Amnon Had a Friend
By Jerry Jones
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her. And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man (II Samuel 13:1-3).
Amnon was a son of King David, a prince of Israel. He fell in love with a girl named Tamar. It is important to keep in mind that this was natural and good. I say that because you are going to be shocked when I tell you that Tamar was also a child of David. Amnon and Tamar were half-brother and sister. Today, of course, we recognize such a relationship between blood kin is not good, and society has prohibited it. And this is right. But long ago, in this place and time it was acceptable. It was not thought in any way bad or even unusual.
To love someone is a normal part of life. Even physical desire is a gift of God. It is intended to be beautiful, to bless us. This physical part of the love between a man and a woman is not dirty or tawdry within marriage; it is beautiful, even holy since it is blessed by God.
But Amnon made a terrible mistake; he lost the battle of the mind. He allowed his desire for Tamar to become something it was never supposed to be. Love, if allowed to become selfish, curses instead of blesses. In Amnon’s case, his love became obsession, and that obsession became lust.
Guard your mind! It is there that the battle for the soul takes place. Whether your temptation is that of Amnon, or something else entirely, guard your mind! It is in your thoughts, in your imagination, in daydreams and fantasies that future actions are sown, and destiny is decided. Amnon became consumed with his desire for Tamar.
But I have to tell you I admire Amnon. Even with his terrible mistake in failing to control his thought life, I admire him for two reasons.
First, Amnon stayed true to his principles. He was David’s son. He had been given good principles he would not abandon. The Bible says he would not touch her, in spite of his out-of-control desires. Let me tell you, I respect kids who live for God today. Here are some statistics I have read: of today’s female teenagers, 19 percent tried cocaine, 70 percent say they have used alcohol, 90 percent say they have experimented with drugs of some form, 40 percent of the boys say the same. The pressures to make the wrong choices are greater than ever. In this world, I admire anyone who serves God.
Sometimes one of the things you hear is that if you want to do something that is wrong, you might as well do it, because the sin is in wanting it in the first place. This just isn’t true. Jesus was tempted, but He was sinless:
For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth (I Peter 2:21-22).
The victory of the Christian life is not in not being tempted, it is in overcoming temptation by not giving in to it. And this was Amnon’s determination; even though he had lost the battle of the mind, he was determined to not lose the war.
This is the way to overcome, simply don’t give in. Your first line of defense is your mind; guard your mind! But if the enemy breaks through those walls, remember the war is not lost! Just hang on, don’t give in; you can still win.
The second thing I admire about Amnon is that he stayed true to those principles even when it hurt. Even though it made him physically ill, even though it was miserable, he refused to give in to his lowest nature. Some people live for the Lord while things are good, when it seems to be to their advantage, when they are blessed, but when the going gets tough, they get discouraged and quit. Living for God is not always convenient. Sometimes the righteous suffer, the rain comes on the just, and it seems there is no advantage to doing right. This is the testing time. I admire Amnon because even when he was miserable he hung in there.
Yet I must tell you that Amnon failed. In spite of his good upbringing, his principles, his determination, he failed and failed miserably. It is hard to believe that with all the good things he had going for him Amnon could end up destroyed by his failure, but he was.
What was it that overwhelmed all the good things in Amnon’s life? His failure came about because of his choice of friends. The power of friendship to make or break us cannot be overestimated.
It is not an old fogy idea. It is true in every circumstance, for everybody. Paul warned of the power of relationships to affect our lives in II Corinthians 6:14:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
We must not be cloistered, refusing to have any relationship with folks outside the church. But there must be a limit to our involvement.
There is a danger when our friends are not in the church. We must guard ourselves against this danger. There is a progress, a downward progress that can happen. First we understand them, then excuse them, then defend them, then join them.
Ask yourself how your friends affect you. Do they encourage you to be involved in church? To pray? To worship? Or do they encourage you to not be involved? Do they move you closer to God or further away? What kind of friends do you have? What kind of friend are you?
Amnon’s choice of friends was unfortunate. Though a son of David, his closest friend was a son of one of David’s brothers, a brother who was rejected by God for the throne, when David was chosen. Jonadab was this friend’s name. It seems that one day when Jonadab and Amnon met in a hallway of the palace, Jonadab commented on Amnon’s obvious sadness. “What’s the matter with you? You are a king’s son, what do you have to be so down about?”
Amnon trusted Jonadab. After all, he was his best friend. So he poured out his heart. He told Jonadab of his feelings for Tamar, of his desire, and of his determination not to act on his feelings. He made himself vulnerable to Jonadab, because they were friends.
Friends can affect us in many ways. In Amnon’s case, he trusted Jonadab, and this trust caused him not only to tell Jonadab everything but also to take Jonadab’s advice. This would, in the end, be a disaster.
In a way Jonadab’s advice was simple: do what you want, don’t worry about the consequences. “You’re a king’s kid,” he said. “You can do whatever you want.”
Jonadab, his friend, lied to Amnon. He told him three lies that are still being told today by Jonadabs all over the world. Even though he said them in different words, all these lies are implicit in the advice Jonadab gave Amnon. They are often told in different words, but they are the same lies. Maybe you have heard them. The first one was: You are missing out on something worth having by not sinning.
I personally don’t know so much about sin. I came to the Lord when I was thirteen. I’ve never been drunk, I’ve never been high. I don’t know anything about nightclubs and such things. But I have seen people by the thousands come to God from just such a life. I’ve never heard one of them say, “I wish I had drunk one more beer before I came to the Lord, I wish I had smoked one more joint.” Not one has said, “I wish I had gone out on the town one more time before I came to church.” But I have heard them say over and over, “I wish I had found the Lord when I was younger. Because when I was doing all those things . . . He was what I was looking for all along!” You give up nothing worth having when you come to the Lord. You miss nothing but heartache, disappointment, disease, and shame. Jonadab lied.
The second lie Jonadab told is that the world owes you.
The world owes you happiness, the world owes you fulfillment. This lie is repeated over and over again. The world owes us: a living, contentment, ease. The truth is the world owes us nothing. It is we who owe. We are in debt. In Romans 1:14 Paul described this:
I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.
We owe everything to the church, to men and women of God who loved us and were used of God to bring us to truth, to godly parents, and even, as Paul says, to those who don’t have the truth, we owe them a chance to hear the gospel! To live only for ourselves, to satisfy our every whim, to put ourselves and our lives above all else, is to not really live at all. We are bought with a price. We are not our own. We are debtors. (See I Corinthians 6:19-20). It is a lie that life owes us.
Jonadab also lied when he claimed that the rules don’t count for you. It is amazing how many people think they have some sort of immunity from the results of their choices. It is as if they believe that the consequences for their own actions are somehow unfair, unreasonable. They simply cannot be expected to be held accountable. It is a lie that the rules are for others, but somehow not for us. You can’t beat the system.
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).
Amnon was about to discover that even king’s sons reap what they sow. Nobody escapes the consequences. This was probably the most deadly lie Jonadab told. This is what destroyed Amnon. He walked into a whirlwind, a victim of the lies of a friend.
He did what his friend said. The plan was simple, really. He would contrive a way to be alone with Tamar in his bedroom. “Pretend you are sick,” Jonadab said. “Your father will come to check on you, he always does. When he comes, ask for Tamar to prepare you something to eat. Tell him you feel like you could eat if Tamar did that.” Amnon is nodding his head. His father, the king, will come as soon as he hears that Amnon is ill; it is his habit. How clever Jonadab is!
Then when she comes in . . . do what you want with her.
Did the smile fade from Amnon’s lips when he heard those chilling words? Was there any sort of pause, any hesitation? This young man, who before now “thought it hard to do anything to her” just stands there. He does not explode with indignation, does not rebuke Jonadab. He stands there, and slowly smiles. The unthinkable has been described, the unspeakable spoken. And the voice speaking is the voice of a friend. Things do sound different when a friend says them, don’t they? It is trust that does that. Amnon trusted Jonadab.
And it all went according to plan. He feigned sickness, and when his father came to see about him, asking with genuine concern, “Have you eaten, son?” Amnon in a weak voice expressed his opinion that if Tamar would come and fix him something he believed that perhaps he could eat. David smiled a knowing smile; everyone knew Amnon was sweet on Tamar. Sure Tamar could come and prepare the boy a meal. What harm could come of it?
And when she came, Amnon grasped her arm, pulling her onto the bed. She recognized his intentions and began to plead, “No, Amnon, not this way. Ask the king; he will allow us to marry. Let’s do this the right way, please Amnon, please!” But his lust could not be reasoned with, and Amnon forced Tamar to the bed, and he raped her there.
Afterward, Amnon was suddenly angry. He grabbed Tamar and shoved her toward the door. “Out!” he screamed, “I never want to see you again!” Tamar ran from the room, weeping. The Bible says that Amnon hated Tamar with a hatred that was as great as the love he had felt for her. I think that what caused this hatred was that Amnon hated himself. He hated what he had done and hated what he had become. Amnon listened to his friend, did what that friend advised, and ruined his life.
For two years, nothing happened. His father David was dismayed but said nothing and refused to banish Amnon, even when he was advised to. Tamar shut herself away from the world. It was said she wept constantly, but all Amnon knew is he didn’t have to meet her in the halls of the palace. Jonadab was still his friend, and even Absalom, who was Tamar’s full brother, was friendly and didn’t seem to hold the rape against Amnon.
Amnon did not know that Absalom’s friendliness was an act that he was plotting against Amnon. In fact he had probably been plotting from the beginning, and his co-conspirator was Amnon’s friend . . . Jonadab.
One day Absalom announced he was going to have a dinner especially to honor Amnon. Amnon could not know that the plan of Absalom was to make Amnon more than the object of honor, but rather the target of assassination. At a signal the servants of Absalom fell on Amnon and stabbed him again and again. Did his screams as he pled for his life resemble the pleas of Tamar two years before?
As Amnon’s heels beat out a death tattoo on the marble floor, pandemonium broke out in the banquet hall. Someone rushed out and ran toward the throne room, where David was holding court. The self-appointed reporter burst into the throne room and cried out his news: “Absalom has slain all the king’s sons!” Even though outrageously wrong, the report produced an uproar in the court. David leapt to his feet and tore his robe in anguish. Then a strangely calm young man stepped from the shadows where he had been waiting and corrected the report: “Only Amnon is dead,” announced Jonadab.
In the panic of the moment it seems that no one thought to ask the obvious: how could Jonadab who had evidently not been at the banquet know what had happened there? The only obvious answer is that Jonadab was part of the conspiracy. The true unknown is how long had Jonadab been active in betraying Amnon, pretending to be his friend?
Absalom needed Amnon, who was first in the succession since he was David’s first-born, out of the way if he was to have a hope of becoming king. Could it be that he was willing to sacrifice his own sister as well as murder his half-brother? That his hatred of Amnon, supposedly because of the rape, was only an excuse? Perhaps when Jonadab gave his disastrous advice to rape Tamar, it was the start of the plot. Never a true friend, Jonadab betrayed Amnon from the very beginning. When he stood calmly amid the chaos in the throne room and reassured the king, “Only Amnon is dead,” he was merely playing the last scene of the deadly play.
Jesus warned Simon Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you” (Luke 22:31). He will pose as your best friend, whisper his advice into your ear, lie to you, and in the end destroy you.
There is only one true Friend, who has the words of eternal life. Only One who will stick closer than a brother, who will never leave, never forsake. That friend is Jesus. So we must decide, all of us—Jesus or Jonadab. Which will be your choice?
This article “Amnon Had A Friend” by Jerry Jones is excerpted from his book Amnon Had A Friend, 2006.