I remember years ago as an InterVarsity staff member, studying women in scripture with a group of students at Michigan State University. They were often amazed at the stories of women in the Bible. Though the majority had grown up in church, they hadn’t heard many of these stories. They laughed at Rachel, while hiding the family gods underneath her, told her Father that she couldn’t stand because she was having her period (Genesis 31:35). One of my Asian students exclaimed, “That’s in the Bible?!” She could hardly believe it. The women students identified with so many of the stories, joining in the challenges and heartache of women across cultures and generations, and learning more about the love and power of the Lord through it all.
One story that was always particularly difficult was the story of the rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13. Unfortunately, many of the women students identified with this story as well. Our small group provided a place where some were able to talk about their own experience of sexual assault for the very first time. The Lord was with us, this was a sacred place.
Why would the Lord put such a painful, sad story in the scriptures, the Holy Word that he calls us to study and hide in our hearts? The wonderful and terrible thing about the story is that it’s the same story that plays out today, over and again. I’ve heard it, from students, from others, and I know it myself. I believe that Tamar's story is here, in God’s Word, because the Lord wants us to know and understand the experience of rape. This story has it all, including the power dynamic at play, the planning and premeditation, the devastating impacts, and even the unhelpful responses after the fact. There is a reason this story is given to us.
And since we live in a culture where this experience is shared by so many women, and men as well, it’s wise for us to listen to these words of scripture, to pay attention to this story to see what we can learn from it.
The attached discussion guide offers a dramatic reading of the story, and questions to discuss in a group. Listen, learn, and my the Lord increase our understanding, and our capacity to walk alongside in ministry with those who have experienced sexual violence.