BCC Staff Note: You’re reading Part Three in a three-part BCC Grace & Truth blog mini-series on Biblical Counseling and Sexual Abuse/Assault. You can read Part One by Justin Holcomb, What Does the Bible Say about Sexual Assault? and Part Two by Amy Baker, What Do You Say to a Woman Filled with Hate From Past Sexual Abuse?
The Bible and Sexual Abuse Recovery
The Bible has a rich, robust, relevant, and relational approach to helping people to find hope and healing in Christ after sexual abuse. To illustrate that richness, we’ll consider just a few ways that 2 Samuel 13 provides wisdom and healing for sexual abuse. In 2 Samuel 13, we learn of the rape of Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon. But we also learn of healing hope.
Questions to Ponder from 2 Samuel 13
Consider some of the probing questions we could ask in seeking to discern truth for life from 2 Samuel 13.
- How does the opening phrase, “in the course of time,” set the broader context for the purpose of this passage in this book?
- How does David’s preceding sexual sin and murder (just two chapters earlier) assist in understanding the purpose for the inclusion of this passage in inspired Scripture?
- How does this passage shout loud and clear our need for a Greater David?
- What is God wanting us to learn about life, fallen human nature, abuse of power, etc. in this passage?
- How are we to interpret Amnon’s “falling in love”?
- How is Tamar’s beauty used against her and what impact might this have upon her sense of self?
- How should Amnon have handled his “frustration” and depression (“haggard”)?
- How should Jonadab have counseled his friend?
- Why the repeated use of “love” and “do”?
- How does the repeated use of “my sister” and “my brother” impact our interpretation and application of this passage?
- Where did Tamar, especially given the culture of her day, find the strength to speak (find and keep her voice and power) so forcefully about the foolish, wicked nature of Amnon’s attitude and actions?
- How did Tamar find the bold love to force him to ponder the personal consequences of his sinfulness?
- How does Amnon’s refusal to listen to Tamar (repeated in the text several times) relate to the voicelessness of sexual abuse victims?
- How does his forcing her because he was stronger than her relate to the powerlessness of sexual abuse victims?
- Why did Amnon then hate her so? What do we make of this?
- How did his calling her “this woman” (in the Hebrew it is simply “this”) impact her shame and false guilt?
- How did his bolting the door against her impact her sense of shame (blaming the victim)?
- What does Tamar’s ritual grieving (appropriate for the culture of her day) suggest about helping sexual abuse victims to face their grief candidly?
- How might Absalom’s “counsel” to “be quiet” (another case of voicelessness) and “don’t take this thing to heart” work against her full grieving?
- What, by Absalom’s negative example, can we learn about sustaining and healing a sexual abuse victim?
- What does it mean that Tamar lived a desolate woman and how might this relate to sexual abuse victims today?
- What do we make of David being furious but inactive?
- What do we make of Absalom’s anger, hatred, and eventual murder in terms of family members’ responses to the disgrace of sexual abuse?
- What do we make of David grieving the death of Amnon while never grieving the rape of Tamar?
Questions to Ponder from Specific Words in 2 Samuel 13
Probing the following questions can help us to begin to develop a biblical understanding of the damage done by sexual abuse and a way toward God’s healing of sexual abuse.
- What does “fell in love with” mean and imply?
- Why did the author include “beautiful” in describing Tamar?
- What do “frustrated” and “haggard” mean relative to Amnon?
- How are we to interpret the author’s use of “shrewd” to describe Jonadab the evil counselor?
- What is the force of “grabbed”? What is the force of “don’t”? What is the meaning of “force”?
- Why did Tamar choose the phrase “such a thing should not be done in Israel”? What might the cultural context be for this phrase? The cultural meaning?
- What do we make of the repeated use of “don’t”?
- What is the meaning of “wicked”? How does this meaning help us to conceptualize the evil of sexual abuse?
- What did Tamar mean by “what about me”?
- What did she mean by “how could I get rid of my disgrace”? Culturally, what did this imply? How can “disgrace” help us to understand the hideous consequence of sexual abuse?
- What did Tamar mean by “what about you”?
- What does “wicked fools in Israel” mean and what does it say about the evils of sexual abuse?
- How do these words from Tamar help us to glimpse the human author’s and the divine Author’s view of sexual abuse?
- What does “he refused to listen” mean and imply?
- What does “he was stronger than she, he raped her” mean and imply then and now?
- What does “he hated her with intense hatred” mean and imply?
- What does the curt, “get up and get out” mean and imply?
- What does the repeated use of “he refused to listen to her” mean and imply?
- What does “weeping aloud” say about grieving sexual abuse?
- What does “be quiet” mean and imply?
- What does “don’t take this thing to heart” mean and imply?
- Is Absalom’s word for “disgrace” the same as Tamar’s word for it?
The Rest of the Story
Of course, questions are not the end point. How do we move from real-life questions asked legitimately of the text, to real-life wisdom and healing? For some insight into how 2 Samuel 13 helps us to provide biblical counseling for sexual abuse, you may want to read Sexual Abuse: Beauty for Ashes.
Join the Conversation
How surprised are you that the Bible has such a rich, robust, relational, and relevant approach to understanding sexual abuse?