AMNON (Heb. אֲמְנֹן, אַמְנוֹן, אַמִינוֹן; from the root אמן (ʾmn); "to be firm or trustworthy"), eldest son of King David, born in Hebron of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess (II Sam. 3:2). Becoming infatuated with his beautiful half-sister Tamar, he acted on a ruse devised by his friend Jonadab, "a very clever man," and son of David's brother Shimah, lured her to his bedside on the pretext of illness, raped her, and then cast her out. She then took refuge in the home of her full brother *Absalom. The king did not punish Amnon (II Sam. 13:21). Two years later Absalom invited Amnon to his estate in Baal-Hazor, together with the other royal princes, for a sheep shearing celebration, and ordered his men to kill him while Amnon was merry with wine. (It appears from II Sam. 13:32–33 that Jonadab had now cast his lot with Absalom.) Since David's second son evidently either died young or was incapacitated, Absalom, the third son, now had the strongest claim to the succession on the score of seniority. Recent work from the standpoint of the Bible as literature and feminist criticism has questioned whether Tamar was, in fact, raped. Another trend has been to compare Amnon's actions toward Tamar with David's actions toward Bathsheba.
According to rabbinic tradition (Sanh. 21a), Amnon could have married Tamar as she was conceived prior to her mother's conversion. This tragic incident prompted the rabbis to forbid an unmarried girl to remain alone with a man in a room (ibid. 21a–b). The affair of Amnon and Tamar is stigmatized in Avot 5:16 as the prototype of selfish love prompted by lust. For reasons of propriety, the Mishnah excludes the story from public reading in synagogue, whether in the original or in Aramaic translation (Meg. 4:10).
S. Yeivin, Meḥkarim be-Toledot Yisrael ve-Arẓo (1960), 196; Ginzberg, Legends, 4 (1913), 118–9. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Trible, Texts of Terror (1984); T. Reis, in: JANES, 25 (1997), 43–60.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.