Monday, December 15, 2008

Parallels Between The Incident of Tamar and Amnon, And Parshat Vayeshev

It seems clear that this is either a case of history repeating itself (maaseh avot siman la-banim) or deliberate echoing of themes. Where the author of Shmuel, who recorded the incident of Amnon and Tamar, was clearly was familiar with parshat Vayeshev, in which the selling of Yosef is juxtaposed with the incident of Yehuda and Tamar.

Because it is not just that the woman in play was named Tamar. Look at the following text:
יח וְעָלֶיהָ כְּתֹנֶת פַּסִּים, כִּי כֵן תִּלְבַּשְׁןָ בְנוֹת-הַמֶּלֶךְ הַבְּתוּלֹת מְעִילִים; וַיֹּצֵא אוֹתָהּ מְשָׁרְתוֹ הַחוּץ, וְנָעַל הַדֶּלֶת אַחֲרֶיהָ. 18 Now she had a garment of many colours upon her; for with such robes were the king's daughters that were virgins apparelled.--And his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
יט וַתִּקַּח תָּמָר אֵפֶר עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ, וּכְתֹנֶת הַפַּסִּים אֲשֶׁר עָלֶיהָ קָרָעָה; וַתָּשֶׂם יָדָהּ עַל-רֹאשָׁהּ, וַתֵּלֶךְ הָלוֹךְ וְזָעָקָה. 19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of many colours that was on her; and she laid her hand on her head, and went her way, crying aloud as she went.
כ וַיֹּאמֶר אֵלֶיהָ אַבְשָׁלוֹם אָחִיהָ, הַאֲמִינוֹן אָחִיךְ הָיָה עִמָּךְ, וְעַתָּה אֲחוֹתִי הַחֲרִישִׁי אָחִיךְ הוּא, אַל-תָּשִׁיתִי אֶת-לִבֵּךְ לַדָּבָר הַזֶּה; וַתֵּשֶׁב תָּמָר וְשֹׁמֵמָה, בֵּית אַבְשָׁלוֹם אָחִיהָ. 20 And Absalom her brother said unto her: 'Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but now hold thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; take not this thing to heart.' So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house.

Thus, Tamar is clothed in a ketonet passim, just like Yosef. And she remains desolate in her brother's house, just as Yehuda's Tamar was to remain an almana in her father's house.

And this is followed by the slaying of brothers (including Amnon) as revenge when they go down to the sheep-shearing -- and David hears and mourns. Yehuda's meeting of Tamar was when he went down to the sheep-shearing, and this is juxtaposed with the attempt to kill Yosef, the pretending they killed Yosef, Yaakov's hearing that Yosef was dead and then mourning.

The purpose of such thematic echoes is not clear to me at this time, but I just thought I would make note of the parallels.


Josh M. said...

As well as:
1) the presence of "rei'im" Chirah and Yonadav
2) one character (Yosef and Yonadav) asking another (the baker/butler and Amnon) why they look upset
3) the parallel between the requests of eishes Potifar and Amnon to Yosef and Tamar
4) the fact that both instances of tearing the garments were over false reports (in David's case, it was that he was told that *all* of the brothers were killed, not just Amnon).

joshwaxman said...

thanks. good points.

Yehuda said...

The parallels start way back at the end of chapter 8 (appointing his sons to positions of power - see the Ralbag's 43rd toelet). At the beginning of chapter 11 (David and BatSheva) David is described as being Yosheiv (reminds you of Yaakov where his troubles began - see the famous Rashi). There is also the repetition of the verb shalach and malakhim. And of course the incident between Amnon and Tamar follows on the heels of David's sin with BatSheva. I am actually giving shiur on the wider context of the sin of David and BatSheva. I give a number of sources and a link to the audio of the shiurim on my blog (Yehuda's Thoughts)

tmeishar: said...

This is hardly a fully-developed thought, but perhaps we should also compare the role of Yaakov as the head of a new nation to the role of David as the head of a new monarchy. Maybe the author of Sefer Shmuel is drawing on motifs that we are already familiar with to suggest that just as the skirmishes in Sefer Bereishit end up having more significance than simple sibling rivalry, the narratives in Shmuel are also vital to the nature of the developing monarchy.
Just a thought, I obviously need to develop it more...

Yehuda said...

I like what you are saying tmeishar.


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