We don’t know for certain, but it appears that David had raped Bathsheba. All we know is that “he took her and lay with her.” The language that described Amnon’s sexual action with Tamar sounds similar. In that case, however, it’s obviously rape by sheer force. David’s was probably more out of political or positional authority than physical authority. But most writers seem to agree that it would still qualify as rape. If so, Amnon simply repeated the sin of his father when he molested Tamar.

Absalom, David’s other son, was intimately aware of David’s failure to punish Amnon for raping Tamar.  This son also repeats the sin of his father David, but not the sin of rape. It was the sin of murder. Just as David plotted the death of Uriah and used one of his generals and the army as a tool to murder Uriah, so too does Absalom use his servant as a tool to murder Amnon.

David fails to punish Amnon for molesting Tamar. David also fails to punish Absalom for murdering Amnon. Commentators often observe that it is hard for a parent to punish a child for what the child sees the parent do. Also, the text makes clear that David misunderstood the true nature of love. Ogilvie points out, “It is entirely possible that David failed to understand that love that did not discipline would be interpreted by his son not as love but as indifference. While children who are disciplined can be expected to complain at the moment, they eventually interpret the punishment as an act of love.”

Ogilvie rightly observes that David’s relationship with Absalom may have been different had he dealt with Amnon appropriately.  He further argues, “There is timing to life. Once the moment has passed when something could have been done, we do not get it back. What happened to Absalom is a powerful argument for dealing with problems in a family at the time they arise and not letting them slide until it’s too late.”

I would argue, however, that it’s never too late! Today is the day to get it right. John teaches us, “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We can all be cleansed and forgiven when we confess our sins to God.

Healing might be a different matter. James teaches us that we are to “confess our sins to each other that we may be healed.” Healing comes when we get it right with those we’ve wronged.

True confession to God and those we’ve wronged brings forgiveness, cleansing and healing.