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Bible studies

Bible study: The story of Tamar

This Bible study can be used as a tool to engage churches and communities with the issue of sexual violence

2018 Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Blue Jacaranda flowers in Cochabamba, Bolivia, bloom open in the midst of other green foliage.

Jacaranda flowers in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo: Tom Price/Ecce Opus

Survivors of SGBV often keep silent about their pain.

From: Sexual and gender-based violence – Footsteps 106

Ideas for how we can end sexual and gender-based violence and provide holistic support to survivors

Sexual violence is not just something that happens in society today. It has happened throughout history. The story of Tamar illustrates a chain of events that leads to a devastating act: the rape of Tamar. This Bible study can be used as a tool to engage churches and communities with the issue of sexual violence, breaking the silence that often surrounds this subject. 

Read 2 Samuel 13:1–22  

The story of Tamar is a clear account of a planned act of sexual violence taking place in the house of David. The perpetrator, a half-brother who is full of lust towards his half-sister Tamar, admits to his passion for Tamar and is advised to create a story that would make it easy for him to have access to her.  

The sexual violence that results has a severe effect on Tamar: she tears her dress and covers herself with ashes as a symbol of mourning that she has been violated. This story is a reminder that sexual violence is an abuse of human rights. Together, in partnership with all survivors of sexual violence, we need to speak out against it and stand firm. We must join hands in prayer and action for justice and restoration of broken relationships. 

Discussion questions

In small groups, share with each other what you think the Bible passage is about. Then as a larger group, discuss the following questions: 

  • Who are the characters in this story and what do we know about them? 
  • What is the role of each of the male characters in the rape of Tamar? 
  • What does Tamar say and do? Why does she act in that way? 
  • What opportunities were there during this story for sexual abuse to have been avoided? 
  • Tamar spoke out against her abuse both before and after it happened. What was the response to this? What is the response to women who speak out in our culture? 
Illustration from Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Where there is no artist (second edition)

Illustration from Petra Röhr-Rouendaal, Where there is no artist (second edition)

What can we learn from this passage?

Amnon abused his power and authority to get what he wanted, despite the harm done to Tamar. 

The silence of those involved in this story is shameful. Christians should not stay silent within our society if they know that abuse is taking place, whatever the personal cost to them. 

Tamar’s role in the household made her vulnerable: she could not refuse to serve or cook for this man. Young people, especially girls, are very vulnerable to sexual violence. We need to ensure they are educated about the risks from a young age and that effective protection is provided for them within our own families and communities. 

Sexual violence can take place anywhere, even in Christian homes and churches. (David was a man of God, and yet sexual violence occurred in his home.) It is important to create more awareness that survivors are NOT to blame for the violence. 

Prayer points 

Pray for healing of the pain and suffering caused by sexual violence (physical, mental and emotional). 

Pray for the protection of girls like Tamar who are vulnerable to sexual violence. 

Pray for caring and godly men and women who will speak out against sexual violence and seek to protect the most vulnerable people. 

Adapted from Hand in hand: Bible studies to transform our response to sexual violence.

Hand in hand: Bible studies to transform our response to sexual violence

A collection of 12 Bible studies about sexual violence, available in English, French and Portuguese. Contact us to order a printed copy for £6 or visit to download a copy free of charge. 

Knotty problem

Question: My church has always supported female genital mutilation/cutting, but I have heard that it is damaging for women. Does the Bible say anything about this? 

Answer: God created the human body and female sexuality and declared them both good (Genesis 1; Song of Songs). Our bodies are fearfully and wonderfully made; they were created to show God’s glory (Psalm 139). To abuse the body and to destroy the ability to appreciate one of God’s gifts is an insult to his creation.  

It says in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians: ‘The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife’ (1 Corinthians 7:4). This does not mean that a husband has control over his wife’s body, but rather that the sexual organs that women were created with have a key role in a sexual relationship and in reproduction. So these organs should be given honour and respect, to the glory of God. Damaging these organs is wrong. Rather, we are to protect our bodies.  

Jesus said that the most important commandments are: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ and ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Mark 12:30–31). Romans 13:10 says that ‘Love does no harm to a neighbour’. FGM/C is an extremely harmful practice that has no place in God’s kingdom. 

Adapted from material on FGM/C in Tearfund’s toolkit Reveal: Tools to support community transformation. See

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