who had borne him twins. It was strange that she should remember that story now. She had often wondered why her parents named her after the woman and had even become more confused after she read about her.
Tamar had been married to Er, Judah’s first born who was an extremely wicked man and God had killed him, leaving her a widow and with no child. As was the custom, Judah’s second son Onan married her to raise children that would preserve his brother Er’s lineage. Onan had been displeased at the idea and had decided to spill his semen on the ground rather than father a child with Tamar. God had been displeased at this and had killed Onan too, leaving Tamar a widow for the second time.
As the custom was, Shelah the last born was supposed to father a child for his brothers but Judah fearing that Shelah might be killed too, delayed the arrangement, saying that Shelah wasn’t yet grown up to saddle such responsibility and had sent Tamar back to her relatives.
Years passed and Tamar was desolate and remained a widow in her father’s house till she heard that Judah was coming to her parts. She had disguised as a harlot and slept with Judah and had gotten pregnant for her father in law. She gave birth to twins, Zarah and Pharez- whose lineage King David descended from.
As she thought about it, she wondered if she had been condemned to an incestuous relationship just as the woman she was named after even before it happened. Could sharing a name with the woman have made them share a common destiny? Could this be a punishment for the act of her ancestor? She remembered a section of the Torah that said that God visits the sins of the father on the son even to the third and fourth generation. Could this be it?
She also remembered that after the incestuous relationship between Tamar and Judah, Tamar never remarried and lived apart till her death. Would that be her fate too? She shuddered at the thought. So many questions and no answers from anywhere.
David was distraught. He was rocking himself absent mindedly as he leaned on the balustrade that overlooked the courtyard. His mind was in overdrive and he stared blankly. It was days like this that reminded him just how fragmented his family was and how much he had failed as a father. He was beloved by his nation, feared by enemies and respected by all and sundry but couldn’t impact his own children.
He had failed to set his children on the path of Yahweh and show them how to love God with all their heart and soul. He wished he could go back to the past and remedy that. It was unspeakable the kind of scandal that was rocking his household. His son sleeping with his daughter and his sons killing one another! Since when had his children become murderers and perverts? He hadn’t raised them that way but fast on the heels of the thought came memories of Uriah and Bathsheba and he felt weary all of a sudden. He turned around looking for where to sit, his legs becoming too heavy to support him.
His children may have taken after him after all. He, their father, had after all slept with a married woman, the wife of one of his trusted generals, and killed her husband when the woman had told him she had gotten pregnant, to cover up the deed. He had even gone ahead and married her after her husband’s death. Where did he think his children had learnt those vices from, if not from him, their father? He wished the Lord had killed him at that time. Maybe it might have served as a deterrent to his children and he wouldn’t be alive right now feeling so much pain and anguish.
His mind reverted back to what the prophet Nathan had told him on the day that he had come to tell him about his errors.
“You have despised the Lord” the prophet had declared “therefore, the sword shall not depart from your household”
‘This is it’ David thought despondently. The sword of the Lord had descended on his family and therefore his children have turned against one another. The Lord was a God of justice and He would not fail to punish the wicked. David had seen it so many times and this filled his heart with great sadness. For how long would he have to suffer for his sins? Why had the Lord chosen to spare his life? Why had he not killed him and spared his children instead? He was no better than these people, and they shouldn’t have to suffer for the sins he committed.
A groan escaped his lips and his eyes became misty. It was a terrible thing to fall into the hand of God, he agreed with the Moses. God had spared him from death in His mercy, he knew but right now it didn’t feel like it. It was almost like God had deliberately kept him alive so that he can experience heart breaks after another. This pain was almost unbearable for any man.
He bowed his head and allowed the tears to flow. “Yahweh” he said in between sobs “please have mercy on me. In the multitude of Your loving-kindness, have pity on my soul. My soul is bowed down and heavy within me, and I am like them that go down into the pit. Forgive my sins, they are numerous, blot out my transgression and show me your salvation”
Jonadab could not sleep and had been tossing about in his bed for about four hours. He had tried to drink himself to sleep but it had not worked and even Puah, the delectable Egyptian maid had not been able to distract him and he had had to chase her away when she had sneaked into his bed.
Amnon was dead and he felt responsible for his death. He could as well have put a knife straight into Amnon’s heart for the part he had played. How could he have known that the plan would backfire like it did? The trick had worked for him severally, and although the women would initially put up a resistance, they usually succumbed in the end and enjoyed it as much as he did. How was he to know that Tamar would be different? After all, were women not all the same, princesses or not? He regretted his decision now but it was too late, Amnon was dead. Dead!
He could remember that day vividly like it was yesterday. On that day two summers ago, he had pushed and prodded Amnon to tell him the reason why he had been losing weight and not as boisterous and fun like he normally was. He had noticed this change for about three months and he had tried to get Amnon to tell him what the problem was but to no avail until that day in June. They had been walking in the orchard and had stopped under a fig tree where Amnon had spilled his guts.
He had watched as Amnon grew red in the face and had not even been able to look him in the face as he spoke of his growing love for Tamar, his sister. He had pointed out to Amnon that Tamar was his half-sister.
“What difference does it make?” Amnon had replied exasperated “I cannot possibly marry my sister!”
He had laughed and told her he could if he wanted. He had known that what Amnon was feeling for Tamar was pure lust, he had seen it in many men in the royal courts too. Tamar was one of the finest daughters of King David. She had inherited her father’s face and smile and her skin was honey coloured and smooth, like her mother’s. Her hair, raven black, fell in curves down to her waist, and was usually done in braids and tied together with ribbons. The sway of her hips usually had men drooling, including himself and he had fantasized many a time about sleeping with her. However, one doesn’t just have a casual relationship with the daughter of a king, one as powerful as David.
An idea had formed in his head as he listened to Amnon drone on about the virtues of Tamar and he had had no idea that he was smiling until Amnon frowned and stopped talking.
“Why are you grinning?” Amnon had asked slightly miffed that his friend had not been paying attention to him
“I know a way you can get her to sleep with you” he had replied, feeling excitement coursing through him. He was sure it was going to work perfectly and he would have the privilege of living vicariously through Amnon.
Amnon had not sounded sure. “Jonadab, it is not right” he had said, his voice faltering. He could see the inner battle between his desire and a sense of what was right. In the end Amnon had given in.
The plan was simple. Amnon would pretend to be sick, which was not a hard thing seeing as he had lost weight already. When the news reaches the King, he would be obligated to pay him a visit and then Amnon would ask that the King allow Tamar to come and cook for him. That was also one thing that Tamar was known for, she was a terrific cook. Once Tamar comes to cook for him, Amnon would find a way to get her alone and then he would seduce her and have his way with her.
Amnon had done everything according to plan but Tamar had refused to be seduced and Amnon had forced her and raped her. That had proven to be a harrowing experience for Amnon because Tamar had lain like a dead woman on the bed as he thrust himself repeatedly and had closed her eyes all through. Because she had not responded, it had taken a long time for Amnon to reach the peak and when he had eventually climaxed, it had not been as pleasurable. Thus his illusion of love for Tamar had been shattered, and his pride had been injured and he had hated her for it; for making him feel like a lowlife and those that patronized brothels where they got bland sex. His bruised ego had turned all his love for her to a raging inferno of hatred and anger and he had thrown her of his house half-clad and disheveled. He had treated her like a whore too.
As Jonadab thought about it lying on the bed, he knew that if Amnon had been able to handle her original rejection, things would have ended differently. It was common knowledge that Tamar had fancied Amnon as she was always hanging around him. Even Amnon had said that she had suggested that he should speak to the king concerning her that they should get married and then he could have her all to himself. If only Amnon could have controlled his raging hormones and lust, things would have ended differently.
If only he had known that things would not go as planned, and if he had not been so consumed with selfishness and a desire to live vicariously through Amnon, he would have not given the young man such advice. And now it was too late, his best friend was dead, and it was all his fault.
Amnon gasped as his eyes opened and he tried to take lungful of air, his hands clutching his chest. He pulled the knife out with all his strength and tried to stand up but gave up after a few attempt.
‘This is the end’ he thought, finally accepting his fate. He had regretted that day every day for the last two years. He had wished he could undo that day. As the days passed following the incident, he had realized how much he had wronged her and he had sought to apologize to her but he had not had the courage to go to his brother Absalom’s house. He also knew he could have remedied the situation by asking for her hand in marriage, but somehow he had not been bold enough to do that too. And now it was too late.
He remembered the look of fear and panic on her face when he had grabbed her that day and her voice, high pitched and shaking “Please don’t do this, Amnon” she had pleaded “this is foolishness and I know that you are better than this. I would gladly be yours, once you get permission from father to marry me” her eyes had misted and her lips had been trembling. “Don’t make me an object of shame and ridicule in the whole of Israel”
He stopped struggling. He deserved to die, he had wounded her deeply, inflicted a mortal wound on her soul and he should pay for it. If only he had listened to her wise words and not allowed stupid pride to decide for him. He had known she had been saying the truth but he hadn’t been able to bear rejection, not from a woman, and definitely not from her.
All his life, he had been used to having what he wanted and women had always thrown themselves at him and he had had to reject many who were not up to his standard, and so he had decided to ignore her words and have his way with her. Even while he had penetrated her, he had begun to feel guilt and he had almost stopped and knelt down but his pride had kicked in again and he had thrust harder and had been rough wanting to inflict pain on her and punish her for humiliating him. It had been a very distasteful experience. For months after that, he had not found any woman desirable and he had loathed the very act of sex.
He looked down at his tunic which had become crimson red and closed his eyes. He kept trying to remember her face when she was happier but try as he may he could not shake the image of her tear stained face contorted in pain from his mind.
Suddenly, the image changed and he saw her face, happy and carefree, skipping happily towards him in the orchard and that smile that he had fallen in love with even when she was still a small girl plastered on her face.
He smiled and breathed his last.
This is a work of fiction based on biblical accounts. The true account can be found in 2nd Samuel 13: 1-36
Other stories alluded to are 2nd Samuel chapters 11 and 12; Genesis chapter 28. Please do check out the original accounts.
The story was birthed from a demand from Yemie, my ever constant reader and fan. I call her ‘superfan’. Thanks Yemie, I love you!
If there is ever a bible story you want told, send your request to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I promise to try my best to deliver (don’t hang me if I can’t o….)
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