Bible Story Discussion: The Rape of Tamar


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.

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Thank-you for posting this Bonnie.
Tamar's story has always made me so angry.
I used to think that God thought it was okay that she was raped because why else would He put it in the Bible. I thought the Bible gave us the way to live. . .
I know better now. I understand that God hated what was done to Tamar as He hates all evil done to all of us. The questions of why He allows it etc. still come and go.
This morning as I got ready for work, I was just planning to glance at my email when I saw this post. I was immediately triggered by the subject but had to open it to see what you wrote. I have tension in my body. I feel a bit scattered. I want to cry but there is no time. I am asking God to help me, walk with me through one more trigger. I use my grounding techniques, I start to block the thoughts and distance . . .
I am still thankful you wrote it. Our church needs to talk about these hard things. We need to know the affects of rape and how long these affects last.
But I wonder, does it make a difference? Does anyone read this kind of post? Does change ever come in response to sexual assaults survivors,  in our churches?
Hardly anyone ever responds to these posts. Which, as far as our church goes, makes me feel more alone in it than ever. I am thankful for a husband and children and friends who truly care.
Peace to you Bonnie
Thank-you for sharing


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Thank you for your courage in overcoming your triggers to read this article, and for your courage in sharing a response, which can help give others "permission" to share their experiences as well. That is my hope and prayer, that this resource can help open the door, even just a tiny bit, to allow for honest expression around our our experiences of sexual assault and rape. There simply is no satisfactory answer to the question of why God allows such awful things to happen to his beloved children, God must weep a lot. Yet my hope and comfort are in the fact that God has promised never to leave us or forsake us - God is WITH us! Always, through it all, God is here, Immanuel, God is with us, and his power with us is strong and transforming. May our churches see and know God more deeply through the voices of those who have experienced sexual abuse, we have so much to offer a church willing to listen.

Written by Judy Jongsma.  My heart went out to the women who commented about the rape of Tamar.  She wondered how God could let that happen.  I'm not always sure either why awful and damaging things occur to those who believe and trust God.  However, I always try to remember that God is good but we also have the devil who works hard at making us doubt God.  We have sin in the world - which includes rape, sickness, pandemics etc.  I hope and pray that this may help this lovely Christian lady.  I'm serve as the chair of our Safe Church Ministry Team at church.  It's hard to change the culture of a church community.  Some people just don't believe that sexual misconduct happens within a church community.  There are plenty of us who know that isn't true at all.  We live in a sinful world in and outside of the church.  We also need to remember that God reigns and he sent his ONLY son to be an atonement for those sins.  Praise God.