Tag Archives: 2 Samuel 13

Brothers & sisters at war

The Bible has quite a load of sibling rivalry. Here are some examples:

  • Cain & Abel (Genesis 4). Cain’s jealousy at Abel when God accepted Abel’s offering leads Cain to murder his brother.
  • Shem, Ham, & Japheth (Genesis 9:18-29). Noah’s sons’ family discord arises after Ham disgraces his drunk naked father. It is noted that Ham involved his brothers (verse 22). The Canaanites – descended from Ham – are cursed in verse 25 and remain rivals of God’s people right through the Old Testament.
  • Isaac and Ishmael. These half-brothers, sons of Abraham, are the spark of conflict in the tents of Abraham. The problems are between the mothers, Sarah and Hagar, as well as between Abraham and the two women (Genesis 16; 21:8-21).
  • Esau & Jacob. Fighting begins in the womb (Genesis 25:19-26), it continues for life. Most notable are the birthright treated as a commodity (Genesis 25:29-34) and Jacob’s theft of the paternal blessing (Genesis 27). Read the extended Genesis account, them remember that Israel versus Edom is the nation-sized expansion of this rivalry (Numbers 20, Obadiah, etc).
  • The Twelve Sons of Jacob. The central conflict is eleven sons against Joseph. They plan to kill him, but “mercifully” only throw him into a pit, sell him as a slave, and fake his death to deceive father (Genesis 37). This fraternal rivalry undergirds the final dozen chapters of Genesis, along with God turning human evil intent to good (Genesis 50:20).
  • Moses, Aaron & Miriam (Numbers 12). Moses’ brother and sister oppose Moses, that they too might be known as speakers for the Lord. It was not their wisest idea.
  • Amnon, Tamar, & Absalom (2 Samuel 13). Children of King David, but torn by lust, rape & revenge killing. Amnon lusts for, takes, then dispenses with his beautiful half-sister. Absalom broods for two years on avenging his sister. This is not only an awful moral mess, but is a violent death to the putative king – Amnon was David’s first-born (1 Chronicles 3:1).
  • Adonijah and Solomon (1 Kings 1). There was plenty of other trouble between sons of David, not only these two, but this example shows how the trouble plays out in striving for the kingship.

I am not about to draw major conclusions from this line of intra-family discord. But it does, at least, raise a few questions or lead to further observations.

Some observations might by relatively minor. Such as the awareness that the first four disciples Jesus called, later to be apostles, were two pairs of brothers (Mark 1:16-20, Matthew 4:18-22). Do Peter and Andrew, James and John signal the need to end sibling squabbles?

Other observations are much more straightforward. Those who trust the gospel of Jesus must live a different and new way with their ‘brothers’ (also translated ‘brethren’ or ‘brothers and sisters’). Love, peace, agreement and more are to be usual among fellow Christian believers. As a small sample, note these verses of ‘brotherhood’:

  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour (Romans 12:10)
  • Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace be with you (2 Corinthians 13:11)
  • Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:9)
  • For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another (Galatians 5:13)
  • Let brotherly love continue (Hebrews 13:1)
  • Honour everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the emperor (1 Peter 2:17)
  • We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death (1 John 3:14)

I get the distinct impression that Christian love for fellow Christian – expressed in word, in acts, with devotion, and as a foundational aspect of our new identity – is one of the more extraordinary parts of the radical change Jesus brings. It can be a challenge. It is a privilege.

Sex talk

Song of Songs 4 is very clearly a poem of intense sensuality. It is a wonderful example of a man’s pleasure in his wife.

The man starts at the top and moves downward. He does not reach her feet. There’s something about her middle that he enjoys!┬áIt’s sensitive and tender sex talk. (Her words of invitation in the second half of Song 4:16 indicate how welcome she found his words.)

When I spoke on this passage at church, I explained what I think are five types of sex talk. I thought I would repeat them for a blog readership.

Not
The first type of sex talk is non talk. Avoidance, embarrassment, and red faces.

The Bible, however, does not shy away from sex. There’s the beauty of Song of Songs. There’s affirmation of marriage and warnings against immorality. It openly admits awful sexual failure: David’s adultery with Bathsheba (leading to murder, 2 Samuel 11); the rape of Tamar by David’s son Amnon (2 Samuel 13); etc.

In short, God is in favour of sex talk. If we neglect it, we’re not caring for the whole person.

Direct
There are two kinds of direct sex talk.

The first is, typically, medical or educational. For example, sex education at home, or asking for pastoral help for sexual dysfunction.

This talk is direct because it openly names the anatomy and sexual behaviours. And it is a direct type of talk that is necessary.

The second type of direct talk is far less helpful. This direct communication is the porn ethos. It reveals all and leaves nothing to the imagination. We are meant to see, and to desire to see again. The lights are glaring, the cameras capture every angle, and instant replay is expected.

Unfortunately, this ethos can infect our speech and thoughts. It might be crude jokes. It could be offensive abuse between sports teams. Or it might be speaking of sex as if it involves hardware, not people: screw, bang, poke, …

This is a long way from the tenderness of Song of Songs. It’s selfish in getting sex, or getting noticed. Sex that should be part of a life-long covenant relationship is reduced to a bodily function. It’s not healthy direct talk.

Indirect
Again, this type of talk has two expressions.

The first kind of indirect sex talk is innuendo and smuttiness. While not being explicit, it twists vast swathes of normal conversation into sexual reference. Normal words become codes for bodily parts, or for sexual activity. It’s Benny Hill, Carry On Eye Rolling, Nudge Nudge Wink Wink. Often accompanies by supressed giggles and knowing looks, it also creates an in group who know the codes and need to look to each other for constant affirmation (‘that’s a reference to breasts – see, I am still with you’). Necessary? Useful? No.

The second type of indirect sex talk is precisely that of Song of Songs. It’s honest about sex and refers to a real person, one’s spouse. Yet it remains sensitive to honour that spouse and enjoy all his or her qualities. It does not hide sensuality, yet without treating sex like a forensic examination. Being poetic, I believe it opens up our appreciation for sex instead of narrowing it down to a few brute physical facts.

To gain a feel for this poetic opening of reality, read through the Song of Songs and consider how the senses are evoked. The lovers not only see one another, but also hear, touch, smell and taste. Then read again and consider where the drama of their love is played: house and city, forest and field, plains and mountain. All of nature is their playground.

So, learning from the Bible’s pattern, there’s good sex talk and damaging sex talk. Have I missed any other categories? Let me know in the comments below. We all can learn how to better employ language in this significant area of living as God’s creatures.