If you missed part three last week, here’s your chance to catch up: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/11/my-name-is-absalom-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/
It took almost two years for me to exact my revenge. Tamar continued to live with me and refused to go out in public. Though my father tried to enforce some type of peace between Amnon and myself, we avoided each other and never took part in family dinners together. I wondered sometimes at my father’s naivete. He seemed to think he could just tell me and Amnon to give each other the kiss of friendship as he did after we had quarreled as boys. That never worked then and would certainly not work now.
For at least six months, my father (and others, I’m sure) kept a close eye on me. Though I did not hide my anger, I let people think I was willing to let God exact revenge on my brother and had no intention of causing more trouble in Jerusalem. In this way, my father’s vigilance eventually relaxed, and I had time to begin carefully laying my plans.
The only person I’m sure I never fooled was my mother. Though she said no more about expecting Tamar to marry Amnon, she made little effort to see her daughter or expressed any concern for her. I felt she was an unnatural mother at times, but I kept my thoughts focused on Amnon and on how I could have my revenge in the most promising way.
Before I could get very far with my plans, I knew I needed to gain the trust of Jonadab– not only to learn of his possible complicity, but also to use him for my own advantage. To even establish contact with him, however, took me almost a year. Though still unsure of his part in the defiling of my sister, whenever he saw me–even from a distance–he cringed in fear and would not come near me, so I knew his guilt must be great. Surprisingly, it turned out to be Chileab who let me know exactly what Jonadab had done.
Chileab often came to my home for a meal, an event Tamar looked forward to as Chileab remained one of the few people with whom she felt at ease. I was grateful for his willingness to visit us on a regular basis as Tamar seemed to have few pleasures left in life. Though it had only been a few months since her ordeal, I still hoped she would heal in her mind and someday be once again the sister I adored and cherished. As I watched her this particular evening, laughing and talking to Chileab, that hope burned brighter than usual.
After our meal, the three of us went up and onto my roof to enjoy the cool evening while my servants cleaned up below. After an hour or so, Tamar said she was tired, gave both Chileab and myself a kiss, then went back down to her bedchamber. Chileab and I sat in silence for several minutes, nursing our cup of wine and watching the stars. I caught myself dozing off when Chileab spoke.
“She seems a little better tonight. How has she been faring?”
I sighed, thinking again of the care-free, laughing young girl Tamar had been a few short months ago. “She is calmer–seems to cry less often–but she still won’t go out at all, and that can’t be good for her. She did finally let Elisheba and Naarah visit her a couple of days ago. Hopefully, they will be able to coax her out of her shell a bit more.” Elisheba was Chileab’s sister and Naarah, Adonijah’s. They both were quite close to Tamar.
Chileab nodded. “Elisheba told me. She was glad Tamar finally agreed to let them visit, but was rather forlorn when she came home. She misses the ‘old Tamar,’ but I told her she must be patient.”
“It is hard to be patient. I just want to go and smash Amnon’s head in. What was he thinking anyway? Don’t you think if he had just asked Father if he could marry Tamar that Father would have agreed?”
Chileab said nothing for a few moments, then, “Maybe, but I think he was afraid Tamar would not accept him, but if Jonadab hadn’t . . .” He stopped, glanced over at me, then looked down.
As I said, I knew of Jonadab’s presence in Amnon’s house, and was eager to learn exactly why he was there. Chileab’s look of guilt confirmed to me that Jonadab had something to hide. Anyone but Chileab would be dying to tell me every detail they knew and even those they didn’t. But that was Chileab–noble through and through. Could be rather sickening, actually.
“What about Jonadab?” I asked slowly and in a low voice.
Chileab squirmed a bit, but he knew I would not let him leave until I heard what he knew. If Chileab knew, then so did others, and I would rather hear it from him than anyone else.
“It was his idea,” he finally answered, his voice low as well. “We all knew Amnon was moping around, whining about how beautiful Tamar is but how she only laughed at him and saw him as a ‘silly boy.’ Finally one evening, Jonadab told him he should stop moping and do something. I thought he was going to suggest–as you said–to go to Father and ask to marry Tamar. I was late for choir practice, so I left before he made his suggestion. It wasn’t until the next day that I heard Amnon played sick, and Father went to see him.”
He stopped again, obviously reluctant to continue, but I needed to know. I could no more ignore the part Jonadab played in this story than I could ignore my need for food. If I was to have revenge for Tamar’s honor, I must make sure of everyone involved.
As casually as I could, I said, “I know Father commanded Tamar to go and wait on Amnon. I have never understood that, and he refuses to discuss it with me. I’m sure he realizes how stupid it was, but that changes nothing. I can’t believe Father would be taken in by either Amnon or Jonadab. So, Amnon pretended he was sick? And, I suppose the only thing that would make him feel better would be Tamar coming to wait on him. Tamar already told me Jondab was there, so you are not telling me something totally new. She has wondered as well what part Jonadab had in this.”
I added the last because I knew Chileab would feel Tamar had a right to know the truth about Jonadab even if he wasn’t so sure I did. I can be sneaky that way.
Chileab looked up at me, and though there remained little light left from our flickering oil lamps, I could see he was studying me carefully. “Perhaps the less she knows, the better,” he said cautiously.
I shook my head, trying not to appear too eager or impatient. “Right now, she fears almost everyone. It would be better if she could just see this as something concocted by Jonadab and Amnon and that no one else was involved–including our father.” Even though I would still blame my father for his part, I saw no need for Tamar to carry that burden as well.
Chileab nodded slowly, taking in my words. “I agree our father behaved foolishly and irresponsibly, but I don’t believe he ever meant for any harm to come to Tamar. You must make her see that.”
I shrugged, still tamping down my impatience. I was beginning to see Jonadab’s part in this, but still wanted Chileab to confirm it. I would not want my revenge to be incomplete.
Chileab frowned, but said, “Very well. Yes, from what I’ve heard, the whole thing was Jonadab’s idea. He told Amnon he should pretend to be sick, then when our father came to see him, he should tell him that the only thing he wanted was for Tamar to come and wait on him. Now, whether Jonadab meant for things to go as far as they did, I cannot say. Of course, Jonadab is saying he did not mean for Amnon to do what he did. He just thought if Amnon had a chance to be alone with Tamar, he could then convince her of his love.”
I took a long swallow of my wine. I could almost believe that, but that hardly made Jonadab innocent. “Of course,” I said, my thoughts darker than ever. I would need to have words with Jonadab. Soon. Very soon.