Now David’s son Absalom… - 2 Samuel 13:1a (NET)
In this way, David’s son Absalom is introduced into the Scriptural narrative. The story of Absalom well embodies the ongoing story of Israel, founded in the exodus by which they were defined (a life and worldview practically centered upon a remembrance of the Passover) and almost always at risk of being exiled from their promised land if they failed to uphold the covenant responsibilities that had been assigned to them.
Absalom is introduced by way of the story of the rape of his sister, Tamar. Chapter thirteen of second Samuel begins with “Now David’s son Absalom had a beautiful sister named Tamar” (13:1a). For some reason, Tamar is not presented as David’s daughter, but rather, as Absalom’s sister. It is said that Amnon, another of David’s sons “fell madly in love with Tamar” (13:1b). This “love” eventually resulted in her being raped by Amnon. Obviously, Tamar is humiliated and disgraced. A pall of exile (part of Israel’s own story) is cast over her life.
Afterwards, “Tamar, devastated, lived in the house of her brother Absalom” (13:20b), and “Absalom hated Amnon because he had humiliated his sister Tamar” (13:22b). Absalom understood that Amnon, through his actions, had brought the shame of exile to his sister. She was suffering. In due time he planned on bringing her vindication, with this occurring through the killing of Amnon. Absalom held a grudge against Amnon for a considerable length of time, and the story of Absalom’s revenge picks up “Two years later” (13:23a). Absalom conceived a plan by which he could secure his revenge, and send Amnon into the exile of death. After Amnon’s demise has been accomplished, it is reported that “This is what Absalom has talked about from the day that Amnon humiliated his sister Tamar” (13:32b).
With Amnon’s death, Absalom most likely feels as if he has brought vindication to his sister, somehow relieving her of the shame and disgrace that she has experienced. However, in the process of doing what he believed would bring his sister’s suffering to an end and thus providing her with something like exodus (Israel’s story constantly superimposed on individual stories), Absalom brings exile upon himself.
Surely, Absalom calculated this as part of the risk of what he was undertaking, and would have imagined that something like this might be necessary. It is said that “Absalom fled and went to King Talmai son of Ammihud of Geshur” (13:37a). Absalom’s exile brought a measure of exile to David himself, as part of him was bound up with his son, so “David grieved over his son every day” (13:37b). Interestingly, Absalom’s self-imposed exile from his homeland lasted longer than his grudge against Amnon. While he had plotted against Amnon for two full years, Absalom remained in Geshur for three years (13:38). Throughout that time, “the king longed to go to Absalom, for he had since been consoled over the death of Amnon” (13:39).
Clearly then, this correlates rather well with the broad narrative scheme of the Scriptures that begins with the first exile---an exile that was truly self-imposed---which was that of Adam and Eve. Though obviously their exile began on a different basis from that of Absalom, in that they did not commit a vengeful murder, they did in fact bring death upon themselves and upon the whole of their progeny. It is not surprising then, to find that vengeful murder is in the heart of one of their sons, as evidenced by Cain’s jealousy-fueled murder of his brother Abel. Having brought death, Adam and Eve were exiled from the place of the Creator God’s presence, from the Garden of Eden, and from the Creator’s good creation. Like Absalom, fleeing from possible punishment, their exile began with their attempting to flee from the Creator God by hiding themselves in the garden.