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Tamar

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(Heb. תָּמָר, Tamar', a palm-tree, as often; Sept. Θαμάρ [v.r. Θημάρ ], but Θαιμάν in Ezekiel; Josephus, Θαμάρα, Ant. 7:3, 3; 8, 1; 10, 3; Vulg. Thamar), the name of one place and of three remarkable women in Old- Test. history. (See PALM).

1. A spot on the southeastern frontier of Judah, named in Ezekiel 47:19; Ezekiel 48:28 only, evidently called from a palm-tree. We naturally think of Hazezon-tamar, the old name of Engedi; but this is not quite appropriate for location. Eusebius and Jerome mention a Thamara, a place lying between Hebron and Ailah (Onomast. s.v. "Hazezon-tamar"); and Ptolemy (5, 16, 8) mentions a Θαμαρώ, as do also the Peutinger Tables (Reland, Palaest. p. 462). Robinson identifies it with Kurnub, a place containing the ruins of an old fortress about an ordinary day's journey from el-Milh towards the pass es-Sufah (Bibl. Res. 2, 198, 201). This, however, depends' on a conjectural emendation of the Onomasticon, where, in the clause κώμη διεστῶσα Μάψις, (v.r. μόλις, Μάλις ), ἡμέρας ὁδόν, Robinson would read Μαλάθης for Μάψις, whereby he makes Thamara a day's journey from Malatha, which he identifies with el-Milh. Besides, as Van de Velde observes, the distance of Kurnub from el-Milh is not a day's journey, but only four hours; nor is Kurnub to the south-west of the Dead Sea, where the Peutinger Tables place Thamaro; nor are the ruins ancient (Van de Velde, Syria, 2, 130). Fü rst (Heb. Lex . s.v.) regards it as identical with the Tamar of the Kethib, or text, in 1 Kings 9:8; but that is generally thought to mean Tadmor (q. 6). Schwarz (Palest. p. 21, note) thinks that Zoar is meant, on the strength of certain Talmudical notices. De Saulcy (Narr. 1, 7) endeavors to establish a. connection between Tamar and the Kalaat Um-Baghik, at the mouth of the ravine of that name on the south-west side of the Dead Sea, on the ground (among others) that the names are similar. But this, to say the least, is more than doubtful. It is rather to be sought at the extreme south end of the Dead Sea, where the line as run by Ezekiel evidently begins (see Keil, ad loc.); perhaps at some clump of palms anciently existing at Ain el-'Arus, near the mouth of Wady Fikreh.

2. The wife successively of Er and Onan, the two sons of Judah (Genesis 38:6-30). Her importance in the sacred narrative depends on the great anxiety to keep up the lineage of Judah. It seemed as if the family were on the point of extinction. Er and Onan (q.v. respectively) had each in turn perished suddenly. Judah's wife, Bathshuah, died; and there only remained a child, Shelah, whom Judah was unwilling to trust to the dangerous union, as it appeared, with Tamar, lest he should meet with the same fate as his brothers. That he should, however, marry her seems to have been regarded as part of the fixed law of the tribe, whence its incorporation into the Mosaic law in after-times (Deuteronomy 25:5; Matthew 22:24); and, as such, Tamar was determined not to let the opportunity escape through Judah's parental anxiety. Accordingly, she resorted to the desperate expedient of entrapping the father himself into the union which he feared for his son. He, on the first emergence from his mourning for his wife, went to one of the festivals often mentioned in Jewish history as attendant on sheep-shearing. He wore on his finger the ring of his chieftainship; he carried his staff in his hand; he wore a collar or necklace round his neck. He was encountered by a veiled woman on the road leading to Timnath, the future birthplace of Samson, among the hills of Daniel He took her for one of the unfortunate women who were consecrated to the impure rites of the Canaanitish worship. (See HAPELOT).

He promised her, as the price of his intercourse, a kid from the flocks to which he was going, and left as his pledge his ornaments and his staff. The kid he sent back by his shepherd (Sept.), Hirah of Adullam. The woman could nowhere be found. Months afterwards it was discovered to be his own daughter-in-law, Tamar, who had thus concealed herself under the veil or mantle, which she cast off on her return home, where she resumed the seclusion and dress of a widow. She was sentenced to be burned alive, and was only saved by the discovery, through the pledges which Judah had left, that her seducer was no less than the chieftain of the tribe. He had the magnanimity to recognize that she had been driven into this crime by his own neglect of his promise to give her in marriage to his youngest son. "She hath been more righteous than I... and he knew her again no more" (Genesis 38:26). The fruit of this intercourse was twins, Pharez and Zarah, and through Pharez the sacred line was continued. B.C. 1885. Hence the prominence given to Tamar in the nuptial benediction of the tribe of Judah (Ruth 4:12) and in the genealogy of our Lord (Matthew 1:3). (See JUDAH).

3. Daughter of David and Maachah the Geshurite princess, and thus sister of Absalom (2 Samuel 13:1-32; 1 Chronicles 3, 9; Josephus, Ant. 7:8, 1). She and her brother were alike remarkable for their extraordinary beauty. Her name ("palm-tree") may have been given her on this account (comp. Song of Solomon 7:7). This fatal beauty inspired a frantic passion in her half-brother Amnon, the eldest son of David by Ahinoam. He wasted away, from the feeling that it was impossible to gratify his desire, "for she was a virgin"-the narrative leaves it uncertain whether from a scruple on his part, or from the seclusion in which, in her unmarried state, she was kept. Morning by morning, as he received the visits of his friend Jonadab, he is paler and thinner (Josephus, Ant. 7:8, 1).

Jonadab discovers the cause, and suggests to him the means of accomplishing his wicked purpose. He was to feign sickness. The king, who appears to have entertained a considerable affection, almost awe, for him as the eldest son (2 Samuel 13:5; 2 Samuel 13:21; Sept.), came to visit him; and Amnon entreated the presence of Tamar on the pretext that she alone could give him the food that he would eat. What follows is curious, as showing the simplicity of the royal life. It would almost seem that Tamar was supposed to have a peculiar art of baking palatable cakes. She came to his house (for each prince appears to have had a separate establishment), took the dough and kneaded it, and then in his presence (for this was to be a part of his fancy, as if there were something exquisite in the manner of her performing the work) kneaded it a second time into the form of cakes. The name given to these cakes (lebibih), "heart-cakes," has been variously explained: "hollow cakes," "cakes with some stimulating spices" (like our word cordial), cakes in the shape of a heart (like the Moravian gerü hrte Herzen, Thenius, ad loc.), cakes "the delight of the heart." Whatever it be, it implies something special and peculiar. She then took the pan in which they had been baked and poured them all out in a heap before the prince. This operation seems to have gone on in an outer room, on which Amnon's bedchamber opened. He caused his attendants to retire, called her to the inner room, and there accomplished his design. In her touching remonstrance two points are remarkable. First, the expression of the infamy of such a crime "in Israel," implying the loftier standard of morals that prevailed as compared with other countries at that time; and, secondly, the belief that even this standard might be overborne lawfully by royal authority, "Speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from thee." This expression has led to much needless explanation from its contradiction to Leviticus 18:9; Leviticus 20:17; Deuteronomy 27:22; as, e.g., that her mother, Maachah, not being a Jewess, there was no proper legal relationship, between her and Amnon; or that she was ignorant of the law; or that the Mosaic laws were not then in existence (Thenius, ad loc.).

It is enough to suppose, what evidently her whole speech implies, that the king had a dispensing power which was conceived to cover even extreme cases. The brutal hatred of Amnon succeeding to his brutal passion, and the indignation of Tamar at his barbarous insult, even surpassing her indignation at his shameful outrage, are pathetically and graphically told, and in the narrative another glimpse is given us of the manners of the royal household. The unmarried princesses, it seems, were distinguished by robes or gowns with sleeves (so the Sept. Josephus, etc., take the word translated in the A. V. "diverse colors"). Such was the dress worn by Tamar on the present occasion, and when the guard at Amnon's door had thrust her out and closed the door after her to prevent her return, she, in her agony, snatched handfuls of ashes from the ground and threw them on her hair, then tore off her royal sleeves, and clasped her bare hands upon her head, and rushed to and fro through the streets screaming aloud. In this state she encountered her brother Absalom, who took her to his house, where she remained as if in a state of widowhood. The king was afraid or unwilling to interfere with the heir to the throne, but she was avenged by Absalom; as Dinah had been by Simeon and Levi, and out of that vengeance grew the series of calamities which darkened the close of David's reign (see Stanley, Jewish Church, 2, 128). B.C. 1033. (See DAVID).

4. Daughter of Absalom, called, probably, after her beautiful aunt, and inheriting the beauty of both aunt and father (2 Samuel 14:7). She was the sole survivor of the house of Absalom; and ultimately, by her marriage with Uriah of Gibeah, became the mother of Maachah, the future queen of Judah, or wife of Abijah (1 Kings 15:2), Maachah being called after her great grandmother, as Tamar after her aunt. B.C. 1023. (See ABSALOM).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tamar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/t/tamar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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