Page images


of princes, whether good or evil. And Amnon seems not far removed from that character of Domitian, mentioned by the fame Tacitus ; that he played the prince's fon in whoredoms and adulteries. And therefore it is no wonder, if Jonadab's detestable flattery * had its effect upon such a spirit.

AMNON opened his whole heart to him, and told him his passion for Tamar I love Tamar my brother Abfalom's fister ; (he was alhamed to say his own); the subtile and supple courtier, whose conscience was his least concern, immediately furnished him with an expedient to gratify his passion. He advised him to take his bed, and feign himself fick ; and when his father should come to see him, to beg his permission, that Tamar his sister might attend him in his sickness, and prepare him some sustenance ; which he believed he could take, if he saw it prepared by her own hands. The desires of fick people are often fantastical, and unaccountable ; yet must often be indulged. The train took: David's paternal

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

* More criminal even than that of the Persians to Cambyses in the like case, tho? not altogether so monstrous as that of Julia to. Caracalla: Vol. III.



[ocr errors]

affection did not suffer him to be long absent from a fick son, his favourite, and his firstborn; nor allow him to hesitate upon granting his petition. Tamar was immediately ordered to attend him, and did fo accordingly; and when she had learned what food was most agreeable to him, set herself instantly to prepare it for him, with all the housewifely skill of those simpler ages ;

where an utter insignificancy to all the purposes of domestic life made

no part even of a princess's praise. For the text tells us, that She took flour and kneaded it, and made cakes in bis fight, and did bake the cakes ; and added another preparation of them in a pan, and then served * them up to him; but he refused to eat. The infinuation was, That he was grown worse. And, to cover the deceit the better, he ordered every body to go out of his room, as if he could bear neither the fight, nor the noise, of company. And when they were gone, he desired his fister to bring the victuals into an inner chamber, where he might eat unmolested.

* In the text it is, And she took a pan, and poured them out before him. Which makes it probable, that she fried them in oil.


She, suspecting no evil, did as he desired. And when he found himself shut


with her, and sufficiently retired from his attendants, he then threw off the difguise, discovered his wicked intentions, and quickly began to use violence with her; from which, she, struck with abhorrence of the guilt; earnestly laboured to dissuade him, as from a crime unheard of in Israel - Would he expose a fister to infamy? -Would he expose himself to indelible reproach? The plea for herself is inexpressibly beautiful. And I, whither Mall I cause my shame to go! How shall I drive it

away from me, and where shall I hide it ? And finding that had no weight with him, the presses him, from the motives of his own shame and infamy : And as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel You will, from this moment, be treated as a brute, and a fool; lost to all sense of humanity, as well as virtue ; will be degraded from the honour of heir apparent to the crown, into the lowest de gree of decision and reproach

It is remarkable, that the Greeks called every thing that was foolish, by the name of

F 2


Venus * : and therefore they denominated folly, by a word derived from her name t. And it should seem from this passage, as if the Hebrews had fallen into the fame


of thinking. But the truth is, they were in a wiser

way of thinking; and denominated all fin,

folly : which is its softest name. And poffibly Tamar now called this guilt so, for fear of too much irritating her brother.

When this would not do, the changed her tone, and tried to flatter him into forbearance. He was her father's darling, who could deny him nothing : he had only to speak to the king for her, and his request would certainly be complied with. — But he, deaf to all intreaty, as well as to reason, listened to nothing but the impetuosity of his own brutal passion ; and, being stronger than me, forced her.

And here the flux and reflux of passion in a brutal breast, is finely painted in the text. His brutality was no sooner gratified, in this instance, but it broke out in another as extraordinary. The tide of his blood was

* Τα μωρά γαρ πάντ' Αφροδίτη τοϊς βρολοίς.

Hecuba in Troad. Euripidis. + 'Adporúrr, or rather, from the radix of it, écpós.


[ocr errors]

turned, and it now ran back with as much violence, as it had pressed forward, before. Then Amnon hated her exceedingly, faith the text, so that the hatred wherewith he hated ber, was greater than the love wherewith be bad loved her.

COMMENTATORS are at a loss to account for this sudden and excessive hatred and indeed there seems to be something extraordinary in it. Tamar's rape had an effect, upon her ravisher, directly contrary to that of Dinah's upon hers; but their circumstances were different: hope seconded and supported Shechem's passion, not in itself criminal ; but despair drove Amnon's into its opposite extreme. This is often observed to be the case with passions too tumultuous and unruly : Amnon's mind was first agitated by lust, and then by remorse, which drove to different extremes, like the vibrations of a pendulum. The horror of his guilt struck him with a sudden detestation of her, whom he deemed the cause of it: he hated his fifter, when he should have hated himself. God abandoned him thus to the tumult of his own intemperate mind, to make this other punishment of David's adultery, more fla

grant ;


« PreviousContinue »