I can't quite let Tamar go yet. I preached about David's daughter, Absalom's sister, last Sunday, but I keep thinking about her: and her name.
Names are important.
There are three women in the Bible named Tamar. The first one is Judah's daughter-in-law. You can read about her in Genesis 38. She was first married to Judah's oldest son Er, but he did not find favor with God, and he died, leaving Tamar childless. According to the custom of the day, she was next given to Judah's son, Onan, who did not want to bear a child for his brother. He died too. Next Tamar was supposed to marry Judah's youngest son, Shelah. But Judah was afraid his youngest son would die too, so he withheld his son from Tamar.
So she needed to find a way to fulfill the custom, and have a child. To make a long story short, with Judah's unwitting help, she did. At the end of the whole soap-opera-style story, Judah says of Tamar, "She is more right than I am." By the way, she is named as an ancestor of Jesus by the gospel writer Matthew.
It occurs to me, thinking about this story, that the same could be said about David's daughter, Tamar. She is more right, or more righteous than any of the male characters in the story. She is more righteous than Amnon, who deceives and rapes her. She is more righteous than David, who is angry but does not punish his first-born son. And she is more righteous than Absalom, her brother, who avenges the crime against her by killing Amnon, but then goes ahead in trying to usurp the throne from his father.
She is more righteous than any of them, but what does she get for her righteousness?
She becomes a desolate woman in her brother's house: a woman of sorrows, despised and rejected.
Does she remind you of anyone?
I don't want to take this analogy too far, because too often in the past abused women have been urged to go back and "bear their cross". Somehow, they have been told, they can redeem their husbands by their obedient suffering. That is protecting the strong at the expense of the weak, and it's exactly the opposite of what Jesus did.
Oh yes, and the third Tamar? The daughter of Absalom.
Absalom had three sons. We know none of their names. He had one daughter, and named her Tamar.
Perhaps Tamar wasn't totally desolate. Even though she could never marry, she did have a namesake.
I didn't want to leave her without saying these things.