Wednesday, October 5, 2016
Sisters in circumstance
In Dinah's story, her attacker wants to make things right -- he tells her brothers that he wants to marry her, that he loves her. In Tamar's story, her attacker is repulsed by her, and throws her out of his house.
In Dinah's circumstance, scholars actually differ on whether it was rape or whether the "shame" was that she had sexual relations before marriage. Verse three of the chapter has Shechem saying he was "drawn to her," that he loves her, and that he speaks tenderly to her. (A far cry from Amnon's behavior, right?) Jacob considers allowing the marriage, perhaps as an aid to social and economic progress in the land they were in. Her brothers feel otherwise, and deal deceitfully with the men of the neighboring tribe -- first telling them they must be circumcised, then when they are still in a great deal of pain (and obviously not at their best) they fight and kill them. Their vengeance will later cost them a blessing from their dad, but it is easily understood, as brothers often fiercely protect their sisters, and they thought that they were in the right.
Tamar's case is heart-wrenching. A lovely woman who was the daughter of the king, she was adorned in ornate robes and beautiful colors, and appears to have been caring and compassionate.
Amnon is following in his father's footsteps . . .
David gazed upon the beauty of a woman that should not have been his. So did Amnon.
David schemed to take her, to violate that woman. So did Amnon.
David used trickery to get what he wanted. So did Amnon.
Sin followed sin -- murder followed the sexual sin. Both times.
David was a pawn in his son's scheme. He unwittingly placed his daughter in a situation where she could be harmed. How many parents cry in the night because they have done this? This world is full of daughters who have been molested or raped, and parents who "didn't see it coming." David walked right into the trap, and didn't realize the danger. Tamar must have been sweet and caring about her family, for she readily consents to make him the cakes he requests. He sends out the servants and asks her to come in, to feed him the freshly prepared food. In her innocence, she is surprised by his demands, and says "NO!" As we read, we are sickened by what happens next. It's a story that many of us may be familiar with, or we may know of someone who is. How important it is, to comfort and come alongside those women, and to confirm for them that it's not their fault! Someone they trusted has betrayed them.
After he finished with her, he wanted her thrown out. I'm sure that she was still frightened, in pain, crying . . . She tears her lovely clothing and puts ashes on her head. She's been violated, disgraced, by one who should have cared for and protected her, a member of her own family. In the midst of her shame and disgust, Absolom finds her, and tenderly carries her home to his house. We may find it incomprehensible that he tells her "it's just your brother, it's no biggie" but how many times have we been in a horrific situation and blurted out something wrong? I personally can't judge him for that, for I've been at a loss for words before. However, I certainly am puzzled, even angered, at David's response. He is angry, but he does NOTHING.
Where is the king who executes judgements in his kingdom? Where is the father who will dab away her tears? Where is he when she needs a shoulder to sob on? Is he so convicted of his sins and his shortcomings that he cannot comfort his daughter? Did he think that by keeping silent, he would maintain "peace" in the family? In the commentaries, I don't see much of an explanation for his being silent. He is passive, and Absolom is in-restrained in his vengeance later.
For now, we see Absolom as he rescues Tamar. He takes her to live with him, and she is safe in his strength and protection. How refreshing! This is how a woman should be cared for -- and this is how we should comfort the broken among us! (To be fair, it does seem that he is making light of what happened to her . . . "Hold your peace....he is your brother...." But perhaps he was trying to tell her that he would protect her, re-instate her dignity. That this event, as horrible as it was, didn't have to define her life. She could, in time, move forward.) Maybe I'm way off base, but that is what I'm seeing. And that is what we must offer to women in our world, who are fighting these battles. A way to regain their self. Their pride. Their dignity. Their sense of worth. Only then can they move on, and live a full life.
Join us as we conclude our study tomorrow....